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How to be a successful self-employed cleaner

09 December 2014

More people than ever are looking for small-time cleaners – from suburban family homes to village halls, there are many spaces around your community in need of a weekly bit of TLC. Rising to meet the need are hundreds of sole traders, working anything from a couple of evenings a week to every day.

A business like this doesn't need to be expensive to run. Careful budgeting on everything from supplies to advertising can free up profit on a level unseen in larger businesses, so read on for tips on how to achieve this...

1) Keep in regular contact with the tax office

It's better to pay the correct tax from day one than to suddenly face a huge bill a couple of years down the line. Some changes in business practice will require slightly different tax accounts, so always check.

2) Use social media to your full advantage

It needn't cost you a penny to advertise your business, as word of mouth is the best form of recommendation for a tradesperson, and social media is like an amplifier for every good job that you do. Streetlife, for example, is an invaluable tool for establishing contacts, from one-off jobs to regulars. The more work you put into your social media presence, the more work you'll find, so it's a good idea to get familiar with the mechanics of the many platforms available. Check out Social Watch for a raft of useful information.

3) Buy in good equipment

If you're cleaning on a casual basis, it may seem daunting to get started without spending a large sum on products and equipment. However, with careful budgeting and a few substitutions, it's possible to make a neat profit even after the taxman has had his due. You have an advantage – there is only one of you. A large cleaning contractor would need to buy equipment in bulk and of lower quality, but you only really need one of everything. Buy mid-to-high range, simple equipment, and take good care of it. Spending a few extra pounds on a good mop is going to save you money in the long run, and allow you to do a better job. 

4) Research traditional cleaning methods

White vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, and lemon juice are your friends. Where a large cleaning contractor needing to clean an entire building would need gallons of specialist window-cleaning solution, you can get the same results with vinegar, water and newspaper. Limescale lifts as easily with vinegar as with a de-scaler.

Think of how you'd save money cleaning your own home, and do the maths to see if it's cost effective to scale it up a little – most of the time, it will be. If you do need to buy cleaning products, buy good ones. The more effective it is, the less you'll need, and the more you'll save. Cleanipedia is a useful resource for budget cleaning tips.

5) How to charge

The more you clean, the quicker you get, and if you charge an hourly rate, sooner or later you're going to be doing twice the work for half the wage. It's best to lay out a set of services and costs for each client, for example "Clean six small windows" and "Mop 5m x 5m room", and put several items on each invoice. There's no need to get too in-depth, but keeping some perspective on what you're doing will make it easier for you to calculate how much each job is costing you to do.

Written by Louis Bond on behalf of Cleanipedia