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How to Start a Lawn Care Business: The Complete Guide

February 24, 2023 12 min. read
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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.

This guide will walk you through how to get your lawn care business set up, running, and growing so you can make good money and do what you love.

You can also watch our video, “How to Start a Lawn Care Business,” to get advice from experts in action:

1. Get set up: registration, business license, and insurance

To start a lawn business that actually stays in business, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it legally. Follow the steps below to legally set up and operate your lawn care business.

Choose a business structure and register your company name

You’ll need to choose a business structure before you register your business. The structure you pick affects how your business gets registered.

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

  • Sole proprietorship — You’re automatically registered as this type of business if you run your operations alone and want complete control over 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, as they mostly protect you from personal liability.

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

Then, you’ll need to register your lawn care business name with your regional government. This process looks different depending on where you live:

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

READ MORE: How to start a landscaping business

Get a business license

A business license is absolutely necessary to start 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).

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

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 to learn about your state’s specific restrictions.

Get lawn care business insurance

Lawn care business insurance protects you, your business, and your future employees from losses caused by injury, property damage, or other unexpected incidents.

There are different types of insurance you can choose from, depending on the coverage you need:

  • General liability insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Business owner policy
  • Employment practices liability

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, create a monthly budget for any expenses. This should include your paycheck, insurance, overhead, supplies, and marketing. You can always adjust this budget over time.

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

2. Decide what lawn care services to offer

You’ll need to decide what lawn care services your business offers 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.

READ MORE: How to start a weed control and fertilization business

Once you have a few recurring customers and positive cash flow, you can start offering more specialized services that need 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 decide what services to add to your list, pay attention to what your clients ask for—and what your competitors are offering.

3. Get the right lawn care equipment and tools

To start a lawn mowing business, you need a lawn mower and a van or truck for transportation. With enough skill and expertise, one mower is all you need to offer high-quality mowing that brings you repeat business and referrals.

Here are the basic types of lawn mower you can choose from:

  • push mower is the best option for new lawn care professionals. They’re cheap, easy to use and maintain, and they work great for smaller yards.
  • walk-behind mower or self-propelled mower can move on its own, cut through thicker grass, and cover more ground in less time. They’re larger and more powerful than push mowers, so they cost quite a bit more than push mowers.
  • riding lawn mower lets you sit and drive with a steering wheel while you mow. These heavy-duty machines are ideal for large-scale jobs. You might also consider a lawn tractor, which usually has more power and can cut widths of up to 48 inches.

Consider buying a string trimmer to do more precise mowing. These trim the grass in tight spots where your lawn mower can’t reach. You can also purchase an edger to sculpt the edges of lawns where they meet patios, curbs, and driveways.

Check out Mullins Lawn Enforcement’s must-have tools in this tour of their one-of-a-kind lawn care shop.

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

Learn the 3 must-have items this successful lawn care company can’t live without, plus their favorite brands and equipment to use on a job, in this lawn care equipment store tour.

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:

4. 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 profit margins

READ MORE: How to price lawn care services [pricing chart and formula]

To profit enough from each job, you’ll need to use different pricing models for certain lawn care services. Here are the most common pricing models you can use:

  • Square footage rates are common for lawn care services, and they’re a great way to price mowing jobs. (E.g., $0.01–0.05 per square foot.)
  • Hourly rate includes your labor cost per hour, plus overhead. Hourly rates are most profitable 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 provides one predictable lawn care cost for the entire job. This method works well when you know exactly how much time it’ll take to complete the job. (E.g., $150 for dethatching.)

Once you’ve decided on your service prices, create a lawn care pricing chart that lists your service costs per square foot, per hour, or with flat rate pricing. A pricing chart will help you easily provide accurate and consistent lawn care estimates to clients.

5. Market your lawn care business

Promoting your lawn care services with thoughtful marketing will help you get your first customers faster.

Many lawn care entrepreneurs start by knocking on their neighbors’ doors and leaving mowing business flyers behind. You might want to experiment with tearaway flyersdoor hanger advertising, and other traditional advertising methods before you start marketing online.

READ MORE: How to get your first 100 lawn care customers

Here’s what you need to start digital marketing for your lawn care business:

  • Brand your business. Company branding gives your business a look and personality—and it helps form every customer’s first impression of your business. Create a logo and choose company colors for your business cards, website, uniform, and all your marketing materials.
  • Set up an online presence. Having an online presence means potential customers can easily find your business on the internet. The more your business shows up online—on social media, Google, and directories—the more likely people are to book your services.
  • Create a small business digital marketing plan. This plan should include a description of your target customers, your budget, and the platforms you’ll use. A marketing plan will help you focus your efforts and choose advertising methods that will attract the customers you want.

READ MORE: The best marketing ideas for your lawn care business

6. Hire lawn care employees

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 everything involved in running and growing your business.

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

READ MORE: How to hire lawn care employees: 5 steps

Do I need lots of experience to start a lawn care business?

You don’t need lots of experience to start a lawn care business. However, you’ll need to learn how to properly mow, trim, aerate, and complete other lawn care tasks 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.

You can also use these online resources to get advice from other lawn care professionals:

Or, you can ask these green industry experts how hard it is to start a lawn care business:

READ MORE: 17 lawn care apps to help you grow your business

The more expertise you have in lawn care and maintenance, you’re more likely to get repeat business and glowing recommendations.

How much does it cost to start a lawn care business?

Starting a lawn care business can cost between $755 and $1,360. That number depends on the equipment you have and the services you’ll provide.

If you don’t already have a reliable truck or trailer, it could cost you at least an additional $30,000 to start your lawn care business.

Many lawn care business startups begin as a simple mowing and grass cutting business with:

  • A push lawn mower ($170–350)
  • Business registration costs ($75–400)
  • Liability insurance ($500–$600 per year)
  • Basic flyer or sandwich board marketing ($10)

Is it worth starting a lawn care business?

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.

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