Monday, 17 December 2018

Advice Corner: So You Want to Get Cleaning?

If you are thinking of starting a business and trying to find a fairly low cost business idea, then domestic cleaning could be one to explore.

Domestic cleaners mainly carry out work for individual households, buy to let properties, B&B's and guesthouses. It seems an easy profession to get into, however, the sector is highly competitive with an estimated 25000 domestic cleaning services in the UK.

Despite competition there is still space in the marketplace, and here are some useful tips when starting your cleaning business to ensure you can take advantage of the opportunity and build a competitive business.

1. Qualifications and Skills 

While there are no formal qualifications required you may consider looking at training opportunities to put you ahead of the competition.

Start-up Courses include:
  • The Practical Cleaning Skills award at levels 1-3. This is an entry level course for those with limited experience covering the principles of cleaning which is accredited by various bodies including Edexcel and City & Guilds, green cleaning practises and teamwork.
  • The Level 2 award in cleaning principles accredited by various bodies including City & Guilds and Edexcel. The course covers waste disposal, health and safety and cleaning of bathrooms and restrooms. 
Business Start-up courses include 
  • Free webinars from HMRC, giving advice such as the ins and outs of becoming an employer. 
  • Contracts of employment, recruitment and selection which is a distance learning course that costs £110 and is beneficial for cleaners wanting to recruit staff.  
  • Consumer rights training which is a 35 minute online course that costs £25 and explains the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and instructs on how to deal with customer complaints, fair wording of T&C's and handling disputes.  
  • Enterprise Hub offers direct training through a combination of business advice and short courses to help you through the business planning process and understand your responsibilities as a new business owner
You may also wish to keep up to date with developments in the industry on websites such as the Cleaning mag and Cleaning Hygiene today or follow Karcher UK on Twitter. 

2. Trading and Commercial 

There are a few things that you will need to think about on a practical level:
  • Provision of cleaning and protective equipment including safety goggles and waterproof gloves for any staff team 
  • Notifying your landlord/mortgage company should you wish to run your business from home and arranging home and business insurance.
  • Setting up pricing strategy - will you charge at an hourly rate or a look for a monthly retainer? Checking your costs and ensuring you are factoring in a wage on top of those
  • You might consider trade body membership to get access to online directories and discounts from industry suppliers from and   
3. Legal

The law is vast, but here are some key ones that effect the cleaning industry that it is worth reading up on so you don't get caught out later.
  • Compliance to The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015 in terms of resolving disputes. 
  • Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)

Advice Corner: Can I make a living cooking from home?

If you are a passionate cook and want to start your own business cooking from home, then here are 5 useful tips to get your business off the ground.

1. Choosing your market

The catering market is fairly saturated so finding your niche and a gap in the market is the key to success. The type of food you make will affect who your core customer will be which will shape your branding and marketing plan.

Catering can either be corporate or private. The former will give you the opportunity for repeat business as corporate clients prefer to have a regular supplier so if you provide a good and reliable service, you'll become an asset to them and they will call you whenever they need you, however, your food will need to be of a high quality and freshly prepared. You'll also be preparing food for large numbers of clients at short notice so it is essential to be organised especially having your ingredients ordered in time. Competition is fierce in this market so you'll have to work hard to win the trust of clients.

Alternatively, you may wish to take your service to the private market where you'll be serving at family occasions as opposed to launches and conferences. Client Expectations would be much lower but you'll still be expected to provide a good quality service and you need to be able to cater for individuals with specific needs such as vegetarians and lactose intolerant. Your scope for services aren't restricted to special occasions such as weddings as you may also wish to host themed events such as Indian nights or gourmet cuisine for dinner parties.

2. Obtaining Equipment 

Starting a business requires a lot of equipment. You will need to detail this out well in your business plan as you need to have a good balance of capital as well as specific equipment for individual events. This will also depend on the type of food you're working with and basic operation would require fridge freezers, cooking equipment such as ovens & hobs and preparation equipment such as timers, scales, cutlery, thermometers and can openers as well as other consumables such as washing up liquid & sponges, Clingfilm and food containers.  It's essential you cost this all out to understand what finance you will need to access in order to get started.

3. Legal requirements 

Catering Services are highly regulated under legislation governing food safety. Caterers are legally obliged to submit their registration application 28 days in advance before commencing trading.

The FSA (Food Standards Agency) is the main governing body to food hygiene alongside the Food Safety Act 1990 being the main law ensuring food is safe for consumption as well as ensuring that there are no harmful substances used in food prep.  You'll also be obliged to comply with other legal requirements such as keeping records of direct suppliers as well as information of food products regarding presentation and traceability in the event of product withdrawal or recall.

Arranging insurance is also essential as failure to do so can result in severe financial consequences.  You can find more information on getting the right form of cover here.

4. Marketing your company 

While competitive, the food industry is a thriving market providing plenty of opportunities for you to generate much needed publicity.

You may wish to attend catering exhibitions with plenty of events happening up and down the country - take time to prepare samples and take your contact details with you as you could add a range of suppliers and consumers to your portfolio to make your brand more memorable and not only obtain useful contacts, but also get your brand into an online catering directory that'll help users discover you via search engines.

Also, don't underestimate the power of social media, Instagram is the perfect place to promote your recipes as food photography is a very in-demand and exciting art form. All you need is a smartphone, good lighting and a decluttered background which can make your brand more attractive and get people talking about you.

5. Obtaining appropriate I.T equipment 

Catering businesses rely heavily on temporary workers so you don't want to be wasting your financial resources paying every single member of staff. You should contact agencies across the country to help you find temporary event staff for the necessary amount of time you need them.

Investing in time & attendance and payroll software is essential to avoid the hassle of producing copious amounts of admin and red tape involved with paying employees, this is inconvenience you don't need especially in such a stressful and high demand profession. You can find more about relevant payroll software that can fulfil your needs here.

Click here to take inspiration from Anthony and Hannah's story on how they set up their own catering business. We wish you a successful venture into catering!