Whether you are kicking around the idea of starting a lawn care business or you have been in business for several years there are key principles to operating a lawn business.
When first starting out it is important to focus. Choose 2 or 3 services and get very good at them. It is much better to offer a couple services and provide amazing results than offer 15 services all at an average quality. Remember, you are offering a service and your reputation among customers is the lifeline of your business.
Lawn Business Niches
There are three common areas you may focus on in the lawn business. They are lawn maintenance, lawn care, and landscaping.
This part of the business is your basic mow, edge, trim, and blow service. This is usually a great place to start especially if you don't have much experience in the business. It is relatively low start up costs and a pretty quick learning curve.
You will be able to start this with with as little as $2,000 up to $50,000. Beginning with $2,000 is difficult but doable. This is assuming you are starting a business and not a side gig. Yes, these are two different things. If you are just looking to make some extra money on the weekend there are ways to start cheaper.
If you are looking to build a business that is scalable you will need some start up capital to get the necessary equipment.
In part of the lawn business you will need some essential equipment to get started. This includes a truck, mower, trimmer, edger (or edgit for trimmer), and blower. Check out this article for equipment recommendations.
The lawn care side of the business entails fertilization, weed control, and other chemicals to create beautiful lawns. This part of the business has high margins but also takes some more knowledge and skill than lawn maintenance.
There are certifications you must have and rules/regulations you must follow in your certain area. Contact your local county or state for information on this.
To start, you must at a minimum, have a spreader. Ideally, you should get either a stand on spreader/sprayer for a sprayer for a truck. This will set you up to be more scalable and not have to walk as much. Ride on spreader/sprayers are a must have in this business if you intend to scale.
The start up cost for this will range from $500-$15,000 assuming you already have a truck.
This section of the lawn business can be most rewarding. It will provide higher paying jobs that will amount to higher gross net dollars. The downside is some heavier machinery and know how is needed for most of these jobs.
If I started out with this I would get a truck and trailer and provide pine straw and mulch installs to get started. Then you can begin to learn about different plants and landscape design. Most residential landscape design jobs can be done with just a truck and trailer.
Once you begin to generate some cash flow you can begin to acquire the necessary tools needed for larger, more complicated landscape designs. This can include landscape borders, stone work, patios, plant installs, and much more.
This is best suited for someone with at least a little bit of creativity. I'm not the most creative person but I do know customers appreciate it when you at least give some suggestions. The best way to get better at this is by studying amazing landscapes. Take notice of where certain plants are and how they're organized… which color mulch goes with certain brick colors. There are many things to notice and learn.
This part of the business will be anywhere from $500 – $50,000 to start depending on the projects you want to do and how fast you want to scale. Cash flow is the biggest thing to pay attention to on landscaping. You have to make sure starting out you have enough money to fund materials for projects you take on.
I'll start by saying I am not an attorney so please do not take this as legal advice and consult with a lawyer before starting your business. However, most lawn businesses will want to form an LLC (limited liability company) when getting started. This will provide some protection to you if your business goes under.
Next you will need to obtain a business license and any other licences needed to do business in your area. This can easily be found by Googling it or calling your county or state.
Since you will be working at customer's houses and possibly commercial properties it is HIGHLY recommended that you obtain business insurance. This will cover you for any accidents or any of the other million things that could go wrong (I've seen a lot.)
Word of mouth is great. But it will only last so long and your family and friends (your current network) will eventually run out. You won't be able to rely on only this if you plan to grow and scale your business. I like to break marketing into two sections: online and traditional.
This is the big one. If you do nothing else please utilize online marketing. If I were to start my company over today I would solely focus on search engine optimization (SEO) and social media (Facebook and Instagram.)
These are not impossible things to learn but they are very time consuming. You will need to create a website, learn/implement SEO, and create/maintain social media accounts. It sounds simple, but trust me it takes a lot of time. However, with a little intensionality it is definitely doable. If you have a little extra start up capital we are partnered with a company, 3C Digital, that can help with all online marketing needs.
This includes any physical form of marketing… flyers, postcards, signs, magnets, etc. The two main ones I would focus on, when first starting out, are flyers/postcards and signs.
Go door to door and pass out flyers, postcards, or door hangers. The most effective way to do this is by knocking on doors. However, it is the most time consuming so if you want to play a numbers game or live in a large city I would put them on mailboxes or newspaper boxes (check with your city to see which is legal).
For yards signs, find the busiest street in town, knock on a local business' door and see if they will let you put a sign in front or off to the side. Mine as well ask for their business while your there. Offer them a discount to put your sign there.
There are a ton of different ways to use traditional marketing… for an entire list check out our traditional marketing article.
Wrapping it Up
This article is meant to give an overview of starting a lawn care business and what you can expect when starting. Check out the many articles below for resources on related topics. If you have any questions leave a comment below!