How to start a cleaning business

Starting a cleaning business is a popular choice for many: here's our Startups guide to help you set up a cleaning business in the UK

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How much does it cost to start a cleaning business?

As with the aforementioned case of Sarah Jackson, you can buy a franchise cleaning business in this sector for a mere few thousand pounds, but setting up your own business will vary greatly on the size of the operation and which sector you move into. A simple domestic cleaning business, involving just you and maybe one or two members of staff will not have heavy start-up costs – especially if the majority of the cleaning equipment you use will already be in the homes you clean. Most of your start-up costs for a domestic business will go on marketing. You may attract several clients through word of mouth, but it’s unlikely you’ll build up a substantial client base without leafleting and advertising. Advertising in local papers and magazines can prove effective, as can sales letters, business cards and pay-per-click advertising, but sometimes it’s simply a case of knocking on doors with price lists. Commercial contract cleaning will involve much higher start-up costs as you will need to have your own equipment, several staff members (the average rate of pay in the sector is around £6.50 per hour) and a vehicle to get your team and/or equipment to the clients’ locations. Most importantly, you’ll need a much bigger marketing budget. You’ll also need insurance, both as an employer and for your equipment, and this can significantly add to your overheads. It’s not uncommon for accidents and falls to occur and when you’re dealing with hazardous chemicals you need to be covered for all possibilities. Some basic equipment you’ll need to set up a commercial cleaning business include:

  • Equipment trolleys: £250-400 each
  • Vacuum cleaner – £100 upwards
  • Sweeping machine – £200-2,000
  • Van – £3,000 upwards

Need a loan to start a cleaning business? You can apply for one here
When Freddie Rayner and his wife Ruth started their Time For You cleaning franchise operation, they spent about £200 on photography for advertisements. They took out ads in local magazines and as they took on more clients they spent more on advertising. Back when they started the business in 1997, they charged £6 an hour for cleaning services and took £2 profit from that. Now, with 157 franchisees bearing the Time for You stamp, the collective turnover for the business is £23m. But it wasn’t easy to reach that level of turnover according to Rayner. “18 months after we started the business, we were turning over money but still found ourselves in debt because we weren’t getting payments on time.” The Rayners then decided on a new charging strategy. They would make the price of service compelling enough to receive upfront payments. “If you make the upfront price so appealing you can avoid late payments. If you charge £20 but you could manage on £12, then charge £15 for an immediate payment and specify that the price would revert to £20 if it’s late,” Rayner advises.

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