As a lawn care service provider, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is how to bring in a profit during the off-season. After all, clients don’t need their lawns mowed or fertilized when there’s snow on the ground, or when the grass growing slows down.
However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. With some strategic planning, creative thinking, and a little bit of hustle, you can make the slow months generate an income.
We asked, and the Jobber lawn care community answered. They share their tips on how to stay in the black once the season slows down below.
Try Setting Up a Side Business
While lawn care may be your bread and butter, it doesn’t mean that you can’t offer different services in the winter. Here are some solutions from our community members:
1. Christmas light set up and take down
While holiday lights are pretty, no one really likes putting them up, let alone taking them down.
Jake Johnson, Owner of Spray Tech Solutions, found a way to use the holidays to bring in cash for his lawn care business:
“I own a lawn and pest control company in Idaho. I only do fertilizer and weed control on lawns. Once it starts to slow down I have another company for Christmas lights. This was our first year offering Christmas lights and it went well. It’s a good side business.”
Jake did some marketing to promote his Christmas light gig but plans to reach expand on it next season:
“We did mailers and a few Facebook ads. It went well and this upcoming year we will reach out to our current lawn clients of about 400 people.”
2. Snow plowing and ice maintenance
One of the go-to side gigs of many lawn care service providers is snow and ice maintenance.
While you do need to consider equipment and logistics, it can be a great way to keep your cash flow strong.
Robbie Ackley, Owner-Operator of Ackley’s Property Services LLC, uses it to keep business coming in the off-season:
“We do snow plowing during the winter. We do it ourselves but we also subcontract through other companies to keep the trucks moving. I only have two trucks right now but we can do a lot with those.”
Michael T. Bedell, Owner of Bedell Property Management Services, doesn’t even have a slow season anymore, thanks to a mix of lawn care and snow maintenance:
“There is no slow season for us. In the summer we do landscaping and other related services and prepare for the snow and ice management season. In the winter, those roles reverse.”
Ed Ramsden, Owner of Enviromasters Lawn Care, has tried snow removal before but didn’t keep up with it because he didn’t want to involve subcontractors. He explains:
“We always partnered with another company to offer snow removal services because I never wanted to be responsible for waking up in the early morning to do it!”
Ed continues to explain:
“The partnerships I did were based on co-bidding––we talk to a client (in my case, it was a condo corporation), get the specs for the job, and put in a joint bid together. I would do the lawn care in the summer and the partner would do the snow removal in the winter.”
“You could subcontract it out too. You just really need to trust that subcontractor because if they don’t show up, it makes you look bad, which isn’t a pleasant feeling.”
“Joint bids encourage the partner to be more responsible for their work.”
If you don’t have the means to offer plowing, consider offering shoveling and ice maintenance to residential clients.
Think clearing walkways, driveways, steps, and applying salt or deicer.
That way, you can reach out to clients you already work with and keep your relationship going throughout the year.
3. Clean gutters
Cleaning gutters might not be the first thing you think to do in January, but with heavy snowfall and fluctuating temperatures, it’s important that gutters and drains remain clear.
Robbie Lynn, Owner of Premier Lawns, successfully uses it to get through the slower winter weeks:
“I do gutter cleaning, definitely not the most glamorous job. However, it gets me through quiet January. We only do it for around 4-6 weeks a year.”
4. Chopping firewood
You can also take on odd jobs if you need to. For example, Robbie Ackley says:
“We cut, split, and sell firewood to help bridge the gap a little.”
Justin Pitre, Owner of Just in Time Yard Services, does odd jobs in the summer to bring in extra cash:
“I bought a dump trailer to haul trash/rubbish/junk to the dump all summer long. Keeps income coming in while it rains or in the fall.”
6. One-off jobs through lead gen sites
You can also try looking for one-off jobs on sites like HomeAdvisor or Angie’s List, as Len Bolitho, Director of Operations at Orion Maintenance, has:
“We use HomeAdvisor for 80% of our irrigation work, so we can just go into our account and change the services we offer. We did flooring, painting, drywall, and a few other odd jobs for a handful of people so far.”
Start Your Marketing (or Your Planning)
You can use your extra time in the winter to do things like hash out a lawn care marketing plan for the coming year or training for new skills and services.
7. Being customer outreach
Robbie Ackley uses any spare time to reach out to customers:
“We work to grow our business by sending out letters to commercial accounts about being put on their list of bidders.”
Jake Johnson of also makes good use of the offseason:
“Starting in January I start sending out quotes and prepayment options. I’ll start looking for new clients in February and March.”
8. Set up your marketing automation
Keith Kalfas, Owner of Kalfas Landscaping & Tree Trimming, stands behind marketing in the off season as well.
He strongly recommends using marketing automation to power your business, and setting this up during the slow season can give you a huge leg up.
If you decide to try an automation option like email, you can plan out all of these emails during your slow season, and schedule them to go out automatically on a regular basis.
You’ll be getting phone calls from leads even when you’re on a job site and you’ve completely forgotten about the campaign you set up all those months ago.
That’s the beauty of leveraging automation! Here’s how to do it:
- Start collecting the email addresses of the customers and prospects you speak with, whether it’s through an online booking form or over the phone. Track every single client email in a CRM.
- Export that list of emails to an email automation platform and create either a monthly, quarterly, or holiday newsletter. It can be as simple as saying you have a seasonal promotion, or simply reminding them of the services you offer. For example, “Hi Mrs. Jones, the spring is rolling around and we’re offering you 10% off spring clean ups if you reply to this email.”
- You can personalize and launch that email to 1,000 customers in one click. The idea is that when it reaches them, they might remember that they do want that project done. Or they might save it, and when they’re ready, they’ll call you. Because you emailed them and your competition didn’t.
Other examples of marketing automation you can set up at any stage include:
- Facebook and Instagram Ads
- Postcard marketing
- Virtual receptionists, such as Pink Callers or Jill’s Office
If you have the time and money, you can also do things that you may have been putting off, like building a great website for your lawn care company or your landscaping business.
9. Start training up staff for more revenue-generating work
Frances Petres Adams of Manchester Gardening mixes jobs with training so she can bringing in higher revenue jobs earlier, while scaling her team:
“We start our mulch jobs in January and also invest time in skills training.”
Bill Clients Strategically
One of the best ways to prepare for winter as a lawn care service provider is to think ahead. It all comes down to knowing your profit margins throughout the year.
If you have a strong season and you know that winter is going to be slow, run the numbers and set aside some of your extra cash to cover you when it gets cold out.
Your costs will be lower since you have fewer jobs, so you won’t need to set aside as much as you would during peak season.
Just make sure you’ve covered the important things, like rent, bills, wages, etc., so that you don’t end up going into the red.
10. Cover costs with cash-flow billing cycles
Another great way to cover costs in the winter is to plan ahead using strategic billing. Frances Petres Adams explains:
“We have a large number of annual contract clients whose billing is split evenly over twelve months to help cashflow.”
Adam Lovel, Owner of Lovell’s Landscape Management Inc., breaks it down a little more:
“We bill customers a monthly amount for landscape maintenance. Billing is based on the total number of visits multiplied by the amount of cash then divided by twelve months. This helps us keep constant cash flow.”
Basically, it’s the difference between giving your clients larger bills for shorter periods, versus lower bills for longer periods.
Several clients may even prefer making payments this way as it lowers the total amount the need to pay for each installment.
This strategy will make sure that you have money coming in all year round, allowing you to use the winter months for things we mentioned earlier, like marketing and training.
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