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Setting up a window cleaning business

The process of setting up a successful window cleaning business in Canada is straightforward, just follow these steps.

Setting up a window cleaning business in Canada is not as complicated as you may think. This guide goes through the steps to follow, and what to consider, in order to launch a window cleaning business in Canada.

What permits or qualifications do you need to start a window cleaning business?

You don’t need any formal qualifications to clean windows, nor to start a window cleaning business.

You may need to obtain a criminal record check if you’re working in venues hosting children or members of a vulnerable group – for example, schools or special care homes.

Registration: Choosing the right business structure for your window cleaning business

Your business type determines how much tax you’ll pay on the money you make and how personally liable you’ll be for business debts.

Here are your main options.

  • Sole proprietorship. You’ll continue to pay income tax and other remittances to the government as an individual. You personally will be held liable for business debts or lawsuits against your business.
  • Partnership. This is essentially the same as a sole proprietorship, except profits are shared with your business partner(s). Under a general partnership, each partner is held personally liable. Under Limited Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships, only general partners (those who manage the business) are liable, while limited partners (investors) are not.
  • Corporation. Here, your business becomes an entity in its own right and your personal finances are separate from your business finances. In addition to filing your own personal tax return, you’ll also file a separate business tax return. Plus, you’ll have to pay yourself a wage from company profits. You can’t be held personally responsible for business debts and will have reporting and management responsibilities.
  • Cooperative. Cooperatives are best for groups of people who share similar social or economic needs and want to operate a business democratically. In Canada, all cooperatives must be incorporated, either at the federal or provincial level. Cooperatives can be set up as for-profit, not-for-profit or charitable organizations.

Incorporating is more expensive and complicated to set up. If you’re launching a small window cleaning business, you may not see it as worth the hassle. You could launch as a sole proprietor or partnership, then incorporate later.

Setting up bank accounts for your window cleaning business

Setting up a business bank account is easy — and usually a required first-step for many small businesses. Depending on the bank and business account you require, you can either apply online, in person or over the phone. The process is similar to opening up a regular chequing or savings account, but may require a bit more paperwork — such as business licence or insurance documentation.

Creating a business plan for your window cleaning business

Unless you plan to apply for financing, you don’t need to create a business plan for your photography business. But doing so could still be helpful. Laying out your plan clearly will allow you to spot potential obstacles to your success or reasons why you might want to reconsider starting a business or explore other options.

A great photography business plan should include:

  • Company overview. The name of the business and its owners, the business type and its address. Perhaps a short mission statement, explaining your goals for the company.
  • Your target market. Who will you market your services to and why? It pays to be as specific as possible. The better you know your audience, the easier it is to market to them.
  • Products and services. A full list of what products and services are offered by your business, plus how much you will charge.
  • Competitors. Who are your competitors? How does your business differ from theirs? Why is yours better?
  • Marketing plan. Are you planning to distribute brochures? Where will you market your business? What is your monthly marketing budget for each marketing platform?
  • Financial plan. How much will it cost to launch your business? What are the estimated monthly running costs? What are your monthly sales forecasts? (You should list a minimum viable target amount, an average target amount and stretch targets for long-term growth).

Things change quickly in the world of business, so it’s recommended to review and amend your business plan at least once every quarter.

Setting up your window cleaning business

A window cleaning business is one of the quickest and easiest to set up. It’s unlikely you’ll need dedicated commercial premises. Most window cleaners are able to store their equipment at home or in a van.

You’ll also need to build an online presence if you want to be truly successful. This includes a professional-looking website and social media pages. More on this below.

Opening a business bank account

A business bank account works similar to a personal account – the main difference is that it’s dedicated to your business’s finances. Knowing businesses will need to process frequent deposits in higher amounts than individuals typically deposit, banks often charge a fee per deposit based on the size or type of deposit (cheque, cash etc.).

You should expect similar features to what you’d get with a personal bank account — such as a debit card, the ability to send and receive payments, optional overdraft option, online and mobile banking and more. You may even want to look into accounts that let you earn interest on your balance to help your earnings grow even faster.

How much should you charge?

On average, window cleaners in Canada charge between $5 and $10 per window pane. For larger jobs, you may wnat to charge a flat rate. Entire residential homes are often quoted at $200-$300, although larges houses could cost as much as $400.

Many window cleaners charge extra fees for add-ons like cleaning screens, sliding glass doors, window sills and tracks. Screens and window sills and tracks could cost less than $1 up to $5 depending on the size (perhaps more if you have to remove deep stains or paint). Sliding glass doors can similarly range from $2-$8 depending on the size and extent of the job. Due to the extra risk involved, the cost of cleaning may increase for higher levels of a house (above a second floor).

Prices don’t have to be completely fixed. You may choose to charge different rates to different customers. After all, the quote you give a customer will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How many windows they have. You could charge a set price per window, but you’ll probably have to lower this for commercial premises that have lots of windows.
  • Window size and type. The longer it takes to clean the windows, the more you should consider charging. Many window cleaning companies leverage extra fees for higher (or obstructed) windows too.
  • How often they want their windows cleaned. Perhaps you’ll offer a bulk discount for regular work, or if a customer commits to having their windows cleaned for a longer period.
  • How busy your business is. It’s a fact of life that non-thriving businesses will often be forced to lower their prices in order to stay alive. Perhaps you’ll charge below-average prices to get your window cleaning business off the ground, then raise them as you start to build momentum.

How to market your window cleaning business

This section will cover 3 of the most common methods of marketing a window cleaning business. These are face-to-face, offline and online.

Direct face-to-face marketing

It’s not uncommon for window cleaners to approach homeowners or business managers and market their services face-to-face. This can be a grind that involves a lot of rejection, but it can pay off.

If you (or your employees) have a likeable personality and can develop some basic face-to-face sales skills, you could secure customers by knocking on doors and pitching your services with less effort than it takes to attract them online.

Better yet, there is no upfront cost to this marketing method (other than the cost of travelling from prospect to prospect).

Indirect offline marketing

As you’re likely to launch only targeting specific neighbourhoods, this form of marketing may involve creating flyers, leaflets or ads in local newspapers.

You could post these flyers through letterboxes or pin them where customers are likely to see them. This is a low-effort marketing method, but it’ll cost more and it’s easier to ignore than you directly pitching your services in person.

Online marketing

Nowadays, it’s essential to have an online presence. This means creating a website that illustrates your services and is well-optimized for the search terms that potential customers could be inputting. You’ll also want to ensure your business ranks well in tradesmen listings websites. These websites often include customer reviews, so you’ll need to do your bit to encourage customers to leave a favourable rating.

A strong social media presence should also be desirable. Window cleaning isn’t the most exciting business to show off on the likes of Facebook and Instagram, so get creative! This is perhaps another opportunity to use your personality to gain sales.

Getting insurance for your window cleaning business

Not all insurers offer the same options, but you may find the following types of coverage helpful for your window cleaning business:

  • Commercial property. Provides coverage for lost, stolen or damaged equipment.
  • Personal injury. Helps cover costs associated with recovering from a work-related injury.
  • General liability. This protects you and your employees if legal action is brought against your business for damages done to a client’s person or property.
  • Lost key coverage. Covers key replacements costs for your and your employees.
  • Commercial auto coverage. Get car insurance for vehicles you use for business including supply vans, trucks and regular passenger vehicles.
  • Janitorial bonds. Covers damages related to employee theft and bad work performance. In some provinces or territories, you may actually be required to get bonded.

Some insurance providers offer insurance coverage tailored to your business’s specific needs, so it’s possible to get multiple types of coverage in one policy.

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