Window Cleaning Business Operator The Buzz


There are lots of opportunities for window cleaners.

Sandy Ednie, who founded a window cleaning company in Ontario over 30 years ago, agrees. "Good window cleaners are few and far between," he says. "People just don't think of window cleaning as a career choice."

According to John Long of the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA), the demand is being fueled by builders' increasing use of natural light in homes, factories, and office buildings.

"Architects are increasingly using more glass to create brighter, more vibrant buildings," says Long. That means more opportunities for window cleaners.

Starting Up

Opening a window cleaning service requires relatively low start-up capital for equipment, transportation, and marketing. This type of business can be started on a part-time basis. Since this is a service-oriented industry, window cleaning also requires strong people skills, a high level of motivation, and attention to detail.

Ednie notes that while start-up costs are low for residential and storefront cleaners, as a business grows, workers' compensation becomes a major cost for employers. Ednie, who has about a dozen employees, pays 21 percent of his gross payroll for workers' compensation costs. This means that for every $100 he pays in wages, he pays $21 in workers' compensation.

Long started cleaning storefront windows 20 years ago. With 25 employees, he now spends his time focusing on the sales and administration aspects of the business. He, too, says that costs will grow as business increases.

In Pennsylvania, for every $100 Long pays in wages, he pays about $40 in workers' compensation and general liability insurance. He points out that expansion into highrise cleaning requires more expensive equipment.

Residential cleaning may be easier to break into than the more competitive commercial market, according to Richard Fabry, the publisher of American Window Cleaner magazine. He points out that over time, residential window cleaners can expand into other types of cleaning (such as gutters and blinds). This increases the amount of money made per stop, and allows cleaners to expand their indoor business during bad weather months.

Mike and Linda Merrick own a window cleaning company that concentrates on ground commercial work and residential clients, but also cleans chandeliers, ceiling fans, screens and gutters.

"Our niche in the market is to do what people dislike doing themselves," says Mike Merrick in a letter to potential franchisers.

Business Revenues: Cleaning Up

Long points out that earnings can vary greatly by region. Some parts of the U.S., for example, have labor rates of $15 per hour, while others could charge $50 to $60 per hour. Since cleaning windows is a labor-driven business, earnings depend to some extent on what each market will bear.

Ednie indicated that good employees who work steadily cleaning highrises could earn about $27,000 to $33,500 a year. Even non-highrise cleaners can make a decent living, he says.

Advice for Winning With Windows

Ednie advises that to be successful as a window cleaner, you need to do the job you say you'll do on a consistent basis. "You can't cut corners and hope no one will notice," he says. "It's a service industry, so quality service is most essential."

He also feels that appearances are important, and that window cleaners should look professional.

"Remember, you are running a business, not just cleaning windows," says Linda Merrick. She suggests developing a business plan, organizing your time, and learning to delegate responsibility as you grow. She also feels that customer service is critical.

"You only have one chance to make a good first impression. You are in the cleaning business and cleanliness must begin with you and your uniform," she adds.

Carrying full insurance helps alleviate customer concerns and sets you apart from your competition, according to Linda Merrick. "Don't run down your competition," she advises. "If you provide quality service at fair competitive prices, the word will spread."

Links

International Window Cleaning Association
There's info on becoming certified and upcoming conventions

Window Cleaning Tips
Handy advice

American Window Cleaner Magazine
Read the back issues