Ultimately, you should charge based on a combination of what your competition charges, what your cost is, and what you think you're worth.
The first and most important thing to do when deciding what to charge is to evaluate your cost.
Start by evaluating how much you actually spend to be available for cleaning services.
Include things like products, gas, and time in your calculation.
If you calculate your cost based on these items alone, you can take your total cost and divide it by the total number of hours you work a week.
Although a raw number, it can give you a good base on figuring out what to charge.
You then need to evaluate the competition to see what they are charging.
Although you can't always ask a homeowner who cleans their house and what they charge, you can always feel free to call up any competitor and get a quote from them.
Simply get their number, dial and pretend to be interested in hiring them as your housecleaning service.
After gathering their rate information, compare their cost with the figure you calculated earlier and you can begin to get a better idea of what you should be charging.
After getting a good idea of what you should charge, look to create margin.
If you only charge what your competition is charging, will you be able to support yourself? Most retail stores automatically mark up the products they sell by a minimum of about 100% depending on the industry.
If you only mark up the cost of gas and cleaning products by 100% then add that to your fee, you could be making quite a bit of extra cash for your housecleaning business.
Now the real challenge: you have to be able to get people to pay for this seemingly overpriced service.
The secret is in the perceived value of your service.
If people think your service is worth what you are charging, they will happily pay that rate without thinking twice.
People pay two dollars for a pack of gum and four dollars for a cup of coffee because they think that those items are worth their cost when their actual production cost is much lower than their sale price.
Creating perceived value isn't as hard as you might think but it does require some amount of thought on your part.
One simple way to create perceived value is by doing a good job.
You have to charge for the work you complete so do a good job and you'll be able to charge more.
Another good way to create value in your services is by providing the appearance that you are worth more than you actually are.
You don't have to buy a stretch hummer to haul your cleaning supplies around in, but if you always have clean and organized supplies and carry well kept equipment people will think you are worth much more.
This doesn't mean using a new bottle of cleaner every time, but making sure you are using good products and equipment will make a huge impression on your customers.
Don't overlook how you dress as well as that is one of the first things people will see when they see you.
While wearing a suite and tie might be out of the question for you, wearing clean clothes or a nice uniform will go a long way in making a good impression.
Nothing is worse for customers when a dirty, smelly and messy service person comes to their house.
So set yourself apart and present yourself in the most professional manner you can provide.
The last thing you can look into for charging top dollar for your housecleaning business is looking for ways to extend your services beyond your time.
If you only charge for the time you spend at a home actually cleaning then you're missing out on additional services that ultimately does a disservice to your customers.
Look for additional needs they have such as window cleaning, oven cleaning or take-out laundry service.
Gift certificates, cleaning supplies, and tools can all be sold for additional income as well.
Combine these additional services with your cost, then you have even more reasons to charge a higher rate than you are already.