Cleaning carpets can be a lucrative business, enabling the business owner to take charge of his future and chart his own course. Yet many carpet cleaning businesses fail in the first year due to bad business practices. Learning how to charge your customers for your work is an integral part of cleaning carpets and key to a successful business. Customers will appreciate a good job done for a fair price, and it's part of the carpet cleaner's job to ensure a formula for pricing that works.

Type of System

The type of carpet cleaning equipment must be taken into consideration when creating a price structure. Truck-mounted units have a high initial overhead, as does purchasing a franchise. A business with a portable extractor unit and no office or retail space will have much less initial start up costs and overhead. A good understanding of how much overhead your business incurs each day will play a factor in your pricing.

Time and Costs

Experience with cleaning carpets in different situations will be your best friend in figuring your time on a job. The more experience you have, the better your idea of how long jobs will take. Always figure in the time spent loading and unloading your equipment and hoses, and how much drive time you spend each day. Costs to also consider include wages, office expenses, insurance, equipment costs and chemicals, as well as funds for expansion and retirement.

Hourly Rate

A good way to calculate your total costs is to figure out how much money per hour of billable cleaning time it will take to meet your expenses. For example, if your total expenses for the month, including profit, are $10,000 to 12,000, and you can charge your customers for 30 to 40 hours of work per week, you'll need to bring in $75 to 100 per hour. As your costs and time on the job change, re-calculate your hourly cost structure accordingly.

Square Footage

Most carpet companies charge by the square foot, and this also provides a clear method of bidding that the customer will understand. Based on your hourly costs and your work experience, you can calculate the price per square foot needed to match your needs. Carpet cleaning prices range from approximately 15 to 35 cents per square foot, depending on the size and condition of the carpet. If you can do a good job cleaning a 1,300-square-foot house in three hours and need $100 per hour for your cost structure, a price of around 25 cents a square foot is a good bid. As your experience grows and your time per job improves, adjust your bids to stay competitive and consistently turn a profit.