Passion, Money, and Pain - Why Window Cleaners Do What They Do
Why do we clean windows for a living? I am sure none of us dreamt of being a window cleaner as a child. Well, maybe a few... hahaha. But here we are window cleaners. We struggle with common issues, such as, difficult employees and customers, extreme heat and cold, muscle fatigue, stinging and biting insects, the risk of electric shock, and the dangers of working on ladders and platforms. Not to mention the social stigma associated with being a window cleaner. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before; you meet someone for the first time and they ask you what you do. You tell them and they’re like, “oh that’s nice.”
Most window cleaners are talented hard working self starters, street smart entrepreneurs, and savvy business people. With these traits there are an endless number of things one could do with their lives. I believe personal autonomy is the core motivation of most window cleaners. We want to be our own boss, set our own hours, live and die by our own sword, and be free of an office, warehouse, or factory. We spend our days outside and have the satisfaction that comes from the simplicity of a hard days work. Window cleaners share these common values and ambitions and is what makes our industry amazing and unique.
So how did you get started window cleaning?
What are your struggles?
Why have you stuck with it?
These are the questions I posed to a handful of window cleaners and here are their answers.
Gabriel is owner of Gabe’s Spotless Window Cleaning in Tucson, AZ
I was looking to start a business. A friend had suggested window cleaning, but I wasn't sold. I had a different friend who actually had a window cleaning business, so, I decided to ask him some questions. I wanted to pick his brain and see if it was right for me. Turned out he was selling some of his commercial route that he didn't want anymore. I turned him down. My wife started asking me a bunch of questions about it, and, I had to confess that I hadn't got any specifics from him. So, I went back and found out what he was offering. It was really generous and I had no reason to turn it down. It took me about 6 months to finally decide I liked it. After that, there was no stopping me.
A big struggle would definitely be finding quality employees. I have been pretty fortunate for the most part. But finding young guys who understand how to work hard, be dependable, & respect my time is very difficult. I've also found that many young people are dealing with health issues that you wouldn't normally expect from otherwise healthy people. It becomes a challenge to juggle their situations with the needs and expectations of the customer. So, when you run across a tech who cares more about the customer than their own comfort, and they respect your business enough to put forth an honest days work, you take care of them.
It turned out to be a great business for my family. While I pride myself on being a good businessman and I do love to clean windows, making money isn't my priority. It never has been. I gain more joy out of the relationships I've formed with my customers and that my business is taking care of my family. If the bills get paid, and then I still have money to help others in need and other really worthy causes, I'm all about that. People were very generous to me in offering advice and support. I am more than happy to pay it forward to others who can benefit from the kindness I received.
Marcus Bey (A.K.A) M.A.W.
Marcus is a window cleaner and Youtuber “M.A.W Master at Wagtail”
I thought window cleaning was something that I could easily do. It was cool to me, but I was afraid of heights. In the beginning I was one of the worse employees. I called out a lot because I was running the streets and made excuses as to why I was late. I almost got fired. My boss warned me to step my game up. He also said, “if you’re afraid of heights than you are in the wrong business.” I worked my way up from being the worst employee to the best employee and started hanging off buildings. I quickly learned how to do all facets of window cleaning and got into management. My former boss was a multi millionaire and I thought I could go into business myself. I left the company with no car and no license. Just my pickle bucket and broom stick. I used my bike and rode the bus to jobs in order to build a route. I would get off and lock my bike away from where I would either work or hand out quotes. I was too embarrassed to let them see me
My biggest challenge was people saying I wouldn't be able to do it, including my mother who told me to stop spinning my wheels and get a real job. This made me push harder cause now it became a challenge to prove everyone wrong.
I actually loved it and nothing would get in my way. Being Your own boss is a good feeling but it comes with a price that some aren't willing to put up with. I got my first commercial account and did it for $35 for 110 windows. It was an auto chain. Within 1 year I had 30 locations. Within 2 more years I had 70 locations amounting to over $6000 a month, plus, my other store fronts. I was always on the road, in motels, sleeping in the car, I was a mad man with it. I've stuck with it cause it stuck with me. They just might have to bury me with my Wagtails looking over my grave and saying man, that guy sure could wag. 😉 I'll be cleaning windows in heaven. As I'm going to heaven so will my Wagtails.
Craig is owner if Lakewood Window Cleaning
I was born into this. My grandfather worked for Lakewood window Cleaning until 1935 when he purchased the company. My father came up after my grandfather then I came up after my father. Our oldest, my step-daughter, is coming up after me. It is in my blood.
I would not say I struggle, but if I had to say something here, it would be this. I am an extremely hyper individual, I move fast and with precision. Folks who jump onto the path in front me and slow me down while I am moving upward and onward, they may be the ones who struggle. I do not know how to answer this?
I love this, I love the flow I am in in all this. I live and breath my work: I hone it, shape it, and mold it. I balance and fine tune every aspect of what I do from window cleaning, to my body and mind, to my tools/equipment. I’m always bastardizing, modifying, and taking it to new levels. I love our clients, I grew up with many of them, I love the old homes, and the freedom of movement. I love it, it is in my blood.
Dustin is owner of Duffy Does It
Many years ago, I helped a friend do a 4-story hotel in downtown Minneapolis. I only pushed him across the roof on a roof rig, as he cleaned windows. He told me how much he made, but I wasn't interested in doing high-rises. Years later, I answered a Craigslist ad for residential window cleaning. I fibbed and said I had experience, to which he quickly realized I lied, but, he still gave me a chance and trained me.
I am in my second year of business and currently building the business while having a happy home life is an obstacle. But I love window cleaning, I love having my 'office' be different everyday, the views we get, being outside, and working with my hands, etc. It has become a lifestyle to me.