This is a rather simple and flexible job that will allow you to earn an additional or full salary, or even more. It is also a sector that does not know any crisis, so you will have work constantly. I propose you to see here the important points, and some tips, to start well in this activity and quickly earn money.
- Here's the program
- What is this job of all about?
- What are the requirements for this activity?
- How do you get started in home or office cleaning?
- How to find clients?
- What salary can you expect to earn?
- What are the tips to earn more money as a cleaner?
- Pros and Cons
- Information recap
What is this job of all about?
In this article, I will talk about the two main types of workers in this sector: housekeepers and custodians. There is sometimes a certain confusion in people’s minds, and even if both are in charge of cleaning and maintaining living spaces, the place where they work is not the same. So, to clarify:
- Housekeepers: Also called “house cleaner” or “house maid”, they work exclusively in a domestic place such as apartments, houses, villas, mansions, castles, or even sometimes on a houseboat. The tasks to be undertaken may vary depending on the employer’s request or the place of work, but generally they involve vacuuming, dusting, cleaning windows, making beds, washing dishes, washing and ironing clothes, etc.
- Custodians: Also called “janitor”, or “caretaker”, they are in charge of public places, administrative buildings, or companies. For example, offices, hotels, museums, shopping malls, cinemas and theaters, schools, hospitals, airports, etc. Their work consists of dusting and disinfecting various surfaces, washing floors, etc. Note that housekeepers also clean hotel rooms, but not hotel common areas. In this article, when I talk about housekeepers, I will refer mainly to those who work in domestic places.
To sum up, housekeepers take care of private places while custodians take care of public spaces and workplaces. To keep it simple, I will sometimes refer to them more generically as “cleaners and maintenance workers” (CMW) if you don’t mind.
Both can be full time, but many people choose to work part time. They do so because either their physical condition or health does not allow them to work more than a few hours a week or because their main job does not generate sufficient income. It is not uncommon for single mothers and fathers to work multiple jobs to pay the bills and feed the children.
Most “CMWs” are employed by a cleaning company, but many are self-employed, especially housekeepers, as we will see further on.
What are the requirements for this activity?
First of all, it is better not to suffer from any allergy to dust or cleaning products because you will not last long if you do. Then, you should not be afraid of insects like spiders, or rodents, which can wander quietly in some hidden corners of houses.
You also have to be physically resistant and not be afraid of the effort because the positions you take are not always very comfortable and optimal. Some recurring tasks can be quite strenuous, and it is not uncommon to develop back problems or muscle pain over time.
Some customers will be very demanding and on the lookout for the smallest square inch you might have forgotten, so it is better to be meticulous and have an eye for detail. In this case, the rule is to always do a little more than a little less.
Discretion and honesty are also essential qualities. You will sometimes be in charge of cleaning places containing personal belongings, valuable objects, or even sensitive and confidential data, so it goes without saying that you must be irreproachable and trustworthy.
Finally, even if there are professional training courses to become a custodian or housekeeper, no particular diploma or certificate of study is generally required. The only thing that is sometimes asked (but not necessarily required) is to have some professional experience and therefore a few months or years of practice.
Beware of dangerous products
As you know, cleaning products can be harmful to your health, and some of them should be handled with great care because they represent a real danger if they are not used properly. It is therefore important to have appropriate protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, and a mask to avoid potentially serious effects on the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.
It is also important to carefully read the labels of cleaning products and follow the instructions for use. Also, avoid mixing cleaning products together, as this can cause dangerous chemical reactions].
How do you get started in home or office cleaning?
As I said above, there are two ways to start in this type of activity: working for a company or being self-employed.
1Working as an employee
This is the most classical way, but also the simplest and fastest: You consult the classified ads in newspapers or on the web, find a job, and get a salary which amount will depend on the hours you have worked.
You can either be directly hired by a large company who will ask you to clean their premises, or by a company specialized in cleaning houses or offices. The advantage here is that you won’t have to worry too much about the administrative side of things (no VAT declaration or accounting balance sheet here).
You should know that in some countries there are aids and other tax advantages to help certain elderly, precarious, or disabled people. This is a rather vast subject that I will not detail here, but a little Google search should help you find in your area.
2Working on your own
The other option is to become self-employed. To do this, you will have to take the necessary administrative and legal steps. You will then be able to choose your working hours and conditions, and you will also have the possibility to set your own rates (making sure to respect the official scale, if any).
You will normally be able to choose between several legal forms (self-entrepreneur, Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company…), and it is up to you to see what is possible for you and the most adapted to what you want to do. Ask your local administration or your accountant to find out which one is the most adapted to your project or the most advantageous for you because some offer more freedom than others while others sometimes allow you to keep certain social rights. Be aware that this can sometimes change from one region/state to another, so take the time to find out before deciding.
So, what should you choose? If you have ambition, I think it would be wiser and more logical to start as an employee in order to gain enough experience in this field and then to start your own business if you think it is a good option for you. Later on, you may even be able to have your own cleaning company and hire staff to work for you.
How to find clients?
If you are an employee, the company that employs you will be in charge of finding clients to work for. If you are self-employed, starting with a well-filled address book or order book will allow you to earn money quite quickly. If not, you will first have to find clients. There are several options for this:
- Word of mouth: Tell your family, friends and neighbors about your services and ask them to recommend you to their friends. Word of mouth is the most effective resource for housekeepers to find new clients, so it is crucial to offer a quality service to retain your clients, but also to get new referrals.
- Social networks: Create a Facebook page and accounts on Instagram and TikTok, and publish photo/video content that showcases your services, and why not entertain Internet users (funny, amazing videos, etc.).
- Online platforms: There are websites and applications that connect individuals or companies with providers offering various services. Some are specialized in this type of service. This is the case, for example, for:
- Online classifieds services: is probably the most famous and universal service of this type, so don’t hesitate to place an ad for your services there. Also check to see if there are any similar local or national sites in your area.
- Flyers and posters: Distribute flyers to mailboxes in your neighborhood and post ads in visible locations such as supermarkets or convenience stores, community centers, waiting rooms, etc.
What salary can you expect to earn?
Several parameters come into play when estimating the average salary of a housekeeper or custodian, but when you start out as an employee in the US, you should earn between $9 and $12/hour, which is equivalent to a monthly salary of $1.500 to $2.000/month for a full-time job. This amount is $15CAD in Canada, £11 in the UK, $26 AUD in Australia, $22 NZ in New Zealand, and ₹140 in India (source: Indeed and talent.com). These amounts are the minimum you should receive, and increase progressively according to your seniority, the nature of the tasks you perform, the place where you work, etc.
If you are self-employed, it is you who will set the price of your services, but be careful because there are sometimes official scales to respect. To know what you could earn, you can however take the salary indicated in the previous paragraph and add a margin between 30% and 60%, depending on the specificities of the services you offer.
And if you find this insufficient, there are ways to earn more with a few tricks, as we will see now.
What are the tips to earn more money as a cleaner?
The tips I’m going to mention here are more for housekeepers than for custodians (except asking for a salary increase), so if you have any, don’t hesitate to share them with us in the comments.
- Riding the eco-friendly wave: More and more customers are concerned about the future of the planet, but also and especially that of their families. Therefore, using eco-friendly cleaning products, or even those you make yourself, can be a strong positive argument to choose your services over others. I talk about this a bit more in the “Ecotips” section below.
- Offer additional services: In addition to regular cleaning tasks, you could offer additional services such as carpet cleaning to increase your revenue. You could even offer other services that are not related to cleaning, such as babysitting or driving the kids to school, walking the dog, preparing meals, shopping at the supermarket, etc.
- Expand your work area: If you are struggling to find enough clients and are willing to move to a larger area, you may have more work opportunities. This could be the case if you live in a village or small town and decide to move to a larger city relatively close by, but it can be the other way around sometimes. The trick here is to offer your services where there is a strong enough demand and where the competition is not too high.
- Offer competitive rates: Find out what other housekeepers are charging in your area so that you can offer competitive rates, especially when you are just starting out. You can then gradually increase your prices once you have proven your efficiency and found enough clients.
- Provide small gestures: Your clients will certainly appreciate small attentions such as a few flowers in a vase on the kitchen table, a little chocolate on the pillow when the bed is made, lavender-scented sachets in the linen cupboard, a kind or encouraging note on the desk, a little surprise (book, toy or candy) left on the children’s bed, etc.
- Make yourself indispensable: take care of each of your clients, pay attention to detail, learn quickly what the preferences and little quirks of the family you work for are, anticipate their needs or the requests that will be made of you, remind them of things they might forget, be a good listener, or on the contrary, be more discreet when it is necessary… and create an Excel file if your memory can’t store so much information. All this combined with the previous tip will make you quickly become indispensable in the eyes of your clients, and therefore a gradual, but more dynamic increase in your salary will be possible.
- Do not undercharge: Many housekeepers, especially foreigners but not only, tend to accept jobs with ridiculously low hourly wages. This is because they lack self-confidence, are new and inexperienced, do not know the local rates, etc. Get information and ask for a fair wage.
- Getting others to work: Opening your own cleaning services company requires a fairly large investment, as you have to pay for the paperwork, find a commercial space, buy all the necessary equipment, hire staff… but it can quickly become very profitable. It is an option to seriously consider, especially if you notice that there is a lot of demand and relatively little supply where you live.
Cleaning houses or public/working spaces is an interesting option if you are looking for a flexible and low-stress job (well, this is mostly true for custodians), and especially without having a boss constantly on your back dictating orders all day long but still earning a decent salary. On the other hand, it is a rather tiring job, sometimes even grueling, where you accumulate small health problems (back, muscles, joints…) over the years.
Although you don’t necessarily need to have any specific training, it is still preferable to have developed some cleaning skills when beginning. So starting by cleaning your own home can be a good way to get trained quickly and inexpensively.
Finding clients can be a challenge, especially when starting out on your own, but there are many options, such as websites that specialize in connecting clients with professionals, online listings like Facebook Marketplace, social networks, etc.
If you are ready to start your own business, it is important to highlight your skills and qualities, such as reliability, punctuality, and cleanliness, to differentiate yourself from the competition. You can also offer additional services, such as green cleaning or little touches to please your customers and keep them coming back.
Ultimately, being a housekeeper is a job that can provide great satisfaction in helping others keep their living environment clean and pleasant.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
As we know, cleaning products are often far from being harmless for the environment and our health. The quantity of chemicals, and especially the toxic cocktail they represent when they end up in the environment, is catastrophic. They contaminate soil and groundwater, causing damage that nature will take centuries to recover from. And it’s not just soil because chemicals can also be released into the air we breathe and contribute to air pollution.
These chemicals also have a direct impact on our health, as they can cause problems such as skin and eye irritations, headaches, allergies, and respiratory problems. Some others such as chlorine, ammonia and phenol can even be extremely toxic if inhaled or ingested.
Finally, cleaning products are often packaged in plastic containers, which despite the nice promises of some manufacturers, can lead to recycling problems. A part of them, which varies according to the regions of the world, ends up in lakes, rivers or the sea, thus polluting km³ of water.
It is therefore best to use natural cleaning products that can be used to clean surfaces effectively, without the negative effects of chemicals. Products such as white vinegar, baking soda, or lemon are for example very effective to clean the different rooms and surfaces of a house or an office.
You can also use reusable containers such as glass spray bottles that can be used to store homemade cleaning products, avoiding the use of single-use plastic containers.
Some brands offer products labeled “eco-friendly”. You can use them, but be careful because this label often hides a lot of greenwashing. So read the labels carefully and check the Internet to find out if this or that product is really better (or less harmful) for the environment or not.
- A simple and easy job, where you will decide most of the time on your work rhythm.
- Flexible hours, which you can choose according to your availability.
- A decent salary, but above all, year-round work.
- Social contact (it is not uncommon for housekeepers and clients to become friends).
- The work can sometimes be exhausting over the years.
- The use of dangerous products sometimes (handle with care).
- Location: At the client’s home (house, apartment, office, etc.).
- Investment: Very low if you start as an employee, variable if you are self-employed.
- Earnings perspective: You’ll start between $9 and $12/hour in the US, $15CAD in Canada, £11 in the UK, $26 AUD in Australia, $22 NZ in New Zealand, and ₹140 in India.
- Required: Be enduring and sociable, have method and a concern for work well done.
- Risk level: Low. But remember to protect yourself from toxic products when you work.
- Implementation time: Quite fast
- Material needed: Appropriate work clothes, protective equipment (gloves, mask, goggles, boots…), and cleaning material (depending on the case).