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A series of interviews with ordinary people making extra cash a reality…

This month, Peter Davies tells us about his carpet cleaning business

So, Peter, how does it all work?

‘I go into people’s homes and clean their carpets.  I started a few years ago after helping out a friend by cleaning his carpets before he moved into his new house.  He was so pleased with the job that he gave me £50.  Not bad for a favour!  I hired a cleaner at first and just charged a bit extra to cover the cost.  I’d hire one for the weekend and clean the carpets in one house on Saturday morning and another on Saturday afternoon.  I’d do the same on Sunday and return the machine on Monday.  I didn’t have much spare time back then, but I quickly made enough money to buy my own carpet cleaner.  I now go out to work part time and clean carpets the rest of the time.’

How easy is it to do?

‘The job itself is dead easy.  Anyone can do it, but people like to pay for the convenience of someone else doing the work.  I had a bit of hassle getting the right insurance at first, but that’s all sorted now.’

What sort of profit do you make?

‘I charge £185 to clean the carpets in a three-bed semi.  I charge more for bigger houses and less for smaller ones.  My costs have to come out of that, of course, but I try to keep those to a minimum.  I usually clean two houses a day, although I could do three if they were small and I really put my mind to it!  Maybe if I expand and take on staff I could make a bit more, but I’m quite happy as I am for now.’

What are the advantages of earning money in this way?

‘I get to make some decent money for doing a pretty low skilled job and I get to meet some lovely people in the process.  I also meet some not so nice ones mind you, but that’s life!  I love being my own boss while still having the security of a wage from my part time job’.

What are the pitfalls to earning money this way?

‘I used to worry that something would go wrong.  I had visions of wool carpets shrinking or getting stained by the chemicals I use!  Luckily, that has never happened to me as I’m really careful to do a test patch first.  Although I’m covered by liability insurance I would not want to be responsible for putting someone through that and having to have their carpets replaced because of my mistake.  Also, although I’ve usually got enough work to keep me going, I go through quiet periods too.  That’s when I print off more of my flyers and put them through the letterboxes of houses in new areas.  It’s a bit more work, but usually pays off.’

So what are your tips for someone who wants to run a carpet cleaning business?

‘Check out the prices in your area.  As a newcomer, you’ll probably have to undercut others to start with but you’ll soon get customers who call you back time and time again.