Becoming a cleaner in the UK can be a great way to tap into a large market.
The UK contract cleaning industry is worth around £5.6 billion, and there are almost half a million people working in it.
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The UK cleaning industry is also dominated by very small companies and sole traders, with 86 per cent of cleaning businesses having fewer than 10 employees.
Looking to become a cleaner yourself? We’ve compiled a step by step guide to get you started.
How to start a cleaning business step by step
1. Identify your market
First, you need to decide what kind of cleaner you’re going to be, and what market you’re going to serve. There are three main cleaning markets: domestic, commercial, and specialist. Your choice of market will likely depend on your existing experience and expertise, but you should also make sure that you do some research – especially, what are the relative sizes of those markets in your local area?
2. Check qualifications
Domestic cleaners don’t generally require any qualifications. However, you might well need one for commercial or specialist cleaning jobs. For more information on cleaning qualifications, contact the British Institute of Cleaning Science.
3. Write a plan
Before you go any further, you should seriously consider writing a business plan. This document helps you to build a sound foundation for your venture as you start and grow it. Within your plan you’ll conduct market research, build financial plans, and work out your marketing channels. You can read a comprehensive guide to this step in our step-by-step guide to writing a business plan.
4. Look for clients
Now it’s time to pitch! The ways in which you’ll attract clients, also known as your marketing channels, will depend on the market you’ve chosen. For example, if you’re a domestic cleaner, it might be as simple as knocking on doors. However, you might also consider more advanced marketing techniques such as online marketing with Google My Business, or submitting your details to local business directories.
5. Plan for growth
It might be that you want to stay small, particularly if you’re a one-man-band domestic cleaner. However, cleaning ventures have the potential to grow from single-person operations into small companies employing several people. As your business grows, you might look to take on additional cleaning staff to help you spread the workload. If you do this, it’s vital that you are aware of National Minimum Wage legislation, and your obligation to take out employers’ liability insurance, which we cover below.
Self-employed cleaner legal obligations
As with any other self-employed profession, self-employed cleaners have a few legal obligations, particularly with regard to tax.
You need to register as self-employed with HMRC, and you’ll need to complete an annual Self Assessment tax return. You’ll also need to pay your tax bill by 31 January each year, and you’ll also need to make a payment on account every 31 July.
You can read more about completing your tax return in our comprehensive small business guide to Self Assessment tax returns.
It’s also important to think about insurance. You should consider taking out a public liability insurance policy to protect yourself against claims arising from injury or loss suffered by a member of public as a result of your work. If you employ anyone in your cleaning business, you’ll also be legally obliged to take out employers’ liability insurance.
You can compare business insurance quotes in minutes with Simply Business.
Top tips from a cleaning pro
Simply Business has teamed up with Harriet Thomas of Calm Oasis Cleaners to give you some top tips for starting a cleaning business. Watch Harriet guide you through the process in this video, or read the tips below.
1. Be prepared for a challenge. Starting a business from scratch can be tough, but it can also be hugely rewarding. Think about ways to manage fluctuations in your income and, as your business grows, get ready to take on the responsibility of managing staff. And above all, don’t get disheartened when the going is tough - as Harriet says, “stay true to your vision!”
2. Take advice. Talk to as many people as possible - by canvassing opinion you can help to make sure that you’re on the right track. And crucially, look into speaking to a range of financial advisors.
3. Get ready for unusual requests. Cleaning is an incredibly personal business, and your clients will each have their own needs. It’ll keep you on your toes!
4. Think about catering to landlords. By making yourself an end-of-tenancy pro you can serve a large and growing market. Many landlords simply don’t have the time to conduct thorough cleans between tenants, so this can be a great niche for a cleaning business.
5. Don’t forget insurance. Your customers will want to be confident that you’re covered if something goes wrong while you’re working in their property. And don’t forget, if you’re employing people, you’re legally obliged to take out employers’ liability insurance.