How to Bid Cleaning Jobs: Guide for Janitorial Businesses

Everyone has an opinion. Let’s take a look at what works, what doesn’t – and why.

Price per Square Foot

Some say pricing an office cleaning job is as easy as multiplying the total size (cleanable sq. ft.) of a building by so many dollars or cents per square foot.

While this fast and easy approach may seem attractive, as in many things, the ‘devil is in the details’.

For example, you can’t use a figure like $0.10/sq. ft. when bidding 5x/ week cleaning and then simply turn around and think you can use the same $0.10/sq. ft. figure for pricing a 2x/week job; at least not if you hope to set competitive yet profitable prices.

While this may seem obvious, one ‘wonders and worries’…
how many new or inexperienced janitorial businesses have made that costly mistake?!

Interestingly, large, experienced building service contractors who share similar expense and profit percentages in their financial reports may be able get away bidding every large Class A office building based on a set price per sq. ft. figure.

But, small local janitorial business quoting on heavily-used plant office and restroom areas in small manufacturing facilities, expecting to do the same – should think twice.

Since One-Size-Fits-All Methods Rarely Work…
Price/Sq. Ft. Probably ISN’T Right for You

Again, some well-established janitorial businesses, those with large numbers of employees – may share similar financial expectations for expenses, overhead and profit; utilizing similar cleaning procedures and equipment and incurring similar labor costs based on those procedures and equipment.

Plus, they may share the same approaches to implementing training, or structures for organizing management.

This may allow them to feel confident using one or a few set price per sq. ft. rates when large office cleaning jobs go out for bid; knowing they have a track record of taking on jobs of this size – and then delivering services that meet client expectations for quality and their own expectations for profit.

But, in reality, most cleaning businesses are small and mid-size companies, who bid on many different kinds and sizes of buildings (i.e. church, restaurant, school, medical, day care, office, auto dealer) often requiring less than 5x/week service.

Effectively pricing these wide ranging kinds of jobs calls for something quite different than using a one-size-fits-all price/sq. ft. figure; we recommend a much different approach called task-based work loading.

In task-based work loading, an average cleaning time per visit is calculated using
task-based production rates, reflecting the custom requirements of each area of the building.

We recommend detailed, task-based work loading because it builds the office cleaning quote from the ‘ground up’; first calculating an average time/visit from the unique job specifications of each area of the office facility.

Then, after determining a monthly hours figure based on the cleaning frequency, the process of multiplying by a ‘loaded’ wage rate (including payroll taxes) and factoring in overhead and profit to determine monthly price can be performed; this markedly improves the chances of setting competitive and profitable prices for most cleaning contractors.

Educated Guess, Guesstimate

Others suggest you should rely on your own experience, simply guesstimate how long you think it will take to perform the office cleaning in a building, and then determine a price by multiplying the resulting total hours/month ‘guess’ by your company’s hourly billing rate.

But, here again, that quick, general advice can leave many cleaning business owners, especially ones with little or no experience, understandably uncertain about their time (labor hrs.) estimates for jobs, and therefore at a real disadvantage – and risk.

The reality is, the kind of cleaning projects janitorial companies quote on can vary greatly in important factors like size, frequency and difficulty, as well as, in the nature of the cleaning (i.e. professional office vs. industrial/manufacturing, restaurant vs. church).

This guesstimating approach is not reliable or scalable.

Not reliablein that guesstimates are often ‘off’ more than they’re ‘on’ because of differences in task requirements, areas, difficulty, building type, density, ease of access etc.

Not scalablein that even if they could somehow, painfully and eventually, develop a way of estimating labor hours (time) needed for a wide variety of building types and work requirements, they may still be leaving themselves and their company vulnerable.

Since Guesses Aren’t Reliable or Scalable,
Educated Guesstimating Probably ISN’T Right for You

For example, if the owner of the cleaning business ever plans on having someone else handle the bidding responsibilities, they would need to successfully transfer all of the bidding knowledge it took them so many years and mistakes to learn – to someone else; not an easy task.

And, in the worst case, what if something unforeseen happens to the cleaning business owner, leaving those left behind to run daily operation – with no easy, systematic way to estimate how long a job should take or determine how much they should charge.

For cleaning businesses serious about growth, stability and long term viability, bidding and estimating responsibilities should not rest solely on one person’s shoulders. 

Instead, cleaning companies need a reliable and easy-to-use bidding system, the kind
task-based work loading can deliver.

‘Overall Building’ Production Rate

Finally, others insist you can use an ‘overall building’ production rate to calculate the hours needed to deliver office cleaning services. Here, the idea is to take a one-size-fits-all figure, like 3,500 sq. ft./hr., and then simply divide that figure into the overall size of the building, say 14,000 sq. ft.

The resulting hourly figure, 4 in our example, is then used to calculate a monthly total labor hour requirement, which is multiplied by an hourly billing rate to determine the monthly price.

But simple answers, while attractive, can often be misleading and even worse – costly.

Well, let’s take a closer look at production rates; the building blocks of effective bidding and estimating. There are two basic kinds of production rates in cleaning:

The first are ‘overall building’ production rates. These production rates suggest you can ballpark how many sq. ft. of an office building one person can clean in one hour (performing an entire set of what some may refer to as ‘standard’ cleaning duties) and then divide the resulting figure into ‘total building size’ – to arrive at cleaning time (hours) needed per visit.

The only problem of course, and it’s a big one, is buildings differ greatly in:
1) which tasks clients want done, 2) frequency of those tasks and 3) difficulty

This makes it hard, if not impossible, for most small and mid size cleaning businesses to use a single ‘overall building’ production rate with any confidence the time/visit calculation will be reliable or resulting price – competitive yet profitable.

Since It Doesn’t Reflect Differences in Tasks, Frequency and Difficulty,
‘Overall Building’ Production Rate Pricing Probably ISN’T Right for You

In fact, even those few, large building service contractors who take the time to develop not one, but a small set of ‘overall building’ production rates to reflect different building types, are still at risk.

That’s right; those business owners still miss out on the important drilling in process (customization) to the client’s unique cleaning requirements (by area), which can often be the difference between winning and losing a commercial cleaning job.

The second are task-based production rates, such as how long it will take to dust or edge vac a specific number of sq. ft. They are often shown in minutes/1,000 sq. ft. and can be effectively used to perform detailed task-based work loading.

In summary, task-based work loading using task-based production rates is a
much better approach for most cleaning business owners

The exception to this may be those very few, very large, very experienced building service contractors who are prepared to handle the significant operational and financial challenges associated with using a one–size-fits-all ‘overall building’ production rate.

Task-Based Work Loading

We recommend task-based work loading to most cleaning businesses when bidding office cleaning; this ‘ground up’ approach calculates and uses a custom cleaning time/visit as the proper starting point in the process of setting competitive and profitable prices.

This average cleaning time per visit is determined by adding all the individual times needed to perform all the cleaning tasks required by the prospective client in each area of the building.

Task-based work loading uses specific building data such as size of areas (i.e. room dimensions), floor types (i.e. carpet, tile) and fixture counts (i.e. toilets, sinks)

Following the work specifications, a cleaning time/visit is calculated using a combination of:

1) multiplying the sq. ft of each area by the associated production rate for each task (i.e. min/1,000 sq. ft) scheduled to be performed in the area, and/or

2) multiplying fixture counts by the time required to clean those fixtures (i.e. minutes/fixture);

Following the cleaning frequency schedule for all tasks, even periodic or detailed office cleaning tasks can be factored into the average cleaning time per visit and reflected in the price.

YES, Since Bidding Based on Actual, Custom Task Schedules By Area WORKS,
Task- Based Work Loading Probably IS Right for You!!

Having a calculated cleaning time per visit allows small and mid size janitorial business owners to move forward confidently, figuring their total cleaning hours per month, as well as factoring in wages, taxes, overhead and profit to determine their final monthly price

In summary, cleaning business owners who start the bidding process by calculating an average cleaning time using task-based workloading are miles ahead of competitors who simply use a one-size-fits-all price/sq. ft., mere guesstimating or an ‘overall building’ production rate.

Fortunately, there is a fast, easy and convenient janitorial bidding software and app that uses
task-based work loading to bid office cleaning jobs… offers first time members a free 30 day trial to all of its cleaning business software including CleanBid, today’s most popular janitorial bidding software and mobile app which uses task-based work loading. Plus, be sure to check out our sample cleaning proposals and video blog.


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Hi Imoh, that's great - we'd love for you to try out CleanGuru for a full 30 days for FREE. You can sign up anytime at If you have any questions, or would simply like to have us help you get started, just call us at 888-531-4878. Thanks, Matt, CleanGuru Support

imoh celestine

I would really like to try it out


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Debra Kelley

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