In the United States, where doors are routinely locked and bolted, your clients are exhibiting the ultimate trust by allowing you, a virtual stranger, to be inside their sanctuary, their home. When starting a cleaning business, always treat that honor with respect.
What to bring on the estimate appointment? Besides your date book, bring the names and phone numbers of two or three references. You might even want to list a few names and phone numbers and make several copies of them. Ideally, these will be other clients in their neighborhood. Until you get those clients, use two or three other people who you know will gloat lovingly about your integrity and diligence.
Here are the 7 Steps:
1. Walk through the house with your client. Inquire if they have ever used the services of a house cleaner before, and if they have, how much did they pay?
2. Listen to their comments and take notes. Roughly note how long it may take you to clean each room.
3. Note clutter on countertops, sinks, in showers, around bathtub, etc. Noticing clutter when estimating a job, and dealing with it while you work is so important we've devoted a whole religion to it. (Not really, but did you know that now we have professional “Clutter Therapists”? Maybe I should call one. )
4. Floors and what they’re made of: Hardwood, carpet, tile, linoleum, rugs.
5. Kids and or pets? How many?
6. Take a few moments to silently calculate your findings, and tell your client what you've come up with.
7. Schedule your first cleaning.
Consider charging extra for first time cleanings, then give your client a break on subsequent cleanings. First time cleanings generally take longer, especially when the house has not been thoroughly cleaned for a while. For this reason, a lot of cleaning services routinely charge a higher rate for the initial cleaning.
Hint: One way to land a lot of good jobs when you're starting out is to make a point of telling them that you are going to waive the first timers’ extra charge. This is a foolproof method for getting regular jobs immediately.
When figuring out how long each room will take to clean, consider all the factors involved. The amount of clutter, your abilities and experience will determine how fast you go. Things like five kids under age seven, or three large shaggy indoor dogs will create more work, thus take you longer. Let your client know that this figure is simply an estimate, and can be adjusted if you take on the job and then discover that it's actually going to take more (or less) time than you initially calculated.
When you arrive for the estimate, introduce yourself, then go through the seven steps of the estimate process as outlined above. Most communication is non-verbal. People either resonate with your energy or they don't. It's pretty straightforward. Be clear in your intentions. You want them to hire you to clean their house at regular intervals for a good fee. If you are clear about what you want, and your intention is to give them good service while making a decent income, then your energy will carry this intention and you will be hired.
Far from mysterious, it boils down to this: Our thoughts and intentions create energy, energy creates vibes, and no matter what they say, people make most decisions based upon how they feel about things.
In our experience, about half of our potential clients ask for references. Some people don't ask. If they ask, have a list of references handy. If they don't, don't bother bringing it up.
You are working in a field where your clients, unfortunately, have dealt with their share of flakes. They want you to be different, to be on time, to be well-groomed, to be courteous and attentive to their needs. Prove them right. Show them that you are not the stereotypical flake they mistakenly hired last year.
This article was adapted from the newly revised and improved edition of Suzanne Arthur's ebook, Start Your Own House Cleaning Business. Two of Suzanne's other business ebooks, featuring the Suze & Ev Method, are Start Your Own Window Cleaning Business, and Start Your Own Office Cleaning Business. These ebooks, as well as a handy dandy cleaning tips ebooklet, can be found at Suze & Ev's further adventures in cleaning and beyond are posted on their blog, http://start-a-cleaning-business.blogspot.com