A carpet cleaning service is more expensive to start up than a residential or window cleaning company, due to up-front costs of the equipment. State of the art, truck-mounted equipment can cost anywhere from $2,000 to as much as $60,000. The low end of that scale is what you will pay for used, hand-powered equipment, and the upper end for brand new. A typical cost to start up is somewhere between $6,000 and $60,000.
According to carpet manufacturers, billions of square feet of new carpet is installed annually. All that carpet is going to get dirty, and someone will be making a living cleaning it.
Carpet cleaning processes
There are a dizzying array of techniques and systems to clean carpet with and even more confusing terminology that overlaps. Dry foam, dry chemical, hot water or steam, truck-mounted, portable, hand-powered, oscillating bonnet, cylindrical foam, rotary shampoo, carbonated, absorbent pad, external extraction, just to name a few.
You will need to get up to speed on all types of carpet cleaning, and choose a process that suits your target market in the general business niche. What fits your start-up budget? Portable systems are an excellent entry-level choice and easier on the bank account. Carpet cleaning professionals can begin with a more finance-friendly option by purchasing and using only portable systems. Then, as business grows, they can always upscale and purchase more costly truck-mounted equipment.
Learn about the industry
Do your research. Invest a bit of time online visiting the websites of organizations, schools, and associations. Read the recent threads on professional forums and learn all you can about the business from the insiders' point of view. Find out about the pros and cons of the business from a large pool of experts and practitioners.
Doh! Those real-world variables
Get a mentor who can give you a big picture and help describe real-world obstacles. These are the types of challenges not readily apparent to a start-up who may be learning by reading business theory or familiarizing themselves on industry beliefs, through reading forum threads. Many businesses that fail did not see that a mentor could have made a critical difference.
Specialize or diversify?
Consider whether you to specialize or diversify your service. Specializing is good for online marketing, and diversifying is good for real-world marketing. Both may be valid business options for you, but think of it from your clients perspective. They want excellent service and convenience, right? So consider ways to optimize your efforts by offering your customers a line of different, yet related, services. For example you might offer some combination of the following: carpet cleaning, automobile carpets, draperies, upholstery, fabric repair, cleaning, mattresses, and emergency cleaning services.
The client will find it easier to call only one service for multiple needs. From their point of view, calling on a cleaning service means scheduling time off work, which is just plain inconvenient, or blocking out time on a day off, which is no fun. Give them better options by offering more than one service. Your business will get additional call-backs from that client over time. Plus, your added services will give them even more reasons to refer your business to others.
Online promotion caveats
Now that you know why diversifying might offer a more lucrative return on your efforts, consider carefully the message your advertising sends. When marketing your service online make sure to send a targeted message, because all searches are based on relevancy. Do not dilute your web promotions with too many specialized niches within carpet cleaning. If your bread-and-butter is standard carpet cleaning, do not focus on upholstery repair on your website. This is trickier than it sounds. Make sure that your list of extra services are on separate pages. Do not include them on the main content for the main pages.
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Register your business with the appropriate local government agencies. You may be required to register as a licensed contractor. If you plan to offer sanitization or emergency hazardous cleaning services, prepare to get the necessary, special certifications. It is best to get bonded. Most carpeting represents a gigantic investment. The client will want every assurance they can get.
Your target market may be under-served or over-saturated. The trick is, how do you determine which?
Do not just look in the Yellow Pages and conclude because there are five pages of carpet cleaning services listed that your area is over-saturated. To come to that conclusion, you would have to quantify that percentage, and that is nearly impossible to do accurately. For every business in the Yellow Pages there are ten others that are not listed, and even more that do everything via word of mouth and flyering. A better way to determine a somewhat accurate picture is to realize that most of these services are being run poorly, and many of them are nearly out-of-business (for whatever reasons).
There is always room for an excellent cleaning service to carve out its own niche. Most of my cleaning clients came to me as they split ways with another cleaning service which made them unhappy, or which they had simply grown tired of. Most cleaning professionals are unskilled at keeping clients happy.
Clean carpets and clean appearance
Many cleaning professionals trying to start a successful service do not heed the psychological side of the business. The client is hyper-focused on getting pristine results and great service. They will judge you by appearances. It is therefore counter-productive to look disheveled, disorganized, or unclean as a cleaning service pro.
A smart cleaning professional takes advantage of this hyper-focus and looks the part. Avoid driving used vehicles if possible. In this particular cleaning service niche, appearance is everything. Make sure everything about your service is military sharp: the personnel, equipment, vehicles, and you.