Home Business Entrepreneurs: Window Washer, Macrame and Typing

The Bootstrap Businesses column showcases home business entrepreneurs: This issue covers window washer, macrame and typing jobs.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
September/October 1977
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A window washer home business can be a lucrative job that lets you set your own hours.
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Home business entrepreneurs enter into new businesses, including window washer, macrame and typing jobs.

If you now operate — or have ever operated — a successful home business that was inspired by an article you read in MOTHER, tell us (in 500 words or less) when and where — and with how much "seed money" you started your venture. It your story can be fitted into an upcoming installment of Bootstrap Businesses, you'll receive [1] the warm satisfaction of knowing that you helped someone else find the happiness you enjoy and [2] a free two-year new or renewal subscription to THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS

After reading the articles on window washing by Dennis A. Conley and Andrew Safer in MOTHER NO. 40, I decided — since I had no job and live in an area that seems like "The Land of Glass" — to give this particular window washer employment venture a try.

First, I called around and priced supplies. Next, I went out and spent $40 in "seed money" on two squeegees, a natural sponge, a bucket, cleaning solution, a brush (I started with a cheap one: half synthetic, half horsehair), and an extension pole. Then I went home and practiced on my own win dows, after which I asked a friend if I could clean her plate glass store windows for free. With that much practice behind me, i felt confident enough to go out and start canvassing.

My girlfriend hand-printed some cards for me and, after going around for a few hours a day for less than a week, I had several accounts and was clearing about $5.00 an hour. I concentrated on store windows (sometimes i do houses, but-because it's preferable to build up regular accounts — I mostly stay away from residences), and after included the time I spent driving from one store to the next.) Two factors that helped: My speed picked up quite a bit with practice, and I replaced my original cheap brush with a $50 boar bristle model that was much easier to work with.

As if that degree of success weren't enough, all of this led me into another enterprise which now accounts for 60% of my income. One day I got to talking with another window cleaner who happened to pass me as I worked, and he said, "You know, if you ever want to sell me any of your accounts I'll be glad to pay you — for each one what that account grosses in three months."

Maybe you've already guessed that I now go out and canvass for him — with his cards — and when I land an account that pays, say, $30 a month . . . he gives me a $90 check. For the one day per week that I put in for him, I average $100 to $150! And I've narrowed my own work time down to one six- or seven-hour day a week, at $60 to $80 for that one day. That may sound like a lot per hour, but [1] this area has a high cost of living, [2] I've picked up a few car showrooms and such, and [3] after nearly a year, I've gotten very efficient at cleaning glass (I can handle a good-sized store in an hour).

A friend of mine has a rural route in an area north of here, and he does well working for just few stores in each little town . . . so there's a lot of potential out there for making very good money cleaning windows. It's pretty easy work, too, once you get down to it. I've found window washing to be the perfect profession for me. Maybe you will too!

Mark Schneider
Oakland, California

Of all MOTHER's home business articles, I've always been most inspired by the one on casual Dennis Murphy and his candle business ("How to Make $1,000 a Week Making Candles", MOTHER NO. it). Dennis seemed to know all about right livelihood: He hired his friends as much to help them as to help himself. He knew how to please his customers and still make a good living. He knew when to stop, and he encouraged other craftsy folks (like me!) to adapt his business techniques to their handiwork.

My own craft is macrame, so — spurred on by Dennis — I worked feverishly for several weeks to create some simple but beautiful planter and wall hanging designs, then tried to market my products. NO LUCK WHATSOEVER. I took Dennis's advice and went to small shops, church benefits, and outdoor crafts fairs, but no one was buying macrame.

I was not only discouraged, but confused. Then it occurred to me that — whenever I was making up my items — it was often impossible to work in public, since I was always being interrupted by folks who wanted to learn how to knot. The solution to my problem was suddenly evident: Don't sell it, teach it!

I organized a weekly macrame workshop, and (for the first class) designed an uncomplicated project that could be completed in one evening. Actually, to encourage the group to come back for another lesson, I designed two projects at that point .. . one using only a square knot and the other a double half-hitch (see "Macrame" in MOTHER NO. 11). Then I made up a demonstrate tion board, some individual work boards, and some kits.

The eight women at my opening class were delighted when they actually finished a macrame plant hanger. Each of them gave me $5.00, and I not only had all my starting out equipment paid for but made a small profit that very first night!

The women were eager to learn a second knot, so we all agreed on a date for the next class right then. And I've been doing workshops ever since

.. for more and more people, as women keep hearing about me from their friends. I've gradually added harder projects for my more advanced students, and some inexpensive flyers are the only form of advertisement I've ever needed.

I'm not exactly following in Dennis Murphy's footsteps, but he did help me get started. So thanks — MOTHER and Dennis — for the push!

Janet Ryan
Ocean Grove, New Jersey

When I decided to start a home business, I chose typing over other self-employment possibilities for two reasons: [1] I once worked for a company that supplied a word processing secretarial service, and [2] there's very little competition for that line of work here in Duluth.

I began at the end of August 1976 by renting an IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter and having two business telephone lines installed. And a friend in the dictation equipment business supplied me with a Nyematic (a dictation device that's hooked up to a telephone line so customers can call in letters at any hour) and a Lanier 1977 transcriber, in return for my doing his secretarial work.

Thanks to all the contacts I'd developed in my previous employment, the business expanded almost immediately. In September I felt successful enough to try a CPT automatic typewriter, which uses cassette tapes and is capable of turning out letter-perfect copy with a minimum of effort on my part. (It can be programmed to type multiple copies of the same letter — personalized to different persons — and do it in a short period of time.) By November I'd decided to keep the CPT, on a three-year lease with option to buy (the price is relatively low because it's a secondhand machine). I turned in the Nyematic and the Lanier 1977 and had a Lanier Action Line hooked into my second phone line (the Action Line is also on a three-year, option-to-buy lease, and doubles as a transcriber).

I needed a second source of income at first, but now that I'm established the business keeps me almost as busy as I care to be. My customers include a dentist, a veterinarian, a business machines company, a consulting firm, a microfilm company, and a government research lab. I also do resumes and miscellaneous letters for individuals. My prices are high because of the effort I expend producing perfect copy: An average full page of type, double spaced, costs about $2.60 if it's dictated and $2.00 if it's typed or neatly written out. My gross income amounts to $1,500 and up per month, and my present monthly expenses are only $279.

I'd like to add that I would never have ventured into the world of bootstrap businesses without the inspiration of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS. After reading what so many others had done in this same line, I felt certain that I could do it, too.

Vicki Morrison Goble
Duluth, Minnesota


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