Canvassing/Getting Customers
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The Benefits of Being a Window Cleaner

The Drawbacks of Being a Window Cleaner

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Canvassing/Getting Customers


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Window Cleaning Technique

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Repetitive Strain Injury


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This section is quite long because I feel the hardest part about being a window cleaner isn’t doing the job, it’s getting the customers. I’m sure though the same could be said for any business.

As I stated in the Drawbacks of Being a Window Cleaner I feel canvassing is probably the worst part of the job, but it is absolutely necessary in acquiring new customers. There are other methods however.


Other Methods of Getting Customers

Leaflets: These can work but you will need to drop a very large number of them and with leaflets you don't get a feel for the area. Leaflets can work though if used in a combination with canvassing. I explain this cunning technique at the bottom of this page.

Advertising: I wouldn't recommend this until you're established because it costs money to advertise. With advertising you may get calls off customers whose houses are very awkward to clean and have been missed out by other window cleaners for a reason. Also, if you advertise in your local paper you will be getting calls from all over the place. You really need your round to be compact because if you're spending half your time driving from customer to customer then you're wasting your time.

Turn Your Car/Van Into a Billboard: Sign writing your vehicle is a relatively cheap method of advertising that may help you get a couple of new customers but I wouldn't count on it to get you a lot.

Recommendation: Once you get a few customers you may find they recommend you to their friends and family who live close by, especially if you do a good job like me. This is a great way of getting customers.

Being Spotted: While cleaning a customer’s windows you may find other people come up to you and ask if you will do there's as well. This obviously is another great and easy way of getting customers. It's sometimes a good idea to occasionally work on a weekend to help this process occur because people who are out in the week at work may never see you. You will find you get spotted more on the weekends, but personally I hate working on them so I try to avoid doing that where possible.


The Best way of Getting Customers: Canvassing

Definitely the best way for a number of reasons

1. Sixth Sense: When you canvas you begin to sense the areas where there aren't other window cleaners, or areas where the coverage isn't total and you will be able to pick up a few new customers. Also, you can get valuable information on the competition from the people's doors you knock on, even if they already have a window cleaner, info like:

Does he do the whole road/estate/close?

How much does he charge?

You can save valuable time by finding out if a road is already taken. If you had been dropping leaflets you might not have realised this and would have wasted your time and effort

With regards to asking how much he charges, you should use this only as additional information, you shouldn't offer to undercut his prices because you're only going to make enemies doing that. Window cleaners have been known to turn nasty against each other and it's simply not worth it.

You don't need to ask every person whose door you knock on about their window cleaner, particularly if they look flustered or annoyed by your presence, but knowing your competitors can help you.

2. A Face is Best: When you strike it lucky and find somebody who does want a window cleaner I always think it is better for them to see a face rather than a piece of paper with a number on it. I get the impression people are afraid of phoning an abstract number and speaking to a stranger over the phone. They feel safer talking to that person face to face so they can size them up and this is another reason why I think canvassing is better than leaflet drops.

It's quite strange really when you think about it because you could have a psycho moment and attack them when you're face to face, while over the phone all you can do is shout abuse. It's part of human nature I guess, speaking over the telephone isn't a natural way of communicating in the way speaking face to face with another person is.

3. Leaflets Gets Lost or Ignored: With so much rubbish getting pushed through letterboxes nowadays most people just ignore half their mail and you may find your leaflet doesn't even get looked at. But with canvassing a potential customer is going to struggle to ignore you if you're standing directly in front of them.

Somebody might read your leaflet and think: Yeah, I'll have to give them a ring, but with so many more important things to think about your leaflet gets forgotten or lost.

With canvassing you can arrange the deal there and then as soon as they say they're interested.

If you do rely purely on leaflets to pick up work make sure you place on the leaflet in big bold letters: Window Cleaning Service. This way as soon as people see it they know exactly what you’re selling.     

4. People are Lazy or Busy or Both: Some people really want a window cleaner but don't have the motivation to dial the number of one and arrange it. It's understandable really because with so many other, far more important things people have to worry about, there just doesn't seem time to arrange an inconsequential thing like a window cleaner. If you canvass you take laziness out the equation because you come to them.


Canvassing: The Way I Do It

Keep it Simple Stupid: Unless you are a natural born salesman, which you probably aren't because you wouldn't have to be resorting to window cleaning as a profession, then you're better off keeping your sales pitch simple. When I first started canvassing I tried to give out a big speech but got my words muddled because I was terribly nervous and ended up looking like a right fool. The best way I've found is to keep it short and sweet. As soon as the person answers the door I cut to the chase and say:

'I wanted to know if you'd like a window cleaner.'

People don't want to hear your life story because you're a nobody; they want to know what you're selling so they can make a quick yes or no decision, so keep it short.

You tend to get three answers to your sales pitch.

1. 'I would like a window cleaner actually,' (the rarest answer).

2. 'We already have a window cleaner, sorry I can't help you,' (the most common answer).

3. 'No thanks mate,' (the second most common answer).

When you first start up you may want to ask a couple of questions after you receive the second answer to your sales pitch. It is a good idea to do this when they don't look too angry about your presence. Ask them if they know how much of the area their window cleaner does. And you may want to ask how much he charges. I don't really bother asking how much other window cleaners charge now because a lot of them round by me charge money that I would never be prepared to work for.

Remember, don't bother undercutting even if the price they're charging is very high because you will make enemies with other window cleaners and before you know it, you've got slashed tyres.

The hardest part of canvassing is the sales pitch, getting those first words out can be difficult, after that it's fairly easy because you're engaged in a regular conversation.

After I've finished my sales pitch and received either answer 2 or 3 I say:

'Sorry to bother you then.'

And quickly leave.

It is only decent human behaviour to be polite, nobody owes you a living and the potential customers’ windows are their windows, they can do what they like with them.

You Can't Always Count on Other People to be Polite Back

I once had an old timer shout at the top of his voice, 'No I don’t want a bloody window cleaner, they should bring a law in to stop people like you coming round,' before slamming the door in my face.

Apart from that one highlight it was miserable afternoon canvassing, if I recall correctly I didn't get one new customer that day, but I still have the treasured memory of that old coot's antics.

You need to take the light-hearted look upon these nuts like I do when I encounter them, don't let them get you down.


For People Who Are Not in When You Canvass

I leave an A4 leaflet through the door that has in large bold letters: Window Cleaning Service. With leaflets you want people to know exactly what you're selling the instant they see the leaflet. I've heard of some window cleaners who make a note of who they didn't get to canvass and then go back on another day to try again. I don't bother doing this though because I'm too lazy. My strategy is to knock on as many doors as quickly as possible with no messing about. Tip: Make sure when you're out canvassing you have plenty of your leaflets on you, not just for the people who aren't in but for the people who are curious but don't want to commit to anything just yet.


Make a Note of Where You Have Canvassed Up To

Imagine you're canvassing up a very long road and because road is so long you can't canvass it all in one day. Make sure you take a note of the number of the house you canvassed up to so when you come back you can pick up from where you left off.


Details to Take After a Successful Sales Pitch

Say you get that rarest answer to your sales pitch, answer number 1; you'll need to write down some details in your trusty notepad about your new customer. Tip: When out canvassing use a pencil to make notes in your note pad because I always find when I go out canvassing with a pen it runs out at the worst possible time. Pencils are far more reliable than pens and you can rub out any mistakes.


The most important detail you need to take is the price. Make sure before you give a price you have taken a good look at the number of windows you will be cleaning by requesting to take a look out the back. Some people will try to describe to you how many windows they have. Be insistent, you want to see them for yourself because otherwise you may have a dodgy description given to you and then you give a price that is too low.

How Often

Depending on your round you need to agree with your new customer how often you're going to be visiting them. My business offers three choices.

A one off clean that's costs more money because first cleans always take ages

A once every four weeks clean

A once every eight weeks clean

I would suggest you do the same. Make sure as well that you lay out clearly to the customer all their options. When I first started I used to say: 'I usually come round every month,' and not mention that I also accepted people on an every other month basis. I did this because I wanted to make more money off them. Looking back I think this was a mistake because while some people really do want their windows doing every month, some think they do but then realise how quickly a month flies by and become resentful that you're cleaning their windows again so soon.

You can actually end up losing customers because of this. If you offer all the options and they choose monthly they can't blame you when it appears as if you are there every five minutes.

I will go on the record and say in the vast majority of cases windows don't need cleaning every month and I think that the every 8 weeks deal is far better value.

Access to the Back

Most the time access to the back of someone’s house isn't a problem. You can if you have to go over their flat roof garage by pulling your ladders up onto the roof and then dropping them down the other side into their back garden.

If there is no flat roof to go over and the only way to access the back is through a side gate you need to ask if it's ever locked.

If they answer yes it is you have a problem because you won't be able to get round the back if they are not in to let you through.

What I say is: 'if I give you a phone call the night before I'm going to come round could you leave it unlocked just for that day.'

Hopefully they will agree to this deal and give you their phone number.

If they refuse to accept this deal because they're terrified of having their garden gnomes robbed, ask if they are normally inside their house in the week between the hours you work.

If they say no then you're snookered and will have to tell them you'll only be able to do the front windows.

Some people keep dangerous dogs in their back garden. This will be another reason for you not being able to do the whole house, hopefully though they'll inform you about this before you get your throat ripped out.

Sometimes, even when you phone your customer the night before and tell them to leave the gate unlocked they forget to do it. Have a look over the top of the locked side gate to see if it just bolted or if it's padlocked. If it's just bolted you may be able to reach down and pull the bolt across or jump over the gate and do it. Be careful though not to damage the gate, or yourself for that matter. If it is padlocked you'll probably have to give that house a miss and try to do it the next day.


Date of First Clean

You will need to inform your new customer when you are first going to clean their windows. Remember that first cleans can take a long time because the windows are often filthy, so leave a sufficiently large amount of time in your day to do them.


Obviously take their address, don't rely on your memory! Don’t ask the customer their address either because it makes you look a little unprofessional, just write the number and road down once you're back out on the pavement and have left the customer.


This is probably the least important question but it might make your customer feel like you know what you're doing. Ask their name and then write it down. I don't know the names of half my customers, I remember them by house address instead, but it still makes you look good to ask.


To remember all these questions you are supposed to be asking you should have a template ready in you note pad before you get a customer because it is very, very easy to forget something..


This is how a page of my notepad would look before I have gone out canvassing and after I have just got a new customer



Name- ..................................................Name- Mike Smith

Address- ..............................................Address-123 Make Believe Road

Phone- .................................................Phone- 3242 3454 5465

Access to Back- ..................................Access to Back- Side gate phone night before

How Often- .........................................How Often- Bi-Monthly (every 8 weeks)

Price- ..................................................Price- £10.00

Date of 1stClean- ................................Date of 1stClean- This Thursday


You can leave some space below the template for additional notes.


Keep Your Customers Informed

You'll need to inform your customer how you will collect payment if they are not in when you clean their windows.

This is what I say after handing them one of my business cards: 'If you are not here when I clean the windows I will leave another card like that but it will have written on the back that I've cleaned the windows and the date I did them. I then come back for the money on a night, usually either Sunday or Tuesday.'

Putting the Date on the Card: I think it's good to write on the card you leave after you've cleaned a houses windows the date you did them, so when a cheeky customer asks you at collection time when you cleaned the windows you can say if you can't remember (and you probably won't be able to because once you have a full round you won't remember the exact day you did every customer) that you put the date you did them on the card you left.

Another Tip: Be aware that a lot of houses front door bells don't work and you may have to knock if you don't get an answer by pressing the bell.


Don't Get Discouraged

Canvassing can be very demoralising because you have days where you don't get a single customer. The way you have to look at it is like this: you have just eliminated an area that didn't give any results and are that much closer to finding an area that will give some.

The biggest hurdle for a new window cleaner just starting up is getting your first customer. Once you get one, for some miraculous reason it becomes a lot easier to get more.


One for the Wily Old Pros

One great method that I use to find customers now is I use a combination of canvassing and leaflet dropping. What I do is walk up to a house and then when I’m really close to the windows I give them a quick once over. I can usually tell whether or not the home owners have a window cleaner just by looking at how clean the glass of their windows is. If I think they already have a window cleaner I put a leaflet through anyway, just on the off chance they're not happy with the guy who is currently cleaning them. If I think they don't have one I then knock. This is a good method because it saves a lot of time and isn’t as disheartening.



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