Start a Business
Washing Windows

(Last updated: April 24, 2010)

This page shows how to start a business washing windows using your pickup truck or van.

Use this information together with the Business Plan for Simple Services page.

The following topics describe how to provide this service to help satisfy your needs, and the needs of likely customers in your local area.

Here are the topics:

Introduction to idea
Estimated startup costs
Putting idea to work

Other useful information

The Vital Guidelines for Novices page helps beginners who want to start a business. These guidelines provide focused advice and useful insights.


Before using this information to start a business be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer

Introduction to idea

This topic provides an overview of the business idea so you can decide if it suits you.

Basic idea

Owners or tenants pay you to wash the outside of the windows on their homes or buildings. In some cases, they may also want the inside of these windows washed.

Getting these jobs usually is just a question of making yourself known to potential customers, being qualified to do the work, and quoting the right price for the job.

This activity is performed by the job. Once one job is finished you will have to find another job. However, you might be able to get several year-long contracts to perform this activity on a periodic basis. Also, if you do a good job for an owner of several properties, you may be asked to do other jobs for that person.

This is mainly an outdoors activity that may be affected by bad weather.

Suitability of idea

This idea is best suited for people who are physically fit and enjoy working with their hands.

Skills and equipment required

Primary skills and equipment -- You need a pickup truck or van, driving skills, and a valid driver's license.

You will use the pickup truck or van to haul the equipment, supplies, and protective gear needed to perform the work.

Other skills -- You need only everyday skills or skills that can be easily learned on the job.

Other equipment -- You need to own or purchase other items, such as office equipment, job equipment, and protective gear. These items are listed under the startup costs on the next topic.

Profitability of idea

In order to show a profit, you will have to sell enough of your services to cover the startup costs and operating expenses. The more fees you collect over a certain time period the larger your profits. Therefore, you want to have substantial sales, along with low startup costs and operating expenses.

The hourly fees you charge pay for your services, and the use of your vehicle and equipment.

The amount you can charge depends on how well off the customer is and how anxious both you and the customer are to make a deal. The economic conditions of the local area might also influence these negotiations.

See the Setting the Sales Price page in another section for more detailed information.

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Estimated startup costs

This topic discusses the estimated startup costs for this business idea. Startup costs are what you pay to be ready for business operations. The amount of these costs also helps you decide if the idea suits you.

List of items in startup costs

Note: I am only showing one month for certain expenses. You should be able to get your first job or two in a month. Then these items become operating expenses, not startup costs.

The assumed startup costs for this business idea, using a frugal style of business operations, consist of the following items:

Advertising and promotion (1 month) -- Small classified advertisements in a local newspaper and/or flyers delivered to likely neighborhoods (areas having retail stores or rich people).

Business insurance (1 month) -- Business liability insurance. (Talk to a local insurance agent to see if you need this coverage.)

Governmental requirements -- Local fees and business license. (Note: You might also be subject to state and federal deposits and registration fees, but these will vary. So I have not included them in these startup costs.)

Job equipment -- Combination cleaning sponge and squeegee, extension poles for squeegee, plastic scrapers, step ladder, utility knife, water buckets (2), and water container (for drinking).

Job supplies -- Lint-free rags, and window cleaning solution.

Office equipment -- Business telephone, desk accessories (stapler, paper clips, pen and pencils, etc.), and listing adding machine.

Office supplies -- Check blanks for business checking account, file folders or large manila envelopes (for filing papers), lined writing tablets, pads of accounting journals and ledger, and pads of standard job bid forms.

Other operating expenses (1 month) -- Business telephone expense.

Protective gear -- Plastic gloves.

Reference book -- Bookkeeping for Dummies (Paperback)) available from or other online bookstores. (Note: The "for Dummies" series of books are easy to read manuals for normal people, not dummies.)

Dollar amount of startup costs

Here are the dollar amounts for a frugal business operation:


Estimated Startup Costs

  Advertising and promotion (1 month) $ 75
  Business insurance (1 month)   50
  Governmental requirements (local fees and business license)   50
  Job equipment   115
  Job supplies   15
  Office equipment   120
  Office supplies   100
  Other operating expenses (1 month)   50
  Protective gear   15
  Reference book   15
       Total estimated startup costs $ 605

Note: See the Planning costs and expenses subtopic in the Business Plan on another page for ways to reduce these startup costs.

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Putting idea to work

This topic satisfies the Starting business operations subtopic in the Business Plan page.

Preparing for business operations

Completing the startup requirements -- This is the last step needed just before you start business operations. See the Listing the startup requirements subtopic in the Business Plan for the items remaining to be completed.

As a minimum, you should have discussed the business idea with your family, set up your business entity, and satisfied all governmental and insurance requirements.

Operating the business

Soliciting customers -- Place classified advertisements in your local newspaper and/or deliver flyers to likely neighborhoods (where rich people live). Use a simple, honest description of your services. Once you become well known in the community, you should benefit from word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers.

For additional ideas on soliciting customers, see the Sales Methods page in another section.

Qualifying customers -- Hopefully, some of the people who read your advertisements and/or flyers will inquire about your services. During this initial telephone conversation, you should determine:

  • If you are willing and able to provide the desired services.
  • If you will need to bring a helper.
  • If you and the customer can agree on an hourly fee, unless this was stated in your advertisements.

Getting jobs -- For a small job, you may be able to come to an agreement over the telephone.

If this will be a big job, the customer may want a firm bid for the job. If so, you probably will want to inspect the job site first. If you both agree on the terms for the job, you can record them on the job bid form. Then both parties can sign it.

I recommend that you meet with customers in their homes or offices, or at the job site. Your neighbors may object to having a stream of strangers arriving at your home. Also, meeting with customers in your home may violate the zoning rules in your town or city.

See the preceding Profitability of idea subtopic for my thoughts about setting your fee.

Before taking on any dangerous jobs, you should have adequate experience and workmen's compensation coverage.

Determining needs of customers -- To insure satisfied customers, you need to determine what they want from you. You need to replace assumptions with specific instructions.

For example, do they want you to wash the inside of any windows? Do they want all the windows washed or just certain ones? Do they have any hard to reach windows that need washing?

When discussing the job with the customer, determine whether water will be available at the job site. (If water is not available, you will have to bring it.)

You also need to determine when and where to perform the services and receive your fee.

Job procedures

Preliminary job activities -- After arriving at the job site, have the customer show you the windows to be washed.

If there are any hardened lumps of mud or some other substance on a window surface, you will have to remove them with a plastic scraper before washing the window.

Main job activities -- Fill a pail with water and mix in the window cleaning solution. Dip the combination cleaning sponge into the pail of water and gently scrub the windows clean. Use the combination squeegee to clean off the windows. Wipe the squeegee blade with a lint-free rag after every pass. Remove any water from the windowsills with a lint-free rag.

Final job activities -- Wipe up any unsightly water spills. If working by the job, collect your agreed upon fee from the customer.

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