Starting a window cleaning business can be a rewarding opportunity that combines the satisfaction of providing a valuable service with the freedom of being your own boss. With low startup costs and the potential for significant profit, it’s an attractive option for many entrepreneurs.
However, starting is more than grabbing a squeegee and a bucket of soapy water. This guide will help you navigate through the process by providing an overview of the business, steps to get started, and answers to common questions.
A window cleaning business can cater to both commercial and residential markets, providing services to clean windows in homes, office buildings, and other structures. The startup costs are relatively low, with the primary expenses being cleaning supplies, transportation, and business registration.
Often, window washing is a convenience, and hiring a professional means cleaning the windows is one less thing that a property owner needs to worry about. In the case of multi-level homes, apartment complexes, commercial buildings, and city buildings like high rises, hiring a window washer is necessary since property owners don’t have the equipment or the knowledge to do the job safely themselves.
Because windows need to be washed frequently, window cleaning businesses can develop a body of returning customers and repeat business. Some develop contracts with businesses, returning at set intervals. Retailers also frequently use the services of window cleaning businesses.
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The window cleaning industry is part of the broader cleaning sector, which includes window cleaning, pool maintenance, gutter cleaning, and residential and commercial window cleaning clients. According to IBISWorld, the building exterior cleaners industry and is expected to generate $11.9 billion in 2023.
Revenue in the window cleaning industry has shown steady growth, at an average of 1.5% over the last five years, which was driven by increased construction activity, an uptick in disposable income, and the rising number of businesses. Typically, the industry does well when the economy is strong because both individuals and businesses are more willing to spend on cleaning services.
Many trends are shaping the window cleaning industry. As you begin planning your window cleaning business, keeping an eye on the following trends could help you position yourself effectively.
- Eco-friendly services: With a rising awareness of environmental impact, clients are increasingly demanding eco-friendly cleaning solutions. This trend isn’t just a fad but a shift in consumer behavior that’s likely to stay. If you’re starting in this industry, consider offering “green” services from the get-go.
- Technology integration: Advances in technology are beginning to impact even manual sectors like window cleaning. Drones equipped with cleaning tools, for example, are making it easier and safer to clean high-rise buildings. Keeping up with tech could give you an edge.
- Niche specialization: Specialized services like historical building cleaning or graffiti removal could offer higher profit margins. Clients with specific needs are often willing to pay a premium for expertise.
- Online booking and payment: The ease of online transactions is becoming a standard expectation. If your business doesn’t offer this convenience, it might be time to catch up.
Steps To Start A Window Cleaning Business
Step 1: Research Demand
Starting a window cleaning business may seem straightforward, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. In a world brimming with businesses and side hustles, standing out is harder than ever, and that’s where market research comes in. It’s the backbone of your business plan and a must-do before you even think about starting your business.
The first step is focusing on who you want to sell to. As a window cleaning company, you’ve got two main types of clients: residential and commercial. And here’s the kicker: they have different needs. Residential customers might look for quick, affordable cleaning, while commercial clients might need regular, detailed service.
Take a ride around your area and see the kinds of buildings you come across. Are there a lot of office buildings with glass facades? Maybe that’s your calling. Are there upscale neighborhoods with larger homes? They’ll need their windows cleaned more often, and they can probably afford it. Your target market informs your whole business strategy, from marketing to pricing.
After narrowing down who your target customer is, it’s time to research the competition. You’re not alone in the window-cleaning world. Others got here before you and have already earned customer loyalty. So, what sets you apart? Browse through local directories, check out competitors’ websites, and even have a look at their customer reviews. This can tell you what they’re doing right – and, more importantly, what they’re doing wrong. Your unique selling point could be anything from exceptional customer service to flexible hours or quick service.
Next, you want to make money, but you also want to get hired. That’s the balance you’re looking to strike with pricing. Take a look at the companies that you feel are most similar to your service and look at their pricing. You could also have a chat with business owners in related industries, like pressure washing or residential cleaning, to learn more about local spending habits and market rates.
One last thing to consider before starting your business is to run a low-cost marketing campaign, such as a Facebook ad or a simple direct mail flyer and see what sort of interest it generates. Are people calling or contacting you for more information? This kind of low-stakes test can tell you if there’s a real demand before you go all-in.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
A window washing business is a very low-cost and simple business model, and it’s tempting to jump right into action. But there’s another step that I recommend doing before starting, and that’s to write a business plan. Some may view it as mere paperwork, but in reality, a business plan serves as a reality check for your window cleaning business.
Let’s be honest; when you’re passionate about a business idea, it’s easy to wear rose-colored glasses. A business plan forces you to take those off. A business plan gives you a chance to step back and look at the full picture, complete with numbers and logistics. It makes you question your assumptions and think critically about your business model. Do you have what it takes to turn a profit? Are there enough potential clients in your target market? These are questions you need answers to, and a well-crafted business plan will help you find them.
Another benefit of a business plan is the financial forecast. This section has you to list all potential income streams and outgoing expenses. Why is this important? Because these projections will give you an idea of whether your business is even feasible.
If you need funding, the bank is probably going to make you write a business, but even if not, it’s still worth going through this exercise as you can consider your business plan as the “trial run” of your business. If you can’t make it work on paper, chances are you may not be able to make it work in the real world either.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Secure Funding
The next big hurdle in starting any business can be finding the money to get the business off the ground. It’s important to get the funding out of the way early to remove this potential roadblock from stopping your progress.
Personal savings: The first source of funding to consider is your personal savings. Window cleaning businesses can be started with very little money and are often started with just the owner’s personal investment. If personal savings aren’t enough to cover the startup costs, you’ll need to explore outside funding sources.
Traditional lenders: Banks and other lending institutions provide small business loans that can be used to finance your window cleaning business. They typically require a borrower to invest a minimum of 15% of their personal funds towards the total cost of the project, have a good credit score, and have sufficient collateral. If the bank feels the loan is too risky, they may require an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan guarantee, which can make it easier for you to secure a loan by providing a government-backed guarantee to the lender.
Friends and family: Friends and family can be another source of funding. They might be willing to invest in your business or lend you money at a lower interest rate than a bank. However, borrowing from friends and family can strain relationships, especially if the business doesn’t go as planned. Hence, it’s crucial to put any agreements in writing, clearly defining the terms of the loan or investment to avoid misunderstandings later.
Microloans: If your funding needs are on the lower end, or you’re finding it tough to get credit from a bank, consider a microloan. These are smaller loans often offered by economic development organizations. Some microloan programs also provide business training and mentorship.
Step 4: Register the Business
You’ve researched, planned, and even secured funding. Now comes the part of making your window cleaning business legal. Each state has different requirements, so it’s necessary to research your state’s regulations or consult with a business attorney to ensure you’re in compliance.
Business structure: The first step in registering your business is deciding on the structure of your company, as this will influence your operations, taxes, and liability. The four main types of business structures are sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest business form to set up. The advantage of a sole proprietorship is the ease of startup and lower cost. However, the business owner is personally liable for all business debts.
- General partnership: If you’re starting the business with one or more partners, you could consider a general partnership. Similar to the sole proprietorship, all partners share the business profits and liabilities.
- Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders. This means that the corporation itself, not the shareholders that own it, is held legally liable for the actions and debts the business incurs.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC combines the benefits of a corporation and a partnership. Owners of an LLC have limited personal liability without many of the complicated corporate requirements.
Related: Comparison of business structures
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: A window cleaning service will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits before starting to provide services. These permits and licenses vary based on the state and town where the business is located.
Some states will require that the business owner and employees pass a safety certification program, especially for businesses cleaning high-rise buildings. Local laws may also require that business owners may also be required to hold a window cleaner’s contractor license.
Additionally, there are some general business licenses all businesses may need, such as a sales tax permit or Employer Identification Number, among others.
Step 5: Set Up Operations
You’ve researched your market, got your funding in order, and handled all the legal stuff. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your window cleaning business off the ground. From establishing an office to purchasing necessary equipment, defining your service area, and setting your pricing, there are several important steps to take in order to ensure smooth operations.
Establishing an Office:
Starting out, your home can easily serve as your office, saving you money on rent. As business picks up, you might think about expanding to a commercial space and hiring some help for tasks like booking appointments or managing accounts. Specialized window cleaning software can handle things like scheduling, job dispatch, employee tracking, and payments. It’s a great way to streamline your admin work so you can focus on delivering top-notch service.
Defining Your Service Area:
Another operational decision you’ll need to make is defining the geographic region you will serve. This decision should take into account your ability to travel and any workforce limitations you may have. You want to ensure that you can provide prompt and reliable service to all of your clients within your chosen area.
Equipment and Supplies:
To do the job right, you’ll need more than just a bucket and a sponge. Make sure to get professional-grade window cleaning tools like squeegees, scrubbers, scrapers, and special cleaning solutions. For bigger or higher jobs, unless you use them frequently, you might start off by renting special equipment like scaffolding or aerial lifts.
Last, you’ll want to determine how much to charge for your services. Pricing should reflect various factors, such as the size and complexity of the job, your overhead costs, and the going rates in your area. It’s important to strike a balance between competitive pricing and ensuring profitability.
Step 6: Hire Staff
A window cleaning business can be owned and operated by only the owner. If you plan to start off by hiring employees to help manage the workload and operations, there are several legal requirements that you must meet as an employer. These vary by state, but here is a general overview:
- Obtaining an EIN: An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a unique number assigned by the IRS to businesses for tax filing and reporting purposes. You will need to obtain an EIN before you can hire employees.
- Employment eligibility: Prior to hiring, you must verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. This is typically done through the I-9 form process, which requires employers to review and record the individual’s identity and employment authorization documents.
- State reporting: Every state has different requirements for reporting new hires. Generally, you will need to report the hiring of a new employee to the state within a certain timeframe.
- Worker’s compensation: Most states require businesses to carry worker’s compensation insurance to cover any job-related injuries or illnesses. The specifics of what must be covered and how much coverage is needed can vary by state.
- Labor laws: You must comply with federal and state labor laws. These laws cover a range of topics, including minimum wage, overtime pay, rest breaks, and more.
Step 7: Create a Marketing Strategy
As we get close to launching the business, it’s time to get a plan in place to get the word out about your new window cleaning business.
The first step in creating a successful marketing plan is identifying your target customers. Hopefully, this was done earlier, but your target market may have changed after starting this journey. Regardless, decide on your target customers and begin to build your strategy.
The next task is to create a brand identity, which includes creating a logo, slogan, and developing a consistent look and feel throughout your marketing channels, including your website, business cards, and advertising materials. Creating a visual identity that resonates with your target audience gives your business more credibility and differentiation from the competition. Make sure your branding aligns with your target audience, is memorable, and easy to recognize.
Next is building an online presence. Starting with a professional looking website, showcase your services, your service area, contact info, and any unique selling propositions your business may have. Optimize your website for keywords that your customers use to search for window cleaning services in your area. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn can be an effective and cost-effective way to reach a local audience. Sharing before and after cleaning photos and customer testimonials is a powerful way to showcase your work and attract new business. You can also run ads on these platforms to reach a broader audience and increase local visibility. Also, be sure to claim your Google Business Profile and get listed on Yelp, Angi, and other business directories.
In addition to online marketing, print marketing can be a useful tool to generate local awareness and bring new customers on board. One cost-effective print marketing method is flyer and door hanger distribution. Printing coupons or introductory offers on flyers or business cards is an excellent way to reach customers and encourage them to try your services. Another way to reach target customers is to place advertisements in local newspapers or magazines that cater to your target audience.
All these approaches, digital and traditional, can work together as parts of a comprehensive marketing strategy to help your window cleaning business make a strong debut and long-term success.
Step 8: Prepare to Launch!
Before you officially open your window cleaning business, there are some remaining tasks that may not have been completed. you can’t overlook. Everyone’s needs will be different, but these are some common steps to take a look at:
Business insurance: This protects you and your business from unforeseen circumstances and potential liabilities. Consider insurance types like general liability insurance, workers’ compensation, and commercial auto insurance.
Setting up bookkeeping: Proper financial management is important for any business. Implementing a system for tracking income, expenses, and overall financial health will simplify tax filing and ensure compliance. You can use a spreadsheet, software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks, or hire an accountant.
Contracts: In the window cleaning industry, well-structured contracts are essential. These might include service agreements that outline the scope of work, pricing, and terms, or liability waivers for high-risk jobs. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful.
Opening a business bank account: Separating your personal and business finances is a good idea as it makes managing finances and tax reporting easier.
Management software: Software like Jobber, ServiceTitan, or Housecall Pro can help streamline operations. These platforms offer features such as scheduling, invoicing, customer relationship management, and more.
Accepting credit cards: Setting up a system to accept credit card payments provides convenience for your customers and can increase sales. Square or Stripe are a couple of many that are great for mobile businesses.
Joining industry associations: Associations like the International Window Cleaning Association provide networking opportunities, access to industry-specific resources, and chances for professional development.
Common Questions When Starting A Window Cleaning Business
How much does it cost to start a window cleaning business?
Starting a window cleaning business typically requires an initial investment ranging from $2,000 to $7,000, plus transportation, depending on various factors like equipment, location, and marketing.
Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay to get started.
Business registration: Expect to pay around $100 to $500 to register your business, depending on your state and the structure you choose (like sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation).
Equipment: Professional window cleaning supplies and tools like squeegees, scrubbers, and extension poles will cost between $500 to $1,000 initially. If you’re aiming to handle larger commercial jobs, you may need to rent specialized equipment like scaffolding, which can add to the total.
Location: If you start from home, this cost is minimal. However, if you decide to rent a commercial space, initial deposits can range from $500 to $3,000, depending on the location and type of property.
Vehicle: You’ll need a reliable vehicle to get you to your job sites. If you don’t have one already, used vehicles suitable for this kind of work can range from $5,000 to $25,000.
Initial inventory: Cleaning supplies such as cleaning solutions, towels, and buckets will cost around $100 to $300 initially.
Insurance: For a basic general liability policy, expect an initial outlay of $400 to $800.
Marketing: Initial costs for marketing materials like business cards, flyers, and a simple website could run you $300 to $500.
How profitable is a window cleaning business?
In the window cleaning business, your profit largely depends on a variety of factors such as location, scale, and how efficiently you operate.
According to industry statistics, the average window cleaning job for a home is around $250, and for commercial properties, it can go upwards of $1,000 per job. To get an estimate on profits, let’s break down the math using a simple formula common in the window cleaning industry: (Revenue – Expenses = Profit).
Revenue: Starting out, if you perform 40 residential jobs a month (about 10 per week) at an average of $250 per job, you’ll generate about $10,000 in monthly revenue.
Expenses: Operating expenses might include equipment costs, vehicle expenses, cleaning supplies, and insurance. Let’s say these add up to $3,000 a month.
Profit: Using the formula, your monthly profit would be $10,000 (Revenue) – $3,000 (Expenses) = $7,000.
It’s worth noting that these are general estimates, and actual profits can vary based on several factors, including seasonality and local competition. However the window cleaning business can be lucrative if managed efficiently and scaled appropriately.
Because window cleaners often require tall ladders and scaffolding, you can offer complementary services to increase your income. Pressure washing, gutter cleaning, and hanging holiday lights are all great options that can allow you to expand your service offering and potentially upsell services to existing customers. These additional services may also help you to bring in new customers and build your profits.
If you live in an area with a cold climate, offering services like gutter cleaning and holiday light hanging can help keep income coming into the business during the seasons when window cleaning slows down.
What skills are needed to run a window cleaning business?
While you won’t need a business degree to start a window cleaning company, certain skills and experiences are particularly helpful in this industry.
Window cleaning experience: Experience washing windows, especially experience working in a window cleaning business, will prepare a business owner for some of the challenges they’ll face.
Attention to detail: The details matter in this industry. A business owner will need to monitor everything from quality control on the job to quotes to invoicing.
Safety training: Because window cleaning involves the use of equipment like ladders and scaffolding, and the work occurs at height, OSHA enforces safety training requirements for window cleaning businesses. Business owners should plan to invest in training, like the IWCA Safety Training Program, for themselves and their employees.
Customer service skills: Experience providing great customer service can help a business owner to build a positive relationship with customers, converting them into long-term returning customers.
Management experience: Previous experience hiring, training, and managing staff will help prepare a window washing business owner for the challenges of hiring and managing a team of employees.
What is the NAICS code for a window cleaning business?
The NAICS code for a window cleaning business is 561720, which is classified under Janitorial Services.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.