Getting Started In Window Cleaning - A 4 Page Primer

Discussion in 'Tutorials & DIY' started by Kips, Mar 1, 2013.

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  1. Kips

    Kips Well-Known Member
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    #1 Kips, Mar 1, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 29, 2014
    So you want to be a window cleaner eh…


    I’ve written this ‘guide’ / primer for the newcomer starting out, who is looking to get the ball rolling with a decent ‘starter’ WFP / Trad setup that won’t cost the earth. I’ve included links to products, as well as links to videos that I think are informative/educational.
    As with all the stuff I write, this is just my own personal opinion, and nobody is paying me to recommend anything or any of that jazz. As it’s my own personal opinion, I’m entitled to it, so please if you have any disagreements, questions or comments, keep the tone friendly and courteous and I’ll reply in kind. If not, I reserve the right to make “yo momma” jokes at your expense.
    We’ll go through it like this – WFP -> Trad -> Water purification -> Water storage -> Terminology recap -> Insurance -> Setting up your kit -> Learning to trad -> Learning to use WFP -> Getting customers

    Ok, here goes!

    To get started with WFP for the minimum amount of cash, while still getting a quality product/kit, I'd reccomend getting the WindowCleaningWarehouse 22 litre backpack - i've written a review of it here , and a link to buy is in the review. http://windowcleaningforums.co.uk/t...-boy-backpack-facelift-pole-nlite-brush.7062/ - it comes with everything you need EXCEPT a way to purify water. More on that in a minute. WFP stands for Water Fed Pole, by the way. The above, therefore, is a Water Fed Pole window cleaning backpack kit.

    You will also need some trad tools. Some people don't want wfp, and for some jobs trad can be quicker. Also you can't do insides with WFP!! For a decent kit you're looking about 60 quid. Here's a link to a thread where I was advising someone else on what I step out the door with - it contains links to buy all the kit mentioned: http://windowcleaningforums.co.uk/threads/recommended-traditional-starter-kit.7122/#post-161975 - thats a fairly paired down list of what I consider 'essential' to me personally. I have loads of other gear but that's my top of the pops list of the stuff I use daily. Personally, I don't take on work where I need to climb a ladder anymore. I have been window cleaning for a while now, and I can afford to be choosey. I hate ladder work! But there are a lot of people who want windows cleaned not using water fed pole - and if you want to take them on as customers, you'll need a ladder, too.

    Back to purifying the water. You can't add chemicals really, we aren't talking about that kind of 'purity'. What we need to address for window cleaning is the TDS of your tap water - TDS stands for 'Total Dissolved Solids' - this means all the things like calcium, magnesium, fluoride, all the stuff that is in our water that isn't itself water, that will be left behind and leave a mark on the glass once the water evaporates and leaves it behind. TDS is measured with, unsurprisingly, a TDS meter which you can get for not very much on ebay - just be sure to buy calibration fluid too as I have noticed that fresh out the box some TDS meters can be quite far from accurate.

    The two main options for purifying water are: RO which stands for 'Reverse Osmosis' and DI which is 'Deionisation'. As someone else has stated a lot (most) people run an RO system through a smaller DI filter to get their TDS down as low as possible. There are various RO systems on ebay, and you'll notice they all list different GPD amounts. This just stands for 'gallons per day' and basically refers to how much water they'll produce and how fast. For you now, to start of with, just running a backpack system, a 50gpd system should be fine. They're cheap and while at some point you will prolly want to upgrade as the water production can be very slow, it's fine to get started with. Fit it in your bathroom so that you can have it pumping into purified water containers that are sitting in your shower or bath, that way if you forget it's on and it overflows the container, it won't flood your entire house. I have done this. Luckily, I rent the dump I currently sit in, typing this to you.

    You'll also need containers to store your pure water in. The best place to get these for free is those drive thru car washes. The ones with humans, not machines. They are supposed to wash them out and take the caps of and etc etc so its a hassle for them to get rid of them, so they'll be quite happy to let you have them for free if they have any spare. Alternatively if you cant be arsed with the fuss or need something to get up and running with asap you can get folding camping containers. These are cheap and hold 20L of water but I would NOT expect them to last, so if you've got a bit more to spend I would order 10 of the 25 litre containers from this place - get them in as dark a colour as possible as once all the chlorine and stuff is filtered out of your water you don't want light getting into the water as then stuff can start to grow..

    So to recap:

    Some terms-
    § Pure water = water with a low TDS.
    § TDS = Total Dissolved Solids. The lower the better, but anything under 010 is fine for cleaning windows.
    § RO - reverse osmosis, a method of filtering tap water into pure water
    § DI - de-ionising - another method of filtering tap water. Often cheaper, but not as effective, if your tap water is naturally low tds you can get away with this but for 90% of us, we use an RO going into a small DI filter
    § WFP : Water fed pole - the 'reach and wash' system you'll be using your pure water in.

    Stuff to buy:
    § WFP backpack, pole, brush deal from wcw
    § trad gear
    § RO/DI setup to purify your water
    § 10x 25L cartons as a basic/cheap RO system is very slow and you don't want to run out so your first few days will be just continually filling these up.

    But wait, there's more!!

    INSURANCE. Get insurance. Brush falls off your pole and hits someone on your head? Prepare to be sued to bejesus. You trip and smash someone's window with the end of the pole? Prepare to be sued to bejesus. You take the wing mirror off a parked car with the back of your pole? Run. If seen, prepare to be sued to bejesus. Old lady trips on your wfp hose or ladder foot and falls hard, smashes/breaks her hip and mushes her face off the concrete, breaking her nose and shattering all of her teeth, needs many months of care and goes through a lot of suffering and injury on her road to recovery (note the use of lawyers terminology there): Prepare to sell your house, your car, your wife and your soul to pay her the compensation - unless you've got insurance. It's a harsh example, but it can happen. Like the lottery voice says, "It could be youuuuu" - Unless, you have public liability and damages insurance. A lot of guys including me go through a company called 'gleaming insurance' - they're window cleaner specific so have good policies. Will leave that up to others to tell you about because basically when I did ours I couldnt be fussed and did no research for the best price so went with reccomendations and just rang one place, told them what I wanted, listened to their suggestions and said "do it." Its tax deductable anyway. Never needed it so far but am glad it's there. I think ours is about £35 a month but we have pretty good cover and have people working for us and do very high level work. (In height, not standard! Actually, wait - both.) Basically if you're starting out, it doesnt cost the earth and you cannot afford not to have it. It is as vital as the tools in your hands or the shoes on your feet.

    Ok so i've spent hundreds and hundreds on all this equipment and now my house is full of boxes, containers, and kit - how do I actually do the job now?? I don't have any customers, and I don't know how to clean windows!!

    (a.k.a. "The force is strong with you, young window cleaner.. but you are not a Jedi yet..")

    RO SYSTEM: First you'll need to install the RO system. Here's a video on how to do that. Don't panic, because it isn't rocket science and everything pretty much goes where it looks like it is supposed to, and if you need any help, take some pictures and ask the guys on here (windowcleaningforums.co.uk) - we're a friendly bunch. Here's a video someone else made. I havent watched it, but scanning through it, it seems to cover everything.

    .

    TRADITIONAL METHOD:
    Once you've got that all working, outputting good, low TDS water (under 010) and filling up some containers, try your hand at learning to do some traditional cleaning - This is my favourite video on how to clean windows traditionally. There are lots, but this one is my favourite. The guy is the Bob Ross of window cleaning. I think he is the first theraputic/holistic window cleaner. Genius. . He pretty much covers everything right there - but I would add one little thing - the windowsills. Customers really notice their window frames and sills, so if you want to do a really good job, give them a quick hit with the squeegee in a couple of places to get some water onto them, then give them a good buff and clean with your sill cloth, then do the windows as he shows you. Now go have a go yourself! Harder than it looks, isn't it! Don't lose heart - like anything new, you're going to have to start off slow, and expect to make a few mistakes. It's all part of the learning curve, but within a couple of months, you'll have that squeegee flying across the glass with the best of 'em. It really isn't that hard, there's just a kind of a 'knack' to it that you pick up with practice. You will learn with time that you don't really have to get every window looking like it is brand new fresh out of the shop - but one window you should always leave perfect is the one over the kitchen sink. Customers will spend a lot of time, standing there, looking out the window while washing their dishes, and they will - with all that time - notice any little imperfection. Go to town on this one. Frosted windows, conversely, they cant even see out of. Vary the quality of your work accordingly. I'm not saying rip anyone off, but there's no point spending as much time on a window that can't be seen out of as one that will be looked through intensely for a long time.

    WFP BACKPACK
    Straight outta the box, the WCW backpack is pretty easy to put together. It does need to be charged for 24 hours before use though, and don't be tempted to skip this step as you will knacker the battery. I've already gone over pretty much everything to do with this backpack/kit in the review linked above, so I won't repeat myself, but you will still need to know how to use it to clean windows, and luckily there's these WFP class videos on youtube that'll teach you pretty much all you need to know. There's no playlist that I can find but if you just type "WFP Class" into youtube you'll find em, or if you just want a link to click, here it is..
    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=WFP class&oq=WFP class&gs_l=youtube-reduced.3...15714.17181.0.17330.9.9.0.0.0.0.72.520.9.9.0...0.0...1ac.1.6FnBPyBaeGU


    CUSTOMERS
    These are important. And kinda the whole point.
    First off, one thing I see mentioned a lot by newcomers is 'turf' or 'territory'. Simply put, that's all nonsense. There is no such thing. However, the one unspoken rule is that it is bad etiquette to go around, knocking on every door in a street, asking what their current window cleaner charges, then undercutting him - that is likely to get your tyres slashed or your nose booped, so don't do that - what I usually do is pick a street I want to get customers on - then go and put flyers through every door. These, usually don't get me that many calls, but a few days later, between 6pm and 8pm, I go back to that street, with a clipboard or a diary or whatever, and I knock on all the doors. When they're in, I say "Hello, my name is (your name) from (window cleaning company)" or just "Hello, my name is (name), I'm a window cleaner" (pick one) ".. and we're cleaning some of your neighbours properties, so I just thought I would see if anybody else is looking for a window cleaner too." Sales is up to you and there's lots of good threads on here and websites about canvassing but the crux of it is, give them a price (£1 per window is a good baseline) and take it from there. Top Tip! Find out first how often they want them done. First cleans are the hardest, and take longer, especially with WFP, so there should be a big price difference between every month and every 6 months. For instance, a 1 off clean I'd price at £3 per window. Some window cleaners charge more for the 'first clean'. There's no reason not to if you don't think they'll be regular.

    If they agree the price, great, take their name, address, the price, how often, their phone number, anything else you can think of. I usually schedule new customers to be a few days from the day I canvass so I can get as many as possible and do them all in one hit.

    If they aren't in, or have a window cleaner, make a note of that, if not in then return another day, if they have a window cleaner already leave a business card (I usually say "well, let me leave you my card, that way if he ever stops coming or you're not happy with his work, you have a backup in place") and then if you don't hear from them within a month, send a letter saying it was great to meet you, i'd like to tell you more about our services and the quality of our work etc etc.


    So, there you have it.
    Phew. That all took a long time to write. Obviously, there's prolly lots i've forgotten to mention, or things i've got a bit wrong, so have a read through the comments. But if you're looking to get into Window Cleaning, that's my 'primer', raw and uncut (which means I havent proof read it, or checked for spelling mistakes. I will at some point, but not today!)

    I hope it's been a help and if you'd like to thank me click the little green 'up' arrow over here ------------.>

    (Free beer also accepted.)


    All the best, and enjoy! Being a window cleaner is great. Sometimes its tough, but overall, I think it's the best job i've ever had. Just remember to spend as MUCH time as possible knocking doors for new customers and pretty soon you'll have a good round and a good income.
     
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  2. Kips

    Kips Well-Known Member
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    Aha, found it! I lost track of where this thread went :p
     
  3. Smurf

    Smurf Banned
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    Good info kips, nice one ;)
     
  4. Kips

    Kips Well-Known Member
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    Thanks Smurf - hopefully it'll help a few of the newcomers out a little bit. I did originally put ebay / shop links to all the items but I think there was some issue with putting those in the post - a mod asked me to remove them so I did - if anyone is looking for something specific and having trouble finding it though, just PM me and I'll do my best to help.

    Infact generally, if anyone has any questions leave a comment or PM me and I'll do my best to help. If I don't know the answer I'll prolly know someone that does!
     
  5. Dodger

    Dodger Hero
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    Not actually read it all yet Kips but I will later, simply put though an amazing thread well done mate!!
     
  6. OoO

    OoO Guest

    Two more rep points to go and it matches the highest ever thread. 3 more and it beats it!

    So come on guys!
     
  7. Kips

    Kips Well-Known Member
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    Sweet!
     
  8. harunh

    harunh Legend
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    good post
     
  9. OoO

    OoO Guest

    One more rep point to beat the current record.

    Come on Guys.

    This thread deserves it :D
     
  10. Looks great to me, thanks very much for the pointers!

    I am still at the stage of sourcing van / Van system as well as putting together a website. I must say I am mightily impressed by the attitude through the forum, always a helpful word for the newbies - like me. I am coming from sales so no worries with the thick skin and canvassing, just the slight aspect of learning the trade!

    Thanks again.
     
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