If you want to be your own boss, starting a window cleaning business is a great option. It can be an uncomplicated venture that doesn’t need much initial investment to get going – and these days, window cleaners don’t even need to like heights.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about starting your own window cleaning business, including:

  • License and qualification requirements
  • How to register your window cleaning company
  • The insurance you need
  • How to market your window cleaning business
  • How to organise your finances

License and qualifications requirements

License

A license is required for window cleaners in Scotland, but England and Wales are yet to implement licenses for window cleaning.

In Scotland, If you intend to work and trade as an independent window cleaner or as an employee, or if you operate a window cleaning company and employ window cleaners as registered staff, you are required to have a window cleaner’s licence.

  1. Police checks

Window cleaners often have unrestricted access to homes and other properties. They can easily observe the internal layout and sighting of any valuables. This is why window cleaners undergo police checks as part of their window cleaner’s licence application.

  1. How to apply for a window cleaner’s licence

Window cleaner’s licence applications must be made via your local council. You can find the contact details for your local council at the Official UK Government Website

Depending on your local council, you may have an option to either apply for a 1-year window cleaner’s licence or a 3-year window cleaner’s licence. You will need to renew your licence. The cost of the license is between £100- £260. 

As part of your application for a window cleaner’s licence, you may also need to provide the following:

  • proof of your public liability insurance
  • a copy of the employer’s liability insurance that covers you, if you are an employee
  • at least two passport photographs
  1. Eligibility

To apply for a cleaner’s licence, you must adhere to the following eligibility requirements.

  •  You must not be disqualified from holding a licence, and you must be fit to be the holder of the licence.
  • The vehicle you use in order to carry out the work must be suitable for that purpose.
  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must have the right to work in the UK

Most local authorities will request that you must not have had an application refused for the same licence and same vehicle within the last year unless there has been a material change in your circumstances since your last application.

  1. Displaying your window cleaner’s licence

Your local council may issue an identification badge for when you are operating and working as a window cleaner. You must wear it visibly while working. Otherwise, you must carry your window cleaner’s licence with you while working.

  1. Penalties

If you work without a window cleaner’s licence or make a false statement on your application, you may be fined up to £2,500.

Qualifications and accreditation

Technically, there is no legal requirement for qualifications to start a window cleaning business. Likewise, most exterior cleaning work does not require any specific qualification or accreditation. However, it will likely vary from one location to the next and depend on the type of work. 

It is worth noting that some commercial premises may require general health and safety accreditation.

  1. Health and safety

Both Safe contractor and CHAS are the leading health and safety assessment schemes in the UK. The accreditation process involves the submission of a health and safety questionnaire and accompanying documents.

  1. Qualifications

As with many professions, there are a plethora of training providers. To choose the right training for you, first, identify the method used in your work.

Traditional Methods

If you mainly clean small shops or offices using traditional methods, ‘The Cleaning and Environmental Apprenticeship Scheme’ or a City and Guilds ‘Diploma in Cleaning and Support Service Skills’ will suffice.

Water Fed Poles

Many larger buildings, including Schools, Hotels, Nursing Homes and larger offices, are now cleaned using water fed poles. The British Window Cleaning Academy (BWCA) offers a range of courses. 

 

Working at Height including Abseiling and Mobile Platforms Training

The two main training providers for working at height are The International Rope Access Association(IRATA) and The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF).

IRATA certification has three levels. Level One enables a window cleaning operative to operate under the direct supervision of someone with a Level Three qualification. A Level Two IRATA trained window cleaner has demonstrated greater skills but must still only operate under the guidance of a Level 3 certified operative, whilst a Level Three qualification enables the operative to work independently. It is advised that at least one operative on site has a Level Three certificate.

For larger buildings above ground height and where water fed poles cannot be used due to access or height, windows are usually cleaned using a mobile elevated platform. IPAF certification is specific to jobs that are dependent upon mobile elevated platforms and other powered equipment. Proof of accreditation is important to ensure some Public and Employer’s Liability Cover does not become null and void.

Continual Professional Development with Other Training Providers

Having the right training and qualifications show your customers that you’re committed to offering a high-quality service. 

Getting additional qualifications and more comprehensive training through continual professional development will enable you to provide a more comprehensive range of services and demonstrate a commitment to health and safety and compliance with new legislation.

The Federation of Window Cleaners offers a range of safety training courses. ‘Cleaning Windows Safely’and ‘Risk Assessments’ are accredited by The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

IOSH also offer their own Safety Awareness Course called ‘Working Safely’ that is delivered by The Workplace Health and Safety Advice Centre

How to register your window cleaning company

To start running your business correctly, including opening a bank account and paying the correct tax, you need to register your business with the HMRC. If you’re working alone, you probably want to register as a sole trader. But if more than one person will own your future company, you need to set your business up as a limited company.

Learn more about the differences between sole traders and limited companies and how to set up either of them here.

Self Assessment tax return

If you’re registered as a self-employed sole trader, you must file a Self Assessment tax return. 

If you know you need to file a Self Assessment tax return, the first step is to register with HMRC before 5 October of the calendar year that the tax year ends. 

Sole traders must keep records of business income and expenses for their tax returns. As a sole trader, you must also keep a separate record of your personal income since any money you make from sources like investments or property may affect the tax you pay.

For more information, check out our detailed guide on How to Do a Self Assessment Tax Return.

The insurance you need

If you intend to make a name for yourself in the window cleaning business, you need to have your insurance in order.

Insurance for the window cleaning business can be costly though you need it to establish your business as reliable and trustworthy.

Furthermore, you need insurance for peace of mind just in case anything goes wrong while you are going about your business of cleaning windows. Some of the insurance you need to take include:

  • Public Liability Insurance – Provides cover in the instance of the members of the public or your clients getting injured by your business.
  • Personal Accident Insurance – Provides cover and compensation in the instance of accidental death or injury.
  • Business Equipment Insurance – Provides cover and compensation in the instance of damage, theft or loss of specialist window cleaning equipment.
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance – Proves cover and compensation for your employees in case they are injured while performing their duties.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the insurance covers you may need, and you should take as many as you feel comfortable with.

Insurance is expensive and will form a big part of your yearly overhead, which is why you need to get training and ensure health and safety standards are adhered to at all times. If you have a good health and safety record, you should soon have your premiums go down.

How to market your window cleaning business

Window cleaning can be competitive, so you’ll want to stand out from the crowd. Consider your business plan and remember that your marketing efforts will drive your business growth.

Your business plan should also make it clear what your unique selling point will be. For example, are you going to provide a cheap service or base your business around delivering quality? Your marketing can then reflect that.

Things to think about include:

  • Your logo and brand. Check out our article on how to create a business logo here.
  • Your website. We have a guide to creating a business website if you need a hand.
  • Social media marketing
  • Google ads and SEO.
  • Traditional marketing methods like business cards, door-to-door canvassing, and flyering.

Other ways to create brand recognition include getting your logo and brand wrapped onto your vehicles, putting your logo onto t-shirts, and teaming up with other tradespeople to cross-market your services.

You can even buy established window cleaning rounds from other window cleaners, so if you want a ready-made solution (and have the money to make the investment), this could be something to explore.

How to organise your finances

Organising your finances is an important part of running a successful business. However, many self-employed small business owners fall into the trap of mixing their personal and business banking. 

If you use your personal bank account for company expenses and income, your finances can become intertwined and cause confusion and errors in your tax return. To avoid paying an incorrect amount of tax or even a fine when you get audited, you might want to put some thought into keeping all your records straight.

  1. Get a business bank account

If you haven’t opened a business bank account yet, don’t put it off any longer. Not having to dig through your personal bank account to separate personal and business transactions manually will make your life so much easier. Having a separate bank account for business dealings is the easiest and best way to keep your finances organised.

  1. Track your income and expenses

Tracking your income and expenses is essential when it comes to organising your finances. Categorising your expenses can help you save money because controlling your expenses is easier when you clearly understand where your money is spent.

You can probably deduct some of your business costs from your taxable income, so it’s essential to keep an accurate record of your income and expenses to make your tax return easier to complete.

  1. Budget for taxes

You probably have a budget for different types of expenses in your business. But a hefty tax bill at the end of the year can take you by surprise if you haven’t been tracking your income and expenses throughout the year.

When you consistently track your income and expenses, you can easily estimate how much tax you might have to pay each tax year. Learn more about what tax businesses and sole traders pay here.

Save time and organise your finances with Countingup

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.