Joe the Window Washer Gets a Reality Check

window-washer-30554Joe the Window Washer is a fictional character I use on my blog to illustrate various points and scenarios relating to running a small business. Joe will be dropped into many different situations. Sometimes he’ll have employees. Sometimes he’ll be a solo operator working a day job while moonlighting as a window washer.


Joe the Window Washer started his business on the side a few years ago. He worked a day job and would spend evenings and weekends washing windows.

During this time, he experimented to find the perfect mix of cleaning solutions to use. While other window washers were using standard mixes, Joe had his own “secret sauce” that he mixed from various sources. His secret sauce worked better than the stuff the other cleaners used.

Joe’s business grew. He quit his day job and now he runs his business full-time.

One trait that I find in the Joe the Window Washers of the world is that they are ill-equipped to deal with certain harsh realities of running a “real” full-time business in the real world. Running a full-time business is much different from running a side business.

And before I go further, let me say this: I am a Joe the Window Washer myself and oftentimes I am ill-equipped too.

The Joe the Window Washers of the world just want to wash windows and be left alone. And as I wrote when I introduced Joe on this blog: “it’s okay to be Joe the Window Washer.”

Indeed, I would say that the vast majority of small businesses SHOULD be Joe the Window Washers. Keep it small and keep it manageable.

BUT … us Joe the Window Washers need to face a harsh reality: we can’t totally avoid paperwork and bureaucracy. 

For example, here are a few realities Joe will have to face:

  • In Iowa, if Joe cleans windows on commercial property, he has to collect sales tax.
  • He has to file an income tax return.
  • While not necessarily required, it would be good for Joe to talk to an insurance agent about having a business liability policy in case he accidentally damages a customer’s property.

In other words, while it’s okay and good to be a Joe the Window Washer, those of us who identify as Joes have to be aware of the fact that it’s impossible to just wash windows with absolutely zero other obligations.

Image courtesy of user Nemo on