When it comes to our image of the quintessential home, a perfectly maintained lawn is right up there with a white picket fence. For homeowners, there’s nothing like the scent of freshly cut grass, or the pride that comes with an even, bright green lawn. If you’re considering starting a lawn care business, you already know that lawn care takes time and energy that most homeowners don’t have.
While it might seem like all you need is a lawn mower and the time to start selling your services, proper preparation can help your business grow. With the right planning, you can extend well beyond just mowing and move into other in-demand services. In this short guide, we’ll cover the steps towards starting a successful lawn care business.
Step 1: Decide what lawn care services to offer
While most households need their lawns cut, a little know-how and the right equipment can help when starting a lawn care and landscaping business that’s truly full-service. In addition to mowing, consider offering the following services:
- Sale of fertilizer, insecticide, and other lawn care products directly to clients
- Weeding, mulching, and other gardening work
- Lawn installation
- Planting native lawns
- Planting native species and pollinators in and alongside grass lawns
- Seasonal services (snow removal in the winter, raking leaves in the fall)
If there’s a demand for green and eco-friendly practices in your area, building your knowledge and offering specialized services can help you compete with other lawn care providers and attract more customers. You may also be able to charge more for your expertise. Likewise, a little basic landscaping knowledge goes a long way towards finding new streams of revenue.
The services you offer will strongly affect your startup costs. If you’re only offering mowing, you may just need a lawnmower and a vehicle for transport. However, other services will require specialized tools including wheelbarrows, hoes, etc.
Step 2: Set up a legal lawn care business
Once you’ve secured startup money to purchase any necessary equipment, you can begin setting up your business. Even if lawn care is a part time, seasonal job, organizing your business can help it succeed in the years to come.
Consider taking the following steps to start your lawn care business legally:
Check on business licensing requirements – You may not need a license to offer mowing services. However, if you apply pesticides and herbicides, there’s a chance your city or county will require a permit.
Set up a legal lawn care business – If you need a federal tax ID to pay employees or independent contractors, you will need to create a legal business entity for your lawn care business, like a Limited Liability Company (LLC), S corp, or partnership. If you’re an independent contractor, you don’t have to take this step, legally speaking. Still, separating your business assets from your personal assets (with a sole proprietorship or LLC) provides you some legal protection in the case that something goes wrong.
Step 3: Purchase lawn care equipment
While you won’t have to purchase office space like some other businStarting a lawn care business requires some startup costs — namely, to purchase the lawn care equipment you’ll use to provide your services. At a minimum, most lawn care businesses require the following equipment to get started:
- String trimmer
- Leaf blower
- Mowing goggles
- Safety ear muffs
- Gardening gloves
- Gas cans
- Lawn bags
You’ll also need a truck or trailer to transport your equipment to and from your clients’ homes and businesses. If you don’t have one you can use, invest in a work vehicle (and make sure it’s protected with a commercial auto policy).
Step 4: Protect your lawn care business
Once you start providing lawn care services, make sure your business is legally protected. Having a legal business entity is not enough. While an LLC, for example, can protect you from some liability, it’s called a limited liability company for a reason. If your personal finances and your business finances aren’t rigorously separated, you could find your personal assets liable in the case of a claim made against you.
“Wait,” you might ask, “what can go wrong with lawn care?”
Imagine your client has asked you to install a new lawn and treat it with pesticides. You’ve sprayed the one-acre expanse as requested. Should this practice lead to your client’s child suddenly breaking out in a rash, they could claim it’s from exposure to the pesticide and sue you for bodily injury and medical costs. If this happened, you could be held liable.
Bodily injury isn’t the only thing you could be held liable for, either. If you get distracted while riding your mower and this leads to you damaging a part of your client’s property, you could be liable for the replacement or repairs.
That’s why lawn care professionals need general liability insurance. General liability insurance can protect you in the event of a client or third party’s claim of bodily injury, medical costs, or property damage related to your lawn care work.
Note: General liability insurance does not cover you in the case of your employees’ injuries or medical costs. If you have employees, you may also need a workers’ compensation policy.
Lastly, you may want to consider Business Equipment Protection insurance to cover your equipment, and a commercial auto policy for your work vehicle. Lawn care equipment, especially higher-end mowers, can get expensive. If an accident happens and yours gets damaged or broken, you want to know you’re covered for a replacement or a repair.
Bonus: Lawn care insurance on your schedule
As you start your lawn care business, make sure that a client or third party’s claim doesn’t cut your business off at the root.
Getting lawn care business insurance with Thimble is fast, easy, and best of all, flexible. Lawn care is a seasonal business in most areas. If your city doesn’t have year-long balmy weather, you don’t need a year-long policy. With Thimble, your policy lasts only for as long as you need it: choose between daily, weekly or monthly policies.
When you’re ready to sign up, enter your ZIP code, crew size, and a few details related to your business, you can get an instant quote, purchase your policy, and get proof of insurance in just 60 seconds.
Let Thimble take care of your insurance needs so that you can take care of your community’s lawns, worry-free.
Step 5: Price your lawn care services
Figuring out what to charge for your services can feel like a riddle to any new business owner. Fortunately, it is possible! Consider the following to hone in on the right pricing for your lawn care business:
- Identify your target customers. Will you be primarily serving commercial or residential clients, or a bit of both? Both audiences have different expectations when it comes to pricing, with commercial clients typically being comfortable paying more.
- Understand the market. What are your competitors charging? Research how much your competitors charge for the same services you’ll be offering, as you’ll want to stay in a similar range. Charge too low, and clients may not trust you.
- Will you charge per hour or flat rate? Again, this is where market research can be helpful. Many clients prefer to be quoted a flat rate for lawn care services, since that helps them prepare for the final bill. Of course, you can base that flat rate on the hourly rate you need to be profitable.
- Factor in ongoing expenses. It costs money to run a lawn care business! Consider overhead costs like taxes, health insurance, business insurance, marketing materials, cell phone, gas, vehicle and equipment maintenance, software (accounting, scheduling, website hosting, etc.), and employees (if you plan to hire any).
- Add in profit. Pricing isn’t about breaking even. It’s about being profitable. Tack on a healthy percentage to your rates to pay yourself and help your business become profitable. With a profitable business, you’ll be better positioned to weather any unexpected costs, and to grow your lawn care business over time.
Pro Tip: When clients want to hire you for multiple services, itemize your quote with the cost for each service. This way, they can pick and choose different services without saying no to everything.
Step 6: Grow your client base with savvy marketing
Just like your clients’ lawns need regular watering to grow and stay green, your business needs marketing. Bring in new clients with these marketing tips.
Design a logo – A logo not only makes your business look professional, it’s a key promotion tool. You can add your logo to your invoices, quotes, email signature, and marketing materials. You can print it on the t-shirts or hats you and your employees wear. You can even print a decal for your truck or trailer! Create a logo using a free design tool like Canva, or hire a freelance designer via Fiverr or Upwork.
Check out your competitors – What marketing channels do they leverage? What are they doing well that you can copy, and what are they doing poorly that you can avoid?
Network through word of mouth – Many small lawn care businesses start with only a single customer. Consider offering discounted services to family, friends, and neighbors as you start out. You can even run a promotion: if someone refers a friend, offer them a one-time discount.
Ask for reviews – Speaking of word of mouth, customers reviews are one of the best marketing tools for lawn care companies. Ask happy clients to leave you a review on Google and Yelp.
Print flyers and business cards – Printed materials like flyers and business cards are an affordable way to promote your new lawn care business throughout your city or town. You can post flyers in local businesses, and share business cards with potential clients.
Build a website – Website building tools like Wix and Squarespace make it easy to build a professional-looking website. All you need is a simple, one-page website to describe your services, post your contact information, and share happy client testimonials.
Set up your social media presence – Make it easy for people to find you on Instagram and Facebook. Consider adding photographs of any landscaping jobs, as well as positive customer testimonials.
A fresh cut awaits
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to mow ahead and start your lawn care business. Remember, you need to:
- Decide what services to offer
- Set up your business structure
- Purchase lawn care equipment
- Protect your business with insurance
- Price your services
- Grow your client base with marketing
At the end of the day, you’re providing a valuable service for your community. Treat your business with the same care, and it’ll be as squared-away as the lawns you tend to.
Get started now by protecting your lawn care business with Thimble’s Lawn Care Insurance. Just tell us your zip code and a few details about your business. Sixty seconds later, and bam — you’ve got proof of insurance.