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View Full Version : What should I buy to start my service next year?


slicknick
09-20-2009, 11:22 PM
First let me say Im sooooo glad I found this site. I love reading everything and getting smarter as I do so!

I've been cutting neighbors lawns since I was 10 years old. Im 18 years old now, and this past year I cut 6 lawns around my neighborhood. I have a 2003 Trailblazer which I throw everything in, 2 22inch self propelled mowers, one craftsman which is 10 years old and running strong, and a toro which I got 6 months ago. I have a weedeater, edger, blower, trimmers, lots of other stuff. Next year, I plan on getting a trailer since my trailblazer has a hitch on it so I can pull stuff around easier.
Heres my situation. I want to try and get multiple accounts next year. All the money I made this year, $4000, can be spent on next years stuff. I really want a commercial mower of 42 inches, preferably a ride on zero turn (I know its expensive starting out, but I want to be able to do this professionally next year). What mower do you recommend? What's a good 42 inch mower to start off with? How much would you spend on it (if you only had 4000 total to spend on everything). What size trailer would you recommend getting? What other necessities would I need to become a "professional" company? How do I get accounts without putting flyers in their mailbox (which is illegal)? Any tips on how to get started would be amazing. I really want at least 20 next year. What would you charge on a 10000sqft lawn normally? I live in ohio so basically grass can be cut from march to october, give or take a few weeks. When do you start advertising/getting the word out of your company in the spring?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Nick!

JShe8918
09-21-2009, 12:50 AM
Well to start off with you aren't going to find many commercial grade 42" ZTR's i don't think. 48" is kinda the standard. I would recommend a small 6x10 trailer, 48" walk behind or stander, and of course the essentials (blower, edger, trimmer). I like toro's walk behinds the best. Stihl makes good hand tools. I priced out all new stuff today for a FS130 edger, FS130 weedeater, and another BR600 the total was 1200 after tax. Four grand is hard to start with considering you don't have a trailer. So a trailer is roughly 800. So now your down to 3200. We will say 800 for hand helds like edger, trimmer, and blower. 3200-800= 2400. 2400 isn't enough for a walk behind or rider. So....... I dunno what to tell you.

LR3
09-21-2009, 01:20 AM
First, register with the state as a business. I used a company that did all the leg work for me for $500, but it's been said that YOU can do it for around $250.(this is important)
Second, shop around for the cheapest insurance you can find to insure your business and your vehicle. (also important) Let's say a down payment of $250 with another $150 or so a month thereafter.
Now, regarding equipment, don't go out and buy a ZTR, initially, it would be overkill and you will be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn't allocate what money you had more wisely. A good, used 48" commercial walk behind would be more than sufficient for you to start off with and if the yards get too big then you buy a sulky. You can find a good commercial walkbehind for $2000 or under, check craigslist under your state, town and farm&garden. You will find what you are looking for. Again, don't make a mistake in buying a ZTR, I bought mine too soon when a walk behind would have been enough. It may take longer, you may work harder, but you are 18. Take the time between now and spring to find what you are looking for and you will be able to make that 4k stretch to get you up and running. Don't be hasty, take your time and do some homework in finding what's within your budget so that you can get everything you need to get you going. And don't forget, register with the state and insure yourself. Good luck!:waving:

LR3
09-21-2009, 01:25 AM
Two minutes of looking-http://cleveland.craigslist.org/grd/1383403931.html 3k or best offer, so bring cash and offer $2500 for the package. Once he sees the green, he will most likely not let you leave without accepting your offer.

jblatti13
09-21-2009, 06:32 AM
i just started out this year as well, and this site is an amazing place to find every answer you need. ill try to answer some things the other guys havent yet.... start looking now!... search the internet, classifieds, everywhere for used mowers. you can find a ton of used commercials equipment for your 4k. a 6x12 trailer you can get for less than 800. trimmers and blowers you said you have... so look hard for a good mower, do some research, test some out, see what others think about each one.

advertising is huge. start coming up with ideas now. also, a little plug for sean adams, check out lawncaresuccess.com... hes got a book in there and ive read it 3-4 times already, and i still am trying to find ways to use his information. advertising is simple. go to vistaprint.com or some online sites, get some business cards, truck magnets, flyers, whateevr else. in february start pounding people with these. get your name out there. do everythign u can, legally, to make sure everyones sees u and ur business. also, dont just put flyers out once, people need to see it a few times before u stick in their head.

make sure you are legal. file a DBA, and get a business license. make sure you have auto insurance and liability for accidents and your equipment.alk to an accountant or do sum research to set up a business acct and how to pay taxes and so forth. do everything you can, ive had people ask me for my license now a few times, and if you dont have one and u already did the work, they dont have to pay u cuz ur doing business illegally.

and lastly, keep reading lawnsite, and if you do snow plowing, check out plowsite. there are people from all over the country here to offer ther input, advice, answer any questions u have. thats all i got man, hope it helps, this is all i do is follow along here and try to use everything i learn to improve.

adrian
09-21-2009, 07:55 PM
I would definitely take a WB over a ZTR if I was you. I just bought a new Exmark Metro 48 WB for $3300, so I'm sure you could find a used one even cheaper. Like someone else said, If you need to mow big open spaces you could buy a sulky for around $200. Good luck!

RedMaple Lawns
09-21-2009, 09:42 PM
First let me say Im sooooo glad I found this site. I love reading everything and getting smarter as I do so!

I've been cutting neighbors lawns since I was 10 years old. Im 18 years old now, and this past year I cut 6 lawns around my neighborhood. I have a 2003 Trailblazer which I throw everything in, 2 22inch self propelled mowers, one craftsman which is 10 years old and running strong, and a toro which I got 6 months ago. I have a weedeater, edger, blower, trimmers, lots of other stuff. Next year, I plan on getting a trailer since my trailblazer has a hitch on it so I can pull stuff around easier.
Heres my situation. I want to try and get multiple accounts next year. All the money I made this year, $4000, can be spent on next years stuff. I really want a commercial mower of 42 inches, preferably a ride on zero turn (I know its expensive starting out, but I want to be able to do this professionally next year). What mower do you recommend? What's a good 42 inch mower to start off with? How much would you spend on it (if you only had 4000 total to spend on everything). What size trailer would you recommend getting? What other necessities would I need to become a "professional" company? How do I get accounts without putting flyers in their mailbox (which is illegal)? Any tips on how to get started would be amazing. I really want at least 20 next year. What would you charge on a 10000sqft lawn normally? I live in ohio so basically grass can be cut from march to october, give or take a few weeks. When do you start advertising/getting the word out of your company in the spring?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Nick!

Alright, my first suggestion is to purchase a commercial walk-behind, not a ZTR -- I would only use a ZTR on lawns that are 1+ acres. The walk-behind will save you a heap a money, and when you get 1+ acre lawns, then buy a ZTR with all that money you saved up!

Second, YOU have to figure YOUR price. Every LCO's price is different depending on overhead cost, labor, etc. An easy way to do this is time yourself on the 6 lawns you have now...and answer, how long did it take and with what equipment? Once you have that figure, calculate costs...whatever they may be...and most importantly, set your hourly rate (what you want/need to MAKE an hour). Most people charge by the square foot/acre...so go by a measuring wheel for $30.00, measure your lawns, and hit start on your stop watch ;).

When pricing DON'T lowball! Set your price and stick to it.

10,000 sq. ft. is about a 1/4 an acre.

I have a 8,000 sq. ft. customer billed at $25.00/week with a commercial walk-behind (36").

slicknick
09-21-2009, 11:29 PM
Alright, my first suggestion is to purchase a commercial walk-behind, not a ZTR -- I would only use a ZTR on lawns that are 1+ acres. The walk-behind will save you a heap a money, and when you get 1+ acre lawns, then buy a ZTR with all that money you saved up!

Second, YOU have to figure YOUR price. Every LCO's price is different depending on overhead cost, labor, etc. An easy way to do this is time yourself on the 6 lawns you have now...and answer, how long did it take and with what equipment? Once you have that figure, calculate costs...whatever they may be...and most importantly, set your hourly rate (what you want/need to MAKE an hour). Most people charge by the square foot/acre...so go by a measuring wheel for $30.00, measure your lawns, and hit start on your stop watch ;).

When pricing DON'T lowball! Set your price and stick to it.

10,000 sq. ft. is about a 1/4 an acre.

I have a 8,000 sq. ft. customer billed at $25.00/week with a commercial walk-behind (36").

wow this had so much good info in it. For that 8000 sqft lawn, how long does it take to mow it, trim, edge, etc. Are you doing it alone? See if I measure a lawn, Id have no idea how to begin to price by the square foot. Any suggestions on that?

J & D Greens
10-03-2009, 01:40 AM
I have a 8,000 sq. ft. customer billed at $25.00/week with a commercial walk-behind (36").[/QUOTE]

Low-baller! Just kidding with you. But seriously in this day and age of pricing. You have to get as much for your work as possible. Try to get your accounts to pay enough that you are not using a stop-watch to see how long it takes you to cut a lawn. When you get your accounts just do a great job and in no time you will find that you will be able to say $30-$40 to a customer for what you thought was worth $25 and settled for $20 just to get work two years earlier (don't sell yourself short or you may as well stay at home!). And either they will take you up or not either way you will be far better off. You see my first year I have one of my easiest lawns, about 600 square ft.-$25. did it for her for two years. This season I was raising a lot of accounts cuzz I just wasn't charging enough (but not hers). She comes out at the beginning of this season and says she remembered that I was getting $30 this season. I wasn't going to argue!!!! Now I do another $30 lawn and a $15 for the front of smiler size property (all three at the same stop). That just became $75 for about 1 1/2 hours worth of work. And That is still really not enough money for what I have going in overhead. But if you could get 125 accounts (tight route like that) and 2 workers. I think a guy could come out alright,

alf500series
10-05-2009, 12:08 AM
well speaking from experience ---MAKE SURE YOU ARE PROPERLY COVERED WITH INSURANCE!:wall i learned the hard way this year(15,000+)loss. i had my truck broken into, hot wired, and burned at a state park. o and the truck and trailer had ALL of my landscaping equipment in it. including the zero turn mower that i still owe $2000 on. long story maybe for a later date.

secondly, if you are thinking about a zero turn mower. consider the type of terrain you will be using it on. if you are mowing an area with fairly steep slopes you don't want a zero turn. there is no braking system on them and if the terrain is steep you will slide and leave marks with the tires. not to mention the pucker effect you will have traveling down a hill towards a tree or other obstacles with no way to stop. if the terrain is flat then they are great!

another point you need to consider is maint. when you buy equipment. Just because you have some money and you need all this equipment-dont go buy lots of cheap stuff. when doing landscaping think long haul--or as my wife says i am "high maintenance". if you can only buy one or two really good items-thats okay. get them-it will save you lots of time and money in the long run. trailers--just keep an eye out. craigslist is a great resource. equipment-i personally like the stihl line...a great backpack blower is the br550 trimmers I've had echo,stihl and loved them both. as far as push mowers go--wow-there are tons out there, but i would look at getting at least one that has a bagger on it.


well i better save some more for next time--good luck!!

tropical breeze
10-05-2009, 04:29 PM
I just bought a trailer and a 42in rider mower and 1 for parts on craigslist for $ 700.00 now its not commercial but it starts 1st shot the blades are sharp and I went from doing my yard with a push mower 55 minutes to now with the rider in 30 minutes. once I get up to 25 or 30 accounts my goal is to go commercial and use this one as backup.

Puddle of Oil
10-05-2009, 09:47 PM
well speaking from experience ---MAKE SURE YOU ARE PROPERLY COVERED WITH INSURANCE!:wall i learned the hard way this year(15,000+)loss. i had my truck broken into, hot wired, and burned at a state park. o and the truck and trailer had ALL of my landscaping equipment in it. including the zero turn mower that i still owe $2000 on. long story maybe for a later date.

Im listening!!!!:)

tropical breeze
10-06-2009, 10:44 AM
Well I guess what I am trying to say is you must walk before you run. always think of it as a business you are in this to make a profit. Keep your over head low at all times and I would put at least $ 800.00 of that cash in an account for a rainy day. If I was you buy a good trailer and save the rest till you have more accounts till the end of next year. At the end of the year there are always great deals on mower because they are not being used at that time.Try to keep in where you do not have payments for equipment this is why the world is in trouble right now. I go by this. K.I.S.S. Keep, It ,Simple, Stupid. Good Luck out there.

MarkintheGarden
10-06-2009, 01:26 PM
First let me say Im sooooo glad I found this site. I love reading everything and getting smarter as I do so!

I've been cutting neighbors lawns since I was 10 years old. Im 18 years old now, and this past year I cut 6 lawns around my neighborhood. I have a 2003 Trailblazer which I throw everything in, 2 22inch self propelled mowers, one craftsman which is 10 years old and running strong, and a toro which I got 6 months ago. I have a weedeater, edger, blower, trimmers, lots of other stuff. Next year, I plan on getting a trailer since my trailblazer has a hitch on it so I can pull stuff around easier.
Heres my situation. I want to try and get multiple accounts next year. All the money I made this year, $4000, can be spent on next years stuff. I really want a commercial mower of 42 inches, preferably a ride on zero turn (I know its expensive starting out, but I want to be able to do this professionally next year). What mower do you recommend? What's a good 42 inch mower to start off with? How much would you spend on it (if you only had 4000 total to spend on everything). What size trailer would you recommend getting? What other necessities would I need to become a "professional" company? How do I get accounts without putting flyers in their mailbox (which is illegal)? Any tips on how to get started would be amazing. I really want at least 20 next year. What would you charge on a 10000sqft lawn normally? I live in ohio so basically grass can be cut from march to october, give or take a few weeks. When do you start advertising/getting the word out of your company in the spring?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Nick!

You have two things going for you; one, you are young and have a lot of time for trial and error, two you are here and getting good advice and that will help limit the error part.

More important than what you should buy, is what you should do with what you buy. As others have said a walk behind is probably a better choice (and maybe the only choice). Whatever you do buy, take time to read the manuals and spend the time doing maintenance and learning your way around the machines.

As you grow and take on more accounts you will see how important it is to have the equipment you need, when you need it. Until you have a back up for all your machines, you need to know that they will work for you and when something goes wrong, you need to get it right and back to work.

Best luck, and keep us updated.

MarkintheGarden
10-06-2009, 01:30 PM
Put your fliers on the door knobs with a rubber band.

NEWFINISH
10-07-2009, 11:31 AM
If I were you and had 4k to spend on equipment and trailer. I would buy:

1) 36" belt driven walkbehind $500-$1000. Its a standard size walk behind that wll fit through most gates. Depending on the type of yards you are cutting anything bigger might be too big. I bought one earlier this year for $500, it was an Exmark Metro1996 model. It was ugly as as hell but it ran and cut beautifully and got the job done. I ended up selling it because my boy gave me a deal on a newer Exmark Metro Hp that I couldn't resist. Just try to buy something wth a kawasaki motor on it (Exmark, Toro or Scag). To me its one of the best motors around and its easy to get parts for.

2) Redmax or Echo blower weedwhip and edger. I bought a Redmax BCZ2601 weedwhip for $200 2 years ago off of craigslist and it runs like brand new. It fires up every time with no problems. Home depot sells Echo. You could get a SRM 210 model wheedwhip for $219 plus tax or spend an extra $50$70 and get an SRM 230 a more powerful model. As far as blowers look as hard as possble to get a Redmax Eb7001 blower or an Echo pb431. I saw both of these blowers on craigslist for under $350. They are very powerful. Or you could get a new Echo blower for $400 plus tax or the redmax for $100 more. And an edger is about the same price as a wheedwhip.

3) Get a 5x10 sngle axle trailer. I have been seeing those on Craigslist for about $500-$600 bucks. A 36" walkbehind and a couple of twenty ones would fit perfect on a 5x10.

4) Insurance. Get a 500,000 or a 1million dollar general liability insurance policy. I picked up one for the million dollar policy and pay 60 bucks a month. $150 to get it started. But that is based on my company. I am a solo with no employees and I mainly do maintenance (cutting) more than anything else.

5) A license to do business in your city. You are smaller now but if you got balls, heart and do good work you are going to grow. Get a license just to make sure you are all the way legit to create less problems for yourself in the future should be about $50-$100. Cops around here have been dicks about having business licenses and DOT numbers and Medical Cards start to look into that stuff as well. They are looking to fine people wthout it.

6) Business cards and fliers promotional stuff. Vistaprint has great deals on all of this stuff. You can get 250 business cards for free. I think like 50-100 fliers for free. A t shirt for free with your company name on it. And some pens for free. Look into this seriously it will save some money and help you to market your business inexpensively. I have another place where I get my fliers I get 5000 for $125. $250 for the initial design. But ths place is up here in Michigan.

So for your budget $500-$1000 for walkbehind. $800-$1200 for handhelds. $150-$200 for insurance(varies on your business and your state) $50-$100 for license(varies on your city). Free to $250 depending on how much marketing material you get.

Grand total= $1700-$2500 this is dependent on how patient you are and how hard you look. Iam on Craiglist everyday and I got more than enough equipment but you always gotta look for deals . Its nothing like getting the best equipment for half the price new . If you double those numbers above thats is about how much you would be spendin if you got everything brand new from a dealer. Shop around and buy new only if you really have to. Take that extra $1500 to $2300 you have left over and stash it in a business account and you will be just fine. Good luck to you. I hope my advice helps.

NEWFINISH
10-07-2009, 11:43 AM
I forgot to add in your trailer $500-$600. So you would have $1000 to $1700 left over to put in a business account.

RHooper
10-07-2009, 12:38 PM
Hello Slicknick,
First of all, welcome to the business, and good luck to you. I was reading the posts here, and there is great info right here on Lawnsite, waiting for you to read and soak up. I had a thought or two, if you don't mind. A 5 x 8 trailer will actually get you started, or a 6 x 12, better yet. But, start off in baby steps. Don't go crazy once you've made a couple of hundred $$. Start off in a 5 x 8 trailer. This will be good enough to get rolling, and keep in mind you will put less wear on your Trailblazer with less weight behind you. I too, like the Toro walk-behinds, but consider a 44" as opposed to a 48" or 52" deck, because the 44" will fit through some fence gates, where a 48" or 52" will not fit.
If you are required to bag the clippings on some yards, purchase the cloth bagger setup for the Toro, and don't be afraid to charge a little extra for that extra service. You may be able to bag those clippings into lawn/leaf bags, and set them at the customer's curb for pickup, or you may be required to haul them off to the local landfill or other recycling operation.
I am a big Stihl fan myself, but as far as you handhelds, startup with a good straight shaft weedeater with some power behind it, twin line, bump head,etc. A Stihl BR series( 420, 500, 600 ) backpack blower will be one of the best pieces of equipment you'll buy, and with reasonable care, will last you a long time. Use the Stihl 2 stroke mixes in the orange bottles with your gas. If you get a 1 gallon can, you buy the 6 packs of Stihl 2 stroke mix in the 2 1/2 oz. bottles. Then, it's so simple, even I can do it. You put one little bottle in your gas can, then add exactly one gallon of gas to the can, and you're good to go.
Pay your local hardware store a visit, and pick up a flexible rake, a rigid steel rake, a small flat shovel, and a large curved type shovel, a pruning shear or lopper, and a good pair of leather work gloves. And now, guess what? It's time to go to work and pay yourself back some of this 5 - 6 thousand $$ you just spent.
By the way, not trying to tell you what to do, but as far as proposals for prospective customers, try to see if you can be in the $ 35.00 - $ 40.00 PER HOUR range on each one, so basically, if it takes you one hour or less to mow, edge, trim, and blow a property, figure $ 35.00 per visit x number of visits per year = yearly total. Take the yearly total, and divide by 12 (months). Bill you customer this amount, every month, for 12 months. If you work less than 12 months, say 9 months, divide by nine (months) You get the picture. One good setup is as follows:
April - September = 4 visits per month (24 visits)
October - March = 2 visits per month (12 visits)
Total visits per year = 36
* And, don't ever tell someone you will be there every week, year round, (52 visits) because you know you won't, but they will expect you, rain or shine !
I hope some of this might help out a little, and good luck to you !
Rick

DJJS
10-09-2009, 01:39 AM
you'll need a state business license, business insurance, LLC etc and check in with your town some require a town business license they're in general only like 20 bucks around here for a year but if you get caught without it its a bitc* like $1000 fine after you get your license & insurance then start looking for equipment. you can get used equipment for cheaper, but you cant get used insurance half price. Once you get all the legal stuff, see what kind of cash you have left

also as far as getting customers its illegal to put the flyer in the mailbox like you said but when i was starting i just stuck them in between the railings on peoples porches. dont put flyers on car windsheilds though, cause what do almost all people do when they get a flyer on the windshield? they see it when they're already in the car, get out and throw it on the ground so they can drive wherever they're going also look into how much it would cost to put an ad in your local newspaper thats one of the most effective ways i've found. make sure you do a great job for all your customers because maybe they have a friend or family member looking for a landscaper and will recommend you as far as your equipment i've found redmax blowers, echo trimmers, bobcat/scag walkbehinds & stihl chainsaws to be the best of the best. when you look for a trailer, try to pick out a walkbehind first so you have an idea how much space your working with look for a used trailer to save some cash, same with the walkbehind mower the handhelds though i'd go with new if possible.

Also, if next year comes around and you dont have your target 20 accounts dont stress just be patient when i was 17 i had 34 accounts, that jumped to 78 last year and have 77 weekly this year with 10 other accounts every other week plus a ton of sidework anyway my point there is if you work your ass off and do it the right way you'll be successful

WGLandscapeMaintenance
10-09-2009, 04:44 AM
Everyone has pretty much summed it up. The main thing is, stay out of debt, and work your ass off. The possibilities are endless. This is America ain't it? :usflag: