How Much to Pay Lawn Care Employees

Published on June 18, 2020

As a business owner, it's important to know how much to pay lawn care employees so you can hire and keep top talent.

However, determining how much to pay lawn care employees is a heavy decision with a wide variety of factors to consider.

Oftentimes, you're left wondering things like... Are you paying them too much, not enough, or better than the competition?

Use this complete guide and calculator help properly determine how much to pay lawn care employees based on things like:

  • Average lawn care employee salary in your area
  • Three main pay structures used in the lawn care industry
  • Bonuses, benefits, and perks to consider in compensation
  • Different ways aside from pay to recognize employees and ensure job satisfaction

Also, keep in mind, lawn care employee wage not only affects the bottom line, but it also determines the quality of work and attention to detail you provide customers. 

Remember, your employees are a DIRECT reflection of your lawn care business.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have everything needed to be a pro at compensation. Plus, you'll find out exactly how much to pay your lawn care employees.

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Find the Average Lawn Care Wages

In order to find the average lawn care wages in your area, a great place to start is by checking a job listing website to see what other local lawn care businesses are offering in their job listings.

For example, a quick search on Indeed for “lawn care specialist” in Richardson, Texas pays anywhere from $12 to $25 an hour.

Here’s how the US Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks it down:

Keep in mind, these are merely the average wages for each position.

Though, how much you pay depends on the benefits you're offering as the total compensation package.

For example, are you offering PTO (paid time off) time off? Is there health insurance? Are there benefits or bonuses? Please note, compensations are likely just as important to employees as the hourly rate.

In a moment, we’ll cover how to pay lawn care employees while also guaranteeing the business stays profitable. Though, first let’s take a look at lawn care wages by region.

It's important to remember that payment varies by geographic area.

Here are the landscaper wages from a few major regions across the US:

  • California
    • $16.59 per hour
    • $34,510 per year
  • Florida
    • $13.28 per hour
    • $27,610 per year
  • Hawaii
    • $17.75 per hour
    • $36,910 per year
  • Texas
    • $13.55 per hour
    • $28,170 per year
  • Washington
    • $17.75 per hour
    • $36,910 per year

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The Top 4 Ways to Pay Lawn Care Employees 

There are four main ways lawn care owners pay employees, and there are numerous combinations of them.

Let's briefly discuss each of the top 4 ways to pay lawn care employees:

1. Hourly

Hourly pay is the old school, “normal” way that lawn care professionals have been paid for years.

Plus, this applies to almost any industry.

Using this method, employees are paid a certain dollar amount per hour as well as time and a half for anything over 40 hours for the week. 

2. Salary

Sometimes, it makes sense to offer a flat yearly salary.

Though, most of the time, this method is used for spray techs or anyone higher level than an introductory position (e.g. anyone in leadership or management).

3. Pay by Day

The pay by day structure pays an employee for each day.

For example, you may pay an employee $130 per day.

A quick word of caution: If the employee ends up logging more than eight hours this doesn’t get you out of overtime laws.

An employee still must be paid at least minimum wage for 40 hours.

For this reason, it's important to be cautious if using this pay structure in case you get audited.

4. Pay for Performance

The performance-based compensation model pays an employee a certain amount of money for each specific job.

Though, it is legal, you still need to track the employees’ hours to ensure you’re not running into overtime problems.

There are pros and cons to the pay for performance model...

Advantages:

  • Improves callbacks
  • Allows employees to work harder to make more money
  • Helps employees to think and work like owners and entrepreneurs
  • Employees take better care of equipment (breakdowns mean lost money)

Disadvantages:

  • Overtime law concerns
  • Can lead to poor quality work if employees hurry and get sloppy

Much like the pay for performance model, both hourly and salary payment models have a few drawbacks. For example, there's a possible lack of ownership and lack of incentive.

Similar to the pay by day model, it's also important to be cautious with the pay for performance model in case you get audited.

Though, regardless of which pay structure you choose, there are ways to keep morale high while also making employees feel like a valued part of the business.

The #1 Step to Setting Lawn Employee Wages

Whether you choose to pay an hourly wage, pay by day, or pay based on performance, there are a wide variety of factors to consider when determining pay structure.

Performance pay is becoming more and more popular in the industry and gives the employee more “ownership” over a job.

In this case, pay is based on each job instead of an hourly rate. A little skin in the game. Though, we’ll cover more on this later.

Now, let’s look at a few of the factors that determine how much to pay lawn care employees:

  • Location
    • Different areas of the country pay more or less as a result of factors like cost of living, taxes, etc.
  • Market
    • When unemployment is low it's tougher to find great employees, and you'll likely need to pay more.
  • Competition
    • It's important to maintain a competitive salary, or you'll likely end up with the competition's left over candidates.

Also, here are a few factors to consider that relate to employees:

  • Experience
  • Performance and amount of callbacks
  • Attitude, work ethic, morals, and loyalty
  • The employee's ability to work well as a part of the team

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Does Higher Pay Equal Less Turnover?

In a nutshell, higher pay can help equal less turnover, but it’s not guaranteed.

Here's the thing, you don’t want to be the low payer among competitors.

If you become known as the low paying employer (or cheapskate), you’ll likely get poor employee candidates, decreased employee retention, less work completed, and lower quality work.

However, remember that paying employees is so much more than their take-home pay. While money in their pockets is important, it's not the end-all be-all.

It's important to pay what's within the budget while still maintaining profit goals.

Also, incentives go a long way. For example, bonuses, benefits, and lunches all factor in when trying to attract the best employees.

Always remember, people want to feel appreciated. If you treat your employees like family, then chances are they'll work hard for you and put their best foot forward. 

If they get nickel-and-dimed and micromanaged, then they'll likely look elsewhere (e.g. the competition).

Now, that’s not to say employees don’t have to be held accountable. We’ve all seen people that take advantage.

For example, a half hour lunch turns into 45 minutes, or a job is finished and the crew drags their feet starting the next job. It happens. As the lawn care business owner, you just want to minimize it.

It’s Not Always About the Money

Senior Landscape Designer Karl Naegler from Rochester, NY has seen it all in his 20+ years of experience.

"If you take care of your employees, listen to them, treat them fair and as equals to one another, give them at least two reviews, have a clear set of goals you would like them to perform, and have an open-door policy on any topic, then you will retain them. Higher pay is just one item."

- KARL NAEGLER, CNLPVP NEW YORK STATE NURSERY AND LANDSCAPE ASSOCIATE BOARD

The Best Incentives to Keeping Local Top Talent

So far, we've discussed about the various ways to properly pay lawn care employees as well as various payment models.

Now, let's talk about the best incentives for keeping local top talent.

Take a look at a few different types of perks lawn care businesses can offer to remain competitive:

  • Flexibility
  • Gift cards
  • Comp time
  • PTO (paid time off)
  • Company events (e.g. cookouts, parties, etc.)
  • incentive program (make it simple and public)

"I have done all sorts of things [for incentives]. My favorite was handing out scratch-off tickets if the crews hit their quota for the week. If all met it by noon on Friday, then a lunch party was provided at 1:00 PM, and they got paid for it. It helped keep overtime down, yet they were being rewarded. They also got the big scratch-off $10 ticket, and we had fun hanging out, talking shop at the end of the week. I had a ton of respect for my employees, and I tried to keep it on a professional level."

- Karl Naegler CNLPVP New York State Nursery and Landscape Association Board

For more ideas on rewarding employees, check out Chad Reinholz's incentive ideas for the green industry.

Remember, salary and pay are still very important to employees but many consider benefits to also be in the conversation.

As you determine how much to pay lawn care employees, keep these numbers in mind:

  • 80% of employees prefer new or additional benefits over a pay increase
  • 90% of millennials prefer benefits over a pay raise

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Keep Top Talent by Knowing How Much to Pay Lawn Care Employees

Since great employees are the lifeblood of any successful business, it's important to pay lawn care employees a competitive wage.

However, before finalizing any wages, don't forget to ensure you're still meeting profit goals.

Also, keep in mind, it's absolutely essential to meet with a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) before finalizing any new changes. After all, they'll help walk you through the process to ensure you're making the right decisions for the business.

Now, you know everything use act you know about properly paying lawn care employees to hire and keep the top talent in the area.


Related: What to Do During Lawn Care Rain Delays


Originally published June 18, 2020 7:00 AM, updated Sept 21, 2021 9:59 AM

Alyssa Sanders

Alyssa is a Content Marketing Specialist II at Service Autopilot. Her bookworming began after she discovered the Harry Potter series. Her love of books evolved into writing and creating content. When she's not writing, you can find her watching a new sci-fi series or shoving her nose into a book.
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