The cleaning industry is expanding as busy people turn to deep cleaning services to take on chores at home, and businesses outsource cleaning services to third-party providers. Millions more people in the UK now employ cleaning services at home than did 10 years ago.
Cleaning businesses have plenty of advantages: low start-up and staff cost because cleaning supplies aren’t too expensive, and you don’t need a highly-paid, skilled workforce. On the other hand, you’ll need to know and follow health and safety guidelines to protect your business from sanctions and legal action. And, you’ll need to compete – the low barrier for entry into the industry means a lot of other businesses will be competing with you.
Starting a cleaning business in a busy city like London won’t be easy. Still, most people prefer to employ a cleaner because they don’t like doing the work themselves, so if you can manage to get started, the return on your investment can be incredibly rewarding.
Plan for the Type of Cleaning Business You Want to Run
This is about deciding which clients you plan to offer your services to, and generally, this divides cleaning businesses into three types:
Domestic Cleaning Businesses
People usually hire cleaners for when they’re at work or for cleaning the homes of elderly customers who have difficulty cleaning their homes themselves. Supply costs are less of an issue here as you can use the client’s cleaning products and home equipment for the most part. However, if you have supplies or equipment that can get the job done better or faster, you might want to consider offering those at a premium for your customers. You can even get started running this cleaning business yourself with a hands-on approach and no staff if you’re up for it.
Commercial Cleaning Businesses
This cleaning business is about cleaning large spaces – places like offices, banks, and shopping centers. Business will usually be contract-based, so you’ll make a set amount, but you’ll need to deliver cleaning services for set periods.
You’ll need a team and specialist equipment, and you should expect to work after closing time when the premises aren’t in use. You won’t have to get your hands dirty as much if you don’t want to. Instead, your job will be managing your team, negotiating with clients, and marketing your business.
Specialized Cleaning Businesses
Pick something that’s usually difficult to clean – think carpets, mattresses, ovens, ceilings, car interiors, pools, or pavement, glass window panels, etc. Depending on your choice of specialization, you’ll need skills and equipment specific to each, and you may or may not need a team to get started.
Essential Skills for Operating a Cleaning Business?
Getting started is relatively straightforward, regardless of the cleaning business you want to run:
- Have an eye for detail – clients will expect flawless results, so it pays to keep an eye out for spots you and your team may have missed.
- Be responsible and trustworthy, since you will have access to people’s houses and business premises. This is less about skill and more about reputation. Do not ever break your clients’ trust, and do kindly direct your clients to where they may leave their reviews.
- A basic bookkeeping skill is important for keeping the financial side of your cleaning business in order.
- For commercial cleaning businesses, you’ll need an understanding of business strategy, marketing, and human resources management.
- Specialist cleaners will need experience in their specific specializations and in using specialist equipment and products.
Determine Your Business Structure
This choice will affect your business registration with HMRC and the amount of tax and National Insurance (NICs) you have to pay. To register, you need to decide whether to set up as a sole trader, partnership, or limited company.
1. Sole Trader
This structure is the most popular way to form a cleaning business by self-employed entrepreneurs since there are no setup or running costs. Learn more here.
Responsibility and ownership of the business are split between you and your partner according to the specifics laid out in a written agreement between both partners. Find more details here.
3. Limited Company
This protects your personal assets, but additional regulations and legal requirements make this business structure really only viable for larger start-ups with many different owners. Learn more here.
Marketing Your Cleaning Business
Early on, your most effective marketing will come from personal recommendations and referrals, so make sure you do your best to build a reputation for trustworthy and excellent service. You can incentivize referrals by offering discounts to customers who refer you.
Commercial cleaning businesses need to prospect local businesses. Call to find out who’s the point person managing their cleaning contract. Once you know who you need to talk to, contact them to introduce your business.
Most established businesses will already have a contract with a cleaning service, so you should ask when it’s up for renewal. Note the date, and contact the point person again about a month before their contract ends to offer your quote and proposal. If you can find out who their existing cleaning service is so you know what services they offer and the prices they charge.
Consider joining professional bodies such as the British Institute of Cleaning Science, which offers accredited training. Other organizations include the British Cleaning Council and the Domestic Cleaning Alliance.