How To Start A Lawn Care Business in 8 Steps
Getting into the lawn care game requires elbow grease, funding, and marketing savvy. Learn how to start a lawn care business in our step-by-step guide.
Well-maintained lawns and gardens will always be in demand. And if working outdoors with your hands is something you already enjoy, you might find starting a lawn care venture both fulfilling and lucrative. This guide on how to start a lawn care business walks you through everything you need to think of to get up and running.
As with all businesses, starting a lawn care business requires effort, resources, and know-how. But let’s say you don’t have much (or anything) in the way of working capital just yet; in that case, you’re probably wondering how to start a lawn care business with no money. There are a lot of startup business loans to help you get the capital you need.
Let’s go over the steps you should take, where to get funding, and how to set up your lawn care business for success.
Table of Contents
- 1) Create A Business Plan
- 2) Determine What Equipment You Need & Calculate Costs
- 3) Research Lawn Care Business Insurance
- 4) Register Your Business
- 5) Obtain Any Necessary Licenses Or Permits
- 6) Seek Funding
- 7) Choose The Best Platforms To Manage Your Lawn Care Business
- 8) Market Your Lawn Care Business
- Are You Ready To Start Your Lawn Care Business?
- Lawn Care Business FAQ
1) Create A Business Plan
Even if your business concept seems simple, having a solid one-page business plan in place is a necessity. Your future lawn care business is no exception.
Your business plan outlines your goals for the future. Whether it’s generating millions in income over the course of five years or expanding into adjacent markets, they need to be outlined in a solid business plan, no matter what they are.
Not only does a business plan help you put your goals, competition, and mission to paper, but it’s also crucial if you plan to get startup funding through investors or banks.
2) Determine What Equipment You Need & Calculate Costs
To operate a lawn care business, you need to have the right tools and equipment for the job. While you may start off small and add to your inventory as your business grows, there are a few critical pieces of equipment you need to get started.
The single biggest expense will be a truck and equipment trailer. You’ll be paying within the range of $15,000 to $50,000 for a truck and anywhere from $400 to $5,000 for a trailer.
As far as the cost of your trailer goes, the biggest factors determining the price will be its condition, age, and how much it can carry. At the very least, it should be able to carry a riding lawnmower if you’re unable to fit one in the bed of the truck.
Here’s additional equipment you’re going to need to start your lawn care business, along with a range of prices you can expect to pay on average:
- Riding lawnmower ($1,000-$5,000)
- Push lawnmower ($170-$350)
- Edger ($80-$350)
- Hedge trimmer ($20-$80)
- Leaf blower ($150-$600)
You’ll also need equipment that’s less expensive but just as critical to operations. This includes:
- Hand tools, e.g., shears, pruners, trowels, and rakes (prices vary)
- Lawn bags ($5-$20)
- Personal protective equipment such as gloves, glasses, and ear plugs ($50-$500)
- Gas cans (prices vary)
- Oil ($5-$10 per quart)
- Garden hoses ($40-$60)
Sit down and spell out how much you’re willing to spend to start your business. Is it $40,000? Maybe $50,000? Research the prices of online vendors and local retailers and factor those into your budget.
As your business grows, of course, you’ll need additional capital to purchase more equipment.
For example, you may have just one truck, trailer, and mower for now, but if you have additional crews taking on jobs all over the area, you’ll need enough resources to handle the scale of the services you’re providing.
You may even decide to offer extra services — installing sod, laying mulch, or planting flowers — all of which require additional equipment and supplies. But for now, the equipment listed above will be most critical to getting your business off the ground.
Other Startup Costs To Consider
Extra costs include fees for permits and licenses. We’ll discuss obtaining licenses and permits a little more in the next section.
If you’re starting small as a one-person operation, your primary startup costs will come from your equipment, supplies, insurance, marketing, and business software. Take your time to do your research, plan, and budget to keep startup costs under control.
3) Research Lawn Care Business Insurance
Another startup cost to consider is the cost of business insurance. Mistakes can and do happen — insuring your business tells lenders and clients that you’re responsible and serious about the well-being of the business and the customers you serve.
These are the types of insurance you’ll most likely need for your lawn care business.
For starters, you ought to carry general liability insurance. This protects your business from the medical costs and legal fees that result from accidents that cause damage to another person or their property.
Considering all the ways in which a client’s property could be damaged while providing lawn care services, this policy instantly becomes a must-have.
Commercial Auto Insurance
You will need to have commercial auto insurance on your truck. Similar to general liability, this protects you and your employees from the financial fallout of hospital bills and legal battles should an accident occur while driving for work and you’re found to be at fault.
As soon as you hire an employee, you’re required by law to purchase workers’ compensation insurance in every state except Texas. When workers get injured on the job, workers’ comp will cover their medical bills and pay if they need time off to recover.
4) Register Your Business
Before you begin operating, you’ll need to register your business. There are several steps required to register a new business:
Choose & Register Your Business Name
If you’re starting out as a sole proprietorship, your business’s name automatically starts out as your legal personal name. However, most small business owners register a DBA, or “doing business as” trade name. This will need to be registered in the state where you will operate.
As a rule of thumb, choose a name that best represents your brand and the services you offer. This makes it easier for customers to remember — and recommend to others — you and your business.
You will also need to make sure that you select a name that is not registered by someone else in your state. You can find your state’s registration database with a quick online search.
Choose Your Legal Structure
One of the first steps in setting up your business is determining what type of business structure you want to operate. This affects how much you pay in taxes and your personal liability for your business.
A sole proprietorship will be your most straightforward option. However, if you’re sued for harming clients or their property, you risk getting your personal assets involved.
If you want to separate your personal property and finances from those of your business, then consider forming a limited liability company (LLC for short). Pairing this with LLC insurance is your best shot at comprehensive financial protection.
Partnerships are ideal if you want to have multiple business owners. You can specify the degree to which other partners have control over — and liability for — the lawn care business.
Register With The IRS & State Revenue Agency
If you plan to have employees now or in the future, you will need to register for an Employer Identification Number. You’ll also request estimated tax vouchers from both the IRS and your state revenue office to file with your quarterly tax payments.
5) Obtain Any Necessary Licenses Or Permits
The licenses and permits that you need for your business are based on the laws of your municipality and what your business will do. For example, simply mowing lawns only requires a standard business license in most areas.
However, if you plan to spray chemical herbicides, an additional license may be required. You can find out more about license and permit requirements by contacting your state’s Department of Commerce.
6) Seek Funding
Now, how do you pay for everything you need to open your lawn care business?
Like most aspiring entrepreneurs, your personal bank account likely isn’t bursting at the seams with more money than you know what to do with. In fact, you might be wondering how to start a lawn care business with no money.
This is where small business funding plays a role. Numerous lenders are ready to give you the money you need to get your business off the ground.
The trick is knowing where to find small business startup loans and knowing which option is best for you.
There might be a chance that your community — or a group of generous strangers on the internet — is interested in your idea and is willing to put money towards it.
Acquiring startup money this way through public means is also referred to as crowdfunding. This can allow business ideas to get off the ground quickly without going through the gauntlet of lenders, co-owners, and banks.
Generally, contributors to your startup don’t gain any control over your business when it comes to fruition. Though if you’ve promised your investors special privileges for being an early supporter, you are obliged to follow through.
There are a handful of online crowdfunding services available, such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo.
Banks look at your business and personal credit score, annual revenues, and your time in business. These lenders want to work with small businesses that are established and have the lowest risk.
That being said, getting a business loan is going to be noticeably difficult for newer entrepreneurs who have little to no business history.
This doesn’t mean you’re only stuck with high-interest, short-term loan options. If you want a long-term loan with low rates, consider getting a personal loan for your business.
With these loans, you can qualify based on your personal income and credit score – no business information is required.
You can apply for a personal loan for business through your bank, credit union, or an online lender. The most creditworthy borrowers will qualify for the best rates and terms and highest borrowing limits.
A personal loan for business is a great option for larger purchases that you’d like to pay off over a longer period of time, like expensive equipment.
If this is what you’re leaning toward and you are looking for suggestions, there are several potential best personal loans for businesses.
Equipment financing is a type of funding used to purchase equipment. Instead of paying the full cost of your equipment up front, you’ll make a smaller down payment. A lender will cover the rest of the cost, which you’ll pay back over time, along with fees and interest.
Business auto loans, a type of equipment financing specific to vehicles, are particularly helpful since the vehicle you’re purchasing is your largest startup expense.
There are two different types of equipment financing: equipment loans and leases.
If you take out an equipment loan, you’ll typically pay 10% to 20% of the total purchase price as a down payment. Borrowers with high credit scores may qualify for 0% down financing.
Once the down payment is paid and the loan is in place, you’ll be able to take possession of your equipment immediately. You’ll pay for the total purchase price of the equipment plus interest over a set period of time — typically around five years.
Once you’ve made all payments as agreed, the equipment is yours to keep, trade-in, or sell.
An equipment lease is more like renting. You’ll pay a down payment and take immediate possession of the equipment, making payments to your lender over a shorter period of time (usually two years).
Once your lease period ends, you’ll return the equipment and sign another lease for newer equipment.
Some lenders may allow you to pay off your balance if you want to keep the equipment you’ve been using.
One of the best things about equipment financing is that you don’t have to put up business loan collateral to secure your loan. Instead, the equipment itself serves as the collateral and can be repossessed if you default on your loan or lease.
Lines Of Credit
If you want a flexible form of financing, getting a line of credit might be right up your alley. You’ll be able to initiate draws from your line of credit, and the lender will send the funds immediately to your bank account.
You can make one or more draws from your line of credit up to and including your set credit limit.
Since a line of credit is revolving, your funds will become available to use again as you pay down your balance. Interest and/or fees are charged on the borrowed portion of funds. If you don’t use your line of credit, you won’t pay interest to the lender.
Many lenders also won’t charge any fees if you haven’t used your funds.
A line of credit is a good option when you need immediate access to cash, such as to purchase supplies or to pay for an unexpected expense, like repairs to your vehicle or equipment.
Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)
Do you have a retirement account? If so, you may qualify for a unique type of funding known as Rollovers as Business Startups (ROBS). You probably already know that early withdrawal from your retirement account results in penalties. But there is a way to access these funds without being penalized, and yes, it’s completely legal.
A ROBS plan allows you to roll over your qualifying retirement funds into capital for your new business. Here’s how it works:
- A new C-corporation is created
- A new retirement plan is created for the C-corp
- Funds are rolled over from your existing retirement plan to the new retirement plan
- These funds are used to purchase stock in the C-corp, giving you the capital you need to start or grow your business
Even though it’s just four steps, there are some legal issues to be aware of. This is why entrepreneurs that leverage their retirement funds in this way turn to a ROBS provider.
A ROBS provider will handle everything for you, from setting up the new C-corp to maintaining compliance. In exchange, you pay a setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee.
Funds from your ROBS plan can be used for any business purpose. One of the best things about a ROBS plan is that you won’t be making payments with interest to a lender. You also don’t have to worry about traditional borrower requirements like personal credit scores or annual revenues.
As long as you have a qualifying retirement plan, you can set up a ROBS plan. The main drawback, however, is that if your business fails, you lose your retirement funds, so be aware of this risk before setting up your plan.
When you start your lawn care business, you’ll likely develop relationships with vendors. You can pay these vendors out of pocket when you receive your invoice, or you can break your purchase down into smaller, more manageable payments with purchase financing.
With purchase financing, a lender will pay your vendor up front. You’ll repay the lender the borrowed amount plus fees and/or interest through smaller payments made over a longer period of time.
This is an excellent way to purchase supplies and other items critical for the success of your business when you’re facing cash flow issues or need a little extra time to pay.
Business Credit Cards
A business credit card is a great way to start building business credit and making purchases without waiting for approval from a lender. The best business credit cards currently available also offer cash back and other neat perks (e.g., travel points) just for using your card.
Once you’re approved for a credit card, you’ll be able to spend up to your credit limit anywhere credit cards are accepted. In some cases, you can get a business credit card with an EIN.
You’ll be required to make a monthly payment on your purchases until you repay your balance, plus interest charged by the credit card issuer. This is a type of revolving credit, so as you repay, funds will be available to use again.
You can cover an emergency expense or purchase supplies using a business credit card. You can also use credit cards for recurring expenses, such as gas for your truck and machines.
Nowadays, it’s possible to get business credit cards with no personal guarantee, meaning that no hard inquiries are conducted into your credit history, and you are not personally responsible for the financial liability of your business.
If you don’t qualify for a business credit card, consider using personal credit cards for business expenses.
More Sources For Funding
Perhaps your credit has been dragged through the mud due to no fault of your own — it happens. But there are lenders that will work to get you the best loans with bad credit that are possible.
Some organizations have business grants for minorities specifically, and minority-owned small businesses have options to secure loans for minority-owned businesses with bad credit as well. Additionally, SBA loan rates are generally low, which could be appealing to you.
7) Choose The Best Platforms To Manage Your Lawn Care Business
Having a website and social media presence for your business merely scratches the surface of how you can leverage tech to help your business succeed.
Whether it’s keeping track of appointments, storing customer data, processing payments, running ads, creating invoices, or keeping up with your financials, various platforms have been created to address all these pain points that businesses face. Arming yourself with the best tools available can give you a serious advantage.
Let’s go over a few that may be useful for your lawn care business.
While Shopify is mainly known as an online storefront for physical goods, this might just be one of the most powerful platforms you can utilize for your lawn care business.
For starters, you can use Shopify to sell the services you provide. All you need to do is create listings for your services the same exact way you would put up a product listing in your online shop.
For those thinking they’ll need a computer science degree to get their site up and running, don’t worry — setting up your store on Shopify is a breeze.
From there, Shopify’s analytics and reports help you keep tabs on your customer base by providing you with key information about your visitors (e.g., their location, time spent in your shop, and how many orders they’ve made) as well as how they interact with your shop.
Social proof is a large part of the continued success of any venture, and with Shopify, you have the option to integrate key social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok. So as you build your social media profiles, creating engaging content that reels in the attention and business of viewers, you can direct would-be customers to your Shopify store from your profiles and vice-versa.
As if that weren’t enough, Shopify offers its own payment processing service, Shopify Payments, coming in at a 4.5-star rating from our team of reviewers. Last but not least, Shopify’s marketing tools can also help you advertise your services and keep clients engaged throughout your sales funnel with customizable emails that link directly to your Shopify site.
Square offers a variety of solutions that could greatly benefit your lawn care business.
Akin to Shopify, Square allows you to build your business website and process payments. And although Shopify does have its own POS system, Square’s POS hardware bundles offer better options for taking payments on the go (which you’ll most likely be doing as opposed to having customers pay you in a brick-and-mortar store).
Another leg-up that Square has over Shopify is that it offers field service management. With this feature, you can keep up-to-date records of your customers, from their contact information to their history of appointments. Plus, you can easily schedule new appointments, process job orders, and dispatch employees.
A nifty feature of Square is that it boasts a wide variety of integrations. Supposing you integrate Square with Shopify, this lets customers purchase your services through Shopify and allows you to receive payments via Square.
Square can also be integrated with Quickbooks and Zoho Books, making your financial record keeping and payroll a breeze.
Managing your finances is one of the most important aspects of running a business. If you don’t keep clean, reliable records of the money coming in and going out of your business, that could eat into profits, create financial strain, or even put you in legal trouble when taxes are due.
QuickBooks Online addresses this by breaking down your key financial details. Just to start, it can manage and view your income, expenses, contacts, and payroll (with a small extra fee). It allows you to track work-related miles and file your taxes through the software.
Couple that with the enormous amount of integrations it permits, and you can see why this is a go-to for business for those who want to take control of their finances. Do be aware, however, that there’s a steep learning curve, and it may not always be intuitive to use even after you get the hang of it.
8) Market Your Lawn Care Business
In order to make your business successful and profitable, you have to have customers. And you have to reach customers by spreading the word about your business.
Consider these possibilities:
Organic Outreach Through Social Media
This was mentioned in passing above, but don’t neglect social media in your marketing efforts.
Social media gives you the space to show your stuff and share what it’s like in a day in the life of your business. Really, you might be shocked to see how much engagement labor-related video content will get — whether it’s raising chickens in a farm, deep cleaning carpets and rugs, or capturing the interactions of a team sent to assess a dilapidated home, audiences love when businesses share their story and expertise in an authentic, informative way.
Just to get the ball rolling, perhaps you’d want to talk about how often people should hire a lawn care professional for certain routine services and the issues that could crop up if they don’t. Maybe you’re passionate about a certain type of grass and want to nerd out. Go for it.
You don’t need to include a sales pitch at the end of every piece of content. Your main goal is to establish yourself as a knowledgeable professional. As your following grows, your business will grow with it.
On a related note, do not create content simply for the purpose of increasing engagement. For the most part, you should have a specific audience in mind that you’re attempting to reach and retain.
That’s not to say that silly videos and posts are a bad idea. Rather, the takeaway is that you should strive to be strategic with what you publish online.
Building A Reputation Through Reviews
Again, it comes down to social proof — people want to see that you offer a quality service and that you’re a pleasure to work with. Customers who might be thinking about reaching out for the first time will hop onto Google or Yelp to see what others are saying nearly without fail.
Business owners can take advantage of Google My Business and Yelp for Business to claim their business profile, interact with reviewers, upload photos, and verify themselves with contact information and hour of operation. This, in turn, will give you more exposure and can help position you over your competition.
Classic Print Ads
Moving beyond the web, never underestimate the power of “old school” marketing techniques like flyers and door hangers. Post flyers in areas that get a lot of foot traffic, such as retail shopping centers, and put door hangers around your neighborhood and surrounding areas.
You can design and print these yourself, or you can pay an additional fee to a professional printer. Either way, this is a very affordable way to market your lawn care business.
Before you use this method of advertising, contact your city government office to learn about any restrictions, and always make sure to get the permission of the property owner before distributing flyers on private property.
Using Your Vehicle As Free Advertising Space
You can also use your work truck to advertise your business. Make sure that your business name, telephone number, and/or URL are prominently displayed and easy to read.
Online printers can create custom vinyl decals featuring your logo, name, and contact information at a very affordable price.
Word Of Mouth
Finally, word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most effective methods of advertising in this industry. If your customer likes your service, they’ll tell their friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues about your service when recommendations are needed.
Ask satisfied customers to leave a review on your website or social media page, which could help expand your pool of clients. And always make sure to provide the best service to your customers so that they give you referrals.
Are You Ready To Start Your Lawn Care Business?
Your new lawn care business won’t be up and running overnight, but taking the time to go through each step ensures a better chance for success. Maybe taking the steps in a different order makes more sense for your business, or maybe there’s a step that isn’t relevant to your future goals.
No matter how you picture your future, you’re now armed with the knowledge of what it takes to start your own lawn care business. Now, it’s up to you to determine what steps you’ll take next to become a successful entrepreneur.
Best of luck with your new venture!