How to Start a Lawn Care Business in 2023
There are several reasons to start a lawn care business in 2023. Learn how to set one up in six steps.
Thinking of starting your own lawn care business? Circuit for Teams can help your lawn care teams get to clients faster.
The first lawn mower was invented in 1830.
But the machine was so heavy that it needed two people to use — one to push and another to pull!
Back then, people in towns and cities didn’t have access to houses set on huge estates.
For them, the idea of having their own small patch of green was important.
Cut to the present: Lawns and backyards are integral parts of American life.
It’s where we play catch with our kids, host barbecues, throw outdoor parties, and occasionally sleep off hangovers in hammocks.
And while we love our yards dearly, many people are too short on time to tend to their lawns — preferring to outsource the work to lawn care companies.
No surprise, then, that lawn care is nearly a $129 billion industry.
And it’s still growing.
It’s the perfect time for you to enter the field.
I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to start your own lawn care business.
How profitable are lawn care businesses?
As a business, lawn care doesn’t have many entry barriers (like huge upfront costs) and is relatively easy to set up.
Basic equipment, a few hundred bucks, and a truck can get you to your first job.
A successful lawn care company can have profit margins between 15 percent and 45 percent.
But making that much money depends on a few things, like:
- Your target market: A lot depends on whether your goal is to service commercial or residential areas because both have different dynamics. Commercial properties are larger, so there’s more lawn care. This means fatter paychecks. At the same time, working on commercial properties may mean you need to hire employees and purchase more equipment because the scale of work is likely larger than the average residential job.
- The services you offer: A lot depends on the services you offer to customers. A business that covers all lawn needs (and packages and prices them correctly) will stay relevant. From lawn mowing and maintenance to fertilization, you need to cover the basics. Focusing on a niche like golf courses or educational institutions is one way to set yourself apart from the competition.
- Your operating costs: The amount you spend on transportation, equipment, materials, marketing, maintenance, and so on will make up your operating costs. For lawn care professionals, it’s important to keep this at a minimum. If your operating costs are higher than your income, you’ll lose money. That defeats the purpose of starting a business!
- How you price your services: How you price your services compared to the competition will impact your profitability. Check your competitor’s prices. Figure out your overhead and labor costs. Set goals. Decide on prices that make sure you turn a profit while offering competitive prices and hourly rates.
- How you plan to keep customers: The cost of getting new customers through social media or traditional advertising is more expensive than keeping existing customers. So, it’s important to focus on existing clients while trying to increase your customer base. Loyal customers can also lead to more referrals, as they’re likely to spread the word about your services to family and friends. Make sure customers are satisfied with your service, and always try to exceed their expectations. If a customer is unhappy with your work, offer to fix the problem or give a refund.
How to start a lawn care business in 6 steps
Now that you know what makes a lawn care business successful, let’s get down to actually setting it up.
Like any other business, you have to go about this in a systematic way.
You can’t start picking up lawn care work and worry about the logistics later.
This is what separates a successful long-term business from a short-lived, amateurish side hustle.
Here’s how to set up a legal lawn care business.
Step 1: Determine your lawn care services and target market
First, decide what kind of services you want your company to offer.
It’s important to start small and set realistic goals.
For example, you might start by offering small services like lawn mowing, trimming, and watering plants.
Once you have some savings, you can invest in better equipment so you can offer services like lawn returfing, pest control, fertilization, lawn aeration, and garden work.
You can even offer seasonal services like leaf blowing, snow removal, and winter landscaping.
You also need to define your target market.
Use market research to zero in on gaps in the marketplace and find a category that’s under-serviced, like lawn care for ornamental plants and shrubs.
Here’s how the process might look.
Start by doing competitive research. Jot down the following information about competing local businesses:
- What kind of services do they offer?
- How much do they usually charge for their services?
- What is their unique selling proposition (USP)?
You can also hold interviews with people in your neighborhood about the kind of lawn care services they’d like and how much they’re willing to pay for them.
This information can help you figure out what consumers truly want and how much they’re willing to pay for it.
Based on this, you can set up your own services and pricing strategies.
You can find out more about how to do market research through the US Small Business Administration (SBA).
Step 2: Legally form your business
You must follow several steps before becoming a successful lawn care business owner.
First on the list is legally forming your business. Focus on the following eight steps:
- Write a business plan. A business plan is a detailed document that explains your business’s vision and objectives. Most banks and private investors need a business plan to decide whether they want to invest in you. It’s a road map for your business, detailing things like management structure, business goals, and financial projections (including cash-flow statements and expected profits over three to five years). Use quarterly or monthly projections for the first year.
- Choose a business structure. There are several types of business structures. As a startup business, you may want to go with a sole proprietorship or limited liability company (LLC). Being a sole proprietor gives you full control over your business and is the easiest to set up. An LLC divides the ownership a bit but gives you legal protection against any company-related financial problems (like bankruptcy).
- Decide on a business name. Choose a business name that clearly communicates your company’s offerings and values. Most importantly, make sure a competitor isn’t already using your name. You can get into legal trouble (and be fined) for using a competitor’s trademarked name. There are also several state-based naming conventions and trademark laws that all US-based businesses must follow. Here’s a legal guide to help you with them.
- Register your business. This process depends on your location and business structure. In most US states, it involves little more than registering your business name with local and state governments. Refer to the SBA website for more details.
- Apply for federal and state tax IDs. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a Social Security number for businesses. The EIN tracks your company’s earnings and tax payments. You’ll also need state tax IDs if you plan to pay state taxes. Learn more.
- Apply for licenses and permits. Several US states need lawn care businesses to have a fertilizer and pesticide application certification. Check out the SBA website for a full list of federal licenses and permits. Check with your secretary of state for state-specific must-haves.
- Open a business bank account. You’ll need a business bank account to receive and make payments and file applicable taxes. This account is central to all business transactions.
- Get business insurance. As a small-business owner, consider buying general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, and a few other policies to protect your company. Here’s a comprehensive list of business insurance policies.
Step 3: Get the necessary lawn care supplies
Most of your initial investment will go toward buying lawn care equipment. Here’s what you may need to start:
- Lawn mower
- Truck or trailer for transportation
- String trimmer
- Leaf blower
- Lawn spreader
- Gardening gloves
- Lawn aerator
- Lawn bags
Some of this equipment can be expensive, so shop around for the best deals.
For example, a basic gas-powered push mower can cost up to $250 on average.
A helpful tip is to shop during the fall. This is when most dealers are eager to sell before winter storms.
Step 4: Market your business and find clients
Few people like to spend their weekends mowing lawns or pulling weeds in the garden.
That’s where you and your new business come into play.
You’ll need a creative marketing campaign to get your first clients.
A clever idea can make a simple service seem like an absolute must-have.
This is where you need to research, test, and build a solid brand identity to capture your customer base.
Good branding is all about breathing life into an idea and satisfying business needs.
It means giving your company a personality and keeping your tone, messaging, and content consistent with that personality.
Build a website, register on service directories, and stay active on social media platforms.
The more you appear in local searches, the more chances you have of getting hired.
Here are some things you can do to market your business:
- Advertise in real life. Hand out flyers and business cards in target neighborhoods. This is still a reliable way to promote your business and is fairly cheap. Flyers cost less than 50 cents a piece to print. Another thing you can do is offer your services to a few friends and family members for free. (One time only!) This will jump-start word-of-mouth advertising for your business without having to spend any money from your advertising budget.
- Design a memorable logo. A clever logo can be hard to forget. It’s also a great marketing tool. Good logos usually capture your brand and its core values well and can instantly tell customers about your products. You can put it on T-shirts, invoices, marketing materials, and company vehicles. This will create curiosity about your services.
- Use the internet. Use your website and social media to create buzz. Offer discounts, create shareable content, and give gardening tips. If a customer uses your services, urge them to leave you a review. Testimonials can go a long way in convincing a new customer to hire you.
- Come up with a digital marketing plan. Spend some money on search engine optimization (SEO) marketing so your website shows up quicker on local searches. In addition, look for potential customers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You’ll need creative digital campaigns to reach your defined target audience. Each site allows you to check engagement and demographic statistics.
Step 5: Manage your income and expenses
You’ll need to keep detailed logs of your client work, expenses, and profits as your business grows.
Here are some suggestions to help you handle your accounts:
- Watch your financial statements. Profit and loss statements are handy tools for understanding how much your company has made versus how much it’s spent. The difference between the two is your net income. This statement can give you a clear idea of whether you can boost profits by increasing revenue or reducing costs (or both).
- Use accounting software. Accounting software programs can be very useful for small businesses. These can help you maintain daily records and track your startup’s income and expenses. You can also use a qualified accountant to handle your daily accounting and tax filings.
- File your taxes. Keep an eye out for applicable taxes. All businesses, except partnerships, must file annual tax returns. You may also be liable to pay other business taxes. Check the IRS website for more information.
If you don’t have a finance or accounting background, consider hiring a professional who can help you better manage your money.
Step 6: Grow your lawn care business
You’ll need to hire more staff and purchase more equipment as your business grows in popularity and demand goes up.
Here are some tips for growing your lawn care business.
- Expand your network. Once your business is successfully off the ground, you should look at expanding your network. Partnerships with local businesses and entrepreneurs are a great way to increase your customer base. Local businesses could use your services, or they could refer you to others who need your services.
- Start a referral program. Use existing clients to attract fresh customers by offering referral discounts and deals. For example, for every customer a person brings to you, you might offer a 20-percent discount coupon valid for the next six months. This can help you build stronger relationships with your customer base. You might also look at loyalty programs that offer long-term perks and discounts.
- Offer great customer service. As your business grows, consider investing in a strong customer service team. A large business can often lose touch with its customers. A proactive customer service team can help bridge this gap. Problem-solving, attending to complaints, and collecting feedback are much easier with a dedicated customer care staff.
- Optimize your business with technology. Using routing software like Circuit for Teams can help manage multiple crews. Circuit for Teams lets you optimize routes and automates the process of keeping customers informed. Circuit for Teams also lets you better manage crew schedules, freeing up time and cutting costs in the process. With Circuit for Teams, your teams can spend less time on the road or in traffic.
You might think of branching out to other markets (like the landscaping business) as your business grows.
Both the lawn mowing business and landscaping services need similar skill sets and experience, but landscaping is more about redesigning a property.
But that’s just something to keep in mind for later.
For now, get mowing!
Circuit for Teams can help optimize your lawn care business routes
A new business has two priorities: cut excess expenses and go the extra mile for its customers.
As a newly minted lawn care business, you want to cut back on wasted time and money.
The good news is that Circuit for Teams can help your business save time through route optimization.
It lets you plan routes for multiple drivers automatically — finding the shortest possible path to a destination.
You can then use that time to schedule more lawn care appointments.
The software also notifies customers when they can expect your crews to reach them.