If you are thinking of starting a lawn care business then you are in for challenges, excitement, struggles, and reward. Choosing a name and proper price for your services are some of the aspects you should examine when starting a lawn care business, but the most important aspect is how to do so while following the law. I’m not a lawyer, but based on my research (and what I know about lawn care), here’s how to start a lawn care business legally that will make money, and fill you with pride.
Before You Start, Focus on Branding
When starting a lawn care business you will need to develop a brand for yourself.
This includes a name and logo that are interesting and catchy, as well as reflective of you and your services.
Your name should be professional so that you can place it on your emails, invoices, any marketing, advertising, and merchandise. And I recommend choosing a shorter brand name and domain name as well.
Your logo can also be important for brand recognition and awareness. If you don’t have the design chops to tackle this yourself, you can hire a graphic designer for the project on Fiverr or Upwork. When you are happy with your logo, I suggest getting all of your social media banners and images done at the same time by the same designer. That way you’ll have consistent branding online across the web.
You have options when it comes to designing a logo, if you’re strapped for cash, you can try to design one yourself on a website such as Canva. But in my experience it’s better to spend $50 or so on a professional logo if you can.
How to Start a Lawn Care Business Legally: The Nitty Gritty
The number one most important aspect of a business is operating legally, and there are many ways to do so.
In this section I’ll discuss registering your lawn care business, obtaining the proper license(s), and (very important) making sure you have the correct insurance coverage.
These may seem boring, taking care of the block and tackling of setting up your lawn care business will actually help you market and grow your business.
Registering Your Lawn Care Business
The first step you will need to take is how you want to structure your business which is considered the registration step.
The main options to choose from are:
- Sole Proprietorship,
- LLC, and
Generally, most lawn care businesses only need to be registered under your business name under your local government, but if you are looking for protection of your personal assets (a good idea), you might choose an LLC.
A local attorney can help you set this up and tell you how to start a lawn care business legally. Or you can go with LegalZoom, which will probably be a little cheaper.
Most new lawn care businesses that are a one-man (or woman) show start out as a Sole Proprietorship, which keeps taxes and book-keeping simple, and you are not required to pay much up-front to get up and running legally.
But as you get more clients and do more work, you really ought to transition to an LLC to protect your personal assets in the event of a legal dispute.
Insurance for a Lawn Care Business
After registering your lawn care business, commercial insurance is the next step to consider. Insurance is incredibly important in case you accidentally damage, or break something on a client’s property. Not having insurance for your lawn care business could quickly put you out of business.
Insurance will protect you from large payouts when getting sued or involved with a lawsuit. It will also protect you in case of damages or injuries that occur while on site.
Although you should always hope you never have to use your commercial insurance, you do not want to be without it if something does happen.
Licensing Your Lawn Care Business
To start a lawn care business you should not need any specific licenses unless you offer specialized services. But to physically operate a business you will need a business license.
If you decide to offer specialized services, such as fertilization, landscape design of pesticide control, then the laws will vary state to state, but you can expect that you need to obtain a specialized license.
Check with your local Department of Agriculture to find out your state’s specific license requirements.
If this is a hoop you’d rather not jump through, consider marketing your business as a green lawn care alternative that’s safer for kids and pets. Using organic products that don’t require a license may be attractive to homeowners in your area!
Establish your Website and Business Contact Information
Establishing a website is important in order to look professional. You’ll want a business email address that matches your domain (i.e. jim@ yourbusiness.com) so that you don’t come across as an amateur to prospective clients.
A website will also help you come up in search engines and bring in new customers. You must be willing to invest in a domain name for your website. This should cost less than $30 per year.
If you do not want to hire a developer or do the coding yourself, you can employ a website designing site such as Wix, or Weebly.
WordPress is a bit trickier to set up for the uninitiated, but it will provide you more options for design long-term.
After creating a website, you will also need a method for potential clients to contact you. This means you should create a business email and a phone number.
You should also put a form on your website so prospective clients can easily request a free quote.
As I mentioned, one great way to improve or reinforce branding and give your business an air of sophistication is to connect your email to your website. This will help to make it (and you) seem more professional. For example, if your website is: carolfamilylawns.com, your email might be info @carolfamilylawns.com.
This is not necessary and you can just as well use a Gmail account that might look like: carolfamilylawns @gmail.com.
But really, if you’re going to bother setting up a business, use your business domain for your business email. It’s free, and you can still handle your email through Gmail with that address if you prefer.
G Suite is a great solution for new Lawn Care companies. You can register your domain, get professional business email through Gmail, and a host of other tools to grow your business. Compare plans right here.
For your business phone number, you can choose to employ a landline, your cell phone, or a digital voice provider.
If you choose to go with a digital voice provider, Google Voice offers a free option that allows you to forward calls to your personal device, without giving out your personal phone number. It also integrates really well with G Suite.
Use a CRM (what is a CRM?)
Even if you have a small lawn care business starting out, using software to quote, invoice, or manage lawn care clients is very helpful.
A CRM (or Customer Relationship Manager) platform will help to keep you organized and can help you win and retain more clients.
Different options you might use for a CRM for your lawn care business could be HubSpot or even a simple and organized Google Sheets document.
Make a business plan
When starting any type of business you will need to plan for your future.
The same is true of lawn care businesses, even if you’re on your own.
You will need to decide how large you want to grow your business and the amount of business you expect in a specific amount of time. You might also think about introducing business partners into the business for physical or financial support.
Most importantly you should ensure that you have long-term goals that will continually push your business forward to avoid stagnation.
The reality is that once you’re making enough money to pay your bills, it’s easy to become complacent. If you’re looking to build a business that will allow you to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren, dream big and outline a 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year growth plan.
Being specific and digging into the financials in this way will help you understand what you need to do to achieve your goals, and that knowledge will make them feel attainable.
Purchase lawn care equipment
When starting a lawn care business it might be tempting to purchase the most expensive equipment to have a professional feel and look.
But this may not always be the best decision.
Remember that you will always have the opportunity to purchase a more expensive mower, and delaying that purchase until after your business is established and bringing in money will help you off-set your income and reduce your taxes a year or two from now.
Jumping into debt right off the bat is going to put you behind the eight ball right from the start.
Instead, you can look for good quality, pre-owned lawn care machines.
Consider touching base with larger, established lawn care businesses in the area. If they’re upgrading machinery, they may sell you really good equipment at a discount.
Additionally, building a relationship with them might put you in a position to get referrals when they’re too busy.
Networking is never a bad idea.
Learn How to Maintain your Equipment
Maintaining your lawn mower and other equipment is just as important as actually purchasing quality equipment.
Especially if you have employees, making a plan to ensure your equipment is properly maintained is the best way to go.
You might even want to make a daily checklist of ongoing maintenance tasks in addition to a seasonal checklist for the start of the year and to winterize your mowers in the fall.
This checklist can be done either at the beginning of the day or end of the day before leaving:
- Check oil levels in your mower and truck and make sure all oil levels are appropriate
- Make sure your air filters are properly cleaned
- Tie all equipment down to your truck or vehicle
- Check tire pressure on all equipment
- Report all damage present in the equipment
Pricing Your Services
One essential part of a business is deciding how to price your services.
It can be easy to try to undercut the competition to get business. But one important rule is that you do not want to charge too little (or too much).
If you charge too little then you won’t be able to handle extra costs. You also might not be able to bring on employees to lighten the workload and grow.
On the other hand, if you are setting too high of a price point, many clients might avoid hiring you. If homeowners can get the same quality at a lower price elsewhere.
You should set your pricing based on either per hour or a flat rate. You should calculate this rate based on if you are paying employees, what your overhead costs are, equipment maintenance costs, cost of materials, taxes, and finally a bottom-line profit.
It’s a good idea to provide an itemized quote to homeowners. This way, if they can’t afford all of the lawn care service you’d discussed, they could still hire you for mowing.
You could also include a discount with that itemized quote if they hire you for all of the work in the quote. Since you’ll be at the property anyway, this usually works out in your favor.
Advertisement and Marketing for Your Lawn Care Business
Without a marketing strategy or advertisement, you may not be able to find clients. That makes marketing one of the most important aspects of actually making your lawn care business successful.
Begin by setting aside a budget for your business. Decide how much revenue you want to create. From this decide how much you are willing to spend on advertising.
Whether this is 10% or 20% decide on a number that makes you comfortable.
Advertising and marketing do not always need to be expensive. You can also experiment with different forms of advertising in different price ranges.
Low-cost forms of marketing might include posting flyers at your local coffee shop or dropping flyers in mailboxes in the neighborhood you’d like to work in.
Make a social media page for your business and run a few local Facebook ads with photos of your work.
Register your business owner on Google Maps or Yelp can also work.
Starting a referral program (current customers who refer someone get 40% off their next mow) is another approach.
Higher cost options might include online ads, billboards, branded products, or hiring a marketing professional to help out.
Focus on Obtaining Customer Reviews
With information being more accessible than ever, customer reviews are easy to obtain. Reviews can also greatly influence the success of a business.
In a study published by Fan & Fuel, it was found that 97% of participants stated that customer reviews factor into their buying decisions. Further, 92% of consumers will hesitate to make a purchase when there are no customer reviews. Additionally, 94% said they always read reviews if they were available.
This means that part of your job as a business owner is to solicit reviews from your customers.
After finishing work for clients, you should ask them to positively review you. Review sites such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook are all important.
Additionally, try to respond to questions and comments, but especially complaints. Offering a quick and courteous response to either a positive or negative comment will aid in building a positive reputation. It shows prospective customers that you care.
Perform Quality Service
This might be obvious, but giving your customers quality service is the best thing you can do to grow your business.
As you gain clients, avoid taking on more than you can handle. It is always better to perform quality service rather than quick service. Making even one customer feel under-served or like they’re an afterthought is a bad business decision.
Eventually, if you provide good service then the reviews will come and your business will grow.