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Tips For Running a Lawn Care Business

I've owned and operated a small lawn care business for over 4 years. While I'm not a gardener, I did learn how to work the business well.

Dealing With Customers

Once you decide to start a lawn care service, then you get the equipment, advertise, and wait for the calls. Once you get the calls, the fun begins. One of the most challenging parts about having a lawn care business is dealing with the customers. This part of the business will determine your success.

There are many different types of people out there who are going to call and inquire about your services. Not all of them are people you want to work for. The optimal caller is polite, clear, and wants you to simply come bid their lawn and mow it once a week. The once a week customers are the premium ones, they're like gems.

First off, you'll set a date with prospective customers to come over and bid the lawn; it's better to have someone who's only having you come over to bid the lawn, rather than multiple services at once. The type of customer who's having multiple people bid the lawn at once is selfish and not able to trust their own discernment. Personally, if I know the caller is having multiple people bid their lawn, I'm not interested.

A customer is going to be a friend most of the time. If they live in the residence, then you're going to be coming over to their home every week, or every two weeks -- for years even. So, if a customer is very impersonal and maybe doesn't even want to meet you, then this is not a good sign for a regular customer. For a one time customer, you can be more flexible, but when choosing your regulars, be more discerning.

Bidding the Lawn

The bid is important, because you'll have to mow the lawn for that amount of money for a long time potentially.

Here's how it'll likely go: the customer will meet you and show you around their yard, pointing out what they want you to do. At this point, you have to be a listener and ask the questions needed to understand exactly what they're expecting.

Get a feel for what they're wanting from you; some people want only a basic maintenance job and others want a real gardener -- discern which is which and learn what you can from their directions, then formulate your bid.

Many times, you'll be able to tell how the customer feels about money during this time. If they're apprehensive and downplaying the amount of work it'll take, this means they're cheap. If they're more interested in your opinion and you as a person, then these are the type of customers who'll pay well.

Personally, because I'm not an expert with lawns, just a journeyman -- I estimate my bids at $20/hr. So, if I see a lawn that would take an hour to do, including taking my equipment out and putting back in the truck, then I'll say $20, and etc. You'll learn from experience how long a lawn will take.

My tendency is to think it's not going to take as long as I think, so I usually underbid myself, but because I've learned the hard way with this I have started bidding higher than I think I should.


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People Are Funny About Money

We can learn a lot about people by just paying attention to how they deal with money. Customers are no different, as most customers will be cheap and expect a lot of work for a little money.

Don't let this unfair aspect of life get you down, just simply stick to what you need to make in order to be content doing the job, without having to resent the customer for being cheap. If the customer doesn't want to pay the money you bid, then just leave it at that and be glad you escaped a tightwad.

It's usually not that people who call you don't have the money, rather, it's that they don't want to pay very much for lawn care -- this because of many reasons; one being, when they were younger, they used to do it; another is, because they think it's easier than it is.

Many customers who want their lawn maintained think that it's a job a child could do, so they don't want to pay you anymore than they would pay the neighbor boy to come over and use their equipment!

The truth is though, the neighbor boy doesn't have to drive across town, pay bills, use his own equipment, and he doesn't do as good as job as you would. My advice is avoid using customers' equipment, unless you really trust them and have a dire need for something they have and you don't. Otherwise, things might get weird if you damage their equipment or hurt yourself or property with their equipment, etc.

You really have to sift through the callers and customers to get to the ones you want to call your regulars. At first, when you're trying to get established you'll be more flexible on what jobs and who you'll work for, yet after you get some good regulars, then you can be more selective and save yourself some trouble.

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Many more people will call (or inquire about work when you're out on a job) than those who actually follow through and have you work for them. If someone is serious about you working for them, they'll leave a message, set a time for you to come and bid, and generally be clear and precise with how you'll start working for them. Don't mess around with people who are wishy-washy about you working for them, and those who cringe at the thought of paying you.

People are funny when it comes to money, you can bid a lawn at $25 every two weeks, and the person will get that cringe look and say "I don't know I have a budget." Yet, if you say $20 every two weeks, they are light and full of sunshine, they have plenty of money for that amount!

And really what are we talking about here? $10? I mean come on people, the point is they'll spend $10 on some coffee and a muffin in one day, but when it comes to hard labor and making their lawns look great, they are very put off over $10 a month!

That's why I say, stick to your bid, and make it $5 higher than you think you should. Someone hiring you isn't just getting their lawn mowed, but are getting someone who they can trust around their home and even talk to about their lives.

You'll find out if you're running a lawn care business, people will talk to you about their lives, and you become almost their counselor. If a customer is a talker, keep that in mind, because although the lawn may only take an hour, you'll spend another 15 minutes listening to them talk about whatever.


Final Tips on Running a Lawn Care Business

Some days are better than others when running a lawn care business. There are some days I can average $15/hour after all the expenses, and other days I average only $9/hr. Neither of those are that great, but compared to working for some company or someone else, they are to me. Working for myself is a great benefit, and I make more than I could working for someone else when it comes down to it.

The more experience and knowledge you have, concerning the actual trade of lawn care, the more you can charge. I talked to a veteran lawn care guy who works for no less than $50/hr! That's the potential we can look forward to. As for me, I have to bid fairly low as my business is only in its second season and my experience is only 4 seasons old. I'm learning and gaining confidence in my ability though.

Once you have a certain amount of regular customers you work for year after year, then you can be more selective for who you're willing to work for. Last year, when I started this current lawn care business I'm working, I had to take just about anyone who called and bid as low as I could to simply get some business. This year though, I have about 12 regular customers from last year, and about 6 random regular customers. This means I have a base foundation of customers which I'm happy working with to build on. I know I have room for about 5 or 6 more customers to add to the business this year, so I'm going to bid higher and get the ones I want to work for.

Last year I had to shed about 5 customers who ended up being disagreeable. These types of customers are too demanding, watch over you, or are simply disagreeable; ultimately, they're not worth working for.

This is a business, but it's our own business, and part of the benefit of working for ourselves is we don't have to work for anyone we don't want to. Remember that when gathering customers; remember your worth, that you do a good job for an affordable amount, are on time, and honest. These are priceless gifts to bring to a customer.

Remember, you're going to be a good friend to many of your customers, so if you discern right away you aren't going to get along with someone, just avoid working for them. Eventually something will happen and you'll not work for them anyway, and the way people are now days, they could even sue you or try to run you out of business for no reason at all.

As I'm a born again Christian, I pray to Jesus to guide my business and bring me the customers he wants me to work for. This way I relieve myself of the burden of worrying about where my work will come from and who I should work for.

If it is peaceful, then I go and work. I understand it's a spiritual war we're in, and so with some people, their demons are going to try to steal, kill, and destroy me. God has me where he wants me, and because I work for myself I can be myself and talk to people about Jesus all I want.

If someone doesn't like that I am a Christian, then they won't hire me, and this is like a screening process the Lord does for me. It's not that I push Jesus on anyone, but being a born-again Christian, it's not something I can hide if they inquire about my personal life at all. If they're strictly business and fair to me, then I keep it business-like and have no problems.

Hopefully these tips have helped those starting or running their own lawn care service. Check out my other hubs about lawn care and my eBook; thanks for reading.

My Other Hubs About Having a Lawn Care Service

  • The Cheap Lawn Care Clients
    Inevitably the lawn care business owner will meet the cheap lawn care client. I want to share some tips on how to deal with them and make your job more profitable and easier.
  • Gene: My Best Lawn Care Customer
    Gene is a nice lady from England, she seems to want to be back there. She pays me way too much and thinks I'm a gardener. If she could hear better, we might be able to get something done.
  • Best Lawn Trimmer To Buy: Echo SRM-225
    The most important tool you will be using when doing yard work isn't the mower, it's the trimmer. Trimming is key to making a lawn look professionally done, and the Echo SRM-225 is the best.
  • Owning a Lawn Care Service
    What's it like having a lawn care business? How does a person go about doing this sort of venture? This article will give some insight on just these questions -- from my own experience.

How Much to Start a Lawn Care Business?

© 2014 Robbie Newport

Comments

Robbie Newport (author) from Summer Lake, Oregon on May 16, 2015:

Thanks for that Reico, I appreciate the compliment. I have a lot of respect for lawn care workers and small business owners like yourself, it's what America is about. That you agree with the article shows me you have been out in the trenches plenty as well.

Reico Cartwright from East Point, GA on May 15, 2015:

This was a very good article. I really enjoyed reading it. You are on point with your explanation of how customers are or can be.

Yousuf from Florida on April 18, 2015:

Having a clean and beautiful lawn is everybodys dream.But to fulfill your dream you need to take some serious activities. To maintain a lawn you should have proper knowledge and a professional guidance. Your lawn is one of the most important part of your property. If you have a clean and an expert lawn you will be surely appreciated by others. Lawn is something that needs complete seriousness and precaution to save it from various problems. In every season, lawn needs different type of treatment, for example; there are winter tips,summer tips and spring tips, that helps your garden to maintain its health.

Everyone wishes to have a great house along with a skilled lawn. The expert lawn maintenance is required at the time of spring or autumn. Apart from that, if you are living in a place like Florida, you could have a wonderful landscaped lawn or namented with seasonal flowers. This is the reason, why people prefer to take spring lawn care tips in Florida, which serves to all kinds of lawn requirements. A lawn is something which has attracting powers. If there is a garden which enhances the beauty of your house and is well maintained, then you can say that you have healthy surroundings. A neat and clean lawn means something more. It tells the taste and personality of the owner. It also reflects the thinking of the inhabitants and it is definitely a great reflection.

The modern lawn has became fasterthe status symbol of today's suburban family - its health and vitality reflecting considerably on to householder. All classes of people are waste each year as more and more families fork over hefty fees to professional lawn care services in an effort to maximize the potential of their property. But for some, the simple joy of working outside - and of achieving a beautiful lawn – can be an achievement not worth hiring out. For those ambitious do-it-yourselfers - or for those who find comfort and relaxation in working outside - a few basic lawn care tips will go a long way towards achieving a healthy and beautiful lawn.

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