How to Start a Successful Lawn Care Business
It’s natural for people to want to have well-kept lawns to keep the exterior of their homes looking nice, but they don’t always have the time (or desire) to care for them themselves.
This desire for an attractive lawn creates a demand for people to care for them. And what does this mean for you? A business opportunity!
Want to be your own boss, own a business and make money while working outdoors? Owning a lawn care business may be the next move for you.
In this guide, we cover the types of services lawn care companies can offer, how much it costs to get started and seven actionable steps for starting your business.
Why Start a Lawn Care Business?
When it comes to lawn care and yard work, people either love it or hate it. What’s great is that the people who hate it create an awesome business opportunity for those who love it!
There are different reasons that drive people to start lawn care businesses.
Some see the demand for trustworthy lawn care providers and they hop on the opportunity. Others have spent years working in the lawn care industry or landscaping business, and are ready to start an operation of their own. Some are inspired to open up shop by their appreciation for a job that requires a little bit of elbow grease.
No matter what your driving force is, the important thing is that you are passionate about serving others in your community. Also, lawn care businesses can be extremely profitable, even in the first year, once you build a loyal clientele.
What Types of Services Do Lawn Care Businesses Offer?
Like a landscaping business, a lawn care business can offer a wide variety of services. These services depend largely on where you’re located and the types of clients you serve.
The most common lawn care services offered include:
- Lawn mowing
- Trimming hedges
- Edging sidewalks and driveways
- Weed killing
- Leaf removal
- Clearing brush
Lawn Care vs. Landscaping vs. Gardening: What’s the Difference?
Lawn care, gardening and landscaping businesses are three distinct types of businesses but they may also overlap in the types of services they offer. The common ground between these three types of business is that they tend to the property surrounding a home or commercial building.
Lawn care companies focus on keeping the lawn trimmed and looking good. As we’ve covered, this will almost certainly involve cutting the grass with a lawn mower, clearing brush and the like.
Landscaping is more specific to designing and laying out a landscape. It involves strategically planting plants around the property, laying down bark or dirt, building hardscapes (like waterfalls) or otherwise determining what the landscape will look like.
Gardening is basically small-scale landscaping. This often includes building flower beds and small boxed gardens. It involves tending to the plants to keep everything looking great and healthy.
How Much Money Do You Need to Start a Lawn Care Business?
Starting a lawn care business requires a bit of an investment in the first year. Purchasing equipment is an absolute must and insurance is highly recommended.
For equipment, you’ll need a truck, trailer, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, gas cans, gasoline and some small tools. As you expand your offerings, you may need additional equipment, but this should be enough to get started.
Trucks and Heavy Equipment
Your lawn mower, truck and trailer will be your three biggest purchases. These three items alone can run you over $20,000. Commercial-grade lawn mowers run around $3,000. You can also expect to pay around the same amount for a trailer. When it comes to a truck to pull your equipment, you have the option to buy or lease. If you choose to buy, you’re looking at between $15,000 and $20,000.
It is possible to start out with a used mower or other secondhand equipment. This could be a great way to minimize your start up costs to get the cash flowing.
Another cost to consider is a physical location. If you’re running a small operation and you have space, you may be able to store everything at home. However, this is not an option for many people and may require leasing a space.
When it comes to lawn care services, doing all of the work yourself is inefficient. You should plan to hire at least a couple of employees or contractors to assist you in providing services for your clients.
Factor in the typical costs of starting a business, mostly relating to marketing and branding, and you could probably start your business with $25,000 or less. How much you put into your business will be determined by how large of an operation you want to have at the outset.
7 Steps to Starting a Lawn Care Business
While there are many paths to entrepreneurship, it always helps to have a framework for how to get started. Following the seven steps below will help you avoid some costly mistakes in your business and lead you down the path to success faster.
1. Plan and Strategize
Every great business starts with a plan, but every successful business demands a strategy. By establishing your business strategy from the beginning, you’ll stay focused on your end goal and know the exact steps you need to take to reach success.
When it comes to opening a lawn care business, your offering is pretty clear: providing lawn care. But you will need to determine who and where you serve so you can set competitive rates and market your business effectively.
Some questions to ask yourself when drafting up your business plan include:
- What types of clients do I want to work with?
- Do I want to work with homeowners or business owners?
- What geographic area(s) do I want to serve?
- Who are my competitors? How can I stand out?
- How much should I charge in order to be competitive?
- What services should I offer?
- What platforms will I use to market my business on?
While you don’t want to get too far ahead—as you will learn a lot as you go along—it helps to have some kind of strategy so you can stay organized and make moves toward your end goal. You can always hammer out the logistics later on.
It’s at this point where you will also develop your core brand and what makes your small business unique from your competitors. Ask: What is my target audience looking for when it comes to hiring a lawn care business?
Create a profile for your ideal client and build everything around that. Your brand, including a business name, will be designed to appeal to that audience and all future marketing strategies will be developed to connect with that unique audience.
2. Choose Your Location
Most lawn care business owners choose to serve their local area out of convenience, while others are more strategic when it comes to the area they serve. Oftentimes, it comes down to where you are most likely to find viable (and high-paying) customers.
Are you able to find an untapped market that’s in need of lawn care services? Is there an area that has tons of potential customers but very little competition for work? You need to keep this in mind when setting your service area.
Once you’ve chosen a region, find a location for a headquarters that is centrally located. You’ll need space to hold your equipment and a small office.
It’s wise to choose a location that is close to a highway that can get you to your job sites quickly. Even saving a few minutes or miles to get to and from work will really add up.
Something to keep in mind when choosing a location for your work HQ is what you want in the future. If you plan to scale, you may want to lease a space at first so that you can upgrade as you expand your fleet of trucks and lawn mowers.
3. Handle the Legalities
One of the most important steps in this process is registering your business so you can legally conduct business. While getting paid for your work under the table can be appealing, it can also open the door to legal and tax issues.
Many businesses register as a limited liability company (LLC), however, we suggest speaking to a legal professional to make sure this classification is the most appropriate for your business.
For tax purposes, you must apply for an identification number from the IRS. In the U.S., this is called an employer identification number (EIN) and in Canada, a social insurance number (SIN). You will need this identification for your entity so that you can claim your work income and report what you’ve paid your employees.
Lawn care businesses do not typically require additional licensing but you will want to look into business insurance. You will definitely need to get insurance for your vehicles and other equipment (e.g., lawn mower) used for work purposes. It is also recommended that you get general liabilities insurance, workers’ compensation insurance and property insurance.
Lawn care is not inherently dangerous, but as with any manual labor, accidents are a possibility. Protecting yourself and your business is essential.
4. Purchase Your Equipment
Earlier when we talked about costs, we gave a brief breakdown of materials you’d need to get your business started. We also mentioned buying secondhand as an affordable option.
Buying a used truck for your business is a no-brainer. This vehicle will be used for work and it doesn’t have to look pretty to get the job done. Even if the truck you get has some years and miles on it, buying used could save you thousands of dollars.
Look to larger lawn care companies that have recently upgraded their equipment to scale their operations. They may have old machines to get rid of. As long as this equipment is functional or could be fixed for little investment, it is worth looking into. This will save your business some money to start and you can upgrade when you’re ready.
5. Hire and Train Employees
Quality is key when building a business. Since lawn care is built on manual labor, your first few employees will be the ones who help you perfect your service and model for training going forward.
While there isn’t a ton of experience required for lawn care, there are a few qualities to look for when hiring for your business:
- Hard worker: You need to build a team of hard workers that are willing to get their hands dirty and break a sweat.
- Reliable: Punctuality is key since the team will likely meet at your designated headquarters and ride to the job site together.
- Trustworthy: Since your employees will be at your customers’ homes, you need to make sure they are very respectful and trustworthy. They represent your brand, so it is important that every interaction they have with customers is a pleasant one.
Unless you plan on driving the truck with the equipment yourself, you will need to hire at least one person who has a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record. Having the best, most reliable people on your team will help set up your business for success.
6. Market Your Services
One of the first steps in this process was defining the target market and service area for your business. Now, it’s time to market your services to this target market using effective online and offline marketing methods.
One option as a business owner is to go door-to-door with flyers. Since lawn care is a location-dependent service, potential customers are likely to reach out to lawn care companies that take the initiative to contact them in their area.
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is another great option. This involves optimizing your business website to target certain keywords (like “lawn care company in [city]”) in order to rank for these terms in search engines like Google. This will help potential customers find you organically.
Social media marketing can also be effective for lawn care companies. Create content specific to your local market, highlight your value, and as a result, stand out from your competitors. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram also allow you to run paid ads to get customers.
7. Ask for Referrals
Once you’ve landed a few customers, offer incentives for referrals. This is a great way to build a loyal clientele.
In order to lock in those referrals, make sure that your team does work that is worth talking about. Make it a priority to show up and do your best work every single time. Then, ask your customers for glowing reviews on your Facebook page and Yelp.
Additionally, we suggest encouraging your existing customers to send their family and friends to you for their lawn care needs by offering incentives. Create a deal that gives your customers rewards when they bring you a sale. A free or discounted service is a good place to start.
Building vs. Buying a Lawn Care Company
As with any sort of business, you can choose to start from scratch or you can buy an already developed business. If you want to build something but you don’t want to start from the ground up, there are some unique opportunities that you could take advantage of in the world of lawn care.
As we mentioned before, lawn care, landscaping and gardening are three unique services. Pool services and pressure cleaning are also separate services that fall into the same general category.
Since there is a high demand for convenience in any industry, you could buy multiple small businesses that each focus on a different service in the realm of property maintenance. You can then repackage the services and sell them to existing clients as a bundle.
Of course, this requires quite a bit of capital, but it helps you through the hardest part of starting a lawn care business, which is building a list of loyal clients.
Which path you take will depend on your vision, goals and access to resources. There is no right or wrong way to start a lawn care business—and it is nice to know that there are several different options available.
Start Your Own Lawn Care Business Today
Homeowners and business owners need reliable lawn care services. Start your own business to win over customers, grow your own small business and create a job you love.
As you build this new business, remember that customer service is key. Show up for your clients, and make sure your team does their best job every time. When your clients are happy, your business’s name will spread like wildfire and you’ll build a solid client base in no time.
Are you ready to take that first step today? This guide is here to help you on your journey so you can build a thriving business you enjoy.