laundry image by timur1970 from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>
Laundry is the bane of most people's existence. The job is never done. Just when you think you've done all of your laundry, you throw the clothes you were wearing while doing the laundry into the previously empty hamper and the process begins again. A laundry service is a necessary luxury to many people and if you are willing to pick up, clean, iron and deliver their clothes and linens for them, you may be able to start a lucrative business.
Decide first just how much laundry you want to do. Some laundry services contract with a laundromat or dry cleaner and only pick up and deliver the clothes for customers. Others do all of the work, picking up (or having customers drop off), cleaning, pressing and delivering the clothes. Many laundry services opt to work from home.
Partner with a laundromat. Some laundromats offer drop-off services, but others do not. Contact the owner of the laundromat and see if they would be willing to allow you to accept clothing for drop-off in exchange for a small percentage of the profit or a pre-determined rent each month. Some laundromat owners will allow you to set up shop for the price of using the machines alone.
Call your local county or city clerk's office and find out if you need a permit to run a laundry pick-up service. Most do not, but others require a business registration and a small fee.
Call your car insurance company and see what kind of coverage you should get for using your car for this type of business. The increased usage may put you at risk should you get into an accident.
Purchase your equipment. Once you've decided where you'll be doing the laundry and what services you are offering, you'll need to make sure you can handle the orders. If you are doing laundry at home, be sure that your washer(s) and dryer(s) are capable of handling large loads and getting clothes very clean. Front loading washers are often the most effective. The fortunate thing about owning a laundry service is that if your machines break, you can at least continue working by taking the clothes to the local laundromat until your machines get fixed.
Advertise your service. Make up some fliers and post them around town. Grocery stores, libraries and hardware stores often have community bulletin boards where you can post things for free. List your service on Craigslist.org. Fax a flier to local offices--many busy working people would love to hear about your service, especially if you offer to pick up at their office. Get magnets for your car that have your service's name, a short tagline explaining what you do and your phone number. You could also set up a website where customers can schedule orders and pay you by credit card.
Call around to other laundry services and find out how much they charge. You may need to search online for services in other cities or towns of similar size to your own, if there are no competitors in your area. Some services charge by the load or by the pound. Determine your expenses, including extra time for stain removal, special detergents for certain customers and your gas expenditures and come up with a rate that is comparable, but not necessarily less than, the other services. You need to be fair to your customers, but also fair to yourself.
Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.