The impact of the coronavirus pandemic means people are prioritising hygiene now more than ever. As such, demand for cleaners is rising and creating more opportunities for those looking to set up a business. That’s why now is the perfect time to go self-employed and make the most of a booming market.
As a business owner, you’ll benefit from being your own boss and choosing your hours, clients and specialisms. You may choose to work on residential properties, or seek bigger contracts in commercial buildings. Either way, you’ll need certain skills, tools and knowledge to get going. Read on to find out how to start your own cleaning business and take that next step in your career.
Do I need qualifications to start a cleaning business?
You don’t necessarily need qualifications to know how to set up a cleaning business, but they can really help attract business because you’ll appear more reliable to potential customers. These are the standard industry credentials:
- Level 2 Certificate in Cleaning Principles.
- Intermediate apprenticeship as a healthcare cleaning operative
It’s also worth having a certificate in Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). This will show you’ve got a professional understanding of cleaning products and how to use them safely – particularly important if you’re working in an environment where vulnerable people may live or work.
How can I make my skills stand out?
Joining a trade association can help you gain an edge over the competition and attract more business. Many require you to pass an assessment process to join, so having a membership will highlight your competence to potential clients. Here are some of the institutions to consider:
- The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc)
- British Cleaning Council (BCC)
- British Cleaners Association (BCA)
- The Federation of Master Cleaners
What qualities do I need to run a cleaning business?
As a self-employed cleaner, you’ll face different challenges related to both your job and running your business. Here are the key skills you’ll need to overcome them:
- You should be able to work independently, making sure you can manage your time effectively and cope with the workload.
- You’ll need to have good attention to detail to ensure your cleaning is thorough. Sloppy mistakes can harm your reputation and cause health risks to customers.
- Be sure to maintain a high level of customer service to keep clients satisfied.
- Health and safety knowledge will be necessary for handling potentially harmful chemicals and approaching cleaning jobs in a professional manner.
- You must have basic numeracy skills for organising your finances and taxes.
What tools are needed to start a cleaning business?
It’s important to invest in all the right tools so you can carry out jobs efficiently and safely. Make sure your equipment is high quality too as this will make life easier and reduce the likelihood of costly replacements. Of course, if you’re offering a specialist service you might need extra equipment, but these are the basic essentials for any cleaning start-up:
- Cleaning chemicals
- Microfibre cloths
- Sponges and scrubbers
- Protective gloves
- Protective clothing
Keep in mind you’ll require a vehicle and a valid driving licence for transporting all your equipment between jobs.
How to start a cleaning business from scratch
First of all, your business will need to be registered with HMRC to trade legally. During this process, you’ll have to choose whether you want your business to operate as a sole trader or a limited company. Sole trading is simple to set up, but you’ll be personally liable for any losses or debts. On the other hand, a limited company comes with more paperwork to manage but you won’t be personally responsible for business debts.
There are more pros and cons to weigh up when choosing your business structure, along with different taxes that apply. You need to decide what suits your business and personal circumstances best. Read our comparison guide here for more information.
Name and logo
You’ll want to build your brand with a business name and logo. Try to make your name short and relevant to your service, as this will appeal more to potential customers. Creating a logo will give your business a more professional look and can easily be made by a graphic designer for a small fee. If you’re familiar with editing software, you could even try make one yourself to keep initial costs down.
Every business needs a clear outline of their service and target audience to establish a niche and build a client base. Completely unique cleaning business ideas are hard to come by but there are some distinctions you can make to help you stand out. For inspiration, here are several ideas you can use to get started:
- If you’re situated in a busy neighbourhood, offer a residential cleaning service to make the most of the market on your doorstep.
- Provide a commercial cleaning service to offices and shops if you’re going to be located around a town or city centre.
- Choose a specialism such as graffiti cleaning, chemical spills, or carpet cleaning.
- Have attractive add-ons to your service, such as weekend availability or windows and wall cleaning included.
When establishing your cleaning service, research competitors in your area to make sure there’s a big enough market. Scouting out rivals will also help you to set a competitive pay rate. However, be careful not to set your prices too low or you may find your income fails to cover your outgoings.
Insurance is crucial for protecting you and your business from legal issues that could result in heavy fines and compensation fees. It’s especially important for businesses in this industry as they are expected to deliver clean, safe environments without putting people at unnecessary risk. There will also be times when you need to follow critical hygiene guidelines, particularly when working in healthcare environments. These are the types of insurance to consider getting:
- Employers’ liability insurance
- Public liability insurance
- Contract works insurance
- Legal expenses insurance
- Tools in transit cover
- Professional indemnity insurance
- Personal accident insurance
- Legal expenses insurance
How to manage your finances
Cashflow is your income versus your expenditure. It’s very important to keep an eye on all your transactions to ensure your business is making a profit at the end of each day. Read our guide here for helpful advice on managing your cashflow effectively.
Various taxes will apply to your business and must be filed on a regular basis. If you’re unsure which you should be documenting or you’re struggling with bookkeeping, consider hiring an accountant to help out. Read our guide here for more advice on accountant services.
At first, your business may be operating at a loss due the start-up costs on equipment and supplies. This is completely normal, but if this is cause for concern you could take out a business loan to cover your expenses. Just make sure you take the time to compare interest rates if you’re borrowing.
How to market your cleaning business
Traditional word-of-mouth recommendations are still a valuable source of leads, but it’s important to also employ marketing strategies if you really want to maximise your reach.
To really boost your online visibility, sign up to Checkatrade. Your business will be accessible to over three million monthly site users, plus you can enhance your profile by displaying recommendations and showcasing your best work. Over 50,000 tradespeople have used our platform to great effect, especially in the first few months of a new start-up.
Consider creating social media accounts to connect with more audiences and engage with clients. Many tradespeople share updates, completed work and videos online to showcase their best work. However, be sure to keep it updated as no one likes an empty or out of date profile!
You may also want to set up a company website. You’ll be able to provide a professional point of contact and information for online clients. There are plenty of free online hosting websites and templates you can use, but you may require a graphic designer and developer if you want to include large galleries on your homepage. That said, many tradespeople will now redirect customers to a social media profile or landing page with all the details.
Your local area is key to generating business when starting up. Raise your profile by distributing flyers and leaflets if your target market is homeowners, or hand out business cards to potential clients if you’re targeting commercial properties with your service.
You could also pay for an advertisement in the local newspaper. Another effective marketing tool is signwriting your vehicle with your business name and contact details to advertise on the go. Read our article here for guidance on buying vehicle graphics.
Starting a cleaning business checklist
To summarise, here’s a useful checklist of everything to think about when starting your cleaning business:
- Save up enough to cover your start-up costs
- Make sure you have the right tools and equipment
- Register and choose a business structure that suits you
- Understand your finances and taxes
- Get the right insurance to protect your business
- Set out a business plan
- Take advantage of Checkatrade membership alongside different marketing strategies
How much does a cleaning business make a year in the UK?
On average, a self-employed cleaner makes £23,000 a year, but you could end up earning even more. Finding a profitable niche lets you charge premium rates and marketing your business well will result in a steady stream of work. These factors together can generate a lot of profit and more for you to take home.
How much does it cost to start a cleaner’s business?
The cost to start a cleaning business can vary anywhere between £4,500 to £14,000. It will ultimately depend on the supplies and equipment you’ll need to invest in. If you’re looking to offer a niche service, like cleaning in healthcare, you’ll face higher costs due to the specialist tools required. Cleaning businesses need colleagues to grow – this is another expense you’ll need to consider and time when revenue is steady.
Is cleaning a profitable business?
Cleaning services are in high demand so you’ll get plenty of opportunities to build a large client base. Plus, the expenses are generally quite low, meaning you’ll have a fairly good profit margin providing you’re efficient going from job to job.
What hours should I work?
Cleaners usually work a 40-hour week, but as a business owner you have the freedom to scale this around other commitments. Your working pattern can also vary depending on the flexibility you’re willing to offer. For example, you could choose to provide your cleaning service on evenings and weekends to pull in extra business.