Setting up a window cleaning business

Set up a successful window cleaning business in the UK using our guide.

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Setting up a window cleaning business in the UK is not as complicated as you may think. With that said, there are a number of steps you need to take to make it successful. This guide goes through the steps to follow, and what to consider, in order to launch a window cleaning business in the UK.

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.

It may be necessary to gain a DBS criminal record check if you’re cleaning windows in locations dedicated to vulnerable people, such as schools, hospitals or care homes.

How to register your window cleaning business in the UK

The steps to register your business will depend on what type of business you are planning to launch.

If you are launching as a sole trader or a partnership, you will need to register your business with HMRC for tax purposes only. If you’re launching a limited company, you’ll also need to register your business name with Companies House.

Here are the main differences between these three main options:

    • Sole trader: In this case, you and your business remain one and the same for tax and legal purposes. This means that you can be held personally liable for your company’s debts or legal problems, even if you go out of business.
    • Partnership: A partnership is more or less the same as being a sole trader. The only major difference is that your business income is split with your business partner(s).
    • Limited company: In this case, your business is a separate entity to you for tax purposes, and your finances are separate. This means you’ll pay yourself a personal wage from your business income, and pay income tax on that. The company will also pay business tax. The good news is that you can’t be held personally liable for business debts.

    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 trader or partnership, then incorporate later.

    How to write a business plan for your window cleaning business

    You may see it as overly prudent to write a business plan for your window cleaning business. Indeed, it’s not compulsory to do so, unless you’re seeking investment from third parties, such as a bank. But even if you don’t want outside investment, it’s still a great idea to write a business plan.

    By doing so, you give yourself a strong idea of how your business will succeed. It’s also a common way to identify potential hurdles to success before they hinder you. You may decide to alter your business strategy in order to overcome these hurdles. It’s better to do that before launching, rather than after investing money into a failed strategy.

    Here are some key sections that your window cleaning business plan should include:

    • Company overview. This is the basic facts about your business, including your business name, the names of all business owners, your business type and business address.
    • Your target market. Will you seek domestic or commercial clients or both? What neighbourhoods will you target? Why?
    • Products and services. This is a full list of products and services offered by your business. How much will each of them cost? This list might be extremely short, but perhaps you’ll offer bulk discounts in a range of scenarios. If so, list these here.
    • Marketing plan. What platforms will you use to market your business? What is your monthly marketing budget?
    • Financial plan. Use this section to estimate your monthly running costs and sales forecasts. It’s recommended to add three sales forecast figures (minimum viable, average and stretch).

    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.

    Still, in 2020 and beyond, you’ll 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 basically works like a personal one – the main difference is that it’s dedicated to your business’s finances. You should therefore expect the same features, such as a debit card, the ability to make and receive payments, an overdraft option, a banking app and so on.

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    How much should you charge?

    Residential window cleaning services tend to start at around £30-£40. For huge commercial buildings, you could easily charge 1o times that amount.

    Still, it could be that none of your customers pay the same price. After all, the amount you charge 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 the three 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

    In 2020, it’s essential to have an online presence.

    This means creating a website that illustrates your services and is well-optimised 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.

    Do you need insurance?

    As the owner of a window cleaning business, it’s likely you’ll need to invest in the following types of insurance:

    • Public liability insurance (PLI). This covers your business from having to pay for damages or legal costs if someone is physically harmed due to the activity of your business. Perhaps someone trips over your ladder or your wet sponge. It sounds unlikely, but accidents happen and they can cost you a lot if you’re uninsured.
    • Professional indemnity insurance (PII). This covers you against paying for lawsuits arising from professional negligence within your business.
    • Employers liability insurance (ELI). This protects your business from covering the cost of lawsuits when an employee suffers an illness or injury in the workplace. Your employees are likely to be regularly climbing high ladders, so you better be protected in case of an accident.
    • Business contents insurance. This covers the cost of stolen or damaged business contents.
    • Income protection insurance. If you’re out there cleaning windows yourself, this will replace your income should you become too sick or injured to work.

    There are insurance companies that will cover self-employed tradesmen and business owners in all of these scenarios, so you won’t necessarily need to buy all of this coverage separately.

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