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Determining a Reasonable Cleaning Rate

I have started a cleaning business and charge per square foot and per room. When I have someone helping with the cleaning, I pay them per hour.


My question is how to figure out how much employee wages, plus overhead charges, plus profit without charging the client too much? If I figure in all of these factors, my price seems to be too high and I won't get any business. Any suggestions? Thank you.

By Margaret from Corpus Christi, TX


Determining a Reasonable Cleaning Rate

It might be easier to figure it all by the hour. A large room with more square footage will take longer anyway. If I were in your situation I would check with others in the area and find out how much they charge. Just call as a possible customer and compare rates. Write everything down. (01/17/2011)

By MartyD

Determining a Reasonable Cleaning Rate

When I was paying to have my house cleaned, the lady charged me per room to sweep/vacuum, surface clean, dispose of trash (take it out to my corner) and do any dishes that were left anywhere in the rooms (the exception was one room I asked her to leave alone). She also cleaned the bathroom, all of it.


She would charge more for changing beds and/or doing laundry using my appliances and detergents, but she used her own things for cleaning/dusting/sweeping. She had a standard fee per room of a rough size, she charged me double for my living room because it was as big as 2 rooms. It never mattered to me how long it took her because it was a flat fee. If she brought someone in to get it done faster it may have saved her some money.

I don't know, that was just how she did it and I liked it. I didn't have to be there to police the work. She knew where the hide a key was and by the time I was home from work she was done and gone. She cleaned once a week and it was great (especially after the weekends my kids visited). (01/17/2011)

By Suntydt

Determining a Reasonable Cleaning Rate

Margaret, hoping your new business takes off, but I have a huge concern for you to consider. If I were you, and as someone who has offered cleaning services before, I would seriously reconsider charging by the square foot.


I believe an hourly rate is much more fair for you and your list of clients. For example, a client paying you by the square foot, requiring that you dust a five foot tall bookcase full of miniature figurines (which could take an hour or more) is getting a far better bargain than a client who merely wants the same area vacuumed (which will take less than 30 seconds). In other words, a cluttered place will take much longer to thoroughly clean than the same square footage in a more streamlined home or office.

What I always offered to potential clients was a free, 30 minute walk through consultation, while making a checklist of their priorities. Later I would give them an estimate of how long (hours) it would take me to complete their wish list and quote my hourly rate. Some clients would trim their priorities to stay within a certain dollar amount and others didn't care and were willing to pay whatever to get what they wanted done. I think it's important to be upfront with the client about expectations versus realities! Clients that agree with this philosophy will be easier to work with, as well.


Another reason to go with an hourly rate is scheduling: You will lose clients and money if you are stuck at a cluttered place (being paid by the square foot) and can't make your next appointment on a timely basis. This is not fair to you or your next client.

Even if you get into the moving, remodeling, or new construction element of cleaning services these places can vary greatly in the time needed to complete the job. Some residents and contractors are reasonably tidy and others are down right slovenly. Offices and businesses present the same dilemma: some are spiffy, others are pig sties.

Personally, as a responsible consumer, I would not hire a cleaning service that charges by the square foot for the above reasons and one more: it's unfair to your employees. To ask an employee to go to work with no idea of how long one will be gone (will the job take two hours or eight?) is callous. They have lives, family, childcare issues, friends, pets, chores, and errands they need to be able to work around their jobs. Even if you tell them they can leave after X amount of hours, you are unintentionally setting them up to feel like they can't finish the job and this will diminish their loyalty to your business.


I understand that this doesn't address your original question, but I can't wrap my brain around charging cleaning fees by the square footage versus an hourly fee to begin with so can't really help with the rest of your concerns.

I honestly mean no offense or disrespect towards your business venture. It's just that I've learned, over the years as both an employee and an employer (in unrelated fields) contemplating the essential fairness of any and every entrepreneur/employment opportunity always involves the eternal adage, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Once any of us realizes the brilliance of this tried and true insight, then and only then will all successes become a way of life above and beyond crafty accounting procedures. Good luck, Margaret. (01/18/2011)


By KansasCindy

Determining a Reasonable Cleaning Rate

My cleaning lady charges me $15/hr and I buy the cleaning supplies. It's fair for both of us. (01/18/2011)

By bkvander

Determining a Reasonable Cleaning Rate

As the consumer of cleaning services, I prefer a walk-through with the cleaner, then a flat rate given. That way I know exactly how much I'll be paying each time. If my cleaner works really fast, she makes a better hourly rate. If she stops to take a phone call or drink her coffee, I don't feel like I'm paying her $x.xx/hr to do her personal things.

If you read Don Aslett's books, he is a huge proponent of flat rates for his jobs. He contends you can charge a higher rate per hour, so to speak, and customers don't blink, because it's flat rate and they know up front what it's going to cost. (01/19/2011)

By Katie A.

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