When I started my side hustle of window cleaning in 2019, the goals were really simple. I needed to make $800/month or better, have the freedom of being my own boss, and, most importantly, be Done by 1:00, so I could pick up my kids in time to avoid daycare. Of course, as time goes on and my kids get older, the goals keep changing, but as a starting point, it was that simple. I don’t know your starting point or motivation to get into window cleaning as a side hustle,; you may need to make extra money on top of your 9-5 job as everything gets more expensive, or perhaps you’re dreaming of eventually quitting that 9-5 and being your own boss. Whatever the situation, I want to provide three pieces of advice you won’t hear listening to “normal business advice.”
- Selling time:
A really big mistake with people who only want a side hustle to earn an extra $1,500/month is they will undervalue their time because they still have an “employee mindset” from their previous job experience. The irony of undervaluing your time in a side hustle is that’s the very thing you don’t have! You’re not trying to sell 60 hours per week as full-time guys do. You only want to sell 10-20 hours per week, and then on top of that, you’re selling what little time you have for way too cheap. During my first-year cleaning windows, I thought averaging $35 an hour was amazing because that sure beats my previous job’s $19 an hour. WRONG! I didn’t pay any overhead at all being an employee. There was no insurance, tools, gas, marketing, business phone, or whatever else coming out of my pocket as an employee. I can remember six months of doing the actual math and realizing that I was only netting about $17 an hour of that $35 an hour that I was so proud of. For that amount, I might as well work a part-time job instead of doing my own thing! You must make enough money as an owner to pay the technician, manager, and CEO, even if you play all three roles.
- Spend your customer’s money-not yours:
Traditional advice may tell you to take a business loan and buy everything necessary to “look professional.” This means you need a $40,000 truck, $5,000 wrap, $10,000 of equipment, and $10,000 for basic marketing like shirts, website, SEO, flyers, and so on. Given the choice between pride and profit, you need to choose profit! Instead of jumping $65,000 into debt, you should spend your customer’s money. What does that mean and look like? For me, it meant driving a rusty 20-year-old Toyota Corolla with a little giant ladder on top for my first four months. It meant not taking any money home for the first six months because I was busy investing every penny into my business. I was growing at the speed of cash (customer’s cash). This advice may lose half of you reading it because it doesn’t sound amazing. Why would you not want to earn money for six months, and why would you want to use an old car instead of “looking professional?” Because it’s a SIDE HUSTLE and not an all-in full-time business. The professional-looking stuff will happen, but not in the first six months. If you need to make money by next Friday, then go deliver pizza. If you want to jump into a bunch of debt, go all-in instead of having a side hustle. If you want to grow a side hustle that will last and make you more than you imagined, then spend your customer’s money to grow it. Avoiding debt in a side hustle is crucial because it removes the risk if you have a bad 2 or 3 month period or get injured.
- Getting work:
If you’ve read the book ‘E-Myth,’ you know many businesses fail because they’re started by technicians who don’t know anything about running a business. Getting work is probably the biggest hurdle of any side-hustle idea. It all sounds good on paper, but at the end of the day, there’s no money if there are no customers. Here are some reasonable ways to land work when you literally have none.
- Talk to storefronts
- Ask friends and family for work
- Create a good online presence (pictures, and hopefully reviews later)
- Ask other window cleaners if you can be a helper or take over jobs they no longer like.
- Connect with people (other contractors, owners, and just people in general)
- Clean the first three homes for half price so you can put a sign in the yard and talk to neighbors while working.
In conclusion: If you overthink a simple side hustle like window cleaning, you won’t ever start. Give yourself permission to start, knowing you will make mistakes and have to learn along the way. If you’re scared, then do it scared. If you think it sounds too hard, consider how hard it is not to try. Which hard do you want to choose? Why do you want to do this? For me, it was to be done by 1:00 pm for my kids, and the work was also done by one (me).
By Christopher Simmons