“I’m a cleaning lady, I’m saying it exactly like that!” – Meet Lina, a self-employed cleaner working on the Helpling platform
8th of November is the International day of cleaning professionals. This day was initiated to draw more attention to a profession that still has not received sufficient attention and recognition. On a given occasion, Lina – a self-employed cleaner – discusses how customers treat her and other cleaners and what she thinks of the payment in the industry.
Lina, you are an independent cleaner. How do you see this profession?
So I have to say: The job “cleaner” is like all other jobs, which I have done so far – whether as a consultant in an office or as a help in a hostel. Nowadays, there are countless job opportunities – so why not take a mop in your hand and clean the floor? After all my professional experience, this isn’t any different.
Have you learned to be a cleaner or did you have a different training?
No, I did something completely different before. In Australia, I worked as a recruiting consultant. Unfortunately, I realized at some point that I was working seven days a week in the office and every evening on the couch. Of course, I earned a lot of money, but I did not have a single free moment, let alone go on holiday. I then had to pull the plug on this job for my private life and health: I quit my job, grabbed my belongings and quickly moved to Berlin.
What did you do in Berlin? Did you want to go back to your original profession?
When I came to Berlin, I had to re-invent myself. This was not easy if you don’t speak German. That’s why I started working in a hostel. Unfortunately, there was no improvement from my old job. I was working overtime, only this time I wasn’t paid enough. In addition, it was physically very tiring. After all these negative experiences, I said to myself: you must be your own boss, gain control over your professional life.
This implies the path to self-employment.
Exactly, it is actually impossible without German knowledge and network. So I began to research how I can work freely despite these difficulties. I realised quickly, that of all the offers out there, cleaning was a good solution. I have always liked cleaning, soI thought why not make some money out of it?
Then you’re likely to have work on platforms that provide work relatively fast?
I have read a lot of information and had many offers. I read about Helpling mainly as other platform didn’t match my expectations. It was important to me from the beginning that I would only be working via the platform, but otherwise, I would decide independently on all other matters: like schedule, organising my bookings, to choosing how much work I wanted to do. And suddenly everything went so fast, I got my first cleaning job after my interview and review of my cleaning experience. I thought it was great to find work locally and so efficiently.
You can also work as an employed cleaner and you do not have to worry about your health insurance.
That’s not what I want to be doing. My former profession as a consultant was never the problem, but my long hours in the office were. That is why paid holidays, as well as health and pension insurance, do not have the same value for me as for others. Of course ,I enjoyed the advantages of a permanent position, but I was the property of the company. Now my greatest asset is my professional freedom: I have absolute control over when I work and when I go on vacation – even if it’s unpaid.
How do you feel about what you’re making now?
I now make £9.40 per hour. This was in my opinion absolutely solid, especially when I compare it with what I was making in a hostel. Of course, I cannot compare my wage to what I was making in Australia.
Let’s talk about your customers. How would you describe the relationship with your customers?
I have a lot of regular customers, who are friendly and above all, we have a great relationship. They write me why the app regarding cleaning duties. Of course, there are some customers who are, by nature more distant and we communicate in a friendly but business manner. Some customers, after I’m done with my cleaning appointment, invite me to coffee and cake (laughs). Thanks to a tip from another customer, I even found a new flat to live in!
What do you have to pay particular attention to when dealing with new customers? Are you something different from your regular customers?
With new customers, it is the most important to build trust. This does not come easily, it builds with time. It is also a big thing to allow someone you don’t know in his home, in your private space. I always pull the green Helpling shirt: the customers have already seen this on the website and recognize directly that I am a cleaner working on the Helpling Platform. This is my personal cleaning outfit, and I feel comfortable wearing it. And this feeling is immediately transferred to the customer so that he can be sure here too: I value him and his home.
Is this also the case differently? How do customers show you how they value your work?
Every customer shows me his appreciation in different ways: some are very reserved and simply smile every time they see the clean flat. Others embrace me or thank me in chat messages in my online account. The most beautiful compliment I have received recently from a customer goes “I love to come home after you have cleaned!”. Then I thought to myself: “You really make people happy with your work (smiles)”.
When you meet new people: Do you tell them what you are doing professionally?
Of course! I then see one of the three reactions: the first type of people loses interest directly when the word “self-employed” or “cleaning lady” comes up. The second group, on the other hand, finds the fact of self-employment exciting and are interested in how I manage my assignments. The third group is mainly interested in Helpling because they want to book themselves. They then ask how the relationship between me and Helpling works.
How do you think society sees cleaning as a profession?
It is noticeable to me that people once encounter the profession “cleaning woman” – without the person behind it – with a negative attitude. I also call myself a “cleaning lady”. This doesn’t define who I am, it’s simply my profession at the moment. But even friends said to me, “Do not say you’re a cleaner. This is totally negative! “Why this should be negative is not clear to me: cleaning is essential – otherwise everyone would live in a mess.
And your friends? How do they react to cleaning as a profession?
They just see me as Lina, the one you always have to plan with, because she will always book a cleaning appointment instead. So often you do not meet a passionate cleaner like me.
What is your secret recipe to make your customers happy?
Communication, communication, communication! I listen very carefully when a customer tells me his cleaning needs. So that they feel that cleaning is really important to me and I want to do a good job. This is my own responsibility, to ensure that I leave a spotless home.
What do you like to do besides cleaning?
My greatest hobby is photography! I have just signed up for a course for further education in order to learn more about it. Next to cleaning, this is my other passion (laughs).