You’ve always wanted to be your own boss – and you love working outdoors. Have you thought about starting your own lawn care business?
Lawn care is a competitive industry, but it’s got some of the most affordable startup costs around. It’s great for people who like to set their own schedules. And if you want to get paid to exercise, starting a lawn care business can do that, too. If you’re not sure where to begin, no worries. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to start your own lawn care business.
Check out the competition.
Don’t fire up the mower just yet! First, take a look at the demand for lawn care in your area. Are you near a few residential neighborhoods with big yards? Or maybe there’s a call for commercial jobs, maintaining green spaces for local businesses.
Commercial or residential, remember that potential clients may already work with an established lawn care company. That means you should look not just for possible customers, but for ways to differentiate yourself from your competition. What can you offer that they can’t?
To answer that, you’ll need to do some research. The easiest way is to start online. Google “lawn care” and check out the local business listings. Take a look at their websites, especially the services offered and any price lists.
If you want to start your own lawn care business, you probably know at least a couple of people who are already working in the industry. See what they think: How hard is it to find customers? Is there a demand for specialized skills, like working with pesticides or fertilizers? You’d be surprised how helpful a simple conversation can be.
Whatever the answers, make sure you have a solid understanding of the market before you begin.
Sharpen your skills.
You’ve got a good idea of the market; now it’s time to take a look at what you do best – and what skills you might want to add.
Lawn care is a physically tough job, no doubt about it. But for many lawn care professionals, being outside on a beautiful day makes the hard work worthwhile. You not only make lawns look their best, you can help clients solve problems. But it takes specialized knowledge.
The more you learn, the more valuable you become to your clients. That shady spot under a tree where grass won’t grow? Recommend a solution, make it happen, and they’ll see you as a trusted expert.
Or maybe a prospective customer asks about applying a pesticide to get rid of persistent weeds. Every state requires certification for commercial pesticide use. The pesticide certification process doesn’t take long and it’s cost-effective, especially if it means you can do jobs that other lawn care businesses can’t.
One more thing: How are your people skills? You’ll be bidding on jobs, talking with customers every day, and making sure their expectations are met. You want to present yourself as a true professional: friendly, responsible, and knowledgeable. If clients like your personality as well as your work, they’ll be excited to recommend you to their friends and neighbors.
Manage the money.
As a lawn care entrepreneur, you probably have two big questions:
There’s never a cut-and-dried answer to these questions. But you can count on most of the following when you start a lawn care business.
A mower and edger
You’ll use your mower every day – so do yourself a favor and start with a self-propelled one instead of a basic push mower. You can get a well-made entry-level model for around $400.
If you want to get a little (okay, a lot) fancier, look into a zero-turn deck mower, starting at around $3,000. That’s a major purchase, so unless you’re doing big lawns right off the bat, you might want to hold off.
And don’t forget an edger to make your lawns look really sharp. Expect to spend around $160 for a high-quality model.
With string trimmers, you tend to get what you pay for. So, while you could spend as little as $40 for a new trimmer, it probably won’t stand up to commercial use – and you’ll just end up buying another one later. Top models cost around $400, but you can get a very good gas trimmer for around $175-$200.
As with string trimmers, leaf blowers can be bought very cheaply – but those won’t stand up to commercial use. A gas-powered backpack leaf blower from a reputable company will cost around $190 or so.
Truck and trailer
Now, how will you get to the job site? Lawn care involves a lot of driving, so you’ll need a dependable truck and a trailer for your equipment. While a brand-new truck can cost $30,000, one that’s only three or four years old should still be in great shape, but more affordable – say, $20,000. Shop thoughtfully, take your time, and your wallet will thank you.
You might be able to find a trailer on Craigslist or Ebay for a reasonable price, too. A new 5-by-8 landscaping trailer will cost around $1,000, but a used version will be quite a bit less.
Safety gear and other equipment
Don’t forget to budget for eye and ear protection, gloves, rain gear, and two gas cans (one for gas, one for gas-oil mix, depending on your equipment). Overall, set aside maybe $200 for these items.
Your business license, permits, and insurance
It’s always a little difficult to estimate these costs because requirements vary by city, county, and state. Luckily, there’s not a lot of permitting required for lawn care businesses. A safe bet is somewhere between $50 and $100.
Because you’ll have quite a few competitors out there, you probably don’t want to market yourself as the cheapest one. So, how to get lawn care customers fast and keep them? Focus on service. Simple flyers and business cards are affordable and a great way to get your name out there. You can get professional cards and flyers for less than $100.
Many lawn care pros start by going door-to-door, introducing themselves and offering a flyer that explains their services. “Dress up” a bit – say, a collared shirt and khaki shorts – to make a great first impression.
And always keep a few business cards in your pocket, even when you’re mowing a lawn, in case a curious neighbor asks you for your contact info.
Want to really impress clients? Be a great communicator. Text when you’re on your way to their homes and tell them when you expect to arrive. Then text pictures of their beautiful lawns when you’re finished!
To price your services:
There’s no magic formula for how to price lawn care jobs. Bigger lawns cost more than small ones, of course – but in general, aim for $30 to $80 per visit, including edging and blowing grass cuttings off sidewalks and driveways.
You can also charge a flat $50 per hour for other projects, like raking leaves in the fall. This is in line with national averages, so be ready to adjust up or down, depending on your area.
Schedule some office time.
Your first few months will involve a lot of administrative work. It’s an important step in starting your own business – and if you spend a little more time on these tasks in the beginning, it can mean a lot less stress later on.
Your first step is to register as a lawn care business. Visit the Small Business Administration website for information about how to do this, or check the online resources for your town office or city hall.
Make time to sort out taxes, invoicing, and a few other items. To be a first-rate lawn care professional, you’ll need to do most (if not all) of the following:
It might sound like a lot – but just take it step-by-step, and you can do it! If it feels a little bit overwhelming, our advice is to find experts who can help.
For example, buying insurance doesn’t really sound like fun – but it’s part of running a successful lawn care business. A liability policy helps cover costs in case of an accident and shows prospective clients you’re a serious professional. And it can be fast and easy when you work with the right team, like the experts at Simply Business.
Most of all, insurance gives you peace of mind, so you can focus on the most important thing – your new lawn care business!
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I'm a freelance writer and editor with a passion for entrepreneurship, adventure, and my two rescue dogs. For more than two decades, I've created content for businesses of all sizes, from a small, daily newspaper to a Fortune 100 global giant. I landed my first writing gig at 21, and can't imagine doing anything else.
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