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NOTABLE! Starting a lawn care service business

Johnny boy

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21 and currently selling cars at the moment. I’ve got some money to throw at something. I just bought a used trailer and have some lawn equipment.

Got a pro website, branding, and I have decent copywriting skills for posting ads. Started with craigslist, Google AdWords and I’m on yelp and google maps. I posted just a single craigslist ad and in a couple hours had jobs booked for $200 for a few hours of work. I got 4 of them within a couple hours. I did this to test my market. (I bought the tools and trailer after this btw)

I’ll be hiring on some young guy for a summer job. I’ve got the LLC, business insurance, and I’ll be picking up a cheap truck from an auction (working in car sales helps).

I did a couple jobs myself on my days off, just to see how long it took and if there would be any problems, it was easier than I thought.

Once I hire on the kid, I’ll go with him on my days off from work until I can justify hiring another person.

My goal is to take over the local market with superior branding, smooth and time saving process, reliability and quality, all while being a fair price. Not cheap, just worth it. The first place I showed up to said “wow, you’re the only person out of 5 that responded and actually came...and your name isn’t Jose!” Haha!

I’ve calculated with driving around and dumping out the grass and time for breaks, the crew will be bringing in about 300-600 a day in revenue while costing me 130-260 depending on if I’ve got 2 guys or just 1, including gas. Subtracting other costs like insurance and everything else like expected repairs, I should be bringing in at least 100-300 per day worked per crew. 5 trucks = $1000 profit per day.

I advertise for all sorts of services in order to justify a higher “full service” price and upsell people that just want their lawn mowed. “Hey that concrete looks kinda gross, we offer pressure washing..and have you cleaned your gutters this season?” It REALLY helps having sales experience as I get started in this.

I’m doing this because I’ve got the money and nearly everything can be sold for at least what I paid for it. I can take phone calls and schedule things at first while I sell cars. Most of the day in car sales is doing very little.

The goal is to have multiple trucks, a physical location with an office, and a team for running the business while I’m off somewhere else, checking in every once in a while. I will NOT turn out like the 50 year old losers still selling cars here at the lot.

Anyone else do the same type of thing here? Did you struggle with employees being shitty? Did you struggle with difficulty getting jobs? Any experienced people with advice is helpful.

Not looking for permission or approval..I’m either looking for advice from people who’ve done it already or just giving a couple people something to think about if they’re on the fence about doing something similar.
 

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CPisHere

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Lawncare is a great little business that I think you could probably get to $150k/year revenue, with ~35% net margins only working 15 hours/week 9 months out of the year, but scaling above that is a challenge.

It's a mostly cash business, easy to start, and most of the competition is terrible. It's HIGHLY seasonal though, which makes employee management difficult. The main issue with scaling it are the logistics. Running 5 trucks/crews is NOT easy. Customers want to reschedule, employees calls in sick, etc.

Scaling obviously IS possible since it's been done before, it just isn't as easy as it might seem. If you don't scale, it's still a good source of income for not too much work, it just isn't worth much if you wanted to sell it.
 

minivanman

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Sounds like you have a plan.... better than I had when I started. Funny I see this thread today because I was over in McKinney, Texas about 3 hours ago and saw a Citi Turf van. The owner of Citi Turf is THE man when it comes to lawn care marketing. So I drove on down the road and was going to stop and get me some chocolate milk (still a little kid inside lol) from the gas station. There were 2 lawn guys with trailers there so I walked over to one pickup that had his shirt hanging on his mirror to dry. I asked about Citi Turf and if it was hard to get business because of them and he said not at all. So I walk over to the other guy, ask the same thing and he said the same thing, not at all. I had several thoughts on this but I guess the main thing is that no matter how good you are at marketing and how good you try to make your company, in a service business, there will always be guys that can get just as much work as you.

Since you live very far away let me give you a little info about McKinney, Texas. It is one of the fastest growing places because of all the people moving to this area from all over the US, especially California. Very high priced houses. As for Citi Turf, you need to go to Youtube and type in lawn care millionaire. He also has a program called service auto pilot.... there are a few other programs out there besides his so don't just jump on what he has. There is one that I had thought about being a part of but decided not to but I'll be dang if I can't remember the name of it. His brother also has a Youtube channel. His brothers name is Andrew.

Now I don't know what all kinds of vehicles they have but I've been a van guy for YEARS and have tried to incorporate a van in about every business I've been a part of. So today when I saw his van, it has me to wondering if he tried a van because I had told him the benefits or for some other reason. Either way, I thought it was funny that they have vans to work out of..... no complicated trailer, easy ride for the equipment, easy access with ramps.
 

minivanman

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Lawncare is a great little business that I think you could probably get to $150k/year revenue, with ~35% net margins only working 15 hours/week 9 months out of the year, but scaling above that is a challenge.

It's a mostly cash business, easy to start, and most of the competition is terrible. It's HIGHLY seasonal though, which makes employee management difficult. The main issue with scaling it are the logistics. Running 5 trucks/crews is NOT easy. Customers want to reschedule, employees calls in sick, etc.

Scaling obviously IS possible since it's been done before, it just isn't as easy as it might seem. If you don't scale, it's still a good source of income for not too much work, it just isn't worth much if you wanted to sell it.
The guy I was talking about in my earlier post does not take cash.... credit cards on file and billed the day after. It's the only way he takes payment and lots of other guys are going to this also.

Yes.... very hard to run even 1 truck but it can be done. Lots of guys in snowy states make a lot off money doing lawn care.
 

Johnny boy

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what is your winter / fall service? need something to do year round to combat crew turnover.......
Mowing (less frequently)
Leaf raking
Gutter cleaning
Pressure washing
Snow removal
Christmas lights

Good opportunity to upsell or keep customers too. Less difficulty acquiring customers if you sell to them year round.

Plus I can just hire a young guy or two that wants a summer job for the busy months and keep an older guy around to have a job year round.
 

ZCP

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5 trucks is 12 to 14 employees.....

14 x 10 x 2 x 52 x 40 / 12 = 48.5 k rev needed per month......

Might want to put together a 12 mo P&L of 'running the company' in excel and test some of these assumptions before getting too far.....

It will help a lot.....
 

minivanman

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In case it's helpful - look into web based software called Jobber, for scheduling, invoicing, client communications, etc. Works great for the fireplace company I manage, and I can see it being used for lawncare too.

Sent from my SM-A520W using Tapatalk
That is what Service Autopilot is except it was made by a professional lawn care guy (lawn care millionaire).... but there are others specific to lawn care too. There used to be a free one called Yardbook but I don't know if it's still free. I was one of the 1st to sign up so I have a free version although I never use it. I figure if I ever find the right guy I will invest in another lawn business so I keep it.

Lots of add-ons to fill in the entire year. The part I see a problem with is that you keep saying you can get some young guy to work or a few young guys to work the summer.... you do realize you will go through your workers like sands through the hourglass don't you? You might be really lucky and find 1 right off the bat or it might take several tries at finding the right one. And then the process starts all over again. It's tough in this business because it's go-go-go-go-go but the tougher the interview, the better off you will be.
 

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Johnny boy

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In case it's helpful - look into web based software called Jobber, for scheduling, invoicing, client communications, etc. Works great for the fireplace company I manage, and I can see it being used for lawncare too.

Sent from my SM-A520W using Tapatalk
I’ve heard high praises for “manage mart” because it deals with lawn service business specifically
 

minivanman

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One big thing to keep in mind when choosing the service you will use is how long the credit card company keeps the money and what percentage they take. Just because one might take a little more than the other, be sure to look at the entire program, not just the fees. Choose the one you think is right for you and your company, not the one with the cheapest fees. There are several so be sure and check out more than a couple. Build a solid base and your company will start on solid ground.
 

Johnny boy

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5 trucks is 12 to 14 employees.....

14 x 10 x 2 x 52 x 40 / 12 = 48.5 k rev needed per month......

Might want to put together a 12 mo P&L of 'running the company' in excel and test some of these assumptions before getting too far.....

It will help a lot.....
5 trucks is 10 employees. Paying them $12/hr for a month full time is 20,800. I expect a truck of two employees to get $400 worth of work done. Over 5 trucks that’s $2,000 a day. 20 days of that is $40,000 a month.

Each truck drives a max of 20 miles to and from the jobs (assuming I’m sending them to jobs that are nearby, and then a trip to the dump to drop off the lawn clippings for free) then that is 100 miles a day or 2,000 miles a month for 5 trucks. Let’s say gas is 3.50 a gallon and the trucks get 10mpg at worst. That’s 200 gallons and costs me $700 for gas. I think my rough estimate can include the machines too..considering they don’t use THAT much gas. Let’s be safe and round up to $800 a month total in gas.

Insurance on 5 cheap trucks is about 5,000 a year for liability. That’s under $500 a month. Liability for my employees can’t be too much from what I’ve been quoted by liberty mutual. Let’s throw in $1000 a month to be safe. $1,500 on the high side for insurance total.

I’ll have to pay depreciation for the vehicles and machines, unless I buy them for below market value used and keep them in decent condition. I can buy vehicles at auctions. I’ll expect to sell them for the same price I paid.

Repairs should not total more than an average of $200 a month. Even if an engine or two goes out on the trucks, it isn’t too much.

Let’s assume once every two weeks, an employee doesn’t show up and I miss out on one day of work. My revenue decreases by 8%. I’m bringing in 36,xxx a month.

I’ll want to advertise. I’ll spend $200 a month on advertising/branding/uniforms for my employees.

My costs are coming in under 24,000 and my revenue looks to be at 36,000. And that’s assuming only $400 a day of work done. If one truck of employees can hit at least one yard in less than an hour, factoring in breaks and traveling, I’ll assume they can do 7 in a day. Bi-weekly service for lawns should cost roughly $60 a session. That’s $420. If one person cancels a week then we are still over $400 average per day.

All I have to do is monitor my costs within a reasonable range of what’s expected, bid out jobs to be worth at least $60/hour of work for one truck of two employees, and be smart, I should be fine.

Some jobs are much better than a normal cut. For example, I’m going to mow down waist high grass for $200 this Wednesday. A machine I have should get the job done in 2 hours.

I’d only be charging people $120 a month for what I’m assuming in the above scenario. Some people I know well are charged $400 a month for services that only take an hour. Can you imagine the profit margins for that company?? The employees aren’t skilled either. It’s the same thing that I can offer.

To avoid overextending myself, I can sign up customers for long term contracts so I know I’ll have work to do.

It looks like a good business model.

Please tell me if my math was way off...

And of course I’ll be starting with just one truck.
 

minivanman

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As for pay.... I love paying commission. Every business that I've owned alone I have always paid everyone on commission.

Employees.... good luck!
 

ZCP

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Now map it out over 12 months on paper. Look at the cashflow and capital requirements.
When do you have to let people go for the season. How many customers do you need and when.

Then work through your marketing needed to get that number of clients. What is your response rate, conversion rate, etc. How many in's do you need to land a client. Put the system down on paper. It will tell you when to spend, what to spend, etc. to get the client base you need and when you can add a truck.

Actually put it all down in the spreadsheet and 'run' the company on paper for 12 months. Test your assumptions (do a sensitivity analysis for key metrics and assumptions). If still a go, do a test marketing run and 'pull the trigger'!
 

Johnny boy

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Update: currently booked up for more jobs than I can handle. I did a few jobs for practice and ironed out many things between theory and practice.

I learned it takes longer than expected for weeding and long grass, I changed my bidding accordingly.

Meeting a young guy today to hire on as a worker for $12/hr. He’s got 3 years landscaping/lawn care experience.

Will have to trust him for a week before I have the paperwork in place to officially “hire” him and insure him through the business. That shouldn’t put me at risk, just the customers and him. Having experience working somewhere similar helps with me trusting him a bit. I’ll call his previous employment obviously.

He’ll work part time until I’m fully booked. I’ll go with him on my days off and will show him how I want things done.

Still working at the dealership. I’m taking a “lunch break” to go to the interview today.

Will update more as things change
 

minivanman

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Yeah, I knew you was in for a big surprise. :eek:

I laughed to myself for a good 5 minutes when you said, "I’ll go with him on my days off and will show him how I want things done". :rofl:

You can show him all you want but trust me.... it will never be done the way you show him. Probably not even close. I'll be really honest with you, if having workers was as easy as you made it sound I would start a lawn service tomorrow morning and have 20 customers by tomorrow night. :inpain:

Been there, done that, ain't goin back. :cool: But there is lots of money in the business if you are cut out to deal with those types of workers. Just take it a bit slower and realize that these people you are trying to hire are broke for a reason. Once you hire someone your job will be to be a baby sitter and a counselor. But I'm not knocking the type of people that do this work. If I had to mow for 8 hours a day every day I'd be a bear when I got home and need counseling too. And just remember about background checks.... they do not tell the future.... You will need your gut to see the future. Chalk this up to the 1st step on a long trip of learning. Good luck!

Have you watched any of the videos I talked about? It's not seeming like it. Just so you know... short cuts usually end up being the long way around.
 

El Príncipe

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Update: hiring people feels like a joke after today. 3 people scheduled and 2 of them completely flaked with no message. The 3rd is having car troubles. Feels like trying to meet up with a tinder date...
Feel your frustration mate. Been there. Still am there often (as a manager, as a owner it must be worse even).

I can only advise you to develop some managing skills and mindsets. Humans are not robots. You must be a psychologist. Treating each one as a unique code to be cracked. And develop some keen judgement of character like @minivanman said as well.

This is part of the "problem" you're solving as an entrepreneur. Look at it this way: Creating a human resources system is really a barrier of Entry. If it were easy, anyone and everyone could do it.
 

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Cruze

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I think a big Problem with employees is the salary and Qualität in the low price range. They Aren't motivated to Do the Job... An option would be the high price tactic with less work but better prices for you and your employees
 

Raoul Duke

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Andrew W

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Okay, believe it or not I have some experience in this field. I have been running a relatively successful lawncare business for a while. It is not really a business so to say, it is more of a side job that I operate with a buddy of mine. If you have any questions about the actual work end of the spectrum (i.e. mowing, weeding, mowing in rain, etc.) don't hesitate to ask. I have a few seasons of this under my belt. Shoot away and I'll answer as soon as possible. Like I said though, I can't really help with the business end of it, but perhaps I can help with the amount of work, and what you're looking for in a client etc. Cheers!
 

minivanman

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I think a big Problem with employees is the salary and Qualität in the low price range. They Aren't motivated to Do the Job... An option would be the high price tactic with less work but better prices for you and your employees

He could pay $100 an hour and still have the same problems. On average a guy that sits behind a desk and makes $25 an hour will not go out in the heat and weather to do lawn work for $100 an hour. And even if he does, the outcome will probably be worse. He has a certain group of people to work with, now he has to find the 'good' ones in that group in his area. And it sounds as though he is not in a very large town so that means even less to choose from. No matter what type of business, the person doing the hiring needs to know what questions to ask and how to conduct an interview.... the bad part is, as he saw 1st hand, when 1 out of 3 shows up.... he doesn't have much to choose from. Now what might cause some of his problem is meeting at McDonald's instead of having an office but at this point he doesn't have a choice. That is part of the pain and like has been said, "if it was easy, everyone would be doing it".
 
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momomaurice

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Look up a guy called Joshua Latimer and his automate grow sell website. On that website is a course on how to hire rockstar employees. It has certain ways of weeding out bad employees just by the ads you put up. Also read the E Myth.
 

Veloman

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I just sold my lawn business. Your numbers can vary so much. There is great potential. I could do $600 days myself with a push mower. The key is really good routes and multiple jobs per stop. I did it with all battery equipment. Cue the disbelievers. Its effective for small properties.
I sold because I didn't want to do it anymore and wasn't up for hiring help. Employees are the hardest part. Soo many poor workers out there.
Btw 95% of customers don't want to pay cash. 5% check, the other 90% want cc or online like PayPal.
There are tons of third party companies who can fill up your schedule for you, you just won't get paid as much. Some pay better than others.
Just remember this is probably the industry with the lowest barrier to entry. There is good and bad with that. Ultimately I surprised myself and did better than I imagined.
 
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minivanman

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What type battery powered mower/weed eater/edger did you have? With our smaller lawns here in Texas I'm a firm believer in battery powered. I think we could give a little more specific answers if we knew what town/state the OP was in. For example, if we knew his location we could either suggest 3rd party companies to work with or not.
 

Carlitos

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OP take this from someone (myself) who has never worked for a lawn maintenance company until now.

I recently moved out of NYC and went to visit my parents down in Atlanta I was on vacation really, and ended up finding a job in a matter of days. I saw how much opportunity there is now, high demand of jobs available in many industries, but ton of shortage in good workers.

The lawn company I work for has been struggling in finding good workers, keeping customers happy, some of their current customers continue to cancel with them. This company only gets customers by contracts, and the average monthly cost for basic lawn maintenance is about $250.

The hardest issue in this business is keeping good reliable trustworthy employees. You need to have a system together so that each and one of them can follow it of how you want things done. You also need to have a system of how employees would be held accountable when they fail to do their job.

Your Foremans in my opinion needs to be your best employees and pay them well. Make your Foremans work for it in order to achieve that position. A lot of companies fail to do this, they randomly select their Foremans by either favoritism, or "who was here first in the company."

You need a strong sales team, they need to be constantly out there getting deals closed. Also don't ignore digital marketing.

This is so far what I have at the top of my head. I am actually mindblown how fast you were able to get customers by digital marketing and simple ad posts.

I am also in the process of building a similar company but providing many cleaning services including lawn & landscaping maintenance.
 
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Carlitos

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I just sold my lawn business. Your numbers can vary so much. There is great potential. I could do $600 days myself with a push mower. The key is really good routes and multiple jobs per stop. I did it with all battery equipment. Cue the disbelievers. Its effective for small properties.
I sold because I didn't want to do it anymore and wasn't up for hiring help. Employees are the hardest part. Soo many poor workers out there.
Btw 95% of customers don't want to pay cash. 5% check, the other 90% want cc or online like PayPal.
There are tons of third party companies who can fill up your schedule for you, you just won't get paid as much. Some pay better than others.
Just remember this is probably the industry with the lowest barrier to entry. There is good and bad with that. Ultimately I surprised myself and did better than I imagined.
Would you mind sharing your process of selling your lawn business?

How long did you had it and managed it from start to selling it?

How would you able to come up how much the business itself was worth?

What asset was included in the business deal?

How many accounts did you have?

Were your accounts under contract?
 

minivanman

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Dang, you won't disclose a state yet you want him to bake you a cake and eat it for you too?
 

Carlitos

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Dang, you won't disclose a state yet you want him to bake you a cake and eat it for you too?
I am not sure what the issue is but I happened to make 2 different posts to 2 different members. Fairly I believe I gave OP enough points with me currently working in the industry to help him out, not sure what is OP going to loose with not knowing where I currently reside which I decided to disclose it now.
 

Veloman

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I just posted a Craigslist ad and threw up a number of two months revenue. Assets were equipment, brand, customer accounts which were not under contract, web domain name. I had a lot of responses. Even with no employees. About 120 accounts, basic lawn mowing. Mow edge blow.
I met with the buyer a few times and worked a few hrs with me then decided to purchase. We filled in a generic purchase agreement which had payments in installments over 3 weeks that he and his helper worked with me.
We weren't too formal with it all. I had been doing it for 2 years.
 

Johnny boy

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Okay, believe it or not I have some experience in this field. I have been running a relatively successful lawncare business for a while. It is not really a business so to say, it is more of a side job that I operate with a buddy of mine. If you have any questions about the actual work end of the spectrum (i.e. mowing, weeding, mowing in rain, etc.) don't hesitate to ask. I have a few seasons of this under my belt. Shoot away and I'll answer as soon as possible. Like I said though, I can't really help with the business end of it, but perhaps I can help with the amount of work, and what you're looking for in a client etc. Cheers!
What did you stop doing that you did when you initially started?

Example: “I used to do large jobs but found small jobs to be more efficient” or “I used to take most jobs but changed to only taking certain types of jobs”.
 

Johnny boy

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Update: a kid replied to my job ad and said “I will not let you down”. He’s kept in touch. I’ll be working all day Thursday and told him I’ve got $100 waiting for him if he can come work. He’s got experience in landscaping and he needs a job.

I’m checking out a used truck for $2000 tomorrow. Should be decent for what I need. Gotta use my lunch break to go to the bank tomorrow.

Already have the trailer and equipment for a small team. Bought the more expensive stuff used.

On “job” days I do the lawn business from 7pm-9pm after work and on my “off days” I work from 8am-9pm for the lawn business. I’m working 80 hour weeks right now but let’s be honest, you don’t do much work as a car salesman. Still, I’m busy to the point where I often forget to take off my shoes before falling asleep..not good haha.

If the kid follows through on his promise to “not let me down”, I’ll have no problem scheduling more jobs next week. I can spend my off days bidding and looking at jobs in person instead of working my off days. We’ll see...
 

Andrew W

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OK. First off, the most important thing not to do is weeding. Your employees will hate it, you will hate it (it will take forever to do correctly, more money out of your pocket), and lastly, there's no good way to price it aside from hourly work. It is just a really difficult thing to gauge how much work will be necessary to complete it.

The second things that you want to avoid are those overly crazy people who need their lawn "just so." If you come across someone like this, avoid the headache and just politely decline or something. Also insurance comes into play here, if the property is wealthy be sure not to break anything, it's risky man. Up to you though, some people like working until it looks perfect, if your workers are like that, more power to ya!

In general though, the most lucrative part of the business for us was just mowing. We offer a flat rate price at the beginning of the season specific to each customer's yard. Then we have a pay-as-you-go model, each time we cut, they would pay. The project work (weeding, mulching, etc.) are just not worth the time unless you can find some prices from some more established lawncare companies and see how they are doing it. Mowing is easy, weedwhacking is easy, and you can charge whatever you want. So say you charge $50, your people working the same yard at the same time can cut that yard in 1 hour and you'll be out of there quick and and ready for more lawn. You cannot do that with project work and slamming these huge numbers and project price estimates in their faces is a huge turn off unless you can back up your claims for that price.

Keep in mind, mowing is different from all other aspects of landscaping. Landscaping is to make the place look beautiful as the #1 motivator, mowing's motivator is time. People don't have time to mow so they'll pay you. Keep that in mind. Establish trust in your clients, if they ask something early on and they need it done ASAP, get your people there ASAP. You can slack later but the initial relationship needs that fire, if they think you are looking out for them, they will look out for you. GOOD LUCK WITH THIS!
 

Johnny boy

Gold Contributor
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Speedway Pass
May 9, 2017
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OK. First off, the most important thing not to do is weeding. Your employees will hate it, you will hate it (it will take forever to do correctly, more money out of your pocket), and lastly, there's no good way to price it aside from hourly work. It is just a really difficult thing to gauge how much work will be necessary to complete it.

The second things that you want to avoid are those overly crazy people who need their lawn "just so." If you come across someone like this, avoid the headache and just politely decline or something. Also insurance comes into play here, if the property is wealthy be sure not to break anything, it's risky man. Up to you though, some people like working until it looks perfect, if your workers are like that, more power to ya!

In general though, the most lucrative part of the business for us was just mowing. We offer a flat rate price at the beginning of the season specific to each customer's yard. Then we have a pay-as-you-go model, each time we cut, they would pay. The project work (weeding, mulching, etc.) are just not worth the time unless you can find some prices from some more established lawncare companies and see how they are doing it. Mowing is easy, weedwhacking is easy, and you can charge whatever you want. So say you charge $50, your people working the same yard at the same time can cut that yard in 1 hour and you'll be out of there quick and and ready for more lawn. You cannot do that with project work and slamming these huge numbers and project price estimates in their faces is a huge turn off unless you can back up your claims for that price.

Keep in mind, mowing is different from all other aspects of landscaping. Landscaping is to make the place look beautiful as the #1 motivator, mowing's motivator is time. People don't have time to mow so they'll pay you. Keep that in mind. Establish trust in your clients, if they ask something early on and they need it done ASAP, get your people there ASAP. You can slack later but the initial relationship needs that fire, if they think you are looking out for them, they will look out for you. GOOD LUCK WITH THIS!
So true with the weeding. My second job I did was weeding. I spent 4 hours on it and said “F*ck this”. It seemed like a somewhat hard job but at least I charged $200 for it. I’ll have to finish up on Thursday and I’ll be bringing an employee to do it with me.

And I’ve been getting mostly people that just “need a mow”, no crazy people yet thankfully.

I’m getting insurance for up to 1,000,000 in coverage in liability, as well as workers comp and vehicle insurance for the truck/trailer. So rich peoples houses are going to be an option for me.

Thank you for the tips.
 

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