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Carpet/Upholstery Cleaning Start-up cost: $1,000-$3,000 if leasing equipment initially; $4,000- $10,000 if buying equipment Potential earnings: $35,000-$50,000 Typical fees: 20 cents per square foot first room; $40 each additional room Advertising: Direct mail, Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, coupon books Qualifi cations: Physically able to do manual labor, some prior experience Equipment needed: Cleaning machine, large quantity of chemical cleaners, some mode of transporting materials Staff required: No Hidden costs: Fuel for vehicle What You Do If “Out, damned spot!” is your battle cry, getting others to enlist your services in the carpet/upholstery cleaning business shouldn’t be too hard. After all, we’ve all spilled food or drink on at least one piece of furniture in our homes—and we’ve all thought of paying a professional every once in a while to freshen up the house with a good carpet cleaning. That is why this is such a recession-proof business; the need for clean places to live never goes out of favor with consumers. You could offer your cleaning services to everyone from homeowners to managers of apart- ment complexes and even corporations. The best way to get your name out there is through excellent, timely service and its resultant good word of mouth. You’ll sweep the surface dirt from furniture and floors, perform an overall general clean- ing, and use industrial-strength spot removers on tough stain areas. Since each room takes approximately an hour to service (if there are few stains requiring more attention), there is the potential for making lots of money once you learn to work quickly and efficiently while maintaining high-quality standards. One final note: buying cleaning fluids will be slightly more expensive if environmentally safe products are chosen. Many people prefer “green” cleaning products, especially for health reasons, and customers will feel safer and more satisfied when they know there are no toxic residues in their house. What You Need Deciding whether to buy or lease equipment at first will depend upon how much capital is available to invest. A carpet cleaning machine will cost from $600-$3,500, while leasing will run about $300-$400 per month. Rotary shampooers and steam extractors are the two current types available. While each has its advantages and disadvantages, rotary shampooers are the preferred method because they clean more deeply. A good, strong vacuum cleaner is the next most vital tool, and buying a sturdy canister model with a variety of attachments will cost $400-$600. The leasing option will be anywhere from $100-$200 per month. Access to a reliable vehicle large enough to tote around all equipment and supplies (and gasoline to run it) is another expense involved in this business, but really won’t amount to much if you already have a station wagon/truck/van. Include advertising in your budget, which could run anywhere from $600-$3,000 for half a year. Coupon books seem to be fruitful ground for carpet cleaning businesses as a starting point for bringing in new customers. For carpets, fees are often 20 cents per square foot plus an additional $40 or more per each extra room depending on size. Upholstery cleaning is usually done per piece, with fees ranging from $50-$150. Keys to Success Working for another local company first may give you a good idea of what’s needed to get started and how to proceed from there. As in most trades, experi- ence is essential to success. Knowing which contracts to take and which are just impossible, what are appropriate fees for your area, how billing works, and other aspects of the business will make your start-up smoother. Sales skills are a plus since most people don’t realize that they might need your service, or know how often they need it. Calling former customers to find out if the work was performed satisfactorily and offering to repeat it will keep you busy.
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