start a gardening business

How To Start A Gardening Business

If you want to work for yourself, and you enjoy the outdoors, then why not start a landscape gardening business. It would make a great choice!

Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to starting a gardening business to get you off the ground.

Working as a self-employed landscape gardener means you’ll have flexible working hours and you can choose which projects to work on. What’s more, it can provide great job satisfaction.

Benefits of a career in garden maintenance

There are many benefits to start a gardening business:

– Regular, reliable work – whatever you earn this month you will likely earn again next month.

– Developing a good relationship with your customers – seeing some of them every week.

– Healthy, enjoyable, challenging, outdoor work.

– Flexible working hours.

– Potential to earn a good wage.

– Practically recession proof; garden maintenance is regular and necessary.

Disadvantages of a career in garden maintenance

You need to be aware of the disadvantages so that you can plan to avoid them:

– Less work during the winter.

– Some days lost due to bad weather – but not as much as you might think.

– Competition from casual labourers.

– Labour intensive work.

– Unpaid travel time between work.

– Supplies, equipment and tool maintenance is expensive.

– The cost of repairing damage to your tools or customer property is usually higher than you would have earned doing the job. – Danger – you may also be hired to do a job that is dangerous or difficult to access.

Here’s a step-by-step checklist to follow when starting your gardening business:

start a gardening business

Steps on what to do to start a gardening business:

1. Understand the job

Starting a landscaping business for the first time? It’s important that you know what the job entails. Landscape gardeners might work with residential clients, commercial clients, or both.

Generally, work is conducted during the summer months. Most landscapers in the UK work on their own, but you may need to interact with tradespeople in order to deliver for clients. You also need to be prepared to promote yourself to win business.

Some of the elements of your role will include:

  • Working with clients to understand their garden and what they want from the design
  • Sketching out plans in line with your client’s vision
  • Making sure your plans come in on budget, calculating the costs of labour and materials
  • Working out estimates for clients
  • Constructing water features, planting trees, cultivating turf and ordering furniture

2. Look at qualifications

You don’t need any formal qualifications for general garden maintenance. But a love of the outdoors, as well as a healthy dose of creativity, is a natural prerequisite for the role. It makes sense to have a good knowledge of the various plants and how they grow in different environments. Generally, for simple garden maintenance, employers place more emphasis on the importance of hands-on experience rather than academic qualifications. 

However, for a career in landscape gardening, completing a BTEC, HNC, HND or foundation degree in a relevant subject, such as horticulture or landscape management is a must for securing employment. 

The CAD systems and software needed for planning and designing are technical and training would be needed to use these systems. Some aspects of gardening are incredibly scientific, so it is a good idea to study for this.

start a gardening business
Picture credit: Northampton College

There are courses available in horticulture and gardening, so taking these may put you at an advantage. For example. you may find it useful to build up your skills by doing a course, like:

  • Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture and Amenity Horticulture
  • Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture
  • Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Horticulture

Finding people and organisations that need volunteer landscapers could give you the experience you need to forge ahead. As well as courses, there are even apprenticeships where you can learn and pick up skills whilst working.

3. Budget carefully

The fact that landscape gardening is a seasonal job affects how much you’re paid; you’ll likely have more work in the summer, so it’s best to save for the winter.

Landscape gardeners will usually set a fixed price per job. When working out how much to charge, you should factor in what materials you need to get the job done, how difficult it will be (and what skills you need to use), and how long it will take to finish. Self-employed gardeners can charge up to £25 an hour depending on where they work, with London and the South East commanding the highest rates. Research what other landscape gardeners are charging in your area and set your prices accordingly.

Labour is your most basic service. However, as a gardener you can offer additional services such as waste removal (if you have a waste carrier’s license), jet washing of patio, weed killer, lawn treatments etc. These are extra services in addition to your basic hourly rate for labour. Having a clear pricing policy will give people the option to ‘buy’ these extra services from you as and when they need it.

You will also need to budget for eye/face protection, steel toe-capped boots, long sleeves, good trousers, gloves, first aid kit. You will use all of these regularly and it’s well worth buying top quality safety equipment.

Having your own tools shows that you have invested in and dedicated to a career in garden maintenance. You can easily spend £3000 + on basic maintenance tools. Think about what you are likely to really need. For example; a mower, strimmer and hedge trimmer are essential.

Your tools will likely, on average, need replacing every 3 years either due to wear and tear, breakages, theft or loss. Remember to factor into these costs into your income target. Your van is probably your most expensive tool but one of the most useful. It is also one of the best ways to advertise your services.

start a gardening business

4. Plan for the seasons

Timing is everything! As a gardener you are at the mercy of the seasons. Use this to your advantage:

Winter: Soft landscaping, hard pruning, fencing, etc

Spring: Planting, weeding, feeding, fence painting

Summer: Lawns, hedge trimming, weeding

Autumn: Pruning, leaf clearance, lawn treatment (aeration, scarifying, etc), planting

Educate your customers and encourage them to delay work until the appropriate time.

Landscape gardening is a highly seasonal profession. Most of your practical work will be carried out in the summer, while planning tends to occur in the winter. In addition, many private, residential clients prefer not to have work done during holiday periods. Because of this, many landscapers supplement their income with other jobs during the colder months.

5. Choose a legal structure

One of your first steps when setting up a gardening business is to choose a legal structure. Many landscape gardeners operate as sole traders, and this may be the simplest route to choose. However, there may be good reasons for setting up a limited company, or if you’re in partnership, a limited liability partnership.

Your choice of legal structure will have impact down the line, particularly on accounting and other paperwork. Read more about the differences between sole traders and limited companies.

Before you begin trading, you’ll need to register with HMRC for tax, National Insurance and possibly VAT. If you’re employing anyone, you’ll also need to register for PAYE.

It’s important that you do this promptly, as there are fines for those who register late. Remember that you’ll also have to file an annual Self-Assessment tax return, and file your tax on time. Read more about Self Assessment for small businesses.

You will need to call the Inland Revenue and notify them that you are self-employed.

6. Take out insurance

Insurance is also essential. Accidental damage to property is all too easy and common. The cost of repairing damage will often exceed the amount you were earning. The customer is entitled to recover those costs from you whether you have insurance or not. Insurance protects you, as the tradesman, from being presented with a repair bill you cannot afford to pay. It gives the customer confidence that any damage will be repaired if and when accidents happen.

Insurance is a key consideration for every new business, including landscapers and gardeners. You’ll want to start with public liability insurance, which can cover you against claims arising from injury or damage suffered by a member of the public. If you employ people in your landscaping business, employers’ liability insurance is likely a legal requirement. You can be fined if you need it and don’t have it.

7. Work out an invoicing and payment system

You will need to manage cash flow; will you be expecting cash-in-hand or advance payment?

As with any new business, cash flow can be difficult to manage; particularly for gardeners, as clients can become unreliable (how regularly they’ll want you, holidays, bad weather…)

With this in mind, you’ll need to work out a payment system with clients that work for you. Usually, people expect to pay their gardener cash-in-hand on the day, but for cash flow purposes (and for the sake of professionalism), you may want to insist on an advance payment system.

It may be worth considering the available options for accepting mobile card payment. It may be more useful to use a system that allows you to send invoices online as well as take payments from clients online too. This allows for a more seamless process and gets rid of unnecessary delay in taking payments.

start a gardening business
Example of online invoice for gardening service

Online Invoicing with Grow in Cloud lets you create and send customised invoices from anywhere. It’s easy to use online invoicing tool saves you time and enhances your client communication experience.

start a gardening business
Option to pay for services online

You can also get paid instantly with Grow in Cloud’s online payments solution. Grow in Cloud works seamlessly with payment gateways such as PayPal and Stripe.

8. Use an appointment scheduling system

As technologies for scheduling tasks continue to evolve over the years, they are replaced by cloud based systems and issues of cost and compatibility have been addressed.

By allowing your customers to book gardening services online at a time that is convenient to them, means you don’t have to worry about missed appointment opportunities while you are out gardening.

start a gardening business
Example of online appointment gardening services

Appointment scheduling systems are software designed specifically to grant gardening business owners an easy way to arrange and manage various appointments.

Easy to use appointment scheduling feature with option to confirm from clients

Apart from booking/scheduling appointments, most gardening businesses are now under pressure to join other businesses to confirm and remind their clients of upcoming appointments via SMS or email. By utilizing a proper appointment scheduling software, such as Grow in Cloud, with features of appointment reminders and notifications included, these time-consuming tasks are managed automatically and with little user effort.

9. Create a website

There are many small businesses that still don’t have a website. Reasons they give: – don’t have the skills, the time, or the money to build a business website.

But a surprising number say that their business doesn’t need a website, either because it’s not required or because they use social media instead.

There is an importance of a website for sales. This is important to every business and not just for a gardening business.

Developing a website doesn’t automatically bring paying customers to your business but through SEO (search engine optimization) of your website, you can improve your chances of being visible online and bringing in potential clients/leads who are more likely to make a purchase of the variety of gardening services that you offer.

10. Budget for marketing

As well as spending money on equipment, it may be necessary to allocate some budget for marketing too. One of the struggles when starting a gardening business (and in fact any service based business) is building up a client list. When it comes to marketing a gardening business some traditional advertising, such as classified listings and flyers could be the best place to start.

start a gardening business
Example Flyer Temp;ate

Don’t be afraid to go out and knock on some doors too! Gardening can be a personal business and prospective clients may be more likely to sign up if they see you and know who exactly they are doing business with.

11. Use Social Media

Almost everybody you know will be on a social media site of some sort. It is a great platform for sharing your content as well as connecting with potential clients or maintaining relationships with existing clients.

Depending on what industry you are in, some social media sites work better than others, so here are a few that would be more useful for your gardening business:

Facebook:

Facebook has the most users (over 2 billions) out of all the social media sites so having a Facebook Business page is worthwhile for a gardening business to reach a wide audience of all ages.

You can also create Facebook as a way to set up a community for your clients who can post gardening tips and hacks or share questions with each other about gardening products.

Instagram:

Instagram is the most popular social media site at the moment. It is a visual marketing tool so it is useful for showing before and after gardening process pictures. 

You can share short gardening tip videos on Instagram stories, share pictures of your team with brief information sharing fun background information about them.

Twitter:

Twitter is another great way to interact with your clients and potentially new ones as your clients can promote you and your gardening business through tweets. You can engage with your audience by hosting Twitter chats as well as create a community for your clients and interact with them in real time.

Whichever social media platform you use it is always a good idea to use one or two and use them well and post regularly so you are not overwhelmed trying to keep up to date with your posts and trying to run a gardening business! Also, try and get your clients to tag you and your business when they add posts to their own profiles-this is another way of promoting your gardening business on their contacts list.

12. Looking for business

Now it’s time to start looking for business. There’s a range of channels you can use in order to find clients. Many landscape gardeners advertise in local newspapers or directories, but there’s an increasing move towards online marketing.

First, you can use these free tools to build a business website. You should also get set up on Google My Business. You might also wish to experiment with Google AdWords.

Finally, remember that repeat and referred business is the most valuable business! Make sure that you’re offering customers the best possible service and encourage them to tell their friends!

Here are some of our top tips to win customers:

  • Build a portfolio. Working quickly on multiple projects is one way to get your portfolio (and marketing) off the ground. It then becomes an easy way to demonstrate your skills and the best way to win clients. When you have your own website, you can update it with images of your work.
  • Build relationships. As we mentioned, repeat and referred business is the most valuable business, so rapport with your clients is key. Be the only person they think of when they want their gardening work done.
  • Build promotional activities. Use both online and offline marketing and cultivate your brand. Think about flyers, posters, signs. Advertise your services on online directories.

13. Have a contact management system

Once you build up your client list, you may want to consider some form of customer relationship management (CRM) system to help you keep track of your client data and offer promotions to loyal clients.

A contact management system allows you to store key information about your clients. This is usually their contact details (name, address, telephone number and email address), communication, payments and interactions with customers. All this is kept in one place. It can also keep a record of each activity; such as booked/ reschedules appointments, invoices and any notes made by staff member.

There is a misconception amongst many small business owners that a contact management system is only suitable for large businesses. They think that small businesses do not require a contact management system, because they have a small database, which can easily be stored and managed on spreadsheets.

However, in order to build and scale your gardening business, you do need some sort of a contact management system.

Summary:

Focus your early marketing efforts on friends and family members. Ask them to help share, advertise and promote your gardening business.

They can be your best service ambassadors (especially if you can afford to maintain some of their gardens for free, to show off to prospective clients!)

Good luck with starting gardening business. Happy Gardening!

To try out and sign up for Grow in Cloud’s 30 day free trial, simply click here.

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Business Processes Automation

Why You Should Automate Your Business Processes

Business processes automation is becoming a key part of many companies’ growth strategies. The automation market was valued at $4.26 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $18.45 billion by 2023.

However, according to a report by Ted Schadler, titled The Sorry State of Digital Transformation in 2018, up to 22% of the businesses surveyed have still not adopted the change. (see image below).

What businesses need to understand, regardless their industry, digital transformation is becoming crucial to workflow business processes’ efficiency and success.

Business Processes Automation

Long story short, if you wish to have a growing list of happy customers, you need to start focusing on process excellence. Business processes automation is a straightforward and extremely effective way to help increase customer satisfaction and grow the business.

There is a perception that most automation tools are more suited for mid to large size businesses. The truth is every size business whether it is a solely run by one employee, or by a small team, can use technology to automate repetitive manual tasks.

What Does Business Processes Automation Mean?

Business processes automation is the use of digital technology to carry out recurring tasks or processes in a business, where manual effort can be replaced.

It can streamline a business for simplicity, achieve digital transformation, increase service quality, improve service delivery or contain costs.

Business Processes Automation Examples

For a better understanding of business processes automation, let’s take you through examples of day to day tasks where businesses should automate.

Booking Appointments

Business Processes Automation

For any business to succeed and survive, they need to get more clients coming in the door to buy their products or services. If you are running accountancy or any service based business, you will need to book in clients to sell your services. If you are taking bookings manually, it is time consuming and can also lead to overlap of bookings and no client show ups.

This results in poor sales and waste of your valuable time. You can use an appointment booking solution which enables you to streamline the entire process and let client’s book appointments at time of their own convenience.

Grow in Cloud’s appointment scheduling feature can help all service based businesses. Furthermore, you can send email/SMS reminders prior to appointment time to reduce no show ups.

Business Processes Automation

Invoices/Payments

Sending invoices accurately is a requisite to getting paid on time. However, most small businesses face late payments due to sending the invoice in the wrong format. You can read this invoice format post to ensure you can send invoices in a correct format.

Business Processes Automation

By using an invoicing software invoice template, you can be rest assured the invoice is sent in correct format. You can insert clients details and amount with the invoice due date. The invoice will then automatically be emailed to clients with the option to pay online.

Business Processes Automation

If the client doesn’t make payment on due date, an automated reminder can be sent a gentle reminder. For repeat customers you can set monthly recurring invoices without having to worry about sending invoices each month.

Email Marketing

Businesses need to win more customers’ to grow and increase sales. To increase sales, marketing teams need to devise campaigns to target potential customers and turn them into prospects.

Business Processes Automation

Email marketing is proven to be one of most effective marketing method. It gives you 3800% on your investment. You can use email marketing software to automate your email campaign and generate more leads and sales.

Organize Leads And Customers

Grow in Cloud enables you to organize, track and nurture leads and customers for in one place. This powerful CRM has everything you will need to capture to build a rapport with your clients and upsell/cross sell to them.

Business Processes Automation

Communication

Businesses use omni- channels to communicate with clients. However customers are more interested in businesses getting back to them ASAP.

Business Processes Automation

Businesses can use customer support software and live chats which send push notification to customer support teams. They will have full detail of clients query and can resolve without the need of getting on the phone or sending a technician out.

File And Document Sharing

Business Processes Automation

Save time spent on sending endless emails with attachments to team members. Use Google Sheets or Dropbox to upload files in location which team members can access. You can also create new documents and edit existing ones without any problems using Google Sheets.

Grow in Cloud’s document management feature also allows you to be able to request and share documents with your clients.

Task Management

You can save yourself time and energy by using a solution which allows you to create daily and repeating tasks and assign them to respective team members.

This can be producing reports, setting agenda for meeting and submitting VAT returns.

Business Processes Automation

You can use Grow in Cloud task management feature which is sufficient to solve this challenge. Here you can also prioritise the tasks easily.

Business Processes Automation

Social Media Posts

It is important to have a social media/online presence to show client’s social proof. However, posting on different social media channels is time-consuming. It is necessary if you want to grow your business’s social reach and customer engagement.

Business Processes Automation

You can use Buffer or Hootsuite to automate social posts for free. You can set date and times when you want posts to be distributed on different social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Benefits Of Automation

It is definitely worth investing in digitalising and automating your business processes. It is not uncommon to question how it will help with day to day running of businesses. Below are some of benefits you will immediately see:

Streamlined Processes

One of the greatest benefit is you will have streamlined process and take away the need of performing repetitive tasks. From day to day business running, there will be clear accountability.

You will be able to send customisable notifications to clients suppliers, get valuable insights, and faster turnaround times. The time wasted on performing manual tasks can be spent on business development or customer service.

Compliance

By having a business processes automation system which keeps a record of each tasks and activity, makes it easier to stay in compliant with regulators. This information can be presented to demonstrate compliance during audits.

Increased Productivity

When you automate a business processes, it streamlines processes and increases productivity. Your staff will have more time on their hands and be able to perform more tasks and see more customers. It will also save you time spent on time consuming tasks, such as chasing customers for payment.

Customer Satisfaction

Providing exceptional customer service can give you competitor advantage over your rivals. Focusing on simplified processes and operational excellence, helps you meet your KPIs and exceed customer expectations with ease. When you consistently meet and exceed promised customer service standards, then customers are more likely to develop a preference for your company.

Sit down with your team and think about how each task are currently performed. Then automate processes by signing up or registering for the appropriate solutions and customising messages/template.

If you have a budget constraint, prioritise by automating tasks which takes most of your time and which would increase your sales.

Summary

Grow in Cloud is an all-in-one small business management system, which can be used to perform ALL essential tasks; online appointment scheduling, sending appointment reminders, sending online invoicing and receiving payments online, requesting and sharing documents and staff  task and calendar management. As it is a cloud based application, the best thing is that it can be accessed from anywhere and on any device with internet connection. To sign up for a free 30 day trial and start using Grow in Cloud for free, click here.

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Starting a cleaning business

How To Start A Cleaning Business

If you’re looking for a business that can effectively get you off the ground fairly quickly, with minimal expenses, then starting a cleaning business could be a good option to choose.

However, it is important to note, that even though it’s a fairly simple business to start, competition in this industry is high. There are lots of small organisations out there. So, you need to have a clear idea of how your business will stand out in this crowded market.

You also need to think about whether you will be prepared to clean every day or are you more suited to the administrative side of a cleaning business.

A cleaning business can cover everything from one cleaner with a few domestic properties to maintain each week, to a large commercial business with thousands of staff and clients on their books.

There are domestic cleaners, office cleaners, hospital and school cleaners as well as carpet, window and vehicle cleaners.

starting a cleaning business

Here are 11 ways to help you set up and start your cleaning business:

1. Determine The Type Of Cleaning Company

There are two main types of cleaning businesses to consider:

Residential cleaning business:

Residential (or domestic cleaning) will involve cleaning people’s homes and can be undertaken by you, as soon as you secure some clients. You may eventually take on another member of staff or two, as your client base begins to grow.

Commercial cleaning business: 

For cleaning commercial properties, you will definitely need a team of people (as the properties will be tend to be large office buildings). You may have a managerial role rather than be on the ground cleaning the offices.

Within these two main types, you may also want to consider:

  • Specialised cleaning – there are worth exploring if you and to stand out from the others. Specialism can range from a window cleaning business and a carpet cleaning business to a roof cleaning or a car wash/car valet business. All of these could be done as a residential or a commercial cleaning business.

2. Have A Budget

Cleaning equipment costs can vary a great deal. For example, for domestic cleaners, more often than not the equipment is provided by the households. You may want to bring your own cleaning materials (cloths, dusters) and products (creams, sprays). You can include the cost of these in your prices.

starting a cleaning business

However, for a commercial cleaning company there’s some basic equipment you’ll more likely need to invest in:

  • Equipment trolleys
  • Cleaning products
  • Professional, industrial vacuum cleaner
  • Sweeping machine
  • Van to keep equipment and for travelling to companies

3. Research The Market/Target Audience

Researching the potential market/target audience, as well as the local demographic, is instrumental in deciding the type of cleaning business you should start.

For example, if you’re planning on running a domestic cleaning venture in your local area, then you’ll need to make sure that people in the area are financially able to pay for someone else to do their domestic chores.

Market research will also be key when working out your charges. You could do this by checking out websites of competitors. Or even, by ringing around the local competition (as a potential client) to find out. This way you can make sure your prices are comparable.

4. Check Relevant Regulations And Training Courses

You do not need a license when starting a cleaning business, but obtaining a criminal records check from the CRB will help to improve the image for you and your team, as trusted professionals.

Training is also not essential but some basic training, such as an NVQ or Cleaning Operatives Proficiency Certificate could give your business credibility.

If you’re going to be taking on staff then there is a number of regulations you’ll need to bear in mind:

-Typically cleaning work is not very well paid – it’s likely that your staff will receive the minimum wage in the UK (currently £8.21 for 25yrs and over as of April 2019) so you’ll need to keep on top of annual rises.

-You’ll also be responsible for employer’s liability insurance. This protects you against the cost of compensation claims, arising from employee illness or injury, sustained as a result of their work for you. It is a legal requirement if your cleaning business employs one or more people, and you could be fined for each day you’re not covered.

-If you’re taking on commercial cleaning jobs you’ll need to adhere to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations – which state that when you take on a cleaning contract with an office or other business premises you must use their existing staff.

starting a cleaning business

-There’s also a number of health and safety regulations to consider, as cleaning often involves working with potentially harmful chemicals.

5. Work Out An Invoicing And Payment System

You will need to manage cash flow. Things to think about-will you be expecting cash-in-hand or advance payment?

As with any new business, cash flow can be difficult to manage. This is particularly for domestic cleaners, as clients can become unreliable (how regularly they’ll want you, holidays, sicknesses…)

With this in mind, you’ll need to work out a payment system with clients that work for you. Usually, people expect to pay their cleaner cash-in-hand on the day, but for cash flow purposes (and for the sake of professionalism), you may want to insist on an advance payment system.

It may be worth considering the available options for accepting mobile card payment.

starting a cleaning business

It may be more useful to use a system that allows you to send invoices online as well as take payments from clients online too. This allows for a more seamless process and gets rid of unnecessary delay in taking payments.

Online Invoicing with Grow in Cloud lets you create and send customised invoices from anywhere. It’s easy to use online invoicing tool saves you time and enhances your client communication experience. 
You can also get paid instantly with Grow in Cloud’s online payments solution. Grow in Cloud works seamlessly with payment gateways such as PayPal and Stripe.

starting a cleaning business

6. Use An Appointment Scheduling System

As technologies for scheduling tasks continue to evolve over the years, they are replaced by cloud based systems. Issues of cost and compatibility have been addressed.

Appointment scheduling systems are software designed specifically to grant business owners an easy way to arrange and manage their various appointments.

Apart from booking/scheduling appointments, most businesses are now under pressure to join other businesses and remind their clients of upcoming appointments via SMS or email.

starting a cleaning business
Names have been hidden for data protection purposes.

By using a proper appointment scheduling software, such as Grow in Cloud, with features of appointment reminders and notifications included, these time-consuming tasks are managed automatically and with little user effort. 

7. Create a Website

There are many small businesses that still don’t have a website. Reasons they give: – don’t have the skills, the time, or the money to build a business website.

starting a cleaning business

But a surprising number say that their business doesn’t need a website. Either because it’s not required or because they use social media instead.

There is an importance of a website, for sales. This is important to every business and not just for a cleaning business.

Developing a website won’t automatically bring paying customers to your business but through the use of SEO (search engine optimization) of your website, you can improve your chances of being visible online. This will help bringing in potential clients/leads, who are more likely to make a purchase of the variety of cleaning services that you offer.

8. Create A Marketing Plan

As well as spending money on equipment, it may be necessary to allocate a budget for marketing too. One of the struggles when starting a cleaning business (and in fact any service based business) is building up a client list.

When it comes to marketing a cleaning business some traditional advertising, such as classified listings and flyers could be the best place to start.

starting a cleaning business
An example of a flyer that could be created for door to door marketing. Obviously you need to add your contact details on the flyer!

It’s worth considering online advertising as well, such as pay-per-click, particularly if you are offering a niche service (and can therefore go for a specific search term, e.g. “Borehamwood Window Cleaning”).

Don’t be afraid to go out and knock on some doors too! Cleaning can be a personal business and prospective clients may be more likely to sign up if they see you and know who exactly they are doing business with.

9. Use Social Media

Almost everybody you know, will be on a social media site of some sort. It is a great platform for sharing your content as well as connecting with potential clients or maintaining relationships with existing clients.

Depending on what industry you are in, some social media sites work better than others, so here are a few that would be more useful for your cleaning business:

Facebook:

Facebook has the most users (over 2 billions) out of all the social media sites so having a Facebook Business page is worthwhile for a cleaning business to reach a wide audience of all ages.

You can also create Facebook as a way to set up a community for your clients who can post cleaning tips and hacks or share questions with each other about cleaning products.

Instagram:

Instagram is the most popular social media site at the moment. It is a visual marketing tool so it is useful for showing before and after cleaning process pictures. 

You can share short cleaning tip videos on Instagram stories, share pictures of your team with brief information sharing fun background information about them.

Twitter:

Twitter is another great way to interact with your clients and potentially new ones as your clients can promote you and your cleaning business through tweets. You can engage with your audience by hosting Twitter chats as well as create a community for your clients and interact with them in real time.

Whichever social media platform you use it is always a good idea to use one or two and use them well and post regularly so you are not overwhelmed trying to keep up to date with your posts and trying to run a cleaning business!

Also, try and get your clients to tag you and your business when they add posts to their own profiles-this is another way of promoting your cleaning business on their contacts list.

10. Develop A Strong Brand

Once your cleaning business gets started and builds momentum, it’s important to build a brand that you can be proud of.

You will want to keep gaining new customers via word of mouth and personal recommendations. You also want to be able to get existing happy clients to provide testimonials.

To build a brand identity for your cleaning business, it’s a good idea to have a logo designed and to have a simple uniform for you and your cleaning staff, which has clear branding on it.

starting a cleaning business

Try to create a USP that isn’t just about price; something that clearly defines your brand as a cleaning business that stands out from a heavily competitive industry.

11. Have A Contact Management System

Once you build up your client list, you may want to consider some form of customer relationship management (CRM) system to help you keep track of your client data and offer promotions to loyal clients.

A contact management system allows you to store key information about your clients. This is usually their contact details (name, address, telephone number and email address), communication, payments and interactions with customers.

All this is kept in one place. It can also keep a record of each activity; such as booked/ reschedules appointments, sales, invoices and any notes made by staff member.

starting a cleaning business

There is a misconception amongst many small business owners that a contact management system is only suitable for large businesses. They think that small businesses (especially a small cleaning business) do not require a contact management system, because they have a small database, which can easily be stored and managed on spreadsheets.

However, in order to build and scale your cleaning business, you do need to invest in a contact management system.

Summary:

Focus your early marketing efforts on friends and family members. Ask them to help share, advertise and promote your cleaning business.

They can be your best service ambassadors (especially if you can afford to clean some of their rooms for free, to show off to prospective clients!)

Good luck with starting your cleaning business. Happy Cleaning!

To try out and sign up for Grow in Cloud’s 30 day free trial, simply click here.

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starting a cleaning business

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spring clean your business

How To Spring Clean Your Business

Spring is finally here! It’s finally warming up and the daffodils are out! Before we head off to the long days of summer and those beach holidays, it’s time for a spring clean first! We don’t just mean your homes. It’s time to spring clean your business too!

Here are some helpful tips to help you clean up some important parts of your business, so that you’ll be set for fresh new growth (of leads and sales) in the coming months ahead!

1. Update Your Business Plan

spring clean your business

When you first had your business idea, you would have (hopefully!) created a business plan, detailing how your business would develop. This would also include carrying out market research to identify your ideal customers.

You would also have looked into operational factors, for example, where the business would be based. Plus where goods and services wold be bought from. You would also be looking at how much you expected to sell, at what rate and how much profit you estimated to make.

The start of a new year is a good time to review the business plan and see how relevant it still is and make updates where necessary.

Are you planning to take your business into a new market, selling products offline as well as online, selling to overseas customers or even bringing out a new products or services?

You might want to review whether there would be changes to your operations, such as moving from a base at home to an office or other workspace?  

If you are adding more products/services then does your brand name reflect this? It is always a good idea to choose a business name that can be used when your business expands.

All of these factors could affect what you need to include in your updated business plan so that it’s as helpful for you as possible.

You should also look back over your finances, to check your forecasts are still accurate. There could have been an extra cost you hadn’t planned for. Perhaps you have made more or fewer sales than you anticipated. If so, it is a good idea to update them in your business plan.

2. Check Your Website

spring clean your business

When did you last give your website a thorough once over? Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to fully review it. The best way to do this is to look at it from a client’s point of view.

Things to think about and do whilst reviewing the website:

-Does it reflect what you are offering clearly, especially when you offer packages?

-Are your keywords working for you? Use google searches and other relevant searches to help you with keywords that people enter.

-Are visitors converting into customers after visiting the landing page? If the conversion rate is low, try to change the content of landing page.

-Are there are any broken links to sites? If so, fix them by replacing them with other links.

-Does it still look as fresh as it did when you first designed it?

-Does the design need updating? More often than not, it usually does and it’s worth doing. Just like a house looks brand new with a fresh lick of paint, so would a website that’s had a makeover.

-Are your mailing lists still okay to use? More importantly, are you GDPR compliant? This applies to any business which has customers in EU, so that you have permission to email your clients the latest newsletter or marketing emails.

-Are you offering deals, incentives to your existing clients?

Can you automate any aspects of your marketing? There are plenty of tools out there that can help with sending out email sequences to your clients.

3. Cleanse Your Content

spring clean your business

Content (especially fresh content) is essential to help drive traffic to your website. Look at what you have already created and check whether it is still relevant or even fit for purpose.

It is also worth checking if you could repurpose your content in anyway. For example, could blog post be turned into an infographic?

Also, check that the statistics that you have used is still relevant. Could you include a more up to date statistic? Perhaps a study that states there are 54% users in 2017 is now 75% in 2019.

Don’t rest when it comes to creating new content. Being fresh and consistent is important. Get yourself a content calendar (easily download one from the internet) and plan ahead. Look at what your competitors are writing? Can you write something better? If so, get on with it! If you struggle with this or haven’t the time, then outsource this task to someone else. More about this topic below.

4. Spruce Up Your Social Media

spring clean your business

Social media is a great way to engage with existing network and customers. You can get useful exposure for your brand to gain more potential clients.

Make sure you edit and check your bio for each platform you use. Have you included your website? Is the address still accurate? Can people contact you easily using a “book me” button or “email me” link? Does your profile picture look professional? Can a new prospect tell straight away what you are about, just by looking at your bio?

It is important to note that your business doesn’t need to have presence on every single platform. For every post that proves popular on Facebook, there may be a dozen others on Instagram that are doing nothing for you.

Take time to evaluate your insights and metrics for each of your social media sites and see which ones are performing well and where you need to spend more time on.

Most platforms have useful analytics available for free, but you may choose to use cloud tools like SproutSocial or Hootsuite to look deeper into your metrics.

Once you have this information, you’ll be able to get rid of platforms that takes up so much of your time and doesn’t deliver any results for your business. You are then left with a core group of profiles to focus on. Spring is the perfect time to evaluate all these questions and make sure you’re in a strong place for the rest of the year.

Again, if you haven’t the time to constantly post fresh content or posts for your social media sites, then you can ask a friend or family member who is available to help you. Better still, employ a social media manager who will have all the right software and tools to manage this for you.

5. Deep Clean Your Books

spring clean your business

Your head is probably in taxes right now. If the whole process is proving to be a huge nightmare, you need to get your accounting more organized.

Poor bookkeeping is often down to poor organisation unfortunately. If you wait for months before updating your accounts (or stash your expense receipts in a shoebox) and only get round to processing them when doing your tax return, then perhaps you need to think of a more effective system.

If you hate spreadsheets, try looking at cloud accounting software instead and find a specific system that’s designed for your type of business.

Make sure that “doing the books” becomes a regular part of your weekly business routine. Grow in Cloud helps organise your transactions as well as chase up invoices, through the use of automated email reminders. You also have a of log expenses, which will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. The more automated your processes, the more likely things will stay in order.

6. Review Your Supplier List

spring clean your business

Look carefully through your suppliers list and see whether any of them are not performing as well they should be. For example, do you work with a courier company that is frequently late when making deliveries to your business?

Does your broadband provider fail to provide you with adequate coverage or service speed? Does your bank keep introducing new service charges or other fees? Has your energy supplier racked up their charges too? Just like you would with your bills at home, it’s always a good idea to check competitive suppliers to see if you can get better deals.

If you rely on replenishing items (paint, fabric, card…) can you get them cheaper elsewhere? If so, contact your current supplier (especially if you have a good relationship with them) and ask them if they can match the price. Am sure they wouldn’t want to lose your custom! Otherwise move on. You are running a business and need to look after your finances.

7. Limit The Use Of Paper

spring clean your business

Paperless is the way to go! A good place to start limiting your usage is with Grow in Cloud’s invoicing feature. Not only does its digital invoicing help you get paid faster, it helps the environment too! Once a service is booked, then the business owner can send off the invoice straight away and use automated email reminders to chase up payments, if necessary.

For both the customer and the business, a paper receipt is proof of purchase. That said, paper receipts are an expensive way for businesses to manage. They offer less and less value for customers who prefer the convenience of the cloud over their pockets/wallets.

No one seems to want paper receipts and few people really need them, yet they are still produced. According to Huffington Post, over 250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees and 1 billion gallons of water are consumed each year in the creation of receipts for the United States alone, generating £1.5 billion of waste. Here in the UK, more than 11 billion receipts are printed each year, each costing just under a cent to print. All of this creates a costly problem for retailers, consumers, and above all else, our environment.

It’s not just receipts where paper is wasted. When it comes to booking and scheduling appointments, paper is wasted here too. Some businesses still use paper calendars to book and schedule appointments. Then once appointments are booked, cards are given to clients/patients with their appointment written down for them. These can get lost or thrown away once appointments are completed.

With Grow in Cloud’s appointment scheduling feature, businesses can send out appointments to clients via SMS/Email or both. Automated appointment reminders can be sent too, which businesses can customise.  

spring clean your business

In a recent poll on our Facebook page, 80% of followers prefer to book appointments online. The feature also allows clients/customers to book appointments online when it is more convenient to them. This can be done via a free client site/website widget that can be embedded into your current website or through your Facebook business page.

spring clean your business

8. Organise your Outsourcing

spring clean your business

Of course, spring cleaning may not be your strong suit and you may not feel confident doing all this yourself. This would be the time to outsource to experts (or sticking with the spring cleaning analogy, it could be time to hire professional cleaners!). 

There are specialist agencies that focus on digital marketing, so outsourcing some or all of your marketing to them will then allow you to focus your time on other areas of your business. 

There are also Virtual Assistants (VAs) that can be employed to carry out these tasks too as well as a whole host of tasks for you. This infographic explains tasks they could carry out. Many specialise in particular areas, such as book keeping, social media or content writing.

By bringing in an expert to review to support you for the rest of the year is often a lot easier than tackling the whole project yourself!

9. Do Some Actual Cleaning!

It wouldn’t be spring cleaning without actually putting on your marigolds and having a good scrub down and tidy up of your work space.

If you work in an office, then this could be turned into a social event where you bring in drinks and nibbles for the team. Everyone then pitches in together, to give the place a good thorough tidy up and clean.

Summary

We hope these tips help you in making your business a continued success this year. When things run efficiently, it means more time for you to focus on growing your business. Happy Cleaning!

To start your free 30 day trial of Grow in Cloud, please sign up here.

For more tips and advice on how to run and grow your business, sign up below for our weekly blog posts.

Some Other Business Related Blog Posts:

10 Ways To Grow Your Business in 2019

Why Having An Online Scheduling Tool Can Save Hours On Admin!

Online Invoicing-Is It Really A Cost Effective Move?

Why Businesses Should Blog

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SaaS

Grow in Cloud Considered CRM Software Rising Star By Leading SaaS Review Platform

Most business look in a software directory when they have to make a choice of which software. However, not every review on software directories offer reliable and genuine reviews written by real users.

FinancesOnline is a market leader software directory and is trusted by business of all sizes when they are looking to buy a solution. It is visited by 2.2 million people every month to find a suitable software solution to address their business needs and overcome the challenges faced by them.

FinancesOnline teams conducts research and vetting on solution before putting in on the directory. It uses its unique Smart Score System to analyze key elements of a software, such as the Grow in Cloud pricing packages, core functionality and collaboration tools. Furthermore, it also utilizes its Customer Satisfaction Algorithm to show the general perception of users towards the brand. The algorithm considers various factors such as comments, feedback, social, and user reviews. We are pleased to share
they has given us 100 % user satisfaction.

It also has various award categories to determine which CRM and sales force automation solutions stand out from the rest, by offering something exceptional, be it user experience, support, best choice for industry segment. We are humbled to have been given 2 prestigious awards for:

“Rising Star 2018”

“Greater user experience award”

It acknowledges Grow In Cloud as a cloud-based ‘comprehensive swiss knife’ business management software that comes with all the essential tools and capabilities small businesses and budding start-ups need to manage their operations, attract and grow their client base, and drive their revenues.

Recognized by FinancesOnline as a suitable alternative when you need to replace your CRM, their experts have given us a score of 8 and shared some examples of how it can help service-based business to grow sales, reduce no show ups and increase productivity.

The full detailed review can be found on the FinancesOnline website. Those who have used Grow in Cloud for themselves can also contribute to the discussion by posting their own user review.

To check out Grow in Cloud and start a free 30 day trial, click here.

Contact Management Software

Why Your Small Business Needs A Contact Management Software

There is a misconception amongst many small business owners that a contact management software is only suitable for large businesses. They think that small businesses do not require a contact management software, because they have a small database which can easily be stored and managed on spreadsheets. However, in order to build and scale a business, you do need some sort of a contact management system.

Before we define a contact management software and what benefits it can bring to the businesses, it is best to share with you our findings. After speaking to a lot of small businesses, we have discovered their understanding of a contact management software is not clear. They believe a contact management software and CRM (customer relationship management) software are the same.

They are under the misconception that they don’t need to use one at this stage and will buy it, when they scale up at later stage. This can not be further from the truth. To build any business successfully, you need a contact management system. A small business is in most need to invest in a contact management system. You would be aware as a small business owner of the statistics of failing businesses.

Over 95% of small businesses fail in the first 12 months and 50% won’t survive past the first 5 years. By having a contact management software, it can help you with growing your business and remaining profitable.

Contact Management Software vs CRM

Before we delve any further into how a contact management software can help any small business grow, it is important to define a contact management software and what the difference is between a contact management software and a CRM.

Contact Management Software

Contact Management Software

A contact management system allows you to store key information about your clients. This is usually their contact details (name, address, telephone number and email address), communication, payments and interactions with customers. All this is kept in one place. It can also keep a record of each activity; such as booked/ reschedules appointments, sales, invoices and any notes made by staff member.

A contact management system streamlines the entire business process. It makes it easier for you to interact with customers, understanding their buying behaviour and update records when required. Some features of a contact management software are:

  • Centralised information in one place
  • Scheduling
  • Leads/Sales
  • Notes/Follow up templates
  • Document Management
  • Invoices/Payments
  • Conversation history
  • Email marketing

What is a CRM?

A CRM (customer relationship management) is a more sophisticated detailed system, which is designed to handle more complex and long sales cycles. In particularly, for medium and enterprise customers. It performs all tasks of a contact management software, but also has advanced sales and marketing functions. Having a CRM makes it easier to nurture leads, track interaction with clients and foster a rapport with customers. These CRM softwares are all about managing sales funnels, sales cycles and relationships. They are not just about storing basic information and client communications.

It manages the entire processes of sales cycle, such as changing status of the leads, keeping record of scheduled meetings, arranged demo, follow up messages and feedback given by the customer. A CRM plays an important part in running the sales and lead generation smoothly.

Benefits Of A Contact Management System

Now that you know the importance of a contact management system and if you are serious about growing your business, you must invest in a contact management software to meet your goals.

You can use Grow in Cloud which has been specifically designed for small service-based businesses. There are many benefits for using a contact management system, some are given below:

1) Better understanding of your customers

As all information about customers is stored centrally in one location. It makes It easier to stay connected with customer. It also gives you better understanding of the customers and their interaction with your business. You can keep track of customer interaction with you such as meetings, contact request, messages and all the touch points before they decide to buy a product. You can also see their preferred method of contact/communication.

For instance, if a customer is always communicating via email. You can communicate with him by email method rather than making a phone call and not getting hold of them.

2) Improved customer satisfaction

We all know it takes hard work to gain a customer and you can lose him in a second. It is much better for business to keep existing customers happy. Nearly 33% of American customers say they will switch companies after a single bad customer service experience. Customer’s expect to get better customer service and feel valued.

Contact management software enables businesses to provide enhanced customer service. Because all information about customer is stored in one place, a staff member can have a look at the communication with the client before contacting him. It will help you increase customer satisfaction as you will have access to customers full communication log with the business.

For example, a customer calls to make an enquiry regarding an order he has placed, you can log into the contact management software to pull up his details. You will have access to his full records such as:

  • When the order was placed
  • Who took the payments
  • How many times customer has called prior to this

It will relieve the need to ask customer endless question to understand the nature of the call. This will enhance the customer service experience as the customer interaction with business will be pleasant and increase customer satisfaction.

3) Offer personalised customer service

Because all the information is centrally stored, it makes it easier for your staff member to prepare himself before making a sales call. For instance, you can have a look at customer profile and records to examine previous communication with him.

You can look for what is the best time to call him, what sort of questions does he ask and how much is he willing to spend at a time. This will enable him to provide tailored customer service and be better prepared to take control of the call and be ready to handle any objections the customer raises. The customer will feel valued as you would come across knowing what customers concerns are and how the solution you are selling will help him overcome the problem. He will be warmer towards you and the likelihood of closing sales would increase.

4) Increased productivity

Another benefit of using contact management software is increased productivity. It streamlines and automates many processes such as scheduling appointments, auto filling forms and sending customised follow up messages.

This gives you free time which is normally spend on performing these less productive tedious tasks. Your team doesn’t need to worry about calling clients to remind about meetings and send follow up messages. The time can be spent with prospects and customers which brings more value to the business.

5) Upselling/Cross selling

It is easier to sell to existing customer than to a new one. This is because they have developed trust with you and are more likely to buy to something you offer due to their previous pleasant experience with your business. Contact management system can make it easier for you to upsell/cross sell to existing customers.

For example, your customer’s purchase order shows he takes book keeping services from your business. You can contact him to upsell VAT submission service as an upsell. The chances are he will buy the service, it will make more sense to have one person managing his financial affairs.

6) Reduced expenditure

With so many processes and procedures automated, you don’t need many employees. The money that you would normally spend on assistant or support staff can be eliminated and free up your time which would be spent in managing employees.

You also don’t need to invest in multiple software for running the business. All major information can be stored centrally and tasks can be performed from one system saving you money. It also reduced the expenditure securing and closing leads by making it easier for you to communicate with the leads/customers and close them in shorter period of time.

7) Better team collaboration and customer support

Contact management software makes it easier for you to share information across teams and better collaboration. Team members from every department can view entire customer history and updated information.

They can easily collaborate internally with staff members. For instance, if a sales team member has closed the sales and needs finance to chase for payment, he can add a note to chase payment and assign the task to finance individual.

Customer support also becomes efficient and raised queries can be resolved in rapidly in an efficient manner. The customer support staff can see client’s entire history such as appointments, orders and purchases etc and makes it easier to resolve customer query based on the information available to them.

8) Better targeting

Contact management system can also help you with marketing your business. You can perform different search queries based on demographics such as industry, gender, location, business type and business size and produce a list for designated marketing campaign.

You can also do a email marketing campaign from the software or if you use a specialist marketing automation software such as mail chimp, you can export the contact list in form of a CSV file. Devising a targeting list for marketing has never been easier, you can perform a highly targeted list in a few minutes.

9) Better insights and analytics

Grow in cloud contact management software is more than just storing customers details in a software. It also enables you to produce different reports to analyse the data available to make better informed business decision which will help in growing business and revenue.

For instance, you can produce sales reports for any giving period to analyse the sale of products/services. This feature can help you tremendously with marketing campaigns.

It can be used to analyse which months has the highest sales, which demographic of customers is making more purchases and if there is any seasonal fluctuation. Reports feature can be used to collate information which can be used in devising business strategy.

10) More profits

By simply cutting time consuming manual tasks such as data entry, it will free up more time for business. Your sales team can spend this time to close sales and not worry about where the customer’s and leads data will be held.

A contact management software automatically organises data in a clear field and your team does not need to worry about administrative task. As your business grows, having automated processes in place will help in retaining more customers. This will help in providing excellent customer service and making up-sells and cross-sells by understanding the client’s need better. The business will increase profits by freeing up more time for staff to bring in new customers and serve existing customers better.

A contact management system will benefit any size of business. It helps business to keep better relationship with their existing clients and is a pre-requisite for any business looking to scale up with using limited resource effectively.

Grow in Cloud can be good fit for any small business. It can streamline and automate most work processes and give more time to the business which they can spend in business development and providing better service. It also enables business to run targeted campaigns which can provide better ROI (Return on Investment) in a short span on time.

Some Business Related Blog Posts:

14 Productivity Tools To Help Small Businesses

Discover An Easier Way To Manage Your Entire Business

Why Businesses Should Blog

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