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You’ve bought all your cleaning supplies and equipment, told everyone you know that you have started a cleaning business and now you are ready to start bidding on jobs and getting down to work. So your next step is to meet with potential clients and put together a bid for their cleaning services. But how do you know what to charge for cleaning your potential client’s building?
Start off by remembering that you are in business to make a profit and earn a living. Sometimes the tendency is to price our services low in order to get our foot in the door. Pricing your services too low may mean you will end up working for very little per hour. And more importantly, will have little left over to reinvest in the growth of your company. There are cleaning companies that charge more than others and have all the work they can handle and there are companies that have lower fees yet are struggling to find work! Don’t sell yourself short or you will not be able to earn a living off your cleaning business.
The rates for commercial cleaning vary widely depending upon the area you live. Hourly rates are anywhere from $15 to $40 per hour depending on the type of services that you provide, whether or not you’re doing the work yourself, and your company’s overhead and expenses. Monthly square footage rates could run anywhere from $.05 to $.20 per square foot depending on the type of building you are cleaning and the frequency of cleaning. You’ll be able to bid a higher square footage price for medical facilities versus office buildings due to more specialized cleaning needs. You’ll likely bid a lower square footage price for large buildings versus small buildings. For example, you may bid $.08 per square foot for a 50,000 square foot building versus $.12 per square foot for an 8,000 square foot building.
You will most likely be charging your customers a monthly price and you will need to figure that price by estimating how long it will take to perform the services that your client has requested. The more productive you or your employees are, the higher the hourly production rate. If you’re able to clean 3,500 square feet per hour, your profit will be higher than if you’re only able to clean 2,500 square feet per hour, so adjust your price accordingly.
It’s also a good idea to find out what the “going rates” are in your area. A few phone calls to competitors may be necessary to get an idea of the basic charges in your area. Use a script when you call so you can compare apples to apples. So what do you say when you call? Try something like, “Hi, I have a small business office that I would like cleaned once a week. It is 3000 square feet and has two small restrooms. Can you give me a rough estimate of what you what you charge per month?” The person may or may not give you an estimate. Most contractors will insist on walking through the building, but it is worth a few phone calls so you have a ballpark figure on what cleaning companies in the area are charging.
To estimate what you should charge for cleaning a building, start by doing a walk-through with the building owner or manager. Keep track of the following:
* Frequency of cleaning (once a week, three times a week, five times a week). If frequency is one or two times per week, it’s best to estimate your time and multiply by your hourly rate. If cleaning 3 or more times per week you can estimate your time by the square foot.
* Overall square feet
* Types of floor surfaces and square footage of each (carpet, vinyl flooring, ceramic tile)
* Types of rooms – general office, break room, restrooms. Also note the number of toilets/stalls and fixtures in each restroom, as well as the types of restroom supplies used.
* Any special considerations – heavy traffic areas, elevators, unusual requests, etc.
* Make note of the specific services the client is seeking such as emptying trash, dusting, restroom cleaning, mopping and vacuuming.
The following services are specialized services and you should bid them separately, and list a per-service charge on your bid:
* Stripping and Waxing (.25¢ – .50¢ per square foot)
* Buffing/Burnishing (.03¢ – .07¢ per square foot)
* Machine Cleaning of Ceramic Tile floors (.12¢ – .21¢ per square foot)
* Carpet Cleaning (.12¢ – .25¢ per square foot)
* Carpet Spotting ($20 – $40 per hour)
* Cleaning appliances (microwave, refrigerator) – $10 – $35 per appliance
* Window Washing ($1.00 – $5.00 per pane)
Make sure you take enough notes so you can put together a realistic price that is fair to the client and one in which you will make a profit. After your first meeting with the client, go back to your office look through your notes and decide what it will cost you to clean the building. You may have to consult a production cleaning rate chart to determine how long it will take you and your staff to clean the building. Once you have an idea of how long it will take to clean the building you can put your cost estimate together:
* Estimate the time it will take by using a production cleaning rate chart or calculator.
* Determine your labor cost for cleaning the building one time.
* Determine your monthly labor cost to clean the building.
* Estimate a monthly cost for supplies. This will be a fairly low figure, perhaps 1 or 2% of monthly sales.
* Be sure to add in a profit margin!
Add up the figures and you will come up with your monthly cost. If you have access to a bidding calculator you will be able to put in a series of numbers and come up with a price. A bidding calculator will also show what profit you can expect to make. It is also advisable to add a first time cleaning charge. This is usually an hourly rate of perhaps $20 – $25 an hour. The first time you go through a building it will take longer and you may find the previous cleaning service may have left dirt in cracks and crevices that you will have to clean the first time through.
Once you have your price established, put your bid packet together. Your bid packet should specify what you are responsible for and what the client is responsible for (buying their own trash can liners, restrooms supplies, etc.). It should also include the monthly charge for cleaning services, how long the agreement is for, and the procedure to cancel the contract if either party is unhappy.
It is important to learn how to price your cleaning services so your customers know you are providing a professional service at a realistic price and so that you make a profit. After all, if you do not make a profit you won’t stay in business very long!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Hanson is co-founding member of The Janitorial Store (TM), an online community that offers weekly tips, articles, downloads, discussion forums, and more for anyone who would like to learn how to start a cleaning business. Visit The Janitorial Store’s blog and get inspired by reading cleaning success stories from owners of cleaning companies.