Being a housekeeper can be a low-stress and meditative way to make a living. Many people are drawn to cleaning because it does not require a degree or certification, but can still pay well for those with ambition. Wages up to $20-$25 an hour are common for upper-tier cleaners, and it doesn’t take much time to get yourself to the top if you are motivated.
However, like many careers, getting that first job is the hardest part. High-paying cleaning services are only going to be looking for those with experience. It can be a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg problem: you need a housekeeping job to get good at cleaning, but you need to be good at cleaning to get a housekeeping job.
Luckily, we at Easyway Maid Service in Austin, Texas have the answers for you. This is the single most comprehensive guide on getting into the cleaning industry on the internet. It will be a living document that we update periodically as the industry evolves.
If you’re looking for a job as a housekeeper, look no further. We will break it down for you step-by-step.
And if you’re in Texas, just try applying with us!
Table of Contents
Learn To Clean
It is easy to become proficient at housekeeping, but difficult to become an expert.
At the lower levels, it won’t take you long to become good enough to work for a cleaning company. The truth is, you can pick up a mop, a broom, and your other cleaning tools, and get to work right away if you’re diligent and have a good eye for small details.
The truth is, cleaning is really a function of effort. Buckling down and simple trying will get you most of the way there. Many not-s0-good housekeepers still make a living without putting their full focus and effort into each clean. If you are one of the rare people who really wants to leave a house sparkling, you will stand out from your competition almost immediately.
Other that effort-level, experience and little tricks and techniques are what will get you to expert-level. However, if you’re paying attention, you can get to the point of “cleaning professional” relatively quickly. We’re talking 1-3 months of practice and you’ll be as good as the average cleaner out there (that is, if you’re trying).
The single best way to improve your skill is to find a mentor, as we detail in the next section. However, if you’re new here and you wouldn’t even know where to start with cleaning a home, we have a guide for you.
Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell is one of the oldest books out there on housekeeping, and still holds up to this day. We recommend you buy a copy immediately, and put it to use. It’s a short read, you can finish it in a day, and it will point you in the right direction.
We have a full review on the Speed Cleaning Method on our blog, as a matter of fact. We feel that it can provide the backbone of your personal cleaning method, but you don’t need to treat it like a bible. Not every rule in this book is critical, and as you develop your own style, you’ll probably want use cleaning supplies and tools that aren’t necessarily mentioned in the book. However, reading speed cleaning will give you a jumping off point, and it’s enough for you to practice on your own home a few times, before you go out to clean someone else’s.
Find A Mentor
No amount of reading or practice can help you improve as a cleaner faster than mentoring under someone more experienced.
You will learn not just how to clean better, but more importantly how to clean faster.
How quickly you can clean a house, while still maintaining good quality, will determine how much money you are able to make as a maid or housekeeper. Some companies offer flat-rates for jobs instead of hourly. If you can double your speed, you can take nearly twice the work.
The sooner you find yourself a mentor, the sooner you’ll be able to take your skills to the next level. The professional world used to operate within a system of apprenticeships, and that’s largely because being an apprentice is the fastest way to learn something.
If you can clean side-by-side with a 10-year cleaning veteran, that is the ideal situation to improve. You may shave entire years off your learning curve. All it takes is one or two good years with a master cleaner to become a master yourself.
Even if you can’t work side by side, and have to have conversations with your mentor about cleaning instead, you can still shave years off your learning time. You might be surprised by how common certain problems are. The first and most obvious thing you learn as a housekeeper is to clean top to bottom, as dust falling from above will collect on the lower shelves and levels, forcing you to re-clean areas if you clean bottom-up. This is a novice level cleaning tip, but there are similar revelations about speed cleaning that you most likely will only get from asking questions, and bringing problems to your mentor.
There are only so many problems you can run into cleaning houses – most of those problems have already been solved by someone else. Don’t reinvent the wheel: save yourself a massive about of time by finding a mentor.
Get a Couple Clients (So You Have Professional References for your Job Application)
Perhaps one of the best ways to get hired is to have excellent client references. If you urgently need a job as a housekeeper, and it’s your first time, this may not be an option for you. In this case make sure to list supervisors or bosses from previous jobs in your references. We will discuss this further in our application section.
If you want to get a job with a top cleaning company, you’ll need client references. This means, you will need references of people for whom you’ve cleaned. The easiest way to do this is quickly ask around among friends and family. Offer a very low rate for your personal housekeeping services, and do a bang-up fantastic job from day 1.
Remember, the purpose of this is not to make money, but just to get a few professional references for your application to a serious cleaning service. You really only need 2 clients. If you can get 2 housekeeping clients, and impress the heck out of them, you will be able to use them as references forever.
This is one of the only ways a cleaning company can check your skill level. It is very important, and will give you a huge leg up on the competition. At Easyway Maid Service, it is the number 1 factor we look at, other than “years of professional cleaning experience”.
Work for Yourself, or Get Hired By a Company?
This is a big decision, and there are ups and downs to either option. We’ll try to break it down for you:
Working as a solo cleaner
- Higher pay-per-hour
- No boss
- Make your own schedule
- Can fire clients you don’t like
- Not covered by company insurance or workers comp
- Have to find your own clients
- Inconsistent and fluctuating hours/work available
- No employment benefits
- Need to buy all your own equipment and supplies
Working for a cleaning company
- Consistent work on a regular schedule
- No personal liability if something goes wrong/gets broken
- No dealing with customer service or payment issues
- No need to do any marketing or search for customers yourself
- Free cleaning supplies, most likely
- Employment benefits
- Opportunities to move up within the company
- Lower pay
- Less control over your schedule
- Cannot pick which clients you clean for
Ultimately, if you work as a solo housekeeper, you’re an entrepreneur. If you can’t advertise well and find new clients, you’re out of luck and won’t have any work. Even if you’re the best cleaner in the world, it won’t matter if you can’t find ways to get hired in the first place. You can charge a higher amount on average, but you’ll also have to pay self-employment taxes at the end of the year. You will also have to pay for all your own equipment and supplies.
If you work for a housekeeping service, you will certainly make less per hour, but the reliability of the work, and the free cleaning supplies and equipment may make your life less stressful.
Solo housekeeping is a higher-reward, but higher-risk approach. If you are looking for stability, there’s no question that working for a maid service will be less stressful.
How to Find Which Cleaning Services are Hiring
1. Call Around Local Services
Google “maid service” + your city. Call the first 10 and ask where you can go to apply. Many will have a website link where you can fill out an application, so ask for the link.
If you happen to get the owner on the phone, you can tell them about yourself right then (if they don’t sound like they’re in a rush to get off the phone). This will ensure they remember you. Be very polite to whoever you speak to, sometimes the person answering the main phone line will also be the person interviewing you later.
You don’t just need to rely on a google search, Yelp may be an even better resource. There are probably 40+ active maid services in your city and almost all of them will be hiring in some capacity. That’s the nature of the housekeeping business: companied are constantly trying to strike a balance between number of customers and number of cleaners.
Don’t forget, just because a company isn’t hiring this month, doesn’t mean they won’t be hiring next month, or even next week. Check in every once in a while. New employee turnover can be high in this industry, and housekeeping positions may open up frequently.
The reason this method works so well, is some cleaning services simply don’t have the money to pay for job postings, or may forget to update their job postings. If you really want to see what your job opportunities are, all you need to do is compile a list of the maid services in your city.
If you use this method, you are very unlikely to fail. Call 10-20 housekeeping services and you’re virtually guaranteed to get interviews unless there is something seriously wrong with your application (like a felony conviction).
2. Indeed/Google jobs
The next best method is simply to go to the 2 biggest job boards in 2021: Indeed and Google.
Indeed is currently the biggest job application site, so simply scrolling through recent job postings is likely to reveal some cleaning companies that are hiring. You can also search for keywords like “maid service”, “housekeeper”, “professional cleaner, “janitor” and similar terms to make things easier.
One important note on Indeed: the “application” you fill out on Indeed may not actually be the official company application. It’s often just an initial screening tool to check if you meet the bare minimum qualifications. You still have to fill it out, but keep in mind you may get a message from the company inviting you to fill out the full application on their website.
Google also compiles jobs from Indeed and basically every other job site. These days you can simply google “housekeeping jobs” and you’ll find postings. In fact, that is likely how you stumbled upon this very article!
3. Asking friends and family
When all else fails, start with the people you know! This is probably the best way for you to get a couple clients of your own that you can eventually list as references (this piece of advice is for those who have zero professional cleaning experience yet).
Not much more to say about this one – just ask around and you may get lucky!
4. Craigslist / Facebook
This is where you will find a lot of the newer and smaller companies. Here you may find applications to housekeeping services that have only been open for a few years or don’t have much experience advertising yet.
We will speak more on the advantages and disadvantages of working for smaller/newer business in the section below.
Find a Company You Want to Work For
There is enormous variance in the quality of life you’ll have, depending on the housekeeping service or janitorial service you decide to work for.
Some bosses will nickel-and-dime you and pay you as little as possible, and others may pay you quite well. For a lot of applicants, the pay is probably the most important factor. Frankly, this makes sense and probably should be the main thing you consider when applying.
If it isn’t clear what the pay is on the company website, make sure to ask in your first interview for a detailed breakdown. Some companies will pay you a consistent hourly rate, some companies may pay you commission based on the size of the home. Some may compensate you for supplies and transportation, and others won’t. It is important to take all these things into consideration and ask questions about them, so you know exactly how much you stand to gain from working for a particular maid service.
Independent Contractor (1099) or Employee (W-2)?
It’s become increasingly common in the cleaning industry to hire contractors instead of actual employees. The differences between a contractor and an employee and too complex to go into in this article, but a quick google search will answer the question for you (hint: it depends on what state you’re in). However, being an independent contractor is essentially the same thing as being a solo cleaner. You are not an employee and cannot be covered under the company’s insurance or worker’s compensation, and the company cannot tell you when or how to clean.
If you are going solo, these companies are fantastic for you. They basically do all the marketing, find the customers, and take a cut of your pay from the customer. These gigs will usually pay more per-hour than you would get as an employee. However, the hours will probably be wildly inconsistent, leaving you making lots some weeks, and barely anything other week.
Applying as an independent contractor to a cleaning company should be in addition to finding your own personal clients. You can even work for several of these companies at once (and if they tell you you can’t, that’s illegal and they could be forced to report you as a full employee instead of an independent contractor). You probably shouldn’t rely on any of these referral agencies as your only source of income.
If you’re an employee, then you’re an employee just like any other job. You have rights, and you’ll probably have lower pay per-hour, but more hours. Your hours will probably also be more consistent, instead of varying week-to-week.
Be sure to clarify with the cleaning service whether or not you’ll be brought on as a W-2 (employee) or 1099 (independent contractor).
Big National Chain or Local Small Business?
Another big decision.
Big corporations that have many different locations are the most stable option, but you’ll probably be overworked and underpaid. If you get a job with a big cleaning service, you’ll probably make a relatively stable (but meager) living. Many of these companies only pay around $10-$15 per hour. You may work very hard, for a long time, and rarely be recognized for your hard work.
Frankly, this should probably only be your first cleaning job. You can get experience and build your cleaning skills, but at some point you may get tired of the grind and low pay.
Smaller companies can be a bit of a risk. It’s often hard to tell just how small or new a cleaning service is just based on their website, but here’s a trick:
- Look up the company on Yelp
- Look at the number of reviews they have
- 1-20 reviews = very new, small company (risky)
- 21-100 reviews = medium sized company (best option for skilled cleaners)
- 100+ reviews = large company (good first job, but not a good living)
The risk with very small companies (20 reviews or less) is that they may go bankrupt, be sold to a new owner who doesn’t care, or frequently change policies or pay. On the other hand, if you get into a company while it’s at this stage, you’ll be first in line when they start hiring managers. At my company, Easyway Maid Service, I prefer to promote our employees rather than find outside applicants to work as managers.
I’m also willing to stick my neck out for my earliest employees. They’re the people who stuck with me through the difficult process of building a business. I feel a sense of loyalty to them, and I put a lot of weight into their opinions and ideas. If you want to be heard and listened to, this is best kind of company to work for. You will be needed, because they won’t have many other employees to replace you with.
Medium-sized companies are probably the best option, though. They’re established, “safer” bets, and probably won’t just suddenly go out of business or get sold off and gutted by some investor. At the same time, you will still be more appreciated and recognized than you will working for a big national housekeeping chain. There may be many options for promotions and raises. If you want to be an employee, and you’re good at what you do, this is the kind of business you should apply to first.
What to Say in Your Application
As with every other portion of the interview process, you must be truthful. If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll certainly have the qualifications to get hired for any entry-level position with a housekeeping company.
However, there’s one other aspect to filling out job applications that many candidates forget: attention to detail.
Whatever maid service you’re applying for will certainly be looking for typos and errors in your application to see if you read the instructions carefully. Triple-check your application before you submit it, and make sure you’ve answered each question correctly.
You’d be surprised how many people list family members as professional references when applying to Easyway Maid Service, even though we state in bold letters “do not list friends and family as references or your application will not be considered”.
How to Handle the Interview
The two most important traits to bring to the interview are honesty and friendliness.
Remember that however is interviewing you may also be your supervisor. They are considering your personality as well as your professionalism, because they may be working with you for years into the future! Just like any other social environment, they will want to hire someone they enjoy being around, and get along with. It is very important to put your best food forward by being polite and enthusiastic.
One other tip we got from Chance with Homeer is to be completely candid about what it is you’re looking for. Homeer is a company that not only does housekeeping, but many other home services – Chris knows what he’s talking about:
It may be tempting to tell the interviewer whatever you think they want to hear. However, this is a grave mistake. You want to know what your boundaries are with your work, what pay you are willing to accept, what hours you are willing to work, and what compromises you are willing to make for this job.
Don’t be a “yes man”, be honest about what you need and want from the company. Do you have to pick up your kids at a certain time every day? They need to know. Do you have your own supplies? Don’t say yes unless you want to do a last minute scramble to buy some when they tell you you can start the next day. Lying or misleading the interviewer will just kick the can down the road and cause you pain in the future.
In addition to preventing yourself from agreeing to conditions you don’t like, the interviewer will also pick up on your honesty and like you better for it. A seasoned interviewer can detect whenever someone is trying to say the “right” answers instead of the real answers. Think of the interview as a chance to practice good communication with your employer, it will save you a ton of headaches later.
What Exactly are Maid Service Looking for in an Employee?
Above all, housekeeping services are looking for employees that get the job done. They want a balance of speed and quality in your cleaning, and they want to never deal with upset or disappointed customers. They will forgive a lot of other shortcomings if you’re someone they can rely on to be consistent.
The ideal employee is one that solves problems on their own, and brings consistent, high quality work to their cleaning jobs every time.
That said, we’re all human and we all slip up at work. The next most important thing, to us at Easyway at least, is good communication. What does that even mean? Well, here’s what we think:
We’d rather have an employee that is late more often but tells us in advance that they’re running behind, than an employee who is late less often but doesn’t tell us that they’re behind schedule. No supervisor or owner of a cleaning service wants to get a phone call from a customer wondering “where is the team?”. If you tell your supervisor you’re going to be late, that means they can call the customer and warn them. This leads to fewer upset customers, and a better relationship between the cleaners and the supervisor or manager.
You can apply that concept to all aspects of the job:
Need to take a vacation? Communicate that to the company as soon as possible so they can prepare. Maid Services do not want to be blindsided by your sudden absence.
Broke a lamp at the job? Tell your supervisor right after it happens so they can start to prepare an explanation for the customer.
Are your hours not working for you? Is something about the job bothering you? Reach out to the owner and let them know. This will allow them to compromise with you, and find an arrangement that will keep you happy with your career, and make you want to stay with the company long-term.
Housekeeping can be a very rewarding and lucrative job. Just like any other industry, it can be hard to break in and get that first position as a housekeeper. However, if you follow the steps we’ve outlined above, you’re sure to get a job.
Just remember: it’s a numbers game. You may have to apply to many cleaning services before you’re hired, especially if you’ve never done housekeeping for a company before. But, if you stay the course and don’t get discouraged by the rejections, we guarantee you can find a job.