Pricing questions are one of the most commonly-asked in Facebook cleaning groups. The post usually goes like this. There's an image of a house or details of the house or office. It is followed by "How much should I charge for this?" The only question I have seen more often in the last 7 years on Facebook is this one. "How do you clean this?" and there's a picture of something.
I visited Angela Brown's Professional House Cleaners private group on June 5th, 2023 and answered multiple questions with the same response. I noticed there was a common struggle with pricing that I wanted to address, so I posted this the same day to the group.
Watch out for Watch-Watchers! Don't Charge by the Hour!
I've seen this play out so many times in the cleaning industry and quite honestly, in many industries. Many of you are still charging by-the-hour. You can do what you want. You can make a case for it early on if you're terrible at numbers and estimates. But it will only attract "Watch-Watchers" and drama. These customers will time your every cleaning and you'll be penalized for taking longer ("Why am I paying so much?") or taking shorter ("Why were you so quick, what didn't you do?"). It sets you up to never earn more per hour unless you raise your hourly rates. It sets you up to have customers watching your every move and watching their watches. This is not good for you or your customers. Don't do this!
Solution: Learn how to price. Know your numbers and stop making the excuse! You need to price badly in the beginning and learn through experience how long every part of cleaning a house or office takes. You'll never price badly again. You'll even learn how to set buffers on different types of jobs so you'll stop underestimating jobs, which we all do. The good news is that we underestimate less with more experience. Set by-the-job pricing, get your rhythms for each house, and speed it up over time with high quality. Your hourly rate that you calculate internally will skyrocket. I got mine to the $80-$120/hour range when I was solo for many years and this was pre-pandemic before prices shot up. I still average above my competitors locally as we build our team. By-the-job pricing is a Win-Win for you and your customers. The customer simply wants excellence and quality. They also want you in their house or office less. Minimizing our times minimizes our footprint into a homeowner's or office's schedule. The less we are there, the less they think about cleaning. The less they thing about cleaning, the happier they are. As long as the quality is amazing as usual, they win. We make more per hour and per day and we are happy. We win.
I ended the post with this call to action. Feel free to discuss. I think this will have a lot of passionate responses. It's always fun to hear the feedback of others. Some agreed with me. Some did not. I want to share some points of view from both sides.
Victor Jaramillo, Jr. – "Agree 100%. The only issue I transitioned to by-the-hour for initial cleans while I trained new staff but now that they’ve been with me for a few it’s time to switch to a flat rate as I calculate in my head. My staff will either maximize or minimize their hourly earnings based on their following our system."
Bert Sloan – "Charging by the hour opens up a plethora of problems."
Luke Graham – "Prospective clients only want to know what the hourly fee is. Ken Carfagno, how do you get around this?" I responded. "I disagree. When price is the first and only question they ask, you haven't established trust. This happens with cold prospects. Build relationships and trust in your community. They will ask different a question like 'How can you solve my problem?' Offer them a solution with a price."
Beckii Jones – "I don’t agree. People find it very hard to understand the fixed price model, and they will calculate it and feel ripped off. I prefer to be upfront with our costs and, yes, we are higher per hour." I asked for clarification about her comment and Beckii replied. "For example, say you stay a certain length of time on the fixed model that is equivalent to that $120 an hour. Client isn’t going to be very happy. We moved from a fixed model back to an hourly rate as it just wasn’t working and I didn’t want all different clients to be on all different prices and have to remember them all."
I really appreciated the feedback as this is a hot topic in the industry. In fact, no one is in the middle. You're either all-in on flat-rate, by-the-job pricing or all-out. Beckii and Luke found a model that works for them and I absolutely support them. They are NOT wrong. It's a different pricing model than what I prefer, especially since I care about efficiency and incentivizing cleaners to complete high-quality work faster. I completely align with Victor and Bert's comments.
There is one more giant point to make here. The conversation on this post was between myself and cleaning companies scaling with teams. You can scale either pricing model. Beckii is scaling with an hourly model and Victor with a flat-rate, commission-paying model. Both work because the owner can get out of the field and manage the company. I am okay with either approach for scaling companies, but strongly recommend flat-rate. However, if you're a solo cleaner you MUST charge by-the-job. If you don't, you will literally put a cap on your income and set yourself up for a frustrating business. Let me explain. You cannot scale a solo business. I was a solo for 16 years and solos trade time for money. If we charge hourly, we can only make more if we work more hours or raise our hourly rates. At some point, we price out and time out. In my opinion, a solo should not clean more than 30 hours per week once optimized. During the optimization process, they will likely have weeks where they work upward of 60 hours. Our bodies have limits and once we cross that limit, we lose the ability to use our bodies to produce income. We must protect our bodies. It's the solo's 2nd-greatest money-making tool. What is the greatest, Ken? I'm glad you asked. It's our minds. Price by the job and learn how to make your customers thrilled that they hired you. Earn their trust over time. You will get faster and get paid the same. This is how you can fold your time in half. It's how I went from 5 ½ days cleaning per week to 2 days per week and earning the same income! I folded my time in half. It's called Solo Optimization using the ISO Model.
I'm curious what you think? Join my free Facebook groups to enter the conversation!
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