Lawn care is one of the mainstays of local business archetypes. As long as people have lawns, they’ll need their lawns taken care of. If you want to start your own business, it’s not a bad gig, especially if you’re interested in seasonal work.
Even with all of the technological advances we’ve experienced in recent years, people still need their lawns kept. After all, grass doesn’t cut itself. So the market remains as ripe as ever for lawn care. If you’re looking to get into this business, we have some tips on how to get started.
What Is Your Mission?
You probably want to go into business for yourself. But why are you choosing to go into lawn care? Before you can even start asking for money or thinking of a catchy company name, you need to figure out what exactly your goals are for your business.
Do you want to work full-time or part-time? How big a team do you want to manage? Would you prefer there to be room to grow as far as your business is concerned? You’ll probably be going up against several other lawn care businesses in the area: what makes you stand out?
Crafting a formal mission statement, and outlining your goals for the next year or even the next five years, can help focus the direction of your business. And just like any document you create yourself, this statement can be modified as time goes on, however you wish.
What Services Can You Provide?
In many parts of the US, most lawn care and maintenance businesses are strictly seasonal, as there’s just not a whole lot to do in the winter months. If that’s the case in your area, will you be able to make enough during the other seasons to offset the lack of work in winter?
Many lawn care businesses branch out their services during the slower times of year. Some may even offer other seasonal services such as show shoveling or plowing. But if you budget right, you might in fact be able to earn enough to take a couple months off.
Starting a Lawn Care Business: Create a Website
Even the smallest of small businesses can benefit from a web site. A lot of people do their research for any kind of service online these days, so businesses of all sizes can benefit from an online presence. Local businesses can set up pages on social networks to get their name out there and generate interest.
But if you want an even more professional look, we recommend creating a web page. It doesn’t have to be a fancy site. All you’ll need for your lawn care business is a list of your services, contact information, and possibly your business hours. There’s no need to do anything fancy.
But in order to create that website, you’ll have to do a few things first:
1. Domain Name
Decide on what you want to name your business and choose a domain name. With your own domain name, your site will look a lot more professional. We recommend GoDaddy.
2. Web Hosting Plan
Look for a good web hosting plan with reliable service and eye-catching web design. Even sites with low traffic can be prone to crashes without good service. BlueHost is our recommendation.
3. Get Funding
Startup Cost: It can cost as little as $500 to start a small, local lawn care business. That would pay for just a mower, a trimmer, and a leaf blower. If you want to to invest in more sophisticated equipment, you can spend up to $20,000 for a professional mower, handheld tools, and a custom dumping trailer.
If you want to purchase an existing business, it could cost as much as $100,000 or more. Franchising costs may differ depending on location.
Unless you come from a wealthy background, you’ll need some business loans to help you get started. Of course you can always approach your local banks or seek venture capitalists to invest in your business, but as with anything else these days, there are other options to choose from, such as business loans. For this service, we choose Kabbage.
Once you have these steps all set and ready to go, you’ll have a beautiful, functional, and fully funded website. But before you can get there, you need to figure out what exactly your lawn care business is.
Lawn Care Vs. Landscaping
When starting up your business, you’ll have to consider the scope of your services. Do you just want to provide basic services such as lawn mowing, leaf raking and hedge trimming? Or do you want to help create other people’s lawns by planting trees and arranging shrubs?
Lawn care services just cover the basics so that lawns keep looking nice and neat. But landscaping requires a whole other set of skills, including a knowledge of botany, and that may not be what you’re looking to do. So when you start putting your name out there, be clear about what kinds of services you provide.
Who Are Your Customers?
Next you need to figure out who are your customers. If you want to start out in your neighborhood, what sort of clientele would your neighbors be? You’ll need to decide if you want to be a low-cost lawn care provider or perhaps a higher-end service that provides a little something extra.
In many areas, most of your customers will be homeowners who don’t have the time or inclination to do the lawn care work themselves. Some may be older or disabled and therefore can’t do it themselves, but all of them will have money to spare to pay someone else to cut their grass for them.
One way to figure out what sort of customer you want to have is to create your ideal client. Developing a buyer persona, which mainly consists of writing up a profile of your ideal customer, often helps businesses identify their market. This buyer persona can even help with implementing effective marketing campaigns.
Create a Business Plan
Next, you’ll want to draw up a business plan. Clearly define who are your customers and what services offer. You can also include your budget for equipment, advertising, and other expenses in your business plan. If you’d like help with setting up your business plan, you can get in touch with the US Small Business Administration.
Know What You’re Getting Into
While you might have loads of experience caring for your own and possibly other family members’ lawns, do you really know the ins and outs of lawn care? If you feel you are, you can subscribe to lawn care trade magazines to keep up with industry trends.
Polish Your Skills
If you don’t feel like you have more experience than the average person, then you better start reading up and working on your lawn care skills. Lawn care is very physical and possibly dangerous work, and you’ll need to be able to do it all better than the average homeowner.
Lawn care maintenance is also very physical work. A lot of the equipment you’ll be handling is heavy, and you’ll be moving around a lot on a full-time schedule. Your body will need to be up to the task, and if it’s not, you’ll have to get it in shape.
Mind the Weather
You’ll have to be flexible when you get into the lawn care business. Some days, it will rain and you won’t be able to work. In that case, you’ll have to work longer hours or on weekends to make up for the lost day.
Scope Out the Competition
You’ll also want to research the competition in your area. How much are they charging? Read up on what might be a fair price so you can provide estimates for jobs to your customers. You don’t want to be too low or too high in your potential customers’ price range.
Find the Right Equipment
The type of equipment you buy will depend on what sort of business you want to be. If you’re going to be a simple lawn mowing service then a good lawn mower and perhaps some hedge trimmers will be all you need. But maybe you want to provide some landscaping services as well – you might need some gardening and maybe even a few construction tools at your disposal.
Of course, the internet is a good jumping off point for pretty much any kind of research. But as it is with everything else, the internet isn’t the be-all, end-all of lawn care research. You’ll want to talk to peers, dealers, and possibly look at other lawn care businesses to see what kind of equipment they’re using and why.
For lawn care, the best equipment usually gets things done quickly but professionally and requires minimal maintenance. That way you can provide fast but quality service and don’t need to work quite so much on simply maintaining the equipment. When purchasing equipment you might also want to look into warranties. Lawn care equipment isn’t cheap, so to fix or replace them without a warranty will easily eat into your profits.
Get all your Legal Ducks in a Row
While you won’t be serving food or caring for a vulnerable population as a lawn care business, you will be handling dangerous equipment. For this reason you may need to ensure that you have certain permits regarding safety and environmental regulations in your area. You’ll also have to register your business for tax purposes.
You may also be required to purchase insurance for your vehicle and business. In many states it is a requirement, but even if your state doesn’t, you’ll find that it still makes good business sense to purchase insurance.
Get Your Name Out There
As with any business, a website will get you noticed, but it’s not the only way to market your business. Doing things the old-fashioned way, especially with a locally-focused business such as lawn care, works just as well. Putting up flyers, telling people about your new venture, and buying ads in the local paper will get you customers as well as ever.
You can also target your local market through websites such as Facebook by purchasing ads or promoting posts just for users who live in your local area. Unlike traditional banner ads, buying ads on social networks will target the specific demographic you’re looking for, based on their location and likes.
Promote Word of Mouth
Once your business is off the ground, don’t be shy to ask customers to leave testimonials on your site or on social media. Word of mouth, whether in person or virtual, remains the most effective advertising for a business, and encouraging your customers to leave reviews, especially if they seem satisfied with your service, will garner you more customers down the road.
You can also leverage the power of reputable review sites such as Angie’s List by offering customers a discount if they write a review. Once your customers leave a review, don’t hesitate to read them. Sure, once in a while you’ll have a disgruntled customer who might leave an unpleasant Yelp review, but for you can take most customers’ praise and criticism at face value.
Invest in a Good Team and Good Bookkeeping
At first, you might end up doing most of the bookkeeping yourself. In that case, make sure you’re working with software that you’re comfortable with. QuickBooks is the overall business standard, but by no means your only option when it comes to bookkeeping software.
The typical lawn care business services up to 30 residential clients a week – if you work only five days a week, that turns out to be six clients a day. That’s a lot of work for one person. You might want to look into building your team before reaching that point.
If you find yourself getting so much business that you need to expand your team, make sure you can afford to pay them a decent wage for their time. Even a lawn care business could benefit from some talent. This might mean starting them off part-time, and then expanding to a full-time staff as your business grows.
How to Start a Lawn Care Business: Our Final Take
Like any business, starting up a lawn care business isn’t a walk in the park. If you want to do more than just get compensated for family and neighbor favors, you’ll have to put the work in to make your lawn care business as attractive as a well-manicured lawn. But once you’ve put in the time, effort, and money required, the profits will start rolling in.