Is Starting a Cleaning Business a Profitable Idea?
So you want to start a cleaning business in South Africa and you’re trying to figure out if it’s a good idea. Can you find your niche and turn a tidy profit? The answer is yes!
South Africans are upskilling themselves and working long hours, meaning that most people are looking to outsource their house cleaning to someone they can trust.
For example, the prominent role that tourism plays in our economy has resulted in more and more South Africans offering up their homes for Airbnb opportunities. In the first half of 2021 alone, new Airbnb hosts made R1.8 billion via their listings. That’s a lot of room cleaning and house cleaning that is required to achieve and maintain that SuperHost status!
So, within the category of residential cleaning services, offering domestic cleaning and individual room cleaning before the next Airbnb guest arrives is a lucrative niche.
Similarly, spring cleaning services for holiday homeowners is another unique market that can even take you to different parts of the country!
As far as commercial cleaning services go, the pandemic has increased the demand for higher standards of general cleaning being maintained around the workplace.
Often janitorial services and affiliated cleaning agencies will work after hours in an office building to meet these standards while not disrupting office work. The financial opportunity here is that you can charge more for after-hours cleaning.
The most attractive benefits of starting a cleaning business include:
- Work from home: considering your work is always on-site, you don’t need expensive office headquarters when you start a cleaning business.
- High demand: holidaymakers and workplaces alike are always in need of cleaning service companies as the cleaning company industry continues to expand.
- Modest start-up costs: with a trustworthy cleaner, an assortment of equipment, and a van for transport you can be up and running with minimal investment.
- Scalability: the potential to turn your cleaning business plan into something franchisable is realistic.
What qualities do you need as an entrepreneur in the cleaning business?
The proactive entrepreneurial approach involves identifying a need and then supplying a product or service that caters to it. In this case, South Africans need reliable business cleaners or a housekeeping service that they can trust.
They often don’t have the time to vet independent cleaners and check their references. With housebreaking being the most common crime in South Africa, it’s no wonder we want to protect our homes. That vigilance begins with who you let in, so peace of mind is something that an ambitious entrepreneur can attach a premium price tag to.
Entrepreneurs will also need good HR skills to match their ambition, as well as social marketing capacity to spread the word about their cleaning company on sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Diligence in registering your company and ensuring that your freelance staff has the relevant work permits is crucial. The business acumen required to quote on jobs and invoice upon completion is another prerequisite as the hard work off-site has its own demands too.
How to Set Up Your Cleaning Business
Conduct your own research to get a feel for what is out there before you start a cleaning business. SweepSouth is an excellent example of a polished cleaning service that secured R30 million in funding from Naspers in 2019.
Dubbed the ‘Uber for cleaning services’, SweepSouth categorizes their cleaning company services according to Indoor, Outdoor, Airbnb, and Business.
How much would it cost to start a cleaning company?
To answer that, you’ll now need to focus on the best of your unique cleaning business ideas and develop a business plan that you can show to potential investors, also serving to concentrate your research and define your goals.
Expect to spend anywhere from R30,000 to get a residential cleaning business operation off the ground, and closer to R300,000 for a more commercial operation if you are spending on industrial cleaning equipment.
How to register a cleaning company
Do you need any training or qualifications to start a cleaning business?
You must register with NCCA (the National Contract Cleaners Association) as they are the standard bearers in the South African cleaning industry. There is a company that will facilitate your registration in two weeks for R1,990.
Through SAQA (the South African Qualifications Authority) your staff can get their ‘General Education and Training Certificate: Hygiene and Cleaning’. This can also be done through NCCA.
If you are applying for government tenders you’ll also need a B-BBEE affidavit and have your company added to the Central Supplier Database (CSD).
Your cleaning business plan
Keep your business plan digital so you can email potential investors and update your figures.
Your business plan will need to incorporate multiple facts and figures, but the most important are your executive summary, financial forecasts, service rates, funding plans, and marketing strategy.
For your service rates, you can quote hourly, daily, per metre, or based on the job specifications. There are numbers online that you can use to compare the cost of employing your cleaning staff full-time or on an ad hoc basis as you get going.
Factor transportation costs into your budget for monthly overhead costs, as well as the regularity with which you’ll need to replenish your supplies.
Cleaning equipment that you’ll need
If you’re keen to try your cleaning idea out for proof of concept, then the bare minimum you’re looking at is a shopping trolley of cleaning supplies that will cost you in the region of R1,000. This may include:
- Heavy Duty Mop (R200)
- Sponges (R100)
- Scrubbing brush (R40)
- Window cleaner (R100)
- All-purpose cleaner (R80)
- Duster R60
- Disinfectants (R90)
- Rubber gloves (R60)
- Cloths R50
- Uniform (R250)
Throw in a vacuum cleaner for R1,100 and you’re ready to start a cleaning business that can take on your first paying customer’s property.
Invest in a CRM tool
When the bookings start rolling in you’ll need a CRM (customer relationship management) tool that can manage your customer interactions in an expedient manner. Most CRM software is app-based, allowing you to run your business from your phone as you create tasks, delegate, and manage your housekeeping services workflow.
And when you start to grow, liability insurance is a must. You don’t need a scenario where one of your domestic cleaners breaks a valuable vase or pours bleach on a Persian carpet by mistake!
Being a cleaning professional with a reputable name starts with not taking shortcuts for things like fully-vetted staff and the right third-party insurance coverage.
Find out more: Need funding? Check out our guide on small business grants.
How to Fund Your Cleaning Business
Doing some of the dirty work yourself and learning on the job will provide you with the insight you need to be the boss of your own cleaning agency. With a bit of experience under your belt, it’s time to get some outside investment.
Unless you have a wealthy relative prepared to loan you the money for your enterprise, then you’re far better off learning all you can about funding from our small business grants guide.
This handy guide explains the difference between a grant and a loan, as well as offers province-specific leads on how to access grants where you are based.
If you’re thinking of taking out a loan, then our guide on small business loans will assist you tremendously in raising the finance required to make your cleaning service dreams a reality. While the guide does focus on loans for acquiring a business, it is still relevant to entrepreneurs seeking capital.
Funding your start-up is a challenging yet rewarding part of figuring out how to start a cleaning service with no money. Our aforementioned guides will provide you with the necessary intel on what’s out there.
How to Market Your Cleaning Business
South Africans love clever marketing gimmicks and small business success stories. Cleaning company uniform ideas that are a little quirky is a start, as are cleaning names for each staff member that are personable or different (e.g. Captain Carpet Cleaner!)
Offer to clean homeowners’ braais for free on Fridays as part of a housecleaning job and watch how people take you up on that offer. The trick is to do something novel that lands up on social media and then in the local press – something with viral potential that earns you free marketing mileage.
Even if that means just curating beautiful timelapse videos of room cleaning and posting them on TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts.
There’s something satisfying about a good deep clean that you can tap into the human subconscious and exploit for your cleaning business needs. In a wholesome way, of course.
The South African Security and Cleaners Union and BEECA (the South African Cleaning Association) are two more traditional routes you can follow if you’re looking for more grassroots support. South Africa has a long and proud history of trade unions – so you’d be wise to stay abreast of the latest labour developments and operational requirements for you and your staff.
Business opportunities will come from your community, so be on the lookout for local events (fairs, conferences, indabas, expos, and sporting occasions) as a chance to spread word about your business cleaning services.
There’s no promotional tool more powerful than word of mouth, so you’ll need a few references and referrals to acquire new customers.
Find out more: Need more advice on this sector? Read our sector-specific articles.
Starting a Cleaning Business is Not Your Only Option
Upon research and reflection, starting a cleaning company from scratch might not sound like what you want to do. Perhaps investing in a cleaning franchise is more up your alley. How about an off-grid, eco-friendly carwash that offers a turnkey operation? Or a laundry franchise that has been around for years?
We have an abundance of well-established cleaning franchise opportunities to spark your entrepreneurial spirit even more.
If you’d like to buy an existing business instead, we have operating domestic cleaning businesses for sale, depending on where you live in the country. And there are some great commercial cleaning businesses for sale if this route is more appealing to you. If you are thinking of buying a business then we’ve got a comprehensive guide on buying a business in South Africa that is informative and well-researched, allowing you to ensure that there’s nothing you haven’t considered carefully before you take that next big step.
Being an entrepreneur is challenging work. When you’re figuring out how to start a cleaning business, start by doing the following checklist:
- Do your online research and looking at what cleaning businesses are doing in your community already.
- Come up with a novel approach as to how you'll do things differently in terms of a brand name, marketing, and your cleaning business niche.
- Get your paperwork in order in terms of registering with the authorities, and crunching your numbers regarding what supplies and labour will cost you and what you can charge for your services.
- As you get up and running, you’ll need to spend time creating brand awareness in your community through social media, and by interacting with your customers via a CRM tool.
As always, we are here to walk this road with you and we are available if you need help or guidance when reaching a decision. Feel free to contact us at any time.