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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Cleaning business planning: getting started

You’ll need to do your research on demographics to begin with. If you’re planning a domestic cleaning business, the area you work in will need to be one where residents can afford to pay someone else to do their domestic chores.

You’ll also want to get some idea of the service and prices other cleaners in the area are willing to offer. If you’ve had leaflets through the door or seen ads up in shop windows, call the numbers as a prospective client and find out what they charge.

The same applies for a commercial cleaning business. Find out what the offices and businesses in your chosen area are being charged. You may find out, in the course of your research, that the area you want to set up in is a saturated market and therefore you’ll need to look at other locations. Likewise if bigger, more established companies can undercut you in price you may find it difficult to survive.

Paul Gabriel set up his own cleaning company, T.E.C. Services Ltd, in 1994. After six months of ringing round to find potential clients, Paul gained a core of specialist clients, primarily data centres, before moving into office work. Now the business employs 42 cleaners, and Paul takes a small wage from the business.

Paul says he is still reluctant to branch into domestic work: “The problem with domestic contracts is that they’re very infrequent, and it’s difficult to find reliable staff.” Indeed he says that, where cleaning staff are concerned, “it’s always problematic. Staff issues are the biggest headaches, particularly around the summer – clients aren’t interested in whether a cleaner’s on holiday or not.”

However Paul says that payment is less of a problem. “We’ve only had our fingers burnt a couple of times with payment, and it can be quite time-consuming. I’ve got another director who deals with bills and payments, which reduces the potential hassle.”


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Karen Perks runs My Window Cleaner in Enfield. She says late payments have never been a problem for her business. “In the early days I was just honest with the clients. I explained to them that we were a small outfit and couldn’t afford to have three-month payment plans. I think if you’re honest and give clients what they’re looking for you can avoid payment problems.”

However, Perks says finding good staff can often be a difficult issue. “It can be quite hard to find people in this industry that take pride in their work and therefore do a really good job. We get round that by treating staff with a great deal of respect and valuing them. I think that’s why we do so well. One of our window cleaners has been with us for ten years.”

Wiles says that if you expect staff to do a perfect job you’ve got to have done it yourself first. “If people do the work themselves first then they know exactly what to expect and can tell staff exactly what needs to be done. By showing all the new staff round myself it means I rarely get complaints from clients about the quality of the work.”

Doing some of the work yourself, at least in the early stages, will also give you a more accurate idea of the time and resources you can allow for each job. Working hours is an issue you’ll have to consider very carefully if you want to run a commercial cleaning business. It’s unlikely that an employer will want his staff disturbed by the sound of a vacuum cleaner during office hours, so a willingness to work outside of the 9-5 routine is a must. Domestic cleaning is a more likely path if you want to stick to daytime hours of working. Once you’ve done your research, and decided on the type of cleaning business you want to run, you will need to build up a reputation and even a recognisable brand. Subscribing to trade organisations which have a compulsory standard for membership can help with reputation, as well as getting satisfied clients to recommend you to friends and family. In terms of creating a recognisable brand you might want to consider having your staff wear a uniform with your name and logo on it, and also making sure all company vehicles have contact details boldly advertised on them. Focusing your attention on a very small locality, and pouring all your efforts into that compact area, can be a good way to start. Not only will this build up your reputation in the neighbourhood concerned, but having all your jobs closer together will mean less travelling time between jobs, saving money on costs and allowing more time for actual paid work.

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