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June 2007
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August 2007

Tips for Getting Paid from Late-Paying Cleaning Clients

If you're in business, then sooner or later you'll have to deal with a late-paying client. So what can you do to get paid without having to resort to turning it over for collection? Here are some tips:

  • First, realize that many commercial cleaning accounts may have a delay in payment with the first billing because they need extra time to get you into their computer system. So find out up front if this will be the case.
  • Spell out in your contract your expectation for receiving payment. If this is not clear, you may be taken advantage of by certain slow-paying clients.
  • Pre-bill for services rather than waiting until the end of the month. That way, you'll be getting payment up front, or at the very least, within 30 days in most cases.
  • Pick up the phone when there is a late payment. This is the best way to get paid quickly. It may be that they never received the invoice, in which case you send them one quickly by faxing it over and requesting immediate payment. Or a phone call may prompt a slow bookkeeper to get her act together and get you paid. Give her a date that you expect payment. This is also a good time to remind her of your payment policy.
  • If you don't get paid by the date you set over the phone, call again to see if payment has been sent yet.
  • As a last resort, start sending reminder letters, using polite, but firm language. Let them know that if you don't receive payment by the date you set, service will be suspended until the account is made current. Send the letters by certified mail in an oversized envelope.
  • Be prepared to keep your word and suspend service if payment is not made.

Do you have any tips for getting paid that you'd like to share? Click on the comments link below to post your tips!

Would You Offer 10% Off to New Cleaning Customers?

A cleaning business owner asked:

As a new company I was thinking of a few different ways to get "noticed". One thing I though of was offering a new customer offer of "10% off your current cleaning rate". In order to qualify the customer would have to give us their current bills for cleaning and a 12 month service contract. Do you think this is an effective tactic to get in the door?

I replied:

This sounds like an interesting concept and might get your foot in the door, but I have a few concerns. If the previous contractor has a low price already and then you have to discount it 10%, you could be setting yourself up for a year of low profit. And if you have employees, that complicates things even more because you might be paying more employment expenses than the previous contractor. To me, it's kind of like going in blind on the price - you end up getting whatever the previous contractor made, less 10%.  And if you discover that you're not making money and need to substantially raise the price at the end of the contract, how will you handle that? 

Personally, if I were on the other side (the potential client), I would think this sounds like a desperate move to get business. If I were the type of person that is only concerned about price, I just might take you up on it, but the best customers are not just concerned about price, but the quality of service you provide.

Have you tried other ways to market your business? I would keep working on your marketing and avoid cutting your prices if at all possible.

What do YOU think of this idea? Post your comments below.

Is Marketing Your Cleaning Business a Chore?

A cleaning business owner who is struggling with marketing wrote:

"It has been a "chore" for me to find companies to clean. I'm not looking for BIG companies, just insurance offices, dental, ect.  Can someone tell me what I may be doing wrong or what else can I do to speed things up?"

Another cleaning business owner offered this advice:

Start by trying to be patient. You're not trying to get just any office, but the right office, so try to find buildings that flow with your plan.

  1. Join your local chamber or any other networking groups that give referrals, not just leads.
  2. Possibly join Service Magic, if you're interested in residential leads.
  3. Tell everyone you know about your matter who they are because you don't know who they know.
  4. Change the voicemail on your phone with a business message, so that even friends, when they call will know what you do. It's funny that sometimes I'll allow calls to go to my voicemail, just so people can hear what I do....I won a job last night because of that. A guy called me looking for my sister's number & after hearing it, called me to stop by his office...all in the same call. I'm now giving him an estimate.
  5. Always carry cards with you & hand them out when you stop into businesses for ANY reason. Follow up with an informational packet.
  6. Engage people in conversations about what THEY do. They will then ask you what YOU do & you can have your "elevator speech" ready to enlighten them.
  7. While running your errands & seemingly NOT asking the manager who does their cleaning. Doesn't matter the store or office. Just casually ask & they may start running at the mouth telling you that their either happy or dissatisfied. That's where having your card handy helps. Be more of a resource or counsel them on things they can do, or ask their cleaning service to do. Leave your card...if it's not done, they'll be calling you.

That's where being patient comes in. You won't win them all. They won't call you all at the same time, but you'll get the ones you want if you work it correctly. Key patient, but diligent.

Great advice! We often say, "it's not who you know, it's who knows YOU". The more people who know about you, the more you'll be able to generate referral business, which is the best kind of customer to find!

If you'd like to participate in similar discussions, think about joining our very active online discussion forum at The Janitorial Store. Here you'll learn from owners of cleaning companies from all over the world. Join us as a member - we'd love to have you!

Communicate With Your Cleaning Customers

One of our members at The Janitorial Store sent us the following tips on the importance of communicating with your cleaning customers:


If I could recommend one thing to everyone out there it would be to base your business on honest, clear communication. Here is an example: I broke two items in a client’s home within a matter of two weeks. After breaking the second item, I was momentarily tempted by the idea of gluing it back together and hoping they wouldn’t notice. After returning to my senses, I decided I was going to run an honest, ethical business and treat people like I would like to be treated…honestly. I decided I would rather lose the client based on my clumsy opposable thumbs, versus a dishonest attempt at hiding my accident. It paid off and brought me four new referrals. Honest communication is the key.

If you have a residential cleaning business, call new clients the night before you’re scheduled to clean. I failed to make the calls a couple times and it cost me about $400. Communicate!

Also, a neat communication tip… customers ask me how I’d like to be paid…where they should leave the check, etc. My recommendation for them is to write the check and leave it in the same kitchen vase, bin, or basket. When they see I’ve cleaned and taken their check, I recommend they immediately write another check for the future service, and place it in the vase right away, even though I may not return for two weeks. This way they don’t have to remember to write a check two weeks later, because it’s already taken care of. They return to a clean house, which reminds them I was there and will need to be paid next time. They stay ahead of the game, and I don’t have to call a client and ask them to pay me.