I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle and being her first customer for her brand new cleaning business. Michelle was excited and nervous but had the support from someone who was experienced in running a cleaning business with her.
Michelle did a fantastic job and made sure everything was done properly but she mentioned that some of her friends were waiting for her to fail. She had an issue with her accounting software and sending the invoice but it was all solved very quickly. Here are the other issues we experienced.
Michelle has been a cleaner for years and is very confident completing her work. The issues that arise in starting her own cleaning business don’t relate to her ability to clean but more around the other aspects of her new business, including.
- Quoting correctly
- Invoicing and getting paid
- How to get people to know about her
- Having all the products she needs to do her work
- Negative feedback if one little thing goes wrong
- Separating her business and personal affairs
Separating Personal and Business Affairs
Although Michelle is using her personal mobile phone, she can now claim the cost of that as a business expense because she uses it to earn an income. She can now also claim the cost of Internet, car, petrol and other expenses to reduce her taxable income.
The other important changes to make are:
- Create a more professional email address just for the business
- Create a separate bank account to make it easier to track income and expenses
Quoting correctly is always an issue, even for experienced businesses because you could end up costing yourself money. Many small and micro business start ups undercharge because they want more customers and that is OK for a short while but if it goes on too long you might find you earn more money getting a job.
In Michelle’s situation she charged $300 for an exit clean on a very small 1 bedroom apartment. It took her 3 hours so she actually earnt $100 which you would think is a fantastic rate compared to normal wages but there are some things which weren’t factored in.
- Michelle lives 15km away from the job and although she was working just around the corner it may not have been worth her while normally
- She had another helper with her for most of the time and that person needs to be paid.
The way that Michelle priced her services is called Value Based Pricing and it’s attractive to customers because there are no surprises. Bookkeepers also use this pricing model.
The only true way to know if this is a good price is with some market research.
Michelle was proactive to find this exit clean. She saw a “wanted” listing in Facebook Marketplace and reached out to make contact, offering her discounted price up front. She was one of about 10 people who responded but she responded in exactly the way that the customer wanted – by sending an email. Most others just wrote a public response or sent a Direct Message.
Michelle can continue to do this but she would need to ask herself “is this what most people do when they are looking for a cleaner”?
The best way to get discovered is to come up in a search result in Google or to be recommended by word of mouth but both of those methods take a bit of time and effort – particularly the word of mouth option.
The quickest way of getting discovered online is with a Google Maps listing or a Facebook Page.
You could set up a website using WordPress but that is a little too technical and incurs hosting charges so it’s not something you need at first. Even a website builder system like Wix incurs monthly costs.
Separate Bank Account
It’s important to have a separate bank account otherwise you could end up spending a lot of time separating the business expenses from your personal expenses and this is something you have to do as a business owner.
You might think this would be easy but most of the time you have to identify business expenses is often months or even a year after they were incurred – are you going to remember that?
One of the biggest reasons that small business spend too much on bookkeeping or are NOT compliant with the ATO is because of this simple thing!
Invoicing and Getting Paid
One of the hardest things for new business owner to do is ask for money from their customers. As an employee all the work is done for you. Employers know what they need to do and get on and do it otherwise they’ll get in trouble with the ATO but your customers are waiting for you to tell them how you want to be paid.
If you allow a customer to pay you AFTER the work has been done and not on the spot while you are there you are essentially entering the lending business and giving them credit. That is a whole separate job and there is a cost and process involved in that.
You need to make sure that you are paid before you leave the premises so the best way is to set yourself up on an accounting system (a cheap or free one will do for a while) and make sure you are able to create and email invoices.
The other thing you’ll want to be sure to do is put your bank account details in the Notes section of the invoice so your customer has it on file.
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Getting Ratings & Recommendations
Michelle did a fantastic job and I would happily give her a recommendation but I can’t. That’s a 5 star review I’m willing to give RIGHT NOW that I can’t.
If Michelle had a Google Maps profile I could do that at any time – but she would need to ask for it. She would also need to ask for it as soon as possible after the work is done. Life goes on for everyone and the longer you leave it the less you remember the experience so get your referral links to satisfied customers early.
Keeping in touch with customers and prospects
This is often the last thing that new business start ups think about (unless they are a technology company) because they only have a handful of customers. When you send an email message to customers once in a while there is a MUCH bigger chance that they remember you and what you do. When they remember you they can refer people to you.
Mailchimp has a free plan for micro businesses but there is a learning curve to get to know how it works so the easiest way is setup a group in your email software and send a braodcast message to everyone (making sure you put their email addresses in the BCC area so they don’t all see each others email addresses.
If you do use this method you must be prepared to accept rejection and messages from some customers who don’t want to receive messages in the future – this is called being Anti-SPAM compliant.
Other software programs that can help you manage this are Aweber, SendGrid, GetResponse or a CRM program like Zoho CRM or Streak (which is just for Gmail users).
Having all your products
It might seem like an easy business to start but like all businesses you need a certain number of things with you all the time. Most of these things are “assets” that you will use over and over and some of them are “consumables” which you will use as you go and need to replace regularly.
This is the “operations” side of the business and usually involves checklists so you know what you’ll need for different cleaning tasks you perform. These can include:
- vacuum cleaner
- mop and bucket
- brushes and wipes
- toilet cleaning brush
- carpet powder
The Complete Business Cloud Training Course Package covers most of the things you need to consider when starting your own business. It includes digital marketing and sales training as well as customer service and bookkeeping but one of the most important (and probably boring) is the planning stage.
Negative Feedback from Friends and Family
You would think that friends and family is the last place you’d get negative feedback but unless these people have run successful small businesses they may not be very supportive. When I spoke with Michelle she had some minor issues getting her Zoho Accounts software to email the invoice and it was simple to fix but this is one of the things that unsupportive people can pinpoint and talk negatively about.
In reality a small technical issue might only happen once and be a great learning curve that you don’t to go through again.
Most successful business owners find a group of friends or other business owners who are going through similar challenges. These friends will be able to give you a different perspective or offer alternative views that might help your resolve an issue. Sometimes they’ll just be there to help you ride out a difficult period where sales are slow.
Getting Regular Work & Ideal Clients
If you want to do exit cleans as the main part of your business you’ll have to network with businesses or people who can refer or provide you with this work and that is usually real estate agents. It might be removalists or conveyancers for different businesses and you’ll need to figure that out.
If you need to fill your days with regular cleaning then you’ll want to find customers who want their houses cleaned every 2 weeks and have a big enough house to take 2-3 hours. This becomes your ideal client and when you receive an enquiry from someone like this you need to try to get them any way you can.
Usually the best way to get clients is to be yourself and be genuine, showing an interest in them and what they need. This is the best time to practice your conversation skills and empathy and almost stop thinking about the fact that you need to earn the income they’ll provide.
The Marketing, Sales and Customer Service Strategy to Find Ideal Clients course goes through much of this process.