How to Start a Lawn Care Business
78% of Americans reported having their own lawn or landscaping – a large chunk of these homeowners – 4 out of every ten hired professionals to do their lawn care. That was the result of a survey in 2016, and recent figures show that Americans continue to love a green yard but tend to leave care and maintenance to someone else.
So if you know a thing or two about lawn care and maintenance, love working outdoors, and are looking for an opportunity to start your own business, you should read on to find out what it takes to set up a lawn care company.
Lawn care professionals are in the business of designing, growing, and maintaining the health and vitality of grass spaces such as parks and gardens, private properties, golf courses, and other sporting fields, even cemeteries.
Lawn care specialists will typically seed lawns, mow grass, apply special treatments such as fertilizer, and manage weed and pest control. They may also work out a maintenance plan with their clients, make follow-up visits, and trim hedges and trees.
Work tends to be seasonal.
Lawn care forms part of the landscaping industry, which deals with designing, constructing, and maintaining green spaces. According to Statista, the lawn care industry generated $99 billion in 2019.
According to IBISWorld, there were over 630,000 landscaping services businesses in the US in 2022. Statista names Brightview Holdings as the leading US landscape company (moving and maintenance services, measured by revenue), generating $2.44 billion in income in 2022. However, 86% of lawn care and landscaping businesses employ fewer than ten staff.
Although demand for lawn care services slowed in the last couple of years, especially from homeowners, the industry is expected to grow by 3.8% in 2022 (IBISWorld). Equally, employment is forecast to rise along with a strengthening economy and increased consumer spending.
Environmental changes, such as water shortages in some areas, are further contributing factors to the increase in demand for professional lawn care services. Customers are also more aware of the impact of chemicals, fertilizers, and gas-fed equipment on the environment and are increasingly seeking advice and choosing environmentally friendly lawn care options.
Your target market will depend largely on where you live. Although most properties will want some landscaping, lawns are traditionally found in suburban and rural areas. That said, you may find a gap in market supply relating to lawn care and maintenance of parks and recreational areas, sports fields, schools, hospitals, and other large public buildings.
The prevailing climate certainly plays an important factor.
A thorough market analysis will identify these potential gaps, your competition, and any lawn care specialization you might like to offer.
Checklist for Starting a Lawn Care Business
Before you launch your lawn care business, take some time to develop a checklist of the things you’ll need to do to get started. Here are a few items that should be on your list:
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
No matter what kind of business you want to start, you need to have a business plan. This document will outline your business goals, strategies, and how you plan on achieving them. Your lawn care business plan should also include a marketing strategy, which will detail how you plan on getting customers.
Not only will a bank require you to have one, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Name the Business
You need to come up with a name for your lawn care business that will be memorable and professional. This is the first step in branding your business, so choose wisely!
Finding the perfect name for a business can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Related: Tips on naming a lawn care business
Step 3: Form a Business Entity
A business entity (also referred to as a business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a lawn care business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is that the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Select Your Location
You will need to select a location for your business. This can be your personal residence, or you may want to rent a space.
If you plan on doing mobile lawn care, then you will still need to consider where you will store your equipment. Many smaller operations operate out of their home, but be sure to first check zoning and covenants in case you have a neighbor that doesn’t approve of your venture.
Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Depending on your location, you may need to obtain a business license or permit in order to operate legally. You should check with your local government agencies to see what is required.
Step 6: Find Financing
Fortunately, the cost to start a new lawn care business is relatively low; however, If you need help with start-up costs, you may want to look into financing options.
There are a number of ways to finance a business, including credit cards, loans, or investor funds. If bank financing is being used, most lenders will require the borrower to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
It is important to open a business bank account so that you can keep your personal and business finances separate. This will make it easier to track expenses and manage your money.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Starting a lawn care business is a great way to earn extra income or even make a full-time living. However, simply owning a lawn mower and some other basic equipment doesn’t guarantee success.
To be successful, you need to invest time and effort into promoting your business.
One of the most important things you can do is create a professional-looking website. Your website should include information about your services, prices, and contact information. You should also have some good photos of your work. In addition to your website, you should also consider creating social media accounts and/or flyers and business cards to help promote your business.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
As a lawn care business owner, it is important to have insurance to protect yourself and your customers. There are a number of different types of insurance that you can purchase, so be sure to do your research and find the right policy for your needs.
A few types of insurance for a lawn care company include:
– General liability insurance covers expenses if a client is ever injured or if the business ever damages a client’s property.
– Worker’s compensation insurance is required if a business hires employees. It helps cover expenses like lost wages or medical bills if an employee is injured while working.
– Automobile insurance is needed to cover the van and its drivers. If you plan to use a personal vehicle, be sure to review your current policy to ensure it allows for commercial activity.
Step 10: Hire Employees
If you plan on growing your business, you may need to hire employees at some point. When hiring, be sure to check references and do your research to find qualified candidates.
Each state has different requirements that a business must follow before hiring.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
It is important to set up an accounting system for your business so that you can keep track of your finances. There are a number of software programs that can help you with this, or you can hire an accountant to do it for you.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does it cost to start a lawn care business?
Depending on what equipment you invest in upfront, starting a lawn care business can cost anything between $15,000 and $55,000. Of course, price points vary greatly, especially for lawnmowers, so ensure you have the right equipment for your business’ focus and needs.
When you develop your business plan, budget items should include:
Equipment: A truck or SUV large enough to transport your gear, fertilizer, plus potentially the grass clippings (primarily for residential lawn care).
The essential three pieces of equipment are a push- or ride-on lawn mower, a leaf blower, and a string trimmer. You might also invest in a fertilizer spreader, aerator, chainsaw, rakes, and spades.
Storage: Think about where you can keep your equipment and its stock. Make sure it can be stored safely and securely, out of harm’s way.
Consider finding a space that will give you room to maintain and repair your equipment.
Business licenses, fees, and insurance: Licencing requirements may change from State to State.
Business management: systems to attract, quote and invoice customers, help with scheduling, accounting, and potentially HR. You might consider setting up a website with a booking function or developing print material to advertise your services.
Ongoing costs: fuel costs make up an increasing part of this budget item. Additional items here include stock, equipment maintenance, and overheads.
How much money can you make with a lawn care business?
According to CareerExplorer, the average salary of a lawn care specialist is $18.4/hour, with the top earners at almost $26/hour. Note that these statistics reflect the employment market, not necessarily a business owner’s income. Understanding the market and pricing your services correctly will largely contribute to a successful, profitable business model.
Are there grants to start a lawn care business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a lawn care business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What skills are needed to run a lawn care business?
Vocational expertise. Although you don’t need a qualification to run your own lawn care business, a solid understanding of lawn care is a must to build up and maintain your professional reputation.
We recommend you gain a relevant certification, such as in Lawn Care Management or as a Lawn Care Technician. Certification will show prospective and existing clients that you provide your services based on up-to-date knowledge and expertise.
The National Association of Landscape Professionals provides a raft of resources, including certification, and Landscape Management keeps its members up to date with trends and innovations in this industry.
Customer services skills. Although you typically work by yourself, how well you communicate with potential and existing customers will likely have a substantial impact on the success of your business. You will assess customers’ lawn care requirements and provide feedback and guidance on your services. In addition, you will deliver quotes and regular maintenance updates.
Being approachable, listening well, and providing clear, professional, and timely information will be excellent skills to have.
Business skills. If you choose to start your own lawn care business, you are likely a person who doesn’t like to sit at a desk all day. That’s great! But know that you will still need to ensure your balance sheets are in order, you price your services correctly, understand legal and insurance requirements relevant to your business and ensure your bookkeeping is up to date with IRS requirements.
There are relatively few barriers to entry into the lawn care services industry. Many successful companies started as a side hustle for some extra income.
For someone who likes working with their hands, is independent, and enjoys being outdoors, that makes this a great industry to start small, test the waters, and expand with a growing client base.