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How to Start a Lawn Care Business

Updated on May 17, 2022

How to Start a Lawn Care Business

How to Start a Lawn Care Business

Every lawn needs care, which means lawn care services will always be in high demand and offer the smart entrepreneur an opportunity for success. As a lawn care specialist, you’ll work outdoors, getting fresh air and exercise as you make a good living. For some people, few scents are as satisfying as a freshly mowed lawn on a bright summer day.

Though lawn care has become a competitive industry, plenty of opportunities remain, as demand continues to grow. Considerable work will be required in getting your lawn care business off the ground, so be sure to move patiently through the development and launch process, as detailed in this step-by-step guide.

Fast Facts

Investment range

$6,000-$10,000

Time to build

0-4 Months

Industry trend

Growing

Revenue potential

$50k-$200k p.a.

Profit potential

$25k-$100k p.a.

Commitment

Flexible

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Wooden cubes with the inscription: pros and cons. An analysis of their pros and cons

The first step is to determine if starting a lawn care business is viable for you. Think of this as a way to test the idea’s true potential, and you could start by weighing the pros and cons.

Pros and Cons

What are the downsides and upsides of launching a lawn care company? As a rule of thumb, a viable business idea should have more advantages than disadvantages.

Pros

  • Flexible – Work on your own schedule, on your own or with a team
  • Consistent work – Lawns grow and thus require periodic care
  • Diverse work potential – Add gardening, tree trimming, weeding, and other services
  • No training required – Working a lawnmower or a rake is a snap!

Cons

  • Seasonal – Depending on location, lawn care may only be needed 5-6 months/year
  • High startup costs – Mowers and lawn tools can be expensive
  • High competition – The industry is competitive, even saturated in some areas
  • Economy-dependent – In tough times, some homeowners do their own lawn care

Industry trends

German research firm Statista values the US lawn care sector at about $105 billion in 2021,[1]https://www.statista.com/statistics/294212/revenue-of-landscaping-services-in-the-us/ while market analyst Research and Markets expects annual industry growth of 4.5% through 2025.[2]https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200904005341/en/U.S.-Landscaping-Market-Growth-Trends-Forecast-2020-2025—ResearchAndMarkets.com

Household spending on lawn care and gardening has risen in recent years and new millennial homeowners have increasingly valued the work of experienced lawn specialists. These trends have only increased despite the COVID-19 pandemic and recent recession. As a result of the economic downturn, the industry has experienced a labor shortage, potentially providing new opportunities for entrepreneurs.[3]https://nipgroup.com/landscaping-companies-labor-shortages/

How much does it cost to start a lawn care business?

Startup costs for a lawn care business range from about $5-$10,000, with the primary costs being your mower and lawn tools. Startups in this sector spend an average of about $7,500 to get their business up and running.

The extent of your primary investments into mowing equipment will depend in part on the size of the lawns you expect to manage. Your marketing costs, both physical (flyers and cards) and digital (social media, website), will vary depending on your strategy.

Eventually, you may need to invest in a truck and trailer to transport your equipment.

Startup CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Equipment (mower, edger, safety tools, etc.)$5000-$8000$6,500
Fuel$30-$60$45
Insurance$100-$200$150
Business license$50-$100$75
Taxes$25-$50$38
Website$250-$500$375
Marketing costs$200-$1000$600
TOTAL$5655-$9910$7,783

Source: Step By Step Research

How much can you earn from a lawn care business?

Lawn care business owners earn anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 in their first couple of years and up to $150,000 or more after a few years in operation. Profit margins are usually around 50-60%, as ongoing costs tend to be low. However, as a lawn care business expands, adding new machinery, workers, and vehicles, margins can fall below 20%.

Service pricing varies, mainly depending on lawn size. Per-session lawn care services often cost between $30 and $100. If your business charges an average of $65 per session and mows 30 lawns each week, you’d see $97,500 in annual revenue and nearly $49,000 in profit, assuming a 50% margin.

Ultimately, your earnings depend on the number of homes you can service, which will in turn depend on whether you operate on your own or with a team. Of course, the more people you hire and more equipment you purchase, the higher your revenues, but the lower your profit margin.

If each lawn takes about 2 hours on average to complete, then a two-person team could complete about 3-5 lawns per day, 18 to 30 lawns per week, and 72 to 120 per month. At an average price of $65 per mow, this would amount to $56,000 to $94,000 in annual revenues.

What barriers to entry are there?

Barriers to entry for a lawn care company are relatively moderate and depend on the season and economic reality. Significant challenges for new entrants include:

  • High costs – All that expensive equipment adds up fast
  • High competition – Lawn care is highly competitive; you’ll need to stand out
  • Seasonality – In some regions you’ll struggle to find year-round work
  • Economy-reliant – Some homeowners opt to cut their own lawn in tough times

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Why? Identify an opportunity

The next step involves validating your business idea. At this stage, you’ll want to determine if there’s demand for your services in the market. That way, you can project whether your target customers will buy your service offering. It also enables you to forecast whether your business will be profitable.

A good starting point is to research your local market to identify opportunities. You should determine what type of service you can provide in relation to what your potential customer base demands, and what has worked for other providers. Your success may depend on your ability to market yourself, as the weeding, trimming, or gardening specialist, for instance. The most successful lawn care businesses might include all these services.

Many homeowners will rely on your primary service, lawn mowing, because such work is hard, particularly on hot summer days. But if your services are too one-dimensional, customers with diverse needs are likely to look elsewhere. In general, you should always take into account your target customer’s desires when developing your business plan.

What? Determine your products or services

Lawn care specialists can provide a variety of services. The extent of your work will depend on your preference, skill, and equipment, as well as the needs of your target demographic. Below is a list of services a lawn care specialist may be expected to provide:

  • Mowing, edging, mulching, trimming, weeding and fertilizing
  • Planting and caring for flower beds
  • Tree planting and removal
  • Leaf and debris removal; gutter and property cleaning

As a prospective lawn care specialist service, you should consider the necessary equipment and expected profit margins you can reasonably expect to earn for each of these services. Remember, as a service professional, your time is as valuable as your money. You should choose your service offerings wisely and, after some experimentation, add or subtract services as needed.

How much should you charge for your lawn care services?

For each lawn cut, US prices range from about $30 to $100 depending on lawn size, with the average around $65. For other services, such as weeding, fertilizing, mulching, and gutter cleaning, you should consider a per-project fee or hourly rate, depending on which works better for you. You may even adjust your prices to consider not just the time required but also the level of physical difficulty of each service.

Another option is to charge a flat fee for a package of services, such as mowing, plus weeding, fertilizing, leaf removal, and gutter cleaning all in one go. This could boost revenue and encourage customer interest in services they had not previously considered.

Who? Identify your target market

As a lawn care service provider, your main target market is residential homeowners with lawns. Commercial properties such as office buildings and private schools may also be interested in your services. You may choose to focus on homes or businesses, or target both.

You could purchase larger equipment and specialize in bigger lawns, with higher expected earnings as a result. Keep in mind that a new push mower often costs less than $400, while a riding mower, which most larger lawns would require, will run you a cool $2,500 or more.

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to operate your business from home to reduce costs. But as your business grows, you will likely need to hire workers for various roles and maybe open an office. Find commercial space to rent in your area on Loopnet, Craigslist, Crexi, and Commercial Cafe.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Should You Start a Lawn Care Business

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
  • The name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “lawn care” or “mowing”, boosts SEO
  • Choose a name that allows for expansion: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step business name generator

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names at a web cataloging site such as NameChk. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. And if you’ve exhausted all your creative juices but still don’t have a business name, don’t stress! Instead, check out our business name generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your services in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan yourself before, it can be an intimidating task. Consider hiring an experienced business plan writer on Fiverr to create a professional business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states offer real advantages when it comes to lawn care.

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business!

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your lawn care business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.

Here are the four main options:

  • Sole proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner: you get to keep all the profits, but you’re personally liable for all debts.
  • Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses.
  • Corporation – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.

We recommend that most new business owners form an LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can quickly and cheaply form an LLC using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service (it can take as little as 5 minutes). They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your Articles of Organization and be on hand to answer any questions you have about the company formation process.

Business structure comparison infographic

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online. It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method, but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Offer potential investors an ownership stake in exchange for funds, keeping in mind that you would be sacrificing some control over your business.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund an entrepreneur’s vision.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings, the sale of property or other assets, and support from family and friends.

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a lawn care business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as, health license and permit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.

Some of the lawn care-specific licenses and permits you may need to obtain include an occupational license or a Fertilizer/Pesticide Applicator Certification. The National Association for Landscape Professionals (NALP) offers optional certifications, for horticulture, lawn care management and more, which could enhance your marketability.

You may also need state-level licenses and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and country governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more about your local requirements for a lawn care business. You could also use the SBA’s guide to identify your state’s requirements.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties. If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

For peace of mind and to save time, we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state, and provide them to you to make sure you’re fully compliant.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you will need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your lawn care business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts specifically for businesses, just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to consider your options to choose the best plan that works for you. Once you choose your bank, you’ll need to bring your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and any other legal documentation that proves your business is registered.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Closeup the silver ballpoint modern pen on insurance contract with planning in background.

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet is vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Webflow, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. We examine several of them below.

Marketing

Some of your business will come from web searches and word-of-mouth, but still you should invest in marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness.

Once your website is up and running, make sure you link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a particularly good way of promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area.
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Equipment

You’ll need several items to launch a lawn care business. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Push Mower / Riding Mower
  • Edger and Trimmer
  • Eye and Ear Protection
  • Gloves
  • Hedge Trimmer
  • Lawn Tools
  • Lawn Bags
  • Leaf Blower
  • Blade Sharpener
  • Truck + Equipment Trailer

Step 12: Build Your Team

You may not need to hire any employees if you are starting out small and using your home as your office. But as your business grows, you will need to add employees for various roles, including:

  • Lawn Care Workers
  • Equipment Supervisor
  • Administrator
  • Accountant
  • Marketing Lead

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook.  You can also use free classified sites like Jobs and AngelList. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the unique characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your lawn care business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.

Signature USPs your lawn care business might be:

  • Free estimates and fully transparent, consistent prices
  • Specialize in small residential or large office properties
  • Build an appealing website with easy booking
  • Top-notch equipment that’s always in optimal condition
USP venn diagram

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence, and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:

  • Competitions and giveaways – Generate interest by offering prizes for customers who complete a certain action, such as being the 10th customer of the season.
  • Optimize calls to action (CTAs) – Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.
  • Signage – Put up eye-catching signage at your store and website
  • Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events
  • In-Person Sales (IPS) – Offer your products at local markets, trade shows 

Consider a Niche

You should consider creating a niche for yourself by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry. This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing within your niche market.

Build Affiliate Relationships

Affiliate marketing is advertising in which you compensate third parties (i.e. your affiliates) in order to generate traffic to your website. You can develop long-term relationships with these affiliates and generate traffic for each other on an ongoing basis.

Lawn Care Business FAQs

What if I damage something while working?

Help the client repair the damage, if you’re able. But more importantly, you should include a disclaimer or warning on your website that addresses such contingencies and discuss with your clients. Also, liability insurance may be a good idea.

How much should I charge as an hourly rate for lawn care services?

The average per hour rate for most lawn care services is about $40-$60. For riding lawn mowers, that jumps to $100-$120.

How should I get lawn mowing clients?

Physical and digital marketing is necessary to get your business name out there. Tap into as many local channels (signage, storefronts, flyers, cards, etc.) and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) as you can to contact as many prospective clients as possible. You could also go door-to-door in your target area, introduce yourself and your services and turn on the charm, like in the old days.

How long does it take to mow an acre?

Mowing times hinge on the type of mower. Here’s a handy table breaking down common mowers and their coverage speed:

Size of mower:Time to mow 1 acre:
22-inch push mower1 hour 39 minutes
30-inch push mower1 hour 13 minutes
38-inch lawn tractor34-57 minutes
42-inch lawn tractor31-52 minutes