How to start a commercial cleaning business in the UK

How to start a commercial cleaning business in the UK

Market Opportunities for commercial cleaning businesses in the UK

The commercial cleaning market is a steadily growing sector in the UK. According to the Facilities Management Journal, particularly specialised cleaning services continue to grow sales in 2019. Workspaces are shared more and more which means that office workers can contract a virus twice as likely as private office workers. There is an increased demand for more effective cleaning solutions that specialise in additional infection and hygiene control solutions. This provides an opportunity to UK cleaning companies to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Current Market Problems for UK cleaning businesses

Contract cleaning companies are suffering from a severe price pressure and increased staffing costs which makes it hard to sustain profitability.

Does the market need another cleaning business?

A simple Google search can show you the number of competing businesses in your geographical area. If you live in a busy area with lots of business centres, office buildings, businesses etc. there will also be a lot of cleaning businesses available. If you are located in a remote area and there are only 2 or 3 competitors nearby, this presents a chance for you to set up your own business and provide another option, or massively improve on the service provided by the competition - even if there are a lot of competitors!

Things to consider before starting a domestic cleaning business in the UK

What is a commercial cleaning business?

Commercial cleaning businesses provide cleaning services to companies and organisations with larger premises and bigger numbers of staff. You will probably need a team of people to provide the cleaning services to your commercial clients, as the properties are likely to be large office buildings, hospitals, or factory floors.

  • Check the area where you want to offer the cleaning services.
  • How many other companies are offering the same thing?
  • How much do they charge?
  • How do they portray themselves online and offline?

Can you offer specialised cleaning services?

Many commercial cleaning companies specialise in an area of cleaning, such as window cleaning, car valet or fleet cleaning, commercial roof cleaning, festival cleaning, construction cleaning. Have you considered becoming a specialised cleaning business?

If you specialise in one area, you will become the specialist provider in this area of commercial cleaning. You may need specialised equipment, but can provide a much better service than a general cleaning company that does not have access to specialised equipment. Also, people often search for a specialist on Google, such “commercial window cleaner Edinburgh”.

Could you start a specialised commercial cleaning business?

How to find out what the competition charges to gauge the market

Research the competitors websites. Make a list of questions you would ask. Make up a typical cleaning scenario and start calling. A typical scenario you could enquire about could look like this: I am calling on a behalf of a business centre and I was given the task to find out prices about commercial cleaning options. The business centre is a two storey building and has got 30 offices, varying in size. The total cleaning floor space is XYZ sqm and needs cleaned once a week. There are two kitchens, 4 toilet areas with 4 cubicles each, that need to be cleaned daily and products refilled (toilet paper, hand towels hand soap). The windows in both floors need cleaned once a month.

  • What contracts do you offer?
  • What is the contract length?
  • How much am I looking at roughly before a site survey?

What are your long term business plans for your cleaning company?

Most commercial cleaning companies employ staff. There are franchising businesses you can consider buying into, however, they tend to have start-up costs of several thousands of pounds, and you would be following the franchise rules and provide their services and products. The are many benefits buying into a commercial cleaning franchise, such as that they provide a trusted service, they can recommend insurance or have insurance in place, they use standardised materials and tools, they have uniforms, and often marketing in place for you to step in and start the business straight away.
What equipment do you need to start a commercial cleaning business?

There are many companies offering commercial cleaning equipment, and the costs can vary dramatically. Here are few essential cleaning equipment items you may want to consider investing in:

  • Equipment trolley (from £250)
  • Professional Vacuum cleaner (from £100)
  • Sweeping machine (from 200-£2000)
  • Van (from £3000)

Marketing Ideas for your commercial cleaning business

You need to think about ideas on building up a client list. There are many different ways to do this, here are some ideas:

  • Advertising in local trade magazines and papers
  • Online advertising such as google pay-per-click
  • Flyer distribution to local businesses (you need to design a flyer and then either distribute it yourself or use a service such as Royal Mail or flyer commercially available flyer distribution services)
  • Business networking is also a great opportunity to meet local business people and spread the word.
  • Take part in tender processes

Develop a reputation

Think about ways to differentiate your cleaning company from the competition. You can come up with creative ideas so that your business is memorable, people start talking about you and keep recommending your services. You need to establish company values and how they are portrayed in front of the customers.

Having a good reputation will help with your marketing. Word of mouth marketing and personal recommendation costs nothing and is the best way of gaining new customers.

Do you need a uniform?

If you employ a number of staff, a uniform with clear branding is recommended. Depending on the kinds of businesses you work with, you may want to get a Police Disclosure from your staff ensuring your customers that they are dealing with a reputable company that values their customers.

How should you get paid?

The most important thing is that your customers need to find it easy to deal with you. Businesses tend not to pay cash, but prefer other payment methods such as cheque, BACS or card payments. You need to work out the best way for you and your customers to make and receive payments. There might also be industry standard payment terms which can be lengthy. Work with your customers and come up with options that suit both.

You will need a proper business account, and you can ask your customers to pay you by direct debit or standing order. Direct Debit means that you ask for the money from their bank account through a direct debit provider such as With Gocardless, you can set up cleaning plans for your business. You could even have one cleaning plan per customer. Say Company XYZ have a cleaning plan that pays you £2500 per month. You can set up Gocardless to collect the payment for you automatically, cutting down admin time and locking your clients in in a friendly way and committing to your service.

How can you get paid for commercial cleaning services

  • Cash - clumsy, not professional
  • Cheque - more work for you, having to go to the bank or mailing cheques to the bank
  • Card Machines - monthly rental costs plus a percentage per sale, you also need to person present to make the payment or call you at night - meaning more admin time for you
  • BACS - you need to send an invoice, they need to act and pay. If they don’t pay, you need to chase them - more Admin time for you.
  • Direct Debit - see above. Very cheap, very convenient for everyone. The money is collected automatically.

Find a payment system that works for you and your clients, but don’t let your client determine how they pay, especially if that does not suit you.

Insurance for commercial cleaning companies

You should consider taking out public liability insurance to protect yourself against any claims that might arise from injury or loss suffered by a member of the public as a result of your work. If you employ staff, you are legally obliged to have employers liability insurance.

You also need to consider the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations which states that when you clean an office or business premises you must use existing members staff. Health and Safety regulations should be taken into consideration, as cleaning often involves working with potentially harmful cleaning chemicals.

Do you need any training for starting a commercial cleaning business?

In the UK, you don’t need a licence to run or start a commercial cleaning business. You may want your staff to have a Criminal Records Check to improve your business image that you employ a team of trusted professionals.

Training is not required, but check out BICS, which could give your business more credibility. Also think about Health and Safety.

How much do I need to pay my staff?

Cleaners are typically not well paid, usually they only receive minimum wage. The current minimum wage information is provided on the government website.

The problem with minimum wage is that it does not bind your staff to your business and might cause a high staff turnover. This then means new staff regularly, they need to be trained, checked etc. and then they leave again. Offering a better salary might encourage your staff to stay with you longer.

Register with HRMC

Make sure you register your business with HMRC and complete a Self Assessment Tax Return and make sure you pay your tax bill by 31 January every year. More information can be found on the Government website.

Summary: Market Need, Courage, Persistence, keep learning

Check if the market needs another cleaner or cleaning service. If you have identified a need, have the courage and go for it.
Make a plan, have a strategy in place and be persistent.
Keep learning about the business.
Don’t be afraid of the competition, but make friends with them.
Talk to lots of people, ask questions, identify things that might help you in business or where you could be the only one fulfilling this requirement in the market.
With time, you gain experience. When you start a business, you will make lots of mistakes. Take every mistake as a real-life business class and learn from it.
Don’t do what everyone does. Think about different things you can cater for. Specialise in vet surgery cleaning? Or what about dentist surgeries? Or garden centres? Just a few examples.
Make sure your business is legal, above board, have insurance in place and pay your taxes.
Be helpful, give people advice even if they are not buying. A friendly person is always remembered and the people who receive advice might not be able to afford you this year, but they may already recommend you and become a customer in a few years time.
cleaning companies to differentiate themselves from the competition.