How to start a cleaning business

Superscript
20 May 2021
6 minute read

Cleaning services are nearly always in demand, with even more people and businesses seeking them out recently as a result of Covid-19. It’s no surprise, then, that the UK cleaning market is thought to be worth at least £54 billion, and looks set to grow in the coming years.

If you’re thinking about starting a cleaning business in the UK, you might be wondering where to begin. Welcome to our step-by-step guide that includes everything you need to think about when setting up your own cleaning business.

How much does a cleaning business make in a year in the UK?

Your turnover will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How many clients you have
  • How much you charge
  • Your business structure
  • Whether you hire or have your own equipment
  • Whether you work on commercial or residential properties

According to Glassdoor, a self-employed cleaner earns over £19,000 per year on average. However, if you were a limited company with a team, you could earn more than this.

How to set up a cleaning business

1. Pick your niche

There are three main types of cleaning services that you could offer:

Residential cleaning

Cleaning services in private homes tend to be weekly or fortnightly. Domestic cleaners keep homes in good order, making sure kitchens and bathrooms are thoroughly cleaned, floors are hoovered and mopped, and dust is kept at bay. This kind of cleaning is thorough and regular, but may not be as intense as an end-of-tenancy deep clean or industrial clean.

You’ll need to build and maintain strong relationships with your clients, prove your trustworthiness with their homes and personal possessions, and you’ll often be expected to clean during the working day.

Commercial cleaning

Commercial cleaning services keep offices, shops and venues spick and span. From polishing public bathrooms clean to wiping down desks, you’ll help workplaces stay safe and clean for large numbers of visitors each day.

Commercial cleaning can cover large spaces and high footfall areas, so you’re likely to need multiple staff.

Specialist cleaning

Some cleaning services focus on specific events, such as end-of-tenancy deep cleans. Others focus on types of cleaning that require niche equipment or expertise, for example, chemical spills.

The more specialised your cleaning service is, the more likely it is that you’ll need to invest in additional training and accreditation, enhanced health and safety or bespoke insurance coverage. Contact the British Institute of Cleaning Science to find out more, and to arrange specialist training.

2. Choose your company structure

Once you’ve picked a niche, and thought about what you want to achieve with your business, it’s time to choose your business type. You have a couple of options here:

Self-employed

If you’re one person providing cleaning services, you may want to operate as a self-employed sole trader. If so, you’ll need to register for self-assessment with HMRC.

Limited company

There are some advantages to registering as a limited company. It can make it easier to get a business loan, and will limit your liability if your company runs into debt. Accounting will cost you more, but you will pay a slightly lower tax rate. You’ll need to form a private limited company.

3. Pick a winning name

Both sole traders and limited companies can choose to have a company name. If you decide to have one, you should aim for something compelling or quirky as this will set you apart from your competitors.

To check whether someone has already taken the company name you want to use, try searching on Companies House to see if it’s already in use. You can use a similar name to another company if you’re operating in a different sector. If ‘Sparkle Services’ is in use for a party planner, for example, you could still operate as ‘Sparkle Cleaning Services.’

If you’re a sole trader, you can use your own name, but also trade under a trading name Jane Smith could become ‘Jane Smith, trading as Sparkle Cleaning Services.’

4. Invest in the right licences

If you include window cleaning in your offer, you’ll need a special licence. Most Scottish councils, for example, require window cleaners to have a window cleaning licence.

In England or Wales, you’ll probably need to register as a waste carrier, broker or dealer. You could face a £2500 fine if you operate without the correct licence.

5. Understand chemical safety (COSHH regulations)

Bleach, ammonia, drain cleaners, air fresheners and antibacterial sprays are just some of the cleaning materials that can be hazardous to health and are regularly used in cleaning services.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) is a law that requires all employers to limit the risks from harmful substances, including the use and storage of cleaning products.

You’ll need to conduct thorough risk assessments, train your staff and stay up to date on the latest health and safety rules.

6. Create a business plan

You don’t need a detailed ten-year plan, but it’s worth deciding what you want to achieve with your business in terms of scale, profit, team size and profile.

Check out our guide on how to write a business plan or download a free business plan template on The Prince’s Trust website.

7. Purchase cleaning insurance

As someone who’s constantly around the public, harsh chemicals and valuable items as part of your work, it’s important to protect yourself and your cleaning business from accidents, injuries and property damage with cleaning business insurance.

Your insurance provider should be able to tailor your cover to include exactly what you need, but at the very least you should consider:

Public liability insurance

From slippery floors to vacuum wires, there are plenty of risks that could injure the public as a result of your cleaning. Public liability insurance is designed to cover the cost of legal proceedings if someone makes a claim against you and protects you from having to pay certain fines or compensation yourself.

Employers’ liability insurance

If you employ other people – whether part-time, full-time or temporarily – employers’ liability insurance is a legal requirement in the UK. If one of your team gets ill or injured as a result of your work, this will cover you for damages, compensation and legal fees.

Business contents insurance

This type of cover protects your business equipment, including your cleaning items as well as business items such as a phone or laptop, from theft and damage. If something did happen to your equipment, this would cover repair or replacement costs to get you back up and running quickly.

8. Invest in the right equipment

If you’re cleaning private homes, you may not need to buy a lot of equipment as you could use your clients', however, if they're not going to supply this you'll need to invest in good-quality equipment at the start.

If you’re cleaning office buildings, you may need equipment like pressure washers, scrubbing machines or carpet cleaners, if it's not provided by the building. And if you deliver a specialised service, like crime scene clean-up, you’ll need highly-specific cleaning materials.

If you hire this equipment, you may also want to add hired-in machinery cover to your insurance, which will protect it from theft and damage.

9. Conduct criminal records checks on employees

If you’re going to hire other people to deliver your cleaning services, it’s essential that you conduct an appropriate criminal records check on everyone in your team.

10. Market your company

Ready to get to work? It’s time to market your company to potential customers.

Dedicate some time to figuring out who your ideal client is. Once you know this, you can identify the digital platforms, media outlets, spaces and communities that are best suited to getting your company in front of your ideal customer.

You may want to create a website through a platform, like Squarespace or WordPress, or even social media pages that showcase your services and testimonials. Because of the nature of the business, you're unlikely to have many USPs. All clients want to know is that you're trustworthy, reliable and thorough, so putting your best reviews front and centre is important.

A good tactic is to print out some cleaning business cards and ask your local businesses if you can leave them on their notice board or hand them out to potential clients.

After following these tips, you should be well on your way to starting a successful cleaning business. Good luck!

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