Have you ever dreamt of being your own boss? Of setting your own working hours and keeping the profits of your labour? If yes, you are one of the many entrepreneurs on the cusp of building the life and career you have always wanted.
As a business owner you can afford the luxury most could only dream of — setting our own working schedule to match your perceptions of a perfect work/life balance. Even better, you may choose to do field work or not, the latter being completely fine, as long as you or someone else manages the business for you.
Have you pictured it yet? We are sure you have, so without further ado, let’s jump straight into the guide to setting up a cleaning business.
- Why Start a Cleaning Business in the UK?
- Skills and Training
- Determine Your Niche
- Conduct a Market Research
- Identify your Target Clients
- Decide on Your Business Model
- Plan Your Investments Wisely
- How Much Does it Cost to Start a Cleaning Business in UK
- Should You Buy a Cleaning Franchise?
- Create a Business Plan
- How to Name Your Cleaning Company
- Register a Company
- Get a Public Liability Insurance
Why Start a Cleaning Business in the UK?
Let’s first point out the most obvious reason – cleanliness is a necessity, it has always been and it is not going anywhere. That said, there will be a constant demand for professional cleaners, especially in this dynamic era we find ourselves in today. People would rather pay somebody else to do the cleaning for them than spend their hard-earned free time on dealing with household chores.
Starting a cleaning business is a safe and popular choice among first-time business owners. The reasons behind this fact are the lower initial set up costs compared to other business types. It is also relatively easy to find qualified employees.
Keep in mind that you have chosen a profitable industry with a lot of potential. You are about to venture into an ever-growing industry in the UK that is currently worth over £24.4 bn. For a more detailed information about the current state of the UK professional cleaning sector, visit the British Cleaning Council’s website.
Skills and Training
Don’t worry, there’s a great chance you already possess the skills required to provide cleaning services because they are no different from the ones you need to clean your own house. You have to:
- Have an eye for detail;
- Be able to do physical work all day;
- Have a knack for communication;
- Be trustworthy and meet clients’ needs;
- Be proficient in both working by yourself and with a team;
- Be able to receive feedback and improve your performance;
In most cases, previous experience is not required to start a cleaning business, but you might want to get some kind of cleaning certification, especially if you plan on providing specialised cleaning services. This will give you even more knowledge about industry-specific practices and a considerable credibility boost. Be sure to check out City & Guilds or the British Institute of Cleaning Science.
Determine Your Niche
Before starting a cleaning company, you should decide what your business will specialise in. Within the cleaning sector there are three main specialisations to choose from. These are:
- Commercial cleaning – Focuses on commercial buildings such as offices, restaurants, hotels, etc. Due to the size of the properties involved, you will need at least one small team of employees.
- Residential cleaning – Focuses on private homes. With this option you can start working on your own and hire staff as your client base gradually expands.
- Specialised cleaning – This option focuses on specialised services such as end of tenancy cleaning or post-construction cleaning. They can be started as stand-alone businesses or as an additional service offered to commercial or residential clients.
Conduct a Market Research
A major part of determining your niche is having a good understanding of the local area, the demographics, and whether or not there are similar cleaning businesses in the area. Below is a list of the key points to look for during your research:
- How many companies are there and offer similar services in your areas of interest? Are there any particular cleaning services that are not provided there, but should be?
- What are their prices like? Pose as a potential client and ask for quotes from a range of companies for a variety of services to get a good understanding of how much you should charge.
- For residential cleaning, can the people in your area afford the service or should you market in another area?
- For commercial cleaning, are there enough winnable contracts locally? How often are contracts subject to review and renewal?
- Cleaning equipment – find out about the best budget-friendly tools and detergents for providing optimal results. As your business grows, you can later invest in more expensive tools and machinery.
Doing good market research can be the difference between your business being successful or failing, so get as much information as possible before committing.
Identify your Target Clients
In accordance with the type of cleaning service you will offer, there will always be a certain part of the customer base that will use you more than others.
For example, if you plan on starting an end of tenancy cleaning business (which is a specialised service), you’re more likely to be booked by customers who have something to do with rental properties — tenants, landlords, real estate agencies, property managers, etc.
Carefully investigate each of these groups to familiarise yourself with their preferences and buying habits. You can create what’s called a “buyer persona” for each group of clients to maximise the potential of your marketing campaigns. If you have an existing client database, study it well and draw your conclusions. Of course, don’t forget to check what your competitors are doing, too.
Decide on Your Business Model
As with any new venture, it is important to have a long-term plan for your business. Will it stay a local company or would you like to expand to an entire region? Do you intend to be hands-on further down the line or would you like to step back into a managerial or administrative role once the business is established?
In the beginning, your business’s success will most likely be measured using 2 variables — number of clients for a given period of time. That’s natural given the fact that you’d like to return your initial investments as soon as possible.
However, once your cleaning company gains a stable amount of work and starts earning money, your goals might take a benevolent 180 degrees turn and make you aim at the bigger picture that is indeed:
- To perfect service quality – exceed customer expectations and receive X% of positive feedback;
- To upgrade your cleaning equipment
- To reduce the number of lost leads by X%
- To incorporate automation in some of your processes like scheduling appointments
- Growth – expand your area coverage, as well as your service portfolio, hire more cleaning teams, and more.
Plan Your Investments Wisely
Depending on the type of services you’ve chosen to provide, you may require either a small budget for residential cleaning, or a larger budget for commercial cleaning services.
The price for your necessary tools can range from affordable to sky-high. For example, as a provider of carpet cleaning services, you will need to buy a carpet cleaning machine and a van, which you can tell are pretty expensive. On the other hand, if you were a window cleaner, you could use public transportation to reach your job destination because a window cleaning kit is easy to carry with you by hand at all the time. A universal tip here to save some money on detergents is to buy them in bulk from wholesale suppliers to benefit from big discounts.
If your cleaning business is relatively small, you can operate it from home and save big from renting a commercial storage facility. However, if you plan on expanding your business and hiring other people to work for you, bear in mind that you will eventually need a bigger space to store your equipment and run your business from.
Since either you or your employees will need to visit your clients in person, travel costs will quickly add up. Mitigate this by calculating your expenses (fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc.) and adding them to your service price in a way that makes financial sense to you and your clients.
As your business grows, you will sooner or later reach a point where your overall efficiency will plummet unless you hire extra help. However, having extra staff members on board can be taxing (salaries, benefits, etc.), so calculate how many people you will need first before fully committing. You will also need to invest in an employee management tool to track work hours.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Cleaning Business in UK
Depending on the type of cleaning business you choose to specialise in and its location, the starting costs will vary. We won’t be giving you exact numbers but estimates instead. You can do the research for your area after we’ve covered the basics of starting a cleaning business in the UK. These are some of the key points your starting budget must cover:
- Register a company – £12-£100
- Public liability insurance – £40-£120
- Vehicle (preferably van) – £1000-£4000+
- Equipment (vacuum cleaner, mops, detergents, etc) – £200-£500
- Cleaning equipment trolley – £50-£150
- Website and hosting (per year) – £20-£50
- Marketing materials (flyers, business cards) – £100-£200
Should You Buy a Cleaning Franchise?
One of the biggest risks of starting a cleaning company from scratch is, you may find it difficult to gain and retain clients while remaining competitive in a sector flooded with similar small companies. There are a couple of ways to offset this risk. The first is to engage in an aggressive and expensive advertising campaign while the other is to buy an existing cleaning franchise.
In a recent article by Fit Small Business, Rune Sovndahl, CEO of Fantastic Services, pointed out that the best option is to choose a franchise based on efficient business systems and practices and will, therefore, take care of the marketing for you.
Buying a cleaning franchise negates many of the challenges faced by start-ups and provides extra benefits, which include:
- Use of a recognised, trusted brand name. Establishing yourself as a trusted company can be a long and difficult process. With a franchise business, you are also buying the right to use a brand name people recognise.
- Access to an existing customer base. In the case of service industry franchises, you will have access to a loyal and established customer base.
- No advertising. Most franchises will take care of the advertising on your behalf. Not only does this mean that there are highly skilled professionals at marketing the service, it also means that you don’t have to pay for expensive adverts.
- Access to training and staff training materials. Training yourself, and your new staff can be a nightmare. Franchises normally come with training programmes to ensure that you and your staff have the knowledge to complete jobs safely and to a high level of quality.
- Customer service is often handled by the parent company.
- You will have ongoing support from experienced professionals.
Create a Business Plan
A business plan with clear goals and strategies is the foundation every business should be built on, and the first step to a successful venture. It serves as a document that will help you identify your goals, keep track of your progress, reach your desired milestones, and even attract investors and business partners.
This is a brief overview of what a business plan should contain. We plan on writing a full guide in the near future and maybe a business plan template to accompany it, so stay tuned.
- Executive Summary – introduction to your business plan. Here you describe what your company is all about, the services it offers, when it was established, its objectives and mission.
- Company Analysis – how the company was registered (type), background, and ownership.
- Industry Analysis – here you describe the cleaning services market and its trends, and how you fit in the landscape.
- Customer Analysis – market segmentation by customers’ age, gender, race, family status, etc. Profiling your target clients.
- Competitive Analysis – analysing your competitors and what differentiates you from them. SWOT analysis.
- Marketing Plan – product description, pricing strategy and payment methods, market coverage and customer access, and advertising channels.
- Operations Plan – explain how your business will be run and its processes.
- Management Plan – the roles of everyone involved in your company.
- Financial Plan – financial plan where you give realistic forecasts about profits, losses, and balance.
- Appendix – any additional information about your cleaning business
How to Name Your Cleaning Company
There are countless approaches when it comes to choosing a name for your business. There is no correct way to come up with a name. However, we’d advise you to consider something that:
- Is short, unique, memorable, and consists of up to 2 or 3 words at most;
- Doesn’t include names of particular areas, as your business may expand in the future;
- Inspires trust and sends a positive message;
- Is closely related to the products or services you are about to offer;
- Resonates with your target clientele.
Once this is sorted out, it’s time to create a visual representation of your business, or in other words — a logo. One with a simple and recognisable design that will further convey your message. When it comes to creating a logo for your business, there are a few important guidelines to consider:
- FONTS — there are brands that use only font based logos (take Coca Cola or Sony), but we strongly suggest that you choose a font that’d be readable and will do well when combined with other elements, such as symbols.
- Colours — a typical and minimalistic approach is more than enough to make your business name stand out. Use no more than 3 colours in your logo, be it font colour or background colour. Of course there are cases where exceptions must be made (for example, to visualise a rainbow or a national flag in your logo, where you’d more colours).
- Imagery — Depending on the type of business and what you’d like to be associated with when people see your logo, you may use graphic symbols to your advantage, as those draw needed attention to your brand.
Bear in mind that your work uniform and vehicle will also have to display that logo.
One more thing. You will need to create a website for your business where you’ll fill in information about your services, prices, and contact details. Naturally, you will want your domain name to be the same as your business name. For domain buying and web hosting, we recommend Pickaweb.
Register a Company
Before your company applies for a business status, you must point out three simple things — type of cleaning business, your work premises, and whether you work alone or with others.
Based on these three factors, most businesses register as a:
- Sole trader – categorising yourself as a sole trader means that you’re personally responsible for your business’s debts and you have some accounting responsibilities. This is a popular choice among new businesses
- Limited company – this type of companies is a separate entity from its owner, which means it has its own liabilities, profits and debts. Popular choice for growing businesses.
- Partnership – A partnership is where 2 or more people to run a business together, sharing resources, responsibilities, and profits.
Get a Public Liability Insurance
What is a public liability insurance? It protects you in case a client or a member of the general public suffers an injury your business is linked to, or if any property damage has been caused by you or your staff. Most insurance companies offer a cover of £1 million to £10 million.
While having a public liability insurance isn’t a legal obligation, it’s an important asset to consider against these kinds of accidents, because it covers:
- Legal expenses
- Repair costs
- Medical fees
The cost of acquiring a public liability insurance for your cleaning business depends on its type and size. We cannot give you a price estimate, so you’ll need to look for quotes online.
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