New York City, Ilima Crook: There is more to starting up an apartment cleaning service than meets the eye. Cleaning apartments for a living may sound like a clever idea, since they are compact and located in large clusters. Various serive provider can be found in NYC area such as
I have helped thousands of people start cleaning businesses.
Periodically someone has the notion to specialize in apartment cleaning only. The rationale behind their thinking goes as follows.
I can get a dozen or more clients in one building. That would be more efficient in both marketing and logistics.
Cleaning apartments would be fast and simple. I could complete more jobs in one day.
Word of mouth would spread quickly throughout the building or complex. All I have to do is get one job to start.
I operated a professional cleaning service for ten years, and experimented with cleaning apartments. I did move-ins/move-outs, building maintenance, created special package-deals, special rates for tenants, you name it. However, I always reached the same conclusion. Apartment cleaning does not pay well enough, so you end up having to solicit more jobs. In the end, it was always just too difficult to find enough jobs to make it worth the effort. Residential and office cleaning just paid better.
Consider these not-so-obvious elements before you decide to pursue the specialized field of apartment cleaning. What are some of the obstacles?
My thinking was along the same lines as mentioned above. I thought, “I will have access to dozens, even hundreds, of clients in one place.” In reality, it was often impossible even to get my foot in the door. How do you gain access into a high-security building just to land the truly well paying jobs? I would spend hours trying to just get in to the buildings with no luck.
Eventually I realized that this was a bad way to spend my start-up phase. I felt frustrated and dejected, and all the initial fervor about being my own boss was starting to fizzle. In the amount of time I spent trying to access the apartment-building customers, I could have secured three to five house-cleaning jobs just by flyering a suburban neighborhood. I could have actually been enjoying myself, strolling and chatting with people, as opposed to being viewed as a intruder.
For every successful apartment account that stabilized into a steady cleaning job (many of the apartment jobs simply were one-offs) I could easily have landed three to five houses in suburbia that would have lasted for months, and very likely, for many years.
Apartments and Condos
In Manhattan, what is called an apartment is often the equivalent to a well-appointed mansion in the rest of the US. In this situation, which is a special sort of urban center, the rationale to clean apartments does work better, but still you will have to overcome some very entrenched obstacles. For one thing, just try to get into the building!
Apartments and condominiums are fairly equal in value to a professional cleaner. Condos are generally owned, whereas apartments are generally rented or leased. But what does it matter to an independent cleaning service operator if the customer owns their place or not? It doesn’t.
The point about condos is that they are usually too small, and condo owners tend to be big bargain hunters. Even when I found condo owners who would pay me what my time was worth, it was more expedient for me to schedule one three-hour job in that time slot, and earn $150, than it would have been to schedule two condos that paid $60 each.
Eventually, I had a $175 minimum, and guess what? All the apartment and condo jobs dissipated. This was in Boulder, a town where the median house value was $650,000.
Word will spread quickly
If you do take the lesser paying jobs, word will quickly spread around the building or town and you will soon have a number of poorly paying cleaning jobs that you will resent. Structurally, this could be very bad for your cleaning business. You need to recognize that you can actually get what you want, within reason. It is very possible to methodically cultivate the right client relationships to stabilize your cleaning service. This is something I learned by doing the wrong way for the first year. Now I know better.