How To Bid Janitorial, Commercial Cleaning Jobs

Everyone has an opinion.

Price Per Square Foot

Some say knowing how much to price a janitorial, office-cleaning bid at is as easy as multiplying the total cleanable square feet of a building by so many dollars or cents per square foot.

Unfortunately, this formula is often tossed about without even mentioning if the figures are based on a month or a year; a piece of information those new to the cleaning business would not doubt find quite valuable to know.

For example, per square foot figures ranging from $0.08 – $0.14 per sq. ft. or $0.95 – $1.50 per sq. ft., are offered up with little or no explanation; assuming it’s common knowledge that the former generally refers to a monthly calculation; while the latter is meant for a yearly price estimate.

Educated Guess

Others suggest you should rely on your own experience, simply guesstimate how long it should take to clean, and then charge so much per hour.

But, that advice can be equally misleading.  And the cleaning contractor with little or no experience is at a real disadvantage.

The number and kind of cleaning jobs janitorial companies face can vary greatly in size, frequency and difficulty, as well as, in the actual nature of the cleaning (i.e. professional office, industrial/manufacturing, retail, restaurant etc).

In time, many cleaning business owners come to realize the differences from one project to the next can be so significant; the idea of pricing jobs based on their best guess of cleaning times is simply not a reliable or effective bidding method.

In fact, even if they could somehow, eventually, develop a way of personally guesstimating the price for cleaning jobs, they may still be leaving their cleaning business vulnerable.

On one hand, what if they ever plan on having someone else do the bidding for their cleaning business? How long would it take to thoroughly teach a new person everything it took them so many years to learn?  Too long is right!

And in the worst case, what if, god forbid, something unforeseen ever happens to the business owner… leaving those left behind to run the cleaning business, but with no systematic way to estimate how long a cleaning job should take or how much they should charge.

Plain and simple, for most cleaning businesses who want to grow, bidding and estimating jobs should not rest solely on one person’s shoulders.  Instead, there needs to be a reliable and easy to use bidding system.

‘Standardized’ Production Rates
Finally, still others insist you should just use a “standard”, generalized, overall, production rate to figure the hours needed to clean a building, and then again, simply charge so much per hour.

There are two primary kinds of production rates in the cleaning business.

One is production rates for individual cleaning tasks; which means how much sq. ft. one person can clean in one hour… performing only one task.  There are also overall cleaning production rates which generally refer to how many sq. ft. of a building can be cleaned by one person in one hour performing an entire set of what some may refer to as “standard” cleaning duties.

This overall production rate approach would suggest you simply divide the total area to be cleaned by a given ‘overall’, ‘standard’ production rate figure – take the resulting hours, and multiply by your hourly rate.

The only problem , of course, is that every building is unique, and the kind, level and frequency of cleaning tasks each prospective customer wants can differ greatly in type, frequency and degree of difficulty.  This makes it difficult to rely on a so-called ‘standard’ production rate designed to cover a whole set of so-called ‘standard’ type cleaning tasks… with an acceptable level of confidence the time estimates will be reliable and the resulting price decision will be a profitable.


So, if this one-size fits all approach falls short too – what does work?  What is the best place to start?

Answer: Workloading.

That”s right, workloading each job so you have a calculated cleaning time unique to the building you”re bidding on is the place we recommend most cleaning companies should start when it comes to bidding.

And, what is workloading?

Well, it”s the process of figuring out a time estimate for how long a building should take to clean by basically “loading” the “work”.

What “work”?

Well, of course, all the cleaning tasks needing to be performed.

In simplest terms, workloading is the process of entering specific information about a building such as individual measurements (i.e. room dimensions), floor types (i.e. carpet, tile) and fixture counts (sinks, toilets), and then matching them up with an appropriate series of schedules consisting of specific cleaning tasks and associated production rates to generate an average per visit cleaning time.

It really all comes down to calculating an estimated cleaning time for the building you”re bidding on.  And when you have a calculated cleaning time, you can move forward confidently to pricing the job.

From there, cleaning business owners can multiply a monthly hours estimate times a properly ‘loaded’ hourly rate to determine a monthly price to charge.

When you start with calculating a cleaning time you”re miles ahead of the guy who is simply guesstimating a price using one of many over-simplified methods.

Fortunately, there are useful janitorial bidding software programs available to help you “workload” the janitorial jobs you”re bidding on.

There are many convenient janitorial bidding software programs available today, ranging from simple downloadable, Excel-based programs to full feature, online bidding programs, some of which generate proposals as well.

While these programs can vary in cost and ease of use, they all are designed to help the cleaning business owner bid janitorial, commercial cleaning jobs more effectively and professionally.


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