Starting a Cleaning Business: Specialize in Residential, Commercial, or Both?

Thinking of starting a cleaning business and can’t decide whether to specialize in residential or commercial services? We’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each and highlight some key items to consider that may help you decide.

Whether you’re starting from zero or even looking to expand into one or the other, the tips and considerations below are relevant to your process.

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The Cleaning Company of Ontario are experts in commercial cleaning contracts

Playing to Your Strengths

The very first thing to consider before you decide is exactly what type of company you want to be. What are the strengths of your leadership and team? There are many ways you can consider this question.

For example, your company might be on a mission to be known for their customer service. If that’s the case, your team is apt to handle the extra volume of sales and in-person customer interactions that comes with operating residential cleaning services. Whereas if you have proficiencies in maintaining industrial equipment, you have what it takes to handle larger-scale commercial cleaning contracts.

View the rest of this list through that lens, and you may already be closer to deciding where to hang your shingle in the industry.

Sales and Marketing

Get the right commercial cleaning contract, and you might only need one to keep your entire business afloat. It’s a risky proposition to have just one client, but we say that to illustrate a point. To operate a successful residential cleaning business, sales and marketing will be part of your everyday life. You will constantly be looking to gain advantages over your competitors to try to keep your schedule full.

For a commercial cleaning business, sales and marketing look a lot different. The sales cycles are longer and the contracts are bigger. Typically your contracts will be ongoing, repeat business. Land a big sale like an office tower or a warehouse and you can relax a bit and get to work.

Market Conditions

If you’re looking to expand your company, whether it’s brand new or simply looking to level up, go where the expansion is.

Are there any new residential neighborhoods or condominiums emerging in your service area? Or what about office parks or industrial zones? New homeowners and businesses mean new cleaning business leads. There might be other cleaning companies knocking on their door to make a sale, but there are no incumbents in place, which could give you a better shot at landing the new business.

Conversely, if there are economic downturns happening in your area, be cognizant of what that means to your business plans. A more cost-conscious market could make for hard times or for opportunity for your company, depending on how you play it. If you’re smart enough to monitor the market trends, you could give yourself a key advantage.

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What is the competitive environment like in your industry? Are there many players in the space, all looking for the same slice of the pie? Consider that question carefully. The market could be crowded with a lot of businesses all competing for the same market of customers. But what if you go after an entirely different pie?

It could be that there is room in the market for a more high-end service provider. A business that doesn’t compete on price or compromise quality. Or, you might see a way to eliminate overhead and provide a low-cost alternative to the legacy companies in your area. That’s what Greg Shephard, the Owner of Dallas Maids did. He saw an opportunity for a lower cost alternative to his own company and launched a second one in the same market.

Pick your battles wisely and enjoy your pie.

Coverage Areas

How far are you willing to travel to complete a job? At what point does a job fall far enough outside your main coverage area that you have to charge a premium. Is it even worth it? If you’re in a busy metropolitan area, this might be a different type of question that if you’re in a more rural setting.

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about the expense of travel times when you’re quoting on jobs. Rather than think of travel and other required downtimes as non-billable, think of how it factors into your billing, so you always have good margins on your service rates.

“San Dimas’ Favorite Commercial Cleaning Company”

It’s also important to consider what your coverage areas are for the sake of your marketing. To make every dollar count, you want to focus your efforts on the areas you serve. For example, if you’d considering an advertising opportunity, think of the exposure it gives you where it matters most — in your coverage area.

We’re not just referring to when you’re considering which zip codes to send a direct mail piece, or hand-deliver flyers. This also refers to your branding and how you optimize your website. Position your company around the neighborhoods you serve and list them all to add clarity to the booking process for customers and to give you better placement in web searches.


For residential cleaning, your equipment and supplies list will look a lot different from commercial cleaning equipment. A house-cleaner or team can fit all of their supplies into one rolling bag or case, even if they have a vacuum. You can invest in or rent things like carpet steamers or shop vacuums as needed.

For commercial cleaning, you may need to prove that you have all manners of equipment before you can land a contract. Tools like floor polishers, pressure washers, “cherry pickers” (crane lifts), scaffolding, and all manners of costly rigging could be the status quo. If you’re buying and maintaining this equipment, that could be costly. If you’re leasing or renting, make sure that cost is built into your overhead on the job. You’ll also need to invest more time in training and often need more safety certifications to be insured and licensed to do certain kinds of jobs.

Commit and Conquer

Taking all of the above into consideration, choose a path forward and fully commit to it. You can always reconsider whether to change your strategy in the future, but it’s better to invest yourself into a dedicated plan of attack and approach it with gusto. Fence-sitting will get you nowhere.

After all, customers want to hire expertise. If you can’t prove that you have an aptitude or commitment to one type of cleaning, you’re less likely to win business and worse, less likely to get the kind of valuable referrals that can be the lifeblood of a successful cleaning business.

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Cleaning Business Software

Whether you’re a commercial cleaning company or you do residential cleaning, Vonigo’s cleaning company software can help you manage your business. From startups to franchises, Vonigo’s configurable software can adapt to suit the needs of your business — now and as it grows.

Want to learn more? Book a free, private demo of Vonigo.