If you’re among the many people who have dreamed of starting a lawn care or landscaping business, having a green thumb isn’t the only thing you’ll need. Just as with any new venture, you’ll need to ask yourself: Do I understand the industry? Do I have the proper equipment? Do I have enough money?
While it may be tempting to jump in with both feet, your success will depend on making the right business and financial decisions and then learning how to attract and retain clients so you can secure a steady stream of revenue.
Here are five steps to help you start a landscaping, lawn care, or irrigation operation in your area.
Step 1: Understand the landscaping and lawn care industry
Before launching your career as a landscaping professional, it’s essential to understand how to start a lawn care business in the market and city where you live. Starting a landscaping business from scratch is nearly impossible without this knowledge. Take some time to research the following:
- Demand for lawn care services where you live. Lawn mowing and related industries are in high demand, in part thanks to Baby Boomers. This group, which is some 74 million strong, tends to have the disposable income to pay for lawn care, but may not have the time or inclination to perform the work themselves. In addition, anyone buying or selling a home, developing a new property, or working too many hours may need landscaping services.
- Services you’ll be expected to provide. Once you know who’s paying for lawn care where you live, it’s smart to find out what kind of services are in demand. Lawn mowing, fertilizing, edging, and spring and fall cleanups tend to be the most popular, but you may also find clients who want pruning or gardening services. Informally surveying your expected client base may be a good place to start.
If you’re not immediately ready to start your own landscaping business, a great way to conduct this research is to work for a similar business for a while. This is especially helpful if you are learning how to start a landscaping business with no experience. You’ll gain valuable market knowledge without all the capital risk required to start your own business.
Step 2: Crunching the numbers
Once you’ve figured out who you’ll serve and what work you’ll be doing, it’s time to get serious about the finance and business aspects of your venture. You’ll need to consider a number of factors for your landscaping business plan, including:
- Startup costs: To determine how much it costs to start a landscaping business you’ll need to estimate expenses for purchasing equipment, advertising your services, hiring employees, and registering your business.
- Pricing: What will you charge for your services? Many landscapers set prices by the square foot of land they service or by the hour. To get an idea of the going rate where you live, call a few services and ask for an estimate for your property.
- Maintenance costs: You’ll need to keep your equipment in top shape to keep working, so be sure to factor repair and maintenance costs into your calculation of expenses.
- Budgeting for the offseason: In most parts of the country, landscaping and lawn care are not year-round industries. Landscapers typically handle the offseason either by offering a secondary service (such as snow plowing) or by taking time off – with careful budgetary preparations.
- Taxes, insurance, and other expenses: Long-term planning is key to setting your business up for success. Taking time to consider the once-a-year expenses (such as taxes, insurance premiums, and so on) will give you a more realistic view of your financial situation.
Step 3: Attracting new clients
Once you’ve done your research on the industry and the costs, the real fun (and work) can begin. You’ll need to focus on getting your landscaping or lawn care business off the ground with advertising, marketing, and more. You’ll also need to keep it strong for the long haul by finding the right insurance and hiring the right employees.
While lawn care flyers hung around the neighborhood used to be the gold standard for advertising, today’s lawn care business owners must consider more than one way to promote themselves, including:
- Online marketing: Creating a website or a company page on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media channels is a great way to connect with potential customers, demonstrate your legitimacy, and make it easy for people to contact you. If you’re interested in a more robust online presence, you could maintain a blog or purchase online ads targeted to your ideal customers.
- Physical advertising: If your audience is local or older, flyers and brochures may still prove effective ways to connect with them and spread awareness about your business. Both are often relatively inexpensive and can help you establish yourself in the early months.
- Word of mouth and referrals: For any business, one of the best sources of new customers is referrals from happy existing clients. Make it part of your standard policy to ask your clients whether they know of anyone else who could use your services. You can sweeten the offer by providing a special deal if and when a referral becomes a client.
- Special offers: Offering special pricing for new customers can help introduce your services to people. During slow seasons, try creating promotions (e.g., spring garden preparation in the fall) that attract customers who might otherwise not think to hire a lawn care or landscaping business.
Step 4: Hiring employees
If you find you require someone besides yourself to serve your clients, you’ll need to have a strategy for finding the right employees for your business. While your individual needs will dictate some of your hiring decisions, a few basic principles can help all landscaping businesses:
- Offer a competitive wage. One of the best ways to attract and retain high-quality employees is to offer a decent salary.
- Incentivize long-term employment. The longer you can hold on to good employees, the less time, energy, and money you’ll have to spend looking for and interviewing new ones.
- Consider the hidden costs. Turnover is expensive for a lawn care business; every time you need a new employee, you have to devote valuable time to finding, screening, and training someone.
- Workers’ compensation. Most states require workers’ compensation insurance after you hire your first employee. Make sure your business is in compliance to avoid fines and penalties.
Step 5: Protecting your business and clients
While running a landscaping or lawn care business means you’ll get to spend your days outside in the sunshine, it also means you’ll face a number of risks. You could break your expensive equipment, damage a client’s property, or even cause injuries to one of your customers or employees.
Lawn care and landscaping business insurance can protect you against all these risks. With adequate insurance policies in place, you can avoid spending your hard-earned profits on expenses related to accidents, property damage, and personal injuries that happen on the job.
This post was updated in October 2018