Side Hustle Try Outs: Cleaning Houses

Side Hustle Try Outs
Side Hustle Try-Outs

Welcome to the side hustle try outs!

Side hustles is becoming a much more familiar phrase lately, at least on the internet. Everybody could use a few extra dollars in their pocket and I am the most intrigued to read stories of people thinking less than conventionally, and choosing to do things COMPLETELY outside the traditional job roles as their main form of income.

The first side hustle worth discussing and a pretty simple one to start is cleaning houses.

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I did this for a good part of 2016, on the independent contractor side of things. It is possible to do this on a less structured level and find friends and friends of friends to work for. Chances are, this income is going to be under the table and tax free. However, the chances of clients just changing their mind and no longer needing services is fairly high as there are no contracts involved, probably. Of course, that’s a case by case thing.

One could also create their own cleaning company and advertise services via word of mouth, Facebook Swip Swap Groups,, and other various forms of social media.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum, working for a company. Merry Maids is an example of a very large, well known company but it is also possible to search in your local area for smaller companies that service the area. Chances are one of the companies will more than likely hire independent contractors as well.

I personally worked for Vacation Rental Pros and they operate through a large part of the country. I spent basically every Saturday and a few random days throughout the weekdays cleaning up beach houses for folks that were vacationing.

I actually kinda liked it. 

I was able to work by myself without somebody looking over my shoulder constantly. I took my ipod and a bluetooth speaker and jammed while I worked. I was personally working on beach houses so I could step outside and see/walk on the beach afterwards and/or leave the doors and windows open so I could hear the waves while I worked. It was pretty alright, mostly.

Here’s what I learned though:

  • The pay is good (we’re talking $25-50/hour) but the turnaround is QUICK. If you can’t turn over a house in under 5 hours (and the house sizes vary  ALOT), this isn’t your gig.
  • You have to bring your own supplies. It’s not that big a deal, I got most of my supplies from the dollar store and spent the most on my $50 vacuum that I brought just for vacation houses. I didn’t want to clean my own house with one that had lots of sand, etc. in it. I also have a designated Swiffer for the same reason. Otherwise, you really just need a good stash of sponges, cloths/small towels, a good all purpose cleaner – I LOVE the Jasmine Fabuloso (you just have to stumble on it at Dollar Tree). I personally stretch my supplies by mixing up said Fabuloso and reusing Mrs. Meyers spray bottles (that I use at home anyway). Throw in some Clorox clean up and paper towels, and you’re pretty golden.
  • If you’re cleaning at the beach – you can’t get all the sand off the floor. You just can’t.
  • You may have to travel quite a bit depending on the need of the agency in your area. Most Saturdays I drove 35 miles one way. You can and should claim mileage though for tax purposes. You can also utilize a driving app like MileUp which awards points for regular driving and you can redeem those points for gift cards! (If you’re feeling sweet, you can use my referral link for MileUp)
  • The customer is always right. If you try to cut corners and the vacationing guests complain (even if you DON’T cut corners and the people are just picky, perhaps), you’ll be called back to do a recall clean. If you can’t do that or feel like it’s a bogus request, the agency will get another contractor to go back for the recall areas and more than likely, you will get a pay cut.
  • I found the smaller houses (under 2000 square feet) are the best value for a contractor. They are easily cleaned in under 3 hours and paid an average of $70-100)
  • You have to clean EVERYTHING you would clean in a spring clean at your own home. (bathrooms, sheets, dust and wipe all surfaces, dishes, unload dishwasher, on top of and under couches and inside cushions, wipe outside and inside of fridge, empty and take out all trash and usually remove all trash from premises, all floors must be vacuumed/swept/mopped where applicable, patio areas are also included)
  • There’s a delay in payment from your first job – usually a week – up to a month when checks are cut
  • 10:00 am check out is not always recognized by the guests and if they check out late, it cuts into your cleaning time to turn over the house for the next guests, which is obnoxious and frustrating.

Ultimately, this was an easy side gig to start up. It was low cost to get started, it was simply a matter of contacting the agency and submitting my ID, filling out routine paperwork, etc. and waiting until the season began. Most weeks I did 1-2 houses and as it became summer, more workers flooded the agency and there was actually less work to do even though it was busier as far as people vacationing.

I decided to stop contracting with this particular company because of the turnover rate. It was expected that guests check out at 10:00 am and new guests check in at 4:00 pm. If everything goes according to plan, typically this system works and the agency employs other contractors called PCs (property care) to come in behind all of the housekeepers and sign off to verify that the house is ready for the next guests.

I always communicated with my designated PC and waited for them to come in and inspect my job (sometimes up to 45 minutes after I was already finished). I waited until they were satisfied and fixed any problem areas of details they asked for. When I started to get more regular recall call backs (7 months into this gig) because of what I can only assume was particularly picky guests, I felt it was unfair that none of the responsibility fell on the PCs who ultimately signed off on the house for new guests to come in and I had to make the drive back or take a pay cut.

It is also not stable work as the schedules depend on who is renting out the houses each week, how many contract housekeepers are available to  work, etc. That being said, there are several vacation home companies that may be accepting workers and if you live near a popular vacation area, I would recommend signing up with several of those companies to keep your schedule full.

If you’re looking to do the octopus approach and build 8 streams of $250/month, though – this side gig is definitely fitting of that criteria. Most months, I made $500-$600.

If you are thinking about starting a cleaning business or contracting to clean houses and have questions about the experience – feel free to leave me comments or connect with me via Instagram or Twitter.

Happy hustling!

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