For my short time in business I seem to have an understanding of how it mostly works.
You market you go on the estimate you agree on a price you get the job scheduled.
You do a good job, you get referrals, keep doing good work, market more, you save every penny you can and you reinvest it back.
Keep on branding and having a consistent look and feel of your “company.”
The window cleaning is easy for the most part… you remove screens, clean them, clean the tracks and the windows on the inside / outside. Storefronts / commercial is similar but usually no screens involved.
Basically what I am getting at is that it?
I have no employees yet at least so it might seem easy for me for now lol.
What has been the most difficult aspect of running a window cleaning business for you or what IS the most difficult aspect of it?
Unreliable employees? Unreasonable customers? Not knowing how to always have the leads flowing?
I’m trying to wrap my head around this business more so I can understand it better and make better decisions.
Employees can be difficult when you don’t have defined processes or systems in place. Also keeping records and schedules can be hard with more than one person at play. Another factor, in some mountain or winter areas, is when the snow stops and everyone in town wants their windows cleaned the same week.
Back office work is difficult when you have a family or employees, or both, without a dedicated office worker.
I’m fairly new to the business but here’s what I would say based on being a general manager in a small business before this.
As a solo operator, the difficult aspect I see is working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 48+ weeks a year. Being responsible for everything and anything is the hard part for a one man show. It’s a taxing job and will take a toll on you if you don’t take care of yourself.
If you want to grow, then scaling is where you’ll have most of your difficulty. Misquoting on your own isn’t so bad if you go from expecting $75/hr to $40-50/hr on a few jobs. When you have payroll and worker’s compensation insurance it can be a quite a big hit.
Then it comes to processes and quality of work. On your own, you know what you expect. If you take the approach that some guys do and pay $12-15/hr., you’re gonna get what you pay for. Then they wonder why their employees don’t care! Then they try and overcompensate by writing a process/procedure for every step of the day and lose their mind when god forbid somebody lifts the bucket a different way or uses a different towel.
Finding that middle ground of processes development is something I would venture to say 75%+ companies struggle with.
I’ve never had employees, and hope that I never will. So my observations are based on the “career window cleaner”.
Biggest issues for me:
avoiding burnout and maintaining a work/life balance. It can be really hard to not buy into the “gotta make hay while the sun shines” mentality. It has its place within reason, but it can become an excuse to be a seasonal workaholic.
budgeting for slowdowns, taxes, and unexpected expenses.
Like others said here the wear and tear on your body is real. There is also always the risk of falling off a ladder even if youre very safe, Ive had my close calls like we all have. If youre a one man show and have an injury you could be missing out on thousands of dollars which is a tough pill to swallow.
On the other hand finding quality help can be a struggle and once you do find someone keeping them busy enough year round is the other struggle. If you have a winter season thats multiple months long like I do and a summer slowdown of a month or two that we all face that isnt something an employee necessarily wants. Sure the time off is great but little to no income doesnt work for most employees. Im not quite sure what the middle ground is, Im leaning towards only doing storefront and easy residential solo for the time being as I think of what my next business venture may be honestly but thats just my 2c.
I know a lot of folks do fine with these challenges and are content. At the end of the day Im so grateful to be able to support myself and my family with window cleaning and everything Ive learned from this great forum. Avoiding working for someone else is my personal priority #1
This, except in my part of the country it’s the end of pollen season where everyone wants all their WC/PW done the same week. In any seasonal line of work, trying to spread out the demand is nearly impossible. You have times where you drive yourself crazy trying to service as many customers as possible, and then times where you are happy to have any work, especially if you have employees on the payroll.
Spot on Alex. I struggle with this
Very important to be able to keep reliable help. Brings you back to the slow season issue then though. Good help won’t go weeks without pay.
I’m exhausted by Friday. This industry takes it’s toll
I’ve been a solo operator for almost all of my time cleaning windows. I prefer not to have to deal with employees and the problems that come with them. The downside is some homes almost require multiple people. I’ve had to turn down work that required frames being removed from the outside on a 2 story home and dread large pellas that are 2 stories up in the info the house. Learning to walk away from certain jobs is still something I struggle with.
Put training into place, as if you have employees now
Profit First- put this into place and get used to setting percentages aside for taxes and expenses.
Window cleaning is nothing hard, business ownership is. So surround yourself with people who will help you to grow and not be stagnant. Look outside the industry for help with business, get a coach when you can afford one.
Look into other services that will add more profit. Window cleaning is the lowest paying service we have. Not because we are lowballers, this is our 20th year, but because people value other services more. We added SoftWashing and closing much higher tickets with much higher per
Man hour rates. $65-$100 PMH windows $150-200 PMH SoftWash. Your hourly rate per employee will never be what you can do on your own, remember that when you have employees and adjust your prices accordingly.
The other day I had a 3 hour job that I made $175 on. I also charged sales tax and she gave me a $20 tip. I was thinking yes that is good but I am going to raise my prices to $12 per window with screen and track cleaning and sill wipedown. Currently I am at $10 so for this job if I charged $12 per window my price would be $200 plus a sales tax.
I believe this is good solid pricing. The 3 hours I didn’t even rush I took my time. After this job ideally the employee should go to another similar size job and the company would bring in good revenue for the day.
Good idea - I will always consider charging as if I have employees now.
Suggestion: Have a minimum rate. Sounds like $200 would be a good one. This allows you to shift through tire kickers and offer more value to those that wanted one window, you can offer perhaps the whole exterior for a smaller home as an example. Per pane or per window is great but have a minimum, this will save you in the long run.
Profit First: A Simple System to Transform Any Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz (2016-06-02) Amazon.com
Get this book or get the audio which is awesome! This will save your bacon brother!
@Infinity Alex, I’m in the same boat. I’ve been cleaning windows since I was 19 and now I’m 47. I told my wife before it got nice, I just don’t want to clean windows anymore and she said I was going to have to change my lifestyle. Unfortunately my climate requires “making hay while the sun shines” then really doing nothing for 6 months. I’m fortunate to have a career day job that allows me to run my business full speed through the late spring and summer, but I’m finding the money is no longer driving me. Once I get going on the jobs I’m fine (I enjoy my customers and the work), it’s just finding the motivation to get going. I’m really getting to the point I’m going to have to pick who I want as customers and limit any new work. I hate to downsize my business, but if I can keep my workdays to 5 hours tops I’ll be able to continue on until l find the right person to take over.
Profit first is a genius way to organize your income each week where you can track and collect your pay and dedicate the balance to taxes and business needs. Profit First
Aim for an average of $100.00 per hour… ($50 per 30 minutes, $25 per 15 minutes, $1.665 per minute).
That 3 hour job would have garnered you about $300.00. ($285?, $298? It all works.) Go the extra mile, this is a luxury service, especially if you finish ahead of your scheduled time? - toss in some mirrors or let them know you also cleaned the windshields and outside mirrors on both cars in order to soften the blow of your price! I can almost guarantee your competition isn’t doing that - until now that I mentioned it. LOL
I have been observing and thinking about the window cleaning industry all day every day for 20 years. It is my belief that most all frustrations can be tied back to the “seasonality of a business”. Tell me any problem you’re currently having and Ill tell you how it all ties into seasonality.