A window-cleaning service costs little to start, and can bring you extra cash.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/RICHARD MAJLINDER
Last year — after deciding to get away from all the ice and snow in Ohio — my wife, three children (aged 6, 3 and 1) and I packed up our '58 Chevy and headed south for Fort Meyers, Florida.
When we arrived in the Gulf Coast city, I had a grand total of $300 in my pocket (earned from a garage sale we'd held just before leaving Ohio). Little did I realize that the "fortune" would barely cover four weeks' rent for my family in a Florida beach town! With apartments going for $200 to $400 per month everywhere we looked, however, it soon became painfully obvious that we needed more bread. And pronto!
Now I believe in working for a living just as much as the next guy, but with all that beautiful sun, sand and surf to enjoy, I simply couldn't picture myself toiling away in an office from 8:00 to 5:00 each day. It'd be a sin, I convinced myself, to let all that sunshine and ocean air go to waste!
So. I sat down under a palm tree and asked myself: "How can I make enough money to live down here, and still pretend that I'm on vacation?" The answer came to me so quickly it was almost funny. I could wash windows! After all, what kind of skill would I need to wash a window? None. That's right, absolutely none.
Bright and early the next morning I started walking the downtown streets, asking store owners and managers if they'd like their windows scrubbed. And, to be quite honest about it, most said "no". Still, after only two days of canvassing, I had contracted to wash, once every other week, the windows of no less than 23 shops, markets and other establishments.
I bought myself a metal bucket, a squeegee and some cleanser — which was all I needed, since I used the customer's water — and went into business, charging anywhere from $3.00 to $10 to do an average storefront's windows. And none of my accounts, even the $10 ones, ever took more than thirty minutes of my time!
OK. I thought I was doing pretty well, until I came up with still another idea: Why not wash house windows too? I mean, consider the kind of people who live in southern Florida. I don't know about everyone in Fort Myers, but the folks who dwell in those $200,000 homes along the beach, well, they definitely have some coin! Plus, a lot of them are in their 70s and 80s and couldn't wash their own windows even if they wanted to. With this in mind, I hit the streets again.
Unbelievable as it may seem, I found it much easier to land these private residence jobs than I'd imagined it could be. After knocking on twenty doors, we would have three or four orders to scrub panes, consistently! With pickings so easy, we decided to limit ourselves to first-floor windows, and to charge (for an average three-bedroom house) $15 for the outside only. If the owner wanted the inside of the glass done too (a job my wife handled nicely), the price was $25.
We set up four jobs for each day and went to work just before 8:00 every morning. Since an individual house took no more than an hour to complete, by noon we'd be lying on the powder-white beach—drinking beer—with $75 to $100 in our pockets. And that was every single day! (Ah, what a life.)
Well, I don't exactly know how it happened, but after a while we got homesick for our friends and for the hills of southern Ohio. So we headed back for the ice and snow. Nonetheless, all you Mother Earth News lovers who  live in the warmer regions,  have transportation to the wealthy sections of town, and  need bread in a hurry, should at least consider the business of washing windows. Chances are, the enterprise will not only help you pay your daily bills, but it'll allow you to live as if you're on permanent vacation!