There are many work-at-home business ideas that don't occur to most people. One of them requires no special skills and very little start up money. Moreover, everything you need to operate this business can be found in your laundry room. Not sure what I'm talking about? Here's a hint: you already do it and probably have been for years. I'm talking about starting your own wash and fold service.
Laundry. So simple to do, yet most people hate doing it. For you, it can provide an extra $100 to $300 a week.
Many stay at home parents (SAHPs) looking for a work at home (WAH) job or business probably don't think of a wash and fold service as an option. It certainly wasn't something I thought of initially when I was looking for something to do from home. But after trying a few different opportunities and being disappointed with each outcome, the idea of a running home-based wash and fold service was born. It took some work and a few trials and errors, but now I clean clothes once a week and gross $1,100 a month. Not bad for just cleaning clothes!
I'm going to share with you how I began my home-based laundry service, Laundry Care, and give you tips that would have saved me a lot of time. I'll include a step-by-step guide as well as ideas for marketing. Starting a home laundry service is a great way to make extra money without having to sacrifice a lot of your time!
Take Care of the Legal Stuff
You'll need to check with your state on potential licensing and registration requirements. There will be a sales tax you'll need to pay on a frequent basis; it is imperative that you know what the sales tax is in the county you will be operating in. You'll also need to establish how you will be organized; Sole Proprietor, LLC, S Corp, etc.
Open a Business Checking Account
I strongly recommend keeping your laundry business and personal transactions separate. Although not necessary, it is easier come tax time to report your earnings and expenses if they are not commingled with your personal finances.
Set up Your Record-Keeping
You will need to keep track of several things including:
- Laundry clients
- Payments received
This does not mean you need to go out and purchase fancy financial software--Google Spreadsheet does a fine job of keeping track of everything - and it's free.
Arrange the Method and Terms of Payment
Determine your payment terms. Will your clients pay you before services are performed or after? Will you accept cash and checks, or will you take credit card payments as well? These are policies you'll need to establish prior to taking on clients. Almost all of my clients prefer to pay via credit card. PayPal is an easy to use credit card processor with a reasonable fee (3% of transactions) that you can set up in a matter of minutes. Pay Anywhere helps you save money by taking credit card payments on the go (a flat fee of 19 cents per transaction, plus a 2.69% fee for every swipe).
You'll also need to determine how much you will charge your clients. The two most common methods I've observed are either by the pound or by the bag size. If you choose to charge by the pound you'll need to purchase a hanging scale (Amazon carries them for $10) and determine your rate ($1 to $1.50/lbs is the average). If you choose to use bags, you'll need to determine the dimensions and material desired for you bags and then find a vendor within your budget. I use a nylon bag that is 22" X 28" and holds approximately two loads of clothing. You can anticipate bags to cost between $2 and $4/bag.
Make a Website
Some may argue that this step is not necessary, but I'd have to completely disagree. You do not have a brick and mortar store like the Laundromats, so your website, in a sense, is your store. You need to have a way for clients to find you and get information about your services. You can accomplish this goal by creating a website. WordPress is a free web design site that is very user-friendly. You can easily create a website and find a web host from their "Hosting" section. I initially used GoDaddy for my website, and then later hired an independent contractor to create what is now LaundryCare.
Market Your Services
There are several online and offline ways to market your services; I'll begin with online marketing.
When it comes to creating your online presence, you're going to have two options: free marketing and paid marketing. I use a combination of both to promote my wash and fold service. Free marketing would include listing yourself on free directories such as Google Places and Yahoo! Local. Craigslist is another great source to advertise your laundry service for free. Paid marketing includes sponsored ads you see on a search engine results pages. The top dogs are Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search, Microsoft Advertising and Facebook Ads. There are many more free and paid online marketers, but use this as your starting point.
Social media marketing is an imperative piece to your marketing efforts. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn are just some of the available social sites. You don't need (and won't have the time) to create multiple accounts--a Facebook Page is sufficient to begin. To get clients to "Like" your Facebook page you could offer an incentive such as money off their first order.
Online marketing requires only time and a computer. For offline marketing you're going to have to do a lot of walking and talking. First thing you'll need to do is create an attention-getting flier. Fliers are a cheap way to promote your business and if there's a local college campus, you can expose yourself to hundreds of potential clients every day. Make sure your flier has an attention-getting headline and print it on vibrant colored paper.
Include pull off tabs at the bottom of your flier containing your:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Web address (if you have one)
Business cards are another marketing tool you'll need for those times when you are talking with a potential client. You can get 250 business cards printed free through Vista Print (with $5 shipping).
Make a list of local companies that could use your service (spas, doctor's offices, day cares, restaurants) and contact them either by phone or in person. You don't have to make it a pushy sales pitch. Just give a quick introduction about yourself and your laundry service, coupled with how your service can benefit their business.
Here's a little insider information that I've used to win over business clients: you are less expensive than big, commercial cleaners and you don't require lengthy contracts. Most large commercial cleaners require at least a year's contract and will charge for multiple items, such as fuel and processing. Knowing this information can give you something attractive to offer potential business clients.
Lastly, you'll need to talk about your business as often as you can. Networking is a very powerful tool. You never know when you'll run into someone who just happens to need your service or knows someone that does.
Now you are ready to go live with your business. Please be patient and understand that Rome wasn't built in a day. You will need time to grow your business. I didn't get my first client until 2 months after launch and believe me, I was starting to think I never would. After that first client I grew to 4, then 8, then 12. As a stay-at-home mom, I was making great extra money by just doing laundry out of my home. Now I help other stay-at-home parents accomplish the same thing through my company Laundry Care.
About the author: Danielle D. founded Laundry Care in Columbus, Ohio as an opportunity to earn extra income her family.