How to start a cleaning business

There are thousands upon thousands of homes, hotels, offices and Airbnbs across the UK outsourcing their cleaning, and the British Cleaning Council report that the industry contributes over £24 billion to the UK economy – so how do you get in on that market?

Unlike many other areas, no monolith dominates the British cleaning industry. A good proportion of cleaning businesses employ fewer than 10 employees, and it’s a relatively cheap and simple industry to get started in. People will always need cleaners and it’s unlikely that jobs will be automated for some time.

Read on to find out how to start a cleaning service in five simple steps.

How to start a cleaning business, step by step

1. Identify your market

There are three major cleaning markets: domestic, specialist and commercial. The domestic market is the most common and so the most saturated, but has fewer large companies. 

Specialist cleaners will excel in one area, like carpets or art, while commercial cleaners handle businesses. There is far less competition in these two markets, but there’s a greater barrier to entry as you need the knowledge and equipment – so many of the main players are bigger businesses.

Once you’ve identified your sector, think about the individuals who are likely to hire you. Landlords, student halls, offices and shops are common commercial clients. Domestically, you’re likely to have the best luck with parents, city workers and older people.

2. Employ staff

Your employees are a reflection on you and your business, so choose well.

While domestic cleaners do not generally require any qualifications, certifications like the Cleaning Operatives Proficiency Certificate or an NVQ will reflect well on your business.

Additionally, some specialist and commercial cleaning jobs do require qualifications. The British Institute of Cleaning Science outlines the certifications necessary for various areas.

It’s important to remember that you will be entrusting your cleaners around people’s most valuable and private possessions, so you’ll want to vet their character and prior experience carefully.

3. Write a business plan

Consider your growth, where you would like to be in a few years’ time and how you plan to get there. A good business plan takes into account your current resources, your short term and long term goals as well as business opportunities along the way.

4. Search for clients

You don’t have to knock on doors to find clients anymore. With disruptive tech companies like Airtasker and Taskrabbit it’s easy to reach young professionals who wouldn’t hire conventional cleaning services. The gig economy is especially lucrative for domestic cleaners, but don’t rule it out if you choose to go after the specialist market.

As a commercial cleaning service it’s best to go with tried-and-tested methods like Google Adwords, word of mouth and local business directories.  

With the rise of Airbnb, there are scores of companies like Airsorted and Hostmaker setting up to manage them – so why not pitch for a contract with one?

5. Leave room for growth

It could be that you want to stay a smaller company, and that’s fine. Conversely, you might want to expand and meet demand. If you choose to branch out, don’t try to oversee everything – promote your most loyal employees and let them take charge of their teams.

As your coffers grow, so will your obligations. Be sure to keep up with National Minimum Wage legislation, employers’ liability insurance and taxes. If you choose to operate as a sole trader you’ll need to report your earnings as income tax; as a limited company, you’ll need to pay corporation tax.

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