What’s the ‘Going Rate’ to Bid Cleaning Contracts?

This simple question has created more confusion and frustration for cleaning business owners than nearly any other. So, why is it so hard to get a straight answer to what seems like such a straightforward question?

If you’ve been in the cleaning business for even a short time – you may have caught yourself asking this, or at least can remember hearing another well-intentioned, but frustrated, janitorial business owners ask it…. as they desperately tried to figure out what to bid on a cleaning job.

Actually, you may have heard a slight variation of it which goes something like, “What’s the going rate for pricing cleaning in my city?” But, no matter which way you’ve heard it – the question is pretty clear.

People want to know the simple ‘one-number’ answer to how much they should charge per square foot for their cleaning services.

They want to hear an answer, like 9 cents/ sq. ft. You see, that way they could just take the size of the building, multiply it by the square foot rate, and they’d have their price.

No fuss, no muss.

So, if that’s what they want, why not just go ahead and give it to them. I mean, someone’s got to know the answer to what seems like a pretty basic question, right?

Ok, hang on, I’ll answer the question. But, first, we’ve got to look at a couple things – ‘real quick’, because everything’s got to be – ‘real quick’; right?

Sorry, if that sounded harsh…but I had to do it. You see, I need to make an important point. And it’s this:

Anybody can give you a quick answer. The neighborhood kid that mows lawns and delivers the paper can give you a quick answer.

Now, of course, he doesn’t know anything about janitorial work. He doesn’t know how long it should take to clean a building. He doesn’t know how to price jobs so that you end up being competitive, yet profitable.

Nope, he doesn’t know any of that ‘stuff’, but, if you’re in a hurry… he may be more than happy to give you a quick, ‘one-number’, answer.

Obviously, you don’t just need a quick answer. You need a good answer; one that make sense; one that is based on the building you’re bidding on.

Cleaning a large, heavily used, fitness club seven nights a week is different than cleaning a very small, lightly used, lawyer’s office twice week. It just is.

And if you use the same “going rate’ to figure out the price to charge for both of these jobs – you may not be happy with where it takes you.

So, what should you do?

Well, for cleaning jobs that you’re going to do on a regular basis, for example three times a week, what you need is an estimate of the cleaning time per day. From there, you can begin to set your price.

Fortunately, some of today’s janitorial bidding software programs, including ones that are now available online, offer easy and, yes, relatively quick, ways for you, not only to get a cleaning time per day figure, but get other ‘things’ you’re going to want, like professional-looking proposal formats to deliver to your prospective customer.

Cleaning business owners are not the bad guys here. Sure, they shouldn’t have relied on either guesstimating or oversimplified, one-size-fits-all square foot rates…but they may have felt they had no choice.

For a long time, there were not many good answers. Many cleaning businesses may have found what was available to be too complicated, too expensive, too time consuming or all of the above.

But, that’s been changing.

Today, there are a number of off-line, and now, online, janitorial bidding and workloading software programs that give cleaning business owners what they’ve always needed:

Not a quick answer to one question – “What’s the going rate to bid cleaning contracts?” but, instead, good answers to a couple very good questions – “How long should this building take to clean? and “How much should I charge if I want to be competitive and profitable?


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