Cleaning may not be the most fashionable industry, but cleaning will never go out of fashion.
That is because there is always high demand for both domestic, commercial and industrial cleaning services – and the good news is that it is not difficult to establish a cleaning business. It is relatively “recession proof” and can also be extremely profitable and offers flexibility in working hours.
This guide sets out six key steps to setting up a cleaning business of your own – and even if you have lofty ambitions for a national footprint and an ASX listing – it’s best to start small and go and grow from there. Many highly successful cleaning businesses were created from a one-person cleaning contractor or a small family business.
Once you have done a comprehensive business plan which includes thorough research into your intended industry, competitors and a risk analysis – you can then move onto the detail of setting up your new venture.
Six steps to establishing a new cleaning business
- Find a focus – what sort of services will you offer?
- Do the groundwork – what sort of financial structure is the best option e.g. company, sole trader etc? Who will be your competitors?
- Choose the right cleaning equipment and cleaning products to undertake the cleaning services you offer.
- Define your marketing strategy – What is your point of difference?
- Work out a pricing policy – if you offer a unique service form your competitors you can justify charging higher rates.
- Find your first customers – what channels will you use to promote your business?
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Focus on what type of cleaning you intend to provide
By identifying a niche and starting small, you can contain your start-up costs and find your feet without over-extending your capacity or your budget. You can always scale up and expand once you know where/what the demand is and what the most profitable route is for you.
Most small business owners start with domestic cleaning because entry costs are low, but if you are looking to offer a more specialised service (e.g. carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, gutter cleaning, end-of-lease cleaning and commercial cleaning), your capital outlay will be greater and you may need some additional skills and qualifications as well as some specialised cleaning machines.
The demand for cleaning services has never been higher. More parents are both working full time and have less time at home hence an increase in the demand for residential cleaning services. Also, with the outbreak of COVID-19 more businesses have increased their cleaning regimes, focussing on more regular cleans and to maintain high sanitation standards for both staff and customers.
When deciding what area of cleaning services to offer consider what you enjoy doing and the hours you are available to work. Commercial cleaning contractors are generally required to work after normal business hours and on weekends.
Get all your paperwork in order
Talk to your accountant about the best structure for your new enterprise which may be a sole trader, a partnership, company or a franchise.
Other aspects such as getting an ABN, registering a business name, setting up a business bank account, registering for GST (if your annual earnings are projected to exceed $75 000), finding out about council regulations and restrictions, taking out public liability insurance (plus any other relevant cover such as income protection, worker’s compensation and business vehicle insurance) and appointing an Accountant/Tax Specialist should all be in place before you commence operating your business.
If you have an Accountant discuss these areas with them along with how and what business records to keep, whether you need an accounting software package, what deductions you can claim, your tax obligations, requirement to pay GST and lodge Business Activity Statements. The cost of preparing your tax returns and preparing you accounts should also be considered.
It’s also a good idea to investigate if any training is required (e.g. if you plan to use specialised cleaning equipment like a floor scrubber and carpet extractor) or if there are any industry qualifications that would be useful, and which would add credibility to your offering. If you offer commercial cleaning, you may be required to undertake inductions for the site you are visiting.
Choosing the right cleaning equipment and cleaning supplies
The nature of your cleaning business will dictate the type of cleaning equipment you choose, but it’s always best to go for the best quality equipment you can afford. Powerful performance, reliability, ease of operation, after-sales service, maintenance costs and longevity are all critical aspects to consider when investigating commercial cleaning equipment options, so choose wisely. The best cleaning equipment providers will offer a full after sales service including training for you and your staff in how to use the machine correctly and a service and repair department who can maintain the machine during it’s lifetime.
Residential cleaning requires minimal investment however you may wish to invest in a commercial grade vacuum cleaner that is lightweight and ergonomic. This can save you time and hence allow you to be more productive. Other cleaning supplies you may wish to purchase include mop/bucket, flat mop, cloths, cleaning chemicals such as toilet cleaning, disinfectants, window cleaning etc. We recommend sourcing a specialist company that sells cleaning equipment and cleaning products that can also offer you advice on the best products & cleaning equipment for the type of cleaning you will be performing.
Work out a marketing strategy
How are you going to reach your target audience? How will you differentiate your service from others?
It is critical you utilise a number of channels for reaching your audience including Facebook, creating a website, Instagram, LinkedIn, community newspapers, even TikTok.
Consider using local platforms to create awareness like neighbourhood forums on Facebook, placing ads in your community newspaper and participating in networking groups on social media (e.g. Perth’s Home and Small Businesses on Facebook). Use your own social media profiles to promote your new venture.
Make exceptional customer service a hallmark of your business. Stand out from your competitors by going above and beyond, like leaving a handwritten note when you’ve completed a job and remembering clients’ birthdays. Positive customer reviews and referrals are powerful stimulants for business growth, so you should aim to get your happy customers to tell their neighbours (and the world) about your great new cleaning enterprise!
Establish a pricing policy
It can be tempting to offer a discount on your services to attract attention and gain a foothold in a new market, but this strategy often backfires. Lower prices can often be seen as a sign of an inferior product. When you demonstrate a firm belief in the quality and value of your service, your customers are more likely to believe in you too.
Do you research and investigate what rates are currently being offered for residential and commercial cleaning and any specialised cleaning services. Also consider your operating costs and capital costs to ensure your pricing policy allows you to make a profit.
Find your first customers
A website is an essential marketing tool and it doesn’t have to cost the earth to set up. Most people now use Google to find goods and services, so you will need to optimise your website for local searches e.g. ‘cleaning service near me’. It’s worthwhile engaging a digital marketing and SEO specialist to help you establish your business’s online visibility.
Tap into your social media channels, talk to your friends and family (word-of-mouth referrals are very powerful) and consider doing a local pamphlet drop-off and some cold-calling to spread the word about your new business. Remember, every new venture started with one first customer!
Next steps when starting a cleaning business
There will always be strong demand for cleaning services, so if you’ve been considering starting up a new venture to meet this demand, the time may be right for you.
Whether you decide on starting a new business from scratch or buying a franchise, offering domestic or commercial cleaning services, going it alone or employing someone to assist you, there are some non-negotiables when it comes to taking those first steps. Doing thorough groundwork and investing in good quality cleaning equipment are two of the most important fundamentals for success – best of luck!
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