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What is a Cleaning Business?
The rise in demand for cleaners is ever increasing. Busy work and home lives now mean that many people have less time to clean their homes. As many as a third of UK households now employ a cleaner. Furthermore, many cleaning companies are hired by other businesses that now choose to outsource their cleaning to third-party companies.
The British Cleaning Council (BCC) reports that there were 66,420 cleaning businesses in the UK in 2020, with the cleaning industry being worth upwards of £55.5 million, and these figures are only rising.
A cleaning business is a low investment enterprise that can yield high returns. A cleaning business, as the name suggests, involves cleaning.
There are several types of cleaning businesses you can set up:
Residential cleaning, also known as domestic cleaning, refers to the cleaning of people’s homes. Your tasks could include dusting, sweeping, hoovering, mopping, cleaning surfaces, polishing, doing laundry, ironing and cleaning appliances.
You may choose to use your own cleaning products and equipment, or the client’s. You may clean people’s houses while they are at home or when they are out of the house. This requires a level of trust between you and the client. You must also ensure you do not cause any damage to your client’s home or possessions.
A residential cleaning business may have one or two employees or may be made up solely of the business owner. Alternatively, some residential cleaning businesses have a large number of employees and operate in different areas. You can grow your business through customer recommendations and local advertising.
Commercial cleaning involves cleaning other businesses’ premises and both private and public spaces. You may clean places such as offices, schools, hospitals, shops, studios, banks, shopping centres, GP surgeries and salons. Commercial cleaning businesses usually set up contracts with their clients, with cleaning fees decided ahead of time.
Most commercial cleaning takes place when the premises aren’t open, such as evenings and weekends. However, in areas where constant cleaning is required, such as hospitals, you may be asked to clean throughout the day.
Commercial cleaning of large premises may need a team of cleaners and specialist equipment. You will also likely need to create a cleaning plan ahead of time to ensure you maximise your time and complete all of your necessary tasks.
The owners of commercial cleaning businesses may not be directly involved in cleaning. Instead, your responsibilities may include conversing with clients, managing health and safety, managing the cleaning team, ordering and replenishing cleaning stock and advertising and marketing the business.
Specialised cleaning businesses provide a specialist cleaning service in a particular area. This could include window cleaning, car washing, carpet cleaning, cleaning graffiti, cleaning chemical spills or medical waste.
Specialised cleaning will likely involve additional training, specialist equipment, additional certifications, more health and safety considerations, and even different business insurance.
If you are thinking of starting a cleaning business, there are certain skills and attributes you may require. Cleaning as a profession requires you to do physical tasks repetitively. This means you will likely need to have good physical health and a good level of fitness – unless you plan to start a cleaning business whereby all cleaning will be done by employees.
Running a cleaning business often requires you to work unsociable hours and to work alone, particularly when you first launch your business. Those who are happy working alternative hours and working alone may be particularly successful in opening a cleaning business.
Potential cleaning business owners will also need attention to detail and will need to be both responsible and trustworthy. Cleaning businesses do not require any particular qualifications or training, nor do they require a big initial investment. However, you will need some business and marketing skills, bookkeeping skills and a knowledge of and passion for cleaning.
The majority of cleaning businesses in the UK are independently owned, making it easier for the average person to set up their own cleaning business.
Types of Customers
The types of customers you target with your cleaning business will depend on the type of cleaning business you choose to set up.
Residential cleaning businesses
This type of business typically cleans people’s homes, including both houses and apartments. They may also clean holiday lettings and rental housing. A residential cleaning business’s target market is usually families, working professionals and shared properties.
Commercial cleaning businesses
Commercial cleaners target other businesses or public and private spaces. They work in a variety of premises.
Specialised cleaning businesses
The types of customers a specialised cleaning business is likely to attract will depend on the cleaning services they offer. For example, a graffiti cleaning business’s main customer may be the local council, whereas a medical waste cleaning business is likely to be more popular with hospitals, clinics, dentists and other medical facilities.
When deciding what type of cleaning business you are going to run and what your target market will be, there are several considerations you should make:
- Will you be the sole cleaner, or will you hire other employees?
- What type of cleaning equipment will you invest in?
- Do you have any specific certifications or training?
- What other successful cleaning businesses operate in your local area?
- What is the average income of your target area?
- Is there a particular niche market you could target, such as landlords renting out properties, and holiday lettings?
- Do you have a vehicle you could utilise as part of your cleaning business?
Equipment You Will Need
When starting up a cleaning business, you will need to invest in certain cleaning equipment and cleaning supplies.
Not every cleaning business will have the same equipment requirements, as equipment needs vary depending on the type of cleaning business.
Some basic equipment requirements could include:
- A dustpan and sweeping brush.
- A mop and bucket.
- A hoover.
- Dusters and microfibre cloths.
- Cloths, scourers and sponges.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as protective gloves, plastic aprons, goggles, long-sleeved tops and masks.
- Cleaning products such as bleach, sanitiser, floor cleaner, glass and window cleaner, toilet cleaner, disinfectant, oven cleaner, de-scaler and multipurpose cleaner.
- Bin bags.
- Furniture polish.
- Dishwashing liquid.
- Carpet cleaner.
- Stain remover.
- A van or other vehicle for transporting equipment.
Other equipment requirements:
- Business cards – These can be used for advertising purposes.
- A computer or laptop – Much of your marketing will be done online, making a computer or laptop a valuable piece of equipment. You can also use a computer for making and tracking appointments and ordering equipment and cleaning supplies.
- Cleaning business software – Specialist software can be used to schedule appointments, create professional quotes, store and access client information, create invoices and track your business’s spending and income.
As mentioned earlier, starting up a cleaning business requires minimal investment. There are also usually fewer overhead costs compared to many other businesses.
However, to help you plan your finances and estimate when you will begin turning a profit, and your estimated profits each month, it is important you are aware of the typical costs associated with setting up and running a cleaning business.
Equipment costs can vary, depending on the type of equipment you are purchasing and how frequently you need to replenish your cleaning products. To buy a basic variety of cleaning equipment and materials, you can expect to pay £150. This cost does not include more expensive equipment, such as a hoover or a carpet cleaner. If you need to purchase a van or other vehicle as part of your business, this could cost between £5,000 and £60,000 depending on the size and make of the van and whether it is new or second-hand.
The cost of insurance can vary significantly depending on the types of insurance you purchase and the level of cover you opt for. Prices can vary from as little as £6 per month to as much as £60 per month.
Typical running costs
The running costs associated with your cleaning business will include your overhead costs. If you have a vehicle, you will need to pay for your vehicle insurance, tax, MOT and petrol. Your typical running costs will also include the cost of replenishing cleaning products and replacing or updating equipment.
If you hire employees as part of your cleaning business, you will need to account for this extra expense. You will need to pay your staff an hourly wage. The national minimum wage in the UK, as of 1st April 2022, is £9.50 per hour. When employing staff, you may also need to factor in holiday pay, sick pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions.
Advertising and marketing
To ensure your cleaning business attracts clients and earns an income, you must spend money on branding, advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1% and 3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover is £30,000, it is recommended you spend between £300 and £900 per year on marketing. You may need to invest more money in advertising and marketing when you first set up your business, in order to ensure your business is well-known and potential clients are aware of you.
Your branding costs could include creating a logo, making and distributing business cards, buying uniforms, and creating a business name.
It is recommended that you and any cleaners you employ undergo health and safety training. The price of a health and safety course starts at £20 + VAT.
Typical Pricing for Customers
The price you will charge your customers can vary significantly. You could choose to charge your customers per hour, per room, per job or per day.
Some factors you should consider when determining your pricing include:
- How long will the job take you?
- How much do other cleaning businesses in your local area charge?
- What is the average income of the local area?
- What type of cleaning services will you provide?
- What is the state and level of cleanliness of the premises before you begin cleaning?
- Are there any risks to you or your employees?
- Will the job require any specialist equipment?
On average, cleaners in the UK charge between £10 and £20 per hour. However, if you are offering specialist cleaning services, a particularly deep clean is required, or you work in a particularly affluent area, you may charge higher prices.
Safely Running a Cleaning Business
When running a cleaning business, it is imperative to ensure you implement health and safety procedures and safely run your business. Failure to safely run your cleaning business could result in an accident, injury or illness to you, an employee, a client or a member of the public. If you are deemed to be liable for any accident, injury or illness you may have to pay associated costs, receive a fine, experience the forced closure of your business, or even receive a prison sentence.
Some ways you can ensure you safely run your cleaning business include:
Comply with COSHH regulations
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations require all businesses to control any potential risks or hazards associated with harmful substances, including cleaning chemicals. Cleaning business owners are responsible for ensuring that all chemicals are stored and handled safely. All risks should be identified and minimised and cleaning businesses should ensure they pay attention to the warning labels that are attached to cleaning products.
Avoid the use of harmful chemicals where possible
There may be cleaning products available that are less hazardous but are still suitable for the intended purpose. Look at warning labels to determine how hazardous the products you use are and research if there are any safer products available.
Always use the correct amount of cleaning product
A common mistake that many cleaners make is not paying attention to how much of the cleaning product the manufacturer recommends you use. Using too much of a certain chemical or cleaning product can make the product hazardous to the cleaner or client, or it could cause damage to the client’s home or possessions.
Pay attention to use-by dates
Many people forget that use-by dates don’t only apply to food. The use-by date on chemicals and other cleaning products refers to when they can be safely used. Failure to comply with these dates could result in the products becoming hazardous or less effective.
Ensure you dispose of chemicals properly
Some cleaning chemicals cannot be poured down a sink or drain and must be disposed of through a professional hazardous waste collection and disposal company. You can find a local hazardous waste disposal service in your area on gov.uk.
Ensure cleaning products are correctly stored and labelled
Safe storage is key to ensuring the health and safety of all individuals. Containers and bottles should be sealed and stored in a way that ensures they cannot be spilt or become contaminated. You should also ensure cleaning products cannot be accessed by untrained individuals. All products should be labelled so you can view the use-by dates and any hazard or safety information.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE can help to protect you and your employees from any risks associated with cleaning products. PPE should particularly protect your hands, arms, eyes and face, although you may also need to protect other areas of your body.
Ensure you and any employees have the relevant Health and Safety training
Although training is not a legal requirement, it is recommended to ensure the safe running of your cleaning business. Some training you could consider includes COSHH Awareness, Manual Handling, Health and Safety Level 2 or 3, Fire Safety Awareness, and Assessing Risk. Consult the list of available Health and Safety courses on our website for more information.
You should keep up-to-date records of any risk assessments, health and safety policies, staff training and equipment maintenance. You should also record any accidents or injuries that take place.
There are certain legal requirements you will need to comply with when setting up and running a cleaning business.
Register your business
You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information.
Register for self-assessment tax
This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.
There are several types of insurance you will need as part of your cleaning business. You will be legally required to have public liability insurance, and if you have any employees, you will also need employee liability insurance. Other types of insurance are likely to be optional but are usually recommended. This could include legal expenses insurance, equipment insurance, personal accident insurance, and professional indemnity insurance.
Carry out risk assessments
You should identify any potential hazards and risks and how these can be reduced or eliminated. You should consider hazards related to cleaning products, how you use any cleaning products or chemicals, any manual handling activities, and any risks associated with cleaning equipment.
Risk assessment should:
- Identify hazards.
- Determine who could be at risk.
- Evaluate any potential risks.
- Implement relevant safety measures.
- Record the results of the risk assessment.
- Review the risk assessment on a regular basis.
Obtain a DBS certificate
A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check may be required for commercial cleaners who work in places such as hospitals and schools. Even if you are a residential cleaner, some clients may still require you to have a DBS certificate, so they feel comfortable with you working in a house with children, elderly people or other vulnerable individuals.
Positives of Owning a Cleaning Business
There are several advantages to owning a cleaning business:
Low start-up costs
Compared to many other businesses, a cleaning business has very few start-up costs. You will likely only need to buy minimal cleaning products, accessories and equipment, meaning you could start your business with as little as £150.
Low overhead costs
As you will likely not be renting premises or paying for electricity, gas or water, your overhead costs are likely to be minimal. You will only need to cover the cost of insurance, replacing equipment or cleaning products, and a vehicle if your cleaning business requires one. The overhead costs associated with a cleaning business are significantly lower than many other businesses, meaning your business can become profitable more quickly.
Once you have registered your business, organised your insurance and bought the necessary cleaning products, you can begin operating immediately. This means you could begin your cleaning business in a few short days.
Increased demand for cleaners
The cleaning industry is growing year by year, meaning your business will always be in demand. You won’t have to worry about work drying up or your income decreasing.
You can work close to home
Most cleaning businesses only operate in their local area, meaning you won’t have a long commute to work. As long as you live in a city, town or village, close to other houses, there will be plenty of business opportunities in your local area. Advertising close to your home can help you to attract local clients.
Be your own boss
Running your own cleaning business means that you can set your own hours, manage your own accounts and finances, choose your clients and carry out all your cleaning duties yourself. You can manage your business on your own.
Flexible working hours
As you will be self-employed and setting your own working hours, you can choose to work as little or as often as you want. You can work the hours that best suit you and your family, whether that’s weekdays, evenings or weekends. You could also choose to only work part-time by working two or three days per week.
No experience is required
As you do not need any qualifications or training, starting a cleaning business can be relatively easy. Even those with no previous professional cleaning experience can start their own successful cleaning business.
Unlimited income potential
As cleaning businesses are so popular, you can charge higher rates to help increase your profits. As your business grows, you can also hire employees, branch out into other areas and locations, and even open franchise businesses. Cleaning businesses can earn millions of pounds every year by operating with a big team of cleaning staff.
Earn a regular income
Most cleaning businesses have set clients and contracts that they clean for on a regular basis. This means your income will be predictable and you will have a regular income stream every month. Cleaning businesses also usually fare well when the economy is struggling, as cleaners are always in demand.
High customer retention
As long as you do a good job, you are likely to experience high customer retention. Many cleaners also get a lot of their business from customer referrals and word of mouth, giving you a great opportunity to grow your business.
Be part of the local community
Cleaning in your local area gives you a great opportunity to connect with your neighbours and other businesses in your area. Many cleaners and cleaning businesses become an integral part of their local community, which can be rewarding and give you the chance to attract more customers.
Negatives of Owning a Cleaning Business
Although there are many positives to starting up a cleaning business, there are also some negatives you should be aware of:
Difficult physical work
You will need a high fitness level and good physical strength to be a successful cleaner. Cleaning can be a tough physical job that requires manual handling, repetitive movements, the use of heavy equipment, and reaching high and bending low. This can cause aches, pains, strains and even injuries or illnesses.
It can be competitive
As there are so many cleaning businesses in the UK, you may find that your local market is saturated. Unless you open a specialist cleaning company, you may find it difficult to launch and grow your business.
It can be stressful
Setting up and running a cleaning business means you will have a lot of responsibilities, with no one to delegate to. As well as being in charge of cleaning, you will also be responsible for ordering and replenishing materials, handling the finances, marketing, liaising with customers and organising the cleaning schedule, which can be both time consuming and stressful.
Work can be inconsistent
Particularly when you first launch your business, you may not receive regular work and may find it difficult to earn a consistent wage. Unless you have regular contracts with a set fee, you may find the inconsistent work to be extremely problematic.
If you cause damage to the customer’s home or property or your cleaning results in an injury to a customer, employee or member of the public you may be liable for the costs.
Creating your schedule can be difficult
If you are trying to schedule multiple clients in one day, it can be difficult to predict how long each client is going to take. Some jobs take longer than others, depending on the size of the home, and the level of cleaning that is required. You may not realise how long a job is going to take until you arrive, meaning you are late for other clients or don’t have time to complete all your jobs.
Cleaning fees may be low
As cleaning is a competitive business, some businesses charge low prices which can force down the prices of other cleaning businesses in your area. You may find it difficult to gain new clients or retain your clients unless you offer reduced rates and low prices. This can affect your income and profits.
Employee motivation can be low
If you hire employees as part of your cleaning business, you may find that their motivation is low, and it is difficult to retain them. Cleaners are often paid minimum wage, and when you are working such a physically intense job, this can lower morale and motivation.
Planning Your Cleaning Business
An effective well-designed business plan is essential to ensure the success of your cleaning business. Without a business plan, it can be difficult to successfully set up and run a cleaning business.
When planning your business, there are several important considerations you will need to make:
What type of cleaning business are you going to run?
Deciding whether you will be a residential, commercial or specialist cleaning business is the first factor you should consider. The type of cleaning business you run will affect the clients you attract, the type of equipment you will require, and the prices you will charge.
What are your business objectives?
Your business objects are key to creating an effective business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your cleaning business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Realistic
- T = Time-bound
What are your equipment requirements?
Many new cleaning businesses will initially purchase basic cleaning equipment and products. However, it is important to consider whether you need to purchase a vehicle, larger equipment, such as a hoover, ladder or carpet cleaner, or any specialist cleaning equipment.
Are you going to be self-employed or set up as a limited company?
As well as choosing the type of cleaning you are going to do, you will also need to decide what type of business you are going to run. You can choose to be self-employed and register as a sole trader. This means there is no legal separation between you and the business. Alternatively, you can choose to be a limited company. This creates a legal separation between you and the business. Choosing the type of business you are going to run can affect your taxes, the wages you pay employees and your personal assets.
What is your local competition and what are the prices?
Being aware of other cleaning businesses in your area can help you to determine how to make your business successful and whether you should focus on a niche or specialist type of cleaning. It can also help you to determine your pricing.
Are you going to complete all cleaning jobs yourself or will you hire any employees?
This is key to the costs associated with running your cleaning business. If you can handle all cleaning jobs yourself, it is more cost-effective to operate your business alone. However, if you have a lot of customers or plan to grow your business, you may need to hire additional employees.
Who is your target customer base?
Determining your target customer base can help you to determine your pricing, the cleaning services you will offer, and the area you will operate in.
Can you finance the business yourself or will you need to source an investment?
Calculate your start-up costs and running costs and determine whether you can finance your cleaning business yourself or whether you need to acquire investments from an outside source.
Have you complied with all legal requirements?
Ensure you have filed all your paperwork and have complied with all legal requirements before setting up your cleaning business. Failure to comply with the legal requirements could result in delays in setting up your cleaning business, forced closure of your business, or the incurrence of a fine.