Money Matters

Should you start a boring business in 2024?

Get the lowdown on boring businesses and whether you should consider running one if you want to start your own business.

When it comes to starting a business in 2024, a boring business may well be the new exciting.

It may be a viable alternative to the glitz and glam of an attention-grabbing startup.

While this type of business is unlikely to give you goosebumps, its relatively low risk and potentially high returns could see you laughing all the way to the bank.

With people hyper-focused on hip and trendy startups in search of the ‘next big thing’, a business of the boring variety presents a unique opportunity to steadily grow a lucrative income stream.

If you’re interested in the profits a business can rake in rather than its popularity on social media (or lack thereof), then you’re in the right place.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

What is a boring business?

There’s no universal definition.

However, Antoinette Daniel, the founder and CEO of Just Helpers, an ethical cleaning business based in London, offers this suggestion.

“When we term businesses ‘boring’, we’re talking about businesses doing things that have to be done to maintain the wheels of society,” she says.

So, while we use the term boring, ‘essential’ is perhaps more fitting.

After all, these businesses provide goods and services that play a critical role in the everyday functioning of our communities, such as refuse collection, commercial cleaning and pest control.

Boring businesses vary in terms of their product and service offerings, but here are their main features:

They’re recession-proof

People will always need what these businesses have to offer even in uncertain financial times or, worse still, in the midst of an economic downturn.

Therefore, they’re typically recession-proof.

There’s weak competition

They are often earmarked by slow, tedious processes from a bygone era.

You can instantly get head and shoulders above the competition just by introducing some modern tech and updating business systems and processes.

Think customer service software, billing software and so on.

They have a basic business model

These businesses don’t have any bells and whistles.

They adhere to simple business principles including adding value to a product or service and persuading customers to buy them.

Minimal innovation is required

‘Adding value’ to a product or service means that, while these businesses are stable, they can still benefit from the introduction of robust business systems, processes and tech advancements.

Why are boring businesses gaining popularity?

This sector is booming for two reasons.

Firstly, the pandemic resulted in more risk-averse decision-making in business. Would-be business owners are now scouting out ‘safer’ business avenues, which are more likely to generate healthy returns irrespective of unforeseen financial headwinds.

Secondly, social media influencers, such as Codie Sanchez, make a living extolling the virtues of accelerating wealth creation by purchasing boring businesses.

She claims to own more than 20, which have reportedly generated £39.5m in revenue.

In her weekly newsletter, which puts the spotlight on these businesses (and is said to have 250,000 readers), Codie maps out a low-risk path to financial freedom that some people may find increasingly attractive.

What types of boring businesses are there?

The list of businesses out there is as long as your arm. (Codie lists more than 130.)

From plumbing to pest control, there’s a business for everyone.

Some of the more popular (and profitable) businesses include:

Residential and commercial cleaning services

An oldie but a goodie, residential and commercial property cleaning is one of the go-to services for people looking to start a business.

Cleaning services can be scaled, they have few overheads and usually attract repeat customers.

Landscaping and lawn care services

Like cleaning, landscaping is another tried-and-tested business. (Apparently, it was Adam’s first job in the Garden of Eden.)

Tending to lawns and gardens has a couple of other things in common with cleaning: it thrives on repeat business and can be offered to homeowners and business owners alike.

Cash-only services

A big favourite of Codie Sanchez, cash-only services include ATMs, vending machines, car washes and launderette facilities.

Cash-only services eliminate electronic payments, which can lower your profits.

Plumbing services

With opportunities to service residential and commercial customers – and attend those inevitable (not to mention expensive) emergency call-outs – plumbers and plumbing business owners have huge potential for recurring revenue.

Today, there are also opportunities to specialise in the eco-friendly plumbing market.

Window cleaning services

If you’re not afraid of heights and you don’t mind your customer occasionally saying, “you missed a bit,” a conventional ladder-and-bucket window cleaning business may be right up your street.

But if you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, the emergence of the water-fed pole means there’s also the option of ladder-less window cleaning.

How to decide what type of business to start

On the one hand, the laundry list of businesses on offer means you’re spoilt for choice.

On the other hand, this can make it more challenging to land on one that fits the bill.

Here are five factors to bear in mind when considering which business to start.

1. Passion

Conventional business wisdom says that, when contemplating which business to start, you should look to your passion – something that excites you to get up in the morning.

However, while your business of choice doesn’t have to get your pulse racing, you do need to be sufficiently interested to make it work.

This will motivate you through the inevitable challenges and lows involved in running a business.

2. Budget

This varies in terms of startup and running costs.

For instance, starting and maintaining a residential cleaning business will be cheaper than, say, a vending machine business.

So, it’s important to research the upfront costs involved and calculate what’s in your kitty before embarking on a venture.

3. Demand

The essence of these businesses is that they’re essential.

Research your target market and, if your ideal customer can’t do without your product or service, you’re probably on the right track.

4. Competition

It’s worth investing some time researching your competition.

If the competition for your product or service is low, it’ll be much easier to break into the market.

5. Scalability

The capacity of your business to grow may or may not be important to you. Some people are content with being sole traders while others want to become limited company owners.

Essentially, if you’re planning on maximising the reach and impact of your business, growth is good.

How much money can you make?

To illustrate how much money you can make, we’re going to refer to the five businesses we outlined earlier in the section, ‘What types of businesses are there?’

Residential and commercial cleaning services

According to Franchise UK, a cleaning business can fetch annual revenues of between £30,000 and £100,000.

The costs of a cleaning business range from virtually nil for residential cleaning (assuming you borrow the customer’s cleaning equipment and use their cleaning products) to more than £50,000 for commercial cleaning.

Landscaping and lawn care services

Tradespeople website Checkatrade, pegs the average annual income of a self-employed landscaper at £51,626, while a seasoned landscaping business owner can earn £58,264 or more.

The maintenance costs of a self-employed landscaper are approximately £6,453, and for a limited company owner, they’re around £10,196.

So, as a self-employed landscaper, you can expect profits circa £45,173, and as a landscape business owner, this figure increases to £48,068.

Cash-only services

Using a vending machine business as an example, after you’ve bought the equipment, you can potentially make roughly £3,600 in profit per year according to business finance website Swoop.

While this may not sound like a king’s ransom, if you’re in a financial position to buy, say, 10 vending machines, you could see annual profits of £36,000.

In terms of startup costs, a vending machine can typically set you back anything from £1,200 to £3,000 (excluding inventory).

Plumbing services

To maximise your earning potential, offering plumbing services can be an attractive option, particularly if you’re open to undergoing training recognised by the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers.

Checkatrade says the average salary of a plumber working as a sole trader is £64,902, with approximate take-home pay of £46,244.

As a plumbing business owner, the salary and take-home figures increase to £73,014 and £48,509 respectively.

Window cleaning services

As a self-employed window cleaner, you can earn an average salary of £36,880, with approximate take-home pay of £22,530.

But if you own a limited company, you can expect an average salary of £44,370, with approximate take-home pay of £29,910, according to Checkatrade.

Should you start a boring business in 2024? What to consider

To help you decide whether or not starting a boring business should be one of your New Year’s resolutions, we’ve again enlisted the help of Antoinette Daniel of Just Helpers.

In 2013, she started her cleaning business with just £10 and turned over £1m eight years later.

Antoinette highlights the pros and cons of starting a business through the lens of an award-winning owner of a cleaning business.

From her perspective, here are some of the advantages of starting a cleaning business.

Pro: Minimal startup and running costs

According to Antoinette, starting and running a residential cleaning business doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

“I had £10 in my back pocket, which enabled me to put petrol in my car, drive to the customer’s house, clean it, collect the cash and leave,” she says.

“But bigger commercial clients require equipment, staff uniforms and so on.”

Pro: Flexible work schedule

Flexibility is at the core of a cleaning business, which you can design to fit around your lifestyle.

“Particularly if you’re a parent, cleaning enables you to work while your children are at nursery or school,” says Antoinette.

Other advantages include being able to start a cleaning business without any professional training or qualifications and being able to effectively market the business primarily by word of mouth.

Pro: Steady demand for human cleaners

For Antoinette, the robot revolution won’t be taking over the cleaning industry any time soon.

“An automated carpet cleaner can perform self-programmed vacuuming, which is great, but it can’t move furniture or discern a child’s hair clip from a piece of rubbish,” she says. “It just sucks it all up.”

Antoinette also outlines some of the disadvantages of starting a cleaning business.

Con: Increasing costs and liabilities

“Ensure that your insurance is robust,” she says.

“As a sole trader, my insurance was around £80 a year. Now, as a company with about 40 cleaning operatives, our insurance is closer to £5,500 a year.”

Con: Increasing staffing needs

Antoinette remarks that, as you scale your cleaning business, recruitment becomes a “big machine”.

“You need to grow your back office support staff to underpin all the communications around your business,” she says.

Con: Lack of innovative technology

According to Antoinette, there’s a lack of innovative tech in the cleaning industry.

“We needed an intuitive, automated system that could help us schedule, deploy and manage our team in the field and communicate with clients effectively”, she says.

Frustrated by the absence of a meaningful tech solution, the Just Helpers team created their own.

Their Justly software is a customisable business system, which handles everything from onboarding to scheduling, and can connect with your accounting software – all without a spreadsheet in sight.

Final thoughts on boring businesses

It’s easy to jump on the startup hype train that grabs column inches in national newspapers and goes viral on social media.

But sometimes, the more strategic approach involves keeping a close eye on business opportunities that most people simply aren’t looking at.

With low startup costs, steady demand, weak competition and no shortage of ideas for businesses on offer, 2024 may be the year to finally get excited about boring businesses.