How to Start a Lawn Care Business (According to 6 Experts)
Spending your life out in the sun sounds nice on paper. But starting a lawn care business is only meant for the most driven, hard-working people. If you’re here, you might be one of those people.
Running your own business will be rewarding work, but it’s also going to be a long, uphill battle.
“Your first year may be your most difficult,” says lawn care expert Jason Creel, “but don’t get discouraged.”
Starting your business on the right foot involves dozens of decisions. How do you find your first customer? Set the right prices for your services?
To help, we brought advice from experts who started their lawn care businesses from the ground up. Keep reading to find out what you need to launch your business smoothly and make a profit.
Learn how to start a lawn care business:
- Is a lawn care business profitable?
- How much do lawn care businesses make?
- How much does it cost to start a lawn care business?
- Is it hard to start a lawn care business?
- What do you need to start a lawn care business?
- How to choose the right tools and equipment
- How to legally start a lawn care business
- How to price your lawn care services
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE STARTING A LAWN CARE BUSINESS
You can run a profitable, successful lawn care business if you’re strategic about how you grow it.
To set yourself up for a profitable lawn care business early on, you need to:
- Choose a target customer type (e.g., residential or commercial)
- Market to this audience with flyers, door-to-door, social media, referral programs, etc.
- Build a lawn care website where potential clients can book your services
- Hire eager and self-motivated workers
- Set consistent prices for your lawn care services
- Provide accurate estimates to customers
- Track your revenue, profit, and overhead costs accurately
You might be tempted to grow as fast as possible, but striking a healthy balance between growth and profit is the key to success.
If you take on more work than you can handle, you’ll burn out before you break even.
How much you make depends on how much work you’re willing (and able) to do.
Some lawn care business owners make $10,000 a year while others make $100,000. It all depends on your team size, efficiency, the services you offer, and your profit margins.
Phil Sarros, Director of Education at Steel Toe University
“40% is the ideal profit margin,” says Phil Sarros.
“I’m not saying every job you do is going to have a 40% profit margin. But, once you understand bidding and estimating, targeting specific clientele, and putting out proposals at 40% margins, you’re going to have the flexibility to negotiate with new clients.”
Start small and grow strategically
Having a 40% profit margin and earning 100k a year may sound nice right now, but it’s a tough journey to get there.
Starting off by pricing low (but not so low that you lose money) is usually the only way to get your foot in the door.
But after a few months of hustling and saving your money, you could invest, say, $60 in a herbicide sprayer. In a year, you might decide to spend $200 on a commercial-grade trimmer.
At this point, you can offer weeding and trimming as services. Little by little, investing in better equipment will help you expand your services to things like pest control, tree care, and even landscaping.
That gives you the leeway to charge more—and profit more—on every job.
Startup costs for a lawn care business can range anywhere from $2,000 to $40,000 or more. It all depends on the equipment you have and the services you’ll provide.
Many lawn care business startups begin as a simple mowing business with:
- A home lawn mower ($200 to $600)
- A used truck (minimum $20,000)
- Liability insurance ($500 to $600 annually)
- Basic flyer or sandwich board marketing ($10)
If you don’t already have a reliable truck or trailer, it’ll cost you a lot more to start getting to work.
But you don’t need anything fancy—just enough space and towing capacity to transport your mower and other lawn care equipment you plan to own.
New business owners who need extra funding usually apply for small personal loans, or they rely on their personal credit cards.
Starting any business is a massive challenge.
Luckily, the lawn care industry doesn’t have many barriers to entry. As we’ve said, some businesses don’t need more than a mower and truck to get started.
In most cases, you won’t even need a license or certification to do basic lawn care work.
While it’s easy to qualify to be a lawn care professional, here’s a hard truth—getting your first customers and making a profit can take months or years of grinding non-stop.
To help you ease the process of getting started, we’ve laid out exactly what you need to start your lawn care business.
Skip ahead to:
- Learn the basics of lawn care
- Choose what services to offer
- Get the right tools and equipment
- Brand your business
- Set up your business contact info
- How to legally start your business
- Create a pricing plan
- Set up your business banking
- Start an equipment maintenance plan
- Get your first customers
- Grow your lawn care business
Anyone can mow a lawn. Not everyone can do it well.
Before you can offer your services, you need to be an expert at what you do. (If you already have loads of lawn care experience, you can skip ahead!)
Experience and practice are your best teachers. Try asking friends, family, and neighbors if you can do their yard work at a discounted rate.
Think of this time as an internship. You aren’t experienced in your field yet, so you won’t be paid the same rate as a seasoned professional while you’re developing those hands-on skills.
You’ll also want to hear from experts on the best ways to take care of a lawn. Bookmark these online resources and get advice from pros in the industry:
When you have a list of services to refer to, responding to customer requests is easier. You’ll also have line items you can quickly add to your estimates and quotes. No need to write anything from scratch.
Here’s a list of common services to help you decide what to offer:
- Lawn mowing
- Leaf removal
- Yard cleanup
- Weed control
- Lawn returfing
- Sod installation
- Lawn pest control
Your list of services might change over time, depending on what you’re equipped to provide. 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
Justin Pitre says to “avoid taking on any work that you can’t handle.” If you’re underqualified or overworked, your quality of service will suffer for it.
Always ask yourself if you’re equipped to offer the top-notch service that your clients need. The answers to these questions will help you make good buying and hiring decisions down the line.
It’s tempting, but don’t buy the most expensive lawn care equipment right off the bat.
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,” says Creel. “I’m not going to buy a homeowner-grade push mower from the big box store to get started. That’s going to slow down 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.”
Jason Creel, Lawn Care Life
“You can get a used commercial-grade mower for thousands of dollars less than a new one.”
To give you a ballpark price range, walk-behind lawn mowers usually cost around $150 to $200, while lawn tractors can be over $4,000.
The key to choosing equipment is to stay within your means. Starting off with cheaper equipment doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with that equipment forever.
If you work hard and market strategically, it’s possible to grow your business with just a few inexpensive tools.
Once money starts pouring in, you can start thinking about that $15,000 mower.
Your business name should be unique, but it also needs to be practical and professional. Choose one that reflects your personality or what sets your business apart.
A logo can help you with brand awareness. Placing it on your company materials wherever your business name shows up will help potential customers find and recognize your business.
Your branding will show up on everything your customers see, including your:
- Truck or trailer
- Email signature
- Social media pages
- Door hangers
- Posters and flyers
- Estimate templates
- Invoice templates
Brian and Kristy Boase of MIL-SPEC Landscaping
Brian Boase says the first thing you should spend your money on is 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 a logo.
Once you can afford it, get that logo on your company uniform. But for now, 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.
Wear something that’s comfortable to work in, looks professional, and is easy to wear all throughout your workweek.
DOWNLOAD: Get our free branding toolkit
When your first customer wants to book you, it’s best to have a dedicated email and phone number for your business.
If you’re willing to invest in a website domain, you can create a branded email address that has your business’s name after the @ symbol. It typically costs around $10 to $20 a year for a professional email domain.
If you don’t want to invest in a custom domain, then a regular email account (through Gmail, for example) will do.
Be careful of which free domain host you use if you’re getting a free domain. Gmail tends to be more respected than other domains, such as Yahoo or Hotmail.
To start a lawn business that actually stays in business, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it legally.
1. Register your business
Before you take on any jobs, you should determine which business structure you want to use. The most popular structures are:
- Sole proprietorship. You’re automatically registered as this type of business if you run any business activities by yourself. Sole proprietors don’t have a separate legal status from the business they own.
- Partnership. This type of business is owned by two or more people, who are still legally considered self-employed.
- Limited liability company (LLC). Medium- to high-risk businesses typically choose LLCs, as they mostly protect you from personal liability.
- Corporation. In this structure, the owners are separate entities from the business, and all liabilities fall on the corporation instead of the owners. It’s expensive to get incorporated and is more typical for large businesses.
Pro Tip: If you’re starting a lawn mowing business in Canada, we recommend using Ownr for an easy way to register or incorporate your business.
The structure you pick affects how your business gets registered. Most small lawn care businesses only need to register a business name with their local and state government.
2. Get business insurance
Once your business is registered, you’ll need insurance.
Brian Boase recommends getting commercial insurance and establishing an LLC. “This helps you separate your business assets from your personal assets,” he says.
“Accidents happen, so don’t be that person without commercial insurance. You’d be surprised at how much damage a ZT can do to an HVAC unit.”
Since you’ll be servicing private properties, you’ll have to take on some liability for any damages or injuries that happen on the job.
Take a look at different business insurance plans and shop around like you’d shop for car insurance.
3. Consider getting licensed
Generally, you don’t need a license to start a lawn care business. But you may need a license to offer certain services, like fertilization.
Each state has different licensing laws surrounding fertilizer applications. However, 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.
If you’re starting a lawn care business without a profit plan, you risk putting your money to waste.
“It’s important that you don’t charge very bare minimum prices in your lawn care business,” says Jason Creel.
“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 and how much financial wiggle room you have. It also determines 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’ve 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 quickly and easily provide accurate, consistent, and fair lawn care estimates to clients.
Use time tracking to measure productivity
Tracking time on lawn care jobs can help you make better pricing decisions.
It’s not about micromanaging your team. Time tracking helps you measure productivity, calculate hourly rates for different types of work, and invoice clients properly.
With a record of hours worked, you also get a better sense of your employees’ workloads. This helps you distribute work without over-stretching anyone.
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Once your lawn business is registered, you need to set up a business bank account.
This account doesn’t just keep your personal and professional finances separate. It also ensures you’re taxed properly and helps you build a credit profile for your business.
To stay on top of your cash flow, cloud accounting tools can save you hours of filing and manual entry when it’s time to review your financial records.
QuickBooks Online is the affordable go-to for many small business owners, with low-priced plans that you can scale up easily as your business grows.
When you connect your business information from Jobber with a QuickBooks Online account, you can sync your timesheets, payroll, and accounts receivable from Jobber to QuickBooks.
Edward Ramsden, Owner of Enviromasters Lawn Care
Ed Ramsden highly recommends starting your equipment maintenance plan early to avoid last minute setbacks. Tracking the condition of your tools is essential for your team’s success.
“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.”
Make sure your crew passes that info along to you. Even if you’re the one who’s financially responsible for all equipment, everyone should be involved in preventative maintenance.
To keep things simple, Ed makes 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
- Check oil levels on trucks and mowers
- Check the tire pressure
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 has developed a relationship with a local auto mechanic, too, who he contacts for emergency repairs.
The good news: You can book a lawn care job with as little as one inexpensive mower.
The great news: That single job you booked can turn into steady, ongoing income for months.
Since lawn maintenance is an ongoing job, you’ll get recurring revenue—a continuous stream of payments—from every new customer. If you keep your customers happy, you’re guaranteed a predictable, steady source of revenue.
Still, getting your first customer can be a big hurdle. Many lawn care entrepreneurs start by knocking on their neighbors’ doors and leaving mowing business flyers behind.
Experiment with other low-cost advertising methods for your lawn care business. Then you can start figuring out which ones are bringing in the best clients at the lowest cost.
Some low-cost ideas to start with can include:
- Sending out postcards or flyers
- Setting up sandwich boards
- Making social media business pages
- Claiming your Google My Business listing
- Starting a customer referral program
After you’ve nailed down what brings in customers, it’s just a matter of investing more money into the things that are giving you the biggest returns.
Make your first lawn care hire
When your business has taken off and you’re overbooked and desperate for help, you’ll need to hire lawn care technicians.
A bigger team will give you the freedom to focus on higher-level duties—marketing, customer service, and operational efficiency—that will help you grow the business.
There will be plenty of eager job-seekers out there itching to get their hands dirty and join your team.
Or, if you’re swamped with scheduling and paperwork, consider hiring an administrative assistant.
Invest in efficiency—and do it early
Lots of experienced business owners have serious efficiency problems, even several years into running their company. They most commonly struggle with:
- Making crew schedules and keeping track of job progress
- Staying on top of unpaid invoices
- Running the business while always on the go
You can avoid those issues before you even start your business. Jobber’s lawn care business software is designed to keep job and customer info organized as you move through each stage of a job.
“We have a new customer completely set up for the season before we are off the phone with them,” says Chris Senger, owner of Mow Town Edmonton.
“In less than two minutes, we are set up to run on autopilot for the year. Customers have been impressed by this because the organization on our side translates to assurance for them that we are professionals.”
Expand your marketing efforts
This is also the time to start investing more into marketing. When you’re ready to grow, consider some of these more advanced marketing activities:
- Post local service ads on Google
- Run an online review campaign to boost your Google My Business rating
- Set up a referral program with rewards for customer referrals
- Create ads for Facebook or Instagram
Send marketing emails through Mailchimp
If you’re having trouble deciding where to focus your advertising efforts, start by setting a realistic goal and budget for yourself.
How to Budget Your Lawn Care Marketing: An Example
Ed Ramsden of Enviromasters explains how he sets a marketing budget for his lawn maintenance business—by working backward in terms of how much revenue he wants.
- “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.”
- “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.”
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.
READ MORE: Get our lawn care advertising guide
Collect customer reviews
More customers these days are searching for a business on Google before contacting them.
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.
Encourage customer 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 use lead generation websites like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, or Thumbtack to build up your reviews and local popularity.
Use software to quote, invoice, and manage lawn care clients
Although you might not think your business is big enough to use software when you first start out, it will be down the road.
Choosing how to keep track of quotes, invoices, and manage clients in the beginning will help to keep you organized once your business takes off.
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.
Our 100% free Job Toolkit makes it easy to create, win, track, and get paid for jobs—no handwritten napkins required.
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Is it worth starting a lawn care business?
It’s hard work growing a lawn care company. It takes a lot of work and hustle, networking, door knocking, and word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family.
But once you get this business off the ground, you’ll get to do what you love for a living—on your own schedule. You’ll bring much-needed life and greenery to your community and put smiles on people’s faces.
After every job is done, you’ll know why you started in the first place.
Come back to this guide any time you feel stuck, and have trust in yourself to be the creative, hard-working entrepreneur that you are. We can’t wait to see you succeed.
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Originally published February 2020. Last updated on October 18th, 2021.