Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on January 10, 2022 Updated on February 14, 2024
$2,050 - $5,100
$140,000 - $850,000 p.a.
Time to build
0 – 3 months
$130,000 - $260,000 p.a.
Janitorial services are used by businesses, schools, hospitals, government offices, and more. The commercial cleaning industry in the US is valued at over $82 billion. A janitorial business could be a great way for you to clean up and make good money, and you don’t need much cash to get started. You just need to pick up a few supplies and market yourself, and you can be on your way.
There are things you need to know, however, about the challenges of starting a janitorial business. Information is your key to success, and fortunately, this step-by-step guide has everything you need to know to get started on your entrepreneurial adventure.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
The pandemic has increased the demand for janitorial services, but also for very detailed, sanitizing cleaning services. Cleanings are more frequent, but also more time-consuming.
Green cleaning, meaning LEED compliant cleaning, is a growing trend. LEED cleaning involves using LEED-certified products. LEED stands for leadership in energy and environmental design, a coalition formed to set green standards for buildings.
Some challenges also exist in the janitorial industry which include:
Employee turnover in the janitorial industry is high, which presents a labor challenge for business owners.
With the high demand comes a need for greater efficiency. New cleaning equipment that improves efficiency has been developed but comes at a higher price.
How much does it cost to start a janitorial business?
The startup costs for a janitorial business range from $2,000 to $5,000. The main expenses are for a website and your janitorial supplies.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your janitorial business. Here’s a list to get you started:
Buckets, brooms, mops, rags
Paper towels and trash bags
Setting up a business name and corportation
$150 - $200
Licenses and permits
$100 - $300
$100 - $300
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
Janitorial cart and equipment
$500 - $1,000
$2,050 - $5,100
How much can you earn from a janitorial business?
The average price of janitorial services is $.11 per square foot, so cleaning a 5,000 square foot building would be $550. If you start out working by yourself, your profit margin should be about 90%.
In your first year or two, you could work from home and clean 5 buildings a week, bringing in over $140,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $130,000 in profit, assuming that 90% margin. As your brand gains recognition, sales could climb to 30 buildings a week. At this stage, you would rent a commercial space and have a staff, reducing your profit margin to around 30%. With expected annual revenue of over $850,000, you would make nearly $260,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
The only barrier to entry for a janitorial business is the competitive nature of the industry.
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a janitorial business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research janitorial businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a green janitorial business.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry such as schools.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
In addition to basic janitorial services, you could offer additional services including:
Tile and grout cleaning
How much should you charge for janitorial services?
Prices range from $.07 to $.15 per square foot with an average of $.11. When you’re working by yourself, your only costs will be fuel and cleaning supplies, so you should aim for a profit margin of 90%. When you add to your team and rent an office, your profit margin will be closer to 30%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price point. Remember, the price you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will be mainly business and building owners, as well as school or hospital administrators. You can reach these people by making direct calls to decision-makers, or on sites like LinkedIn.
Where? Choose your business premises
In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “janitorial” or “cleaning”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Sparkling Services” over “School Cleaning Services”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A brief overview of your janitorial business plan, summarizing its key points and objectives.
Business Overview: An introduction to your janitorial business, highlighting its purpose, location, and legal structure.
Product and Services: Details about the specific cleaning services your janitorial business will offer, including any specialty services.
Market Analysis: Examination of the janitorial industry, including market size, trends, and potential customers in your area.
Competitive Analysis: Evaluation of competitors in the local janitorial market, their strengths and weaknesses.
Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting your janitorial services, reaching customers, and generating sales.
Management Team: Information about key individuals responsible for running the business and their qualifications.
Operations Plan: Details on day-to-day operations, including staffing, equipment, and workflow.
Financial Plan: Projections and analysis of your janitorial business’s financial performance, including income, expenses, and profitability.
Appendix: Supplementary materials, such as resumes, contracts, or additional documentation supporting your business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan yourself before, it can be an intimidating task. Consider hiring an experienced business plan writer to create a professional business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to janitorial businesses.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your janitorial business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship– The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)– Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as, health license and permit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level licenses and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements.
This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.
If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.
Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account. Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your janitorial business as a sole proprietorship.
Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You can use industry-specific software, such as Service Autopilot, Celayix, or aspire, to manage your scheduling, cleaning crews, workflows, estimates, and billing.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your janitorial business, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing the reliability, thoroughness, and professionalism of your cleaning services. Highlight your commitment to cleanliness and hygiene, the range of services you offer, and any eco-friendly or advanced cleaning methods you use. Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:
Professional Branding: Your branding should convey cleanliness, efficiency, and attention to detail. This includes a professional logo, business cards, uniforms, and well-branded cleaning equipment or vehicles.
Direct Outreach: Network with local businesses, schools, medical facilities, and office complexes to introduce your services. Offering a free trial cleaning or a discount for first-time customers can be an effective way to attract new clients.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop a website that clearly outlines your services, areas of expertise, and client testimonials. Use SEO best practices to rank for local searches related to janitorial services, commercial cleaning, and office cleaning services.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like LinkedIn for business networking and Facebook to share before-and-after cleaning photos, customer testimonials, and cleaning tips.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Cleaning and Maintenance Blog: Share informative blog posts about best cleaning practices, the importance of a clean workspace for health and productivity, and updates on cleaning industry standards.
Email Newsletters: Regular newsletters can keep your clients informed about new services, seasonal cleaning tips, or special offers.
Video Demonstrations: Create videos that showcase your team’s efficiency, the technology and products you use, or provide quick cleaning tips for businesses.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Cleaning Demonstrations: Offer live demonstrations of your cleaning methods and products at business expos or local trade shows.
Partnership with Local Events: Provide cleaning services for local events or charity functions to increase visibility and build your reputation in the community.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Local Businesses: Collaborate with local businesses for mutual referrals. For instance, partnering with office supply companies can be beneficial.
Community Involvement: Engage in local community projects or sponsor local events to increase brand recognition and give back to the community.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Referral Programs: Implement a referral program that offers discounts or additional services to clients who refer new business to you.
Loyalty Discounts: Offer discounts or added services to repeat customers to build long-term relationships.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Local Advertising: Use local newspapers, radio, community bulletin boards, and online advertising to reach potential clients in your area.
Flyers and Brochures: Distribute well-designed flyers and brochures in local business districts, commercial areas, and at business networking events.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your janitorial business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your janitorial business could be:
Green cleaning solutions for your health and the environment
Premium detail cleaning to eliminate viruses
Green commercial cleaning for less
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a janitorial business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in janitorial businesses for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in janitorial services. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a janitorial business would include:
Cleaners – provide cleaning services
General Manager – scheduling, staff management, accounting
Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media, other marketing
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Janitorial Business – Start Making Money!
As you can see, there is money to be made in the janitorial business. It’s a $72 billion industry and janitorial services, particularly now, are in high demand. Offices, schools, hospitals, and small businesses use janitorial services to protect employees and customers by keeping their premises sanitized.
You can start small and eventually grow your business and build a crew so that you’re not the one doing the cleaning anymore! You’ve gotten off to a great start by learning what you need to know, so you’re now ready to start your entrepreneurial adventure and build a janitorial empire.
Janitorial Business FAQs
Is a janitorial business profitable?
The average price for janitorial services is $.11 per square foot, which doesn’t sound like much, but for a 5000 square foot office building that translates to $550. If you only do 5 buildings a week, you’re bringing in well over $100,000 a year.
How much should I pay my janitorial workers?
The average wage for a janitor is $15 per hour. You should check pay rates in your local area to make sure that you stay in line with the competition. Underpaying workers can lead to high turnover which is not good for your business.
Is a janitorial business recession proof?
While no business is completely recession-proof, a janitorial business can be more resilient than others during economic downturns. This is because businesses and organizations will always need to maintain a clean and sanitary environment, regardless of the economic climate.
What is the difference between a janitor and a cleaner?
The terms “janitor” and “cleaner” are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences in their roles and responsibilities. Generally, a janitor is responsible for performing a variety of cleaning and maintenance tasks in a commercial or industrial setting, such as sweeping floors, mopping, cleaning bathrooms, and emptying trash cans. A cleaner, on the other hand, may be responsible for cleaning private residences or performing more specialized cleaning tasks, such as carpet cleaning or window washing.
How do I differentiate my janitorial business from competitors?
To differentiate your janitorial business from competitors, you can focus on providing high-quality services that are tailored to the unique needs of each client. This can include offering specialized cleaning services, such as deep cleaning or sanitizing, using eco-friendly cleaning products, and offering flexible scheduling and payment options.
How to Start a Janitorial Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Business Name
Create a Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Licenses/Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Janitorial Business - Start Making Money!
Janitorial Business FAQs
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