Thinking about starting your own cleaning business? Here’s everything you need to know about the process of getting set up, from carrying out research and buying the right equipment to writing a business plan and hiring staff.
Why start a cleaning business?
There are many benefits to setting up a cleaning business. For a start, it’s a business that’s in demand. According to the British Cleaning Council’s 2022 report, the cleaning industry contributed £58.9 billion to the UK economy in 2019. It also employs 1.47 million people which equates to 5% of the UK workforce, ensuring that the industry remains one of the top 10 biggest industries in the UK.
Another advantage of setting up your own cleaning business is that startup costs are low. You won’t require a storefront and there are no upfront costs associated with buying stock as you won’t be selling products. All you’ll need is suitable cleaning products, a mode of transport and insurance.
Further benefits include flexible work schedules where you can pick and choose your own hours, the option to turn down jobs you don’t fancy, and the fact you don’t need to have stacks of qualifications to get started.
Key steps to starting a cleaning business
If you’ve decided to go ahead and start your own cleaning business, your first step is to carry out some market research. You need to think about what type of cleaner you want to be and what market you want to serve.
There are three main cleaning markets – domestic, commercial and specialised.
- Domestic cleaning: This will typically involve cleaning people’s homes and you can get started as soon as you’ve found some clients.
- Commercial cleaning: This involves cleaning large commercial properties, such as offices and shops. Because this type of cleaning job takes longer, you’ll need to hire a team of people to help you, so you might have more of a managerial role.
- Specialised cleaning: This involves focusing on one particular area, such as window cleaning, carpet cleaning or car washing.
Your decision is likely to be driven by the experience and skills you have, but also consider whether there are any similar businesses in the area and whether there’s sufficient demand. For example, if there are lots of domestic cleaning services in your area but few commercial ones, this might be a better area to look at.
Domestic cleaners don’t usually require any qualifications. However, you might need a qualification if you’re carrying out specialist cleaning jobs – you can find out more about these qualifications through the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc).
It’s also worth doing some research on the safe use of chemicals and understanding what works best when cleaning particular items.
Set a budget, and finance equipment
Your next step is to think about the equipment you’ll need and how much you can afford to spend. If you’re planning to set up a domestic cleaning service, it’s likely you’ll only need to invest in a few items initially, such as cleaning cloths, mops, sponges, protective gloves and cleaning solutions. Other, larger items, such as vacuum cleaners, will often be provided by the clients in their homes.
Alternatively, if you’re setting up a commercial or specialised cleaning business, you’ll need to invest in bigger, more expensive, equipment such as vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaners. So you’ll need a much bigger budget.
Set your pricing
As part of your market research, see if you can find out how much cleaning businesses charge for their services in your area. You could also ask potential clients how much they would be willing to pay for a cleaning service and exactly what they would expect in return for this fee.
Consider whether you want to charge an hourly rate or a flat fee. Many clients prefer flat fees as they know exactly how much they’ll be paying, but it can be easier to charge by the hour if you’re not sure how long you’ll be cleaning for.
Incentives or discounts can be a good way to generate custom and attract new clients. You could offer the first cleaning session for free, for instance, or a discount if a client refers a friend.
Additionally, it’s worth setting up an online payment system to make it easier to take payments from clients, as well as opening a business bank account to keep your business finances separate from your own.
Write a business plan
Another important step is to write a business plan. Within this, you’ll need to work out your business and marketing strategy.
Your business plan should include an executive summary that outlines the objectives of your business or gives an overview of how your business will work. It should also include a business description to explain how you plan to grow the business and who your target market is.
Market your business to find clients
Next, consider how you will advertise your business. Easy options include promoting your business in local community groups or advertising in the local paper, as well as handing out business cards and flyers and knocking on doors.
You could also start a website and consider paying for online advertising (such as pay-per-click), particularly if you’re offering a niche service. As you start to build clients, ask for referrals from happy customers.
It’s important to be realistic about how many clients you can take on each week and make sure you’ll be able to travel between different premises in a reasonable amount of time. Try to avoid having long distances between each one.
Prioritise customer service
Remember that you should always put the customer first which means getting back to customers quickly and responding promptly to quote requests. As part of this, you’ll need to have an easy way of communicating with your clients. It can be worth using a combination of voicemail, an email account, a website and social media pages to help you reach customers and respond to queries when you’re starting out.
Plan for growth
Finally, consider how you plan to grow your business. You might prefer to stay small and continue to work alone. Or you might want to think about expanding into a small company and hiring additional staff to help you with your workload. Consider a business loan to give you the capital to fund further growth.
Be aware that if you do employ staff, you will need to take out employer’s liability insurance. This will protect you if your employees are injured or become unwell as a result of working for you and covers the associated legal and compensation costs.
Also familiarise yourself with national minimum wage legalisation and health and safety regulations.