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I am a self employed cleaner can I ask a few questions please?

(41 Posts)
pieinthesky123 Wed 26-Nov-14 10:17:31

I was made redundant almost two years ago not entitled to any benefits, couldn't find any job locally immediately and in desperation set up as a cleaner. I am declaring my income so not cash in hand and I am fully insured and crb checked etc and have excellent references.

I charge 9.50 per hour I work 52 weeks a year and I haven't missed a day for any reason on my part. My clients are mainly elderly and will often ring me 15 minutes before I am due to start work for them with a small shopping list. I always do this they pay me for the shopping but I never get reimbursed for my time or petrol etc. I am asked to pop parcels to the post office on my way home etc as it's two streets from where I live, or drop a prescription off at the pharmacy etc. I am naturally someone who is a helper where I can be but I feel used.

My clients all have adult children who live away from their parents and they rely on me as I am working for their parents weekly so they know someone is popping in regularly.

My problem is that I don't have a contract with my clients so if they book me for three hours of cleaning and then their daughter decides to pop over for the weekend my services are dispensed with as the daughter will do the work. I am told to have the week off but I don't get paid. There was a poor reaction when I mentioned having a few days off over Xmas but I haven't had a day off this year.

This week alone I have had my hours cancelled drastically due to family visiting and me not being needed. I can't afford to carry on.

Basically if you have a cleaner already what are your terms if you cancel them yourself say for instance your ill. If your parents have a cleaner and say you popped over to visit, did the cleaning and cancelled the cleaner what would the terms be then? Sometimes they leave the arrangements for the following week so loose as they are not sure how many hours of cleaning they need the following week so say they will ring me nearer the time If they need me. If I don't work, they don't pay me even if they cancel as I am leaving the house or even as I arrive at their house as they forgot to ring me to cancel. Two ladies I cleaned for who worked for the same company were made redundant but had notice themselves of this, but cancelled my services on the day I arrived so I lost two customers in a week without warning. One customer has no cleaning products in and in desperation I occasionally bring my own and don't charge for this. One lady has a naff hoover and I end up bringing my own and again don't charge, but clearly I should so what is reasonable?

I clearly know that I can't carry on like this and need to set out clear terms and conditions and possibly sort out a contract. What would you think is reasonable in terms of pay and conditions? What arrangements do you have with your cleaner, or perhaps a cleaner working for your elderly parents, or are you a cleaner yourself and what do you do? What is fair to ask and pay for? I am looking around for any other jobs in my local area but they offer 6.91 an hour and that's administration work in our local council offices. I am not entitled to any benefits if I closed down the business as I am self employed and my dh works but this job isn't giving me a regular living wage either.

Sorry for the epic long post and thanks if you made it to the end!! I want to work I need to work but it's so.difficult.

TheWordFactory Wed 26-Nov-14 10:32:23

Hi there. I have a housekeeper.
We don't have a contract because she prefers to be flexible.

However, I certainly don't cancel her because we've done the cleaning or whatever. And when we go on holiday, I let her know well in advance so hat she can budget accordingly.

lem73 Wed 26-Nov-14 10:42:52

That's terrible. They are taking advantage of you. Can I suggest next time someone tries to cancel tell them that if they do so you will not be able to come back as you have someone else who needs that 'slot' so you will go to them. Tell them there's lots of demand for your services so they need to agree on a regular arrangement. If you kept cancelling on them you can be sure they'd find someone else. You sound like a hard working and reliable person and you deserve respect and consideration. Perhaps you need to 'rebrand' yourself slightly. Instead of being Mrs pie the cleaner you could be Pies Cleaning Services. People are less likely to mess around a proper business than an individual

nobutreally Wed 26-Nov-14 10:43:20

I use a cleaner. We don't actually have a contract, but I would expect to be commited to using and paying for her every week except during our holidays - agreed in advance. I would not ever ask her to do any extra, but I can easily imagine that for your elderly clients that is a huge benefit! I am also SE, so understand the balance between wanting to charge, and wanting to keep clients ... and how difficult it can be to ask for money when people assume you're doing something for free!

I think you sound like a wonderful cleaner, and a huge help to these people, but you need to make it work for you. You need to decide what feels fair, and what you are happy to do. For example:
- for me, I'd want at least 2 weeks notice if you're not cleaning - so any cancellations after 2 weeks still need to be paid for. Or - perhaps more usefully - you could say if ppl don't want you that week as family have done the main clean, you come in and do a deep clean - clear out cupboards/fridge for eg.
- 4 weeks notice of termination of contract
- If you are picking up a few bits of shopping regularly, I think you should be charging for your time - you could offer a lower rate to your cleaning rate, if appropriate. This time charge would cover any travel time too. or, you do i, but the time taken comes out of your cleaning time, iykwim.
- I'd probably suck up the parcel one - not such a big drain I'm guessing

I'd suggest you sit down with your clients - maybe in the NY - and say you are organising things to be more professional, and these are your terms. Get something signed. But the tough bit is YOU sticking to it! So when you get an text asking you to pick up x & y, text back to confirm the additional charge for this. If you get a last minute cancellation, remind them tht you'll either have to charge, or come in and do a different clean type.

How does that sound to you?

glentherednosedbattleostrich Wed 26-Nov-14 10:43:55

If I cancel I still pay but if she cancels I don't. We have a 2 week notice period. My cleaner provides cleaning products and equipment and any additional services (extra hours, little errands) are all charged for.

When I paid for my grandmas cleaner I paid for an extra 2 hours per month on the understanding that sometimes she'd bob for shopping, post office, chemist etc but didn't always use it or occasionally used more time, but made sure it balanced out if you see what I mean. In practice, over the 2 years, think we used about an extra hour per month, but as I explained we were paying for the reassurance more than the service!

Your clients are taking advantage I'm afraid. Time to advertise elsewhere, I'm sure there are lots of people looking for good reliable help.

SheEvelyn Wed 26-Nov-14 12:07:19

I have a self employed cleaner who we have had for several years and want to keep her for several more !
We have a fixed 3 hours per week. I am flexible if she wants to occasionally change the day for some reason and she tries to be if we do. We don't have a contract it works on trust but she was a personal recommendation from a neighbour and it has worked well. Perhaps we are just lucky.

We pay for each week including holidays and during holidays she will come in and do some deep cleaning if the house is already clean and tidy. If I have done cleaning during the week and something doesn't need doing , she will do something which isn't a normal weekly task . If she cancels then we don't pay.

I try to get in cleaning materials but if I forget then she will sometimes get them and I reimburse her. If your clients are not doing this then perhaps you could suggest you stock up the cleaning cupboard once with agreed things and they reimburse you. You can then keep it stocked up but again , they reimburse you.

I would say that contract or not you need to have agreed hours per week so that you can budget and know your income. I don't know what you do week to week but if they are away or family does the cleaning you do some extra deep cleaning types of jobs.

I would say that if they pay you during holidays perhaps (and not sure how onerous these tasks are then maybe the odd shopping list , parcel etc is their bonus for giving you a reliable and sustainable job.
The only reasons I can see someone not agreeing to this are
1. If 9.50 is expensive for your area so they feel entitled to the shopping , etc
2. They are actually taking the piss and this is why you are full 52 weeks a year (i.e. no-one else mug enough to do it smile

I don't think from the sound of it you are being treated fairly - the trick is (as pp said ) the balance with fair payment / keeping clients.
Could you start off being firm with one (preferably one who will not be talking to another client ) and then extend to the others. That way if they take umbrage you have not lost all your clients at once.

Bit of an essay - but hope that helps.

WonderIfThingsWillChange Wed 26-Nov-14 12:50:20

We don't have a contract as such but if our cleaner wants a week or 2 off (probably takes 6-8 weeks off a year that's absolutely fine and we don't pay those weeks. If for some reason we need to cancel a week then we pay her for that week.

StrangeGlue Wed 26-Nov-14 12:58:55

Well they're taking the mick but don't realise because you haven't said. With my cleaner if I cancel I still pay, if she cancels I don't. I also pay her for three holiday sessions a year.

I think you need to say that if they cancel without x amount of notice they still pay and stop doing the extras. If you want to do the extras they need to pay you especially for shopping! In the latter circumstance is say 'yes but I charge £x per half hour to cover my time and petrol' and go from there.

This will be an uncomfortable conversation as you'll be renegotiating the relationships and you might lose done clients as they only want someone who'll also do the extras for free but you need to do it to be viable.

GreatJoanUmber Wed 26-Nov-14 13:08:30

We used to have a self employed cleaner, without contract. We got on well though and would give each other plenty of notice. That said, we only cancelled if either her or me were going on holiday. I don't think this "Oh my daughter has turned up so I won't need you this week" is acceptable, neither the unpaid shopping trips.
I would either have a frank talk with your customers, or draw up a contract.
You sound lovely though and I wish you lived near me! My cleaner quit in June as she found full time employment, and I've desperately been trying to find a cleaner since... Only just now found a company who will take us on (I've been on their waiting list for months!), and they charge £15/hr confused

pileoflaundry Wed 26-Nov-14 13:16:38

You are not being treated fairly. It is unreasonable for you to not be able to have holidays etc.

I have had an excellent cleaner for years. She works 3 hours per week, on the same day each week.

- She gives plenty of notice for her holidays, has 4-8 weeks per year off, including at least 2 weeks over Christmas
- I've never cancelled when I've been on holiday, just let her know when I'll be off so that she can come on a different day if it's easier for her, or make other plans if she wants the time off instead
- I would never expect her to do extra work, e.g. go to the post office, without paying for her time
- I have occasionally asked her not to come if it wasn't convenient for me. Usually we have arranged a different day or time for that week, but if it wasn't possible, I've still paid her for the 3 hours.

So like other posters: if I cancel I pay. The 2 weeks' notice for cancellation suggested by others sounds fair. You could try 1 week, for existing customers, if you are worried about loosing them. It should still be enough to snap people out of the habit of cancelling at the last moment.

atticusclaw Wed 26-Nov-14 15:56:58

I don't actually have to pay if I cancel but I never cancel. Even when we're on holiday I have the cleaner come in (albeit on reduced hours) and she does things she doesn't ordinarily get the time to do. I always give at least a month's notice though.

I would always expect to pay though if I asked for anything extra such as running errands. I'd expect to pay the same hourly rate for the time spent.

Madamecastafiore Wed 26-Nov-14 15:59:18

Do you pay tax?

Preciousbane Wed 26-Nov-14 16:10:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sunflower49 Wed 26-Nov-14 16:18:36

I agree you are being treated unfairly but perhaps your clients don't actually realise it. If you say you're a naturally 'happy to help' person perhaps they're (wrongly I agree!)assuming that the extra errands are no trouble. The elderly ones if they're lonely perhaps see you as a helpful friend.

I think sheevelyn has good ideas and I hope this helps you, I agree you can't carry on like this, it isn't fair, especially the not being given notice.
Choose a notice period for cancellation that suits you and if they cancel following that, you either do a different job for them (perhaps even incorporating errands if you're okay to do them), or you are still paid the previously agreed amount but you don't work that day/week.

I don't have a cleaner at the moment, but I did employ one last year. It was a VERY casual on/off arrangement rather than a weekly or fortnightly one but despite that, I wouldn't dream of cancelling without paying. I did cancel twice, due to work and unexpected life happenings, but I still paid her one of those times. The other time I gave her 3 weeks' notice which we had pre-arranged was long enough for her to find other work or budget accordingly.

It just isn't right to mess people around, regardless of the actual money, you could have fixed other work for that day, you could have made other plans.

nowahousewife Wed 26-Nov-14 16:21:10

We have a cleaner 6 hours per week. We are in Zone 3 and she is paid £9 per hour - I don't know if she pays tax, I just put it straight into her bank account. Occasionally I ask her to come on a Saturday to make sure the house is spotless if we are entertaining and I pay her £15 per hour as it's the weekend and she has a family.

I rarely cancel but occasionally ask her to swap days if she can. When we go on holiday she still comes and does deep cleaning stuff and also makes sure the beds are made up with nice clean sheets for when we get back.

I buy all the cleaning stuff and get her whatever products she asks for. She has a son the same age as mine and sometimes I give her things my boy has grown out of. We always give her vouchers at Christmas.

We think we treat her well and she seems happy - I think she's brilliant which is why I look after her.

We don't have a formal contract.

Hope that helps.

One last thing, if my teenagers do not tidy their rooms before she comes I tell her not to go in them (and then give teenagers a bollocking for being disrespectful!)

MaryWestmacott Wed 26-Nov-14 16:23:07

Madam - OP says she declares her income in the 2nd sentance.

OP - you need a contract with them. You will work for the set hours, if they need to you run additional errands, the time will be charged additional with 15 minute intervals. (or 30 minutes if that's easier).

Put that you need 48 hours notice of cancelling cleaning or you will charge even if you don't go.

You will take up to 4 weeks off a year holiday, these will be notified 2 weeks in advance at least.

You won't charge if you are sick.

(I used to have a cleaner, but through an agency,so if my cleaner couldn't come, they'd send a replacement, and I needed to give 48 hour notice to cancel or pay anyway)

Momzilla82 Wed 26-Nov-14 16:29:21

I have a lovely cleaner, £10 an hour. No contract. She tells me on the odd occasion she is taking holiday several weeks in advance. I do the same if I don't need her one week, she usually slots someone else in or finishes early. I always give her an extra weeks pay at christmas and a gift. She is the oil which keeps our wheel turning. We would be lost without her.

You need to be a bit more business like IMHO, but probably wouldn't go down well with your elderly clients children, who currently are getting an easy way out.

pieinthesky123 Wed 26-Nov-14 20:58:53

Thank you all for your helpful advice and suggestions and for sharing your own arrangements.

I clearly need to be more organised and professional in my approach. I need to explain to my customers how I need a wage I can rely on and budget with, whilst being fair and reasonable with them. If I get this right I don't even expect holiday pay. If I loose customers then new ones start with my new terms.

I will propose a cancellation fee if they cancel within 48 hours without offering an alternative date to clean. If I cancel then I will give as much notice as possible, offering to come another day that week, if that doesn't work for them then it's fair enough to not get paid as I cancelled. From what you all say, you all work with your cleaner and it's give and take and you share mutual respect and appreciation, which is all I want.

My customers are elderly and I understand that popping to the shop etc is a bigger deal for them than for me. I am not heartless and I don't want to loose customers either. I just want to be respected and fairly treated in return I suppose. I might offer an errand run for a small monthly fee so I don't loose out and don't feel like I let them down especially in the winter months. I shall be elderly one day hopefully and I will need help too.

I really appreciate your feedback as I started this 'business' venture quickly and in desperation. In hindsight I should have researched this better but needs must. I thought it would be straight forward but it is a learning curve.

I think you all sound like fantastic people to work for and clearly look after your cleaners. I am sure that you are appreciated!! Thanks again for all your helpful replies, advice and suggestions I now feel more positive to tackle this now I know what is reasonable. Thanks!!

skyeskyeskye Wed 26-Nov-14 21:21:22

Sadly, if you are self employed, then the downside of not working, is not getting paid. You don't get holiday pay or sick pay. and your clients can cancel you because you are not employed, therefore you are not guaranteed the work. A self employed person is expected to use their own equipment and tools. That is all per the HMRC..... but in reality, cleaners rarely provide their own materials or tools and from all the responses received from people who have cleaners, it looks like most people generally stick to agreed hours.

However, I totally understand your situation. I think that as a business, you need to have a contract with your clients, detailing how many hours a week you will do for them and that if they cancel without XX days of notice, then they still need to pay you.

I am self employed myself and often have to rearrange work for myself or for my clients, but if I don't work, I don't get paid. I do have a minimum charge, so my client who needs me for half an hour once every three months, still pays for an hour of my time.

Cleaners round here (South West) charge a minimum of £10 an hour and for a minimum of 2 hours work. None of them provide their own materials or equipment. One charges mileage for errands, another charges per hour for errands.

My gran's cleaner often does stuff for her and gran gives her money towards her petrol.

I think that you need to put things on a more business like footing and see how it goes. A business name looks more professional too. But you do need to look at the downside of self employment, which is no guaranteed income, and decide whether it is really right for you or not.

If you want to remain self employed, can you add other services to your cleaning? gardening, dog walking, baby sitting, admin help?

As an accountant/bookkeeper I deal with a lot of people starting up in business, so if you want any advice on building up the business, just PM me (no charge grin)

pieinthesky123 Wed 26-Nov-14 22:27:17

Thank you skye for your advice and for your very kind offer.

My current accountant checks my books and electronically submits my tax return and there is no advice on business start up etc as you can tell.

I would be happy to pay for your time and professional advice, it would be an investment. Once I get this next step out of the way and I have a clearer picture of my situation I will pm you. Thanks once again.

skyeskyeskye Wed 26-Nov-14 22:52:39

Happy to give you some free advice, just PM me whenever, not touting for work grin

Swerving Thu 04-Dec-14 23:08:57

Am I right in thinking that self-employed Class 2 National Insurance Contributions entitle you to some kind of govt support as well as towards your pension? currently I pay £74.25 per quarter but never had to claim.

Pico2 Thu 04-Dec-14 23:22:59

We pay our cleaner by standing order. When we are on holiday we get extra bits done in the time - interior windows, carpet cleaning. Our cleaner takes about 3 weeks holiday and I just pay those as they are often around Christmas.

The benefit of a regular direct payment is that it discourages cancellations.

Our cleaner brings all the cleaning stuff.

Your clients are taking the piss. Do they think you are well off and don't really need the work? My grandparents are a bit delusional about their cleaner and carers and think they do it for the love of seeing them.

FanSpamTastic Thu 04-Dec-14 23:35:02

We have a cleaner. She provides all cleaning materials, we provide mop, Hoover etc. Her rate is £12 per hour and she does 6 hours every other week. If she does not want to do one week eg due to vacation then we do not pay, but if she wants to change times around that is fine by us. We have not ever cancelled on her, but if we did I would expect to pay. I have never asked her to do extra jobs but if I did I would expect to pay an additional rate.

ovaltine Thu 04-Dec-14 23:39:14

You need a contract. Local cleaning companies charge an extra pound or 2 an hour for using own products/equipment otherwise customers do need to make sure they provide everything.

Contracts tend to have a notice period, cancelation period (at least 24hrs or still charged). You can adapt contracts from online templates

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