One question that many cleaning contractors often ask is, how does one make the move from residential cleaning jobs to commercial cleaning?
It may seem like these similar careers are difficult to navigate between but this doesn’t have to be the case.
This article will help you understand the difference between commercial and residential cleaning jobs, ways you can set yourself up for success on the jobsite, and good market strategies to let your customers know you’re doing a new type of work.
If you’re a residential cleaner who is ready to make the move to bigger commercial jobs, then keep reading; by the end of this article you’ll feel ready to grow a successful cleaning business.
What’s In A Space?
Obviously the biggest difference between these two cleaning jobs is the type of the space you will be servicing.
Commercial cleaning is often thought of as being one step up from residential cleaning. For example, a commercial washer can handle way more laundry than a regular washer in your home. A residential window washer will be handling one or two stories while a commercial window washer could be servicing skyscrapers.
In general, commercial jobs of any kind are larger in scale and scope of work.
Residential jobs are personal endeavors that can often be done with a small crew or even one person working alone. In the world of professional cleaning, the difference in space is a huge part of the job transition. However, what’s inside the space is just as important as how large it is.
Commercial cleaning clients are often less picky when it comes to how you approach their space than residential clients.
This could be great news for you if you’ve run into trouble with your residential clients micromanaging the tasks you do in their home.
The reason commercial cleaning jobs come with less pressure from the client is because you usually aren’t touching their personal objects.
In a home, clients often want tasks to be completed in a very particular way and there are a lot of small items to move and work around. This can lead to anxiety and discomfort on the owners’ part.
In commercial cleaning jobs, the client just wants the space to be clean. There are fewer obstacles to work around and less pressure to keep every item in the exact same place. This could be a real advantage to you as you make the switch in profession.
Aside from the differences in space and layout, there are many factors to be considered in a commercial cleaning job.
Time is important because it is the metric we use to assess how much a job will cost. When doing a commercial or residential cleaning job, we calculate the number of hours we think it will take us to complete the tasks at hand to find out what rate to charge our client.
In residential cleaning jobs, you will often be interacting directly with your client. They may even watch you as you do the job. Because of this, having a set time when you will arrive and being prompt is crucial to maintaining a good relationship.
Residential jobs are almost always completed during the day. This is when people will feel comfortable having you in their home and when they can be available to oversee the job.
On the contrary, commercial cleaning jobs are usually done at night. This is to ensure there is no foot traffic or interruptions to business.
When making the move from residential to commercial cleaning, the schedule is something to consider carefully.
Working at night has advantages but also presents many challenges. It can be nice to not have any distractions or to have a client monitoring your every move, but working at night can be exhausting and demanding.
It can also be hard to staff employees for late shifts, which means you may have to increase your pay or benefits. This in turn could increase the price in your cleaning estimate.
Consider the challenges that working odd hours presents when writing your contract and factor it into your overhead costs. When it comes to your cleaning business, time is money and scheduling mistakes can be costly, so keep track of it carefully to ensure maximum profitability for your company.
Training Your Staff
In order to successfully move from residential to commercial cleaning, you will need to train your staff.
As mentioned in the previous section, you will be moving from daytime hours to nighttime hours, which can cause a big shift in availability with employees.
If you don’t already have a crew, you will likely need to get one. A commercial job may require two or more employees while a residential job can usually be done with one person.
Your crew needs to be able to work fast. Training your crew to work quickly is your primary goal.
Because you will be working with a crew and won’t be detailing, it will likely take less time to do the actual tasks in a commercial job than in a residential job.
In commercial cleaning, the goal is to get clean floors, clean bathrooms, and empty trash cans in the space in a quick and effective manner.
Making checklists of things that need to completed in a commercial job can help your staff create a routine.
Using walkthrough, bidding, and job proposal software allows you to create schedules and collect information from your team in the field in real time while they're in the prospect's space.
With janitorial bidding software like Route, you can seamlessly navigate between different types of cleaning jobs for you and your crew.
Another major difference in residential vs. commercial cleaning is that there is no walkthrough for residential jobs.
We have a series of articles on commercial cleaning walkthroughs if you want to take an in-depth look at this part of the cleaning business model.
For now, the important part of the walkthrough is understanding what it is and how it’s done.
When you are bidding in the commercial space, bringing a commercial cleaning walkthrough checklist is a great reference to have while you first meet your prospect to assess the space and the scope of work.
Every commercial job you do will begin this way. Our content series is a great place to start if you are making the transition from residential to commercial jobs.
Seeing the space helps in many ways, some of which may come in handy in the next section - equipment.
Try using a janitorial bidding software like Route to price jobs by square footage or by flat rate in order to easily utilize your walkthrough notes to estimate jobs in minutes.
The equipment that is used in commercial cleaning is different than in residential jobs.
Residential cleaning can be done with basic cleaning equipment you might find in a home.
Commercial jobs are bigger, see large amounts of foot traffic, and need heavy duty cleaning appliances to service.
There are many categories of commercial cleaning equipment, so figure out what kind of cleaning you’re going to be doing before making any decisions.
Some of the products you might invest in are floor cleaning machines, such as burnishers and electric scrubbers, a carpet sweeper, and steam cleaners.
You may want to consider expanding the services you offer when you make the move to commercial cleaning.
Some other common equipment items for a broader range of cleaning jobs include tile and grout machines, pressure washes for building exteriors, automotive detailing extractors, and window washing equipment.
There are great resources online if you’re looking to purchase commercial cleaning equipment.
You can find good deals on new equipment around the holidays, and there are also several vetted networks that buy and sell used cleaning equipment. Another option is looking into equipment rental in your city.
Making the move to grow your cleaning business from residential to commercial cleaning is a big step—these jobs are not one and the same.
Residential work is in many ways a detail-oriented job with a high level of customer service interaction.
These jobs don’t require a crew and they don’t require industrial-grade cleaning equipment.
What it does require is meticulous performance in a delicate space. You are constantly handling customers' personal things in a residential job, which leads to nit-picky clientele and long periods of time spent performing small tasks.
When moving to the world of commercial cleaning, the first thing you must do is learn to work fast at odd hours.
The details are no longer important in a commercial cleaning job. Speed is key to getting the job done before business hours.
You will not be handling your client’s personal items or working in their living space. This means you can work faster and worry less about the placement of objects, etc.
You must retrain your staff to work quickly and to cover large amounts of ground. This is why it is necessary to work with a crew. You can make checklists to make the process easier.
When moving to commercial cleaning, you will the sales process begins by doing walkthroughs before you start a job. This initial tour of the space will give you a good idea about the scope of work. You will later use the notes to write a proposal that includes your estimate.
Keep in mind that the equipment used in commercial cleaning is different than residential cleaning.
The machinery needed is large and expensive, so it wise to do market research before making any purchase decisions. In this process, you may want to consider what other services you might offer, such as tile and grout restoration or window washing.
Keep this article handy as you ask yourself, “how do I grow my cleaning company?” There are many steps to making this process happen, but with a good background of knowledge and the right tools, your commercial cleaning business will take off before your eyes.