“How do I get money to start a lawn care business?”
A lot of people ask this question. And then they wait for a bundle of cash to fall into their lap.
…they hound relatives for loans, max out credit cards, and find out no bank will loan them money.
Here’s the deal: money makes your business grow faster.
But it can actually make you more likely to fail.
How Money Can Kill Your Lawn Care Business
Imagine putting a 16-year old kid behind the wheel of a Ferrari.
Now imagine that kid slipping into the leather seat, cranking up the stereo (some awful electronic dubstep), and peeling out of the driveway.
He flies down the road, but a turn is coming. He doesn’t know when to brake or how hard. He jerks the wheel to the left.
The car spins, then flips.
The EMTs find his body 100 yards from the smoking pile of shrapnel that used to a be a Ferrari.
That influx of cash into your business is a big responsibility. It’s a Ferrari. But a brand new business owner is like an acne-faced teenager, angling for his dad’s keys.
I’m going to tell you something that nobody else will.
It might even make you angry, but know that it comes from a place of wanting to help you succeed:
You don’t know everything. You know a lot less about this business than you have to learn.
And that’s fine.
That’s where everybody starts.
And it’s best to start out knowing nothing in a hand-me-down beater. You learn to drive in a rusted car with a Pine air freshener that’s been there since 1993. That way when you scratch and dent it, it’s no big deal. It’s 0-60 is measured in minutes. That’s the kind of power a new driver can handle.
Set aside a little money from your paycheck, buy a cheap-ish mower and get started. You don’t need big $$$ and fancy equipment to get started. Borrow a lawn mower or use one you already have and build from there.
What’s in a name? It’s the first time every customer sees you. It’s every dollar you spend on marketing. It’s something you’re going to think about every day for the rest of your business career.
The name of your business is incredibly important.
But don’t overthink it.
Your business name should be simple. If a client has to think about your clever pun to determine that you perform lawn maintenance service, your name is too complicated.
Names don’t need to be:
- Overly Detailed
- [Your Name]’s Lawn Service
You want to pick 2-3 words that you will own in your market. These should be words related to your service. When you have some words in mind, check to see if a domain name with those words and your city is available (e.g. “ClassyMowingDallas.com”)
As you’re growing your business, you’ll want to “search engine optimize” (SEO) your site. It makes it much easier to get on the front page of google results if your business name is connected to your industry and your local area.
You can read this guide to the best ways to set up a great website. You don’t need a website to get started, but it helps to plan for that kind of growth up front.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Register Your Business
It’s inexpensive to register your business. In some states, it’s as simple as filing paperwork and going on your way.
You want to operate legitimately from the very beginning.
You don’t want to ever run into a legal problem or a dispute with a client where you’re operating as just a person and not a business. Without an S Corp or LLC shielding you, your personal assets could be taken in a lawsuit. It’s not worth the risk.
Should I Wait to Get Insurance?
If there’s one place to spend a little money in your new business, it’s on insurance. This is a Day One necessity. Sell your first job and get commercial liability insurance before you start performing it.
A small business, especially the kind with little startup capital, can’t afford to not carry insurance. It protects you and your clients from financial repercussions if something goes wrong.
What Kind of Truck Should I Drive?
Look in your driveway. See that truck out there? Or that SUV? Or that Camry? That’s your new work vehicle.
You don’t need to buy a truck if you already have a vehicle. Get started with what you have and worry about whether you need to upgrade later.
Options for people without a vehicle:
- Buy a used truck off of Craigslist or a similar site
- Finance a new truck (not in the spirit of this “no money” blog post)
- Borrow a friend or family member’s truck while you save to buy your own
Maybe you don’t need a truck at all. Depending on your area, you may be able to pull your equipment in a bike trailer. This will save you on gas. Some large companies, particularly in Canada, do this on dense urban routes because it’s cheaper than driving a truck around and they can hire employees who don’t have a license. This is, admittedly, an outlying case. I wouldn’t expect this to become a common occurrence, especially in places like Texas where things are very spread out.
We’ll have a buying guide for lawn care trucks soon until then you can check out this guide for snow plowing companies that has helpful advice for any service industry business owner in the market for a new or used work truck.
To know how much to charge, you need to know how much it costs you to provide a service.
This is where most start-up lawn care companies fail. It’s why most of them won’t make it off the ground. They set prices to be competitive or, seemingly, at random.
A lot of one-man operations are happy to be to make $15-20 per hour. “That’s more than I made when I worked for someone else,” they think. Assuming your company’s hourly income is equal to profit is a bad idea. That’s how you own a job, and not a business. This is the #1 Reason Most Lawn Care Companies Never Make Money.
The second you hire an employee, you’re not making money anymore. Why? Because you’ll assume the same thing when you hire an employee. And then you won’t be making money anymore. When you scale your business, you’ll increase all the costs of running it.
You want to build long-lasting profit margins into your business. Set expectations early for your customers to pay you like a real business… because you are a real business.
The Basic Rules of Pricing:
When you first start your business, it can feel like you’re guessing, pulling prices out of thin air. You don’t have to guess, you can KNOW how to price your services, but only if you consider the following:
Set an hourly rate for your labor, even if you’re the only employee. Build your pricing around paying for labor; it’s going to be your single greatest expense in the future.
Start considering your labor burden on Day One.
You have to drive to get to jobs. Your equipment runs on fuel.
You need to have an average cost per mile for your vehicle and per hour for your equipment.
Track these costs long enough to get your averages, so you can include them in your costs.
3. Equipment Maintenance
Your vehicle serves around X number of lawns before you need an oil change.
Your blades need to be sharpened regularly, etc.
Divide those maintenance costs over the number of services provided to get a cost per customer breakdown.
4. Drive Time
We don’t traditionally think of drive time as “work” time.
But you pay your employees for drive time. Every minute you spend driving to some out of the way property is a minute you could’ve spent with a closer customer.
This is why tight, dense routes are so important. Track this time and incorporate it into your costs.
For a full explanation of how to track these figures and interpret them, check out “How to Price Lawn Care Services that Sell | Landscape Pricing.”
- Track your time on each job
- Increase the price on losing clients
- Test your pricing, adjust, and test again
People you know, who already trust you, are your best bet for new clients.
Lawn care companies crop up every day. Clients want proof that you’re not going to vanish into the wind next week. Nobody wants to switch lawn care companies, only to have to go crawling back to their old provider when the new company folds.
Family and friends know that you’re not fly-by-night. This is a big decision you’ve made, many of them have probably been part of that decision. You’ll be surprised how many of them want to see you succeed and will put their money down to see it happen.
Once you’ve worked with family and friends for awhile, ask them for referrals, distribute some flyer to the houses around them. Leverage your customer base that loves you and your work to find new clients. Do the same great work for those new clients and they’ll love you as well.
Should I Put My Business on Facebook?
Only if you want a lot of clients…
…and I mean, a LOT of clients.
Facebook is used by 67% of Americans. 2 out of every 3 potential clients are on the big blue giant.
Create a business page for your Facebook. Not a personal profile.
Ask your initial clients to write a review, get some pictures posted. Carve out a small digital presence for yourself, add posts a few times a week (add a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget to post) so that potential clients who look you up to know that you’re active.
Facebook is one of the best ways to get some word-of-mouth going for your business.
When you’re ready to start advertising for new clients, Facebook is an amazing place to get your feet wet in digital advertising. We have a guide to Facebook advertising chock full of great advice for even the most novice Facebook user.
- Jonathan has many, many resources available at LawnCareMillionaire that will be beyond helpful in your journey as a business owner.
- This blog. We have articles about hiring for your new business, how to estimate correctly (and a sweet downloadable template you can use!), and how to fight back against client poachers.
- The Profit Roadmap podcast, listen while you’re working! Our podcast is hosted by Cody Owen and Bear Duplisea, it’s fun and informative.
For a full list of great resources that will help you grow your business and expand your horizons as a business owner, read Patrick’s full list of helpful resources for new lawn care business owners.
Cody is a copywriter with Service Autopilot. He was writing before he could read, dictating stories to his mom. Of late, he distills business principles and practices learned from his ever-increasing trove of books and his year with SA Support into digestible blog posts designed to provide maximum value to service industry business owners.