How to Start Lawn Care Business (and Make $100K in Your First Year)

  • by Norm Tedford
  • 2 months ago
  • Blog
  • 1

Do you ever think about starting your own lawn care business?

Russell Jeffcoat, owner of Legends Lawn Care in Blaine, Washington, did more than just dream about owning a business someday.

He took decisive action by starting the lawn care business of his dreams, and then, he earned $100,000 in his first year.

Today, he rakes in between $500 and $6000 every time he takes his machines out and works on people’s lawns. Although he started his lawn care business with only $2,000 when he was a senior in high school, it’s a six figure business now!

He’s so busy, he often has to turn down work.

You can watch our our two part interview with him here and here.

Continue reading to find out exactly how he did this, and reap the benefits of his knowledge. You’ll discover everything you need to know on how to run a successful lawn care business, including:

  • Innovative ways to craft a business plan
  • What garden equipment is indispensable
  • The best way to structure your lawn care business
  • How to provide great customer service

And so much more!

1. Jump Right In Even If You Have Little Money

Russell says you don’t need much to start your own mowing lawn services.

Lawn mower

He says that even if you all you have is a lawn mower and a broom, you can start a lawn care business tomorrow:

That’s all you have to have. So you could be in business for under $100. Just start. You can just go sell a job, say: ‘Okay, I wanna trim your bushes for say $500. You say (to the customer), ‘I need 50% down.’ So you have $250. You can go spend that, say $200 of that, to get a hedge trimmer and a broom. So they already gave you money upfront so you can do the job already.

He started his lawn care business with only $2,000. He bought a $200 blower and a $150 weed eater out of that money and kept the rest of it in reserve.

Soon, he had enough cash to buy some of his bigger equipment for 0% down financing. This included things like a tractor, a tilt deck trailer, and an industrial bush cutter.

The moral of this story?

Get started ASAP, even if you have little or no money.

Keep doing excellent work.

Soon, you’ll have funds to reinvest in your lawn maintenance business. And, remember Russell’s words if you run into obstacles:

There’s never an excuse—there is always a way around stuff.

2. Make Sure You’re Fit Enough

The first thing you need to do is to make sure you’re in tip-top physical condition. That’s because running a lawn care business requires lifting heavy equipment and handling lawn care tools for hours at a time.

If you’re not in shape, you won’t have the stamina or strength to put in long hours day in and day out doing the work that needs to get done.

If this happens, your ability to do excellent work will suffer, and your lawn maintenance business will go down the tubes.

Man exercising

3. Create Your Business Plan

Suppose you’re ready to transform your nebulous idea for a lawn care business into a glorious reality. In that case, you’re going to need a business plan.

You’ll use your plan as a detailed outline to get you where you are right now to where you want to be. It’s a must for all business owners who want their company to thrive.

Having a business plan means you’ll accomplish your entrepreneurial objectives sooner rather than later. It’ll help organize every detail of getting your business off the ground, exponentially increasing the chances that your lawn care business will be a smashing success.

If you don’t need a bank loan, your business plan can be short, sweet, and to the point.

Just remember:

Your lawn care business plan should accommodate your needs, and not the other way around.

Have it be a reflection of you in all your wonderful uniqueness.

According to the Small Business Administration website, there are two categories of business plans:

  • Traditional
  • Lean startup

Traditional business plans are what most entrepreneurs use, and they require a ton of detail and work. They can get so convoluted and complicated, that they can be dozens of pages long.

Lean startup business plans are far less structured because they focus like a laser-guided missile on only the most essential facts.

They can be completed in sixty minutes or less, and are usually no longer than a single page.

You can find an example of one here.

If you’re a detail-oriented person who just loves lots of specifics, you might want to go with the traditional kind. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to adhere to the format every other businessperson on the planet uses.

Make up your own way to formulate a lawn care company business plan that serves your needs. When you do that, your plan will be so much more useful to you.

Here are some of the sections you might want to include:

  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This is a brief abstract of your lawn care business. Make it as concise as possible. You can also add a mission or vision statement that’ll be like a guiding light, motivating you in all your future efforts.
  • COMPANY DESCRIPTION: Here’s where you go into more specifics about your lawn care company. Precisely outline what problems your lawn care business solves, and which opportunities you’ll be able to seize. Include the target market you plan to go after, and the competitive advantages that’ll make it successful.
  • MARKET ANALYSIS: Do a little competitive research to uncover what other landscaping businesses are doing. Think of ways to do those things better and include them in this section. This kind of research will give you a competitive edge over all the other lawn care businesses out there.
  • ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT: Here’s the place where you’ll tell your hypothetical reader how you’re going to structure your lawn care business and who will be running the show. Are you going to be a sole proprietorship, a general or limited partnership, or will it be something else?
  • SERVICES: Describe precisely what services you’re going to offer to your customers and how it will benefit them.
  • MARKETING: In this part of your business plan, you’ll outline what efforts you’ll undertake to attract and retain customers.
  • FUNDING REQUEST: Include your funding requirements for the first five years of your lawn care business and what you’re going to use the money for.
  • FINANCIAL PROJECTIONS: Basically, this section is an elaboration of the previous one. You’re going to show potential investors or lenders all the financial milestones you hope to accomplish in the first few years of your lawn care business.
  • APPENDIX: Here’s where you’ll add supporting documentation for all the above sections. You could include your resume, credit history, letters of reference, licenses, permits, or whatever else you’ll need to seal the deal with investors or lenders.

4. Learn Skills

Although you don’t have to have any landscaping skills, you’ll need to learn at least the fundamentals before starting your lawn care business.

For essential services such as mowing and edging, you probably won’t need much education. However, as you grow your business and add services, you might need some specialized training. You can learn much of what you need to know from YouTube or in books that you can check out at your local library.

Library Bookshelves

You can also learn the ropes by working with an established landscaping company first.

This is what Russell did.

5. Buy Your Equipment

It’s true that you can start a lawn care business with only a push mower and a broom. However, as you expand your lawn business, you’ll want to add some or all of the following equipment and supplies:

  • Blade Sharpener
  • Edger
  • Equipment Trailer
  • Eye and Ear Protection
  • Gas Containers Gloves
  • Hedge Trimmer
  • Lawn Tools
  • Lawn Bags
  • Leaf Blower
  • Oil
  • Riding Mower
  • Trimmer
  • Truck

Your equipment needs to be of high-quality and built to last, so make sure you buy carefully.

Lawn care equipment

6. Choose How To Structure Your Business

You’ll need to choose how you want your business structured. There are four main types:

  • Sole proprietorship: a business run by a single individual
  • Partnership: An agreement between two or more persons who run the business together
  • Limited liability company: a hybrid of partnership and corporation
  • Corporation: a group of people authorized to act as a single entity

Sole Proprietorships

If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably want to be a sole proprietorship. Most small businesses are sole proprietorships because this is the easiest and cheapest way to start a business.

In a sole proprietorship, you and the business are one and the same. A sole proprietorship is unique among business entities because it’s the only one that doesn’t have to register with a state.

Starting one is easy.

All you have to do is:

  • Come up with a business name for your lawn company and decide where you want to be located
  • File for a business license with your local authorities
  • Set up a business checking account so there’s a separation between your business and personal cash

If you plan to sell taxable things, you’ll need to register with your local taxing authority.

Sole proprietorship advantages include:

  • Easy startup—no complicated business structure
  • Control—since you’re the only owner, you’ll have total power over every aspect of your company
  • Use of losses—because you’re including your business income and losses on your personal tax return, you can use them to offset personal income

The major drawback of this type of business structure is your personal finances and those of the business are one and the same. Also, as the owner, you are personally liable for any all debt.

You’ll pay business tax on net income. You also must pay self-employment tax, which covers Medicare and Social Security. Since this tax isn’t taken out of your business income, you should make estimated payments on it, which is usually done quarterly.

7. Get Insurance

General Liability insuranceIf you have a lawn business, you’ll need lawn care business insurance if you accidentally damage a customer’s property. Or, if an angry customer who was less than thrilled with your work decides to sue you.

Legally, you’ll probably be required to carry some form of insurance.

The average price of a standard $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 general liability policy for someone with a lawn care business is about $50 a month.

Here are the different types:

  • General liability: it protects you in case of damage to public property
  • Workman’s Compensation: it’s only required if you hire employees
  • Business Owner’s Policy: covers you in case of a lawsuit
  • Commercial Auto: if you have a transport vehicle, you’ll need vehicle insurance

8. Get An Employer Identification Number

If your business is of the sole proprietorship variety, you won’t need an employer identification number.

However, if you’re planning on having employees work in your lawn business, you’ll need to get one to open a business account, apply for a business license, or to get a loan.

Here is an example of what an application could look like.

To get yours, apply at the IRS website.

It’s totally free.

9. See If You Need to be Licensed

Each state has its own criteria for whether you need to obtain a license for your lawn business.

To make it more complicated, you might need local licenses as well. So, you might have to take a trip to city hall and contact your state’s Secretary of State’s office to get the licenses you need.

Occupational License

Some municipalities require businesses to also get an occupational license, which is usually based on how much revenue you generate in a given year.

For example, in Fairfax County, Virginia, if you make more than $10,0001, you’ll have to pay a flat fee of thirty bucks for your occupational license. If you earn anywhere from $50,0001 to $100,000, the amount you pay goes up to fifty dollars.

You can search the Small Business Administration’s website to determine the requirements in your state.

Fertilizer Applicator Certification

If you’re fertilizing your clients’ lawns, you might need a fertilizer applicator certification.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the guidelines for herbicide and pesticide applicators. However, every state sets its own regulations. Some states require that you complete one or all these things to get a lawn care applicator certification:

  • Passing a written exam
  • Passing a performance-based exam
  • Using other standards approved by the EPA

You can find out what the policies are for your state by checking out its Department of Agricultural Resources website.

10. Establish Your Pricing Structure

Most lawn care companies base prices on the size of a lawn.

To come up with a competitive rate, calculate the total square footage of your lawn. Then, get estimates from a bunch of companies in your area. Have family and friends do this too so you can set your prices that aren’t too high or low.

Make sure you factor in the cost of materials, labor, equipment, and business overhead.

11. Build Relationships

During the first year, Russell grew his client base from 20 to 300 people. He attributes this exceptional growth to his extraordinary ability to forge relationships with his customers.

He always makes sure he does excellent lawn work for friends, family, and neighbors. In turn, because he was so good at what he does, these people would recommend him to their acquaintances.

Because of this ability, he spent zero on marketing costs that the first year. “Word of mouth” was the only calling card he needed!

Tod this day, his customers aren’t just another number—they’re more like family. He has this to say on the subject:

The majority of my customers are repeat customers. I try to create that lifetime value of a customer. I try to create a very friendly relationship. I consider all my customers family. They all know who I am. They all invite me to their homes every single month to talk.

Do the same, and you’ll soon have more customers than you can handle!

12. Reinvest Your Profits

Russell maintains a profit margin of at least 50% because he’s his only employee. So, he was able to reinvest lots of money into his lawn care maintenance company. This is how he quickly scaled up his business from a single truck and a lawnmower to multiple trucks and trailers.

Lawn care truck

Russell has this to say:

Keep reinvesting in the business. Because a lot of people, when they start out, they see oh yeah, I replaced my income from my nine-to-five with what I make now, but what people don’t consider is that nine to five was net pay—it wasn’t gross pay. You still have to pay your taxes. You field your overhead with that too. So you’re continually reinvesting in your business. That’s how I’ve grown mine so fast. I’ve taken a zero of a paycheck in the last two years ’cause I keep reinvesting in more equipment.

13. Either Stay Small Or Scale Up The Right Way

Russell keeps his service area small by design.

Most million-dollar companies only have a 10 to 14% margin because they have a lot of overhead. However, he says that companies who do less than $2,000,000 worth of business annually have a 50% to 60% profit margin.

If you’re a small company and your profit margins are less than 50 to 60%, you’re doing something wrong.

That’s why he doesn’t want to get too big.

Although there are advantages to staying small, you can scale up if you do it right. No matter how big you get, stay lean. Here is a video we’ve done on that topic:

As you grow your business, you might have the desire to branch out into more directions. That’s what Russell is doing right now.

He has big ambitions, and he has plans to give his company a makeover:

Yeah, I’m kind of branching out now going away from lawn care work into more construction landscape kind of stuff.

You might start out with a broom and a single push mower. But, if you do fantastic work and continue to rake in the cash, there’s no telling how high you can fly.

The sky’s the limit!

14. Offer Free Estimates

Offer free estimates, because this is what most companies in the industry do—including Russell.

Try to do one within 24 hours of getting a customer’s call. Your estimates should include the exact services you’re providing, any materials you’ll use, and anything else relevant to the job at hand. You can come up with an estimate by guessing how long it’ll take to mow a lawn and multiply that by your hourly rate.

If there are lots of slopes or ornamental landscaping, the job will be more challenging to do.

So, figure that in your estimate.

There are templates you can use for your estimating. You can find what they look like here.

15. Know Your Worth

Russell believes in his business and the value he brings to customers. So, he sets a high rate because he knows he’s worth it.

This is what he has to say on that subject:

You need to know your worth in business. My average rate is $80.00 an hour.

If you do exceptional work, don’t be afraid to set a rate that reflects this.

16. Sell (But Don’t Oversell)

Russell doesn’t want to damage his reputation as a conscientious business owner by pushing too many services on his customers or charging too much. He says this about the dangers of trying to milk clients for everything they’re worth:

I’m trying to keep a personable relationship with my customers. I’m not trying to oversell people. You need to know how to sell but not oversell.

There’s a fine line between establishing prices that provide you with a healthy profit and taking your customers to the cleaners. Treat everybody well, and your ability to provide excellent customer service will make you stand out from your ethically challenged competitors.

17. Keep Equipment In Peak Condition

Lawn mowerKeep all your equipment in peak operating condition. This means cleaning the blades at the end of each workday and regularly using a grinding wheel to keep them sharp.

Also, make sure you get into the habit of changing your engine oil and filters so your expensive equipment doesn’t die prematurely.

18. Allow For Makeup Days

Leave Saturdays and Sundays unscheduled as makeup days in case of rain. You can also work longer hours on a regularly scheduled maintenance day to play catchup.

19. Consider Adding Snowplowing

What’s great about a lawn care service is that you can often make enough during the season to just kick back and relax during the cold, wintry months.

However, if you want to make money all year long, think of adding snowplowing to your business to give you a way to make money in the winter.

Winter Equipped Truck

20. Set Up A CRM System

Russell uses a CRM, or customer relation management software, to keep every aspect of his business organized.

The system gives him granular detail on every one of his customers, which helps to streamline company operations and boost profits. It also helps him instantly retrieve past transactions and automates sales tracking.

How Much Can You Earn?

Many lawn care entrepreneurs earn $5,000 to $50,000 in their first year. And once they’ve been in business a while, they can earn as much as $160,000 to $250,000.

So, owning a lawn care business has a lot of profit potential.

What Kind Of Services Should I Offer?

Most lawn care businesses have approximately 25 customers they see each week and offers services like these:

  • Adding mulch
  • Put in flower beds
  • Weed flower beds
  • Planting Services
  • Tree Services
  • Debris Removal
  • Property Cleanup
  • Gutter Cleaning

And of course, these old standbys:

  • Mowing
  • Fertilizing
  • Fertilizer application

As you can see, there’s plenty of landscaping services you can offer. Just remember to always provide an superior customer service experience for everyone you do business with.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it–all the steps for starting a lawn care business from scratch.

Now you know how to start a lawn care business. While you can start a landscaping business with no money, you’re going to have to do quality work to attract and retain customers. If you’re able to do this, there’s no limit on how much money you can earn.

When you start your own highly lucrative lawn care business, what services do you think you’ll offer?

Let us know in the comments.

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