If you’re looking for a high profit, easy to learn, low cost business that could put you in the black after only a few days, then take a look at window cleaning. This is, by far, one of the most lucrative service businesses around. With a high demand and equally high pay, you can be in business and making an above average income in a matter of a few days.
Window cleaning is one of the few businesses that will start generating money right away. You don’t have to build a client list slowly (though over the years, it’s nice to have a list of loyal customers). If you don’t have customers, get some flyers printed up and hit the streets – you control how busy you are and how much money you make. It’s a simple formula: X amount of flyers (or cold calls) equals X amount of work. The fact that you can create a substantial amount of money on demand is one of the most attractive things about this business. How many businesses can put a cash profit in your hand after the first day of operation?
Low Start-up cost
This business can easily be started on a shoestring. The actual supplies (bucket, scrubber, squeegee, scraper, cloths) can be bought for under $100. Keep in mind that you do need a vehicle and eventually you might want to spend some money on marketing and promotion (signs, business cards, invoices). Your initial flyer campaign should also run you about $300/10,000 flyers. Distribute them yourself, or get a helper(s) and pay them per flyer delivered.
Additional costs might include a cell phone, business phone number, and ladders if you are getting into residential window cleaning.
The great thing about this business opportunity is that you really can start with a small amount of cash until you get enough to purchase everything you will eventually need.
Commercial versus Residential
One of the first questions you should ask yourself is whether you want to concentrate on commercial or residential window cleaning (or a combination of both). Each has its pro’s and cons:
Residential – This is the easiest area to get into – especially when you are starting out. Take a few days and go on a massive flyer campaign in an upper middle class neighbourhood. For every 1000 flyers distributed, you should get 10-20 calls. If you give estimates for 10 homes, you should land at least 7. If you get all 10, then your prices are too low. If you get below 7, they are too high.
When starting out, concentrate on newer neighbourhoods (20 years and under). These homes have the newer thermal panes with only two sides – an inside and an outside. Otherwise, you could end up with some difficult older homes that have storm windows. These must be taken apart (there are many different designs) and can be quite challenging. The rookie window cleaner will almost always bid these too low and spend way too much time completing the job.
Generally, residential window cleaning is more lucrative than commercial. After you get up to speed, you should be able to get at least $50/hr. Keep in mind that this is while you are actually cleaning windows – it doesn’t include doing estimates, travel, paperwork, and phone time.
If you have a fear of heights, residential window cleaning may not be for you. Most of your homes will be 2 and 3 stories. You might get some single story bungalows, but the owners of these homes tend to do their own. Good ladders can be expensive, although you can easily start with one extension and one step ladder. Start with the essentials and buy more equipment as you need it. Having the right equipment will increase safety and shave time off your job.
One of the biggest drawbacks to residential window cleaning is that it is seasonal in many parts of the U.S. and Canada. However, you should still be able to successfully market this business up until Christmas. January and February tend to be totally dead.
Commercial – Storefront Succeeding in storefront window cleaning takes a little more determination and patience. Competition can be fierce in some areas – particularly in some of the major urban centers.
Ideally, you would want to get several stores close together so that you could do them all on the same day, for example. However, because there are no ladders or special equipment required, just about anyone can get into this area – you don’t even need a car. You may find yourself competing with a guy carrying a bucket down the street. – offering to do store windows for a few dollars.
Competing in this market means you have to sell things like reliability, professionalism, and the fact that you have liability insurance. The bucket guy will almost certainly not have any insurance.
You will also find that you need to be able to sell face to face. Now, you could deliver flyers to strip malls and downtown stores, but, unlike residential, you would never be able to distribute a decent amount. The bottom line is that in order to get a commercial contract, you need to talk to the person in charge. If you can’t handle cold calling and being told no several times a day, you might want to concentrate on residential.
On the plus side, most ground level, store/strip mall, window cleaning is done on a contract basis. This repeat business is money in the bank as far as your business is concerned. Once you have store-front customers, you won’t need to close up shop in the winter – provided, of course, that you don’t mind working in the cold.
Commercial Low rise – This includes commercial buildings that generally don’t exceed 4 stories. Now, the sheer number of windows can be a little intimidating, depending on the type of business, but, for this reason, commercial low-rise can also be one of the most lucrative areas of professional window cleaning. Office buildings, car dealerships, and industrial buildings are included in this group.
Many window cleaning companies are now using water-fed poles that will allow an operator to safely reach 3, 4, even 5 stories while standing safely on the ground. In the past, cleaning was generally limited to 3 stories (with ladders); anything higher required special gear to access the windows from the roof. This has opened up an entirely new market for the small window cleaning company.
Before you go out soliciting commercial clients, you should know that most will require that you have a substantial insurance policy in place. 2 – 5 million dollars liability is the norm.
Commercial High rise – This area of window cleaning requires expensive equipment, extensive training, years of experience, and lots of insurance. Most high-rise window cleaning is performed by larger companies that have been in the business for a long time. Even if you had the money to start, it would be tough getting new customers without any kind of experience. These commercial customers want to hire companies with a proven track record and years of experience. You can understand why – there is a lot at stake here.
Most people associate window cleaning with large store windows or towering office buildings. They picture workers performing flawless swirling strokes at the local coffee shop, or on a platform 30 stories above the city. How many years of practice would it take to hone those skills?
Well, it’s true that you won’t get that fanning technique right away. After all, many professional window cleaners have been in the trade for years, and their technique wasn’t mastered overnight. However, there are also many that use a basic up-down, or sideways stroke – even some that have been in the business for a while. Sure the swirl or fanning technique saves a little time (and it sure does impress people), but you can easily learn the straight pull and do quite well.
You need to be in reasonably good shape. Window cleaning is a physically demanding job that requires a lot of lifting, climbing, stooping, and balancing. It can also be quite dirty, depending on the job. Most of your work will be outside, so you must be able to work in all kinds of weather.
If you are getting into residential cleaning, you must be able to work at heights and have a good understanding of ladders and ladder safety.
You need proper ladders for your window cleaning business. The twenty year old, light duty aluminum ladder you use around the house isn’t going to cut it – at least, not for long. Professional grade ladders (Type 1) are meant to be used all day, every day, for years.
They aren’t cheap, but they’re an investment you need to make if you want to be able to reach anywhere, quickly, safely, and efficiently job after job.
It’s the most important tool in your chest.
For residential window cleaning, you should have:
A good step ladder. Don’t buy this too big. It should be light and maneuverable.
An articulating ladder. These ladders are highly adjustable and can be used in many different configurations. The Little Giant is one such ladder. If you are only doing single story homes, then this should be all you need to reach most windows.
Extension ladder. If you plan on doing 2-3 story homes, then you are going to need a professional grade extension ladder. At least a 28 foot for 2 story, and 32 foot or more for 3 story.
– Start slow by purchasing only the equipment you need.
– Go on a major flyer campaign (at least 5000 to start).
– Price your jobs properly. Don’t give away your services.
– Do a fantastic job by paying attention to detail.
– Focus on customer service.
– Build a list of loyal customers.
Athough you are not going to get rich overnight in this business, it is something that could provide a comfortable living for you and your family over time. Take care of your customers so that your base builds year over year and you may be surprised at how quickly the company grows.
Start out with the vehicle you have right now – even if it’s a small car. Then upgrade as needed. Roof racks are your friend.
Next, grab some ladders, a bucket, long pole, a few squeegees, clothes, etc. Or you could get this professional starter kit that covers pretty much everything you are going to need in the beginning.
If you need more information, there is a book called The Window Cleaning Blueprint you can pick up for under 20 bucks. Well worth it for someone just starting out.