Washing windows is one of the best service businesses to start, because it requires no lengthy training, has low startup costs and is always in demand. Residential windows require cleaning every 3-4 months, commercial windows even more frequently.
There are two primary markets for a window washing service – residential and commercial. Most window washers concentrate on a niche market – storefronts, for example – and target customers and prospects in that niche. Others, mainly in smaller communities, are able to handle both commercial and residential work successfully.
Before you jump into the window washing business, it’s important that you look at it clearly, warts and all. It is still a low-tech business, although technology has had a big impact in some areas. For example, a water-fed pole system allows an operator to clean two, three and even four story windows from the ground, saving the time and trouble of climbing up and down a ladder. Another innovation, the Tucker pole system, also allows one person, standing safely on the ground, to wash and rinse windows up to 45′ high.
Technology aside, washing windows is not a glamorous business, like writing apps for a iPad or working on Wall Street. It can get challenging when the weather turns nasty as well. So when you announce to your friends that you plan to start a window washing business, don’t expect a round of applause.
The upside is that you will have a very profitable business that will generate income very quickly – especially when you consider that most residential and small commercial jobs are paid on the spot when you complete the work. In addition, you can operate a window washing business on a part-time or full-time basis. This flexibility makes window washing an appealing business to a wide variety of people.
Do you have what it takes?
Window washing is a service business, so you’ll need a willingness to please customers and the desire to do a thorough job so each window sparkles and customers call back for more.
The business skills needed to start and operate this business are quite basic. You’ll need to be able to manage your time efficiently and be able to build relationships with your customers.
Most window washers are home-based businesses, which makes sense. After all, your customers have no reason to visit your shop, since all work is done at their location, not yours. Although operating out of your home makes perfect sense for most, your town may have ordinances that regulate commercial activities in residential areas. So before you apply for a business license, find out what regulations govern home-based businesses and adjust your business operations to be in compliance.
Startup expenses for a window washing service are modest. You’ll need to purchase a window cleaning bucket, squeegees in several sizes, rags, cleaning solution and a basic ladder for two-story work. A complete list can be found in “Profitable Window Cleaning.”
To advertise your business all over town, order a pair of magnetic signs for your vehicle. Magnetic signs can be easily removed if your vehicle is used for business and personal use. Even so, you’ll find many prospects will approach you when you’re “off-duty,” in a supermarket parking lot, for example, so consider leaving your signage on at all times. There are hundreds of web-based businesses that make affordable magnetic sighs for vehicles – just do a web search for “magnetic signs for vehicles.”
Pricing your window washing service can be a challenge at first, without experience. If your price is too low, you’re robbing yourself of income and profits that you deserve. If you price too high, you may lose the job to someone else, or even to the customer, who may decide, “If it’s that expensive, I can do it myself.” To get a feel for pricing, practice washing windows for friends and neighbors at no charge.
Time yourself for each window and take notes. Is it a first or second story window, does it have multiple panes, and so on. Then, multiply the time per window by the hourly rate you expect to earn to arrive at a price. For example, if a window takes 6 minutes, and you expect to earn $50 an hour, then 60 minutes (one hour) divided by 6 equals $5. Be sure to add enough to cover your overhead costs, such as vehicle expenses, materials, administrative expenses such as bookkeeping, taxes, and so on. After a few months, you’ll have it down.
How’s your image?
The image you project is an important marketing tool. Think about how your look to others. Here are some areas to consider:
* Because your work is all done on site at the customer’s home or business, the appearance of your vehicle is very important. Your vehicle represents your company on wheels, which conveys to others a lot about your company. A clean, well-maintained vehicle, no matter it’s age, tells others you take pride in your work.
* Are you neat and clean, wearing clothing that identifies your business, like a hat or polo shirt with your company name?
* Do your documents look professional? It costs next to nothing to have professional estimate and invoice forms printed, and that will do wonders for your professional image.
Your customers also form an impression about your image, positive or negative, in how you perform on the job and in following up. Here are some tips to help you polish your business image so it sparkles as brightly as the windows you’ve washed:
* Show up on time. If you arrive when you promised, your customers will appreciate it, especially if they need to be home so you can wash the interior windows.
* Be organized. Think about the most efficient way to handle each job so you don’t waste time. Carry extra squeegees and other items that wear out so you will always have the right tool for each window. If you’re doing second story windows, make sure you have the right sized ladder with you.
* Return phone calls promptly. Most window washers find a business cell phone is best for always being available, even while on the job. Make it easy for your customers to reach you – it’s expected in today’s connected world.
* Always say thanks. Thank your customers when the job is done and they hand you a check. Send a simple thank you card to customers after completing a job, with a note mentioning that you’ve got them on the calendar for the next cleaning in XX days, and you’ll call to confirm about a week before it’s scheduled. A holiday card to each customer works the same way to build a relationship. Time the holiday card to arrive around the first of December – so your card will stand out and be remembered. Always include a business card to make it easier for customers to reach you.
Anyone can wash windows. To turn it into a successful business requires more than just a good squeegee technique. Professionalism will help you get there, so use the tips in this article to polish your own image and build an army of loyal customers for your new window washing business.
To learn more about starting your own window washing business, read Profitable Window Cleaning.