What is the first thing you should do before starting a cleaning business?
You may think that domestic cleaning is a specific sector but even within domestic cleaning there are multiple branches. Domestic cleaning covers housekeeping, regular cleaning, end of tenancy cleaning, deep cleaning, hoarders cleaning, holiday let cleaning, house of multiple occupancy (HMO) cleaning, oven cleaning, carpet cleaning and multiple specialist services. All of these are performed within a domestic environment and are almost separate industries within an industry – your job is to decide which would suit you best when starting your cleaning business. Since it is almost impossible to offer all services, deciding which you will offer at the start is essential. For the purposes of this article, I will stick to starting a regular domestic cleaning business.
Since most domestic cleaning companies are hyperlocal, you may want to look at your local area to understand your demographic (local incomes, type of household, house concentration) and competitors. An understanding of cleaning company competitors is good to know in order to tailor your approach. Since cleaning companies are operating in every area in the UK for every demographic, this is not essential knowledge, but it will give clues as to what is currently working.
Choose the right Insurance
The next step is to look at insurance providers. You must have insurance. If you accidentally cause damage, you would be liable for costs incurred in fixing the damage and you would likely feel terrible if you damaged something you were not able to fix.
So, which insurance should you get? Luckily, there is a range of good specialist options for you. These are good because they cover the most common risk areas that cleaning businesses face, including keyholding. Insurance in 2022 is around £100 per year for an individual cleaner.
Specialist domestic cleaning insurance is available from:
Register with HMRC
Have you thought about registering the business? When starting a cleaning business, you must register with HMRC. You have the choice of registering as self-employed, partnership or as a limited company.
The benefit of a starting a limited company is that if there were a large claim against your business, you would not risk your house or assets. Claims in domestic cleaning tend to be rather small, so there are few benefits to a limited company, particularly compared to the complexities of the more challenging tax returns (unless you would benefit from income taken as dividends due to substantial outside income).
Self-employed is the route that most start-up cleaning businesses take and is the simplest. You register as self-employed with HMRC and in approximately a year you declare what you earn and pay any outstanding tax. You can also employ people when you are self-employed. VAT registration is rarely beneficial to a domestic cleaning company.
Please remember that being self-employed, you will often earn more than being employed but there are many hidden costs involved in running a business. Hidden costs include unpaid work such as quotes, marketing (social media), organising cleans and time spent completing accounts and chasing invoices. Other costs include all materials, ongoing washing cloths cost and time, training courses, printing costs and recruitment costs. You will also have to pay tax and put aside some money to cover any sickness or holiday time off so, your income cannot just be spent. Using the DCBN Solo Cleans Spreadsheet can help calculate some of these costs so you are more aware.
How will you organise the business finances? If you register as self-employed, you can use a personal bank account, but we suggest a separate one for your business, even if you use a personal account. Business bank accounts are available, but some can have high charges, so check the details.
You should also consider how you will find customers, most people start with friends and family, often announcing the start of their venture with a post on their social media profile. People you already know are your best customers because they already like and trust you, so are much more likely to work with you. Sometimes this can generate enough hours to go full-time. If none of your friends and family require a cleaner or you are new to an area, then you can advertise on social media, with flyers or with a website (more on all of this in other blog articles).
How to clean
Have you thought about how you will clean? I wish cleaning was just about results, but you will quickly learn it is so much more complex than that! Knowing your CoSHH rules are essential (DCBN have produced an easy to follow recorded training for all members,) you will need to comply with the HSE law by having Safety Data Sheets for your chemicals. Risk assessments only need to be written down once you have 5 staff but, you will need to do risk assessments to ensure you are safe anyway. Things may include – no moving heavy furniture, no climbing high ladders, not cleaning in busy areas. Risk assessment example
How will you give customers quotes? The biggest mistake that most new cleaning businesses make, is that they dramatically underestimate how long the clean will take. To clean a 2 bed house could easily take 10 hours…how?
Bathroom- 1.5 hour including deep clean, wiping down all tiles, mould removal and inside all cupboards.
Kitchen- 4.5 hours: 30 minutes to clean the fridge, 1 hour for the oven, 2 hours for inside all the cupboards and 1 hour to clean the rest of the kitchen.
Lounge- 1 hour including all windows
Dining room- 1 hour including all windows
Bedrooms- 30 mins in each bedroom, including all windows and cupboards
Hallway- 1 hour.
As a general rule of thumb, regular weekly cleaning is the number of bedrooms in the home are the number of hours the house will take to clean e.g. 2 bed – 2 hrs, 3 bed – 3 hrs but this will depend on many factors including extensions, usage of the house, bathrooms, pets and how often you clean.
Having a clear idea of what your regular clean includes will make negotiating so much easier for both you and the customer. The DCBN offers a 2 hour in person training/networking events to practise how to give a perfect quote or there are recorded webinars available.
How much will you charge for your services? There are a few ways of doing this…
Competitor pricing – look at those around you and see what they are changing (a word of warning – most dramatically undercharge and find they cannot financially survive more than a few months in the industry). Our advice is to find a larger company or a franchise in your area and match it.
Many think that they will charge low to build their customer base, but find that once they are busy the awkwardness of then raising prices for their customers (friends) becomes extremely uncomfortable and they often avoid raising prices and continue running until they can no longer justify the work for the very low price.
Profit margin – a good profit margin would be above 20% for a business with staff, but for self-employed start up could be 80%+
What do you need to survive? If you require £2000 per month and only expect to clean 20 hours per week, then you will need to charge approximately £25 per hour. While this is very possible for regular cleans, you may find it easier to achieve higher rates on deeper cleans. Your desired income may shape your specialism within the industry. To earn £4000+ per month only working 20 hours you would need to become even more specialised e.g. carpet cleaning or trauma cleaning.
In 2021 the national average price was £15.50. From recent polls in community groups we suspect the average in 2022 has risen to £17 per hour for regular cleaning.
Hopefully this gives a brief overview of how to start a cleaning business. Joining the DCBN at the beginning of your journey will give you access to documents and training to build a sustainable business and give you access to a community with years of experience in the industry that can offer advice on starting your business.