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31 Ways to Earn Cash Before Christmas: Start Your Own Cleaning Business (Day 26)

31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas

Welcome to October’s series on 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas. In this series, I’m highlighting simple and legitimate ways you can earn extra cash in the next three months for those of you who could use a little extra cash to help you pay for Christmas — or just for your living expenses if you’re in a tight spot right now.

If you’ve found a great way to make extra cash before Christmas that doesn’t require an outlay of cash upfront, please email me your tip. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Lindsey of Faithful Homemaking

A couple of years ago, an acquaintance called me and asked if I would like to take her cleaning job while she was in the South for the winter. I hadn’t cleaned professionally before, so I didn’t know what to expect. But once I started, I quickly found that cleaning can be a wonderful way to earn extra money.

Since then I have acquired three more cleaning jobs and have passed a few others on to my friends.

How to get started:

Talk to someone you know who cleans office buildings or homes. See if they have any jobs they can refer to you. If you aren’t able to clean regularly but need a little extra money, perhaps they would let you sub for them when they are sick or on vacation.

If you don’t know anyone in the cleaning business, make ads and flyers and pass them out to friends, neighbors, and local businesses.

Purchase some supplies:

Office buildings usually stock the cleaning supplies, but my residential clients prefer that I bring my own. I look for BOGO sales and coupon deals on cleaning solutions and stock up.

I make sure to have clorox wipes, clean rags, toilet bowl cleaner, Dr. Bronner’s soap, glass and window spray, bathroom cleaner, and disinfectant spray on hand. I also carry a little bucket for mopping and my Norwex cloths, which I LOVE!

Also, there’s no need to spend a fortune on cleaning tools.  I use my faithful old Dirt Devil vacuum that I’ve owned for 10 years and it works great.

Hone your cleaning skills:

If I’m not sure how to clean something, I ask my fellow cleaning friends for tips or google it. I also occasionally watch cleaning videos on YouTube.

After cleaning sinks, counters, and toilets I will buff with a clean, dry cloth to make them extra-shiny. I prefer to dust with my Norwex dusting mitt and mop most floors by hand to be able to get the corners of the floor. I also try to be smart about my cleaning. If the building/home doesn’t truly need dusting every week, then one week I will dust, the next I will clean blinds.

Be choosy:

Some office cleaning jobs require that you carry insurance. Some residential homes are too filthy to handle. Some employers may expect more hours out of you than you can give or may not compensate you fairly.

Consider carefully each opportunity that comes your way. Will you have childcare during the hours you need to be cleaning? Will you be required to clean during late hours in areas that could possibly be dangerous? Will you be expected to be “on call” or will it be a set weekly time? If you have a baby keeping you up at night will you have the energy to handle even one cleaning job?

Most office jobs require that you come in when their business is not open, which means early mornings, evenings, or on weekends. Most residential clients want you to come in during daytime hours to clean when they are away at work. Figure out which option works best for your schedule. I only take jobs that allow for my husband to be home with our kids so we don’t have to pay childcare. I also don’t want to clean lonely office buildings when it’s dark out, it creeps me out!

How much to charge?

You don’t want to charge too low and be taken advantage of. After all, cleaning is hard work, it takes a lot of energy, and you are giving of your time to do it. But neither do you want to charge too high and lose all your possible-clients to other cleaners who charge less.

Figure out what the going rate is in your area. In my area people will pay at least $20 an hour. Office jobs generally pay $25-$30 an hour. Some businesses prefer to pay by the job. This is really nice because if you are motivated and fast you can get even more money per hour.

My friend, who also cleans, takes her teenage son with her and he helps gather all of the garbages. So she is able to do a 3 hour job in 2.5 hours and make really good money to help feed her 3 teen boys! Cleaning provides an excellent wage considering the flexible hours and the fact that you don’t need a college degree to do it!

If you are committed to excellence in your work, the jobs will continue flowing in via word-of-mouth recommendations. At this point I work 3-4.5 hours a week and bring in $60-$95 per week.

The kids get to spend time with Daddy while I’m gone and that little bit of extra money helps our tight budget out so much! I also enjoy being able to get out of the house and listen to music or have some quiet time while I clean.

Lindsey Swinborne is a homeschooling mom of four who lives in Wyoming.  She loves photography and is thankful for her cleaning jobs which helped her fulfill her dream of having a DSLR camera.  She blogs at Faithful Homemaking.

photo source

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  • Denise says:

    My husband and I are cleaning charter/tour buses inside and out for extra money. His mom passed the job on to us. It pays really good but cleaning is NOT fun when they are really dirty! But we are so thankful for the extra income God has provided for us to pay off some debts!

  • Sarah says:

    Do you have any cleaning tips on your blog, Lindsey? It takes me 4 hours just to clean half my house (and my house is not very big!). I find that small things take forever…it takes me 15 minutes just to unload the dishwasher. I don’t know why I move so slowly, but tips or ideas on maximizing time would be helpful 🙂

    • Tammy says:

      Is it because you get distracted? It’s so easy to get distracted in your own home!

    • Diane says:

      I think it depends on your natural speed. My aunt & husband can get a job done in half the time it takes me. They say it’s because they worked on a production line for years and had to move fast, and that’s something I’ve never had to do.

    • Jessica says:

      I’m the same way Sarah. No one ever taught me the proper way too clean efficiently so I catch myself doing silly things out of order, like forgetting to wipe down the table before I vacuum. It takes me FOREVER to clean b/c I’m so bad at it. I’ve often considered hiring someone to teach me to clean a house as fast as the cleaning people do it.

    • Lindsey Swinborne says:

      I clean very fast because with my office cleaning job I realized that if I really prioritized and worked hard, I could get it done in less time and make $35 per hour instead of $20 per hour since it was paid by the job. I try to work smart. I map out in my head what needs to be done and how I can avoid wasting time going from one end of the building to the other. I spray down the toilets and sinks before I go in and clean them so they have some time for the cleaning solutions to work on them. I can get 10 offices vaccuumed, lightly dusted, 2 bathrooms cleaned, and 2 floors mopped by hand, as well as about 12 garbages taken out (new liners put in each garbage) in an hour to an hour and a half.

      I don’t have cleaning tips on my blog yet but I can give you some here. Make a plan on paper first of what needs to be done. Sit down and make sense of it. What should be done first? Definitely dust before vaccuuming. Then do counters. Then mop. It’s always a good idea to clean from the top down. Try challenging yourself to clean as fast as you possibly can and listen to music and follow your written plan as you go. Carve out 30 minutes a day to clean on your house and you will see amazing results even with that. Don’t let yourself get distracted with the phone, the computer, etc. Just focus on cleaning for that time period and then put it away.

      • Sarah says:

        Thank you for the tips! I’m going to try and be more purposeful when I clean. My kids don’t nap anymore and I homeschool, so I’m always getting distracted with “Mommy, I need……” and things take forever.

        • Lindsey Swinborne says:

          I totally understand where you are at Sarah! I homeschool and have 4 little ones and now only 1 naps in the afternoon. And when they have an hour of “rest time” after lunch, the last thing I feel like doing is cleaning! I throw a load of clothes in and a load in the dishwasher quickly before we start school. It takes me about 10 minutes tops. Then at lunch I usually unload the dishwasher and throw the clothes in the dryer. In the late afternoons I will sweep or try to clean one room of the house while the kids play outside or watch a movie for 30 minutes. Now that I have a 7 year old I feel like we are FINALLY getting somewhere with me not being the only one picking up. She loves her chore chart and obsesses about cleaning the house so that is a big help to me! Her brothers need a lot more prodding, but soon they will all be old enough to make a large dent in the chores. Hang in there! A homeschooling house is usually a messy house!

  • Tammy says:

    That’s a great idea. It doesn’t work for me in this time frame of my life but it’s one that I’ve considered before!

    Local to me, there are two ladies who have a cleaning business, using “green” cleaners. They did a workshop a few years back on using and making green cleaners and at that time, they had to turn clients away.

    • Amy says:

      I think this is a wonderful point. I have someone who cleans my house every other week and she has been resistant to using natural products (vinegar, Norwex, etc.), thinking they don’t clean as well. I think that educating people in the business, as well as offering “green” services, will be a growing part of the cleaning industry.

  • Jessica says:

    My parents clean an office for a lawyer. Remember, you still owe taxes on this income. They messed up and did not claim the income on their past few tax returns. I have a bad feeling that this will eventually come back to haunt them.

    • Diane says:

      As long as the lawyer doesn’t report it as paid to them, it should be fine. Lots of people get paid under the table for jobs they do. As long as both are on the same page, it shouldn’t come back on them.

      • Jessica says:

        Any earned income needs to be reported. Not reporting it is exactly what “under the table” means. A lawyer should know better. He pays it with checks from his business account so I’m sure he counts it as a business expense, but he doesn’t take taxes out of it for my parents. They earn thousands of dollars a year, as it’s about $100 per week that they earn from cleaning. The reality is that it could come back to them, and it is their responsibility as independent contractors to report their income (they’re not employees of the law office).

        I’m an independent contractor for three companies myself and I know that honesty is always the best policy when it comes to reporting the income I earn.

        • Diane says:

          If it’s paid to them with business checks, then yes, I’d agree they should report it to be safe. I was talking about jobs paid in cash that people don’t usually report, such as paying a college student for a few nights of baby sitting while you go out, or things of that nature.

        • Lindsey Swinborne says:

          I agree! It’s important to report your cleaning income on tax forms!

  • My mom did this for years, and it was an easy way for her to make extra money. She cleaned a friend’s house on a lake, and they would allow us to come while she cleaned. We had a blast, and she got to do her job with us there. It was very flexible.

  • Lana Hope says:

    Americans are so blessed that a simple job like that can bring in such a good wage.

    • Lindsey Swinborne says:

      I’ve often though that myself! In the third world there would be thousands of people lining up for jobs like these…jobs most Americans look down on (who wants to clean toilets?). It’s a blessing!

  • Heidi says:

    I have enjoyed my office cleaning job for 11 years. I get to work at 5:30 am weekdays and am done and home in time to pack school lunches for my kids and get them off to school. Everyone is asleep so my working hours never take away from family life. When my kids were babies, they would often come to work with me and sleep in their car seat on the floor. I love my job and it pays great!

    I’d also like to add that I am an employee there so my taxes are taken out for me which I consider a great perk.

    If you are considering this for yourself you need to be 100% reliable, hard working and consistent.

    • Lindsey Swinborne says:

      I agree Heidi! It takes a lot of commitment to clean that early (or on weekends when you’d rather be doing something fun) but it pays off! I love that cleaning doesn’t really take away from family life. I too have cleaned while my new baby girl slept in her carseat near me (or strapped to me in a carrier). It’s nice they do your taxes for you too! Looks like we both found a way to make cleaning jobs work for our families!

  • Kay says:

    As someone who has hired cleaners for one-time situations at home in the past, and have friends/family who have cleaners on a biweekly basis, I can offer some additional tips.

    Word of mouth is important. I want to know that you won’t steal and are careful with my things. Some breakage happens, but a lot (particularly in the beginning) is going to cost you steady jobs. Being bonded helps, but if my friend says you’ve cleaned for her for a few years with no problems, I’m going to go with you over the latest groupon deal. This is non-negotiable and the most important thing for me.

    People won’t necessarily tell you if they are unhappy with the cleaning – they just will stop using you. A friend hired an artist who cleans part-time and her work started to get sloppy. He’d have to clean after her or ignore it. He wanted to support the arts, but he also wanted a clean house! He avoided a discussion (our suggestion) and just didn’t hire her when he switched apartments.

    A reasonable rate is important, but I’ll stick with you even if you aren’t the lowest, if I trust you. Offer one-time cleanings (charge more), bi-weekly, and weekly fees. We hired a cleaner for my parents house before a surprise 35th anniversary party we threw for them at the house with out-of-town visitors, because we didn’t want my mom to worry about whether her house was clean enough. I hired a cleaner just before my wedding for the same reason.

    Consider talking to contractors for business. After we had our kitchen renovated, part of the cost included a cleaner to take care of all of the dust, debris, etc.

    Consider offering different rates for a more expansive cleaning, which could include changing sheets, doing dishes, etc for the busy professional (a few hours of housekeeping essentially). I have lawyer friends who would pay for this – and be delighted if you dropped off/picked up their dry cleaning as well.

    • AC says:

      These are all fantastic tips, Kay. Our house cleaners comes every week but only does the upstairs every other week so we have a differentiated rate. We’ve also hired out the final cleaning and initial cleaning when we’ve sold a house or moved into a new house. We absolutely expect to pay more for that! For those looking for work, consider talking to realtors as they often suggest someone to do the final cleaning. Our neighborhood developer also has a cleaner who cleans the homes once construction is complete.

      Your comment about not telling someone when they’re happy is unfortunately absolutely true. I’ve always given feedback but most of my friends don’t and just find someone new.

      • Kay says:

        Oh yes, I had forgotten to mention realtors! We are in the process of buying a house (well, we’re window shopping at the moment), and I plan to hire a cleaner for our staging before an open house when we get there.

        In fact, if you are particularly ambitious, you could reach out to any “sell by owner” homes in the area and offer your services to them directly.

        • Brandi says:

          I am Realtor and I have a cleaning person for my personal home. I get her lots of extra jobs cleaning houses for my clients. She does lots of “make ready” jobs for rental houses that I handle. Because they are vacant, she can do the work at night or on the weekends.

          I also agree that it’s important to be consistant. I’ve let several cleaners go because the work gets sloppy. I will let it go one or two cleanings, but it’s important to do your best every time.

    • Lindsey Swinborne says:

      Fabulous tips Kay! I had never thought of approaching contractors or putting my name out there for one-time events like helping folks get ready for company. I will have to use those tips myself when I need some cash flow. Thanks for sharing =)

  • AC says:

    Your clients are so fortunate you bring cleaning supplies! I’ve had four different house cleaners since we’ve been married and none of them have ever supplied cleaning products. One suggestion to add to this list is make sure you discuss expectations with the homeowner or business owner. I’ve learned that every house cleaner has different “standard” cleaning services. We’ve had house cleaners who clean our oven every week and those who never do; house cleaners who clean the shutters every week and others who do it once every few months. It’s best to set expectations up front, going room by room and identifying what you would clean on a weekly basis and also determining if the owner has expectations that differ.

    • Kay says:

      Supplying cleaning products may vary by region. In my area, all cleaners I know bring their own. For example, they have their own tricks and products for keeping a stainless steel fridge clean and can’t rely on the customer going out and buying the product that they suggest. (And the customer may not want to buy something they only use a tiny bit each cleaning.)

      • Lindsey Swinborne says:

        I agree Kay, I prefer to use my own because I know what works and what doesn’t and I also prefer not to breathe in tons of chemicals so I try to go for the more-natural cleaning solutions whenever I can.

        Great point AC on discussing expectations. If you are going to get paid by job rather than by the hour, it’s important to figure out EXACTLY what the boss expects so that neither one of you feels cheated. If cleaning by the hour and they give you lots of extra tasks that week you will just earn more. My clients usually ask for dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms, taking out the trash, and mopping. I rarely have to do dishes, or make beds. I do wipe down counters, microwaves, laundry machines, and I DO WINDOWS =)

  • Roxanne says:

    My husband and I both work full time and I homeschool our children, so I have my home cleaned weekly.

    From a customer’s perspective, the best advice I can provide is to be thorough and consistent. I’m on my 6th cleaning company in about 2 years because of poor and inconsistent work. If you consistently do an excellent job cleaning for your customers you shouldn’t have trouble finding and keeping new clients.

    When I’ve hired larger companies, I’ve been able to call to complain and have a second team come out and clean my home for free. With individual/partner cleaners, I have to call to complain and hope they do better the next week.

    I think cleaning is an excellent opportunity for someone wanting to quickly bring in income. The going rate seems to be $30-35 in my area. So if you are willing to do an excellent job, you will stand head and shoulders above most of the competition.

    • Lindsey Swinborne says:

      Wow, that’s a lot of money Roxanne! I wish I lived closer to you so I could clean your home for you! I am a perfectionist, am very OCD about germs and cleanliness and I would do an excellent job you would be proud of! I hope you can get someone that sticks with you long-term. I am amazed that people would get sloppy when they are making that much money!

  • JP says:

    Lindsey – excellent post. I like how the hourly wage can be decently high too. A great way to store up some extra cash!

    Some people may wonder about taxes, the employers insurance responsibilities, social security and Medicare deductions (all the detailed stuff).

    It’s all here:

    Ron Lieber from the NYT runs the personal finance section at the NYT, wrote an excellent piece on several of these topics.

  • Lana says:

    One market that is pretty much untapped is people who have ‘green’ cleaning businesses. I would love to be able to have someone clean my house but we only use green cleaners. I would feel like I had to educate someone on how to clean my house that way and so I just do it myself.

    • Lindsey Swinborne says:

      I try to use green cleaners just for my own health since I spend a few hours around the solutions each week. I like this idea and if I want to expand my business I may just have to offer “green” options for people! Thank you Lana!

  • karen b says:

    My mother has cleaned for probably 30 years. I have done it off & on for 20+ years myself so I do it know its a great way to be able to earn extra income & only be away from a couple days a week or so. Our kids are in public schools so I have tried to always do it while there were in school. sometimes they have got home before me but try not to make it a rule. They are now all in either middle or high school so don’t have to worry about someone else getting them off the bus if I’m not quite back yet. In our area some have overcharged people so that has made it harder for the rest of us. So think about that when charging people.

    • karen b says:

      I guess I should have said that I stopped when children were younger then started back up a year or so before youngest started to school. I have a customer now that I have had for over 8 years. I have lost some recently do to the fact that wanted to try it themselves. I might end up being called back who knows:) One of those I had had for almost 8 years. One thing I can say is to be through & go over & beyond what they are expecting. I am now cleaning a son of one of my mothers customers:)

      • kim says:

        Actually.. 20 or 25 a hours isnt too bad, if you have a spouse who has health insurance.

        When you charge these rates, lets factor in the health insurance, bonding, time that you dont get paid driving from job to job, 35 % in taxes , time you dont get paid for getting your supplies, laundry, or billing. What you factor those hours in, are you really making 20 to 25 a hour?

        • Lindsey Swinborne says:

          $20 an hour is unbelievable in our town Kim! My hubby works very hard at a carpentry job he’s had for 7 years and only makes $16 an hour. We use Samaritan Ministries for health insurance. Because we live in a small town, driving time is about 5 minutes to my jobs. I run about 1/4th of a load of cleaning rags (mixed in with my own cleaning rags and the really yucky stuff at our house) and run it through a few cycles. I don’t do any paperwork/billing stuff with my cleaning jobs (except for a handwritten receipt at the law firm). Cleaning supplies probably cost me 50 cents per time. All in all, it’s a very good way to turn a buck, with very little “hidden” or “extra” costs involved!

          • Lindsey Swinborne says:

            Oh, and we have so many kids that we usually don’t have to pay taxes because of our low-income and all the discounts they bring us!

          • kim says:

            I have been in the cleaning business for 21 years and with 20 a hour and no type of free health insurance. I find after doing all my billing, picking up cleaning supplies, washing rags and driving between jobs, billing , milage and matching my fica employee and fica employer and workmans comp and liability insurance isnt such a great rate when you factor all the above in. It’s great extra cash, but to make a full time living, you have to think about all of the above.

  • BRENDA LINN says:

    When opening a cleaning business, be sure to check local regulations. Some states and cities require licensing for cleaning businesses.

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