What's the Problem?
Cleaning is a service business. Many consumers have been trained that service businesses charge by the hour. These consumers also have very strong notions of what cleaning should cost per hour. Here's an example. "I'm a nurse and earn $50 per hour. Nursing is way more valuable than cleaning, so cleaning shouldn't cost more than $30 per hour." Here's another. "I'm a teacher and earn about $30 per hour. Teaching is more valuable than cleaning, so cleaning shouldn't cost more than $15 per hour." Each person creates a measuring stick for what cleaning is worth based on how much they earn. This is natural.
Let's keep walking down this path, so I can show you the problem with this price strategy. The nurse finds a cleaner for $30 per hour and works out a house cleaning every other week for 3 hours. The nurse is budgeting $90 per visit or $180 per month. The cleaner does a good job and completes the house in 3 hours and the nurse is happy. Sometimes, the house is dirtier than usual from a Thanksgiving party or guests. The cleaner does not finish the house in 3 hours. In fact, it takes 4 hours. The cleaner feels awkward to charge the extra $30 but knows she needs to. The customer acts as a track coach with a stopwatch making sure she is getting her money's worth. If the cleaner takes longer than 3 hours, she gets irritated with having to pay more or simply won't pay more. Over a period of time, the cleaner gets faster at cleaning the house and finishes it in 2 hours and 30 minutes. The cleaner still wants the $90, but the customer only pays them $75 as she perceives a great bargain! Now, we have tension between the customer and the cleaner. The cleaner is upset because she doesn't get paid for the extra time when it takes longer and gets short-changed when she is faster. The customer is upset because she has to monitor every minute!
Nobody wants tension in a cleaner / client relationship. When you price by the hour with housecleaning, it's hard to create the win-win. The client doesn't want to pay more than they budgeted and they are always looking to pay less. Therefore, they watch the cleaner and the clock. It adds stress to the client when the whole goal was to delegate cleaning and remove it from their plate in every sense of the word remove (mentally, emotionally, physically). The cleaner loses all incentive to work more efficiently as they'll lose money and they get stressed when the house takes longer. Plus, they feel pressure when they know the client is watching them and the clock. Can you see this playing out?
What's the Solution?
Charge by the job! The cleaner needs to be good with their numbers and how to estimate jobs correctly. They visit your house or office and assess by asking questions. Then, the cleaner formulates multiple price options for your job. The price is a set price. You choose the price option that achieves your goal. It gets done every time with excellence and you don't have to worry about how long it takes. If the cleaner takes longer, they don't charge you more. If they take less and the quality is still great, they are out of your house faster. Many homeowners want this, especially in this environment. They don't have to carry a stopwatch. This is a win for the customer. The cleaner can get faster over time while maintaining quality. This is great for them as it allows them to add more clients and make more money. This is a win for the cleaner. You see, win-win!
There is one more piece to address. What about the nurse and the teacher and their perception of what things should cost. When you price by the hour, they naturally compare to what they make. This is not healthy. If you charge by the job, they choose the price they want to pay. If they chose a biweekly house cleaning for $150 per visit, they would ask themselves the question. "I won't have to clean anymore and save all those hours. Plus, the house will be clutter-free. Is that worth $150 per visit?" They are no longer comparing the price of cleaning to them, but rather to what the cleaning is worth to them.
In summary, I charge by the job and I HIGHLY recommend you form win-win partnerships with your cleaner by choosing to price by the job.
Ken Carfagno is a presentation cleaning specialist serving the Indian Valley, PA.