How to Start a Lawn Care Business: The Quick Way
The lawn care industry is a wide-reaching industry where there is no shortage of opportunity. It has a low cost to getting started and relatively low training period to train employees or yourself, making it a nice industry to start a business. According to prnewswire.com, their market analysis of landscaping from 2020 to 2025 trends notes that the market is estimated to grow 4.5% at a Compound Annual Growth Rate. Furthermore, they note that the impact of Covid may create even more opportunity in the market (prnewswire.com).
If you've ever thought about starting a business in landscaping or a business in general, this may be the perfect time for you.
The lawn care industry (depending on the area) can have competition in it, ranging from the neighborhood teenager to a bigger company with national presence. This means that you want to compete on service, professionalism, speed, ease, and results while staying away from competing on price. Set yourself apart, provide the best service that you can, and your brand will build itself.
“When you can charge more than your competitors and your customers still choose you, that's when you have a brand.” - Seth Godin
- The Setup
Just about every business will want all the items on this list to give it legitimacy, build the brand, gain customer trust, and give future customers something to reference or ask about. Not all of these have to be setup or acquired right from the start and some of them require some investment or capital. The most important, in terms of how you can expand and market your business are noted with asterisks *.
- Business Entity* - Formation of an LLC, S Corp, or sole proprietorship is one of the legal steps any business will take so it can properly report taxes, hire employees, and start a business bank account. This may or may not need to be done right away depending on your area and local regulations.
- Name and Logo* - Of course a name is needed to form a business entity legally. But also this will be your brand. Some easy ways to make your business identifiable and searchable via Google (or Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc) is to name it something specific to either you or the area in which you service. A logo can be created easily, purchased, or commissioned out to a graphic designer. This doesn't have to be your one-and-done logo, it can go through iterations so don't worry if it's not “perfect”.
- Website Domain* - The business name usually fits here, or compliments it in some way. The goal of a good domain is to be memorable, easy to type, and easily searchable through a search engine. Most domains that will be specific to your business will not be any more than $15 per year. This is only the domain purchase (ownership), not the actual website. When searching for a domain, be prepared to purchase on the spot. There are rumors that some of the domain registrars will increase prices on domains based on how much it's searched for in terms of availability.
- Gear* - Lawn mower (push)*, trimmer, leaf blower, garbage can(s), hand shears, ladder. If you're just starting out, a used push lawn mower and a garbage can may be all that you need to get out there and start your business. As your business grows, you can expand your equipment, services, and offerings.
- CRM and Business Management System - This might come in after you have your first few clients, but eventually if you want to grow your business, this is something that you will need. A Customer Relationship Management tool is a way to track your clients. The Business Management System will help you bill, collect payments, and track your jobs and projects. However, a good system will combine these tools under one roof, allowing you to fully run your administrative end of your business (see Paidtoday.com).
- Swag* - Business cards, a brochure, low-cost signs, work shirts, hats, etc. Brochures and business cards can be delivered to all of your clients, prompting them to tell their neighbors about it. A nice magnetic sign on your work vehicle is free advertising when you're on the job and your client's neighbors all see your business and logo. Nice work shirts, collared or polos can make the difference in the professionalism your business conveys when people see you or your employees working in the field.
- Starting Out and Getting Your First Clients
The great thing about the lawn care industry is that it's local relative to you. Getting your first customers can be as easy as asking your friends, family, and neighbors. If you don't have a lot of experience mowing, edging, or trimming, let them know you are starting a business and can give them a free mow or trim so you can practice mowing straight lines, edging consistently, or trimming to fit the flora in your area. This is a win-win, your friend gets a free mow and you get experience with a lawn that's not yours. Just make sure to accurately capture how big the lawn is and how long it takes you. You will use this as a rough base to set your pricing.
It's recommended that if the job is purely a mow that you price the job per cut not per hour. This way you can give your client a clear-cut price where they can make a quick decision, rather than having to calculate any math or wonder or not if they have to worry about how fast your team works.
Remember, professionalism and quality are the deciding factors you want your clients to judge you on, not price. Look them in the eye, give them a firm handshake, give them a fair price where you are making a profit that you're okay with and isn't astronomical in terms of your area or the job. Having a nice uniform (business branded collared shirt and polo with a hat) can make all the difference in the world to onlookers who may not know you.
After you have your first clients, don't be afraid to ask them for referrals or to tell their friends. If it's within your new-client cost of acquisition range, you can even offer a discount on mowing if a referral signs up for service. This is an incentive for your current client, while expanding your client base at a fixed cost to keep your customer pipeline full. Ask for testimonials! Testimonials are a fantastic way to convey the quality of your business and service that you provide without having to do the selling yourself. Let your customers be your best salesmen. Additionally, if you can start asking for permission of before and after pictures of your jobs, this will turn into a collection of media that also serves as a selling point for your services.
- Administrative and Marketing
In terms of marketing starting out, word of mouth is going to be your best friend. You can however also start build your web presence, so at least potential customers can find you online. Start by claiming your Google My Business “page”. Having a Gmail account and setting up your Google My Business will create several results all which help potential customers find your business. A base Gmail account will give you at least an email you can use and and the ability to create a YouTube channel.
A Facebook page isn't a bad idea either. It's free, widely used, and can net you some prospects. However, you'll want to post at least semi-regularly to your page (a great place for before-and-after photos of your work!).
Use your CRM to make notes of your clients, track their jobs, and send them their invoice or order. With a robust system like Paidtoday.com, your clients can log into your portal (included with every Paidtoday.com Subscription) and pay their bills immediately. You can quickly see which of your client accounts is current. Additionally in the portal, your clients will have the opportunity to see when their next scheduled site service visits will be.
Whichever system (hopefully not systems) you use, the goal of your backend administrative system is to:
- Bill clients with invoiced-style details
- Collect payments online, making payment easy for your clients
- Collect and track basic contact information
- Ability to reach out and ask for referrals
- Manage larger projects (for example, if your business moves into hardscape services)
- Integrated website with CRM for lead generation and customer feedback to avoid any data entry
- Keep your team on the same page
In terms of marketing, make sure that you have a process set up for collecting referrals from your customers, especially your happiest ones. A self-signup for a referral program may work to your advantage here instead of asking your clients for referrals. You may opt to run some paid advertising on Google, Facebook, or Yelp. Make sure to capitalize on your unique business name or area, especially if you're running search ads. And always remember, referrals and word of mouth will be your most effective advertising and marketing in terms of cost of acquisition for several reasons: it doesn't cost you anything aside from a fixed referral fee and keeping your customers happy, it's a static cost and isn't likely to go up, and the referring prospect is already primed to have a great experience because they heard about it from someone they have at least some degree of trust with already.
- Scaling Your Business
At the point where you're ready to hire more than two employees, you're looking at scaling. You will want to invest in some better equipment, such as at least one self-propelled mower. You will want a training program for onboarding new employees to make sure that they are as trained as they can be to keep the level of quality your business built it's name on (Paidtoday.com offers in-app courses as well as step-by-step Projects). You will want to form a business entity by now, as well as invest into insuring your business.
Start offering more services. Learn about different fertilizers, weed management, seasonal flowers and plants in your area, and aerating lawns all of which can be used as upsell packages.
A CRM, business management system, and formalized processes for training and service fulfillment will be required to give every customer the same high-level of care as when it was just you, your truck, and a mower.
If you really want to scale your business, it would behoove you to reach out to some realtors for partnering referrals. Often times a small investment improves the look of a property or house exponentially, and realtors may suggest to homeowners that they secure some services from your business to help them make the sale easier. Additionally, reaching out to some apartments, condos, or homeowners associations can be beneficial beyond means. These are typically larger type jobs, but the payoffs are much larger and a full complex can be done in half a day to a day and come with guaranteed contracts. Make sure to have references, examples, and sufficient experience to be able to service all of their needs.
- The Raving Fan Effect
One thing about an amazing looking lawn and garden for a client, is that they will be proud of it. They will get compliments on it. When they invite friends over it can be a topic of conversation. Inevitably they will start to talk about their amazing landscaper. If the subject of price comes up, your ground work (no pun intended) of providing amazing quick service with beautiful results at a fair (but not “cheap”) price will have your customers going to bat for you justifying to their friends why it's worth it. Then it's your job to answer your phone, keep on top of new emails, and check your CRM for new prospects to follow up with.
- Extras and Ideas
What things can differentiate your lawn care business from the others? Professionalism? Quality? Speed?
How can you make the experience of working with your company preferable? What about shooting a text when you're 15 minutes out? What about sending a photo of the employee(s) working that day so they know who to expect? Customer anniversary gifts or cards?
Offer speed / on-demand services which cost more than a normally scheduled job?
Expansion into planting and transplanting?
Include stump removal or tree breakdown services?
Make sure that your work truck(s) always have business cards in them and that your customers always feel comfortable to give feedback, especially if it's something constructively negative.
Offer customized seasonal packages such as bi-yearly mulch spreading or moss kill.
Go Forth and Create!
*This article is sponsored by Paidtoday.com, the simple business management platform, but it is not required for owning and running a successful Lawn Care business.