How to Start a Window Cleaning Business
The window cleaning industry offers an opportunity to build your own business from a single-operator business to a multi-van, multi-team operation. You can start up a small business for a minimal investment, then potentially grow that business into a thriving larger operation. If you’re confident in climbing ladders and don’t mind dealing with heights, then the window cleaning industry could be the start of your financial independence.
Window cleaning businesses generally provide services to homeowners, commercial building owners, or both. Property owners typically contract with these businesses for a variety of cleaning services. 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, tall 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 safely do the job themselves.
Because windows need to be washed frequently, window cleaning businesses 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.
According to IBIS World, the building exterior cleaners industry experienced a 2.0% growth from 2015 to 2020. This industry includes window cleaning, pool maintenance, gutter cleaning, and more, and serves both residential and commercial window cleaning clients. The industry’s growth correlates with an increase in the client base caused by the increasing number of households and businesses. An increase in per capita disposable income also meant that more clients could decide to outsource their exterior cleaning rather than perform the tasks themselves.
In 2020, the window cleaning industry was expected to reach $10.3 billion, with 108,107 businesses employing 160,111 people. The building exterior cleaners industry is predicted to continue to grow from 2020 to 2025. An increase in the number of businesses and continued growth in per capita disposable income is thought to continue driving its expansion. Reduced office vacancies and increased commercial demand also bode well for the window cleaning industry.
Some window washing businesses also provide exterior power washing. See the industry overview for power washing businesses.
Many trends, including new technology, are shaping the window cleaning industry. Prestige Property Services reports that commercial window cleaners are increasingly using abseiling to efficiently clean structures. Abseiling also called rappelling, allows window washers to wash windows as they rappel down the building from its roof. This method has recently gained popularity for multiple reasons, including the quick setup, the amount of time it can save while on the job, and that a few washers can complete larger jobs. With no scaffolding and other logistics to worry about, abseiling is a trend that we’re likely to see even more of in the future.
Like many industries, the window cleaning industry is also being shaped by increased awareness of environmental issues and sustainability. More window cleaning businesses are adopting pure water systems that use filtered, processed water that contains no impurities. With filtered water systems, window washers don’t have to use soap or chemical cleaners, which can have a negative impact on the environment. Businesses can also take other steps to go green, like using only green cleaners that are less harmful and avoiding the use of paper towels.
According to Interclean, technology will have a tremendous impact on the window cleaning industry from 2020 on. Some companies are using drones to clean tall buildings, making the job safer for employees and more efficient. While drones are relatively new in the window cleaning industry, they’re likely to quickly become popular because of the benefits they offer. Robots can also wash windows and are ideal for accessing those tough-to-get-to areas. In most cases, robots can be left to complete the job on their own, while drones require a human operator to guide them. Both options could increase efficiency and safety on the job.
In most cases, a window cleaning business will target both homeowners and business owners who either don’t have the time or the ability to safely wash their building’s windows themselves. Some businesses may specialize in certain types of window cleaning, like focusing on high rises in cities.
Checklist for Starting a Window Cleaning Business
If you’re thinking about starting your own window cleaning business, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a window cleaning business plan. Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Name the Business
Finding the perfect business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Step 3: Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a window cleaning business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Select your Location
It’s possible to start a small residential window cleaning business right out of your home or garage, saving on initial rental costs. As that business grows, though, it may be time to rent a garage or other storage space for equipment and vehicles. Rental costs will depend on a property’s size, location, and available amenities, like air conditioning or security cameras.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: Register for Business Licenses and Permits
A window cleaning service will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.
Some states require that the business owner and employees pass a safety certification program, especially for businesses cleaning high-rise buildings. Business owners may also be required to hold a window cleaner’s contractor license.
Additionally, there are some general business licenses needed such as a sales tax permit or Employer Identification Number, among others.
Step 6: Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a window cleaning business is another. While this business has a low startup cost, it may be difficult to obtain if funding is needed. In order to get a small business loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and personally invest 15-25% towards the total start-up costs.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
A window cleaning business will need effective marketing to establish and build its customer base. Common marketing techniques include social media marketing, online advertising, direct mail, Yellow Pages, and even picking up the phone and directly calling business owners. Referral programs and loyalty programs can also help to build a healthy customer base.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a window cleaning business. A few of these include:
– General liability insurance protects the business if customers or their property are ever injured because of its work. For instance, this type of insurance can cover medical and legal bills that could result if a customer tripped over equipment while walking into their building.
– Commercial vehicle insurance covers any business-owned vehicles in case they’re ever involved in an accident.
The cost of insurance policies will vary depending on factors like the business’s location, the types, and heights of building the business works on, the value of its inventory, and the number of employees on staff. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When you compare the quotes, don’t just look at how premiums stack up. Instead, consider all of the factors like coverage limits, exclusions, and deductibles.
Step 10: Hire Employees
A business owner with a small residential operation can start off doing all of the work themselves, but eventually, it will be time to hire employees. PayScale reports that window washers make an average of $15,64 an hour, though rates can range from $10.83 to $21.75 per hour. High-rise window washers make slightly more; according to PayScale, they earn an average of $17.50 per hour. Their income can range from $14 to $22.50 per hour.
In addition to budgeting for employee salaries, a business will also need to cover other expenses like paid time off, health insurance contributions, and worker’s compensation insurance.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system is critical to the long-term success of your business.
Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government, but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does a window cleaning business owner make?
A business’ profits will vary depending on the business’ location, specialization, the number of years it’s been in operation, and the number of cleaning crews on staff. Profitable Window Cleaning reports that a window cleaner working full-time can bring in as much as $8,000 per month. Keep in mind that other factors, like profit margins, will also affect income.
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.
Are there grants to start a window cleaning business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a window cleaning business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
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.