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COVID-19: Make Use of Your Downtime

COVID-19: Make Use of Your Downtime

Over the past few days, many Window Cleaners have made the difficult decision to stop working, in order to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Others feel they can work safely whilst meeting government guidelines to maintain social distancing. Those that continue to work whilst maintaining social distance, will possibly have also seen a downturn in business perhaps through lost contracts or an inability to pick up new ones right now.

The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and its effect on the day to day life of self employed workers & small businesses has left many with a feeling of helplessness.

However, whilst there are concerns over the immediate future, Window Cleaners that are finding themselves with a drop in work do well to utilise this time to plan and implement a strategy to build their business, when they are able to work at full capacity again. It is likely that there will be other businesses looking to do the same, and even the possibility of new competition as those without work look to take control of their working lives.

Many Window Cleaners struggle to find the time to work ON their business, because they spend the entire working week working IN their business. What does this mean? As Window Cleaners, it is important to take a step back from actually cleaning windows and approach this from a business perspective. Our experience is that those that have a level of success with Window Cleaning are able to find the balance between being able fulfill their day to day work, while making time also to build the business.

Never are you likely to have more free time than in the coming weeks, so it makes sense to utilise this time to do those tasks you never get around to doing, or even better, to build your business and a strategy to ensure you hit the ground running, when the time arises.

At WCW, we are fortunate to have a great team that covers all aspects of building a small business, we’ve put together this list of things you can do to ensure you future proof your Window Cleaning business.

Marketing

How do you pick up new customers? As a small business it is important to reliably know where new customers are coming from. Be it referrals from existing customers, google searches, house to house canvassing or anything else - now is the time to either double down on your most successful avenue, or create whole new channels where potential customers can find you.

Below is a comprehensive list of marketing opportunities available to Window Cleaners, and some guidance on how you may utilise each.

Improve your online presence

Having an online presence is more than simply making a website, there are a number of opportunities for businesses to exist online, and doing so correctly can drive customers towards your business.

Build Your Website

When considering a website, there are a few options. For the tech savvy among us, you can use sites such as Wix, Squarespace or Wordpress to create your own using a template, and these generally are low cost and paid for monthly. They take a little time to build but if you’re looking to keep the cost down and you have some time to do so, this is a good option.

One of the difficulties most encounter whilst doing this is actually populating the website with images. If this is you, see our section below on updating your photos, or use photos from free stock image websites such as unsplash

For those completely unsure of anything web related, contact a local web designer to help with this, they will likely be able to give you quick guidance on costs and time-frames.

If you plan to make any ventures into advertising online, having a website serves as a centrepoint that everything links back to - so be sure that there is a clear way for customers to contact you. A website is also a good means to advertise the services you offer, particularly those outside of your normal day-to-day Window Cleaning such as gutter clearing or roof cleaning.

Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is a local business listing service within google, you’ll likely have used this service without even knowing what it is. It allows potential customers to quickly find you, and to find vital information about your business (like contact numbers, reviews etc).

GMB listings taking prominence in a google search result, and highlight businesses in google maps - take a look at the image below to illustrate what people see when searching for Window Cleaning Warehouse - and why it is important that the GMB listing is set up correctly.



(Google My Business Listing for Window Cleaning Warehouse - it even recognises that I work here!)

Having a GMB listing is free, simple to set up and provides a tonne of value to your business. This includes:

VISIBILITY
Make yourself as easy to find as possible, the last thing you want is somebody attempting to find a contact number, and getting side tracked by one of your competitors. Remove any obstacles by getting your business information clearly in the google search listings.

CREDIBILITY
People are accustomed to seeing these listings, it gives weight to your business, looks professional and having good reviews on there make it even more likely that a customer will get in touch.

Fortunately, setting up a GMB account is simple, simply visit the link below and get started Google My Business

Social Media

Social media can be a huge asset to Window Cleaners, and not just in terms of gaining customers, there are a number of groups organised for professional Window Cleaners where you can share thoughts with like minded people.

Creating a Facebook page is a good idea, even if you don’t have very many followers, it allows people who search for you to find information about your business quickly, so be sure to put as much information as possible on there. As a guide, think of every frequently asked question you receive by new customers - then make sure these questions are answered on your page, either in the ‘about us’ section or through posts.

With a clear logo and some crisp photos, your Facebook page can lend credibility to your business, particularly so if you have some strong reviews (if you don’t already, encourage current customers to review your Facebook page & Google My Business listing).

Using social media to advertise your business is a little different to using some other methods. When customers find you through google, it is likely that they intend on hiring a Window Cleaner. Marketing through social media is often called ‘interruption’ marketing, as people aren’t necessarily there to shop, they are there to socialise, share photos, watch cat videos or kill some time while waiting in line. Because of this, it can be a good idea when posting on your page to think about problems you can solve in the hope that people who see that information will resonate with the problem.

Instead of posting ‘Window Cleaner: Get a quote’, try a before and after photo of a recent job. Get creative with this, and if you’re able to, use photos and videos rather than text alone.

If you have a personal Facebook account, you can also use this to create awareness for your business. Many towns and cities have groups where small businesses can advertise themselves, such as buy and sell groups or ‘town hubs’. If you search for the name of your local area (or the areas you work) in the Facebook search bar and filter by group - you’ll find a list of groups where you could potentially post about your services.

Of course, there is some etiquette to be followed, don’t spam groups over and over with the same information and be sure to read the rules of the group to see if advertising your business is allowed.

Update Your Photos

The photo above was used as part of a WCW marketing campaign last year, and you may have even seen it on some of our social media pages. This photo was taken using a smartphone, with no additional lighting or equipment, nor any post-production work (such as photoshop), just a nice clean piece of equipment and some sunshine.

This photo might not win any photography awards, and that haircut needs some work, but the image does what it is proposed to do, highlight a feature of the product in shot. In today's world, you can create professional looking videos and photos with a smartphone camera - and these go a long way to showcase your business to potential customers, and once you’ve captured some, they can be used in a number of different places, such as your website, social media channels or even to send to potential clients to highlight the work you’ll be doing. If you have family members at home, get them involved either taking photos or modelling your best squeegee! Below are some helpful resources to turn your photos into complete marketing assets.

Helpful Tools

Canva Canva is free software you can access online to create stunning graphics, with a range of templates for flyers, posters, social media banners, infographics and more. Canva is simple, and has a wide range of templates, images, icons and fonts.

Gimp This is the popular and completely free image manipulation program. In simple terms, an alternative to photoshop (however be warned, this is a powerful tool but is not simple to use to the uninitiated).

iMovie For those using apple phones & tablets, iMovie can help you create videos quickly and simply, and its free with iOS or Mac.

Fiverr This is a platform for freelance workers to promote their services. In a matter of minutes you can hire a freelance graphic designer to put together a flyer, and they will generally have it finished within a few days, simply send them your logo (or have them design this also). This can cost anywhere from £10.00 to £50.00 depending on the service you go with.

Improve your Offline Presence

Printed materials like flyers, posters and compliment slips is a popular way to attract new customers, and communicate with the customers you already have

Designing and Printing

Many people choose not to use flyers as they are unsure how to design them, or how to get them printed - and even more concerning is how much will this cost. Fortunately, with a little know-how, this is something that can be done quickly without breaking the bank.

Companies like Vistaprint or Helloprint offer 1000 flyers for approximately £20.00-£30.00, with templates you can use to quickly get an eye catching design, and if you shop around with local print businesses, you may even be able to find a better offer. You don’t have to purchase these right now, as I’m sure many of you will be reducing unnecessary spending to a minimum - but if you’ve got everything lined up and ready to go, you’re only a click away when the time is right.

If the templates found via the printing stores above aren’t quite up to standard, you can quickly design your own using free software such as Canva, or if you’d rather have this done by a professional, finding freelance graphic designers via Fiverr or People Per Hour can land you a professionally designed flyer for under £50.00.

Communicating With Customers

Make it clear to your customers your plan for this time period, and when things return to normal communicate to your customers that you are operating as normal again. If you have decided to continue working, communicate the measures you have put in place to meet government guidelines regarding social distancing.

Equipment and Maintenance

Creating an asset list for the equipment you use is good practice for a number of reasons, particularly so if you have an insurance policy that covers this equipment. Software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs even have templates to help with this. Listing out what you have may also highlight some gaps that you were unaware of - perhaps some spare components you thought you had or some damaged items that were never replaced.

Now is a good time to take inventory of all of your equipment, create a list to document what you have, look at what needs replacing and perhaps create a list for things that could be improved, or a wish list for future purchases.

Repairing and maintaining your tools is another way you can utilise this time - you may even be able to bring some old equipment back to life.

Keeping your equipment in good condition will prolong their life span, and even a little TLC to your equipment can go a long way. Below are some ways you can extend the life of your most important equipment.

Water Fed Poles

Failure to clean and maintain your pole will cause excess wear and tear. This is especially important for Carbon and Hi-Mod Poles due to the sections being thinner.

Most poles can be taken apart and washed down regularly. We advise doing this regularly but now may be a great opportunity to dismantle the pole & clamps and give each component a thorough clean. You may even apply some dry-film PTFE Spray to the pole sections.

If you’re using our Phantom pole range, perhaps now is a good time to swap out the replaceable TPU sleeves. Combined with a thorough clean, this will leave your pole feeling like new!

Filters, Membranes and Resin

Over time, dirt and grime will build up on the insides of your filter, membrane & resin housings. Emptying and thoroughly cleaning these will give your system a new lease of life, improve the life of the consumables and may even help with water production.

Even simple things such as cleaning up your couplings and connectors, replacing PTFE tape and checking all seals and o-rings can ensure that when you’re back at full capacity, you aren’t let down by your equipment.

Future Proof your Business

Generally winter is the time that is most difficult for Window Cleaners. As we enter spring, now is a great time to reflect on the challenges you faced over the winter, and prepare for next year - drawing up a strategies to improve your business.

Additional Revenue Streams

The modern Window Cleaner has access to a wealth of information and equipment. Using down time to research additional revenue streams could allow you to diversify your business when the time comes.

Some examples of additional revenue streams that go hand-in-hand with Window cleaning are:

  • Gutter Cleaning / Clearing
  • Conservatory (and other plastics/ uPVC).
  • Roof Cleaning/ Scraping
  • Soft-washing / Other External Cleaning

The additional revenue that these bring in through the autumn could compensate for a quieter winter, offer opportunity whilst adverse weather stops you Window Cleaning or simply allow you to build your business all year round.

Adding another revenue stream does require some planning, here is a list of steps you may wish to take, to ensure you are prepared.

EQUIPMENT REQUIRED
Make a list of what exactly you require, where you can purchase it and how much it is going to cost. If you're unsure, call and speak to somebody in the industry. If it's anything cleaning related, feel free to contact us and we can point you in the right direction.

TECHNIQUE
If your chosen add on is something completely new to you, be sure to utilise online videos to help you learn the techniques. there will be a YouTube tutorial for pretty much anything you can think of! Use Facebook to search for groups of people within the same niche, those groups can be a goldmine for hints and tips

ACCREDITATION AND LICENSING
Most exterior cleaning work does not require specific qualifications or accreditation, however it will likely vary from one location to the next, research what you require in order to offer your chosen service, this may also include necessary insurance or even generic health and safety certifications.

MARKETING AND MARKET RESEARCH
Having the ability to fulfill the work is only useful if there is work to be fulfilled!

Asking potential customers if the additional revenue stream is something they would consider is a good way to gauge a demand for it in your community. If you believe there is a demand - you will need to plan how you are going to raise awareness of your offer.

You can do this through up-sells to your current customer base, or any of the marketing strategies outlined above (perhaps designing a flyer or creating some social media posts is a good place to start).

Changing Equipment and Methods

Traditional vs. Pure Water? If you’ve ever visited a window cleaning forum I’m sure this is a question you will have encountered before.

The Pure Water vs. Traditional debates will rage on forever but in our experience, as with most arguments, there are positives to each. Perhaps the best way to look at each method is as different tools in a toolbox.

If you've been considering switching but not pulled the trigger just yet, perhaps now is a good time to think through how you would go about doing so, drafting up how you might communicate this to customers, what equipment you might need and how you plan to implement its usage.

If you're unsure what Pure Water Window Cleaning is - read here

Business and Administration

This is the perfect time to update your customer records, make sure your invoices are up to date and review your costs. Whilst these aren’t the most exciting tasks, these are your bread and butter as a small business owner. Assuming that you are already on top of this, now may be the perfect time to try out some software that could save you a lot of time and effort.

There is software to automate (or reduce the time spent) almost any of your day to day business and admin tasks. If you find yourself spending too much time every day chasing payments, planning routes for employees, finding customer records, or simply scheduling your day - there is a software to help you manage.

Particularly popular in this category is card & online payment processing. In years gone by, Window Cleaners would spend an evening or two each week ‘collecting’ owed money, trying to catch the same customer at home, that owes three cleans and appears to have disappeared off the face of the earth. This creates problems for the Window Cleaner, as not only is it a waste of time, it also means that there is a constant list of debtors restricting the cash flow of the business.

However today this doesn’t need to be the case, with direct debit software such as GoCardless and portable Card Readers like the one provided by iZettle, there is no reason for the modern Window Cleaner to be owed significant amounts of money, payments can be collected without even seeing the customer - and particularly with current circumstances, many people even expect cashless/ contactless payments to be acceptable. With a little time spent exploring the options, now could be a brilliant time to modernise your payment system, stop cash flow problems and maintain strict enforcement of social distancing guidelines with payments.

Helpful Tools

Quickbooks This accounting software allows you to track sales, expenses and manage invoices all in one simple package.

Squeegee Run your entire Window Cleaning business, communicate with customers, track payments and plan your day all in one place.

Gocardless An easy way to collect direct debit payments. Your customers sign up, then you charge them when you’ve cleaned their windows - no more outstanding payments!

Izettle This payment processing system allows you to take card payments from a reader connected directly to your phone or tablet. Take card payments on the go with competitive processing fees.

Stay Home — Spend Time With Family

Most importantly during this period of inactivity is to stay home where possible, stay safe and enjoy spending some extra time with family.

For self employed workers, many work hard all year round, disregard their own health and give no time of day to minor injuries, this may be the opportunity you need to rest and recover - so that you can hit the ground running, when the time comes.

Is there anything we missed? As a small industry its important that we stick together and help each other at this time. If you have any suggestions for fellow Window Cleaners, let us know at info@windowcleaningwarehouse.co.uk - and we'll be sure to publish them with a credit.



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