An airplane mechanic. A pizza delivery person. A production manager. What’s the common thread among them? People with these types of jobs all started their own window cleaning business.
While they all may have had different reasons as to why they wanted to start a window cleaning business, there are a number of upsides if you’re considering doing so yourself.
First, there are a lot of windows out there. Just about everywhere we live, work, or shop has some type of glass in a frame. Second, that glass will get dirty, need to be cleaned, and get dirty again. And third, a little elbow grease and a little bit of equipment is often all you need to get that cleaning done.
Still, turning all of that opportunity into a successful business will likely require a few more steps. All of which leads us to this:
Window cleaning operations generally fall into one of two categories: from-the-ground cleaning and suspended cleaning.
Cleaning windows from the ground often could involve ladders, extension poles, and lifts. Suspended work typically uses moveable platforms that hang off the sides of buildings.
Within those two categories are several types of window cleaning work.
Commercial work — This primarily involves accounts that require window cleaning on a daily, weekly, or other recurring basis. Depending on the height of the building, they can require ground or suspended cleaning. A few examples include storefronts, restaurants, professional buildings, and auto dealers.
Residential work — Many window cleaning businesses may start by focusing on homes. While the frequency of cleanings is generally lower than with commercial customers, it’s almost exclusively ground-level cleaning.
Construction cleaning — Builders of new homes and commercial structures often have a window cleaning company come in at the end of construction to make sure the house or building looks its best before it goes on the market.
What type of work you focus on with your window cleaning business can often depend on what best fits your lifestyle and expectations.
Generally speaking, if you’re doing residential work, many of your customers could be grouped together in neighborhoods, so that you’re spending less time and money traveling from job to job.
However, you’ll likely be charging on average between $150 and $350 per job, so you may need to find and manage many customers depending on the amount of money you’re expecting to make.
With a commercial account, it's possible to make as much from one job as you might from several residential jobs. As a result, commercial work can often attract more competitors, and you may have to lower your price to land the job.
It may be helpful to get some insight and advice from other window cleaners. One way is to contact a few window cleaners in your area. Another option is to check out online forums and discussion groups, such as those sponsored by the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA).
Before you grab a bucket, sponge, and squeegee, it’s a good idea to grab a pencil and paper (or your laptop) and make a plan for how to start a window cleaning business.
Given the different types of window cleaning operations (e.g., ground, suspended, residential, commercial), part of your business plan could focus on the kind of customers you’ll be seeking.
You don’t have to limit yourself to one area or the other, but it may make sense to be sure there is a need for the type of window cleaning service you want to provide.
One way to do that is by looking at the opportunities in your area. Are there a lot of businesses, such as office buildings, auto dealerships, and retail stores? If so, targeting commercial customers might make the most sense for your business.
Another common approach is if there are a lot of mid- and -upscale neighborhoods nearby, they may be filled with residential customers looking for someone to clean their windows.
If you have a laptop or your smartphone handy, do a quick online search for window cleaners in your area. You can usually get a good sense of how many there are and whether they typically concentrate on residential or commercial customers.
This research will go a long way in helping you create your business plan. Even better, we have a great article and a free business plan template that can help you as well.
Once you have your business plan together, you’ll likely be in a better position to know what you’ll need to get started and what you’ll need to cover your operating expenses. Now it’s time to create a list for what you’ll need to get going.
Here are some items to consider when looking to start a window cleaning business:
Uniforms — Even if you’re a one-person operation (and often especially if you’re a one-person operation), wearing a uniform can offer some great benefits. For one, it makes you look more like a professional window cleaner and not just someone with a sponge, bucket, and squeegee, which often can make customers feel more comfortable about working with you.
There’s also a practical side to wearing a uniform. It can keep your regular clothes from getting dirty. And having a few uniforms can help ensure you look clean and professional whenever you’re visiting a customer for an estimate or a job.
A reliable vehicle — You’ll be doing most of your work onsite, so getting there is important. Depending on the type of window cleaning you’re doing, you may need ladders, extension poles, water hoses, and more. So having all your equipment with you is important as well.
Knowing how much gear you’ll need to haul can help you decide whether you need a truck or van, or if you can get by with a good-sized sedan.
Your vehicle also can help with your marketing when you’re driving to a job or parked in front of a customer’s house or business. Having it painted or wrapped with your business name can get attention and provide your contact information, such as a phone number or website.
It’s even possible to add a QR code so people can quickly capture your information on their phone.
Proof of insurance — Just like a uniform and professional-looking vehicle, having window cleaner insurance coverage can go a long way in boosting a customer’s confidence in your business and awarding you the job.
There are some other important reasons why you should put window cleaner insurance high on your list. We’ll get into those in just a bit.
Licenses and permits — Depending on where you run your business, you may need certain licenses and permits. It’s best to check with both your state and your city or town.
We also have some information about business licenses here that can help.
While we’re on the subject, you may need to file more paperwork and pay some fees, depending on whether you create your business as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC), or another type of business structure.
You can learn more about what type of business structure might be best for you with this article.
Tools, supplies & equipment — There are some basic items that you’ll need for almost any type of window cleaning job. They include buckets, sponges, microfiber cloths and towels, and the window cleaner's best friend, the squeegee.
If you need to get to the windows above the first floor, you may want to look at ladders, extension poles, water-fed poles, scrapers, and scrubbers.
Window cleaning is a labor-intensive job, so it’s a good idea to check out ways to save some time and effort taking care of other parts of your business. Billing, accounting, and tax preparation can keep you inside behind your windows instead of outside cleaning someone else’s.
Fortunately, there are a variety of software programs that can help you with those tasks. We’ve put together some articles to help you learn more about them and find out which ones might be right for you.
By now, you might have a good idea of how much money and time you’ll need to invest to get your window cleaning business off the ground. At the same time, you’ve got a good business plan to guide you along the way, and you’re confident about the window cleaning opportunities in your local area.
The only thing clearer than your vision of success are the clean windows that are going to help get you there.
Unless something happens. Like the unexpected.
With the right cleaning solution and some good squeegee techniques, you may be able to prevent window streaks, but accidents can and do happen.
Let’s say you’re cleaning windows at a customer’s home. Your hands are a little soapy and you accidentally drop your bucket. You try to catch it, but in the process, you break a window. And a nice clean one at that.
Your client could sue you for the damages, and you’d likely have to pay if it’s determined you were at fault. While a single window may not seem like a big deal, there are other potentially more costly risks out there. In fact, when it comes to small businesses, the average claim for accidental property damage is $30,000.
Now consider that the average price you may be charging to clean a homeowner’s windows is $150-$350. That can be a tough setback, unless you have window cleaning insurance coverage that includes general liability (GL) coverage for this type of accident.
You can think of general liability insurance like your window cleaning equipment. It can be just as important to your business. Here are a few of the risks and hazards that may fall under GL coverage depending on your specific policy:
Getting GL coverage can be fast and easy as well. We have quote options for GL coverage from leading insurers as low as $25.95/month.* And it usually takes just 10 minutes with our handy online quote tool.
Get an affordable & customized policy in just minutes. So you can get back to what matters: Your business.Start Here >
Even as you gain experience and become better at cleaning windows, there will always be more windows you could be cleaning. That may be a sign that it's time to hire some help. If so, it also may be time to think about workers compensation insurance.
Most states require you to have workers comp insurance if you have full- or part-time employees. This type of insurance typically can cover medical bills, lost wages, and legal costs associated with an employee who gets hurt or sick on the job.
Think about it. Soap, water, hoses, ladders. It’s not difficult to imagine an accident happening with one of your employees. In fact, a recent annual recorded workplace injury rate was 2.8 accidents per 100 full-time employees with an average medical-related injury cost of $42,000.
In general, workers compensation insurance for window cleaners can cover:
Without workers compensation coverage, costs related to those incidents could come out of your pocket. And that’s no drop in the bucket.
OK, you’re ready for business. So how do you get in front of, and on the other side of, all those windows that need cleaning? Here are a few ideas.
Before you get on a ladder, you may want to get online. That’s where many customers could be looking for you. Consider these statistics:
Think about your own experiences when you’re looking for good Thai food, reliable auto repair shops, or when the local supermarket opens. Chances are that you check out a website first.
A website is working for you 24/7/365. If you’re two stories up cleaning windows, you may not be able to take a call for an estimate. With a website, prospective customers can quickly fill out a request for an estimate, and you can get back to them when you’re safely back on the ground.
Your website also can:
There are a number of sites where you can easily get your website up and running. We can even offer you some helpful tips on what to do and not do on your small business website.
You may be familiar with listing services, such as Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and Angi. They often serve as a directory for consumers searching for services, such as landscaping or window cleaning.
It’s usually free to list your business, but for a fee, the sites also may offer ways to improve your visibility. As with any service or product you buy for your business, it helps to do your homework to make sure it’s a good investment.
While your website is a way for customers to reach out to you, a brochure can be a way for you to reach out to them. You can include a lot of the same information that you have on your website, such as photos, reviews, and a list of services.
A brochure is handy to keep with you or in your vehicle so you can hand it to a customer to share with their friends. You also can be a bit more proactive and drop it on a few front porches when you’re working in a particular neighborhood. Plus, you can save it as a PDF so visitors can download it from your website.
And just like with creating a website, there are a number of sites and services online that can help you put together and print a brochure easily and affordably.
Sure, our bread-and-butter is providing insurance for your small business. But we also want to see it thrive and grow. That’s why we created our small business resource site called Simply U.
You’ll find articles on those topics and others offering a wide variety of small business help and information.
We hope they can open a window of opportunity for your window cleaning business.
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
As a 9-year-old at summer camp, I hated it — especially after being pulled screaming from the pool during the swimming competition. While this left me without an aquatic achievement patch, it also inspired the letter to my parents that got me an early release from Camp Willard. That showed me the power of writing. I’ve done my best to use it only for good ever since, such as writing for small business owners.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.