How to set up a cleaning business and be successful
Before I set up Cheshire Cleaning Co in February 2018, I studied Business Management at University Centre St Helens in partnership with the University of Chester and received Edexcel Level 4 Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Business Management.
I wasn’t academic at school – literally couldn’t be arsed at school, I was a little shit to say the least and the teachers would often say one day I will be a bin man… As if it was a threat! It was my dream job as a child. Growing up I used to scream “HELLO” to Arthur he was a street sweeper, in a yellow high visibility jacket, pushing a yellow trolley and my favourite colour was yellow!
Before setting up I did some market research, I needed to know what customers wanted so that I could directly market my services to them, who my customers were going to be, their pain points, the niche market that I was going to enter and my pricing structure. All the things competitors don’t think about before advertising their services.
During the pandemic lots of people popped up offering their services, however, not many companies could hack the long working hours or the strain that constant cleaning puts onto your body.
One thing to think of before setting up is a saying which is “Cleaning is a skill that cannot be taught” people think they can set up a cleaning business, thinking it’s going to be easy and most of the time fail because they are not good, their standards are poor or they lack the motivation to work long hours or their bodies simply cannot take the strain.
How to start a cleaning business step by step
Identify what kind of services you will offer – it’s no good saying “I’m a cleaner” you need a niche. That niche will fall into domestic, commercial or specialist. We do not provide any domestic cleaning services at the moment Cheshire Cleaning Co deliver hybrid commercial and specialist cleaning services.
Domestic cleaners don’t generally require qualifications, however, you might need a qualification and commercial cleaning equipment for specialist cleaning jobs.
For more information on cleaning qualifications, contact BICSc (British Institute of Cleaning Science) which Cheshire Cleaning Co are corporate members to demonstrate our commitment to the cleaning industry.
Set a budget
When setting up it’s very easy to look on websites and through catalogues to pick out expensive new vacuum cleaners, the latest technology or purchase thousands of microfibre cloths. Stick to a budget and purchase what you need to provide your services.
Decide how much to charge for your services
When I started, the going rate for a cleaner (according to Facebook) was £10 an hour – I have never charged this because that’s their pricing, not mine. My pricing structure was set before completing my first job in February 2018 and has not changed until mid-August 2021.
These days the going rate for a cleaner (according to Facebook) is £15 an hour – I do not know whether this includes products, whether the individuals are insured, whether they are accredited, pay their National Insurance contributions or taxes to HMRC. It seems to be the going rate or works for someone, but your pricing is your pricing, it’s based around your overheads. Do your maths, be consistent and work out your pricing structure.
Write a business plan
A business plan could be a few bullet points. This plan helps you to build a solid foundation for your new venture as you start and grow it. Within your plan you’ll conduct market research, build financial plans and work out your marketing channels.
Look for clients
Knowing your niche early helps how you find clients. If your niece is cleaning pubs, your clients won’t be on the local Facebook buy-sell-swap groups looking for a cleaner. They’re most likely to be getting recommendations from other local pub landlords in the area or speaking to their customers.
Plan for growth
You may want to stay small, particularly if you’re a one-man-band domestic cleaner. However, cleaning businesses have the potential to grow from a single-person operation into small companies employing several people. As your business grows, you might look to take on additional cleaning staff to help you spread your workload.
If you do this, make sure you’re aware of national minimum wage legislation and your obligation to take out employers liability insurance.
Self-employed cleaner legal obligations
As with any other self-employed profession, self-employed cleaners have a few legal obligations, particularly concerning tax.
You will need to register as self-employed with HMRC, and you’ll need to complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
If you are new to being self-employed, get advice from a suitably qualified person beforehand so that you inform the relevant people that you have left employment and will be self-employed.
There are lots of pros and cons about being self-employed and a local accountancy firm will assist you to make informed decisions whether it’s best to be self-employed or operate under a limited company or partnership.
Top tips from Matt the Cleaner – Mr Cheshire a Cleaning Professional and Instagram Cleanfluencer
- Be prepared for a challenge. Starting up from scratch can be a challenge, it’s not easy and you will have many sleepless nights why you think of new ideas and spy out what local competition deliver and how you can be better than that with the use of advanced technology to help you run a successful business.
- Take advice. Speak to legal professionals, seek advice from an accountant, have written terms and conditions of booking your services and have everything in place from day one. Whilst clients start friendly enough, friendships can break down. People can turn sour especially if they don’t get their own way.
- Get ready for some unusual requests. Cleaning is an incredibly personal business and your clients will each have their unique requirements. It’ll keep you on your toes.
- Cover yourself from day one. Get yourself and your team members insured. Don’t just find the first policy that pops up for £5 per week, speak to an insurance broker who will talk you through the various insurance requirements that are specific to your business.
- Get yourself qualified or learn a new skill. Our niche is we are the only accredited carpet and upholstery cleaning business in town. Nobody can argue with that because it’s factually correct. We bothered to get qualified, undertook entrance exams and applied to become members of the NCCA (National Carpet Cleaners Association) so that we are at an advantage to others operating in the area. I would say, competitors, however, simply don’t compete with us as we’re one step ahead.
Professional cleaners need professional equipment
If the clients can get it in Asda ask yourself why are they coming to you. What I mean by this is do not offer “Professional oven cleaning” and turn up with a box of DIY oven cleaning kits for £1 which includes a large bag, a bottle of caustic soda and two flimsy gloves – it’s not professional. Also, don’t use products from the pound shop, it looks cheap and nasty.
Show the client why they’re coming to you, show them that you use professional equipment – deliver professional services to every client.
Choosing a business name
When I set up I looked at every cleaning company in a 30-mile radius. Unfortunately, not everybody does this and the time will come when someone pops up using your name. I’ve had it, less than a mile away Cheshire Cleaning Company popped up. A legal letter later they underwent a name change…
Do your research, practice how you’re going to answer the phone and how professional you’ll look introducing yourself to the Bank Manager or an Accountant using your business name.
Go hard or go home
Your heart must be in it.
Working as a cleaner is long and often unsociable hours.
In my first three years, I worked 7 days a week building my business. Most of that was spent for an unorganised letting agent who couldn’t book jobs in advance and would call last minute requests almost every weekend. I missed so many birthdays and other family events for jobs that needed to be done now.
Work hard, work the hours and in and it pays. But set clear boundaries from day one, this should be included within your terms of business.
We charge extra for the same day (within 24 hours) job requests, this is to avoid losing money, consider something similar to prevent having to cancel big jobs to take on a much smaller one and consequently lose income. It makes perfect business sense to do this and will help your bottom line.