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RichDub

Newbie Advice for starting out

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RichDub

Hi After 20 plus years in the plumbing and heating game I've decided I need a change and for what ever reason I've decided I want to start a small window cleaning business. I'm pretty fed up with the stress of running a heating business, gas safe qualifications etc and I'm sick of being on my knees. 

 

I'm buying an x-line system but looking at buying a van, my own van which is leased is going to be handed back in April so I need some advice on what to buy and whether another lease would be a good idea. A typical lease will normally cost me about £300 - £400 pcm and would cleaning windows give me enough income to make that option viable. 

 

Any advice would be appreciated.

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Iron Giant

Personally I think leasing a van can be dead money, £300-400 I have spent that in the past but I was driving around in 35k L200 I wouldn't be paying that money for a van, straight off you need to know if a successful business venture into window cleaning is for you and if window cleaning suits you personally I would be more inclined to reduce my initial outlay as much as possible as customers is what you need and plenty of them also a  second-hand van and not necessarily an expensive professional van mount plus X-Line poles are very well rated so I would advise not to buy their poles or brushes.  

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Incheck
Posted (edited)

Hiya fella, you’re following a similar path to me. I also came out of gas and plumbing to do this although i hadn’t been doing it nearly as long as you have.

I don’t know whether you’re looking to do domestic or commercial window cleaning? 

From a residential point of view, the days of one window cleaner doing all the houses on one street is gone. There are more and more of us appearing all the time. The vast majority of window cleaners only want to do window cleaning, so competition is stiff and the prices aren’t exactly excitable. 

It’s hard to secure a days work - so unless you’re going to offer some kind of niche or premium service, or do ad-ons (gutter clearance, fascia cleaning, conservatory’s,pressure washing etc) you’ll need a heck of a lot of customers to make it feasible. There are just as many people who don’t value clean windows as those that do, the industry is failing to account for this i reckon, and slowly but surely running itself out of work i believe. 

A monthly residential window clean at £15 will bring in £170 per year. But many people dont want a monthly service & leave it 6 months, 1 year, 2, 5 or 10 years before cleaning them again, and people will still clean them for the same low prices or only double the rates in which case the customer is spending say £30 once in a blue moon 😳. If that carries on then you can guess the outcome.

Commerical window cleaning is also competitve from what i’ve heard and i dare say the expenses are higher (more expensive poles & gear needed, sometimes high access gear) and you’re also competing against other companies prices. 

I have recently stopped trying to compete with other windys as i just found it ridiculous (our area is maxed out with water fed pole guys & trad guys) so i now offer PVC frame and sill restoration on first cleans, and charge accordingly, as i’ve watched others work and seen their work & noticed very few other window cleaners provide this service, so its a gap in the market that i’m trying to capitalize on. 

I also target the gutters, fascias, conservatory roofs pressure washing etc. 

its still hard to secure work but i do prefer doing jobs worth £60-£600 as opposed to £10/£15/£30 jobs. 

I would definitely think about this for a while but either way i wish you the very best of luck and i’m sure others will give you some thoughts on it all.

Edited by Incheck

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ks789

Yes it can certainly be competitive. No offence to areas like the north east etc, you expect work to be more scarce as there can be not many other options work wise, but I am very surprised how my area in suffolk is saturated with cleaners. When I did it before from 2000 to 2003 it was very easy to pick up work and I had enough custom after just a few weeks of leaflet drops. Now there are so many doing it here its taking much longer to scrape it together. Im surprised as we always thought blokes turned to window cleaning when the building trade was slack, but there seems to be a lot of house building round here. Still, one final campaign of flyers etc this spring and I hope to have enough.

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RichDub

If you don't recommend xline what would you go for. 

 

It's a bit worrying about competition because like my game it's very competitive. However, I can easily earn 200-400 pounds a day but I'm just sick of always being at work and never getting a break. I've had to buy a personal phone and turn my work phone off because people call me while I'm on holiday. 

 

I shouldn't complain but I feel exhausted and tired of doing VAT returns. People don't understand how much stuff costs and while turning over 150,000 may look amazing the details show probably 40,000 in profit. 

 

I think people charge about 10 quid for a house my way but there are a lot at it I must admit. Ten years ago you couldn't get a window cleaner today is very different. But everyone is going self employed because being employed is pointless these days because employers want the best of both worlds, zero hours etc. From dog walkers to gardening, there has been a boom. 

 

I do like cleaning my windows as I like mowing the lawn, it's a short period where I can switch off and admire the results. Gas work is often problem solving, dirty and murder on the knees and boilers these days are white goods and often full of electronics

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ks789
5 minutes ago, RichDub said:

If you don't recommend xline what would you go for. 

 

It's a bit worrying about competition because like my game it's very competitive. However, I can easily earn 200-400 pounds a day but I'm just sick of always being at work and never getting a break. I've had to buy a personal phone and turn my work phone off because people call me while I'm on holiday. 

 

I shouldn't complain but I feel exhausted and tired of doing VAT returns. People don't understand how much stuff costs and while turning over 150,000 may look amazing the details show probably 40,000 in profit. 

 

I think people charge about 10 quid for a house my way but there are a lot at it I must admit. Ten years ago you couldn't get a window cleaner today is very different. But everyone is going self employed because being employed is pointless these days because employers want the best of both worlds, zero hours etc. From dog walkers to gardening, there has been a boom. 

 

I do like cleaning my windows as I like mowing the lawn, it's a short period where I can switch off and admire the results. Gas work is often problem solving, dirty and murder on the knees and boilers these days are white goods and often full of electronics

Yes thats true. Down this way in suffolk there is stacks of work for gardiners, as a lot of elderly live here and can have large gardens. The rate can be a bit poor though. What I found with working in factories or such, is that you have just one person who for whatever reason doesnt like you, and it can just ruin your whole time there. Ive left jobs before where when Ive walked out and headed home have felt like im walking out of alcatraz or something. Thats what I like about the self employed window cleaning. no one over you or bitching or back stabbing. Yes, need a bit of self pushing and motivation, but can be far better than the alternative. Not for all of us though luckily.

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Incheck
Posted (edited)

I hate to say it fella but it doesn’t necessarily get any easier, people will still call you at all hours, the number of customers you’re dealing with increases therefore so does the admin, (receipts, phone calls, texts, emails) if youre cleaning 20/25 houses a day on a window cleaning round then you can imagine how much texting etc there is, then keeping track of 25 payments per day etc.

40,000 profit is nothing to argue about, i’m miles off that window cleaning. I’m not trying to discourage you at all, i dont miss all the risks of working with gas or keeping on top of all the constantly changing regulations etc, working inside horrible houses or ripping out old smelly toilets, this job is certainly a bit more environmentally fulfilling. But the grass isnt always greener on the other side you know.

this month 2 new backpacks, one replacement pole, van service,van tax,  interior van re-furb, resin, little odd bits of equipment & chemicals, diesel, the odd advert here & there. Expenses of probably 2k + straight away, not ideal for this time of year when its quiet but it all comes at once as they say.

the only sure fire way of keeping expenses low is to go trad but its dangerous and then youre limited as to what work you can actually take on you know

Edited by Incheck

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ks789
3 minutes ago, Incheck said:

I hate to say it fella but it doesn’t necessarily get any easier, people will still call you at all hours, the number of customers you’re dealing with increases therefore so does the admin, (receipts, phone calls, texts, emails) if youre cleaning 20/25 houses a day on a window cleaning round then you can imagine how much texting etc there is, then keeping track of 25 payments per day etc.

40,000 profit is nothing to argue about, i’m miles off that window cleaning. I’m not trying to discourage you at all, i dont miss all the risks of working with gas or keeping on top of all the constantly changing regulations etc, working inside horrible houses or ripping out old smelly toilets, this job is certainly a bit more environmentally fulfilling. But the grass isnt always greener on the other side you know.

this month 2 new backpacks, one replacement pole, van service,van tax,  interior van re-furb, resin, little odd bits of equipment & chemicals, diesel, the odd advert here & there. Expenses of probably 2k + straight away, not ideal for this time of year when its quiet but it all comes at once as they say.

the only sure fire way of keeping expenses low is to go trad but its dangerous and then youre limited as to what work you can actually take on you know

True, If I get to chat to customers I try and get it across in roundabout ways, that im not making a killing, on account of all the costs etc. Also the work done at home producing pure and accounting etc which isnt really paid for. Yeh its not the golden egg, but like much, you get out what you put in. If you dont need/want much can be a nice little number, or want more then the skys the limit.

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P4dstar
16 hours ago, RichDub said:

I'm sick of being on my knees

That's what she said.

4 hours ago, RichDub said:

If you don't recommend xline what would you go for. 

 

It's a bit worrying about competition because like my game it's very competitive. However, I can easily earn 200-400 pounds a day but I'm just sick of always being at work and never getting a break. I've had to buy a personal phone and turn my work phone off because people call me while I'm on holiday. 

 

I shouldn't complain but I feel exhausted and tired of doing VAT returns. People don't understand how much stuff costs and while turning over 150,000 may look amazing the details show probably 40,000 in profit. 

 

I think people charge about 10 quid for a house my way but there are a lot at it I must admit. Ten years ago you couldn't get a window cleaner today is very different. But everyone is going self employed because being employed is pointless these days because employers want the best of both worlds, zero hours etc. From dog walkers to gardening, there has been a boom. 

 

I do like cleaning my windows as I like mowing the lawn, it's a short period where I can switch off and admire the results. Gas work is often problem solving, dirty and murder on the knees and boilers these days are white goods and often full of electronics

You're a plumber mate, do not pay someone £3k for something you can easily throw together in an afternoon for less than 1K.

 

@Incheck is right it won't be any easier to earn the sort of money you are earning now. You won't have the worry that someones cooker might blow up or pipes start leaking as soon as you leave but there are plenty of other stresses. There are apps and software that will make things easier. The overheads are much less. There will likely not be need to complete a vat return. On balance window cleaning will probably provide you much less stress for less money or the same stress for the same money.

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ksp

This is interesting to me as I was thinking of doing the reverse. 18 months ago I was getting two phone calls on average per week about window cleaning but now it’s more like 2 per month. The amount of people that have started window cleaning  in that time has been massive comparatively. I could reel off 10 new vans I’ve seen in the past few months, (I literally just went to the range and saw another new one). Not to mention the two biggest companies by me are also franchises. My point being the competition is fierce. 

 

I’m expecting prices per clean are going to start to nose dive once we get to a saturation point. The best places I find for picking up new work now is on new builds but have found they come with a solid guarantee that the windows will be a mess, you can get accused for scratches and damage that was already there and the a lot of the customers start off with good intentions in a new house expecting to keep it up together and want a window cleaner but then the novelty can wear off for them. They’re also canvassed hard where I am. 

 

In the future I reckon a skilled trade is going to be one of the safer career choices. The downside for me is getting in to one st my age means the costs are significant and you need to create the time for the training. 

 

I also agree with the guys that you’re going to get the same issues you’re currently experiencing with people wanting to get hold of you all hours of the day and weekend and that if you choose to pursue this career you should definitely include add on services. 

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RichDub

I know I won't earn as much but it's free time I'm after and not constantly having to keep my qualifications up to date. 

 

A good friend has just quit and now drives a taxi. He was earning 52,000 but when his last child left for university he suddenly realised that he had just been working and really missed them growing up. My realisation is when I look at my calendar for 2019 I have just one week off in the summer, I'm booked on 17 new builds. In between fixes I'll fit in all the work that keeps the cash flow healthy. It's time to slow down and I want out by next Christmas

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Iron Giant
40 minutes ago, RichDub said:

I know I won't earn as much but it's free time I'm after and not constantly having to keep my qualifications up to date. 

 

A good friend has just quit and now drives a taxi. He was earning 52,000 but when his last child left for university he suddenly realised that he had just been working and really missed them growing up. My realisation is when I look at my calendar for 2019 I have just one week off in the summer, I'm booked on 17 new builds. In between fixes I'll fit in all the work that keeps the cash flow healthy. It's time to slow down and I want out by next Christmas


With the greatest of respect, it's about choices you have a choice whether to take on so much work or not and have 1 week off obviously once your vat registered I believe you're tied in and nowadays it ain't as beneficial as it used to be, If you have no mortgage no kids to support and plenty of money in the bank then yes maybe a switch to window cleaning is good.

I am contacted and quote 7 days a week at various times of the day and night I am constantly owed money and like any other business after 19 years for me I am just as sick as the next person at times, I am almost constantly refining my rounds for the holy grail of rounds if I kept every client I ever signed up I would have almost 700+ but as is I have close to 400, generating a solid customer base of great clients and have the money come in as in paid for jobs not the rolling debt of up to and in excess of 100 clients owing money and over 1k almost constantly takes a lot of graft building a reputation on Fb sorting a website etc.

There is no doubt it's doable by anyone with a serious amount drive, but I wouldn't assume it's an easy ride, I would personally look at the options of refining your current business if that's possible, I choose to on average work 4 days a week and not work weekends under any circumstances and enjoy my life and time with my family simply my choice how I run my business and my life, I have worked 12 hour days and ran myself ragged and sacrificed my own sanity and my wifes as the saying goes LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT ☺️

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P4dstar
43 minutes ago, RichDub said:

I know I won't earn as much but it's free time I'm after and not constantly having to keep my qualifications up to date. 

 

A good friend has just quit and now drives a taxi. He was earning 52,000 but when his last child left for university he suddenly realised that he had just been working and really missed them growing up. My realisation is when I look at my calendar for 2019 I have just one week off in the summer, I'm booked on 17 new builds. In between fixes I'll fit in all the work that keeps the cash flow healthy. It's time to slow down and I want out by next Christmas

I think window cleaning could be a good move for you mate. With regards to the above, everyone needs a work home life balance but some people get too hung up on it. There is nothing wrong with being a hardworking example providing for your kids. Sometimes its what you do with the time. My next door neighbour only works part time and is horrible to his boy. He is constantly sat in his bedroom window playing alone. I work at least twice what he does but I still have time to spend with my kids. Sometimes its about quality not quantity.

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Robbo
Posted (edited)

Go and spend a day with a window cleaner, find out what it's like. I'm in Bournemouth if that's any help.

 

It's a great job, fairly stress free, and you can pretty much work your own hours. 

 

However, there are loads of window cleaners, loads of competition, but also loads of houses.

 

It can be the most boring job in the world, at times.

 

The pay can be quite good, not sure it's as good as plumbing.

 

Definitely fit your own system, get a cheap, reliable van, fairly good payload, (don't lease to start with).

 

This job can be whatever you want it to be...BUT...you only get out of it what you are prepared to put into it. 
It is definitely not a 'walk in the park'!

 

Good luck. 

Edited by Robbo

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