As you would expect from a straightforward proposition like window cleaning, a business in this area does not carry sky high start-up costs. But even if you aim to set up your business with as little investment as possible, there is more to consider than sponges and buckets. “There are certain items that will need to be paid for upfront, such as insurance and training,” advises Damian Whittaker of the British Window Cleaning Academy. “And you will also need to pay equipment and vehicle lease deposits.”
Starting out, you’ll still need to consider the cost of following:
- A vehicle
- Public Liability Insurance
- Logo design/marketing
It’s a good idea to decide how big you want your company to be, too. You can start off very small (just yourself), but no matter how small you are to begin with you should build your brand on what you expect to achieve. Because as workable as a micro business is, a bucket and ladder will not get you very far: it is worth considering your strategy and long-term goals before launching into things. “You can grow from small beginnings, but you will hamstring yourself,” Christopher Turner of The London Window Cleaner explains, ”because you’ll be limited to one kind of client. Somebody who starts out by investing a couple of hundred quid in a ladder and a bucket and a squeegee won’t really have the potential to grow.”
So although you can buy equipment for as little as £100, you should allow for an initial investment of a few thousand pounds in your venture. Even if you plan to start off on the lowest rung, some backing will allow you to invest in training and marketing, and to grow. When Christopher started out, for example, he says he had ‘reasonable’ backing in terms of cash. So straight off, he was able to purchase a number of vehicles and to invest in a website and logos for his vans. This route comes recommended as it sets your business up on a firm footing. “Again, it depends on the kind of company you want,” he says. “If you want a turnover of a million quid in three or four years, you’re going to have to pitch yourself that way.”
Visibility is important for a window cleaning company. Consider how you will achieve this: through marketing, through painting your vans, or perhaps by creating an impressive website and online presence? Christopher took the name The London Window Cleaner some six months after starting up the company, and then worked very hard to ensure that the website was top of Google rankings, for instance. “So now, if you Google London Window Cleaner, you’re sure to come across our site,” he says. “We do no advertising, and have no advertising budget. We just operate from our website. So our company name and our profile on the internet is absolutely crucial.”
At the start, you will have to go out, and work hard to get your name out there. It can take time. For The London Window Cleaner, it took probably two years to get that investment back. “Nowadays,” Christopher says, “companies call us and we to come in and give a quote. But we do very little active marketing because of the position we worked to establish in the market.”
In the early stages, especially if your focus is residential, some footwork will not go amiss either. Damien Whittaker of the BWCA believes flyer posting is a good way to spread the word. And there are advantages to canvassing in person too: “By knocking on the doors of householders, you have an opportunity to promote and offer your service face-to-face and then to immediately answer any questions that may come up,” he explains. “There’s no doubt that it is one of the most effective ways to build a residential window cleaning round quickly.” Be aware, this can be done any time after 9am but you should avoid doorstepping later than 7pm at night.
The BWCA also has it’s own accreditation programme called ClearChoice. Damien says ClearChoice members can use their membership card and online profile to help them win new business.