Business Growth

How to Start a Lawn Care Business: A Step-by-Step Guide [2023]

Jul 27, 2023
8 min read
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Whether you want to turn your mowing gigs into a full-time job or use your landscaping experience to manage your own company, there’s no better time than now to start a lawn care business.

Industry market research experts predict an upward growth trend for landscaping services, with IBISWorld statistics showing the landscaping and lawn care industry grew 12.7% in 2022.

But before you begin, it’s important to lay the groundwork for building a successful lawn care company. Here, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide about how to start your own lawn care business.

Step 1: Planning

Business owners who take the time to plan obtain a greater chance of success. One study by Harvard Business Review showed entrepreneurs who write formal plans achieve a 16% greater chance of business survival than those who don’t. But where do you start? With a business plan.

While business plans differ depending on the company, some important elements include:

  • Executive Summary: Summarize basic business information and your mission statement.

  • Company Description: Provide detailed information about your landscaping company.

  • Organization And Management: Outline the legal business structure and internal management structure.

  • Services: State your landscaping company services.

  • Customer Base And Market: Define your target customer, your competition, and how your business will remain competitive in the market.

  • Marketing: Provide an overview of your marketing strategy. It’s a good idea to develop a separate, in-depth marketing plan.

  • Funding And Financial Projections: Specify funding requirements and projected financial information.

Most business lenders require a business plan. Also, you should revisit the plan at least once a year, updating it to keep your business on track.

Pro Tip: As you enter the planning stage, be sure to find an experienced mentor in the landscaping or service industry that you can turn to for advice and to help you avoid the common pitfalls.

Decide Which Lawn Care Services To Offer

It’s important to determine which services rake in the most green for your lawn care company. Know your local market to identify which services are in demand in your area. This will ensure your company fills a niche and isn’t offering the same services in a saturated market.

Potential landscaping services for residential or commercial properties include:

  • Spring and fall maintenance, such as mulching and leaf removal

  • Lawn mowing

  • Sod installation

  • Pesticide and herbicide application

  • Landscape design and installation

  • Seasonal color

  • Shrub and tree trimming

  • Snow removal

You may possess specialties in other related areas. For instance, specialty landscaping services could include hardscapes, lighting installation, ecological landscaping, irrigation, and drainage.

When you start a lawn care operation, it may feel tempting to offer a long list of services in an attempt to secure as many customers as possible. After all, that’s how you make money, right? But in the long run, this approach could burden your crews with unprofitable tasks, minimizing their time to complete more profitable jobs.

Be strategic in identifying the best services for your company. Evaluate job profitability, and strategically expand services as your landscaping company grows.

Price Your Lawn Care Services

Your pricing structure affects profitability, so you’ll want to determine the right one for your company.

In the landscaping and lawn mowing business, common pricing methods include:

Flat Rate Pricing

  • Pro: Customers know upfront how much a job will cost.

  • Con: This method requires spot-on job estimates.

Hourly Rate Pricing

  • Pro: Allows you to get paid more when a job takes longer than expected.

  • Con: If your crews complete a job more efficiently, you get paid less.

Unit Pricing

  • Pro: Enables you to measure square footage and charge more for a larger job site.

  • Con: This method may not adequately cover labor costs, which vary depending on the type of job.

Your pricing method needs to cover labor, material, and overhead costs. It also needs to include the right profit margin, which ranges anywhere from 15-45% in the landscaping industry. This is why it’s not a good idea to offer a fixed rate for lawn mowing, such as $75, no matter the size of the lawn.

Lawn care business owners should consider offering customers a negotiated rate if they commit to an annual contract, which helps retain current customers.

Purchase The Right Equipment

The right equipment enables your crews to deliver efficient, quality work. When it comes to starting a new business, you need reliable lawn care equipment to get the job done.

Necessary equipment includes:

  • Riding lawn mower

  • Push lawn mower

  • String trimmer

  • Edger

  • Leaf blower

  • Lawn spreader and sprayer

  • Hand tools, such as rakes and pruners

  • Vehicles

  • Equipment trailers

  • Safety equipment

The amount of equipment you need depends on the size of your business and the number of crews.

When it comes to buying new or used lawn care equipment, it really depends on you and your business. New equipment with warranties provides the most reliability but also comes with a higher price tag. If you buy used equipment, you’ll need time for maintenance and repair, and extra equipment for your crews to continue working.

Whether new or used, you’ll want to research equipment brands to determine the best quality. Evaluate equipment speed, so your crews can get more done in less time.

You should regularly inspect and maintain your equipment, not only so it lasts longer, but also to increase the potential resale value when you choose to replace or upgrade later.

Step 2: Setting Up Your Lawn Care Business

After planning, you’re ready for action. Follow these tips to legally establish your business and set up operations.

Small business owners need to legally establish their business to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws.

First, you’ll need to determine your business structure, which affects how much taxes you’ll pay and your personal liability. Types of business structures include:

  • Sole Proprietorship: One person owns an unincorporated business. Since it’s not a legal entity, business assets and liabilities are not separate from the owner’s personal assets and liabilities.

  • Limited Partnership Or Limited Liability Partnerships: In a limited partnership, two or more people own a business and one partner has unlimited liability. In limited liability partnerships, every owner has limited liability.

  • Limited Liability Company: Also referred to as an LLC, this business structure protects the personal assets of the business owners.

  • Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity and offers maximum personal liability protection. Several types of corporations exist.

Once you’ve chosen the structure for your business entity, you’ll need to follow a few more steps to legally set up your business. This includes:

  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can apply online for free. If you choose a sole proprietorship structure and do not hire any employees, you can use your social security number instead of an EIN.

  • Set up a business bank account and credit card to keep your business and personal expenses separate.

  • Comply with local business licensing requirements. Requirements vary by location, but most states require business licenses, which can cost anywhere from $15 to several hundred dollars. In addition, some states or municipalities require landscape contractors to obtain a landscape contractor license, which could include a surety bond requirement.

  • Obtain business insurance. Types of insurance to consider include general liability insurance, workers’ compensation, vehicle insurance, property insurance, and a business owner’s policy.

Consider hiring a certified public accountant or business attorney for assistance, so you don’t overlook any important steps or requirements. 

Choose Your Marketing Channels And Strategy

Effective marketing gets your business name in front of the right audience. How you choose to market your landscaping business depends on your targeted customer and message.

Marketing strategies include:

  • Online: Your website and website content helps potential customers find your company online. Search engine optimization (SEO) and Google Ads help rank your website at the top when people search for your landscaping company online. Other online marketing channels include email and social media.

  • Direct Mail: Postcards and other direct mail pieces cut through the digital clutter and deliver messages to potential customers.

  • Local Advertising: Local television, radio ads, and local events help get the word out about your company.

  • Word-Of-Mouth: Word-of-mouth referrals are one of the best ways to gain new customers. Whether homeowners share with their family and friends or leave a stellar review online, referrals go a long way in building your customer base.

Creating a marketing strategy ensures your message reaches the right customers. While many landscapers know how to expertly treat a lawn, marketing is another matter. FieldRoutes® Marketing Suite provides the support landscapers need to build a marketing plan, enhance their company’s digital presence, and measure marketing results.

Invest In The Right Technology

In the landscaping business, technology isn’t an add-on, but a necessity. Business management software like FieldRoutes lawn care software helps lawn care professionals improve operations and work more efficiently.

FieldRoutes helps landscape contractors simplify:

  • Scheduling

  • Dispatching and routing

  • Customer communication and payments

  • Marketing

  • Reporting

FieldRoutes also offers a mobile app with digital property estimation tools to help landscapers work more efficiently in the field.

Before choosing a software system, assess the needs of your company and research software options. Compare not only features and price but also what you get for the price. If a software option charges more to unlock key features or only covers a handful of users, you may end up paying a lot more as your company grows.

The right landscaping software streamlines every aspect of your business, enabling you to develop efficient processes in the office and field, create more sales opportunities, and boost revenue. Landscape software is an investment, giving you the tools to scale and grow a profitable business.

Step 3: Getting Your First Clients

Now that you’re ready to begin your business, where do you find customers? Build your customer base by following these expert tips.

Spread The Word

Some of the most successful lawn care businesses grow by word of mouth through their customers.

Strategically market your landscaping company so potential customers recognize your business name. Ways to do this include:

  • Create and enhance your company website

  • Post on social media platforms

  • Distribute business cards, postcards, or flyers

  • Turn your vehicle into a mobile advertisement with truck wraps

  • Advertise online and locally

  • Attend local community events

In your marketing efforts, highlight what makes your company unique, such as special services or professional certifications.

In order to gain referrals and good reviews, it goes without saying your landscaping company needs to deliver quality work and exceptional customer service. Not only will you draw new customers, but you’ll retain your current ones, too.

Offer Free Quotes And Discounts

Offering free estimates and strategic discounts attracts customers to your business.

Free estimates prove the credibility of your company, provide transparency, and establish trust with potential clients. You’ll want to make sure you recoup fuel costs and other expenses in the estimate.

Consider offering discounts to new customers for certain services, or offer seasonal promotions in the spring or fall. You can also offer discounts to repeat customers who sign up for another yearly contract with your company.

To encourage word-of-mouth recommendations, consider offering discounts to customers who give a referral. You could give them a percentage off their next service, a coupon for a particular service, or another incentive. It’s also a nice touch to thank your customers with a handwritten note, so they know you appreciate them referring your company.

Bonus: Hiring Your First Employees

As you grow, you’ll need to expand your company by hiring the right employees. But how do you find good employees? Follow these steps for making the best hiring decisions:

  • Create Job Descriptions For Landscaping Positions: Clearly define the roles in your company to establish clarity and accountability.

  • Strategize Recruitment: Consider trade job boards, online job boards such as ZipRecruiter, Indeed, or LinkedIn, social media, and local advertising. Consider offering referral incentives to your current employees.

  • Establish A Hiring Process: Create an interview process and thorough interview questions. Look for soft skills, like attention to detail and problem-solving, so you can build an effective team.

After hiring, implement training on processes and procedures. Using field software, like the FieldRoutes® Mobile app, keeps your crews connected and gives them the tools they need to boost performance and close more sales in the field.

FieldRoutes Can Help

Starting your own landscaping business can be a rewarding and profitable venture. Implementing technology from the start eliminates manually scheduling jobs, sending customer invoices, and collecting payments — all of which can save you time and increase revenue. It streamlines your work so you can do more in less time, and provides the visibility to improve customer follow-up and performance.

Want to get your new lawn care business noticed and attract more customers? Sign up for a free Marketing Suite demo to see marketing tools in action.

To maximize the efficiency of your landscaping business, schedule a free demo of the Operations Suite and see how FieldRoutes helps your company reach its full potential.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you’re considering starting a lawn care business, you likely have a lot of questions. Find some answers to the top questions below.

Is Lawn Care A Good Side Hustle?

It certainly can be! Lawn care offers low startup costs and high demand. You can set flexible hours, take on as many jobs as you want, and earn extra income. Whether it’s profitable depends on how you price your services and whether you work efficiently. In the end, planning and strategy determines profitability.

How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Lawn Care Business?

How much money you need to begin depends on the type of business and your services. It’s important to calculate startup costs before you begin. While it can cost less than $100 or up to $35,000 to start a landscape business, the startup cost averages about $19,000. You may want to consider business loan options to assist in starting your business.

What Profit Margins Should I Expect?

The amount of profit varies based on how you estimate your services, pricing, and other factors. Although it varies, landscaping professionals say the industry standard is 15-20% net profit. If you’re measuring gross profit, experts say landscapers could generate between 45-55%, depending on the type of work. To maintain a healthy profit, analyze your profit margins and make adjustments as necessary.

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