“How do I start lawn care business when I don’t have any money?”
A lot of people ask this question, and then they wait for a big bundle of cash to fall into their lap.
Or even worse, they hound relatives for loans, max out credit cards, and find out no bank will loan them money.
Here’s the deal… Even though money can help you to grow faster, it’s not the only way to start a lawn care business. In fact, money can actually kill your lawn care business.
You shouldn’t buy a 16-year-old kid an expensive car because they’re an inexperienced driver. Likewise, you shouldn’t blindly pour loads of cash into your new lawn care business without some experience.
Think of a brand new business owner is like an acne-faced teenager, angling for his dad’s keys. That new influx of cash into your business is a big responsibility.
You’re a new business owner with a lot to learn, and that’s fine. That’s where everybody starts.
Don’t give yourself too much to handle at once. Start out small and gradual, so you can take baby steps as you grow into a more experienced lawn care business owner.
Set aside a little money from your paycheck, buy an affordable lawn mower, and get started. You don’t need big money and fancy equipment to get started. Start out solo with a few 2-3 services you can get really great at, and then work 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:
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 upfront.
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.
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.
Protect yourself and the longevity of your new business with liability insurance.
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:
If you’re interested in buy the best truck for your business, check out this guide for buying lawn care trucks.
… And if you’re not interested in buying a truck for your lawn care business, then maybe you don’t need one 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.
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.
The second you hire an employee, you’re not making money anymore.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 a while, 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.
Only if you want a lot of clients…
… and I mean, a LOT of clients.
Just to give you an idea, Facebook is used by 69% of Americans.
Start by creating 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.
You DESERVE a lawn care software that’s going to work as hard as you do for your business.
You need software that’s going to do things like:
AND so much MORE!
With Service Autopilot, you can automate your everyday tasks with this all-in-one software solution, so you can simultaneously save time and money.
No more sticky notes. No more spreadsheets. No more forgotten estimate followups. No more late payments. No more wasted time. Now, THAT’S the power of Service Autopilot.
It doesn’t matter what kind of truck (or car!) you drive. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter where you are in life.
You can STILL grow a successful lawn care business for you and your family.
If you follow the tips in this article, I promise you can start growing your own successful lawn care business today!
Originally published Feb 15, 2018 7:00 AM, updated June 30, 2020 1:55 PM
Tags: Business Operation