How To Start A Lawn Care Business In 2020

We know what it’s like to start a local service business or a lawn care business. It can be thrilling and exciting but also daunting. There are a lot of moving parts – obtaining the lawn care business license, registering your business, managing your money, getting your first few customers, and whatnot.

In the early days, more often than not, you will find yourself in some unexpected situations, and you’ll need to be able to deal with those properly.

Why we wrote this post

Short posts (without much value), videos, case studies, you name it—there is so much content out there about starting a lawn care business that you can go on forever. 

We thought it would be useful to have one in-depth, step-by-step resource to guide new lawn care companies, helping them focus on the fundamentals and in laying down a solid foundation. 

We couldn’t find one, so we wrote it ourselves. 

How you can use it

The step-by-step plan we share in this post focuses on the fundamentals to help you get all your bases covered for your lawn care business. Think of it as a launchpad for a  zero to six figures lawn care company.

If you’re hungry for more, we added links to different resources throughout the post to satisfy your learning appetite. Each section can be read independently, so you can jump to any topic that is relevant to you. However, we recommend you to go section-by-section to get the most out of it.

So if you’re ready to turn your dream of owning a lawn care business into a reality, read on… In this post, we are going to lay the foundation to make it super easy for you (it’s as simple as flipping switches).

Chapter 1

The Basics…

These first few steps are essential for your lawn care business to have a rock-solid foundation.

1)  Starting a lawn care business: Pros and Cons

Starting a lawn care business is not as easy as A-B-C. 

Thus, the first question you should be asking yourself is, “Is it worth starting a lawn care business?”

To find an answer to whether or not it is worth starting a lawn care business, you need to analyze the following two factors for your service area:

  • Competition
  • The demand for lawn care services

Once you are confident about the competition and the demand for lawn care services in your area, the next thing you should consider looking at is the pros and cons of starting a lawn care business.

Pros of a lawn care business:

  • Stable and consistent work: Lawn care customers are usually ongoing and consistent, provided you offer a good experience and the customer service. Your customer base will need their lawns mowed 2-4 times a month, depending on the size and type of the yard, making for a stable business.
  • Up-sell opportunities: You can start with one service like gardening or mowing and then up-sell other relevant services like weeding and tree trims. In this case, the other services you pitch are very related to the primary service.
  • Cross-sell Opportunities: You can start by offering one service (mowing lawns) and build out to other service offerings like bug and weed treatments to increase income. In this case, usually, the other services you pitch are not related to your primary service most of the time.
  • Freedom and accountability: Nothing compares to the pride and excitement of calling the shots and being in charge of your own financial destiny. 
  • High-income potential:  If you call your shots right, you can grow your lawn care company as big as you want. 

Many lawn care business owners have built up their companies into million-dollar businesses. Six figures is doable even as a small operation.

Cons of a lawn care business:

  • Seasonal business: The demand for lawn care services sees a dip during the winter season. So, you may see a small to a massive drop in new business inquiries, depending on your service area.

Here is a quick reference to how the demand for lawn care services goes down between October and January.

  • Business set up cost: Unlike other local service businesses, starting a lawn care company requires upfront cash and, in some cases, a sizable amount. Depending on the type of services your business offers, the start-up cost can be between 15-30K.
  • Low barrier to entry: Except for the equipment cost, there is no significant barrier that stops new lawn care companies to start up. It leads to increased competition. 
  • Competition landscape: If your area already has a lot of lawn care companies, plus, new companies starting up almost weekly because of low entry barriers, you may find it hard to stand out and have healthy margins.

2) Your lawn care business essentials

There are some things that you need to get out of the way when you go to start your lawn care business. These things are not exciting, they don’t make money, they actually cost you money most of the time, yet are the most important ones for your lawn care company’s success in the long run. 

So much so that you need them in place to have a legit business.

A) Choosing a name for your lawn care business 

A good business name is short, distinct, and memorable. It should: 

  • Give an idea about the services you provide. 
  • Create a good impression on potential customers. 
  • Help you stand out in the competition.

Along with all these, you should also consider adding SEO signals to your business name to get a push in organic rankings.

Here are the things you should consider while choosing a name for your lawn care business:

  • Include the ‘lawn care’ term in your business name.
  • Your business name should be between 12-25 characters in length. 
  • If possible, your business name and website URL should be the same.
    • It’s not a MUST, but we recommend you to pick a business name that has .com domain available. You can use Name.com for this.
  • Availability of social media handles for your lawn care business.
  • It should be easy to spell, remember, and pronounce.

An example of a good name for a lawn care company is – Custom Lawn Care. Here’s what we like about this name:

  • It has the term ‘lawn care’ in the business name.
  • The business name is 14-characters in length.
  • It is super easy to spell, remember, and pronounce.
  • The business name and the website URL are the same. 

B) Registration 

If you are starting as a solopreneur, we advise keeping setup and compliance simple. 

So, you should choose to establish a limited liability company (LLC). The main advantages of the LLC business structure are:

  • Tax filing is about as simple as for sole proprietorships and partnerships.
  • An LLC is its own legal entity, and the liability of the owner is very limited. That means if someone sues the business or the company, the owners’ personal assets are protected.
  • Most states view the LLC as a disregarded entity for tax purposes – meaning that an LLC’s profits and losses flow through to the owners’ personal tax returns. 

The process of registering an LLC company varies from state to state. You can find more information about the detailed procedure on each state’s official website. To do so:

  • Go to www.google.com 
  • Search ‘how to register an LLC in [enter your state].
  • Look for the state’s official website.

Here are the results I got when I followed the above 3-steps to search for Florida state’s official website.

C) Licensing and certification

Lawn care licensing requirements vary from state-to-state and depend on the type of lawn care services you offer and the scope of work that you do.

The department responsible for issuing the license also varies from state to state. 

  • In a few states, the Department of Consumer Affair, Contractors State License Board grants the lawn care license, and 
  • In a few others, it comes under the state’s Department of Agriculture (DOA).  

We recommend you check out your state’s Department of Agriculture (DOA) or Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board website to learn more about the state laws and requirements for obtaining a Lawn care license. 

For example, if you are in Florida, you don’t need a license to work as a lawn care professional. All you will need is – pass a core exam, as well as the Ornamental and Turf category exam.

To learn more about the lawn care licensing required by each state, please visit this link.

3) Decide your service areas and services

When it comes to services, there are many lawn care services you can offer in your business. 

Some of the different lawn care services you can think of providing are: 

  • Mowing 
  • Edging
  • Fertilizing
  • Irrigation
  • Trimming
  • Disease treatment
  • Planting
  • Landscaping, and
  • Cleanup

You may want to provide many of the above-listed services while leaving a few behinds. While deciding on which service to offer, a few things you should consider are:

  • Your experience with a service. If you’re an expert in mowing and trimming, but do not have experience with other specialized services like fertilizing and irrigation, it is better not to include them in your offerings as it may affect the outcome of your service and lead to unhappy customers. A dissatisfied customer is the last thing you want when you are just starting your lawn care business.
  • # of services. When you are starting, most of the time, you are a one-person show. It is better to offer a limited number of services and not stretch yourself too thin, so you don’t compromise on the quality of your services.
  • Your area or location.  The services you offer should account for the area you serve. If you’re in Florida, for example, you’ll be cutting lawns 12 months out of the year. On the other hand, there are regions, wherein you may not touch a blade of grass for months.

If you happen to be in areas wherein you expect winters to affect your lawn care business, you need to winter-proof your business. Here is a list of other services you can offer during winters.

4) Be different: Find your USP

Unless you’re fortunate enough to be the only player in your area (say the only lawn care company in Miami, Florida), you’ll have to differentiate your business from your competition.

A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is what separates your lawn care business from the competition and highlights the reason why potential customers should choose you. Your USP is the promise/value you deliver to your customers with every service. 

Here is a bad and a good example of USP: 

  • Bad/Me-too example: “The best lawn care company in Miami, FL.”
  • Good example: “Beautifying your lawn with every mow.”

Here the brand promise is – beautifying (a notch higher) your lawn with every mow.

You can determine your USP and make it unique by answering the following questions: 

  • What do you do differently from your competitors?
    • Example: You offer free inspection while no other company is doing this. The customer is free to decide to opt for the service depending on the audit report.
  • Do you offer a unique service that your competition doesn’t?
    • Example: You offer organic/natural lawn care service, and no other company is offering it. 
  • How do you solve your clients’ lawn care problems better than your competition? 
    • Example: A 30-day free, no-question asked visit in case a customer is not happy with your service.

Note: To determine or make your USP unique, you don’t need to have answers to all of the above questions.

Chapter 2

Getting your lawn care business off the ground…

Okay, once you’ve nailed the basics of starting a lawn care company, it’s time to get it off the ground.

1) Building your lawn care business website

Once you have got your business name, business license, zeroed down on the services, and found your USP, it’s time to start building an online presence for your lawn care business.

A professional looking website is a must for you to start booking new services and generating revenue – but you don’t need to spend too much at the beginning. Otherwise, it can suck up a good part of your budget.

When you’re starting out, your primary focus should be on getting the essentials locked down:

  • Website domain for your lawn care company.
  • Hosting and SSL certificate
  • Basic branding assets.
    • Your company logo.
      • If you don’t know how and where to get a logo for your lawn care business, check out 99 Designs.
    • Media assets – pictures of team members, customers, and services to showcase on your website.
  • A legit business email address.
    • Having a professional email id as [email protected]  adds a lot of trust and credibility over a general Gmail or Yahoo email.
  • A business phone number.
    • You can use your personal phone number for your business. However, if you decide to get a dedicated phone, here is a detailed article on how to get a business phone number.
  • A business address.
    • If you don’t have a place to start your lawn care business, it’s ok to start at home and use your home address as your business address. However, if you decide to get an address, we recommend you get it in the 5-8 miles radius from the city center in your main service area.

It helps rank your business faster in Google My Business. (More on this later in the post).

Once you have decent cash flow in your lawn care business, you can then invest in having a professionally designed lawn care website.

2) Set SMART goals

Do you ever feel like you’re working hard but not getting anywhere? 

This is what happens when you don’t have SMART goals. Not having a goal is like hiking without a map or building a boat without a plan. 

SMART goal setting brings structure and trackability into your goals and objectives. It ensures that you not only know what you want to achieve, but you have a road map to get there as well as a way to measure your progress along the way. SMART stands for:

S: Specific

M: measurable

A: Achievable

R: Relevant

T: Time-bound

Here is what a SMART Goal looks like for your lawn care company:

Generate $50,000 in revenue by selling lawn care services in the first 12 months.

A) Specific: Generate $50,000/- in revenue.

B) Measurable: With an average price point of $125/service, you need to sell 400 services in the next 12 months. That’s around 34 services per month.

C) Achievable: Historical industry data say the lawn care business owners earn anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 in their first year.

D) Relevant: The # of new service inquiries and the customers you win every month directly contributes to the goal of $50,000/- revenue.

A better way to handle this is by breaking down your yearly customer goal to monthly. For example, if you need 400 customers in 12 months to hit the $50000 revenue goal, you will need to have 34 new customers/service requests every month.

If you are hitting this monthly goal, you are on track. If not, you know you need to change your strategy; otherwise, you will fail to hit the mark.

E) Time-bound: 12 months time to generate $50,000/- in revenue.

3) Pricing your lawn care services

Like any other local service business, pricing is one of the biggest challenges for most of the lawn care businesses. 

That’s pretty understandable.

A lot of different factors determine the pricing of lawn care services. So, until you account for all or most of those factors, it’s tough for you to arrive at the right pricing point.

So, how do you decide the pricing for your lawn care services?

When you are starting off, cost-plus pricing is a good starting point for you.

Cost-plus pricing – also known as markup pricing – strategy is a simple pricing method where a fixed percentage is added on top of the total cost incurred to provide a service or manufacture a product.

The first step for you is to calculate the cost you are going to incur to provide a service. This includes:

  1. Material/Chemical Cost
  2. # of technician hours to finish the job
  3. Operational costs:
    • Average fuel cost
    • Drive time
    • Equipment maintenance
    • Vehicle maintenance
  4. Salary/wages for you and your staff

Once you have numbers for all these above points, you will have your baseline. In simple terms, 

Baseline = Salaries + Material Cost + Operational Costs

Once you have the baseline, you are one step closer to deciding your final pricing. It is the sum of your baseline, marketing/sales spend, and the profit or markup you would want to make on each service.

Final Pricing = Baseline + Marketing/Sales Spend + Profit or Markup

Note: Even though the cost-plus pricing strategy doesn’t account for competition pricing, it is good to know how much your competition charges. You can use this information while deciding your profit or markup. 

4) Marketing your lawn care business

When it comes to marketing the lawn care business and acquiring the first few customers, most of the business owners underplay themselves.

Yes, when you are just starting, it’s ok to start small. But this, by no way, means you should overlook the following low-hanging opportunities:

A) Your network – family, friends, and beyond!

A quick and easy way to find your first few customers is by putting yourself out there and letting people in and around your network know what you are doing.

B) Google Local Service Ads

Google Local Service Ads are a dream come true for small lawn care and local service businesses.

Google’s Local Service Ads helps you connect with the people looking for your services in your service area. It prevents the searcher and the service mismatch that often happens when a user searches:

  • For broad terms like lawn care tools, or
  • From outside your service area.

The good part about these ads is that you pay only for the legit leads, and it costs you between $6-30 per lead depending on your service and location. Use this lead cost calculator to get a more precise idea about how much you will have to pay for each new lead in your area.

To be eligible for Google’s Local Service Ads, you first need to confirm your eligibility by providing your business license and insurance documents. Once you’re eligible, you can get started with Google Local Service Ads in three simple steps:

  • Sign up as  a service provider
  • Set your budget
  • Set your ads on Google

To learn more about Google Local Service Ads, check out this resource.

C) Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for your lawn care business to manage your online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.

A Google My Business listing allows you to:

  • Manage your information, such as:
    • Business name
    • Business hours
    • Contact information
    • Business phone number
    • Business address
  • Interact with customers: You can collect, read, and respond to reviews from your customers using your Google My Business listing. You can also add business-related photos, Google My Business posts, and use direct messaging features to stand out from your competition.

One thing to keep in mind is, Google My Business is not going to give you overnight results. It’s an asset you are building for your business. It takes a few months before you start seeing; however, once it starts rolling new calls in, there is no looking back.

To learn more about Google My Business, and boost ranking & leads for your lawn care business, check out this free local SEO course.

Chapter 3

The back-of-house essentials

1) Lawn care service equipment

When you are just starting with your lawn care company, don’t go crazy on equipment. Start small and reasonable. 

However, you should never compromise on the equipment quality as your productivity is the outcome of the type of tools you use in your lawn care business.

Here is a list of equipment you’ll need to start a lawn care business.

  1. A service truck
  2. Commercial lawn mower
  3. Trimmers, edgers, blowers
  4. Spreaders and sprayers
  5. Safety Equipment such as eye goggles, face masks, earmuff-style hearing protectors, and gloves.
  6. Landscaping tools (for digging, cutting, grading, measuring, and marking) only if you offer landscaping service.
  7. Computer or a laptop
  8. Printer
  9. Business Cards
  10. Accounting software like QuickBooks
  11. Lawn control software like GorillaDesk

If you are wondering why you need accounting and lawn care software so early. The answer is simple. You need a lawn care software if you:

  • Are a smart business owner and don’t want to spend hours manually entering data in spreadsheets after your work hours.
  • Want to work on your lawn care business and not in the business. 
  • Don’t want to miss appointments.
  • Want to be on top of daily operations and respond to unexpected job changes.
  • Want to adjust to your customer’s expectations around convenience and expediency.
  • Want to keep your customers in the know.

Fortunately, GorillaDesk’s lawn care software handles all these for you, from one single interface.

You can learn about all the different features available in GorillaDesk here.

2) Manage your finances

Managing finances for your lawn care business can be a sleep-depriving and nail-biting experience if you are new to it.

One of the most common challenges with lawn care companies is that money always seems to be going out faster than it’s coming in. 

You can avoid this by understanding your expenses early and planning for them in advance. Do this smartly, and you can start your lawn care business for an upfront cost of $15000-18000.

You don’t need to buy all the pieces of equipment at the start. Just focus on getting the essential ones such as a commercial-grade lawn mower (approximately $8,000), a truck ($5,000 or more), a trailer ($1,000), and a few other, smaller costs for additional equipment ($1,000).

In addition to the tools and equipment, you will need a business registration, lawn care license, and a website to start your lawn company. Keep aside $1-2 grand for all these things.

Then, to streamline your daily operations, you will need software. The mistake most of the lawn care owners make here is  – opting for different tools to handle different functions like routing, scheduling, invoicing, email & SMS, customer management, and more. 

Don’t repeat this mistake. You could end up spending $300 – $500 a month in recurring costs just from these tools. 

Instead, you can save on tools/software by choosing one or two that do everything you need (or you can use GorillaDesk Lawn Care Software that handles everything for your lawn care business).

That’s All, Folks…

If you don’t have a solid foundation and basics covered for your lawn care business, it is going to be very hard for you to grow it into a six-figures company or beyond. 

Thankfully, you have this complete step-by-step plan to start your lawn care business and go from zero to six-figure revenue.

While it can be a lot of work, if you stick to the plan, you’ll be setting your lawn care business up for long term success.

Good luck!

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