A janitorial service is a well-paying, steady business that involves mostly night work on a contract basis.
Typical services include sweeping, dusting, emptying ashtrays and wastebaskets, refilling soap and paper dispensers, and vacuuming and/or buffing the floors. Waxing might be done every third night; stripping once a month.
These services are normally performed at night when the business is closed, which gives the janitorial crew a time span of 12 to 14 hours. If the jobs are relatively small, one crew might clean several businesses a night.
You can start with ordinary household tools (and buy more as they are needed) and some cleaning supplies.
To start, find a small store or business that needs cleaning at night and offer your services. Do all the work yourself for a while. Learn first hand how long it takes to do each job, which techniques work best, and the type and amount of supplies that are needed.
On your first few jobs take notes of the workload and time it takes for each operation, so you will know what to consider when bidding on future jobs, and how long it should take your helpers.
Most janitorial contractors have checklists they use when walking through the job with the prospective client, so they can find out exactly what is wanted -- and bid accordingly.
Before making your bid, check the outside of the building to see if there are additional chores that could be included, such as sweeping a parking lot, straightening the trash bin or washing the outside windows. Also check the general appearance (which will tell you the quality of work they expect), and see if there is someone who may be hard to please.
When hiring help, you will probably need to bond them (as well as yourself). Many businesses will not deal with janitorial companies unless they are bonded, because they have access to their buildings and offices when no one else is there. A bonding service also helps protect you: if there is a question, the bonding agent arbitrates.
Since most of the work is done after normal working hours, it is not difficult to find helpers. Many students and day workers are happy to "moonlight" to make a few extra dollars.
To locate professional janitorial supplies, look in the phone book or Thomas Register (a reference book that lists all major manufacturing companies in the country).
Some janitorial contracts include refilling paper towel containers. Others include periodic wax removal, special jobs like window or wall washing, carpet shampooing, and plant care.
You can increase your profits by selling some supplies, since you can buy in larger quantities. If you find a good source for wholesale supplies, you may be able to offer the same supplies at or below the price your client is currently paying -- and still make a profit.
As your business grows, you can add equipment - such as buffers, wax strippers and commercial vacuum cleaners that will enable you to do more jobs and make more money. Keep an eye out for bargains in used janitorial equipment.
Although most janitorial companies pay their employees by the hour, it is alright for a beginner (especially a single proprietorship) to pay by the job -- a set amount per night, per month, or an actual percentage of the contract. In the latter case, it may be legal to actually sub-contract individual accounts, so that you are not burdened with withholding taxes.
For example, if you have a contract for $250 a month, you can subcontract it for $200 per month, and pocket the difference. That is your pay for getting the contract and also for being responsible to find another sub-contractor if the need arises -- because the contract is in your name.
Aside from obvious potential problems like theft or major breakage, the greatest possible problem is when you and the client disagree on what work is supposed to be done. It is very easy for this to happen unless everything is in writing.
When you accept a job or submit a bid, spell out every detail of what you are responsible. Make sure that both you and the client understand them the same way. This can save some big headaches.
Keep a current record of incoming and outgoing cash, and a file of your receipts and checks. Your financial records should be summarized monthly to let you know how you are doing and annually for income taxes.
Your contracts can be fancy, technical forms from a lawyers, or simple forms from a stationery store, or even a letter that you compose spelling out the details of the agreement and you both sign.
A contract needs to state that in exchange for a certain fee, you will perform the listed chores on a daily, weekly or whatever basis (separate them by when they are to be done). You will also need a subcontractor agreement. If you are in doubt about the contract wording, ask a lawyer to review your draft (he will ordinarily charge much less to review your draft than to compose one).
The janitorial business is profitable because every business needs it. Businesses are willing to pay well for good service. The work is not complicated or difficult and it is relatively easy to get help. Business often prefer to deal with a service than to try and hire their own because they are not there to supervise and the service gives them some assurance of a professional job.
If you are willing to work, learn, and manage people, you can do well in the janitorial business.
by Leva Duell: