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What is a Window Cleaning Business?
The window cleaning industry in the UK is worth more than £280 million and is expected to grow by 2.3% in 2023 alone. There are estimated to be nearly 2,500 window cleaning businesses currently in operation in the UK, and with the industry growth showing no signs of slowing down, now could be a great time to start a window cleaning business.
A window cleaning business is comprised of one or more window cleaners who are involved in washing and cleaning exterior (and sometimes interior) glass and windows. The aim is to remove dirt, dust, grime, foreign matter and other substances using a variety of cleaning tools and materials. The term window cleaning can refer to a variety of operations, including window washing, window restoration, window sealing and waxing and window shining.
If you are thinking of starting up a window cleaning business, an important consideration you will need to make is the types of buildings you are going to focus on. Window cleaners can work on a huge variety of buildings, as long as they have windows and other glass surfaces, including:
- Residential houses.
- Apartment buildings.
- Commercial businesses, e.g. shops, cafes and restaurants.
- Healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries.
- Schools, nurseries, colleges and care homes.
- Industrial buildings, e.g. factories and warehouses.
- Skyscrapers or high-rise buildings.
- Office buildings.
- Religious buildings, such as churches, mosques and synagogues.
Window cleaners typically specialise in a specific type of building (e.g. residential houses or high-rise buildings) as different types of buildings can have significantly different equipment requirements.
When setting up your window cleaning business, you will need to decide the type of window cleaning you plan to specialise in, and the window cleaning services you will offer.
Exterior window cleaning
This type of window cleaner focuses on cleaning the windows on the outside of the building (the exterior). This can include windows on multi-storey buildings. The outside of a building is exposed to outdoor elements, including rain, dirt and debris that are blown by the wind, mud, insects and bird faeces. The exterior of a window, therefore, requires more frequent and intensive cleaning.
Interior window cleaning
You may also offer window cleaning inside the building (the interior). Although interior windows are not exposed to the elements, they can still be exposed to dust, dirt and finger marks. Some window cleaners also offer an interior window cleaning service, particularly if they work on commercial or industrial buildings.
Glass door cleaning
Many residential and commercial buildings have glass doors, for example, French doors. Glass door cleaning requires you to use different cleaning solutions and different cleaning materials, compared to ordinary windows. For this reason, glass door cleaning will likely be a separate service and an optional extra that customers can choose.
Hard water removal
Hard water spots and marks can occur if the windows have previously been cleaned with non-purified water, as the minerals present in this water can enter the structure of the glass. Hard water marks can also occur after extreme weather. You can offer a service to remove hard water marks and leave the windows clean and streak-free.
You can offer additional cleaning services, alongside window cleaning, such as:
- Cleaning guttering.
- Cleaning windowsills and window frames.
- Cleaning the exterior and roof of a conservatory.
- Cleaning tiles.
There are many different day-to-day responsibilities associated with running a window cleaning business, including:
- Cleaning windows and other types of glass on the exterior and interior of buildings.
- Mixing cleaning solutions, chemicals, detergents and water.
- Purchasing, maintaining and servicing tools and equipment.
- Maintaining safety equipment.
- Pricing your services and creating agreements with customers (regarding price and services).
- Collecting payments and providing receipts.
- Working at height (e.g. from a ladder, scaffolding, a window cleaning platform or a bosun’s chair).
- Operating powerful cleaning equipment, such as water-fed poles.
- Cleaning second-storey windows and the windows of high-rise buildings.
- Transporting equipment, materials and supplies to different job sites.
- Assembling and disassembling scaffolding and working at height equipment.
- Keeping accurate records of each job, including a description of the work, the time spent working, the number of workers required, and the materials used.
- Managing inventory and ordering cleaning products.
- Keeping up to date on health and safety regulations and ensuring your business complies with all health and safety regulations and legal guidelines.
- Completing business and administrative tasks.
- Marketing and advertising.
If you are thinking of starting up a window cleaning business, there are specific skills and areas of knowledge that will be beneficial. This can include the ability to be thorough and pay attention to detail, good physical skills (e.g. the ability to manage equipment and good coordination and dexterity), and good interpersonal skills and customer service skills. A thorough understanding of health and safety regulations is also required. With a solid business plan, a window cleaning business can be financially lucrative.
Types of Customers
Window cleaning businesses can work on any building with windows, including residential homes and commercial buildings. However, certain factors could determine the specific types of customers your business is likely to attract.
Defining your target market makes it easier to focus on the specific customers who are most likely to pay for your services and determine exactly where and how to market your business.
Some of the factors that can influence your typical customer base include:
The location you operate in
This will be the most important factor in determining your typical customer base. To reduce the time spent travelling between clients, you will likely operate your business in one specific area. This could be a particular neighbourhood or a collection of neighbourhoods within close proximity to one another. It could also be that you operate on a particular high street or town centre and target businesses, such as shops, cafes and restaurants, that are located in that area. Consider your operating location when identifying your typical customer base.
Whether you focus on commercial or residential customers
Window cleaning businesses tend to focus on one type of customer, either commercial or residential, as this allows them to focus their business’s equipment requirements and operating location. It can also help you to build your customer base. If you focus on residential buildings, you may specialise in houses, apartment buildings or both. If you focus on commercial customers (e.g. business owners), there are many different types of commercial buildings you can work on, including:
- Cafes, restaurants and bars.
- Office buildings.
- Industrial buildings (e.g. warehouses and factories).
- Schools, nurseries and colleges.
- Clinics, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.
This will be a key factor in determining your typical customer base. Customers can typically be separated into three different pricing tiers:
- Budget: Price is the most important factor for this type of customer. They will likely choose a window cleaner who offers the lowest price, regardless of the services they offer.
- Mid-range: This type of customer is looking for a combination of quality and affordability. Although price is important to them, it won’t be the only factor they consider.
- High-end: This type of client is willing to pay higher prices for the best possible service. They will likely want the highest quality cleaning materials and equipment, the most thorough window cleaning and the option of additional cleaning services.
The window cleaning services you offer
You may choose to just offer a simple exterior window cleaning service for a set price. However, some window cleaning businesses choose to also offer additional services, such as cleaning windowsills and doors and cleaning guttering. The types of services you offer can determine the types of customers that choose your business.
Your marketing and advertising
Marketing is a key way for you to attract new customers to your business. Your marketing and advertising strategies should consider how to reach potential customers and how to make your window cleaning business stand out from others. As part of your marketing and advertising strategies, consider how your business name and logo, the aesthetic and design of your business and the design of your website and advertisements are going to appeal to certain customers.
Your reputation and customer reviews
This is another important factor that many people will look at. They may look at your customer reviews or choose a window cleaner based on recommendations from their neighbours or other businesses.
Your reputation and reviews will likely be based on multiple factors, such as:
- The quality of your service.
- How you interacted and communicated with clients.
- Your pricing.
Equipment You Will Need
Equipment is an essential purchase, as without it you will not be able to run your business. The types and amount of equipment you require will depend on the type of window cleaning business you operate, the services you offer and the size of your business.
Below is a list of equipment typically required by a window cleaning business:
A van not only allows you to travel between different jobs, but it also allows you to transport any of the equipment you will need (particularly large equipment, such as ladders). To help your business gain exposure, it is recommended that you install adhesive door and body panels onto your van with your business name and logo, your contact information and the typical services you offer.
A water-fed pole
This is a type of extendable window cleaning pole that has a hose running through the entire length and a specialised brush head on the end. The hose sends a constant flow of purified, deionised water to the brush head. The purified water can effectively remove dirt and clean windows, without needing any detergent. The water cleans the windows, and the brush removes any dirt, dust, grime and leaves. Because the water is purified, the window can be left to dry naturally, without leaving any streaks. Water-fed poles are extendable and can reach the tops of windows and second-storey windows.
A squeegee is a specialist piece of equipment designed for cleaning windows. It has a flat, smooth rubber blade attached to a handle which can be used to spread or wipe water and other liquids. Opt for lightweight squeegees to reduce the amount of weight you are holding and reduce the pressure on your wrists. You may need regular-sized and smaller squeegees for different-sized windows.
Window scrapers are professional-grade blade scrapers that can be used on most windows (although not on delicate windows or designed/patterned windows). Scrapers are recommended for removing stubborn dirt and grime. Scrapers are available in different sizes.
You will need to keep a supply of spare squeegee blades and scraper blades in your van so that you can quickly change out any worn-out blades without needing to stop cleaning. Using worn-out rubber or metal blades can result in scratches or damage to the windows.
Extension poles, also called window cleaning poles, allow you to reach the tops of windows without using a ladder. Not needing to use a ladder as frequently can remove the risks associated with working at height. Choose an extension pole that can extend to different lengths, has an easy locking mechanism and has ergonomic grips. Every window cleaner in your business will need their own extension pole.
T-bars and sleeves
A T-bar is a tool you will use to apply the cleaning solution to the windows. T-bars typically come with a swivel function that allows you to access difficult-to-reach areas. They are made up of a t-shaped wand and a sleeve. Sleeves can be made from different materials, with the most common material being microfibre. Microfibre sleeves hold more liquid than other materials, giving you a better cleaning performance. It could be beneficial to choose sleeves that have abrasive side pads or scrubbing fibres, to help you remove stubborn dirt. Your T-bars and sleeves should fit onto your extension pole.
Water storage containers
The most common type of container for storing water is a window-cleaning water tank. These are semi-transparent tanks that are available in a range of sizes (usually between 200 litres and 1250 litres) and can transport water from job to job. It is recommended that you opt for baffled water tanks, which have grooves throughout the tank to reduce the movement of water and prevent it from sloshing from side to side. Your water tanks will ensure you have constant access to clean, purified water.
This is a key piece of equipment for a window cleaner. Buckets can be filled with water and cleaning solutions. Your buckets must be wide enough to fit your T-bar into them so that the sleeve can collect the water and solution. Choose lightweight buckets with sturdy handles to reduce the weight you are carrying and to ensure the buckets do not break. Many window cleaners opt for rectangular buckets, as these can more easily accommodate the T-bars.
A tool belt, holster or pouch
Each window cleaner will require a tool belt to keep their most useful tools on hand at all times, including scrapers, squeegees and cloths. Ensure the belts, holsters or pouches are secure and that nothing can fall out – particularly if you are working from height.
Although some businesses choose not to use ladders, other window cleaners find a ladder to be an essential piece of equipment. You may use ladders to reach second-storey windows and guttering. There are different height ladders available, depending on the task. There are also different types of ladders, including extension ladders, step ladders and leaning ladders.
Ladder clamps are required if you will need to transport your ladders in a van or another vehicle. The clamps safely attach the ladder to the roof rack, allowing you to take your equipment from one job to the next.
If your business plans to work on skyscrapers or multi-storey buildings, you will need specific safety equipment to allow you to effectively clean windows at height.
Some of the specialist equipment you could choose includes:
- A window cleaning platform: This equipment is similar to scaffolding, as it provides a stable place for you to stand when cleaning high-up windows. It allows you to get to the correct elevation quickly and safely and can allow you to safely move around the platform. Your platform should also include a hoist motor and heavy-duty wires.
- Scaffolding: The most popular type of scaffolding for window cleaning is suspended scaffolding. This is a platform that is suspended from above by cables and stirrups on each side of the platform.
- Bosun’s chair: This is similar to a window cleaning platform, but instead of standing, you will sit. A bosun’s chair is a seat that is suspended from a rope, allowing you to lower yourself into place.
- A safety belt or harness: This ensures your safety, even if the window cleaning platform or bosun’s chair fails.
There are different types of cleaning solutions you could opt for, with different window cleaners having different preferences. You may also require different cleaning solutions for different types of windows.
Some of the solutions you could choose include:
- Washing-up liquid or detergent mixed in distilled water.
- Glass cleaner (with or without ammonia).
- Mild soap with a neutral pH (e.g. for stained glass windows).
There are multiple cleaning materials you could choose, including:
- Microfibre cloths.
- Microfibre towels.
- Abrasive pads.
- Cotton earbuds (for removing a build-up of dirt on small areas of stained glass).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Multiple types of PPE can help protect you when cleaning windows, including:
- Safety goggles: To protect your eyes from chemicals, soap and spraying water.
- Gloves: To protect your hands from chemicals and over-exposure to water.
- Helmets or hardhats: If working from height.
- Long-sleeved tops: To protect your arms from chemicals.
A website is useful for advertising your business and will likely act as your primary advertising strategy. Your website should list the types of services you offer, descriptions and photographs of your previous work, the areas and locations you operate in and your contact information. Design your website to include your business logo and to reflect your branding.
Window cleaning business software can have a variety of uses, including:
- Scheduling jobs.
- Organising and managing daily operations.
- Creating, tracking and sending invoices.
- Managing payments.
- Accessing customer information.
- A payroll tool.
Depending on the business software you opt for, you could also have tools for increasing your revenue, including booking tools and marketing tools. Many types of business software come with a mobile application for easy access on the go.
A payment system
The type of payment system you require will depend on your primary payment strategy. For example, if you accept in-person sales, you will likely require a transportable Point of Sale (POS) system (e.g. a card machine) and a cash money belt. If you accept online payments, you may require an online payment system or a way to track payments to your business bank account.
Brochures, leaflets and business cards
These items are essential to your marketing and advertising strategies. These items should look professional, be made using high-quality materials and fit the design and aesthetic of your business. Ensure all of these items feature your contact information so potential clients can get in touch with you.
A business phone
A business phone will enable you to communicate with your clients and be contacted by potential clients. Your business phone number should be advertised on your website and any leaflets or business cards you use.
A transportable fully stocked first aid kit
Accidents and injuries can easily occur in this type of environment. Some injuries will be minor and can be treated onsite. Others may require medical intervention but initial treatment using items in a first aid kit can reduce the severity of the injury. Ensure your first aid kit is stocked with items to treat cuts, burns and sprains.
When you are planning your window cleaning business, you will need to calculate the approximate costs associated with setting up and running this type of business. Calculating your typical costs allows you to estimate your initial investment requirements, any monthly and annual costs, your pricing strategy, your profit goals and your acceptable profit margins.
There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a window cleaning business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.
The typical costs associated with a window cleaning business can vary, depending on the type of business you set up, the window cleaning services you offer and the equipment and materials you require.
Some of the typical costs you can expect include:
Your equipment will likely be the biggest expenditure associated with your business. Your equipment costs can vary, depending on the type of services you offer your clients and how much equipment you require. To reduce your start-up costs, you could buy only essential equipment initially and then purchase more equipment as your business grows. You can expect to spend between £500 and £10,000 on equipment.
Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment
Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment will come with warranties or guarantees, repairs and replacements are inevitable because much of your equipment will experience heavy usage and will be regularly exposed to water and chemicals. Effectively cleaning and maintaining equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its life, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget.
Because of the amount of equipment you require and the need to travel between different locations, you will need a business vehicle. A van will likely be the most convenient type of vehicle for your business. The price of a van can vary significantly, depending on the make and model and whether it is new or second-hand. The cost of a van can begin at £5,000 (for a second-hand vehicle). For a new van, expect to pay at least £30,000. You may also need to pay additional costs to apply adhesive panels to your van to advertise your business.
Vehicle running costs
Your vehicle running costs include your vehicle insurance, petrol, MOT, services and the costs of any repairs. These costs can vary significantly, depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, the level of insurance you choose and the amount of travel you need to do. Typically, you can expect to pay between £50 and £200 per month.
This will be an ongoing cost associated with your business. You will regularly need to place orders for cleaning materials such as detergent and glass cleaner. Some of your equipment, such as cloths and sponges, will also have a limited life and will need to be replaced regularly. To reduce your costs, order your materials in bulk and shop around to find the cheapest wholesaler.
If you hire any staff to work for your business on a permanent basis (rather than as an independent contractor or on a self-employed basis), you will need to pay them at least the national minimum wage. You will also need to account for other expenses such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions.
When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived by potential customers. When creating your brand, consider the type of window cleaning services you offer and your typical customer base. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.
Ongoing advertising costs
Because your customer base can change regularly, you will need to consistently market and advertise your business. To ensure your window cleaning business attracts customers and creates maximum profits, you will need to spend money on advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1% and 3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £50,000, you should spend between £500 and £1,500 on advertising and marketing.
You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your business or when you are trying to grow your business. To reduce your costs, capitalise on free marketing strategies, such as on social media or in your local community. You can also advertise on your van, and through leaflets, posters and business cards. Your business website can also be a key way to advertise your business but keep in mind that if you need a professional to help you set up your website, you can expect to pay between £20 and £100 per hour.
There are several types of coverage you could choose for your window cleaning business. Prices can vary depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you choose.
Business insurance typically chosen by window cleaning businesses includes:
- Public Liability Insurance.
- Employers’ Liability Insurance.
- General Liability Insurance.
- Tools, Materials and Business Equipment Cover.
- Financial Loss Cover.
- Personal Accident or Accidental Death Cover.
- Business Interruption Insurance.
Insurance costs can vary, depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you require. Prices typically start at £10 per month.
Typical Pricing for Customers
Once you have calculated the expected costs associated with setting up and running your window cleaning business, you can then determine your pricing.
Multiple factors can influence your pricing, including:
- The number of windows the building has and the size of the windows.
- The services you offer, and the level of cleaning required.
- The type of glass in the windows (e.g. stained glass, reflective glass or tinted glass).
- Whether you are also cleaning other types of glass, such as French doors and conservatories.
- The complexity of the job and how long it will take.
- Whether any specialist equipment or materials are required (for example, specialist cleaning materials for stained glass windows or specialist equipment for cleaning commercial buildings with multiple storeys).
- How many window cleaners are required.
- Your location (the average cost of a window cleaner can vary depending on where in the UK your business is based).
- Your competition and the demand for your services.
You may choose to offer discounts to customers who enter into a contract with you or who hire your services for regular window cleaning.
Safely Running a Window Cleaning Business
Safe practices in your window cleaning business can help to protect the health, safety and well-being of you and your employees, as well as protect the building you are working in.
Some ways you can safely run your window cleaning business include:
Comply with the Safety in Window Cleaning Using Water-Fed Pole Systems guidelines
These guidelines were created by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Federation of Window Cleaners. If your business uses water-fed poles, you should take practical precautions to reduce the risk to the lowest possible level, including:
- Consider any overhead power sources.
- Ensure the operator has a reasonable level of fitness (e.g. no muscular or skeletal disorders).
- Consider the weather conditions before using a water-fed pole (e.g. do not use a water-fed pole in strong winds or a storm).
- Ensure the window can be viewed from the ground, without obstruction.
- All water-fed pole operators should be suitably trained and competent.
- Carry out pre-use checks of all equipment.
Be aware of the risks associated with using a water-fed pole system
Several hazards can occur when using a water-fed pole, such as:
- Trip and slip hazards (e.g. from wet pathways or trailing hoses).
- Injury to yourself or others from falling poles or any fabric of the building that the pole dislodges.
- Injury through incorrect manual handling of the pole.
- The risks associated with Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease (from poor maintenance of the water-fed system).
- Electrocution if the pole comes into contact with an overhead power source.
- Hazards from carrying overloaded, unstable or unsecured water-fed pole systems.
Although formal qualifications are not a legal requirement, a training course can be beneficial to both new and experienced window cleaners. A training course can teach you all the necessary skills to effectively run your business and can train you in safe practices (e.g. when using water-fed pole systems).
Some of your training options include:
- The British Window Cleaning Academy training courses.
- NVQ Level 1 and 2 in Window Cleaning.
Ensure chemicals and potential pollutants are stored correctly
To prevent chemicals from leaking or spilling, you must ensure that:
- Any chemical containers are in good condition.
- You inspect the containers regularly.
- Chemicals and other pollutants are protected from theft or vandalism.
- Chemicals are protected from floods.
- All chemicals are clearly marked with potential risks and hazards.
- Hazardous and non-hazardous waste is stored separately.
- Chemicals are stored in a cool, dark, dry place.
Protect you and your employees from potentially hazardous substances
Exposure to chemicals and potentially hazardous substances can have a detrimental effect on the health of you and your employees. To minimise the risks, PPE should be used, including gloves, goggles and helmets (if working from height).
Properly maintain and set up equipment
Any equipment you use in your business must be properly maintained, correctly set up and safe to use. You must protect yourself, your employees and your customers from accidents or injuries caused by equipment. You should also perform regular equipment inspections to ensure your equipment’s safety and help extend the lifespan of your equipment. Maintenance includes cleaning equipment regularly and checking it is functioning correctly.
Carry out risk assessments
Risk assessments are a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees. However, even if your business has fewer than five employees, risk assessments are still recommended to ensure the safety of you, your staff and your customers. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.
As part of your risk assessment, you should:
- Identify hazards.
- Determine who could be at risk.
- Evaluate any potential risks.
- Implement relevant safety measures.
- Record the results of the risk assessment.
- Review the risk assessment regularly.
Complete training courses
Health and safety training courses can help your business follow safe practices at all times.
Some training courses you could opt for include:
- Health and Safety Level 2.
- Legionella and Legionnaires’ Disease Awareness.
- COSHH Awareness.
- Workplace First Aid.
- Working at Height.
- HACCP Level 3.
- Assessing Risk.
Obtain a criminal record check
Because your profession could require you to work on people’s homes or buildings where children or vulnerable people are present (such as schools and hospitals) it is recommended that you apply for a criminal record check.
The type of check you require depends on the country you live in:
- England: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Wales: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Scotland: Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme.
- Northern Ireland: AccessNI.
If you live in Scotland and are applying for a window cleaning licence, a criminal record check may be legally required before your licence is approved.
Keep a fully stocked first aid kit
If someone has an accident or sustains a minor injury, it may not be serious enough to warrant medical intervention. Instead, you may be able to offer treatment yourself. Having a first aid kit that is checked and replenished regularly and is easily accessible is recommended.
Complying with legal requirements is essential when setting up and running a window cleaning business.
Failure to comply with legal requirements could not only result in an accident or injury, but you could also face consequences such as a warning, a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious circumstances, prosecution.
Some of the legal guidelines you should be aware of include:
Apply for a window cleaner’s licence (Scotland)
If your business is based in Scotland, you may need to apply for a window cleaner’s licence. The majority of local councils in Scotland require all window cleaners to have a valid licence. A licence lasts for three years, at which time you must renew your licence.
To comply with licence regulations you must:
- Provide proof of your public liability insurance.
- Follow all health and safety rules.
- Wear your licence identification badge while working.
Apply for a waste carrier registration
If your business transports waste or arranges for someone else to dispose of waste (for example, dirty water or leaves), you will need to apply for a waste carrier registration. You will need to register as a lower-tier waste carrier if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland or a professional collector or transporter of waste if you live in Scotland.
You can apply for your registration with the following governing bodies:
- England: The Environment Agency.
- Wales: Natural Resources.
- Scotland: The Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
- Northern Ireland: The Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Any contaminated water from your business should be recycled or removed by a registered waste carrier.
Comply with the Work at Height Regulations (2005)
The Work at Height Regulations are designed to prevent death or injury caused by a fall from height. If you are ever working above ground level, for example on a ladder, scaffolding or a platform, you will be classed as working at height. Working at height incorrectly can result in serious injury and even death, so you will need to ensure your business complies with the regulations at all times, for example:
- Avoid working at height where possible (e.g. use a water-fed pole system if possible).
- Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall.
- Ensure any work at height is properly planned and supervised and carried out by competent people.
- Ensure you use the correct equipment when working at height (e.g. the correct fall arrest equipment).
Comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations
COSHH regulations specify that you must control any potentially hazardous substances. You must appropriately assess, control and reduce any risks or potential hazards and protect people from harm. COSHH can apply to hazards that are found in cleaning solutions and chemicals. Under these regulations, you must use any information supplied on a hazardous substance’s safety data sheet (SDS) to remove or minimise any risks. Your employees should also be fully informed and trained in how to use chemicals safely.
Comply with legislation when using ladders
You cannot use ladders if you are working at a height above 4 metres (13 feet). If the height you plan to work at exceeds this height, you must find an alternative way to clean the windows (e.g. a water-fed pole system or a window cleaning platform).
Control hazards when working on scaffolding, window cleaning platforms or a bosun’s chair
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 state that you must properly control all hazards relating to window cleaning platforms.
- Have an emergency plan in place that all employees are aware of.
- Be aware of any overhead structures that the operator could become trapped against.
- You must wear the correct fall arrest equipment.
- Remove the risk of equipment, tools or objects falling from the platform.
- Do not use scaffolding, a window cleaning platform or a bosun’s chair in extreme weather.
- Ensure you comply with weight limits.
Comply with the Environmental Protection Act (1990)
The Environmental Protection Act has several different regulations that you must ensure you comply with. These regulations refer to:
- The disposal of waste chemicals and detergents.
- Pollution prevention and control.
- The disposal of waste to land, water and air.
Comply with regulations regarding storing and disposing of hazardous substances
Some of the substances you use as part of your business are classed as hazardous substances. This includes cleaning chemicals and solutions. Different local authorities may have different guidelines regarding hazardous substances, so contact your local authority or the Environmental Health Department for more information.
Comply with the Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act is designed to protect customers from sub-standard work and overpriced services. It covers the selling, terms and conditions and supply of services (including window cleaning) to ensure consumers are better informed and more well-protected.
Under this Act, your customers have the right to:
- Request that substandard work is redone or receive a price reduction.
- Challenge unfair small-print terms, conditions and costs.
- Reject work if the tradesperson (you) used their one chance to redo the service ineffectively (e.g. if windows are not cleaned properly).
Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998
PUWER regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure any equipment is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. You must also ensure the equipment is used under appropriate conditions. PUWER covers all equipment, including window cleaning equipment and working at height equipment.
Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013
RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. As injuries may be more likely in a high-risk business, because you will be working with potentially dangerous tools and hazardous items, appropriate recording can help you to recognise any mistakes or patterns and prevent future injuries.
Comply with the Manual Handling Regulations (1992)
Manual handling is an inevitable part of a window cleaning business and much of the day will be spent completing manual handling activities, including handling heavy and powerful equipment, reaching high and bending low (to clean the windows) and repetitive movements (e.g. when wiping or scraping). Manual handling, especially when done incorrectly, can result in pain or injury. Following manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks.
Prepare a health and safety policy
The law states that every business in the UK must have a specific policy for managing health and safety. Your policy should state exactly how you will manage health and safety in your business, who is responsible for specific tasks and how and when these tasks are completed.
Comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992)
Under these regulations, if your business has five or more employees you must ensure you conduct appropriate risk assessments, minimise any risks and maintain all equipment. You must also make sure high levels of cleanliness are maintained.
Appoint a competent person
A competent person should be appointed to help your business meet your health and safety legal duties. You can act in this role yourself or appoint another person to fulfil this role. The competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify any hazards in your business and put controls in place to protect people from harm.
Comply with employment legislation
You must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.
Comply with invoice or receipt guidelines
You may make it standard that all of your customers receive a receipt or invoice once they make a payment to your business. Even if you don’t make it standard, some customers will request receipts or invoices.
You should include certain information in any invoices you create, such as:
- The word ‘invoice or receipt’.
- Your business name and address.
- A brief description of your work.
- The total you are charging the customer.
- The payment method.
Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)
You must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your customers’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. If you process or store personal information such as personal details and banking information, you will need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.
Appoint a first-aider
All workplaces in the UK must have an appointed first-aider. In the event of an accident or injury, you will then be able to administer the necessary first aid. Although a first aid qualification or certificate is not legally required, it is the easiest way to demonstrate your first aid training.
Register your business
You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information.
Register for self-assessment tax
This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.
As part of your tax responsibilities, you must:
- Record all forms of income and expenses.
- Complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
- Register for VAT if you earn above the threshold (currently £85,000).
- Pay National Insurance contributions.
- Keep a record of your business accounts for the previous five years.
Positives of Owning a Window Cleaning Business
Starting up a window cleaning business can be very rewarding in many ways.
Some of the main pros associated with this type of business include:
With the window cleaning industry consistently growing and increased demand for your services, this makes it easier for you to attract customers to your business and grow your profits. With many people having a busy working life or an ageing population being unable to complete tasks such as window cleaning themselves, residential window cleaners are in high demand. An increasing number of high-rises and skyscrapers in towns and cities across the UK has also resulted in an increased demand for window cleaners.
For people who love the outdoors and don’t want to spend their time cooped up in an office, window cleaning could be a great profession. You will have plenty of exposure to the sun and natural light (which can have physical and mental health benefits) and can enjoy an active, outdoors career.
Physical health benefits
Window cleaning is a highly active profession that can result in many physical health benefits, including:
- Increased exposure to vitamin D can have a positive effect on your immune system and overall health.
- Your business name and address.
- Maintaining good physical fitness.
- Good upper body strength.
Choose the type of window cleaning you want to specialise in
As the business owner, you have complete control over the type of window cleaning business you set up. You can choose to focus on commercial or residential properties, choose to focus on high-rise buildings and choose whether to offer additional services. You can make the best decisions for you and your business, based on what is most likely to be profitable and your business preferences.
A flexible schedule
Because you will be working on a self-employed basis and will, most likely, not require entry to the buildings or for your customers to be present when you are cleaning their windows, you can choose to work any hours you want. You will have a flexible schedule and can choose the hours and days you want to work each week. You can also choose the number of buildings you want to take on and how busy you want to be.
Because you will have few ongoing or overhead costs, you have the potential to earn a high-profit margin. If you work on residential properties, you can clean 20-30 properties a day (or even higher if there are fewer windows or you have multiple window cleaners). This allows you to make a significant profit. Commercial window cleaners can also charge higher prices per window, enabling them to increase their profit margins and their overall income.
Opportunities for small businesses
Unlike many other industries, the window cleaning industry is not dominated by major companies or popular franchises. The majority of window cleaning businesses are small, independent businesses that operate in the local community. This results in more opportunities for small businesses and opens up gaps in the market for new businesses to succeed.
Low start-up costs
A window cleaning business is a low-investment venture. You will have very few equipment requirements to start operating your business and will not be responsible for paying for a commercial location. Low initial investment requirements will mean you won’t require any outside investment and can begin turning a profit earlier.
Opportunities for growth
A window cleaning business has high scalability, meaning that it has the opportunity and capacity to expand and grow easily. Once your original business plan succeeds, you can grow your business, for example, by hiring more window cleaners and expanding your customer reach. You will already have positive relationships with your customers and can utilise these relationships to help you grow your business with minimal stress.
Unlimited income potential
The more experience and exposure you gain, the more successful your business will be. As your business grows and you develop a good reputation, you will see your profits grow. You can even charge higher prices and hire more window cleaners and expand your business to increase your profits. A window cleaning business can have a high income and your profit margins are likely to be high. With a good business plan and strategy for growth, your business could have unlimited income potential.
The satisfaction of a job well done
It can be very rewarding to see an instant difference in the windows you clean. Seeing dirty and grimy windows transform into clean, shiny windows can be very satisfying. You can have a lot of pride in what you do.
Work in your local community
Many window cleaners work in their local area as it is more convenient and reduces their travel time and travel costs. You can create positive connections with people and businesses in your local area and become an important part of your community that people respect and rely on.
Potentially no staffing requirements
Many window cleaning businesses operate with no or minimal staff. You can choose to work as the sole window cleaner to reduce your running costs and reduce your managerial responsibilities, for example, you won’t have to worry about creating a rota, managing your staff or handling payroll. You could also choose to operate as the only window cleaner initially and hire more window cleaners once your business is established and you have a steady income.
Easy to get started
A window cleaning business has a simple business model that makes it easy for you to set up and expand your business. You can initially set up a small business with few equipment requirements and low start-up costs. Low initial investment requirements make it easier to set up your business and make your business lower risk. There are also no qualification or training requirements, meaning anyone can become a window cleaner.
Your work is your biggest form of advertisement. Other businesses or neighbours seeing your great work and how clean your customers’ windows look can encourage them to also use your business. Growing your business can be as easy as one home on a street or one shop on a high street using your services and inspiring others to do the same.
Customer retention and customer recommendations
People tend to use the same window cleaner for months and years at a time and may also recommend your services to their friends, family and neighbours. This represents an easy way for you to gain clients and grow your business. Customer recommendations can help you to grow your profits and maximise your business.
Be your own boss
There are multiple ways you can run your business and maximise your profits. As the business owner you decide the type of window cleaning business you set up. You can choose the employees you hire, choose the customers and jobs you accept, choose whether to expand your business and decide exactly how to run your business. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.
Negatives of Owning a Window Cleaning Business
Although owning a window cleaning business can be rewarding, there are some potentially negative aspects of this type of business that you should be aware of, including:
It is weather dependent
Window cleaning is a profession that is heavily dependent on the weather. You will not be able to work at height (e.g. on a ladder or window cleaning platform) during strong winds, heavy rain or a storm and will not be able to use certain pieces of equipment (e.g. water-fed poles) during extreme weather. The unpredictable and frequent bad weather in the UK can mean you are constantly rescheduling jobs or are unable to complete your work, which can have a significant impact on your profits.
No matter how careful you are, there is a multitude of potential hazards and dangers when working as a window cleaner. From potentially dangerous equipment and working conditions to the risks associated with working at height and working in wet conditions. Working as a window cleaner could result in injuries, illness or even death.
Cleaning windows every day can be extremely physically demanding and can take a toll on your body. Your job involves high levels of manual handling, you will be on your feet for a lot of the day, handling bulky or heavy machinery and materials, handling dangerous equipment and working at height. This can be physically demanding on your body and result in pain, strain or injury.
Working in bad weather
Although extreme weather will mean you can’t operate your business, there will plenty of days when it is safe to work, but you will have to work outside in the cold, rain, wind, sleet and snow. Unless you want to lose revenue, you will have no choice but to work and this can be very unenjoyable.
Complying with legislation
This industry is highly regulated, with a large number of laws and regulations you must be aware of. You need to ensure you follow all policies and procedures, particularly those relating to health and safety. Not only can it be time-consuming to ensure compliance, but failure to comply, even unintentionally, could have serious consequences. A window cleaning business can have high liability, particularly if you hire employees, which can be a lot of stress and pressure for the business owner.
Some people clean their windows themselves
Many people (particularly those who live in houses) choose to clean their windows themselves rather than pay someone to do it for them. Because you can clean windows with basic equipment, such as a bucket of water, dish soap and a cloth or sponge, some people don’t want to pay for this service. This can result in decreased demand for your services, particularly as the cost of living increases and people look at how to save money.
Because the window cleaning industry has low entry barriers, more and more businesses are beginning to operate in this industry. If there are already established businesses operating in your area, this can make it difficult for your business to grow and succeed and can reduce your profit margins. You may have to reduce your prices and offer discounts, all of which can affect your profits.
You will likely not be entering into any client contracts and will just clean the windows of each building on a rolling basis. This means a customer can cancel their services with little or no notice. Having no reliable contracts can mean you suddenly face a drop in customers and work, particularly at certain times of the year. It can also make it difficult to predict your income.
You may require specialist equipment
If you work on commercial properties or clean windows on high-rise buildings, you will need specialist equipment. This equipment can be very expensive to purchase and maintain and will require specialist knowledge and training to use.
If there is an issue during a job you are working on, even if it is something out of your control, you may be held liable. If a window becomes scratched or damaged, if someone slips on water or if an employee becomes injured while at work, your business may be held liable.
It can be difficult to build a reputation
A good reputation is key in this industry, as many customers look at your reviews or ask for recommendations from others when searching for a window cleaner. This can make it difficult for you to establish your business and grow your customer base. Difficulties in creating your client base will result in a reduced income and could affect your ability to continue pursuing your business.
Window businesses are significantly busier in Spring and Summer when the weather is usually better. This could mean there are certain times of the year when you have less business, resulting in lost revenue. This can lower your profit margin and make it difficult to budget your income to last for the entire year. It can also mean that you are required to work long hours throughout the Spring and Summer to maximise your income, which can have a negative impact on your personal life.
It can be demanding
Not only can running a window cleaning business be mentally and physically demanding but as the business owner you will have a lot of additional responsibilities, such as advertising, complying with health and safety requirements, maintaining equipment, liaising with clients and admin tasks. You will also be solely responsible for ensuring your business succeeds.
It can be stressful
Not only will you have a lot of day-to-day responsibility, but you will also be responsible for ensuring each job is completed to perfection and that your clients are completely happy. You will also be responsible for managing your employees and creating window cleaning schedules. Running a window cleaning business and ensuring your business succeeds can be very stressful.
As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.
Your business could fail
Starting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if there is another recession or a period of financial difficulty.
Planning Your Plumbing Window Cleaning Business
If you are considering starting up a window cleaning business, an effective and well-designed business plan is essential. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.
Your business plan should contain information such as:
- Your company information.
- Your company description.
- The services you will provide.
- Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
- The structure of your business.
- The operational plan for your business.
- The financial plan for your business.
When creating your business plan, some factors you will need to take into consideration include:
What type of window cleaning business will you set up?
This is the first consideration you will need to make when creating your business plan, as it will affect your equipment requirements, your staffing requirements, your start-up costs and your typical customer base.
You can choose to set up a cleaning business that focuses on:
- Residential properties (i.e. houses).
- Commercial properties.
- Industrial properties.
- High-rise buildings.
Consider local demand, your available capital and how you want to run your business when determining what type of window cleaning business you want to set up.
What services will you offer?
Once you have determined the type of window cleaning business you are setting up, you can then decide what services you want to offer. Will you focus on exterior cleaning or also offer interior cleaning? Will you offer additional services, such as glass door cleaning, windowsill and window frame cleaning and guttering cleaning? Consider your own skills, training and experience and how profitable different services are likely to be when making your decision.
What are your staffing requirements?
Your staffing is an important consideration you will need to make. You could choose to operate your business as the sole window cleaner or hire other window cleaners if your demand is high or you need more than one window cleaner to complete the job. Keep in mind that your staffing requirements could change as your business grows and evolves.
What is your target market?
Determining your target market is a key step in helping your business succeed. Different types of window cleaning businesses and different services will attract different customers. Some other factors that can influence your target market are your location, your reputation, your skills and your pricing strategy. Once you have identified your target market, you can then focus on how to attract these customers to your business.
What local competition do you have?
Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your business. Analysing your competition allows you to look at what they do well and what you think can be improved upon. Look at the services your competition offers, their pricing, their target market and the number of employees they have. Analysing your competition also identifies whether there is space in the market for your business; for example, if there is already a successful window cleaning business that targets healthcare facilities operating in your area, you may choose to focus on a different type of customer instead.
What are your brand and your unique selling point (USP)?
Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your local competition. Branding can help you to focus your target audience, attract clients and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on your business’s visual identity (e.g. your business name and logo) and creating a brand story. Your USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what makes your business special and how this fits into what defines your business.
How will you market and advertise your business?
There are many ways you can choose to advertise your business. This can include partnering with other businesses in your area, advertising in your local community (e.g. via posters and leaflets) and advertising on social media. Your marketing and advertising plan should detail what your brand is and how you plan to promote your business. As part of your marketing strategy, consider the most effective ways to reach your target audience and attract potential customers.
What are your equipment requirements?
Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you require will depend on the type of window cleaning business you set up and the size of your business. Once you have determined your equipment requirements, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing the equipment.
What are your approximate start-up costs and running costs?
Consult the list above to calculate your approximate start-up costs and running costs. Determining your approximate costs allows you to calculate your initial investment and what your monthly or yearly running costs will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself. Being aware of your expected costs also allows you to create a budget, which is a key part of your business plan. Once you have calculated your approximate costs, you can then calculate your pricing policy and determine your profit forecast.
How will you finance your business?
Consult the list of start-up costs and running costs above to determine what capital you will require. Can you finance the business yourself or will you need to source outside investment? You will also need to calculate when you are likely to begin turning a profit. If you require outside investment, you could consider a bank or other financial institution, a business loan or an investment partner.
What is your pricing policy?
How will you price your services? Will different types of windows and different-sized windows have different pricing? Will you offer a base price or set packages? Will additional services be priced individually? Consider the pricing of your competitors and your overhead costs when setting your own prices.
What is your sales forecast?
How many windows can you realistically clean per hour and per day? Are there certain times of the year that are likely to be busier than others? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? You can analyse the sales forecasts of similar businesses and look at how sales vary throughout the year to estimate demand. As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change.
What is your strategy for growth?
Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. This can help to make your business more successful.
Potential challenges could include:
- Bad weather affecting business.
- Difficulties finding consistent custom.
- Difficulties growing your business.
Some potential strategies for growth include:
- Hire more employees.
- Focus on commercial window cleaning.
- Improve your advertising strategy.
What is your business summary?
Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of window cleaning business you are setting up, the services you will offer, your typical customer base, your staffing and equipment requirements and your business goals.
What are your business goals?
Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your window cleaning business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Realistic
- T = Time-bound
Have you complied with all legal requirements?
Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.