How to choose a Territory
The good news is that as independent house cleaners you are not assigned any particular territory. You can work wherever you want.
Lots of house cleaning franchises tout the fact that they offer you a protected territory. But all they are protected from is their own franchisees marketing the same brand working in that area. They have no control of competing franchises or independent house cleaners. So pick a place that works for you.
The good news is there is enough business for all of us. I only work in two neighborhoods and there are a dozen different cleaning services in those two neighborhoods. When I get referrals that I can’t work due to the fact that I’m working at full capacity and have a waiting list of 30 people, I pass those referrals along to other house cleaners who work in those neighborhoods.
My thinking is since they are already there working, they can save some commute time by picking up the clients I can’t help. It doesn’t cost me anything to pass along the referrals, and it helps the clients who were referred to me.
Pick one or two neighborhoods that are close to where you live. In this business we don’t get paid for travel time, fuel or wear and tear on your car. So don’t spend lots of time stuck in traffic, or time commuting, or time lost driving between houses, it’s just not profitable.
I work in my own neighborhood and the neighborhood next door. My commute is one to three minutes. That’s it.
Pick neighborhoods to work in, rather than single houses along a stretch of rural highway. Neighborhoods have social media sites or closed neighborhood Facebook groups and apps like “NEXTDOOR” or “MyNeighborhood” that allow neighbors to talk to each other, recommending house cleaners and other service providers. A good deal of your business will come from these social media sites and neighbors who chat with each other while out walking their dogs, or waiting at the school bus stop for their kids.
Neighborhoods also have the value of peer pressure. You’ve heard the term “keeping up with the Jones’s?” I have clients that have immaculate homes and don’t need a house cleaner because they stay at home all day cleaning themselves – but if the neighbors have a house cleaner, they’ve got to have one too so they can share in the stories and neighborhood banter. It’s awesome to be the recipient of this type of peer pressure.
Pick neighborhoods that are new (0 to 15 years old). Within the last fifteen years home builders started adding more windows to homes, which means less furniture against windows. The trend is bigger open spaces which means less walls, which means less pictures and knick-knacks hanging on those walls to dust.
Most people with gobs of windows will hire a window cleaner a couple of times a year, so other than the occasional smudge from children or pet prints, windows usually won’t be included in regular “house cleaning”. Do clarify expectations with clients though when you’re hired, so there are no surprises on either side.
A sign of a newer home is the newer homes have window panes planted between double panes of glass. (see the example on the left)
Rather than older windows (see the one on the right) that have the panes on the outside of the glass, and will quite literally fall apart when you try to clean the corners of each section, not to mention it takes fifteen times longer to clean the old windows vs. the new. Because you have to individually clean each section of old windows, rather than use a squeegee for the newer ones.
Stack the deck in your favor by choosing your neighborhoods wisely.
Even though you may not be cleaning windows – this is an illustration of how the age of property takes a toll. Older homes have lots of “wear, age and structure” problems to consider.
Lots of older homes have split wainscoting, moldings, cornices, and edgings around doors and windows which allows bugs to creep in, which means more cobwebs, spider nests, silverfish, cockroaches, and snails. Once a home is infested – you have to clean under every cabinet, inside and under every ledge of furniture, every stair, window sill or casement.
Newer homes have been sealed better.
Don’t discount apartments and condos and follow the 0-15 year rule when choosing as well. Lots of my clients live in apartments and you can clean the whole apartment from top to bottom in two hours with a really thorough cleaning. Easy peasy.
If you are working by yourself, and you work a full schedule you’ll be cleaning 20-30 houses period. Then your schedule will be completely full, so choose 20 to 30 newer homes, rather than the older homes to make your life easier.