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

  • Brandon Boushy by Brandon Boushy
  • 3 weeks ago
  • Blog
  • 1
Seattle Window Cleaning owner holding equipment with text that reads "Build your window cleaning empire from scratch" hovering overhead

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

Martin decided he wanted to buy a window cleaning business for around $400K, and a year later, he doubled the company’s revenue. In this helpful how-to, he shares his business, marketing, and communication strategies for running a successful window cleaning business.

Case Study: Seattle Window Cleaning

Window cleaner on a lift working on high rise windows with a search bar that reads "Seattle Window Cleaning" hovering in the foreground

Martin Skarra graduated from business school and wanted to buy a business. He started looking for a service company that was already successful but provided opportunities to improve.

He spent 18 months looking for a small business opportunity that had opportunities to improve branding, adopt technology, and increase profitability. That’s when he found Mercer Island Window Cleaners. He bought it for $400K and started making changes.

First, Martin changed the business name from Mercer Island Window Cleaners, among other brands the company operated under, to Seattle Window Cleaning. This single change helped improve the company’s rank on search engines, jumping to the top three with more than 1,000 searches per month.

He updated the website, automated the business, improved the marketing, and hired more people. These changes helped him double the revenue in less than a year.

Watch his story below:

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Does Martin’s story inspire you to be your own boss and start a window-washing company?

Learn How to Start a Cleaning Company

Starting a window washing business or any cleaning business can be a high-paying endeavor, but most business owners spend a lot of time and energy learning on the job.

What if you could skip all the guesswork and get straight to making money?

We partnered with Cristobal Mondragon to create a cleaning business course that gives you everything you need to start cleaning business operations. We’re so confident you’ll love the full course that we provide a 90-day refund policy.

Check out our FREE cleaning business course to get a preview of what you’ll learn.

Learn About the Window Cleaning Industry

How much do window cleaners make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, window cleaners typically get paid between $12 and $29 hourly, or a salary of $25,950 to $58,780 per year.

You might pay your window washing employees by the job, by the hour, or commission. In 2022, 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.”

If you want to know how much you can make by starting a window cleaning business, keep reading.

How much do window washing business owners make?

Most window washing business owners pay themselves a salary, which is approximately $100K per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can pay yourself less if you make less, but the IRS likes going after business owners who don’t pay themselves a competitive wage.

While many local window cleaners don’t make that much, 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.”

That means he could be making as much as $22,500 per month. Sound good? Learn more about starting your own window cleaning business.

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

Cleaning business owner holding a sponge in one hand and a bucket of cash in the other

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

  • Squeegees
  • A vehicle
  • Window cleaner
  • Scrubber
  • Extension pole
  • Business license
  • Limited liability company (LLC) or other business structure

If you have to buy a vehicle, you can still do it for under $5K. 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 U.S., 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.”

His down payment was around $40K.

Now that you understand the financials, let’s look at how to start a window washing business.

How to Start a Window Cleaning Business

You will need to follow a seven-step process to start your own window cleaning business.

Step 1. Write a Window Cleaning Business Plan

According to Harvard Business Review, taking the time to write a business plan increases the probability of success by 16%. A business plan is normally required to take out SBA loans, too.

To write a window cleaning business plan, you’ll want to:

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

Check out our interview with Mike Andes, a successful business owner and franchisor, about writing a business plan.

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Let’s start by discussing business ideas.

Brainstorm Cleaning Business Ideas

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

  • Residential clients: Residential window cleaning services focus on a target market, typically homeowners in zip codes with high median wages.
  • Commercial clients: Small business owners and building owners often look to commercial window cleaning services. You may focus on buildings like offices, shopping malls, hotels, and apartment complexes.
  • 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.

Since residential and commercial window cleaners have fairly similar requirements, many businesses will accept both commercial and residential clients. Check out our blog about more cleaning business ideas here.

Once you decide what your business is going to focus on, you need to establish your goals.

Establish Goals for Your Cleaning Business

Seattle Window Cleaning owner Martin Skarra standing on a residential street in front of one of his vans holding and pointing to a chalkboard sign that reads "Unique Business Goals"

Every business owner has different goals for their window washing business. The average revenue per employee across the industry is only around $67K, so you probably aren’t going to make $1M 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 because they will impact your pricing guide, insurance, software requirements, marketing, business licenses, and practically every decision you make when opening your own business.

Create a Budget for the Window Washing Business

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

“I’m hoping long term, [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.”

The breakdown would look something 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 a reasonable assumption $5,833.33 $70,000
Wages $0.00 $1,458.33 $17,500
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 $480
Mileage $0.00 $512.50 $6,150
Work Booties $0.00 $12 $144
Tools for cleaning (First Month) $1,500/truck $1,500 $1,500
Total Cost of Service Rendered 30-40% $3,634.40 $27,112.75
Admin 10-12%    
Marketing 8.00% $466.67 $5,600
Payments to accountants, lawyers, etc Assume $3,000-$10,000/year   $300
Technology Expenses $300-$1,000  $300 $3,600
Vehicle Payments Assume $400-$1,000/month per van $400 $4,800
Office Rent $3000/month or amount of space used in your home as an office $300 $3,600
Insurance (Car, business liability, UI, etc) Assume $300-1000 per vehicle [per month] $300 $3,600
Depreciation & Amortization Assume 5- to 10-year replacement cycle on trucks, 2-3 year on tools $300 $1,200
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

You’ll need to figure out how much to charge for window cleaning. You can quote bids for potential customers using the following business models:

  • Per Pane: This business model uses the number of window panes to establish how much to charge. The window cleaning cost will normally be $4 to $15 per window.
  • Square Footage: Some residential window cleaning companies charge based on the square footage of the windows or the home. These are good for tract homes where cleaning windows doesn’t require a lot of guesswork.
  • Time and Materials: This business model is good for commercial properties and custom homes because you can estimate based on factors like ladders, screens, and other features. Companies normally charge $80 to $150 per hour.

Most small businesses call around to figure out what the local market normally charges.

Seattle Window Washing uses a tool called ResponsiBid that makes it easier to provide instant quotes, but BookingKoala’s layout is better (in my opinion) and the cost is less. Chris discusses it in our blog about how to start a cleaning company

Write Your Marketing Plan

Martin Skarra standing in front of a large residence with a lime green hose over his shoulder pointing to a smart phone showing UpFlip’s How to Get Clients for a Cleaning Business blog post

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?
  • Physical products to market your business: You’ll want vehicle signs, business cards, and door hangers. Some people also use mailers.

Martin told us:

“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!’”

Learn more about finding cleaning customers here.

Step 2. Register the Window Cleaning Business

You’ll need to choose a business name and register the business. Check that the name is available as a web domain, social media handle (on all platforms), trademark, and as an actual business name.

Two common business structures are LLCs and corporations. Both have their benefits, which you can read about in our business structure guide. Make sure to talk to a business attorney before you register.

You’ll also need to get tax permits and an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service.

Step 3. 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 you’ll need. Licensing requirements vary by location, but common requirements are:

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

The window cleaning license cost will normally be between $100 and $500, but I have seen some locations where a business license costs a percentage of the previous year’s or quarter’s revenue.

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

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

Step 4. Get Business Insurance

Business owner at a minimalist desk space using a tablet to search for business insurance options from Simply Business

You may need to get insurance before you offer window cleaning services. Even if insurance for window cleaners is not required, you should protect your business assets. I normally suggest Simply Business because they are quick, easy, and affordable. They compare window cleaning insurance for most types of business insurance, including:

  • General liability insurance
  • Professional liability
  • Business owner policies
  • Auto insurance
  • Workers’ compensation

Make sure you get insurance that will protect your personal and business assets.

Step 5. Open a Business Bank Account

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. Apply online or at your local credit union.

Small banks tend to have better approval rates than major banks when you apply for a business loan, 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 the bank approves you at the same time you open your bank account, you’ll be able to use it for start-up costs.

Step 6. Create a Pricing Guide

You’ll need to make it easy to provide price quotes to potential clients. Customer service representatives and your window cleaning team will benefit from having 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.”

They also offer gutter cleaning, roof cleaning, power washing, and Christmas light installation to provide year-round services for their target audience.

You might want to consider a similar approach to build relationships with existing and potential clients. It will help cover overhead costs during slow months. Check out our cleaners pricing guide for inspiration.

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.

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.

Step 7. Buy Window Cleaning Supplies

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

  • Squeegees
  • Window cleaner
  • Scrubber
  • Extension pole
  • Cleaning solution

Window cleaning equipment might also include a pressure washing setup.

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

Step 8. Market Your Window Cleaning Business

UpFlip masterclass landing page on a desktop computer at a workstation overlooking a cityscape

Martin told us he attempted every type of marketing and found three that work 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 [on marketing]. 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 Angi (formerly Angie’s List), Yelp, and Thumbtack. These provide leads and add to your authority.

Step 9. Provide Window Cleaning Services

You’ve started a window cleaning business, but now it’s time to serve customers. If you offer other services like pressure washing, offer this to 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.

Conclusion

Now you know how to open a window cleaning business. We discussed how Martin runs his home window cleaning company and what to expect when you enter the industry.

Local service businesses, like window cleaners, can serve both residential and business customers to make a great living. To make a window cleaning business profitable, don’t offer $99 window cleaning unless you are in a place with a low cost of living. Window cleaning jobs require time and money, and you need to make money to stay afloat.

How much is window cleaning in your area?

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1 thoughts on “How to Start a $100K/Month Window Cleaning Business”

  • Hugo

    Great!! Thank you for bringing all this information and stories about businesses!!

    Reply

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