How to start a domestic cleaning franchise

Could you clean up with this £9bn market opportunity?

What is it?
Who is suited to it?
How much can I earn?
Tips for success

It seems that we have become a nation that is no longer prepared to spend its free time clearing up after itself. In fact, a whole industry has grown up to cash in on our lethargy.

The domestic cleaning market is worth £9bn per annum in the UK and is set to grow over the next 10 years. Competition is undoubtedly fierce but by becoming a cleaning franchisee you could make a tidy sum.

What is it?

All the domestic cleaning franchises are about matching up a cleaner and a client satisfactorily. But they do differ in terms of day to day operation.

Merry Maids is part of ServiceMaster, which provides a host of franchised services such as furniture, upholstery and carpet cleaning as well as domestic cleaning. Teams of two maids are sent out with keys to a property and it is the franchisee’s job to secure both staff and clients and bring them together.

Molly Maid works on a similar system but the staff are uniformed and they go out in cars that display the company logo. The franchisor has found this to be an effective advertising tool. Most franchisees start by working from home but then move into premises as they get more maids and need more car parking space.

SelClene franchisees do not have such a close relationship with staff and clients. A call centre system processes prospective clients and cleaners for the franchisee to meet and then match up. The franchisee is therefore free to concentrate on growing the territory through leafleting and marketing, rather than on day to day administration.

The former two offer house cleaning customised to as many hours, times a month and rooms cleaned as the client wants. This will be negotiated between the franchisee and the house owner. The SelClene cleaners themselves then arrange with the client when and what to clean.

How does it work?

For all three franchises, you will be given an exclusive area or territory. This is not just divided by postal areas, as there would be little point in an area that is mainly industrial estates. As Richard Maidment, operations manager at Molly Maid explains,

“We do market research to identify target homes – that is people whose lifestyles match the ideal customer base. There should be at least 12,000 target homes in an area to yield satisfactory business.”

Target homes would be those of upper middle class professionals, young executives and increasingly the affluent elderly. To reach them the initial contact will be leafleting the area. In the case of SelClene this is the primary means of extending the territory.

SelClene founder Martin Gover encourages franchisees to follow “proven marketing formulas along tried and tested lines.” SelClene franchisee for Shepperton, Lesley Yacomine explains, “In the first year you should be delivering around 4000 leaflets a week, this rises to 5000 in the second year and 6000 in the third year.”

Yellow pages, local advertising and eventually personal referrals are other means used to promote cleaning franchises. And in the case of Molly Maid, the visibility of the cars is an advert every time the maids are out working.

Recruitment of staff is done in a similar way. Cards in newsagents are a popular method as is targeting certain areas and local advertising. Though they obviously need to be physically strong enough to handle the work, don’t think you have to recruit people who have cleaned before.

“I look for people who will fit in,” says Sally Firth of Merry Maids in Oxford. “Working as a team is the most important thing and I have ex-bank workers, child minders and even a hotel owner with me.”

You should hire a pool of cleaners so that you have enough staff when people are off sick or on holiday. For example, one franchisee has three teams, which requires six people. She has eight on her staff. This obviously costs more but you can’t afford to let clients down and according to most franchisees, there is always more work than you can handle.

Generally, franchisees work initially from home, so having the right team is especially important because you will be bringing them into your personal living space. Moving into premises generally comes as a matter of course later on.


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