Anthony and Jhanilka Hartzog erased $114k of debt in 23 months.
The couple were making good money at their day jobs, but realized there’s only so much you can cut from your budget.
That’s when they turned to the income side of the equation and started a ton of different side hustles.
Today, that business is doing $20-25k in sales a month, with other people doing the cleaning. Anthony and Jhanilka are fully in business-owner mode, dedicating just a few hours a week to it.
You can follow along with their journey on Instagram @thehartrimony.
Tune in to hear:
- how they got this business off the ground while working full-time
- how they find reliable cleaners
- the marketing tactics that are paying off
How the Idea for Maids2Match Came About
Anthony said the idea for starting a cleaning business came from episode 295 of the Side Hustle Show. In this episode, I talked with Chris Schwab who was making $10,000 a month with his cleaning business called ThinkMaids.com.
The caveat that intrigued Anthony was that Chris wasn’t doing the cleaning himself. He was operating an agency and hiring cleaners to do the cleaning.
This is exactly the business model Anthony was looking for — something that he could scale!
Neither of them had run a business before, so Jhanilka naturally had a lot of questions.
Anthony reached out to Chris and spoke to him to gain some insights. He also did a lot of research online regarding how to start a business and some of the other things he needed to know.
Supply vs. Demand: Contractors or Customers First?
“We always get the contractors first because we don’t want to do the clean,” Jhanilka told me.
It’s always a dilemma when starting a service business. Do you put the staff in place to handle the business, or drum up the business first and hope you can find workers when needed.
The good thing about cleaning contractors is that they have other clients, Jhanilka explained. Once you’ve made contact with them, you don’t have to pay them until you have work.
Where to Find Cleaners
Finding cleaners is “the hardest part of the business,” Jhanilka told me. When teaching this business model to their students, they advise them to “always be hiring.”
They use a combination of free and paid marketing channels to find cleaning contractors. Some of the free places they advertise are:
Some of the paid platforms Anthony and Jhanilka advertise for cleaners are:
When they find contractors, they “pitch” them by explaining what’s in it for them. They explain how much they pay, how they’ll contact them, what they expect from them, and so on.
Anthony said most cleaners like this arrangement as they’re good at cleaning, but not marketing. Anthony and Jhanilka are handling all of the marketing, pricing, etc. the cleaners just need to turn up and do a good job.
Managing the Revenue Split
“When it comes to pricing, we’re very upfront about that,” Jhanilka told me.
Jhanilka said she and Anthony take 40% of the cost of a job, and they pay the other 60% to the cleaners. They let cleaners know upfront how much they’re going to earn for a job, and they’re transparent about how much they are charging their clients.
The sweet spot for a rate that cleaners are happy with is in the $25-35/hr ballpark, Jhanilka explained to me.
On the client-side, they charge flat rates based on the number of rooms in a home. With some additional charges for extras, such as deep cleans and move in/out jobs.
Charging a flat rate over an hourly rate is a win-win as it motivates cleaners to work faster, and clients know exactly how much they’re paying.
Are Some Cleaning Jobs Unreasonable for That Flat Rate?
All cleaning jobs are sight unseen. One person’s idea of a “light clean” can vary a lot from someone else’s opinion of how much work is needed.
Anthony and Jhanilka protect their cleaners by asking them to take pictures when they arrive, so they know how much work was needed.
They also put an “*” on their order forms stating that prices are for homes in an average condition, and they reserve the right to charge more if the job is unreasonable.
Finding Those First Bookings/Marketing Channels
“Our first booking was from Thumbtack,” Anthony told me.
Anthony says Thumbtack is a good place to find customers. However, he always recommends people start out by lowering their prices or even offering free cleans on the platform.
This helps to get some positive reviews which builds up a little trust.
Be prepared to put some time into talking with customers, too. Anthony explained that you often have to nurture customers on this platform and correspond with them back and forth.
For their first booking, they actually had their contractor let them down the night before. They ended up finding another cleaner from a group in Dallas. That cleaner stepped in and ended up becoming one of their contractors.
Anthony said Thumbtack can get pretty expensive, too. You pay based on the quality of the lead, so Thumbtack charges more for recurring bookings.
He said there are also a lot of “tire kickers” on there wasting time. These were a couple of the main reasons why they stopped using Thumbtack pretty early on.
That said, their longest-serving client was one of their first Thumbtack gigs. They’ve cleaned their home every week for the last three years.
Nextdoor is a platform that splits down areas into neighborhoods. People can use this app to ask questions about their local community, ask for recommendations for services, and more.
Anthony said this is a good platform for finding customers. You do have to be on the platform a lot, however, to be able to answer questions as and when they come up.
It’s also a great place to find contractors. Anthony said he’s seen a number of cleaners using the app to ask for more work and reached out to them.
Yelp is polarizing for business owners. Some love it, some hate it. Yet the Hartzogs have had a lot of success finding customers on Yelp, so he always recommends people at least try it out.
They tried Google Ads early on, but Anthony said they were not ready at the time. He intends to try them again in the near future.
They use a company to handle their SEO and it’s always a slow game, but they’re at the point where they rank for a lot of good keywords.
Anthony said they started out targeting keywords for smaller suburbs, like Plano and Richardson. Over time they’ve seen their rankings for main Dallas keywords improve and they got a lot of organic leads now.
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool local businesses can use to appear in local search results. Anthony said he uses GMB to appear in the map pack and local results for cleaning queries in the Dallas area.
They add new photos and update their profile regularly to show people they’re a live business.
Where to Send Customers for Reviews?
Reviews — at least positive ones — are important to any service business. It shows new potential customers that you already have happy customers, and it helps with various search engine algorithms.
Jhanilka said their priority is sending customers to Google and Yelp to leave reviews right now, as those are the platforms where they’re most active.
They prefer Google, as more people have a Google account than a Yelp account so it’s easier to get those reviews. Plus, Yelp users must have an aged account with a proper profile and a history of leaving reviews for their reviews to show up to the public.
Anthony and Jhanilka said they can see that around 80 people have left them reviews on Yelp. But only 50 of them are showing as the other accounts are not verified.
The Online Booking Process
Anthony and Jhanilka have set up online booking through Maids2Match.com, powered by Launch27. They have some cool sliders people can drag to indicate how many rooms they need to be cleaned and fill out their other details.
When someone makes a booking, both Anthony and Jhanilka, and the customer receive an email confirming the booking.
Anthony and Jhanilka then reach out to one of their contractors to book them for the job. When they confirm they are available, Anthony and Jhanilka send an email to the customer to confirm their cleaner will be turning up at that date and time.
The client also gets reminders 3 days and the day before their cleaner arrives just to make sure they haven’t forgotten.
Stripe handles the payment processing, and cleaners are paid every Friday by direct deposit, so they never handle any cash in their business.
Customers can also book a clean by calling a number on the site. At first, Anthony and Jhanilka were answering these calls, but this became unmanageable around their day jobs.
They were starting to lose out on business by not being able to take every call, so they hired a virtual receptionist to answer calls.
This ended up leading to another business opportunity. The company they went through to find a virtual receptionist was going to close down. So, Anthony and Jhanilka bought that company, called ZiggyVA.com, about a month ago.
Related: How to Start a Virtual Call Center
As with most businesses that work with customers’ personal property, a liability insurance policy is a must-have. That way you’re protected if a contractor of yours accidentally damages a client’s home.
Check out a service like CoverWallet to get a quote.
What’s the Time Investment?
Obviously, Anthony and Jhanilka put a lot of time in to get the business off the ground.
Now it’s up and running and they have some automation in place, Jhanilka said they’re spending 1-2 hours week on the business. (But added that it’s always on their minds!)
Any Surprises Along the Way?
“We weren’t charging sales taxes,” Jhanilka told me.
The government sent notice that they wanted their sales tax, and that was when Jhanilka realized she should have been charging sales tax.
Their tip is to hire an accountant or someone to look over the books and advise you on local tax laws from the offset.
Not quite a surprise, but Anthony said he would have focused on SEO a lot earlier had he known how impactful it was going to be for the business.
“We’re really trying to scale the business,” Jhanilka told me.
At the time of recording, Anthony and Jhanilka had just had their biggest month to date. They’re at the point where the more money they put into marketing, the more clients they get.
Right now they’re bringing in $20-25k/mo in sales, they’re aiming for $40k a month in the near future. Their big thing for 2021 is to bring in more help to scale their business.
They are also selling courses and building a community around teaching others how to get a business off the ground, too. Anthony and Jhanilka have a busy year ahead!
Anthony’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation
Jhanilka’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation
“Pick something flexible.”
Links and Resources from this Episode
- Episode 295 with Chris Schwab
- Free bonus: 101 service business ideas
- Gusto – Get 3 months free when you run your first payroll!