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A guide to starting a window cleaning business in the UK

6-minute read

Sam Bromley

5 March 2018

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If you want to be your own boss, starting a window cleaning business is a great option. It can be a simple venture that doesn't need much initial investment to get going - and these days window cleaners don't even need to like heights!

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Window cleaning - is it for me?

If there's one thing that puts a lot of people off a career in window cleaning, it's the prospect of regular work at heights. But as the British Window Cleaning Academy (BWCA) explains, "The reality is that modern window cleaners don't generally use ladders at all any more." In fact, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that ladders are only used for low-risk, short-duration work.

Current window cleaning technology allows people to operate from the safety of the ground, should they prefer. Lightweight extendable poles with a soft bristled brush can clean the window, while a jet of pure water rinses the glass at the same time.

This means that even those terrified of heights can become a window cleaner if they really want. And as windows always need cleaning, there'll always be a market. With reports of people quitting city jobs to set up shop on their own, is starting a window cleaning business your next career move?

In this how-to guide, we talk you through what you need to start a window cleaning business, from equipment, to training and insurance.

Starting a window cleaning business

If it's the traditional method of window cleaning business that you've got in mind, you could start (in theory) with just a bucket and a squeegee. But by starting small, you might be limiting where you can go with your business in the future.

You could start window cleaning with as little as £100. But keep in mind, you'll want to put your business on a firm footing with the right equipment, training, and marketing.

In this sense, creating a business plan will help you nail down the specifics of what you want to do with your new venture.

It will get you thinking about how your business will grow, who your competitors are, and the size of your market - and how much to back your business with initially.

You will also need to a legal structure for your business, whether you choose to be a sole trader, limited company, or enter into a partnership.

Water-fed pole vs traditional window cleaning

Traditional window cleaning was the norm for many years, but now water-fed poles are also commonplace.

Despite the newer technology, it's vital to train yourself and your employees in traditional window cleaning skills. Many businesses still use them for cleaning interior windows.

Some customers might also request that you clean windows in the traditional way, because they mistrust water-fed poles. Water-fed poles can suffer from equipment failure from time to time, and might not always be able to access hard-to-reach windows.

You'll also need to have the ability to carry your water-fed pole equipment around with you, and it is a more costly investment.

But ultimately, while using water-fed poles may take a short time to master, many window cleaners say that the results achieved are better than traditional methods. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of each method and decide what's right for you.

Window cleaning equipment - what do I need?

Buckets, sponges, squeegees, scrapers and blades - these are well known as the traditional window cleaning kit.

But for domestic window cleaning, you should also think about:

  • A 'reach and wash' system (water-fed pole and filtration system)
  • Water purifier
  • Vehicles to transport equipment

Keep in mind, that the above can also set you up for commercial clients, too - think high street shops and small offices. Many window cleaners will have a mixed client-base of domestic customers and a few commercial contracts.

If, however, you want to target larger commercial premises, it's possible you'll need more specialist equipment. This can include:

  • Cranes
  • Cherry pickers
  • Abseiling equipment (for specialist and trained workers)

How much do window cleaners earn?

As with any business, this depends on several factors. These factors include the location and size of your round (a round in Mayfair will pay differently to one in Streatham). Some customers might tip more than others too, so it's difficult to give an accurate number.

But investing in the right equipment now could pay off in the future. The BWCA, for example, say that almost all window cleaners with reach and wash systems could quite comfortably turn over £25 per hour and at least £200 per day.

Water-fed poles let people get through more jobs, but the earning opportunity for traditional window cleaners is still great. Some window cleaners even combine both techniques. Focus on your service, work hard and you should be able to earn money - whatever the cleaning method.

Window cleaning training

Although window cleaning is perhaps safer than its reputation suggests, it's vital to give health and safety proper consideration.

You'll need to revise all the laws and health and safety regulation that apply to window cleaning businesses. As a start, the Health and Safety Executive has a specific section on window cleaning.

As well as revising health and safety regulation, take some time to research the training and qualifications that window cleaners need. These courses can be both for you and your staff. Just like investing in equipment, investing in training will pay off as it cements your business's reputation as trustworthy and reliable.

The BWCA and FWC (Federation of Window Cleaners) have accredited courses and training days for window cleaners.

How to market your window cleaning business

You can definitely think big when it comes to marketing your business. Window cleaning can be competitive, so you'll want to stand out from the crowd.

Consider your business plan and remember that your marketing efforts will drive your business growth.

Your business plan should also make it clear what your unique selling point will be. For example, are you going to provide a cheap service, or base your business around providing quality? Your marketing can then reflect that.

Things to think about include:

Other ways to create brand recognition include getting your logo and brand wrapped onto your vehicles, putting your logo onto t-shirts, and teaming up with other tradespeople to cross-market your services.

You can even buy established window cleaning rounds from other window cleaners, so if you want a ready-made solution (and have the money to make the investment) this could be something to explore.

Window cleaning insurance

Whether you opt for the traditional method or water-fed pole, accidents can happen, so anybody thinking about starting a window cleaning business should consider business insurance.

Having the right insurance in place will not only give you peace of mind, but will also help to establish your brand as trustworthy and reliable. Your clients and staff will trust you to be an expert on health and safety, and they would expect you to have the appropriate covers in place too.

These might include:

These are some of the key covers, but there are plenty more you can add as part of a tailored policy.

Ready to start a window cleaning business?

Starting a window cleaning business will require time and devotion, but the opportunity to be your own boss and run a business can be very rewarding.

Make sure you’ve done all your research and identified locations where demand will be high. Come up with a great business plan, and then put it into action.

Are you looking to start your own window cleaning business? Let us know in the comments below.

Insure your window cleaning business

You can build a tailored window cleaning insurance policy. Choose from a range of expert cover options, starting with public liability insurance - why not run a quick quote to get started?

Start your quote

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