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Newbie exploring possibilities (Potential career change)


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Hello there, this is just a quick post saying hi to all of you guys on the forum. I've been lurking and reading posts for information for the last few weeks along with watching lots of helpful content on YouTube (GreenProClean, AEMackintosh, Dan Smithson etc). I'm intrigued by the trade and am looking at it as a possible career change. I brought some Unger trad tools from the Window Cleaning Warehouse a couple of weeks ago and I've been trying my hand to get a feel for the trade. The idea of being self employed and able to work more normal hours really appeals to me.

Here's a little bit about me, I'm currently a HGV driver and have been for the last 4 years. The work-life balance isn't great to be honest. For the last 2 years I've been tramping (Sleeping in a truck Monday-Friay and doing close to 70 hour weeks) but have just recently started a new job closer to home. The new job is tanker driving but it's night work (with less hours totaling 48 hours a week) so it's still unsociable hours and it's made me value the thought of having a job with more normal hours and a better work life balance. I'm lucky that I'm paid well to do what I do and have other good perks (good pension, job security etc) but I still can't shake the idea of wanting to go it alone and having more control over my work. I have a good level of base savings to work with so a van and WFP setup wouldn't be out of reach. 

Anyway that's a little bit about me and what I'm currently thinking. I'm going to continue to research and look into window cleaning. Thanks for taking the time to read this and have a good day.

 

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The only advice I would offer is, make sure you are committed once you decide to go down this road. Don't get me wrong, window cleaning can be a great living, it is well paid (currently, but it's

I haven't read all this thread just the first few. I am 6 weeks in now and all I'm going to say is 1.get a van (really it makes that much difference) 2. Unless you live within 15 minutes of

@Redrum good post mate. You obviously need to check how long you can last while your starting- if you have a family to provide for, what bills need paying etc.  I started about 2.5 years ago as I

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Posted (edited)

As someone who has been self employed it's very different to PAYE. You get no pension, no sick pay, no holiday pay. 

It's only you who you are responsible for what you do, that's a plus and minus. You have to work everything out - i.e. no one tells you what and how to do it - again plus and minus. You will have to put lots of hrs in to get customers. 

You also need to manage your finances i.e. tax, national insurance etc...

Maybe you could start at weekends and see how it goes? Maybe using a portable system. This is harder work but you get to see how competitive your area is and if you enjoy it.

Edited by ched999uk
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Teddington Window Cleaners
2 hours ago, Redrum said:

Hello there, this is just a quick post saying hi to all of you guys on the forum. I've been lurking and reading posts for information for the last few weeks along with watching lots of helpful content on YouTube (GreenProClean, AEMackintosh, Dan Smithson etc). I'm intrigued by the trade and am looking at it as a possible career change. I brought some Unger trad tools from the Window Cleaning Warehouse a couple of weeks ago and I've been trying my hand to get a feel for the trade. The idea of being self employed and able to work more normal hours really appeals to me.

Here's a little bit about me, I'm currently a HGV driver and have been for the last 4 years. The work-life balance isn't great to be honest. For the last 2 years I've been tramping (Sleeping in a truck Monday-Friay and doing close to 70 hour weeks) but have just recently started a new job closer to home. The new job is tanker driving but it's night work (with less hours totaling 48 hours a week) so it's still unsociable hours and it's made me value the thought of having a job with more normal hours and a better work life balance. I'm lucky that I'm paid well to do what I do and have other good perks (good pension, job security etc) but I still can't shake the idea of wanting to go it alone and having more control over my work. I have a good level of base savings to work with so a van and WFP setup wouldn't be out of reach. 

Anyway that's a little bit about me and what I'm currently thinking. I'm going to continue to research and look into window cleaning. Thanks for taking the time to read this and have a good day.

 

Get your trad skills locked down first as you can get going really quick and cheaply  

Look in to WFP if you are sure about committing, its alot of money 

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15 hours ago, Teddington Window Cleaners said:

Look in to WFP if you are sure about committing, its alot of money 

It really isn't.

You'll make your money back very, very quickly and be amazed at how your day's earnings will shoot up.

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Teddington Window Cleaners
10 minutes ago, wezza13 said:

It really isn't.

You'll make your money back very, very quickly and be amazed at how your day's earnings will shoot up.

I guess it depends how much spare cash you have really. 

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The only advice I would offer is, make sure you are committed once you decide to go down this road.

Don't get me wrong, window cleaning can be a great living, it is well paid (currently, but it's becoming saturated) but it isn't as easy as it looks. 

And it will take you a long time to start earning anything half decent, at least 2 or 3 years and then add another 2 or 3 years before you start to get stable rounds. 

Many are attracted to window cleaning because of the 'work life balance' but trust me the 1st 4 years are going to be nothing but work work work, and then some, many many people who try this game think that they will be able to earn £50k a year for only 3 days a week after just 15 months of start-up, and whilst it is possible to do anything if you put your mind to it, you won't have a stable round for a long time and will have to keep replacing the time wasters, and drossy customers at a fast pace to keep your momentum up.

I'd like to say that you will succeed, and I don't wish for you to fail, but the reality is that most give up after 4 years; you have to be motivated, and be willing to go out all weathers, have thick skin, and be prepared to be quite poor for a while.

By the time you are earning enough money you will be well are truly sick and tired of the job. I turnover approx £60-£65k a year as a ltd company 4 days a week (3 and a half actually) and I don't want to work anymore time on the glass as nearly 20 years of doing this every day every week does gets to your mental health. Fortunately I can scare myself silly on my motorcycles to blow of some steam when I want..

Good luck 

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19 hours ago, Teddington Window Cleaners said:

Get your trad skills locked down first as you can get going really quick and cheaply  

Look in to WFP if you are sure about committing, its alot of money 

It really isn't, £1k and you're up and running with a decent trolley system and good quality poles and brushes,   £1k for a tanker driver is his weeks dinner money 😂 

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42 minutes ago, Chris34 said:

It really isn't, £1k and you're up and running with a decent trolley system and good quality poles and brushes,   £1k for a tanker driver is his weeks dinner money 😂 

You can get fully kitted out for £500 if you buy second hand off eBay.

Just don't compromise on cheap poles..that's the only rule. 

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the replies I've just read through them all and they have given me something to think about, @cleaniacs reply in particular was very interesting to read. 

I'm not afraid of hard work (I've always had hard jobs and a lot of them being long hours as well) and I'm not put off by bad weather or being out in the elements either (as long as customers would be ok for cleans in the rain). One thing that has stood out is the time it might take to build a successful round, 4 years does seem like quite a long time and a hell of a commitment before the going gets good. Is that the general rule of thumb in regards to time scale? And without trying to pry too much cleaniac but the figure you've quoted there is turnover and I believe doesn't take into account any expenses/tax etc. Is there a rule of thumb percentage wise for how much of your turn over you can expect to be profit?

In regards to equipment I have been looking around and the trolley systems do look interesting for dipping my toes into the water and could also then serve as a fall back option if I were to ever have a van system with issues. I do have a spotless water station less than 10 minutes (5 miles) away so could just have a play around with delivery system without the initial outlay of a RO/DI purification system. The pure freedom trolleys do look interesting.

 

Edited by Redrum
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24 minutes ago, Redrum said:

Thanks for the replies I've just read through them all and they have given me something to think about, @cleaniacs One thing that has stood out is the time it might take to build a successful round, 4 years does seem like quite a long time and a hell of a commitment before the going gets good. Is that the general rule of thumb in regards to time scale? And without trying to pry too much cleaniac but the figure you've quoted there is turnover and I believe doesn't take into account any expenses/tax etc. Is there a rule of thumb percentage wise for how much of your turn over you can expect to be profit?

Thank you for your questions. 

As a sole trader, your profit very much depends on your business outgoings, how you work your taxes and your personal financial situation. It varies from person to person. For example some window cleaners won't think twice about plumping down a lease commitment  for a whole system at great monthly cost, so if your bringing in 1000 a month and your payments for equipment is 800 your only making 200 a month, so your at a lost cause before you begin if you need money to live on but for some they may already have funds to keep them going.  But if you bought an old van with ebay kit and no monthly payments then pretty much all of your £1000 turnover, minus fuel and your van expenses is going to be profit on your labour. Also just because you can afford to buy something for the business doesn't mean you should..

So it's up to you how you decide and you need to strike that balance. It's very hard to get right with any business.

Secondly, you have to decide if you will have a dedicated van or a car. I would always go for a dedicated van, as you will be able claim all your running costs and not have to fill out business miles and calculate use for business.

Thirdly, as a sole trader try to go by the 3rd rule. So for every £1 you turn over, allocate 33p for taxation, 33p for business capital reserve (your business expense budget basicly) and 33p for wages you can take. Also only expect to collect 30 to 40 percent of the money your owed for the day at any one time, the rest will follow.

Forth do not underestimate the need for a decent accountant. Instead of dreaming about owning the lightest poles or the smartest van, you need to spend time into finding an accountant who isn't a glorified bookkeeper. Try to go for a chartered accountant who are also registered auditors and tax advisors. They will save you three or four times their costs over the year trust me I know.

Fifth, be aware of your payments on account requirements for self employment. Many come to a shock when they do their 1st tax return that the tax bill they thought was for £3000 end up being more like £5000 as HMRC will always want payment on account for the following year. As you start to nudge past £35k in profits it becomes a big burden, and can quickly get out of control when every year as you grow you have to find an additional £6 or £7k for payments on account. This is when it might start becoming more tax efficient to become a ltd company.

Sixth don't be tempted to under report your earnings...yes you guessed it I learned the hard way and ended up with a 50k tax bill for back taxes and interest which ultimately led to my personal bankruptcy in 2014. 

As for me,  now I run as a ltd company, I get my wages on PAYE and my ltd company that I own earns a profit on my labour that If I want to I can withdraw for a bonus at the end of the year or not, up to me. 

Hope those pointers help..

Good luck. 

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1 hour ago, steve garwood said:

Was that War and Peace? 😩

Guess it depends if your on the winning side or losing side.☺

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3 hours ago, cleaniac said:

Sixth don't be tempted to under report your earnings...yes you guessed it I learned the hard way and ended up with a 50k tax bill for back taxes and interest which ultimately led to my personal bankruptcy in 2014.

Ouch! Now that sounds like a story right there what the deuce happened?

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11 minutes ago, Suhrly said:

Ouch! Now that sounds like a story right there what the deuce happened?

He was playing at being a chef as well as a window cleaner 😂

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16 minutes ago, Suhrly said:

Ouch! Now that sounds like a story right there what the deuce happened?

Nope let's not. 🤣

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scottish cleaning service

I took in £31k last tax year but spent over £28k on material and new equipment so I only have NI to pay if I want to. Not much left to buy so swimming with the tide. Best to try and save up and buy cash and have little debt. I think I would go into debt for one thing, a new van. I think my van is the most important thing and can't work without it. fwiw

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5 minutes ago, scottish cleaning service said:

I took in £31k last tax year but spent over £28k on material and new equipment so I only have NI to pay if I want to. Not much left to buy so swimming with the tide. Best to try and save up and buy cash and have little debt. I think I would go into debt for one thing, a new van. I think my van is the most important thing and can't work without it. fwiw

You shouldn't spend so much so that you don't leave at least enough profit to use your full tax allowance. Understandable if it was your first year but wasteful if not. 

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scottish cleaning service
4 minutes ago, Part Timer said:

You shouldn't spend so much so that you don't leave at least enough profit to use your full tax allowance. Understandable if it was your first year but wasteful if not. 

Sure I have a £10k pension so I live on that but I understand what you are meaning. I like the idea of a new van next year.

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24 minutes ago, scottish cleaning service said:

Sure I have a £10k pension so I live on that but I understand what you are meaning. I like the idea of a new van next year.

Ahh yes you might like the idea of a new van next year, but from your income and outgoings with only 3k in profit for the year I doubt that you would be able to get the business loan to buy it. Unless you are buying a van outright for cash that is from your surplus matching your profits..which is fine I guess. Or fronting it with personal funds.

Also be careful l, 28k in expenditure for a window cleaning business is very high, you better be able to back it up if the time comes for an investigation. And trust me if HMRC argue that grey is pink they will insist on it, and whack you for back taxes, interest and penalties. If you haven't got a decent accountant your wide open and no one will touch you once an investigation is in place without it costing you big £ just a warning mate..please get it sorted don't leave yourself open..

I have an old 2008 transit connect, I could easily get another van if I wanted to, probbably brand new but there is no business need for me to do so as it does the job fine, and continues to do so. I won't change it until I have to (it blows up or becomes uneconomic to repair, even so i would be prepared to fix it even if it needed a new engine-gearbox it's still cheaper than buying a new van or leasing one, and there is capital in the company to service the need) 

So many people think they are running a successful business because they are driving a flashy van, and their check a trade rating is 5 when in fact they are running right on the edge of insolvency, and some of them are insolvent without realising it.

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Redrum said:

Thanks for the replies I've just read through them all and they have given me something to think about, @cleaniacs reply in particular was very interesting to read. 

I'm not afraid of hard work (I've always had hard jobs and a lot of them being long hours as well) and I'm not put off by bad weather or being out in the elements either (as long as customers would be ok for cleans in the rain). One thing that has stood out is the time it might take to build a successful round, 4 years does seem like quite a long time and a hell of a commitment before the going gets good. Is that the general rule of thumb in regards to time scale? And without trying to pry too much cleaniac but the figure you've quoted there is turnover and I believe doesn't take into account any expenses/tax etc. Is there a rule of thumb percentage wise for how much of your turn over you can expect to be profit?

In regards to equipment I have been looking around and the trolley systems do look interesting for dipping my toes into the water and could also then serve as a fall back option if I were to ever have a van system with issues. I do have a spotless water station less than 10 minutes (5 miles) away so could just have a play around with delivery system without the initial outlay of a RO/DI purification system. The pure freedom trolleys do look interesting.

 

Different parts of the country will be easier or harder to build a round depending on the competition, when I started 21 years ago I had 4 days a week work for the 4 weeks a month in about 6 months , refining a round is a continuous process some good customers can become a pain and have to be dumped ones move or die or cancel , getting compact work is the hard part , you want in an ideal world  two or three van movements per day on estate type work this is now difficult to achieve but again can be done depending on location . If you have determination and work hard , do a good job , be reliable , polite , Ime sure you will make a go of it .

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