Love gardening and being outdoors? Practical, scrappy, and hardworking? Live somewhere with a lot of lawns and house-proud but time-poor homeowners? If that sounds like you and you’re thinking of starting your own lawn care business in 2023, we’re here to help.
Starting your own business can be daunting, and you may experience self-doubt and administrative overwhelm. You might feel unsure of where to start, what to do next, and how to make your venture a success.
As experts in helping small business owners manage their companies, we’ve explained:
- Seven ways to know if starting a lawn care business could be right for you
- The seven steps to take to establish a lawn care business
We’ve also included insights from one entrepreneur who grew his lawn care and landscaping business from an investment of just $300 in old tools to a company that brings in $29,000 per month ($348,000 per year) with just two extra workers.*
We also look at how using dedicated small business management software could make setting up your lawn care business much more straightforward. That way, you’ll feel confident that you’re laying a strong foundation and will be able to grow and prosper without any issues in the future.
*He Started a Landscaping Business (With $300), June 2022
7 ways to know if starting a lawn care business could be for you
Thinking about starting a lawn care business? If the list below appeals, you could be onto a winning idea.
- Enjoy building relationships with customers? Working with people can be challenging. You’ll need to be comfortable entering private homes and gardens and building up trusting, professional relationships while also selling your services and doing quality work.
- Feel comfortable with seasonal work? Lawn care is mainly needed in the spring or summer seasons as most plants grow during that time. Depending on where you live, you’ll have to be fine with most clients calling you for seasonal work once the cold hibernation period of fall and winter is over.
- Know what you’ll do when the weather gets colder? To make money year-round, you may need to offer extra services during the low season. For example, seasonal business ideas could include protecting plants for fall, clearing winter debris, or preparing soil for spring.
- Know how you’ll stand out from the local competition? In almost every field, there’s someone else doing exactly what you’re doing, so developing a niche or name for yourself is essential. What makes you different? Why should clients choose you over your competitors? What will keep them coming back for more?
- Understand how to scale a small business? Think about if and when you might grow and scale your lawn care business. If you have more clients and work than you can handle, you’ll need to know how to hire people and expand to meet demand.
- Have experience with lawn care? This may sound obvious, but you’ll need to love or at least have considerable experience and interest in lawn care to start a business in the field. Clients will be looking for a high-quality, fast, and professional job they can’t achieve by themselves.
7 steps for establishing a lawn care business
There’s no single path to setting up a successful lawn care business, but following these steps will get you on the right track.
1. Take care of licensing, insurance, and registration
The first step to running a successful lawn care business is making sure you’re operating legally.
In the US, you need to get a business license and register, which Forbes estimates can cost between $50 and 200 per year. Depending on your location, you may need to apply for US Environmental Protection Agency permission to use pesticides or get a pesticide education certification. The Department of Agriculture can help you figure out which licenses you need. You’ll also need a federal tax ID to pay staff.
Getting insurance is also essential to protect your business and your employees from both financial loss and possible injury. You’ll need liability insurance and vehicle insurance at the very least, plus insurance for your tools, health insurance, and worker benefits and compensation.
This could protect you against a lawsuit or business-ending costs if, for example, someone’s dog has an adverse reaction to a pesticide or garden product you used or if you or a staff member injure yourself at a client’s home.
You may also want to double-check that no one else is using the same business name as you. Then, you can trademark your name, register your business website domain name, and set up a recognizable online ‘home’ where potential and returning customers alike can find you.
2. Decide on your pricing and the services you’ll offer
Clients will want to know what you do and how much it’ll cost them, so it makes sense to have a defined list or rate card you can send out.
This makes doing business easier as you won’t have to repeat yourself or reinvent your offer every time someone asks or get stuck doing too much work for not enough revenue. You’ll also be able to estimate how long each job will take, the tools you’ll need, the licenses you’ll require, and the revenue you can expect.
Setting standard services and rates also makes life easier for clients. They’ll know what services you provide, clearly understand your rates and have time to consider them, and feel clear about what they’ll get when they hire you. This offers peace of mind, a relationship built on trust, and more bookings for you.
Your services might include everything from:
- Basic mowing and lawn care
- Seasonal cleaning, clearing, and maintenance
- Clearing of leaves, debris, snow, or garden cuttings
- Planting native species and eco-friendly pollinator plants
- Pest control
- Tree clipping and maintenance
- Turf laying and care
|Pro tip: Interested in starting a landscaping business? Check out our dedicated blog post on that very topic!|
You might start with just one or two services and then add to your list as demand grows and you figure out what clients are asking for the most. You could also bundle some services together and provide discounted packages or promotions.
Overall, consider whether to charge:
- Per job or day (for example, $300 for each full working day)
- Per type of service (for example, $150 for a small lawn mow or $1,500 for laying a large piece of turf)
- Per hour (for example, $45 per hour for two hours)
- Per garden square footage (for example, $0.05 per square foot)
You’ll also want to:
- Check how your rates compare to the competition
- Consider your target market and their typical budget
- Re-evaluate your pricing as you grow
- Factor in your equipment investment and labor costs so you’re sure you’ll cover them and make a profit (using a platform like Homebase can make it much easier to keep track of and predict this).
To strike the right balance in terms of pricing, you might start by offering lower prices as you build your business and experience. Then, slowly raise your rates as you increase your reputation and experience.
As Trevor Kokenge, who started Plan-It Vision as a side-hustle gardening business and now makes five figures per month, told the entrepreneur business YouTube channel UpFlip: “Learn to charge properly. That’s been best for me. I started out not charging enough. Raise your rates and book your calendar in advance so you’re not desperate. Also, keep your expenses low.”
He recommends maintaining profit margins between 18-35%, depending on the job, your experience, and the area.
3. Research and secure your equipment
When you’re starting a lawn care business, you’ll likely want to keep overheads and costs low, but you’ll have to invest a certain amount in quality tools. Avoid maxing out your budget by buying every possible piece of equipment. Instead, figure out the few key items you’ll need to carry out your first few jobs and work to a high standard.
- How many jobs you have coming up in the near future
- The types of lawns and gardens you’ll be caring for
- Your budget
- How much you’ll need to charge for your services to cover costs
For example, small front yards may only call for a manual push mower, but you might need to use a lawn tractor for larger fields or meadows.
Think about the following categories:
- Extras: Reflect on whether you’ll need extra tools for smaller jobs (like pruning shears or trimmers) and protective items, like ear and eye coverings, gloves, and safety shoes or boots.
- Transport and storage: You’ll likely need a vehicle of some kind to transport your tools and get from property to property, as well as somewhere secure to keep your equipment overnight to avoid vehicle theft or break-ins.
- Cleaning up: Consider items like a leaf blower, rake, and gardening trash bags. Some places also charge for commercial and green waste dumping, so be sure to investigate that in the areas you’ll operate your business.
Next, plan out your budget. You can always buy or rent more tools later when it becomes more apparent exactly what you use regularly. Also, remember to factor in the cost of your original business investment when deciding on your pricing.
Your expenses will depend significantly on the tools you buy and where you buy them from, but you can expect to spend the following approximately:
- New push mower: $170-350
- Pruning shears: $25-40
- Leaf blower: $30-150
- Wheelbarrow: $80-140
Trevor Kokenge explains: “When I started, I was broke. I put a few hundred dollars into some used tools. It didn’t take me a lot to get going, maybe $300, but as you build, the expenses grow. I highly recommend starting with a leaf blower, a string trimmer, and shears.”
For some jobs that require more unusual, one-off, or expensive equipment, you can also look into renting tools (rather than buying them) for the duration of the project.
At each stage, check for any regulations you’ll need to adhere to. For example, you may need to consult the rules about storing certain pesticides and chemicals or the use of purchased items for commercial needs.
Some small business management tools like Homebase include HR and compliance features, which can help you stay on top of relevant laws and regulations at the city, state, and federal levels. Our platform will also send you reminders when laws change or when you need to update certificates or licenses so you always stay compliant without stress.
4. Plan your marketing strategy
The principle behind marketing is simple: How will people know about your business, find you, trust you, and book your services?
To that end, think about:
- Establishing your brand: This includes your name, colors, and logo — all of which might feature on your business cards, social media pages, website, and even staff uniforms.
- Setting up online platforms: Create social media accounts on platforms you know and like to make it easy for people to learn about your business, get in touch with you, and book your services. Claim your business on Google and set up a business page so clients can leave reviews, add yourself to local directories, and set up your own website, complete with your contact details.
- Creating a small business plan. This is where you should establish who your ideal customers are, your niche, your budget, how you’ll set your business apart from competitors, and how you’ll accept bookings, payments, and reviews. This will make your actions more coherent and focused.
“I started knocking on doors,” Trevor Kokenge told us. “You might expect one or two jobs for every 100 houses. Get out there on jobs websites. And talk to people you know — friends, family, neighbors. I advertise with my church, too, and that’s been generating work.”
5. Consider whether you’ll need to hire staff
You may start off as one person with a lawn mower and a truck, but running a small business can quickly become too much to handle alone. You might need to hire someone pretty soon if only to act as an administrative team member or part-time, hourly assistant for when you need extra help.
Homebase makes hiring and managing hourly staff, as well as budgeting and HR, much less time-consuming, more automatic, and less overwhelming.
Our hiring and onboarding features let you:
- Create job postings in seconds using pre-written templates
- Post your ads to several top job boards
- Promote your job and reach more applicants
- Track all your applications in one place
- Screen applicants, schedule interviews, and communicate all within the same space
- Send welcome details, policy documents, contracts, and training details to new hires
Homebase also stores all these records securely and ensures you’re hiring according to your local regulations. So you can focus on asking the right questions and finding the perfect fit for your team rather than stressing about legalities.
Be aware that hiring staff may mean you need extra insurance. It might also be necessary to register your business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), S corp, or partnership instead of remaining as a sole or independent contractor.
6. Choose software to manage your lawn care business
Using apps for your small business like Homebase can make running your lawn care business far easier, going beyond hiring to the entire management of your team.
Our platform has the power to automate, simplify, and streamline your business, save you time and stress on admin, and free up more hours in your schedule (or even take some well-earned time off).
As well as hiring, Homebase has solutions for:
- Employee scheduling: Plan your team’s hours and share them anytime and any place.
- Employee time clock and timesheets: Consult the hours your team has worked, save yourself from manual work, and pay people accurately.
- Payroll: Get through payday with ease, make automatic tax calculations, and retain staff with timely payments.
- HR and compliance: Manage your new team efficiently and legally with thorough, personalized HR advice.
- Team communication: Use our messaging platform to stay in touch with employees easily and securely.
- Employee happiness: Keep your new staff happy by providing perks and recognition.
- Mobile app: Coordinate and monitor your staff and business even when you’re not at a desk (and empower employees to do the same).
7. Offer trial services and gather reviews
It can be difficult to get your first clients when starting out because you don’t have a clear track record. You need experience to get work — but without experience, it’s tough to get work. Clients will want to see what else you’ve done, check the quality of your past jobs, and read reviews before they go ahead.
Break this stalemate by offering a few trial services or heavily discounted promotions in exchange for reviews. Don’t burn yourself out or undersell yourself by doing too much work for free, but find a few trusted clients (whether local people you already know, a local charity, or friends or family) and do a great job for a lower rate.
Be sure to take photos or videos of the results to act as a portfolio to show future clients and post online as part of your marketing efforts. Also, make it easy for these trial clients to leave reviews. You could even provide them with a small discount on their next service in exchange for a Google or website testimonial. This helps to establish your company, show what you can do, find new clients, and build your experience, too.
Starting a lawn care business: Success with software like Homebase
It’s possible to start a lawn care business with a small budget and only a few tools and services, especially if you enjoy meeting new people, being outdoors, and getting creative with seasonal ideas for year-round work.
But it’s important to stay legally compliant when it comes to licensing, insurance, and laws and know how to differentiate yourself from the competition. It also makes sense to have an idea of how you might want to scale and grow and what you’ll do when you need to hire more staff.
A small business software solution like Homebase can help you to automate all of that behind-the-scenes admin, so you can free up time and headspace to do your work to the highest possible standard.
Our hiring and onboarding features can help you to add great people to your team fast, while our scheduling, timesheets, payroll, HR, and communication tools will assist you with the day-to-day management of your team and internal operations.
The Homebase mobile app is also a must-have for any non-desk-based team members. You can communicate, coordinate, schedule, chat, and engage even if your entire business happens on the go.
Your lawn care business may begin as one person, a mower, and a truck, but using the right technology early on can reduce stress and help you scale with success. They do say from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow…