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How to Start a Lawn Care Business Legally: 9 Steps to Success

January 19, 2024 10 min. read
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If you enjoy the heat, the outdoors, and the idea of being your own boss, you’re in the right place. Starting a lawn care business could be a great career move.

In the lawn care industry, you could grow from a one-mower operation to a million-dollar business.

But first, you’ll need to learn how to start a lawn care business legally and run it properly so you can start mowing lawns and turning a profit.

For a crash course on how to start a lawn mowing business, start with this video with advice from industry experts:

1. Get hands-on experience

You don’t need formal training to start a lawn care business. But, you’ll need to learn how to mow, trim, aerate, and do other lawn care work before you get your first customers.

Hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Ask friends, family, and neighbors if you can practice by doing their yard work at a discounted rate.

Or, you could work for another lawn care company for one or two years to learn and fine-tune your skills.

READ MORE: 7 types of grants for starting a lawn care business

2. Register your business

To legally start your lawn care business, you’ll need to register with your local or state government. Here’s how that process works:

Pick a business structure

The business structure you choose affects how your business gets registered.

Here’s a quick guide to choosing the right structure:

  • Sole proprietorship — You’re automatically registered as a sole proprietor if you work alone and want complete control of your business.
  • Partnership — Choose this structure if you run your business with two or more people who are still legally considered self-employed.
  • Limited liability company (LLC) — Medium- to high-risk businesses typically choose LLCs. An LLC mostly protects you from personal liability.

Apply for an employer identification number (EIN)

If you have employees or a partner, you need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN). This is a unique ID for your business that’s used for reporting taxes.

Register your lawn care business name

Pick a lawn care business name that reflects the services you offer and your company values. Then, register that name with your regional government.  

Name registration looks different depending on where you live:

Pro Tip: Type “YOUR CITY NAME + business laws” into Google to find your local regulations.

Get a business license

You need a business license to legally operate your lawn care company. To find out what kind of business license you need, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Business licensing and registration can cost between $75 and $400 USD per year, depending on your region.

Pesticide licensing

In all states, you need a license to apply any product registered as a pesticide with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some states require you to get certified through a pesticide safety education program.

To find out if you need a license for a certain product or service you plan to offer, check with your local Department of Agriculture.

3. Get the right insurance

Business insurance protects you and your business in the event of injury, property damages, or other unexpected accidents.

Most small lawn care businesses need the following coverage:

  • General liability insurance to cover any property damage and personal injury.
  • Commercial auto insurance for company vehicles involved in an accident or other damage.
  • Commercial property insurance for equipment or property damage.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance to cover your business in case an employee is injured on the job.

You can work with your insurance company to create a business owner’s policy that combines the insurance coverage you need for your small business. 

Talk to your insurance provider to figure out what your policy should include for the lawn care services you offer.

4. Set up your business banking and accounting

Set up a business bank account to keep your personal and professional finances separate. You’ll also need this bank account so you can:

  • Ensure you’re taxed properly
  • Build a credit profile for your business
  • Monitor your business’s cash flow
  • Make bookkeeping easier

Once you set up your checking account, make a monthly budget for expenses. This should include your paycheck, insurance, overhead, supplies, and marketing. You can always adjust this budget later.

Keep track of your income and expenses throughout the year so you can file your taxes accurately. Be aware of who you’re filing taxes with in your country:

READ MORE: 30 small business tax deductions to save money when filing

5. Decide what lawn care services to offer

Choose what lawn care services you’ll offer so you can buy the right equipment, set your pricing, and market your services.

Start small and offer basic lawn maintenance services like mowing and trimming. That way, you can get your first lawn care customers and start bringing in revenue without spending thousands of dollars on new equipment.

You should offer these essential lawn care services when you’re starting out:

  • Mowing and basic lawn maintenance. This should include grass trimming, weeding, and edging for driveways and walkways. All you’ll need is a mower and trimmer to get started with basic lawn maintenance.
  • Seasonal services. You can market your lawn care services as special spring cleaning and fall cleaning during those seasons. When there’s snow on the ground, offer snow removal and winter landscaping services to your lawn care customers.
  • Fertilization. Offer fertilizer application and weed control to keep your clients’ lawns healthy and green. Because fertilizer doesn’t cost very much, it’s a great service for new residential lawn care businesses to offer.

Once you have a few recurring customers and positive cash flow, start offering more specialized services. Then, you can buy new equipment and supplies, including:

  • Leaf blowing
  • Dethatching or power raking
  • Lawn aeration
  • Grading
  • Mulch installation and garden work
  • Sod installation
  • Lawn returfing
  • Lawn pest control and insect control
  • Tree trimming and pruning
  • Shrub care

To choose new services to add to your list as your business grows, pay attention to what your clients ask for—and what your competitors are offering.

6. Purchase lawn care equipment and tools

You’ll need a truck or trailer to transport your equipment, along with a few basic tools and supplies:

  • Lawn mower
  • Edger
  • String trimmer
  • Leaf blower
  • Gardening gloves
  • Gas cans
  • Lawn bags

When you’re prepared to offer more lawn care and landscaping services, you can invest in:

  • A leaf blower
  • A spreader
  • A lawn aerator
  • A power rake
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Pruning shears
  • Shovels

Invest in lawn care business software

The right software can help you manage your business efficiently, stay organized, and control your entire operations in one place. 

Here’s how Jobber’s lawn care business software helps your business run smoothly:

  • Access client details and a full conversation history from the cab of your truck using the Jobber mobile app.
Client details screen in Jobber showing a client’s profile and property details
  • Schedule jobs and automatically create faster, fuel-efficient routes to fit more work in the day.
  • Generate multiple invoices and send them all at once with batch invoicing.
Alt text: Selecting multiple jobs to invoice as a batch in Jobber
  • Get paid automatically for weekly lawn care maintenance when you save customer cards on file.

These green industry experts share what key tools you need to get started—and what tips and tools they wish they’d had all along:

7. Price your lawn care services

You need to price your lawn care services fairly and profitably to attract paying customers and profit from every job.

To set the right lawn care service prices, you should:

1. Check lawn care rates in your area

2. Calculate your labor costs

3. Add your overhead, equipment, and material costs

4. Decide on your lawn care profit margins

Then choose whether you’ll charge hourly or flat rate.

  • Hourly rate includes your labor cost per hour, plus overhead. Hourly rates work for large commercial lawn care contracts, packages like spring cleanups, or when you’re unsure how long a job will take. (E.g., $55 per worker per hour.)
  • Flat rate pricing is when you offer one predictable cost for an entire job. This method works well when you know exactly how much time the job will take. (E.g., $150 for dethatching.)

Once you’ve decided on your service prices, make a lawn care pricing chart. The chart should list your service costs per square foot, per hour, or with flat rate pricing.

A pricing chart will help you estimate lawn care jobs faster and more consistently.

FREE TOOL: Bookmark this lawn care estimate template for when you’re ready to quote

8. Get your first lawn care customers

Promoting your lawn care services will help you attract your customers faster. Try these lawn care marketing ideas to grow your client list:

  • Create a look for your company (a brand) that potential customers will recognize. Design a logo with a tool like Looka, then choose the colors and fonts you’ll use in your marketing materials.
  • Print and distribute lawn care flyers or door hangers in the neighborhood you serve.
  • Post tear-off flyers in your local grocery store, community centers, or libraries. (Just make sure to get permission first.)
  • Create a lawn care website that highlights your services and makes it easy for potential customers to book services online.
  • Claim your free Google Business Profile and add the services you offer, the area you serve, and your working hours.
  • Set up a Facebook and Instagram account and share before-and-after images of lawn care jobs.
  • Ask happy customers for reviews and start a customer referral program.
  • Wrap your company vehicle to advertise your lawn care business as you travel from job to job.

9. Hire employees and grow your business

Eventually, you’ll need to hire lawn care technicians to help you take on more jobs—and bigger ones.

Having a team will also give you more time to focus on sales, marketing, scheduling, and managing your business.

Here’s how to find and hire lawn care employees:

Starting a lawn care business is worthwhile if you’re ready to put your sweat into it. Once you get this business off the ground, you’ll get to do what you love for a living—on your own schedule.

Come back to this guide when you need help, and check out our lawn care business resources for more advice.

Originally published in February 2023. Last updated on January 19th, 2024.

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