How to Start a Lawn Care Business [Expert Tips]
Thinking about starting a lawn care business of your own? Congratulations! It can be both a challenging and rewarding experience for old and new entrepreneurs alike. In fact, many of our experts agree that the first year can be the hardest.
As lawn care expert Jason Creel says, “Your first year may be your most difficult, but don’t get discouraged.”
From choosing a name to pricing your services, you want to make sure that you’re making good, informed decisions so that you can help your business to start off on the right foot.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to:
- Choose a name and logo
- Register, license, and insure your lawn care business
- Get your contact information set up
- Quote, invoice, and manage clients
- Plan for the future
- Determine which equipment to buy
- Start an equipment maintenance plan
- Price your lawn care services
- Market and advertise your business
- Start collecting client reviews
- Get to work
1. Choose a name and logo for your lawn care business
Your business name should be creative and catchy, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend weeks trying to think of something that will work.
It should be practical and professional since it will be used on your quotes, emails, invoices, truck, marketing and advertising materials, and clothing (if you choose to go that route).
A logo is helpful for brand awareness. Placing it on your company materials, clothing, and vehicle decals can help a lot.
Brian Boase says, “the very first money spent on marketing should be graphics for your truck or trailer. It’s like driving around a billboard all day long in the areas you want to work in.”
Try using a free design website like Canva to create one.
When it comes to uniforms, you don’t need to wear anything fancy as a lawn care service provider.
A solid-colored t-shirt that matches your brand and a pair of shorts or khakis will do. And don’t forget a hat!
Wear something that is comfortable to work in, looks professional, and can be worn consistently throughout your workweek.
2. Register, license, and insure your lawn care business
If you’ve decided to start a lawn care business, you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing it legally.
Before you take on any jobs, you should determine which business structure you want to use. The most popular structures are sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and corporation.
The structure you pick affects how your business is registered. However, for most small lawn care businesses, you simply need to register your business name with your local and state government.
Once it’s registered, you should consider insurance. Ed Ramsden advises, “you should get insurance because if you damage someone’s property, you don’t want to pay for it.”
Brian Boase, Owner of MIL-SPEC Landscaping, explains the importance of insurance in a bit more detail.
He recommends that you get yourself commercial insurance and establish a LLC. He says, “this helps you separate your business assets from your personal assets.”
In addition to that, commercial insurance is extremely important.
“Accidents happen, so don’t be that person without commercial insurance. You’d be surprised at how much damage a ZT can do to a HVAC unit,” Brian says.
Since you’ll be servicing private properties, you will have to take on some liability for any damages or injuries that occur while on a job.
Take a look at different business insurance plans and shop around as you would for your car insurance.
What licenses do I need to start a lawn care business?
Generally, you don’t need a license to start a lawn care business. However, you may need a license to offer certain services, like fertilization.
For example, each state has different licensing laws surrounding fertilizer applications.
All states require you to have a license to apply any product registered as a pesticide with the EPA.
To find out if you need a license for a certain product or service you plan to offer, check with your local Department of Agriculture to learn about your state’s specific restrictions.
3. Get contact information
You absolutely need an email and phone number for your business.
If you’re willing to invest in a domain, then you can create a branded email address. You should expect to pay around $45 a year for a professional email address domain.
If you don’t want to invest in a custom domain, then a regular email account (through Gmail for example) will do. Make sure you still invest time and energy in it. Make it sound and look professional. For example, [email protected] is better than [email protected]!
If you’re going down the free domain route, then be careful of what domain host you use. Gmail tends to be more respected than other domains, such as Yahoo or Hotmail.
4. Use software to quote, invoice, and manage lawn care clients
Although you may not think your business is big enough to use software when you first start out, it will be down the road.
The longer you wait, the more time you’ll have to invest in moving your growing client list data over to your software system.
Plus, it takes time to choose the right software for your business. The busier you become, the more challenging it will be.
5. Plan for the future
Running a business isn’t just about the here and now. It’s also about thinking ahead and planning for the future.
When you first start your lawn care business, ask yourself things like:
- How big do I want my company to grow?
- How long do I think my business will run for?
- Do I want to bring on business partners?
- What can I do to keep my business financially viable?
Having a clear idea of your long-term goals will help you to make decisions that come up along the way. Plus, it will give you a clear vision to work towards.
6. Determine which lawn care equipment to buy
It’s tempting, but don’t buy the most expensive lawn care equipment right off the bat.
As lawn care business expert Jason Creel explains,
“We need equipment to have success in the lawn care business. People have different budgets and there’s a happy medium when it comes to buying equipment.”
“I’m not going to say you should get the cheapest equipment. I’m not going to just go buy a homeowner’s grade push mower from the big box store to get started. That’s going to slow down your production.”
“At the same time, you don’t necessarily have to go finance the top of the line mower and put that financial burden on your company.”
“You can get a low-hour, used commercial grade mower for a reasonable amount of money for thousands of dollars less than you can buy a new one.”
“Then, you can go buy brand new handheld equipment: a string trimmer, edger, backpack blower. There’s really not a lot of savings in getting those things used.”
“If you can find one, try getting a slightly used commercial-grade mower. If you have to start with a residential model that’s fine, but if you can get a commercial one it’s more powerful and faster and built to last.”
“Don’t put such a financial burden on yourself that it straps you down.”
“If you can just get the equipment and get it going and be really aggressive in your marketing in your first year, once the money starts coming in, then you can always upgrade your equipment later.”
“When you’re making a lot of money you can buy that $15,000 mower. Just don’t put that burden on your company when you’re starting off.”
7. Start an equipment maintenance plan now
Ed Ramsden highly recommends starting your equipment maintenance plan early to avoid last minute set-backs. Tracking the condition of your tools is essential for your team’s success.
He explains, “ultimately servicing equipment is the business owner’s responsibility. You paid for it!”
“I’ve found that my employees don’t care as much as I do about the condition of the equipment. But, the crews use the equipment every day. They will notice things about the equipment that you might not.”
“You need your crew to pass that information along to you. You need to be involved in preventative maintenance.”
A really simple thing Ed did was make his crews complete a daily checklist:
- Check the oil level on the mower
- Ensure the equipment tied down properly
- Check if the air filter is clean
- Does something need more oil (i.e. truck, mowers, etc.)
- Check the tire pressure
“I made sure that the crew was responsible for checking at the beginning of the day, and reporting damages if they made damages at the end of the day.”
“If they didn’t I made it pretty clear that they would lose pay if we couldn’t get on the road every morning because the equipment wasn’t working properly”
If you don’t have a crew, make sure you double check everything the night before with the same type of checklist. It’s handy to keep basic maintenance tools on hand.
Ed’s developed a relationship with a local auto mechanic too, which he turns to for emergency repairs, just in case.
8. Price your lawn care services
Figuring out how much you’re going to charge for services is a huge part of starting your lawn care business. Jason Creel says, “it’s important that you don’t charge very bare minimum prices in your lawn care business.”
Why? He explains:
“You need to be making a good profit in your lawn care business so that when it comes time to bring on employees, you can pay them enough to get a quality employee, versus one that’s going to be a hindrance to your business.”
Setting prices for your services affects the types of clients you get, how much financial wiggle room you have. It also impacts how much you can grow and scale your business in the future.
Pricing your lawn care services involves:
- Calculating your hourly rate
- Calculating your hourly rate with employees
- Factoring in overhead and equipment
- Making adjustments for special services and materials
- Estimating profitability
- Factoring in taxes and fees
Once you have calculated an hourly rate that works for your business, you can create a pricing sheet based on service costs and yard sizes. This will help you to quickly and easily provide accurate, consistent, and fair lawn care estimates to clients.
9. Market and advertise your lawn care business
Start by setting a realistic goal and budget for yourself. Ed Ramsden explains how he does it: “I work backward in terms of how much revenue I want to get.”
“Say I have $100,000 of revenue and I want to get $130,000 next year, I just break it down in terms of what my revenue came from this year.”
“So, for example, if $100,000 came from 200 clients, and I want 30% more next year, then I need 60 more clients.”
“If I need 60 more clients and I spent $10,000 this year on advertising, I should spend 30% more ($13,000) on advertising next year.”
While this is based on an existing business with previous revenue, you can still use the same concept.
Experiment with low-cost advertising methods for your lawn care business. Then you can start figuring out which ones bringing in the best clients for the lowest cost. Then it’s just a matter of investing more money into the things that are giving you the biggest returns.
Some low-cost things to start with can include:
- Sending out postcards or flyers
- Setting up sandwich boards
- Making social media business pages
- Claiming your Google MyBusiness listing
- Starting a referral program
Once you have a budget, figure out which marketing and advertising projects make the most sense for you to take on.
For example, if having a lawn care website with an online booking feature is important to you and your ideal clients, factor that into your marketing costs.
If you want to include paid advertising in your marketing plan, consider things like digital ads, vehicle wraps, lead exchanges, or branded products. While you will need to put in more money upfront, they can bring in more clients.
10. Start collecting reviews
Customers do a quick Google search for a business before contacting them. That’s just the reality of things.
Your online reviews play a big role in whether someone chooses to hire you or not. Gathering and maintaining your reviews can go a long way in bringing in new clients.
Look into claiming your Google My Business listing and encouraging reviews on your business’s Facebook Page.
Remember to stay on top of comments, questions, and complaints.
Your quick responses or offering to right a wrong will go a long way in building your reputation.
You can also resort to lead generation websites like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, or Thumbtack to build up your reviews and local popularity.
11. Get to work
Enough planning. It’s time to get to work.
Don’t expect clients to just start calling you begging for your business. It’s unlikely that your business to suddenly explode with new clientele.
It’s hard work growing a lawn care company. It takes a lot of work and hustle, networking, door knocking, and friends and family referrals.
Once you start working in the field, pay attention to what services your clients are asking for most often. Justin Pitre, Owner and Operator of Just in Time Yard Services, says to “avoid taking on any work that you can’t handle.” This will reflect in your quality of service.
Always ask yourself if you’re equipped to offer top-notch service that your clients need. The answers to these questions will help you make good buying and hiring decisions down the line.
Justin also recommends that you take before and after pictures after every job. This living proof can be extremely helpful for gaining new clientele.