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RI Wayne
03-03-2006, 03:01 PM
Been in the business several years, struggling to make ends meet. In this part of the country, mowing season is about 6 months. I average 35 lawns a week, at average of $35 each. So mowing brings in about $ 31,850 per year. Spring and Fall work add about another $ 7000, for a total of about $ 38,850. (I'm near the ocean, not enough plowing potential to make it worth the investment.) Expenses run $ 12,000 to 13,000 per year. Business taxes (15.4 %) run about $ 3,600. So, I'm left with an income of about $ 22,250 before federal and state income taxes.
I guess one answer is to try to mow more lawns, any other ideas? Bear in mind, I do not have a spouse or other live-in to contribute to the total.

1MajorTom
03-03-2006, 03:05 PM
It's too hard to survive on just mowing lawns if you are a solo operator. You need to add other services to provide to customers. Mulching, hedge trimming, aerations, are great, but for us, we need to land a few bigger jobs throughout the season to put a few extra coins in our pockets. ex: a couple retaining walls always help.

lawncuttinfoo
03-03-2006, 03:10 PM
Are you having fun working outside and only working 1/2 the year? If not then I doubt 22 grand is enough for anyone to make doing something they hate. If yes then, why not mow more lawns? if its the equip holding you back invest in upgrades. If you have great equip and you still can only do those 35 in a week you need to up the price per lawn. If you need more accounts you need to put out some ads.

I am a solo op having fun at what I do, I am still growing and am not making much profit yet but it's more than enough for me.

guntruck
03-03-2006, 04:27 PM
I have to agree with Major Tom, I would seriously consider adding some other services to your business and exhisting customers. Some time invested in some pesticide courses or landscape install courses as well as aquiring your home improvement license could pay very high dividends in the long run and well worth the time. Looking into other services could take your business places you never dreamed of going with just mowing.

Precision Lawns
03-03-2006, 04:28 PM
What do you do for those 35 lawns? And how long do they take you? Are you working 5 days a week? I'm asking because if I had 35 of what we consider $35 lawns and I was working as a solo op (we're a partnership, so we move a bit faster, but I know how long it takes to do it on my own too), I could probably get them done in 2-3 days, depending on how tight my route was. That leaves 2-3 days left to fill, if you'd like, which means you could probably double your # of lawns and thus increase your income. But, as the above poster states, that's only if you love this work. If you hate it, there's no need to keep doing it - plenty of guys out there who will be more than happy to grab your 35 customers.

The other question is the quality of customer. I knew a guy back when we lived in Arkansas (which, granted, has a 9-month season instead of 6) who was a solo op, had 40 customers, and took home $80K/year after business expenses and before taxes (and after his CPA was through with all his deductions, he didn't owe that much in taxes). He did it by picking the "right" customers - customers that cared a lot about their lawns, were willing to pay for excellent service, and wanted multiple services on top of just mowing and blowing. He then was a complete perfectionist about his work - and it showed. His lawns were by FAR the nicest in the area.

So I think it's very doable to make a living as a solo op, but you'll either need to increase your client base or increase the quality of your clients (and then probably your service, because they'll be expecting impeccable service if they're paying top dollar).

Good luck!

weathervane
03-03-2006, 04:45 PM
try more things like cleaning gutters or maybe salting in the winter for commerical propertys it pays big money

Sir mowsalot
03-03-2006, 04:57 PM
I would definatley(how the heck is that spelled?) add some more accounts. 35 is not a whole lot. Im solo too, and i mow way more than that. I do pretty good, im not rich but im not struggling. I work M-T, and that is it, i got 3 days off for my family and life, unless of course i have rain makeups.

You can do what the others say also and get add ons with your existing accounts, (i happen to hate shrub trimming, and mulching so i dont really do those), or you can have another side biz going also. When i started out, i also started a window washing biz., which i hated so i quit doing it, but i was swamped with work. Now i have another biz.(also seasonal) from Sept.-Dec., which actually makes more than the lawn biz. Im actually thinking about growing that alot more, and i could easily only work 4 months a year, and not do the lawn biz. anymore.

So there are many ways in which you can go here, but it sounds to me like you simply dont have enough work.

Randy Scott
03-03-2006, 04:59 PM
You answered your own question when you stated you were struggling to make ends meet. Obviously you need more money, therefore, mowing isn't cutting it for you. Your lifestyle exceeds the profit potential of your current business. Expand your business to have employees make YOU money, or give it up. There are only so many hours in a day, and when a larger company is bidding against you and taking smaller profit margins, but have multiple crews making them those margins, you will lose out every time.

lawncutterupper
03-03-2006, 05:07 PM
[QUOTE=Sir mowsalot] Now i have another biz.(also seasonal) from Sept.-Dec., which actually makes more than the lawn biz. Im actually thinking about growing that alot more, and i could easily only work 4 months a year, and not do the lawn biz. anymore.QUOTE]


And what kind of biz is that?

sanfordandsonfan
03-03-2006, 05:17 PM
Before I really got into the lawn business full-time, I did a ton of junk hauling. It was not great work but it was work. That work can be done in any kind of weather. We still do it and it actually has gotten me through some long winters. Extra services during the year as well will help.

dmk395
03-03-2006, 05:18 PM
First and foremost 35 lawns would only keep someone with the right equipment busy for about 3 days a week.......if this is taking all week you need more productive equipment.

Richard Martin
03-03-2006, 05:38 PM
Depending on where you're at in the Northeast makes a big difference. Just to qualify for a starter home in my area requires an AGI income of $100,000* a year. I know there are areas where starter homes are less expensive.

It is quickly becoming a 2 income society. There are solo guys out there who say they're making more than that but I find that a lot to chew.

*This assumes a 10% down payment on a $330,000 home. AGI is Adjusted Gross Income and can be found on line 12 of your Federal Income Tax Return 1040.

DixieFerris
03-03-2006, 05:48 PM
35 lawns a week? that's 2 days by myself without too much problem, what are you doing all day?

LawnMowerMan3875
03-03-2006, 06:02 PM
I would like to know what kind of equipment you guys are running to be able to do 35 lawns in 2-3 days, or are you running 24 hour shifts?? Are you guys running V-8's with fully functional transmission and gear ratio's for your blades to keep up to speed without missing any grass?? Or are you mowing in an area that does not require you to load up and go to the next site. Because if you had just even 16 lawns @ 1/2 hour a piece, that would take you 8 hours not including drive time... And that means you have very small yards...

Just curious...

Littleriver1
03-03-2006, 06:04 PM
I'll have my x wife's mother send you one of her inspirational tapes to motivate you. It's 30 minutes of her screaming "WORK HARDER! WORK FASTER! WORK HARDER! WORK FASTER!

chuck bow
03-03-2006, 06:18 PM
I myself mow( solo) 60 accounts every week M-f ( 7 hrs on fri and sat -sun is for rain days and shrub trimming and euip maint . some long days in there but ya know what they say gotta make hay when sun shines , Some days i mow 18 lawns , mostly small, and some days i mow only 8 or so ( large ) , it can be done and with what size lawns i do i can do 35 in about 2.5 days .

Remsen1
03-03-2006, 06:23 PM
That's not too bad of an amount of $ considering your working 6-8 months of the year. If you live near the ocean, it's usually a higher cost of living so a $35 lawn would be the tiniest 15 minute from stop to go, so you're also probably not having to work 5 days per week, probably more like 3. What I'm getting at is add more lawns to make it work, bust azz for 6 months and then relax for 6 months. Or try some things to make money in the winter, ie holiday lighting, de-icing, other? If your $35 dollar lawn takes more than 15 minutes then give yourself a raise and you will make more money.

Remsen1
03-03-2006, 06:26 PM
I would like to know what kind of equipment you guys are running to be able to do 35 lawns in 2-3 days, or are you running 24 hour shifts?? Are you guys running V-8's with fully functional transmission and gear ratio's for your blades to keep up to speed without missing any grass?? Or are you mowing in an area that does not require you to load up and go to the next site. Because if you had just even 16 lawns @ 1/2 hour a piece, that would take you 8 hours not including drive time... And that means you have very small yards...

Just curious...

Its not the number 35 that you should be concerned with so much as the dollar amount $35. In RI a $35 lawn should take 15 minutes, tops and measure between 2,000-4,500 sq ft. Should be able to do around 20 of them in a nice steady paced day.

Eclipse
03-03-2006, 06:27 PM
I would like to know what kind of equipment you guys are running to be able to do 35 lawns in 2-3 days, or are you running 24 hour shifts?? Or are you mowing in an area that does not require you to load up and go to the next site.

I was wondering this myself. I guessing the route is very tight.

lowballer17
03-03-2006, 06:28 PM
I had 65 accounts my first few years and working a full time job that started at 230pm. Rarely cut on weekends. I was alone using push mowers. Now I have a partner with my gravelys we can hit at least 200-300 accounts

Eclipse
03-03-2006, 06:40 PM
I had 65 accounts my first few years and working a full time job that started at 230pm. Rarely cut on weekends. I was alone using push mowers. Now I have a partner with my gravelys we can hit at least 200-300 accounts

Were these weekly accounts? When talking about production I don't even count the ones we do not do every week

When talking production perhaps a more accurate way of measurement is how many square feet are you cutting.

lowballer17
03-03-2006, 06:43 PM
Yeah,
I wont agree to cut unless it's weekly. Biweekly forget it. Takes way too much time. My ideal time to finish average lawn is 5 min for everything.

Eclipse
03-03-2006, 06:47 PM
Wow, 5 minutes! They must be some pretty small properties.

lowballer17
03-03-2006, 06:52 PM
Yes sir. You know the hood. people with $ on small lots with huge houses and no time are my best customers.

sheshovel
03-03-2006, 07:03 PM
OH now comemon..5 min to unload equip,mow,blow and edge?Gimmie a friggin break..Lets stay realistic here lowballer17...I mean really now..I would love to ride with you one day and put a stopwatch on you..that's the only way I will ever believe that crap

lowballer17
03-03-2006, 07:07 PM
I dont drive to every account. I am very selective on who and where I cut. I hit an area hard enough with flyers to get at least 10 customers in an area where once I drop the gate I dont stop till the 10 are done. Then I drive to the next block and hit the next 10 and so on. I am not one of these guys driving around all day going from gas station to McDonalds eating a cheeseburger on the way to my next job. Production is key. Driving is not.

jtkplc
03-03-2006, 07:08 PM
I agree with many other posts. Increase the amount of services you offer. I bet if you told your customers that you do hedge trimming or other yard related services, they would take you up on it. Also, look at your productivity, 35 lawns a week doesn't seem like a real tight schedule to me, at least from what I'm used to.

What do you do during the winter months, nothing? It seems to me that you could work those other months and make enough to get by. Buy and sell things on ebay, or sell split wood, get a part time job during the Christmas season, many places are looking for holiday help.

I'm a logical thinker and if you're not making it on 6 months worth of working income, maybe work more months out of the year.

eshreve1234
03-03-2006, 07:14 PM
Yes sir. You know the hood. people with $ on small lots with huge houses and no time are my best customers.


I have seen those "lawns" in the Lincoln Park area, he is not kidding. Some you could prob. do with one pass of a 21".

lowballer17
03-03-2006, 07:16 PM
I'm just a part time cutter. I work afternoons and take 1/2 days during the spring/summer to cut lawns.

lowballer17
03-03-2006, 07:18 PM
I have seen those "lawns" in the Lincoln Park area, he is not kidding. Some you could prob. do with one pass of a 21".

you got it. I used 21" mowers my first few years. Now the gravelys are my choice. Much of metro Detroit is small lots. I hit the hoods with $

CAG
03-03-2006, 07:45 PM
There is nothing wrong working 12 hr days 6 days a week if you are a solo operator doing a seasonal job. Knock those lawns out in two day then start landscaping and make some cash. Say these lawns take 20-30 minutes to cut that would mean that you are doing at the most 15hrs a week of work in a seasonal job.

M RASCOE&SONS
03-03-2006, 10:44 PM
heres a couple of things to look at - stone and gravel driveway instalations ,brush work,plantings ,mulching and loam instalations,aerating and overseeding, even try doing small deliveries of loam,mulch and stone (call drock trucking in griswald ct they have awesome mulch prices when you buy in bulk ,very nice stuff)even advertise firewood for the winter months ,you wont get rich doin wood but its good suplement for the cold months ..good luck in 06

Jpocket
03-03-2006, 10:53 PM
It's too hard to survive on just mowing lawns if you are a solo operator. You need to add other services to provide to customers. Mulching, hedge trimming, aerations, are great, but for us, we need to land a few bigger jobs throughout the season to put a few extra coins in our pockets. ex: a couple retaining walls always help.

I believe it has more to do with the VOLUME of work he is doing. Around here a solo can do 60 lawns a week: if they are $30 lawns they would bring in over $57,000 per season. Now add in the a few $500 mulch jobs, so bush trimming, and some spray and ferts... You got your self an OKAY living there.

He also said that there season is 6 months, about 2 months shorter than mine.

befnme
03-04-2006, 02:52 AM
QUOTE=lowballer17]I had 65 accounts my first few years and working a full time job that started at 230pm. Rarely cut on weekends. I was alone using push mowers. Now I have a partner with my gravelys we can hit at least 200-300 accounts[/QUOTE]

well wich is it 200 or 300 that is a huge variance.





Yeah,
I wont agree to cut unless it's weekly. Biweekly forget it. Takes way too much time. My ideal time to finish average lawn is 5 min for everything.


i dont know about 5 minutes it dam near takes that long to get out and get the equip off the ttrailer...

B&D Lawn Care
03-04-2006, 09:17 AM
I believe it has more to do with the VOLUME of work he is doing. Around here a solo can do 60 lawns a week: if they are $30 lawns they would bring in over $57,000 per season. Now add in the a few $500 mulch jobs, so bush trimming, and some spray and ferts... You got your self an OKAY living there.

Yeah but then take away supplies, gas, and taxes and now thats questionable. If you don't have a family to support then thats ok or if you cut 50% to all of them under the table then I could see it.

Jpocket
03-04-2006, 12:30 PM
Yeah but then take away supplies, gas, and taxes and now thats questionable. If you don't have a family to support then thats ok or if you cut 50% to all of them under the table then I could see it.

Right, but his fixed cost will not be much higher if he does 30 more lawns a week. If he already has the equipment and trucks, 60 lawns is only gonna cost him more in fuel, and maintenance, and a few more $$ in administrative.

PGA
03-04-2006, 12:35 PM
I run solo and I make a fine living and can support my family.

I take care of about 60 properties between mowing, fert and landscaping maint and I gross about $85,000 a year.

I plan on growing quite a bit this year but I will still stay solo. My wife left her $45,000 a year job after our 2nd child and we dont have serious problems.


Granted I would rather have the 45 back but we do ok without it.

Fvstringpicker
03-04-2006, 08:19 PM
Right, but his fixed cost will not be much higher if he does 30 more lawns a week

Jpocket, you're among the first that has illustrated the right perception of fixed cost and how it's becomes irrevalent when computing the cost of new jobs.

Jpocket
03-04-2006, 09:02 PM
Jpocket, you're among the first that has illustrated the right perception of fixed cost and how it's becomes irrevalent when computing the cost of new jobs.

Exactly, This year I plan to grow significantly, I already own the neccesary trucks and mowers, so if I did double the work My fixed expenses would be the same....However they won't this year b/c I will have atleast one employee, and the Variable costs that go along with that.

timturf
03-04-2006, 11:11 PM
Average size of the lawns?

Average time to cut the lawns?

What size of mower?

Expenses seem high to me!