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The Difference Between a Cleaning Company and a Cleaning Referral Agency

A pair of hands with yellow gloves on spraying and wiping down the stainless steel exterior of the oven and microwave.

A cleaning company and a referral agency are related in that they both help with house cleaning needs. But there are significant differences between the two.

There are far fewer referral agencies and they are usually only in metropolitan areas. But, the situation is starting to change. That’s why we’re writing this article: to help you distinguish one from the other when you look for house cleaning services in the future.

What Is a House Cleaning Company?

A house cleaning company is a staffed business. It employs house cleaners with regular wages and sometimes benefits. The company also provides cleaning supplies, uniforms, and usually transportation.

A house cleaning company can be either local and privately owned or a regional or national franchise. The former encourages personalized service. The latter ensures consistent practices, outcomes, and product selection.

Each type of cleaning company has its pros and cons. But how do their standardized cleaning routines affect employee satisfaction? Employee satisfaction involves:

  • Personal and professional autonomy
  • Having a say in how to do the work
  • Sustainable wages and discretionary pay
  • Thorough and consistent safety standards and practices
  • Client communication

A house cleaning company can be a great first job, and even offer regular work to some. But others who do house cleaning might feel limited by the protocols at a typical house cleaning company.

What Is a Cleaning Referral Agency?

Referral agencies take a different approach. A domestic or cleaning referral agency is in business to connect independent domestic workers or cleaning businesses with potential clients needing house cleaning services.

A referral agency neither employs the cleaners or service providers it refers nor oversees or gets involved in the cleaning service.

Yet, a referral agency’s reputation rests on the quality of the providers it refers, that’s why it must be good at vetting and screening for good service providers and matching them with the right types of jobs and clients.

How Do Cleaning Referral Agencies Work?

While practices vary among different agencies, most have minimal staffing—such as an owner or business manager. Unless it’s a large and busy operation, roles like marketing and bookkeeping probably are outsourced.

Essential staffing is likely to include one or two agents. Their routine tasks comprise correspondence, record-keeping, answering requests, and updating providers or clients on their appointments.

The most pressing work, of course, is referral coordination, bookings, and processing payments. But this goes to the businesses’ primary mission.

How Do Cleaning Referral Agencies Make Money?

Cleaning referral agencies integrate referral fees into clients’ payments. They might be flat fees or percentages of what’s owed to the house cleaner.

Most cleaning referral companies hold the final amount paid in a trust account until the cleaner has completed the job and the client has approved the service.

Who Sets the Wages: The Referral Agency or the Cleaners?

The process of paying the cleaning contractors varies. At Anita’s Housekeeping Referral Agency, the quotes provided to clients are based on the service providers’ independently set hourly rates and surcharges.

On the day of service, depending on the home’s actual conditions, the provider may adjust the estimate.

Remember, the service provider is the owner of the cleaning service, not the referral agency. As the owner of his or her cleaning service, they can discuss and negotiate rates and surcharges with clients directly and without input or direction from the referral agency.

Benefits of a Cleaning Referral Agency

Client Benefits

  • The referred cleaners, as independent contractors, want return bookings
  • Clients can negotiate with individual cleaners to tailor the work to meet unusual or timely needs
  • Referral agencies vet the cleaners they recommend
  • A cleaning referral agency can refer clients to traditional house cleaners (“maids”)
  • Some referral agencies also book cleaning specialists, such as move-in/move-out cleaning services 

Provider Benefits

  • Have complete control of their business
  • Set their own rates, based on their estimate of the work, through negotiation with the client
  • Enjoy flexible schedules and determine the amount of work they need and want
  • Can bring their preferred cleaning supplies or use those provided by the client
  • Work and negotiate with clients directly
  • Zero expenses on marketing

The Future of Cleaning Referral Agencies

The gig economy is taking even greater hold in today’s society. As cleaners looking for independence and control seek new opportunities, referral agencies is gaining traction.

Reach out today and book your next house cleaning job with us.


Anita's Housekeeping Editors