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wagner17
08-31-2004, 08:19 PM
Looking at starting up a lawn care business in Cincinnati, Ohio next year. I've been a teacher for 8 years for Severe Emotionally Disturbed children. I have summer experience, but want to go at it on my own.

My questions are, how many accounts do those of you who work alone have? Also, how much money are you making annually if you don't mind me asking? Not as worried about the money as my wife has a fantastic career and after being Mr. Mom and a teacher for 8 years has given me her blessing. I plan on offering mowing, trimming, blowing, seeding, fertilizing, and possibly aeration. Please let me know what you think.

dvmcmrhp52
08-31-2004, 08:47 PM
You won't make as much money as being a teacher and you will work MUCH harder.
Fertilizing will require licensing and training.
You'll want at least 40 accounts that pay market rate to go full time, solo, or the sleep you lose will get you to wishing you were back behind a desk.
I'm not trying to rain on your parade, I'm just trying to be realistic.

wagner17
08-31-2004, 09:05 PM
I figured 40 as well. The money is not too much of an issue. I figure that I will make less than what I currently make, but there are many more reasons why I want to do it. To be honest, I have 2 masters degrees, make $50,000 a year and am just not happy with what I am doing. I have always been happiest just mowing lawns as crazy as that sounds to some. I have run the figures and come out making about $35,000 after expenses. It is a paycut, but it honestly makes me happy. Money isn't everything. I do appreciate your realism, these are the type of answers I am looking for.

Thanks!

Yard Perfect
08-31-2004, 09:11 PM
I work by myself and one other and make about twice what a teacher would make. Hard work, but no weekends, get to work outside, if my customers are not nice, I find new ones - try that with a student.

1MajorTom
08-31-2004, 09:12 PM
It also takes awhile to build a good customer base. If you plan on getting 40 customers, don't assume that all of those 40 will be good accounts. Finding 40 good weekly customers who actually want their lawn well maintained, and who will pay their bill on time, won't happen overnight.

environment
08-31-2004, 09:13 PM
ya but you could easily build up to 75-80 accounts within a few short years, and handle them all week with one employee and make more than you did teaching by far.

lawnguyland
08-31-2004, 09:14 PM
true dat
stupid 15 chars

txlawnking
08-31-2004, 09:15 PM
Originally posted by 1MajorTom
It also takes awhile to build a good customer base. If you plan on getting 40 customers, don't assume that all of those 40 will be good accounts. Finding 40 good weekly customers who actually want their lawn well maintained, and who will pay their bill on time, won't happen overnight.

Wise, very wise words here..Wagner, if your heart is in it.. I'd go for it..

lqmustang
08-31-2004, 09:23 PM
I would agree that 40 or so is a good number to shoot for, although it may or may not take you a season or 2 to build to that number. I am in my 2nd year full time, and have a very comfortable route of 38 customers. This gives me my guaranteed income every month so to speak, and leave me alot of time to take on other projects such as mulch, maintenance, trimming, etc, etc. I've pretty much kept myself busy 5-6 days a week (sometimes 7, grr) all season. I also thought about adding fertilizing to my services, but with how I'm doing now, I wouldn't have the time, and with the extra expense of a fert license, training, and the extra insurance, it's not something I think I'd worry about at the start. Your $35k after expences is probably realistic after your 2nd year, unless you can build a customer base extremely fast. The fact you have a wife with a solid career (and I assume health ins), gives you an excellent position to dig in. Good luck!!!!!

wagner17
08-31-2004, 09:27 PM
Thanks for all of your words of encouragement. I already have 14 customers signed up in my development, but realistically I am counting on only 10 of those. I am also using some connections with my wife, and hope to start at about 20 and then build up!

CapnDean
08-31-2004, 09:28 PM
Hey Wag;

I agree that there is some sort of primevil satisfaction received when you start with a yard that needs cutting, and systematically cut the grass. I find similar enjoyment in; painting a wall, shingling a roof, tiling a floor. (Oh yeah....moving several truck loads of dirt with a box blade)

Of course NONE of these occupations would suit me as a 'permanent' source of livliehood. I am too easily bored by the same ole, same ole.

Suppose that you kind of did the biz part-time? Would that be the end of the world? Say...gather up a dozen accounts and don't kill yourself trying to make a million? Just maybe enough to justify the money you spend on gear? If you dabble a while you may find you love it and hit it full time and hard. You may just as well stay easy and still ENJOY it.

I did just this with a Charter Fishing business....The business grew so well and became so profitable - - That I found myself sooo busy, soo addicted to the money (oh yeah...my boat was addicted to cash too) that within 4 years...the JOY of fishing was lost in the quest for money. I was spending WAY too much time away from the family.

I throttled back (after 10 years guiding 3 day fishing trips). Got a Master's in admin - went back to the classroom and now...well
WHO KNOWS what's next?

I guess that I would enjoy driving an Over the Road truck.....for about a month. I skippered crew boats offshore....for a couple of years... I dunno... I guess it's just the wanderlust in me.

If you have the resources not to HAVE to hammer away at it, then I say start easy and enjoy it!

steve122
08-31-2004, 09:29 PM
Go for it. I worked for the State for 7 years in the Department of Public Aid in the 70's, worked at a barge loading facility for 7 years went from deckhand to running 3 docks with 80 employees in the 80's, spent 10 years as a union laborer in the 90's and have mowed grass for last 6 years. This is the best job I've ever had. I have cut my list to 2 main customers and 5 residentials, gross $130,000 year and have one employee full time. pm me if you want to discuss my business in more detail. Just to give you ideas, not suggesting I'm better than anyone else here, there are too many good people with good ideas for me to try to hold myself above them.

firststarkid
08-31-2004, 09:34 PM
Just dont let anybody screw you over. You have to stick with your guns and never give in. If you do give in you will wish you were behind that desk. because some people will try to walk all over you if you let them. At the end of my first full season i had 43 good clients and 12 just clients. I will not say how much i make publically. (Dont want to make anybody jealous) JK.

musselman
08-31-2004, 09:56 PM
Im a teacher and do the lawns on the side...I have no dought I could make more mowing if I did it full time, but I like teaching and I need the retirement and health insurance, but if I was in your shoes with a wife that does well...mine does an awsome job, but her choosen profession is full time mom, I would do it and good luck.

printer88
08-31-2004, 10:07 PM
I say go for it also.It is awesome being outside and making a living at the same time.I ran a printing press after high school for about 9 years.Printing is not a very laid back carreer,but landscaping is......if you are'nt money hungry.I take it easy and still make a good living and it is nice.....good luck and God Bless.

DSIM
08-31-2004, 10:28 PM
Training & licensing for spreading fertilizer?! Wow, I may be telling on myself but I've never had to do that in the 7 years I've been in business.
Some of you guys work too much. I have around 25 customers, work 5 days a week and make around $500-$650 a week.
I work about 4-5 hrs a day. Usually done by 1:00. All equipment is paid for except for one new mower.
life is sweet!
David

Shuter
08-31-2004, 10:30 PM
I started solo 5 years ago. As of this year I had more work than I could handle and still turned away 10-15 calls per week. I am now in the process of forming a new company with a partner and I will have employees. No longer solo.

all degree
08-31-2004, 10:39 PM
I agree with the part time idea. Thats what I did. I started again after a long time working in the corporate world. The company I worked for went out of business so I started the landscape thing again. Then I found a job one winter and though I would do it for four months until the weather cleared. The job turned out to be great and I was quickly promoted to a director. BUT I kept about 20 lawns which I do 3 nights a week. The company knows I do this and does not expect me to stay late when I am going to cut that evening.

Now I have the best of all worlds. High paying job, insurance, 401K, vacation, car allowance, and best of all I get to cut lawns and do landscaping instals!

The bonus is if the job goes away I pick up more accounts and wake up smiling everyday.

HOMER
08-31-2004, 11:14 PM
Just don't let it own you. It can be a good living but always leave yourself an exit door.

LwnmwrMan22
08-31-2004, 11:26 PM
You can do whatever you want.

What I mean is you can go at it as having 25 "postage stamp" yards / week, make your $500-$800 probably cash money and be happy.

Or, you can be in it like some of us, where I have 38 "stops". This spring I was working 90-100 hours / week, now I'm down to about 65 hours / week.

I'll gross in the six figures working solo, probably net somewhere around $35,000.

I've got 3 vehicles less than 2 years old, 2 new ZTR's, everything's new, or the net would be higher.

Anyways, it's all in how you want to run your business, what makes you happy.

I'd rather work like a dog for 6 months straight, getting about 18 days off in that six months, then have enough money sitting around where I work 18 days the next 6 months and get to do things I enjoy.

Turf Dancer
09-01-2004, 01:26 AM
Would someone please give me a definition of what the hell a "postage stamp" sized lawn is ? I have been here on this site for a couple years and I still don't know what the real definition is ?

GrassBustersLawn
09-01-2004, 02:02 AM
WAGNER17 - I think your numbers are OPTIMISTIC - WAY OPTIMISTIC. If you are going to have a LEGAL business, with Insurance & proper licenses (fertilizer & pesticides need licensing if you are applying for $, check your state for specifics) I would say there is NO FREAKING WAY that you are going to NET $35k on $50k gross! I think Lawnmwr22's numbers he gives in his post are more REALISTIC. There are LOTS of places to get an education before jumping into the business. Louisville Expo is coming up in end of Sept. If I were you I'd get there!!!!!! You can get alot of VALUABLE INFO for the cost of showing up!

Secondly, just for "estimation sake" I count each of my "full service customers" (mowing, fert, aerate, edge) as being worth about $1200 per season. So you can see it will take you about 50 customers to generate $60k in sales. And if you get 50 customers your first year, you are probably not charging enough, and you won't generate $60k!

Lots of EXPENSES involved that you probably haven't thought of yet, so ATTEND EVERY MEETING YOU CAN!

Also, you will find many clients to be similar to your worst students. You have to "hold hands" with some of the older ones, track down payments, even haul some to court to TRY and get paid! (My wife has taught for 16 years. I too have a degree in Elem. Ed., in addition to Industrial Engineering. So I know what goes on in a classroom. Instead of dealing with 36 at a time, you get 1 or 2 idiots a day!)

RE-address your numbers. You are missing alot of stuff if you think you are netting $35k on $50k. Unless gas is ALOT cheaper in Ohio then it is in Indiana!

Mike

Richard Martin
09-01-2004, 03:35 AM
Originally posted by GrassBustersLawn
I would say there is NO FREAKING WAY that you are going to NET $35k on $50k gross!
RE-address your numbers. You are missing alot of stuff if you think you are netting $35k on $50k. Unless gas is ALOT cheaper in Ohio then it is in Indiana!

You should have read his post a little closer. He said he is currently making 50k a year teaching and expects to net 35k cutting grass.

WAGNER17,
It's not about how many customers you have. It's about how much those customers pay. I service around 27 a week and I am making about the numbers you are looking for. Like 1MajorTom said, try to find good customers and take your time, this ain't a race.

mcclureandson
09-01-2004, 07:40 AM
I believe you could easily double - or even triple your current salary, but it's difficult to say without knowing how quickly you can learn, how hard you're willing to work etc...I would suggest taking 2xmonthly clients as well as weekly clients, do some pruning, clean-ups, mulching...in short, everything you are equipped and capable of doing in order to expand your client base as quickly as possible. Many 'onetime' jobs lead to referrals, and that is how a solo operator builds his business most efficiently. Forty 'good' clients the first year and you should be well over your old salary as a teacher. Good luck. FYI, I'm a solo operator with 60+/- accounts and make near six figures (gross), also do installs on occasion, light irrigation, a little tree work, bed construction, mulching etc...

Mikes Lawn Landscape
09-01-2004, 07:54 AM
$35,000 a year is doable but as Jodi said good customers take time to develop. Since money is not a big issue, sit down and come up with a list of company policies that you will adhere to like No EOW accounts or only full service accounts. The big problem with startups is they need the business to get by and end up in a never ending cycle of 1 time mows, bad paying customers, and low end accounts.

I'm not saying don't do the EOW or 1 time mows just develop a policy to help you manage those type of accounts more effectively.

At the beginning of the season I advertised 1 time and vacation mows I have since discontinued doing them unless they fill a slot during the week very well but I am now pricing them at 1.5 times or double the normal rate.

Oh yea only buy commercial equipment and look at hiring a good helper and pay him well it will make life so much easier.

Your first year I would budget for about $20,000 in net if you make more then that is icing on the cake.

Then year two $35,000 is very realistic.

Lawn-Scapes
09-01-2004, 08:47 AM
wagner17,

If you do your "homework" you will exceed your numbers in a few years. Use the search often... Everything you need to know is right here.

Here's my 2 cents.. Find upscale clients. Sell them everything. Get the most productive equipment to service those cleints. Look & work like a pro.

Good luck.

LwnmwrMan22
09-01-2004, 10:14 AM
Originally posted by Turf Dancer
Would someone please give me a definition of what the hell a "postage stamp" sized lawn is ? I have been here on this site for a couple years and I still don't know what the real definition is ?

For me in MN, a "postage stamp" lawn I would call a city lot, which in my area would be about 100'x100'.

I consider it that when it's flat, no fence, can buzz in, buzz out in about 15 minutes.

I used to do those, but you have to have 4-5-6 of them in the same neighborhood, or find someone that's going to pay $200 / month to have that mowed in order for >ME< to make any money at it with the equipment I have.

ThreeWide
09-01-2004, 10:24 AM
Just to give you an idea.....

I started in April of this year. I have 4 mowing and fert accounts and 5 fertilization only accounts. My largest properties are about 10,000 sq ft. If you extrapolate my current business on a yearly basis, that is $12k revenue. So basically I'm losing my rear the first season after spending $7k of my own money to get started.

Even late in the season now, I'm still doing bids which is a great thing. By the end of 2005, I should have a decent base of accounts going.

Good news is I do have the state license for pesticides, etc. Got that out of the way last month.

wagner17
09-01-2004, 10:28 AM
Thanks for the advice all. I live in a fairly upscale new development. At least 14 people have "signed up" for services next year, but realistically I am counting on only 10 of those. There are also other developments very close and a "wealthy town about 5 minutes away. I am also planning on using connections that my wife has at work. Just wanted to know what expenses I was missing.
Here is a list of things that I have considered for expenses:

Financing mower/truck
Fuel
Oil
Maintenance issues
Insurance

I'm figuring on ~$600-$700 a month for these.

Other costs include billing software and making up such things as shirts, hats, and business cards.

What other expenses am I not thinking of at the moment? I am open to any and all suggestions. PM me if you would like to talk or share secrets about your business! Thanks

chevyman1
09-01-2004, 10:33 AM
You really need to look at your company if you are grossing 100k and only making 35k....that doesn't seem right to me at all....after taxes there are guys around here that make 50k-60 on 100

LwnmwrMan22
09-01-2004, 10:41 AM
Phone bill, business and cell. Personally, my cell phone IS my business phone, but since I don't advertise, I get about 2 calls a week on it from my current customers.

Back when I advertised, I'd have a $3-400 cell phone bill.

Now it's about $175 / month.

What about a trailer?

It all depends on how many hours you're going to be working and what equipment you're using.

Too hard to tell you exactly what you're going to be spending / month, but I'd say you're going to find out that you need to add on 50-100% on your $600-700 / month. IF you're going to try to go at it full time anyways.

Besides, it's not the mowing that's going to sink you.

A person can usually drive up to a yard after mowing a month or two and guess about how long it's going to take. However after 16 years I still screw myself over sometimes. :)

Anyways, in my experiences over the years, it's the one time jobs that'll probably hurt you more in the end, especially if you need to rent some equipment to do the work.

If you get a job that you're going to have to rent some equipment, make sure you add an extra 50% on your bid. 2 reasons. One, it always sucks to do a job that you have to use someone else's equipment, because it'll hardly ever work the way you wanted it to. Two, since it'll hardly ever work the way you wanted / thought it would work, it'll usually end up taking 2-3 times longer than you thought it would. :)

When you first start out, get all the work you can, get the experience, even if you lose SOME money, not a lot while doing it.

The experience will help you more down the road.

Once you get your feet under you, start working towards flat contracted service. It's too hard to make a living or a steady income by doing one time jobs here and there. You always have to be advertising or hoping for word-of-mouth refferals.

If you get a constant customer base, even at a 5% lower rate than you normally charge, you can bet on that money every month, not sitting for 2-3 weeks with 1 job / day, digging into your wife's account to make that truck / mower payment.

Randy Scott
09-01-2004, 11:08 AM
Originally posted by chevyman1
You really need to look at your company if you are grossing 100k and only making 35k....that doesn't seem right to me at all....after taxes there are guys around here that make 50k-60 on 100

Wow, good thing they don't live in Wisconsin. 48 cents of every dollar of profit is tax. To gross 100K would put a little over 50K in my pocket. Of course I would have NO expenses. No equipment maintenance, free fuel, free trucks, etc..

I highly doubt anyone is taking home 50 to 60K while grossing 100K. 60% profit? Dream. When you actually see their tax papers and can post them here, then I'll stand corrected, until then, dream.

And IF, IF they are clearing that kind of money, it's not legal and/or there is something to the business you don't know is going on. Rich daddy's, rich in-laws, etc.. Backing a money loosing operation.

Firstclasslawn
09-01-2004, 12:48 PM
Ok not TRUE that YOU wont make as much money, Thats bull****, I have 25 accounts right now weekly and I make 35k per year, also who says you need to be licensed to fertilize, I am licensed now but I fertilized alot of yards before I was licensed and never ran into a problem, believe me man being your own boss is way worth it, Go for it

NickN
09-01-2004, 12:48 PM
Don't forget the 15.3 % Self Employment tax and also State and Federal Income tax you'l need to be paying.
As an employee,you only pay half of your SSI and Medicare.As a solo op,you get to pay it all.
You'll need to incorporate this into your pricing.Easiest way I've found is to just pick a number and start deducting expenses,taxes,etc.,, and see what you're left with.If you can live on what's left,then go with the gross price per hour.

mcclureandson
09-01-2004, 01:07 PM
Originally posted by Randy Scott
Wow, good thing they don't live in Wisconsin. 48 cents of every dollar of profit is tax. To gross 100K would put a little over 50K in my pocket. Of course I would have NO expenses. No equipment maintenance, free fuel, free trucks, etc..

I highly doubt anyone is taking home 50 to 60K while grossing 100K. 60% profit? Dream. When you actually see their tax papers and can post them here, then I'll stand corrected, until then, dream.

And IF, IF they are clearing that kind of money, it's not legal and/or there is something to the business you don't know is going on. Rich daddy's, rich in-laws, etc.. Backing a money loosing operation.

I've got to disagree...owning your own business provides plenty of legal opportunities to lower your taxable income - especially in the first two or three years when it matters the most. Am I grossing around 100k and keeping at least 60K (try 70K+) -- YES!! Will I post my personal tax returns/business records just to enlighten someone who won't believe that's possible just because THEY can't do it -- NO!!

Mikes Lawn Landscape
09-01-2004, 08:21 PM
Originally posted by Firstclasslawn
Ok not TRUE that YOU wont make as much money, Thats bull****, I have 25 accounts right now weekly and I make 35k per year

Firstclass I believe the OP is asking about Net not Gross.