Cleaning carpets can be steady work for the professionals who do it, and over the years you can develop some really great, productive relationships with regular clients. Cleaning carpets, both residential and commercial, has relatively low entry barriers and potentially unlimited room to grow. Getting your own carpet cleaning business off the ground can take a lot of effort, and results might take a while to show, but with the right training, equipment, and organization, you can build from a solo operation with a single truck to a much larger service that serves the entire community.
Find out more about how to start a carpet cleaning business, and get the help you need to thrive, by contacting CraftJack today.
Get The Training You Need
The first step to any successful career as a contractor is to get the training you need to work independently. Carpet cleaning requires a certain amount of technical skill, but many of those skills can be learned on the job. After getting a high school diploma, you might want to offer your services to an established carpet cleaning company. Many areas of the country have several small carpet cleaning businesses operating, and you can generally find one or more that are looking to hire at any given time. If you have a basic education, a clean driving record, and current CDL, plus a good background check, you’re probably good to go with whichever professional needs you as an assistant.
At first, you’re probably going to work under the personal supervision of your senior contractor. This could be the owner of the company, or it could be a more experienced driver who’s been on the job for a while. This person is responsible for training you on the equipment, the cleaning chemicals, and the company procedures for lifting and moving furniture, billing procedures, and communication rules of the company. Pay close attention and ask relevant questions to understand what you’re doing.
Formal Carpet Cleaning Training
Formal training in carpet cleaning is available for certification from the Institute of Inspection and Restoration Cleaning (IIRC). IIRC training goes over some of the most common demands carpet cleaning professionals are called on to deal with, as well as some of the more specialized niches in the market, such as crime scene cleaning and heavy industrial work. IIRC offers an entry-level certification for carpet cleaning technicians, which includes:
- A general overview of the industry’s best practices
- Carpet fiber identification
- Preferred cleaning methodologies
- Rugs and upholstery
- Advanced training that includes antimicrobial work and fire restoration
- Professional training on carpet repair and reinstallation
After completing a course of formal study, students are eligible to take the IIRC exam for certification, which includes identifying patches and a listing in the IIRC’s Find A Pro database of registered professional contractors.
Opting into formal training can help new technicians attract new customers, since the IIRC logo and public listing demonstrate a high level of knowledge and professionalism. The training that certification requires can also help your company manage some of the less common challenges industrial, forensic, and other niche cleaning jobs can present.
Start Your Company
After your training, certification, and apprenticeship are done, you have the option to branch out and start your own carpet cleaning business. The first step is to create your new company’s formal business structure. After that, it’s usually time to get financing, buy equipment, and start scouting for your first customers.
How To Open A Carpet Cleaning Business
In most states, you have to make a choice between business structures. Generally, carpet cleaning businesses can be limited liability companies, limited partnerships, and sole proprietorships. Limited liability companies are popular among professionals, since this structure lets you operate like any person, including banking services and buying property, though your liability is limited to the money you’ve invested in the business. Limited partnerships are similar, though you usually have a general partner who contributes funding to get the company started. Sole proprietorships are generally appropriate for single-person companies that don’t plan to bring in partners or take on employees initially.
The process for starting each of these companies is similar. Depending on the state where you live or plan to operate, it typically requires filing paperwork with the Secretary of State or Department of Corporations. After filing papers, you may have to publish public notices and pay a state fee or tax to get started. After your state approves your incorporation, you can petition the IRS for an employer identification number (EIN). Your company’s EIN is a lot like a Social Security number for your business. You can use this to pay taxes, open bank accounts and lines of credit, and file other official paperwork.
Every carpet cleaning professional needs equipment to get the job done. In addition to the cleaning equipment, you need various cleaning solvents, protective chemicals such as Teflon spray, and chemical mixes for cleaning your equipment after a job. Your company also probably needs work equipment, such as a truck, communications gear, and office supplies. You might also need an office to work from, though many contractors choose to work from home, at least early on.
Common carpet cleaning equipment includes:
- Portable extractors
- Rotary extractors
- Truck mounts
- Wands and stair tools
- Hoses and accessories
- Air movers
- Carpet protectors
- Stain removers
- Hoses and accessories
- Foam blocks
- Rags, sponges, and towels
- Safety supplies (PPE)
Financing Your Carpet Cleaning Business
The large amount of equipment and supplies you need to be ready to work on day one takes some start-up capital. Financing can be a challenge for some new small businesses. Your options here are generally limited to three choices: personal financing, equity, and debt funding. Personal financing is relatively straightforward. If you’ve managed to save enough money from your prior job as an assistant carpet cleaner, you may be able to just deposit your own cash into your company’s bank account and start buying what you need. Depending on your available credit, you might also be able to use your personal credit card to get what you need and pay back the debt in installments. Always consult with a legal professional before doing this, however. Mingling your personal funds with your business expenses can be complicated and may bring legal or tax consequences.
Equity funding is common for large corporations, but it’s relatively uncommon among smaller businesses. Publicly traded corporations often sell stock, which is a share in the total value in the business. On the smaller scale most carpet cleaning companies operate at, equity can be offered to general partners, who may contribute funding in exchange for a share in the ownership of the company. This is usually a feature of limited partnerships, but it may not be an option for LLCs or sole proprietorships.
Taking on business debt is the most popular choice for how to start a carpet cleaning business. Many new companies are able to take out a business loan and get set up to start work. Sometimes the loan comes directly from the bank you have an account with, sometimes you can find a good rate with an outside bank or credit union, and sometimes professionals choose to take out a business loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA loans frequently offer low interest rates and generous repayment terms, but they impose a number of requirements for disclosure, filings, and tax documents. Speak with a professional before making your choice about how to finance your new carpet cleaning business.
Start Pitching Leads
Once your business structure is in place and the company has the funds and equipment it needs, it’s time to get started cleaning carpets. To do this, you need customers. Getting business for your company can be done in several ways, including word of mouth, direct marketing, and public advertising. These methods all have their advantages and drawbacks.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is one of the most productive methods for attracting new leads. It’s most common when satisfied customers you’ve worked with in the past recommend you to people they know, who then become very promising leads. Because word of mouth is based on trust and personal relationships, many of the customers who approach you after such a recommendation are relatively easy to pitch and generate a high percentage of bookings per person contacted. Unfortunately, word of mouth can be slow, and the total number of potential new leads it generates is almost certain to be small.
Direct marketing can be effective when you have a promising list of leads, but you still need to touch base to confirm an appointment. This approach takes many forms, from direct mail and phone solicitation from telemarketers to discreet door hangers and flyers left in public areas throughout your service area. These methods can be cost-effective, but to many people they are invasive and may actually reduce your odds of closing a sale with some customers.
Public advertising is a big field, and there are a lot of ways to go about it. Forms of advertising include radio and TV ads, billboards, and targeted online brand messages that can be set up through a service like Google Ads. Signage on the side of your work truck is a form of advertising, which has the dual benefit of being both highly visible and relatively non-intrusive. Costs for advertising range from very low for outdoor signage to very high for widely broadcast and professionally produced ad spots. Results are hard to predict. While highly targeted online ads may generate a lot of leads for the money they cost, other forms of advertising might generate few or no leads despite being very costly.
How To Start Your Own Carpet Cleaning Business
Starting a carpet cleaning business takes effort and time, but its success is largely under your control. Plan ahead and get the training you need, draft a business plan and finance your new company, and set to work rounding up customers for your service and your growth potential is strong. Above all, remember to look for the support you need for how to start a carpet cleaning business that can grow for years to come.