What Everyone Ought To Know About Starting A Lawn Care Business

Everyone thinks a lawn care business is super cheap and easy to start and be successful.

You buy a lawn mower and a trimmer and the next day business is booming, right?

That’s what you’ve heard?

If yes, you need to keep reading.

There’s much more to a lawn care business than just buying a lawn mower and mowing your neighbors’ lawns for 50 bucks.

  • Have you ever mowed more than 1 lawn in a day… What if you hate mowing lawns ALL-DAY-EVERYDAY?
  • Can your new lawn mowing business even make a profit… You should know the money stuff before spending it on good power equipment for lawn care.
  • What happens if you’re mowing a lawn and the mower blade kicks up a rock and it hits and breaks the owners car window… Do you know what insurance you need?
  • Do you know all the equipment you need and how to use it… Just a lawn mower? A lawn mower and weed-eater and edger… And what else?
  • Do you know marketing and advertizing and how to get your first 100 customers?

Well, guess what?

We did all the research so you don’t have to.

Just read this guide on how to start your lawn care and lawn mowing business in 5 simple steps. Hopefully it helps you decide if you really want to start a lawn care business.

Jump to these sections:

  1. How to learn all about lawn care
  2. How to make a profit
  3. How to keep it legal
  4. Best equipment to start
  5. Tips for getting first customers

1. Learn The Ins and Outs of Lawn Care

First off: You should know all the aspects of lawn care.

Hint: Mowing is only 10% of lawn care.

10 Pillars of Effective Lawn Care

  1. Managing cool and warm season grass growth.
  2. Managing drought and heat stress.
  3. Keeping the turfgrass pest free.
  4. Insect control.
  5. Lawn leveling.
  6. Overseeding.
  7. Dethatching.
  8. Irrigation.
  9. Aeration.
  10. Mowing.

As you can see mowing is only 1 of 10 parts of lawn care. So unless you want to just be strictly mowing grass, you’ll need to master the other 9 aspects of lawn care.

Why Not Just Learn As I Go?

You will be learning as you go but you need an intermediate level of competency to get started.

Here’s 3 reasons why you should learn lawn care in-depth before starting doing it for your income:

  1. What if you hate the work? Lawn care is more than just mowing so you should see if you like all the other aspects before taking it on as a full-time job.
  2. More money. Sure, you can simply mow peoples’ lawns for money but you will quickly find out how much more profit you can get if you offer all the other lawn care services.
  3. You don’t want to damage customer lawns. If you mow someone’s lawn and 3 weeks later it dies they will blame you. You need to be able to diagnose and fix grass issues from the get go.

How To Learn Everything There Is To Know About Lawn Care

You can spend endless hours consuming YouTube lawn care tutorials and doing online courses – and that stuff is important to giving you a baseline level of understanding.

But.

At the end of the day the best way to learn is practice.

YouTube & Other Online Courses

Here are some good lawn care YouTube channels to get you started:

  • Garden Lawncare Guy – One of the best channels we’ve come across for lawn care instructions and tips.
  • Blades of Grass Lawn Care – Lots of tips on running a lawn care business. Lots of humor and fun videos.
  • Spencer Lawn Care – Lots of tips about running a lawn maintenance business – especially on the lawn equipment side.

Sort those channels videos by most popular and watch the first 3 – 5 videos of each. That should give a very basic understanding what is involved with starting this business and running it profitably.

We also do good articles:

Here are some good online courses to complete for certification:

  • Principles of Turfgrass Management – This is a distance education course offered by the University of Georgia in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals. It is the only course you need because it covers everything you need to know about being a lawn care manager.

Practice Makes Perfect

Start practicing for free on friends and family lawns.

Borrow or rent a lawn mower, string trimmer, blower and edger and get started taking care of some lawns.

This practice is going to give you valuable information like when you start needing to estimate costs for job you will know how long it takes you to mow an area.

Learn From A Pro

A way to learn directly from a pro is to call a local lawn care business and volunteer your time.

Make sure they are located a little further away than your intended service area and email or call the owner to lend a hand on weekends.

This has worked for many in the past and you learn valuable lawn care skills as well as safety skills you will need down the line.

Keep volunteering until you feel confident to go out on your own.

2. Business Plan – Can You Make Profit?

Profit is the lifeblood of your new lawn mowing company.

You could make $1 million in your first year but if you spent $1.5 million then you lost money.

The key is profits.

Let’s talk about how to figure out if your new lawn care company can make a profit.

And how fast.

Money You Need To Spend (Expenditures)

Unfortunately – unlike software or consulting businesses – a landscape/lawn care business requires upfront cost.

  1. Lawn equipment: Lawn mower, string trimmer, leaf blower, broom, rake, edger.
  2. Grass care materials: Ongoing lawn feed, fertilizer, sands, grass seed, sod etc.
  3. Truck/trailer to transport the lawn equipment to the jobs.
  4. Operating a business costs: Insurance, permits, licenses, bookkeeping.
  5.  Advertizing/Marketing: Spend money to make money. You will need to always be selling your services to customer neighbors and local homes and businesses. Sales cure all.

At the start you can get away with a lawn mower, trimmer, leaf blower, rake and broom (and a car to get it to the next job). But if you’re serious about this you need to think ahead and not buy junk upfront.

Money You Make (Revenues)

You make money when you perform your service for a customer. Once complete you send an invoice to be paid within 7 days to your business bank account.

Tips:

  1. Have your business pay you a fair salary instead of just taking what’s left after paying your bills.
  2. Sell packages. Don’t just mow. Sell a full lawn service or variation of (play with it see what works): aeration, dethatching, pest control, leveling, fertilizing AND mowing for a set price. Make the price much higher than just mowing.
  3. When giving a quote for a job be sure to have the quote in writing along with a scope of work so the customer knows the price they are paying and the work they are having done.
  4. If when you arrive to do the work the customer asks for something done not in the original scope of work. You need to add a variation to the scope and change the price.
  5. DO NOT work for free. Know your worth.

How Much To Charge

You need to charge enough to pay all your costs.

  • Go by lawn area and time to complete that area.
  • Then you need to add in travel time and cost.
  • And don’t forget about sales tax.

Charge more rather than less.

Business Plan: (Money In) – (Money Out) = Profit

You need to understand all the money involved. Get out a pen and paper and start playing around with the numbers. Do some research on used lawn equipment prices and have a think how you want to transport it to the jobs.

As a guide here is minimum price guide:

  • $1,200 – Used Honda push mower, Used Stihl leaf blower, Used Stihl trimmer, other gear.
  • $4,500 – Used pickup truck & trailer + registrations.
  • $400 upfront and $75 per month – Business setup costs (permits, licenses, IRS setup).
  • $150 per month – Ongoing business costs (insurance, bookkeeping).
  • $250 per month – Getting customers (marketing, advertizing).
  • $500 per month – Gasoline and maintenance

This is an approximate value and works out to $975/month and $6,100 upfront.

Bad things can happen if you are mowing and getting paid and have no insurance or business license. For one: you could end up in jail for operating illegally. And also you could injure yourself, someone else or customer property and get sued (or end up in jail) and go bankrupt without the proper insurance. Let’s look at the legal aspects of starting a lawn care business.

Talk To A Lawyer

Consult a lawyer in your local area who knows about business law. What you want to focus on is how to separate the business from your home and other personal assets. This helps in worst case scenarios to protect your home and personal belongings from being liable for business debt. Keep it separate and you’ll need a lawyer to sort that out.

Business Documents

Every local government has different requirements for business documents. You will need to consult Google on this one. Contact your city licensing or county clerk office if you prefer to talk with a person.

How To Know What Business Documents Are Required In My Town?

  • Go to Google.com and type “[your town] + lawn care business license and insurance”
  • Business License: By registering your business you will receive a business number which you can use to open a business bank account.
  • Sales Tax Registration: Register your new lawn care company with the IRS for tax purposes.
  • Contractor Permit: Your local council may require a lawn care operators permit. Google: “[your town] + lawn care permit” or “[your town] + lawn mowing contractor license”.
  • Bond: You may need to pay a bond with the local government to operate in the area and have a business license.

Insurance

You’ll want lots of insurance. The 4 most common types of insurance for lawn care business are:

  • Equipment insurance to cover your trailer and mowers in case of theft or damage.
  • Workers compensation insurance to cover for personal or employee injury on the job.
  • Liability insurance to cover for any damage during mowing like flying rocks into cars.
  • Income protection insurance in case of illness or other you can have 80% of your income paid to you for up to 6 months (these details change based on your plan).

Bookkeeping

The biggest tip we got from current successful lawn care professionals is:

  • Do not put off the bookkeeping for tax time.
  • Spend 30 minutes – 1 hour every-single-day to keep it organized.
  • Use QuickBooks software to keep it simple and professional (invoicing).

Should You Join The State and National Lawn Care Associations?

Joining your state lawn care association is a great way to keep up to date on new rules and to help you network within the industry. The national level association is called the National Association of Landscape Professionals. They offer certifications and a ton of other useful content.

4. Purchasing Equipment – Don’t Go Cheap (But Don’t Go In Debt)

First impressions matter.

We are humans and we judge a book by its cover without trying.

As such, your lawn equipment and truck and trailer setup matter.

Show the customers you are serious about taking care of their lawn.

Having clean, professional appearance – both in what you wear and the equipment you use add trust and trust = customers.

Here’s the deal:

Purchasing equipment is the main upfront cost. We recommend saving up ($5,000 – $10,000) as much as possible because going into debt out the gate is not ideal.

Planning for the future is also important. Buying a rust bucket truck to get started because it’s cheap will cost you more in the long run (less customers because less trust, more maintenance, more breakdowns and not being able to make jobs on time etc.).

Let’s look at an example.

Comparing 2 Lawn Care Setups

Option A: Rust Bucket

Rusty lawn care truck setup

Option B: Good Looking Rig

Simple professional lawn care truck and trailer setup

Which phone number are you calling?

This question seems silly, right?

Well, that’s the point.

It seems pretty obvious you want your setup to LOOK the part.

Looking professional is the same as being professional to most of your customers.

And guess how much option B costed?

  • $8,800 including truck, trailer, 2 commercial mowers, 2 trimmers, edger, blower and 2 gas cans.

Option B lawn care setup is also future proof and will be great 1 man operation for many years before any upgrades are needed.

Good Lawn Equipment Costs Less In The Long Run

How so?

  1. It is more reliable and durable so you won’t have it breaking down mid-job and you won’t need to repair every weekend.
  2. Good lawn equipment will help you complete jobs faster and make money money with speed and efficiency.
  3. It helps attract business because it gives you trust and authority. Think about if you’re using 48″ GrandStand mower mowing the front and the neighbor walks by. They are going to see you as a professional because you have professional equipment. They are much more likely to ask for your card compared to if you’re using a Makita battery electric mower.

5. Getting Paid – How To Attract (And Keep) Customers

Now you’ve learned everything there is to know about lawn care.

You’ve sorted out your business documents and made everything legal.

And you’ve got a professional looking setup.

It’s time to get started making some money.

The first customers you will need to hustle for.

Think: Selling your service door-to-door (with a flyer) in your neighbourhood.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Getting Your First Few Customers

A tried and true method is handing out flyers.

But there are GOOD and there are BAD flyers.

Handout Flyers

Here’s some tips for making good flyers.

Use the tried and true AIDA method:

  • Attention: Increase your home’s value by $10,000 with this one simple trick.
  • Interest: Did you know a well manicured lawn and garden will increase your home’s curb appeal and perceived value by $10,000?
  • Desire: 11 of your neighbors hired us last month to beautify their lawn and increase their home’s curb appeal.
  • Action: Since we’re in your neighborhood next week we are offerring 20% of our full lawn care service. Next week only. Call 555-5555 to book in for next week.

Here’s a bad lawn care flyer with no offer, nothing interesting and a guaranteed dud:

Bad lawn care business flyer

Here’s a much better flyer with a great offer, some interest and desire and a clear call to action with a deadline. Bing, bam, boom this flyer will get you some calls.

Good lawn care flyer copywriting

Join Local Facebook Groups

Local FB groups are very active.

You have 1,000s of potential customers in them.

Join the groups and see the vibe.

Don’t just come in full throttle advertizing your lawn care service. Guaranteed people will be asking inside these groups questions like:

  • “Anyone know a good lawn care company?”
  • “Anyone know who can pull some trees out for me?”
  • “Anyone know someone who can take my green waste to the dump, I’ll pay?”

Join a few different groups that cover your service area and engage with homeowners.

Google Reviews

These days word of mouth is through Google reviews. Someone Googles “lawn care service my city” the first thing they see is the Google reviews.

Google reviews are kind of a chicken and egg problem. You need customers to leave the reviews so you show up high in search. But you have no customers without Google reviews.

  • Step 1: Use the above two methods to get your first 20 customers.
  • Step 2: Make sure you do an amazing job for those 20 and make sure they leave a Google reviews for your lawn care company.

How To Turn Past Customers Into Repeat Ones

Lifetime value of a customer is the most important thing to understand in the lawn care business.

You can offer huge upfront discounts to create the relationships because over several years each relationship may make you $2,000+. Repeat customers are the best.

Grass grows and dies and needs love and care… And so your business has a built in subscription model without even trying.

Here’s what to do.

Arrive On Time

Nothing is worse than a service based professional who is late. But even worse is not letting the customer know you are going to be late.

To avoid this problem: Use a tracking app that sends the customer a text when you are 30 mins away.

This is so dead simple but so overlooked. With the text message arrival app you are setting yourself apart from other lawn care businesses.

Take Pride In Your Work

It might not be your lawn but it is someone’s home. You can be sure they take pride in how it looks.

If you want them to give you repeat business you need to treat it like IT IS your lawn.

Give them lawn stripes. Do nice edge work. Create art with your work.

Clean Up

Always blow grass clipping and broom the driveway. Make sure everything is spotless. Your customer will love you.

Wear Proper Work Gear (Including Safety Gear)

Wear proper steel toe boots when mowing. Wear long pants with reflective stripes. Wear either a long or short sleeve collar work shirt with reflective stripes. Have your company logo on your shirt and hat.

Make sure to also wear hearing protection headphones.

Wearing the proper gear adds trust and authority.

Wrapping Up

There you have it. Everything you ought to know about starting a lawn care business in 5 simple steps:

  1. How to learn all about lawn care
  2. How to make a profit
  3. How to keep it legal
  4. Best equipment to start
  5. Tips for getting first customers

Get going!

Sources:

  1. Option B truck image and information from this forum thread.
  2. Featured image from https://www.facebook.com/bklawncarega.

About your guide: Jamey Kramar is a certified Lawn Care Manager and a Mechanical Engineer by trade. He has been writing about outdoor power equipment for 11 years and has been quoted in NYTimes, Popular Mechanics, HowStuffWorks, iFixit, Realtor.com, and more. He spends his spare time disassembling things and also building an off-grid cabin at his 200-acre property.