How to Start a $100K/Month Window Cleaning Business

  • Brandon Boushy by Brandon Boushy
  • 3 weeks ago
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How to start a window cleaning business

If you’re considering how to start a window cleaning business, you’ll want to hear what Martin Skarra has to say.

He decided he wanted to buy a window cleaning business for around $400,000, and a year later, he began making twice the revenue the company was when he bought it. He shares his business strategies, marketing, and communication methods to help you learn how to become a window cleaner.

We’ll share the industry outlook and business plan tips, registering a window cleaning company, buying cleaning supplies, marketing, and more. Get ready to get the tools you need to save money while you start your business.

Is window cleaning a good business?

Window cleaning can be a profitable business, but the industry is facing some challenges. Since 2010, the number of window washers and other building exterior cleaners has declined from nearly 114,000 businesses down to 86,000.

Despite the decrease in business and growing revenue, the industry has not surpassed the 2019 revenue and is not expected to for three to four years. Combining those factors with high inflation and wage growth, the average business in this industry has nominal profits, which are expected to decline further.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start a window cleaning business, but that you need to look for opportunities that can differentiate you. Martin Skarra told us:

It was doing $500,000 a year. So we did $53,000 in June of last year.This month we’ll do $100,000.

You can also buy a window cleaning business for pretty cheap. We have window washing companies listed for as low as $45K.

Pricing of business from UpFlip website

How much does a window cleaner make?

Window cleaners typically get paid between $20,000 and $25,000 a year and may be paid by the job, by the hour, or commission. Martin told us:

The guys make $12 base pay, and then they get 15% commission above that. So if they do a $100 job, they get $15. The guys are making between $35 and $40.

That means he’s paying each employee between $72K and $85K each year. If you want to know how much you can make by starting a window cleaning business, keep reading.

Window washing business income

The average window washing business makes $95K in revenue and has an 8.4% profit margin, but most of the business owners structure their business as an LLC with the S-Corp election. 

Most window washing business owners are paying themselves a salary, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics would count under facility management and is approximately $100K per year. So starting a window-washing business can be pretty profitable. Martin told us:

I have about 20% to 25% profit margins but am reinvesting for growth.

How much does it cost to start a window cleaning business?

As long as you have the vehicle, starting a window cleaning company costs under $1,000. All you really need to start a window cleaning business is:

  • Squeegees
  • A vehicle
  • Limited Liability Company or other business structure
  • Window cleaner
  • Scrubber
  • Extension pole
  • Business license

If you have to buy a vehicle, you can still do it for under $5,000. Martin took a different route and found a great window cleaning business opportunity. He told us:

I paid around 400K for the business, but the beauty of the US, you have something called SBA loans, which are loans from a commercial bank guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. And they let you buy a business with up to 90% leverage.

You can watch the interview with Martin here:

His down payment was around $40K. He went on to explain the benefits of buying a company over starting a window cleaning business.

It came with three trucks, two really old ones, three employees, and most importantly, the reason I was buying it was that it had over 4,000 names in the database. Which were houses that have been previously quoted, emails to those customers, pricing, everything, et cetera. I bought a phone number that keeps ringing.

They had a CRM, a customer relationship management system. (There) was a profile on each of the customers with their phone numbers, addresses, work we’ve done for them previously, and what prices we charged, quotes, et cetera.

Either way you choose can be highly profitable, but having a database of customers is a huge advantage for a new business owner. Next, we’ll discuss how to start a window cleaning business.

How to start a window-washing business

Man showing window washing equipments and tools and tools

Small business owners will need to follow a seven-step process to start a window cleaning business. The steps include:

  1. Write a cleaning business plan.
  2. Form your own window cleaning business.
  3. Create a window cleaning services pricing guide. 
  4. Get cleaning business software.
  5. Buy window cleaning supplies.
  6. Develop window cleaning marketing.
  7. Provide window cleaning services.

Download our “How to Start a Window-Washing Business” pdf to mark off the tasks as you accomplish them. Let’s dig into the window washer business plan first.

Write a window cleaning business plan

Screenshot of HarvardBusinessReview website

According to Harvard Business Review, taking the time to plan increases the probability of success by 16%. Plus a window cleaning business plan is normally required if you need Small Business Administration (SBA) loans from lenders. You’ll want to:

  • Brainstorm cleaning business ideas.
  • Establish goals for your cleaning business.
  • Create a budget for the window cleaning company.
  • Create your pricing strategy.
  • Write your marketing plan.

Let’s start by discussing business ideas.

Brainstorm cleaning business ideas

Three-types-of-window cleaning clients

Window cleaning businesses typically have three types of window washing clients they accept:

  • Residential clients: This target market consists of homeowners in zip codes with high median wages.
  • Commercial clients: A commercial window cleaning service focuses on cleaning windows for buildings like offices, shopping malls, hotels, and apartment complexes (outside only).
  • High-rise clients: A high-rise window cleaning company operates on skyscrapers and has more safety and insurance requirements than other types of window washers.

Residential and commercial window cleaners have fairly similar requirements, so many businesses will accept both commercial and residential clients. Once you decide what your business is going to focus on, you need to establish your goals.

Establish goals for your cleaning business

Every business owner is different, and you have to decide what’s important to you. The average revenue per employee across the industry is only around $67,000 so you probably aren’t going to make $1 million per year as a single-person business. You should consider:

  1. How much do you want to earn?
  2. Do you want to be a home-based office or rent office space?
  3. How wide of a service area do you want to serve?
  4. When you’re ready to retire, do you want to be able to sell the business or pass it on to your kids?
  5. Do you want the business to be in a single location or would you like to expand through corporate-owned stores or franchising?
  6. Do you want to hire employees?

You’ll want to document all this early in your business plan because it will help you focus on your goals throughout the business formation and operations phases. Next, you’ll need a budget.

Create a budget for the window cleaning company

You’ll need a budget to keep your window cleaning business operating successfully. Martin told us:

I’m hoping long term, they (margins) are gonna be in the 20% to 25% range. So that’s roughly a third, 35%, 40% is gonna be your technicians and then there’s another, roughly 30% in the overhead and insurance and yeah, just all the service, and whatever else.

The breakdown would look approximately like the table below for a solo entrepreneur. Just multiply the highlighted cells by the number of employees to alter projections when you hire employees.

Solo
Suggested Startup Expenses Monthly Annual
Revenue $70k per employee is reasonable assumption $5,833.33 $70,000.00
Wages $0.00 $1,458.33 $17,500.00
7.65% Payroll Tax $0.00 $111.56 $1,338.75
Benefits $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Cleaning product Used on Jobs $0.00 $40.00 $480.00
Mileage $0.00 $512.50 $6,150.00
Work Booties $0.00 $12.00 $144.00
Tools for cleaning (First Month) $1500/truck $1,500.00 $1,500.00
Total Cost of Service Rendered 30-40% $3,634.40 $27,112.75
Admin 10-12%
Marketing 8.00% $466.67 $5,600.00
Payments to accountants, lawyers,etc Assume $3-10k/ year $300.00
Technology Expenses $300-1000 Typically $300.00 $3,600.00
Vehicle Payments Assume $400-1000/month per van $400.00 $4,800.00
Office Rent $3000/month or amount of space used in your home as an office $300.00 $3,600.00
Insurance (Car, business liability, UI, etc) Assume $300-1000 per vehicle [per month] $300.00 $3,600.00
Depreciation & Amortization Assume 5-10 year replacement cycle on trucks, 2-3 year on tools $0.00 $1,200.00
Earnings Before Income Tax $432.27 $20,187.25
Income Tax (21% corporate or personal) $90.78 $4,239.32
Net Profit $341.49 $15,947.93
Profit+Wages $1,799.83 $33,447.93

Create your pricing strategy

There are a variety of ways you can quote bids for potential customers, but the most common way is providing a window cleaning proposal that is based on:

  • Per Pane Business Model
  • Square Footage Business Model
  • Time and Materials Model

Most small businesses call around to compare the price of local window washers to figure out what the market normally charges. Seattle Window Cleaners makes it easy to check how much for window washing, roof cleaning, pressure washing, gutter cleaning, and siding scrubs.

They use a tool called Responsibid that makes it easier to provide instant quotes, but the BookingKoala layout is better and the cost is less. Chris discusses it in our blog about how to start a cleaning company

Seattle Window Cleaners’ bidding system uses two of the bidding methods, the per pane and per square foot mode. If you just want a quick estimate, put in the square footage of your house and how many floors it is to get an estimate that is subject to change.

If you want an exact quote, you’ll have to answer about the type and number of windows, whether they have screens, whether indoor windows need a ladder, the number of floors, and more. It takes about five minutes, but the picture below shows the estimate for 10 windows with screens on a 2,000-square-foot house. 

Screenshot of westseattlewindowcleaner website

Once you’ve established the price of the packages, document them and include them in the plan. Don’t forget to add the cost of an online order system to your budget.

Write your marketing plan

Now it’s time to establish how you’re going to market your business. You should establish:

Marketing channels you want to use: Digital, print, radio, and TV are all options. Most opt for digital and limited print.

Monthly marketing budget: How much do you want to spend on marketing, including blogs, ads, and print media?

Content: What is the content in your window washing company marketing? Have policies for words, pictures, colors, fonts, and logo usage.

Get physical products to market your business: You’ll want vehicle signs, business cards, and door hangers for sure. Some people also use mailers.

Martin told us:

(I spend) About $3,000 (on) Google Ads. And then we also do a five round automated with the cards that go out and to all the neighbors. When we’re at a house, the neighbors get a card in the mail afterwards and it says:

‘Hey, we’re just cleaning the neighbor’s windows, we’d love to do some work for you too!’

Register your own window cleaning business

One of the essential aspects of starting your own business is complying with local, state, and federal laws. Every business in the cleaning industry will need to check with their local governments to see what the local and state regulations are.

Most businesses will need to:

  1. Choose a business name.
  2. Form a separate business entity.
  3. Get a window cleaning license. 
  4. Maintain business insurance.
  5. Get a business bank account. 

Let’s look at how a service business can approach each of these before they start window-washing business operations.

Name the window cleaning business

Finger Presses Orange Button Domain Name Registration on black keys

The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a business name. You’ll want to check that the name is available in the following locations:

  1. Social Media: Local service businesses rely heavily on the internet for their customer bases. If the name you want is already taken on social media, business customers may have trouble finding you. Check any platform you plan on using.
  2. Secretary of State Office (SOS): The SOS is where you apply for an LLC and other business structures. If the name is already in use, some states allow you to use it anyway. It’s a bad option though because another company could ruin your reputation.
  3. Domain Name: The domain name is your address for your business website. It needs to be available. Check GoDaddy to see if your business name is available.
  4. United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): You absolutely do not want to use a business name that is trademarked. It can open you up to lawsuits. Make sure to check the USPTO website to see if there are protected assets.

Martin told us this about the company he bought:

The old trucks, they didn’t have any logo on ’em. The guys would just go out and pretend to be from one of these four different websites, depending on which house they went to, which is super confusing. It wasn’t much of a brand, but it had, you know, that repeat customer base. 

And there was some relationship there. And I have noticed that after we just simplified and made it all Seattle Window Cleaners, we have lost some customers outside of that core area.

Once you’ve chosen a business name, secure it with the domain, social media, and SOS Office.

Register the window cleaning business

You’ll need to get an LLC or Corporation to operate a business. An LLC is a pass-through entity which means business income is considered personal income, but it can elect to opt for the S-Corp classification, which may have tax benefits at some income levels.

You could also choose a partnership or sole proprietorship, but those don’t offer personal liability protection. 

You’ll also need to get tax permits and an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. Some states have a portal that helps you apply for the LLC, permits to collect sales tax, and local business licenses all in one place.

Check out our blog on how to register a business. We even walk you through how to get your EIN from the IRS.

Get a window cleaning business license

You’ll need to look up your local county clerk or business license department to verify what business licenses are needed for the window cleaning industry. Licensing requirements vary by location, but common requirements are:

  • General liability insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Security bonds
  • A licensing fee

If your location requires insurance, you’ll need to get it before the license.

Get window cleaning business insurance

Screenshot of HISCOXEncourageCourage website

You may need to get insurance before you offer window cleaning services. Even if it’s not required, you should protect your business assets. I normally suggest Hiscox because they are quick, easy, and affordable. They offer most types of business insurance including:

  • General liability insurance
  • Professional liability
  • Business owner policies
  • Auto insurance
  • Workman’s compensation

Make sure you get the ones you need to protect your personal and business assets.

Get a business bank account

Businessman using tablet

You’ll want to keep your business and personal assets separate. Business expenses are tax-deductible, but personal expenses are not. A business bank account makes it easy to keep personal assets separate from your business expenses. 

You’ll want to apply online or at your local credit union. Small banks tend to have better approval rates than major banks when you apply for loans, so start building a relationship early. 

Most window cleaners will also want a business credit card to pay for overhead costs like gas and cleaning solutions. If they’ll approve you at the same time you open your bank account, you’ll be able to use it for start-up costs.

Create a window cleaning services pricing guide 

By now, you should have established how you will charge window cleaning customers, but you’ll need to make it easy to provide quotes to potential clients. Both customer service representatives and your window cleaning team will need to have an easy way of providing estimates.

This is especially critical if you provide other services to existing customers. Martin told us:

Window cleaning is super seasonal. We do that in the summer and then trailing into September. Late August, it starts to quiet down quite a bit. 

Then we start hanging Christmas lights in October, which is something we introduced last year and it’s really profitable.

The other thing we do in the wintertime is gutter cleaning. When the leaves come off, everybody starts calling for that. That’s also really good profits, but it’s also something that mostly clustered around that period in November, December, and early January when the leaves come off around here. 

And then the next thing we do is the roof cleaning. So, there’s a lot of moss growing on the shingle roofs here. So we go out and we treat that when it blooms in a later winter time, early spring.

They also do power washing. Window cleaning companies might want to consider a similar approach to build relationships with existing and potential clients. It will help cover overhead costs during slow months. 

As mentioned previously, you should consider Responsibid or BookingKoala, but you can also use an excel spreadsheet and script to provide window cleaning job quotes. 

Skip losing money! Check out our 7-Figure Cleaning Business Blueprint course to get the business skills, systems, and processes you need to run a profitable cleaning company. It will make day-to-day operations way easier.

Buy window cleaning supplies

You can buy window cleaning supplies on Amazon. You’ll want to get:

  • Squeegees
  • Window cleaner
  • Scrubber
  • Extension pole

Keep reading for our window cleaning kit.

Window cleaning supply kit 

Window cleaning kit

We’re testing something new to see if you like it. We’re searching out products and creating kits where you can find everything you need together. We hope it saves you some time. 

Check out our window cleaning business start-up kit on kit.co. Combine it with the pressure washing kit for diversified revenue streams and power window washing capabilities.

Window cleaning marketing

Martin told us he attempted every type of marketing and has found there are three strategies that work really well.

  1. Google Ads
  2. Referral programs
  3. Send a mailer to five neighbors of each customer

He explained:

I spend about $3,000 per month. We just use regular Google Ads. And then we also do a five-round automated with the cards that go out and to all the neighbors. When we’re at a house, the neighbors get a card in the mail afterwards.

Check out our cleaning course to get templates for mailers, automations, and ad platforms.

You might also want to create social media accounts and join local business directories like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Thumbtack. These provide leads and add to your authority.

Provide window cleaning services

You’ve gone through the process of starting a window cleaning business, but now it’s time to serve customers. If you offer other services like power washing, try to upsell your customers to increase the revenue per trip. You already use similar cleaning solutions and towels. Cleaning tools are pretty interchangeable. 

Be careful when cleaning window panes. If you accidentally break a window pane, immediately pay for someone to come out and fix it. Accidents happen, but a quick honest response can help build a good reputation even when you have accidents.

How to start a high-rise window cleaning business

If you’ll be cleaning high rises, you’ll want to take some extra precautions including:

  1. Using additional personal protection equipment like scaffolds and harnesses.
  2. Increasing your insurance to protect against the higher risk of injuries or wrongful death.
  3. Bidding more per window pane.

Window washing business for sale

Does starting as a window cleaner from scratch sound like hard work? Consider the route of buying a window cleaning company to become your own boss. 

What part of window cleaning excites you the most?

Now you know how to start a window cleaning business. There are a lot of moving parts for many business owners, but window cleaning can be a great career. What part excites you the most?

 

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