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View Full Version : Trying to make $$$ as a solo act


Brian M
02-25-2004, 04:39 PM
Looking for advice from all the solo acts out there.
How do you make a living doing just weekly lawn maintenance by yourself?
How many accounts can you handle a week?
Seems like if your lucky enough to get 50-60 accounts a week you'd be able to make some decent $$$ but your working your a$$ off. And what happens if you get alot of rain for several days each week, do you cut in the rain and spread disease and ruin lawns or do you try to do 100-120 lawns the following week which is impossible and gets to the point I'm trying to make!
How do you make $$$ as a solo act?????????????
If youíre in the Northeast as I am, how many weeks are you cutting on average per year?
I'm going into my second year in the Lawn care biz and have only 30 or so accounts and I stay pretty busy except when it rains, call me stupid but I don't cut when it rains, the ground was mush last year with all the rain we had and even several days after the rain had stopped I found alot of the lawns were still mush and I left some nasty tire tracks on those lawns.
How do you continue to work in the rain and not mess up the lawns?
And if you do hold off when it rains, how do you get to those customers if you have 50-60 a week and it just rained 3 days in a row???
I'd love to know the secret.
Realistically 40 lawns a week seems like a good average for a solo act, right?
So if you get on average $30 a lawn your talking $1200 a week, which sounds ok but how many weeks is it for, 24 or 25 in CT is the way I see it, and that is stretching it because mid summer it slows down to every other week, but lets still say 25 and that breaks down to $30k, and I know Iím not including the spring and fall cleanups and snow removal because they vary and I donít see all my customers needing either nor myself being able to do all of them either. So how are some of you doing $60k and up each year?
So what am I missing, whatís the secret to making $$$ as a solo act?????
:confused:

MudslinginFX4
02-25-2004, 04:55 PM
I'm not solo anymore but I have been there. Let me see if I can answer some of your questions. The main question I see you having is the rain. When it rains, and you aren't able to cut I would schedule out the lawns you missed from the day to the next couple of days. If I rains for several days in a row you will just have to put them on your route and do them the following week on the day you normally would. These problems don't just effect solos, but everyone. I get backed up when rain hits us just like you do. I have learned to only do as much as we can handle and not stress over the rest. One thing I would recommend to you, cut back on some of the lawns and concentrate on doing things around the ones that you have. I have found that many of my customers will keep my busy if I ask, doing many things through out the year. I have also found that if I max out on yards, then I have to give up something else which would be things as "the extras" I mentioned around the yards. I know I am rambling but I hope this helps.

jajwrigh
02-25-2004, 06:04 PM
B-
I am only part-time, but I still make good money! I don't think there is a secet per say, but there are some things you need to pay attention to. First of all, keep your overhead low. No one is going to reap a lot of profit if they spend all of their income on bills. Are you full time? Depending on your financial situation what you may consider good money the next guy may not and vice versa. A lot of your "measured" success is all relative to the views you hold...

Brian M
02-25-2004, 11:43 PM
Thanks for the replies guys, I'm a bit surprised that I only got two replies on this subject, I was expecting alot more from the veterans on this site, Oh well, guess the secret is safe with them!!!
Guess if I posted something about who we should vote in as President I would have gotten more replies.
I must be on the wrong site!

MudslinginFX4
02-25-2004, 11:48 PM
Brian, you've got to give it time and I guarantee you will have over 20 replies. Don't give up on lawn site, it's the best out there!

Brian M
02-26-2004, 12:01 AM
I know it is ECM, I'm just try to wake up the Vets on this site so they'll give me some more input on this issue, which I'm sure alot of guys new to the biz are going through.
It was also the only way I know to get back on top, LOL!

mtdman
02-26-2004, 01:04 AM
As a solo act last year, I had 75 customers. I did them mostly by myself. Occassionally I had help from my former partner when I got backed up. In theory, 75 a week translates to 15 a day, 5 days a week. Which leaves 2 catch up days if it rains. For the most part, I was able to hit that 15 a day mark by busting my butt. I don't mow in the rain, either. But rarely does it rain all day, and usually you can get something done on a rain day. With all the rain we had last year, I was behind quite a bit even with the makeup days. When it rains, you just gotta do your best and muddle through. Sometimes you end up skipping people and/or working longer hours.

75 customers a week was fine income for me, and I could continue on with that number and earn a good living. But, I'm only getting older and I'm always interested in working less. So I am going to the next step and getting into hiring people, etc. I am also looking to expand into different areas and gain more $ from extras and side work. Working smarter, not necessarily harder.

My advice to you is to make sure you are making a maximum amount of $ per hour, keep your expenses low, and work as hard as you can. Streamline and make yourself efficient. Thankfully I had 7 years in business as a partnership before I had to go solo, so I had a lot of stuff figured out before I had to do it on my own last year.

mowinmoney
02-26-2004, 01:34 AM
At the peak of my solo days I had 92 accts. The most challenging aspect was scheduling around the weather. I found being flexible with my schedule was the key. I knew it wouldn't be that tough forever because I had reached the point where I knew help was around the corner. I had all the equipment I needed so I was very efficient.(exmark 72",52", 48"wb, all the trimmers and blowers) Everything was down to the minute because running a solo is based on your time and you only have so much. Keep things simple and your routes tight and it will work. The one thing I wish I would have had was an enclosed trailer that I could have kept everything in. Loading and unloading every day was the only function that I considered wasted time when I was finished being a solo. About 2.5 hours a week by the time I got home from the storage unit. ($150 of time each week) Tried tarps at night but that was a pain. There were days where I had to finish commercial jobs under their bright lights, in fact I got to the point where I started scheduling them like that because I didn't have to worry about cars and people stopping to talk.

Your question on the rain. Just be willing to do what it takes to get the job done. I had about 15 lawns that i could mow when it was wet. The others I couldn't do, and keep the level of quality up. i never really ran into 3 days of no production so I cant offer advice there. I watched the weather channel religiously and if I saw rain coming I made sure I worked as much as possible before it came. Also I only scheduled work on 5 days Tues-Sat, this left Sun/Mon to catch up. Good luck and if you can get the enclosed trailer unless you have a storage building on site.
Today is a different story...but I remember the days, they were challenging and it really makes me appreciate what we have today...

Brian M
02-26-2004, 09:20 AM
WOW!

Those #s are staggering 75 & 92 customers a week for solo acts!
I'd be afraid to take on that many weekly accounts!
I hear what you guys are saying about streamlining and being efficient with my time, that's something that comes with experience I guess? I too found myself wasting lots of time each day loading and unloading the truck and trailer, I think the enclosed trailer is a great idea and something I'll look into in the near future, but for this coming year I plan on putting up a temporary garage\canopy to park the trailer under to keep the equipment dry, as far as it being safe from the criminals that's what the dog and my Smith & Wesson are for!!!
Enclosed trailer or not, if someone wants someting you have a little old padlock on the trailer won't keep them out!
But an alarm system might scare them away, anyways
thanks for the good advice guys, and please keep it coming!

Brian

ACut AboveLandscapin
02-26-2004, 09:51 AM
I do about 75 accounts a week with my solo operation. Some properties up to 3 - 4 Acres. There are a few things that are a must, Keep a tight route, driving around is not making you money. The key is don't waste time. And have the right equipment. Rider is a must, I have a 52 Lazer. Might get a 60 Rider and 36 Stander this year to pick up productivity. Also all the other equipment I need. If I need something that will save me time, I buy it no questions asked. I think I could do up to 100 a week by myself. I am also 27 years young. You have to be willing to work hard to make good money by yourself.

yardman1
02-26-2004, 10:04 AM
I am solo, quanity is not always the best in my opinion quality is, you can get some really good accounts that will make you alot of money with only half the yards, go after some high end clients for full service contracts. that is just my .02.

Shady Brook
02-26-2004, 10:28 AM
You have to understand that your question(s) is very broad. All of your questions that can be answered have been answered in previous posts, and other questions will have to be answered for yourself.

You have to know how much you need to make in order to be satisfied. You have to know the net that will qualify as "makeing $$$" in your own mind. From there you need to decide what direction you want to go, what services to offer, what equipment will be neccesary to offer those services, how much time you plan to give to the work, and how much you need to charge for those services to survive.

I have found in this business as in most most business fail in three years. I was able to weather this, but I went through the same things as those who have failed. In the begining it seems like you can make good money in lawncare, ie Wow.... I made $40 per hour today. May have only made it for 4 hours, but $40 sounds so much better then $8. So you amass equipment and go crazy and think hay, my business is growing and I am making more money now then before. But usually in that 2-3 year range you realize that them taxes are big, the city permits add up, the insurance is crazy, stuff breaks, tires wear out, trucks need attention, mowers only last so long, and the payments on equipment is more then you thought. In my case, and in many others around year 3 you see that you were not making money after all, only feeding the "business". The work is very hard, and if your body wears out, you may have nothing to fall back on as a solo.

I am not trying to discourage you, but make you think about the decison.

If I were you, and your heart is set on making the business work, I would try to grow without going into much debt. Make wise purchases, don't buy more then you need to keep the debt manageable. Try to grow, but be willing to take on workers as the need arises. Try to get more accounts then you can possibly handle. Perhaps you will find benifits in a good employee or two, and be happy you went that route. Maybe you will hate the employee hastle, and then you can take those 100 plus accounts, and keep the cream of the crop. Keep the ones that pay the best, have the most services, who best take care of their grass, and who are bunched the closest together. Perhaps You have 100 accounts, and 70 of them you can mow with a 52 rider. Get rid of the 30 you need a 36 or 21" mower for, and just have a small trailer with a Z. Your overhead, maintenance, and ease of transport may all be reduced significantly.

You can make money as a Solo. Do lots of research, ask lots of questions, and be aware that if something happens to you, your business may fail very quickly. Remember also, that some day you will get older, and do you want to slave like a swine in your golden years.

Plan, Plan, Plan, and expect that expenses and taxes will be much highter then you anticipate even after planning. Figure a number you think you need to make, and tack on maybe %30 in order to make what you think you need.

Ok, I am done rambleing.

Good luck.

Jay

naturescape
02-26-2004, 12:40 PM
I am solo and have been averaging about 60 lawns a week + all fertilization, weed control, etc. (yes I am licensed). I want to do 50% this year, so I'll be cutting and maintaining about 90/week. These are SMALL lawns (ave 3000 sq. ft.), and many of them are close together.

Having all your work in a small radius, with many customers in one stop is the key to making money solo.

Also, if it rains for several days, cut HIGH the following week (3 1/2 - 4"). If you do this, you won't have to double cut or remove clippings. You can get the lawns back down to 3 1/4" or so when the rain slows down. 1/4" difference in cutting height can make ALL the difference in terms of ease of cutting.

battags
02-26-2004, 12:52 PM
There is some pretty good advise on here from veteran solo guys. Rain is pretty much everyones biggest hurdle.

One trick that I learned.....If it starts raining late in the afternoon (too wet to cut) I'll trim and edge the remaining lawns for that day and start trimming and edging the next days rotation, too. The next day I do nothing but mow and blow. Fortunately, my OCDC reduces blowing time and I use the blades from the mower to blow the bulk of the grass off drives.

This is only a time saver if I'm sure I can get the lawn cut by the next morning. I don't trim in advance and leave it for more than 18 hrs.

Brian

turf9
02-26-2004, 02:35 PM
good thread after all I'm solo to I'm in langley b.c. Shady nailed it with the 3 year learning curve of what is and what is not the so called money makers:) The part about the rain I know all to well up in the northwest me and my compitition are out rain or shine no matter what It will rain weeks on end in the spring. Customers are used to it, as a one man shoew you can't aford to get off shed (still happens). I've learned get the lightest mower you can For the 21", raise it up a notch and slowdown. (no secret here)I find that I HAVE TO CUT IN THE RAIN thats life. fyi I use a plastic deck honda geat vacume and light.Mtdman said that thing about not getting any younger, and working smarter is more the ticket.Totally agree with that.Quantity I'm finding is not the answer . Good return customers and not just res are where it's at, I was looking over some # the other day,I was doing way better at the town home i do than doing my primo friday cut peaple. As far as daily income + it save wear on that starter motor lol
don't know if my little speach helped but stick around here the best free advice you can get .