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View Full Version : Newbie trying to prepare for next season ?'s


jermana232
09-14-2011, 01:12 AM
Hi I'm a college student in Carbondale, IL. First off I have no experience in lawn care or landscaping besides mowing my own yard with our basic push mower and weed whacker. I would like to get prepared over the winter to start mowing the next season.

I plan on doing small to medium sized residential yards. I also plan on doing this out of the back of my '95 F150. I will be purchasing a decent push mower and weed whacker. I have no problem putting in a hard days work.

1. Is it possible to be successful with a push mower?
2. What would I do with the clippings? Rake them up? (remember, no experience)
3. I plan on charging per job rather then hourly. Do you collect your payment every job, once a month etc...?
4. Do you tell your customers that you cut once a week, once every two weeks... Or do they tell you what they would like done?

Thanks for the taking the time to read this. I don't plan on getting rich but I would like to have some extra income. Like I said, no experience but I am more then willing to spend this fall/winter getting everything set up and figure out my game plan.

Also, is there any type of basic "independent" work that I can do over the Fall and Winter? I've got a truck and I don't mind investing in the tools/equipment. I've already read about doing Christmas lights and decor, any other suggestions?

Thanks again.

Dr.NewEarth
09-14-2011, 01:18 PM
You want to maximize your productivity.

Get a decent rear wheel drive mower with a rear bag and a mulching blade.
At least 6 horse power. Then you can bag or mulch.
Expect to spend 5 or 6 hundred.
-buy an extra mulching blade
-maintain your machines at least once a week and learn how to fix things on the fly.
-learn how to grease your wheels and gears

There are alot of discussions on equipment maintenance on this site.

Use your regular push mower as a back up, or if you have to carry a mower up alot of
stairs to do a small lawn in a residential landscape.

I would apply for a home depot card and shop for a mower in February, just before the season starts. They usually have lawnboy and toro. This is a good place to start.

Down the line you can buy other beasts, but for now you want some-thing reliable and mostly inexpensive to get you started.

For a trimmer, I recommend a straight shaft. It will save your back and also get under things better. The more expensive ones, such as echo or stihl will last you alot longer.

A hand held blower will help with quick clean-ups. A decent back pack can be picked up later in the year before the leaves fall.

You need a tool box with you while you work. Also get some carburetor spray, wd-40

Buy an extra gas filter for your trimmer. This will be where you will have your first problem....ie: sluggish performance. Bend a coat hanger to pull out the filter.

Also, keep the air filters clean.

Read your equipment manuals and use all safety gear and precautions

The f-150 will work well for residential. Perhaps a small trailer down the line...

Buy some tarps. It's easier to get a really big one and cut it up.

We tarp our clippings and dump them every day or two. If things are tarped up it will give you more space in the back of your truck and keep it tidier so you can get in and out quickly.

This site will give you alot of information.

I wouldn't get too excited about advertising until a bit after new years....although you could start now....advertise for free where you can on line. If you use the newspaper, you will have to keep advertising for a few months to realize growth. People need to see the ad a few times before they will act on it.

Liability insurance, workers compensation? If you can advertise that you are fully insured, more people will call you.

Consider joining a landscape association. You can get group insurance rates and alot of really important information from them.

My associations get me gas discounts, insurance, uniforms, trucks and equipment discounts and so much more....

Look into "Planet" at www.landcarenetwork.org

Put togeather a contract that people sign and get a copy of. List your services
and the price.

My company has residential pay at the start of the month, for the month. We take cheques, but also require a credit card for security. We accept visa/MC/AMEX.

Be firm with people when they sign...don't let them bully you....and don't low ball

I suggest a "tail gate drop price" That means similar sized yards pay the same price, even if they are next to each other. If one quits on you, you still need to make your money.

Check out the discussions on this site about how to figure out your "overhead" and what to charge per yard.

Good Luck

JDiepstra
09-14-2011, 01:25 PM
What is your equipment budget? A 36" wb mower will cut your mowing time in half. Im sure u can find a good used one for about 1k.

jermana232
09-14-2011, 05:02 PM
Wow, thanks for all of the replies. So after each mowing job you rake up the clippings using a backpack blower onto a tarp/bags?

Do you think I will have some success with absolutely no experience? I would just like to keep it small and simple offering only basic mowing and trimming at residential homes until I could build up some experience. I don't know how to spread mulch or landscape. Are there any people that just offer mowing without the whole lawn care and landscaping side of it?

What does a fall clean up consist of? I was thinking of buying a decent blower, tarps and rakes to just offer a leaf clean up service during the fall so I could at least get my foot in the door on the biz. Does anyone just offer a basic leaf clean up? Right now I'm making minimum wage as a cashier standing around all day. If I could make above minimum wage (8.25) raking leaves and being outdoors moving around I would be quite content but for some reason I'm scared to go about doing it. I have no idea what to charge and I feel like once I'm done with the leaves or mowing the yard they will expect something more then just that but I have no lawn care experience.

Sorry I have so many questions, I don't know where to start.

2stroked
09-14-2011, 05:50 PM
Mulch the grass clippings up. Buy a husqvarna 128ld trimmer lowes 200$. A 36 walk behind would be very nice, but If you get one make sure its a ferris, exmark, or one of the better brands. Don't buy larger mowers from stores like homedepo, lowes, or sears. You will need a blower; A Stihl handheld blower is a nice place to start. I'm 14 btw I have probably 25 accounts. If i can do it than you can do it. There is no reason to be nervous, you have mowed grass before, right? You need customers, and the best way to get customers is to put out flyers during spring. As your company grows, so will the need for bigger equipment. A riding mower is a nice place to start. Good luck with your business.

jermana232
09-14-2011, 06:48 PM
Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, right now I mow my average sized yard with a Bolen '22 push mower and some no name weed eater. Over the fall and winter I will be looking for a decent used walk behind and probably the trimmer you mentioned. Another very newbie question... Is a trimmer, weed whacker, weed eater all the same thing? Used for places that your mower can't cut?

When you say mulch the clippings do you mean blow the clippings into a pile and go over with the mower and leave them there? I watched a couple guys mowing some yards and I never saw them blow or rake any clippings up afterward but while watching a different guy one time I saw him raking clippings onto tarps and throwing them in the bed of his truck.

I don't really see any ads in my area offering just the clean up of leaves. How much should I set the price for average sized neighborhood home yard? Looking for something to do in the Fall.

billpiper
09-14-2011, 08:32 PM
Mulching the grass you cut is a function of your mower and the blade it uses. It means that the clippings are cut into smaller clippings by leaving them underneath the mower instead of discharging them out the side or rear of the mower. Most LCO's will prefer to mulch the clippings as they mow and leave them in the lawn as opposed to bagging them or raking them up. It feeds the grass and saves time. If the grass is too long or wet, the mowers don't do as well and you may have to bag or rake. When you get your mower, get one that mulches and comes with a bag. Your customer will let you know if he prefers you to not mulch the clippings. I use a 5 year old Honda HRX 217. It works great.

A standard size yard to you won't be the same as a standard size yard to anyone else. I started this in earnest this year and I have yards that I can cut, trim & blow in 15 minutes and I have yards that take 3 hours. You have to keep in mind the limitations of your equipment - You can't cut an acre lot as fast as a guy with a 48" Zero Turn mower. I have my old honda self propelled, the world's oldest 42" Murray lawn tractor and some hand power tools. I try to make $35 per hour, but I quote by the job, not the hour. Pay yourself $10 or $12 an hour out of what you make and save the rest to cover overhead and fund new equipment.

There's nothing wrong with used equipment to start. I use a $5 Craftsman hedge trimmer, $20 blower and a $40 chain saw. It gets the job done. Be sure to get a good, commercial slightly used or new trimmer. You'll use it every day you cut to trim and edge. A blower is faster than sweeping or raking.

The cheapest marketing is by networking and referrals. Go see your neighbors and ask them if they or anyone else is interested in having their lawns done. Maybe offer a referral fee or a discount on a cut if they send you a customer. If you make flyers, walk them around in the neighborhoods you want to work in. Stay away from the homes with well - manicured yards until you learn what you're doing.

Every teen in the area can use Daddy's mower & cut the grass to make a fast $20. And a lot of people will let him. What will set you apart is that, when you're done, the grass will be cut, the drive & walkways will be edged and blown clear of debris and grass, maybe the shrubs will be pruned and the beds weeded. AND you'll be back the next week or in 2 weeks to do it again for them.

I get a fair amount of extra income from cleaning up yards - raking leaves, removing dead branches, cleaning gutters, removing debris. Fall is leaf time and all you need is a blower and or rake, some tarps, and a truck. we don't have snow much here in GA. , but you're up North aren't you? Maybe you could get into some snow removal in a small way.

Stay on this site and you can learn a lot. I learn every time I get on here, and it's free. Thanks to all of you for the education.

Good luck to you.

BBC.lawn.services
09-15-2011, 12:02 AM
Good replies by all!

We do fall clean with a mower with a bagger (Off topic: spell check is griping at me and my brain isn't made for spelling but that's how you spell it, right? lol) and high lift blades (creates more upward force) and just mow over the leaves and through them in 55 gallon bags... much faster than raking/blowing.

In the summer, Either side discharge or mulch don't bag... one it's a waste of time, two bad for the lawn, three you have to charge more and people don't like that...

before buying equipment we calculate how much it cost us per hour of work and how much more it will make us compared to what we have. (also consider how many seasons you'll be working!) We're in the business to make money remember! There are other factors that work into this decision as well (durability, image, ease of use etc.)

I would recommend getting a bigger walk-behind mower... 21" just isn't very productive when mowing bigger areas!

Good luck!

jermana232
09-15-2011, 12:20 AM
Thanks a ton for the info Billpiper, it was really helpful. I'm sorry new questions keep popping into my head so don't feel obligated to answer all but when I say I have no clue I really mean I have NO clue:dizzy:

So raking and bagging is usually not an everyday event?

After everything is mowed, trimmed and edged I would just blow the clippings from the sidewalk and driveway into the lawn (unless wet or long)?

Is there a difference between edging and trimming, should the trimmer that 2stroked recommended suit me well?

Any blowers you would recommend for cleaning up leaves this fall and using next season for mowing? I live right next to a Lowe's and Rural King.

Say I put up fliers and I got a call back about a job for just mowing, edging and blowing a house weekly and they asked my price. Would I take a drive over and check out the size of the yard or do you have a standard set price for "standard" sized yards?

I tried checking out other people's prices for leaf clean up but I can't really find anything specifically for that. I don't want to price too high but I also don't want to be too low. Is there any ballpark range for a neighborhood home? $20 $30 $50?

Once again I realize I have a lot of questions and I don't expect each and everyone to be answered. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to help me out!

jermana232
09-15-2011, 12:25 AM
Good replies by all!

We do fall clean with a mower with a bagger (Off topic: spell check is griping at me and my brain isn't made for spelling but that's how you spell it, right? lol) and high lift blades (creates more upward force) and just mow over the leaves and through them in 55 gallon bags... much faster than raking/blowing.

In the summer, Either side discharge or mulch don't bag... one it's a waste of time, two bad for the lawn, three you have to charge more and people don't like that...

before buying equipment we calculate how much it cost us per hour of work and how much more it will make us compared to what we have. (also consider how many seasons you'll be working!) We're in the business to make money remember! There are other factors that work into this decision as well (durability, image, ease of use etc.)

I would recommend getting a bigger walk-behind mower... 21" just isn't very productive when mowing bigger areas!

Good luck!

Thanks for the advice. It's bad for the lawn to bag the clippings? The 21" I have is the mower that my family has used for our personal yard. I'm looking in to buying a 36" walk behind mower before next season. Any brand/model you'd recommend?

TNGrassCutter
09-15-2011, 12:11 PM
I got a cheap Scag 36 WB to use for gates, it would be great for you. And an echo srm 225 and a medium size backpack blower will be all you need for now until you build up a customer base, then add more equipment as needed.
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JDiepstra
09-15-2011, 12:29 PM
Dont bag grass. It robs the lawn of the nutrients the clippings contain. I have one mower that discharges grass out the side and one mower with a mulch kit on it. Which mower i use depends on the size of the lawn as well as the length of the grass. I dont even keep a rake or bags with me when i mow.

BBC.lawn.services
09-15-2011, 06:13 PM
(answering what kind of 36" mower) We run all scag equipment currently... but in reality anything from one of the quality brands is going to be sufficient. ( quality brands being Toro comericial, exmark comerical, scag, john deere, Hustler, walker... i'm sure i left out someones favorite brand but you get the idea.)
"Is there a difference between edging and trimming, should the trimmer that 2stroked recommended suit me well"
Edging is going along sidewalks and drive ways with a Edger not a trimmer/weed eater. (some people edge with a weed eater but whatever)
Trimming is with a weed eater for places you can't get with a mower around tress etc.
Most people use either echo or sthil.
So ya if someone replies wanting a price you go over there and give them you estimate.
leaf prices... will vary of course but just look at how much area you have to clean up/how thick the leaves are etc. People will pay quite a lot for this service in my experience so don't short change yourself. "normal" size lawn price... uh... around $ 60-75 for us.

jermana232
09-15-2011, 11:04 PM
Thanks so much everyone for taking the time to answer my questions. Over the next week I'm going to purchase a blower (any specific blower I should look for?) and hopefully make some money and experience over the Fall. Then over the Winter I'll be scanning for nice used 36" WB to get started next season.

Would the Echo SRM 225 be used for both edging and trimming, or will I need to purchase another piece of equipment for one or the other? Does edging require a lot of practice to get it perfect... As in should I practice edging on my sidewalk a bit before screwing up a customers' lawn?

Do you usually get your payment mailed to you, or I collect a monthly payment beforehand?

Thanks again everyone....!

billpiper
09-16-2011, 06:54 AM
Are you going to be able to get a 36" mower in & out of your truck? That mowers going to weigh a lot more than a 21" and you're working solo. Keep in mind most of these guys are working off of a trailer.
You've never done this before. Are you sure you're going to like it enough to keep at it. Cutting the grass isn't rocket science, but it can be hard work. There's a lot of difference in cutting your own yard and going out to cut 3 - 5 yards a day.

For trimmers & edgers, both Stihl & Echo and probably most other good equipment companies carry a trimmer that you switch attachments for edging and other chores. You'll be looking at $300 - $400 for new with both attachments. And practicing at home is a great idea.

How you get paid is up to you. Keep it simple to start.

jermana232
09-16-2011, 11:21 AM
Thanks Bill for raising those questions. I'm looking at probably 1k+ for a used 36" WB, correct? Did not realize I would need a trailer for that either. Do you think it would be better to try out a few small yards with my home equipment first? Or buy like a Honda 21"?

Before I invested $1500 and bought a trailer I think I should really make sure.

TNGrassCutter
09-16-2011, 12:28 PM
You can get a small trailer for much less than 1500. My first trailer was a 5 x 10 I bought used for $300. Now I have it and a 7 x 16 I bought new for $1400.
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billpiper
09-16-2011, 05:04 PM
Trying out a few with what you have is a good idea. You might could get a 36" into your truck with ramps, but it'll be tight. I put my 2 mowers on my trailer & my truck is still full of stuff. You should be able to get a 36" used mower & a used trailer for $1500 total if you're careful, but then you need a hitch & wiring harness if your truck isn't already equipped with them. This is a lot of money to invest for something you haven't done before, especially if you're a typical college guy - always broke.

2stroked
09-16-2011, 10:18 PM
you should be able to fit a walk behind in your truck. It will take a while to get in and out, but it should work. Keep in mind backing up a trailer is hard and will take some time to get good at. Run over the clippings until you can't see them any more. Trust me the trimmer I mentioned will do everything you need to do and more. I've used it non stop, full throttle for hours with no problems. It still has great compression and starts on the 3rd pull. You should probably make sure that you like mowing, but that no name trimmer will not cut it.

Edging is alot harder than it seems. It will take a while to master. With the husqvarna 128ld you can change out the attachments and put the edging attachment in and it will look good. A stihl bg 86 blower would do everything that you would need during leaf season and much more A backpack blower can come later. Yeah, for a good wb your looking at about 1k, but keep in mind this will last you for a long time. Good luck

osmann_lawn
01-19-2012, 12:19 AM
When mulching the grass do you need to have a plug/chute or can it just side discharge? I have been told you can do it either way?

Dr.NewEarth
01-19-2012, 12:28 AM
When mulching the grass do you need to have a plug/chute or can it just side discharge? I have been told you can do it either way?

Your machine needs a mulching blade to mulch the grass. A regular cutting blade only uses the outer two inches of blade to cut the grass. If the taper of the blade is longer towards the middle it is usually a mulching blade. (say 5 or 6 inches of sharpness on each side). The mulching part may also be twisted.

The end two inches of every mower blade cuts the grass. The mulching blade throws the clippings upwards where the rest of the blade mulches it. Then the tiny bits are thrown deep into the grass. They are about 7percent nitrogen which helps to green up the grass and as the bits decompose they keep the microbes in the soil happy. You will need a plug of some sort for the cutting deck to work properly when mulching grass.

osmann_lawn
01-19-2012, 12:31 AM
I bought Oregon Mulching Blades. Just was not sure if i need that plug? i was told it leaves marks in the grass when striping. Do you always use mulching blades? or do you switch between highlift blades?

Thanks

Dr.NewEarth
01-19-2012, 12:44 AM
With our 21 inch mowers, I equip them all with mulching blades. The chute has to be closed or a plug put into that hole.

You can still bag with a mulching blade on many mowers. Check the owners manual for details.

There are some larger machines that won't bag if you have muching blades on, plus if you do mulch with them you'll need a special under deck insert.

osmann_lawn
01-19-2012, 12:56 AM
Oh sorry i mean on a larger mower 50' deck. Still need the chute block?

Dr.NewEarth
01-19-2012, 01:06 AM
You'll probably need the chute blocked. Like I said, check the manual

I made a plug once for a 42 inch out of tin and bungy cords. We used it for years with no problem. I took the machine in for transmission work and the shop gave me the proper plug.

Regarding the striping, every machine will have different quirks

lawnagent
01-19-2012, 12:34 PM
If you don't have a blocker for your discharge its not going to mulch very well. Say on a scale of 1-10 if a perfect mulch of the clippings where you cant really see them is a 10 and a side discharge is a 1, then discharging with a mulching blade will yield a 1.5 at best.
I NEVER rake. Unless I let the grass get too high through something that I did or MY fault I don't rake. I have been asked but when I quote a price they don't want it raked anymore.

bigw
01-19-2012, 03:11 PM
The first thing you need to do is check with your state about what you need to do in order to become a legit business such as collecting sales tax,paying taxes on the money you make,getting proper insurances,register company name etc..etc.. or are you just going to be another JOE LOW BALLING FLY BY NIGHT COMPANY?

billpiper
01-19-2012, 10:02 PM
The first thing you need to do is check with your state about what you need to do in order to become a legit business such as collecting sales tax,paying taxes on the money you make,getting proper insurances,register company name etc..etc.. or are you just going to be another JOE LOW BALLING FLY BY NIGHT COMPANY?

I guess I'm just a redneck from GA, but I don't see where your comment has anything to do with Osman's question about mulching blades

weeze
01-19-2012, 11:39 PM
there are new g6 gator blades that could be considered a blade to use to mulch while side discharging. they are not made to be used with a mulch kit. they cut the clippings up into smaller pieces before discharging them out of the side of the deck. a mulch kit with a mulch blade would probably mulch better but it's only good when you aren't cutting alot of growth off of the lawn. the g6 blades are sortof a way to side discharge and mulch when cutting more growth off of a lawn. an example would be if you cut a yard every two weeks instead of every week. the grass will be taller so a regular mulch kit with mulching blades might tend to clog up. regular high lift blades would cut fine side discharging but leave more clippings on the grass than the g6 blades.

lawnagent
01-20-2012, 07:51 AM
I guess I'm just a redneck from GA, but I don't see where your comment has anything to do with Osman's question about mulching blades

Look at the title of this thread, not just the last few posts, that is why his comment is on here.
I agree that all Big W said should be addressed, but I personally would put him on the honor system and let him ask questions and make sure this is really what he wants to do first.