After reading your responses, I think you have a good outlook and it seems like some good common sense about starting. I guess a lot of guys on here started out completely legit, but I didnt/couldnt and I dont know many around here who did, and thats not just lawn care. I added insurances and what not over the course of the first couple years. I, like most guys I know, started out with an older pick up, some donated equipment, and I bought a 36" gear drive mower for $1000 on craigslist. It sucked, my trailer didnt have a ramp so I had 2x8x8 boards. My cheap homeowner trimmer was constantly breaking. I had 25 customers even though I started in late may, and they were terrible. They were all over town, and I didnt try to lowball, I was lowballing because I didnt understand the cost of running a legit business. So between driving all over town and not making much money I really chalk that entire summer up to "learning it the hard way" and got a job waiting tables all winter since I couldnt afford a back pack blower or truck loader. So here are some lessons I've learned that I swear will make this work for you.
1. Start building credit
I know you want an all cash business, we all do, and if you can stay that way thats great. But you might find when you want an $8,000 zero turn, and you have an above 700 credit score so you can get almost no interest for 2-4years, you may want to turn around and put that money into advertising. That is how you grow. Credit is a game that has to be played in life, or atleast it can be greatly beneficial to play. That is a seperate conversation that im not the best to give.
Online leads in my opinion are terrible! Sites where you pay for leads leave you with mostly cheapies. Ive used several hundred dollars on them before I realized I was waisting my money. Even google ads I think spreads you around town to think. I like door hangers and every door direct mail. Door hangers are my favorite, they are the most cost effective, and yield the best results. We started doing mailers because we dont always have time anymore to pass out door hangers.
The main reason I like door hangers is it allows you to market to a concentrated area. The smaller that area the better. I have one subdivision with 21 yards, in only 3 years. Thats my best one, but we make some serious cash on the day we do that one. Driving time is huge, especially when you have employees. You have to drive out and bid, drive out if there is a problem, drive out for regular service. Having yards in a smaller area makes your business much more manageable. Plus in terms of branding, the people in that area see your truck more often because you around there so much, which further increases your chances of getting them. It is a snowball effect.
Do not put postcards on mailboxes or throw bags onto drive ways, guys around here do that, its both illegal and ineffective.
You said you are starting out, which means you may not know how to bid. I didnt. I thought, man I cut this $40 yard in an hour, my last job I only made $16 an hour so I'm rockin. I wasnt that dumb, I knew I had overhead, but I really underestimated. At what I charged I would never be able to grow. No newer trucks, no newer or bigger mowers, no insurances.... no future. You may be starting small with paid for equipment and living at home. However if you want to succeed you need to look at 5 years down the road. By then you may want all the legit stuff, a website, a marketing budget, a truck with a note, a couple commercial zero turns, a couple employees that come with payrol tax, workers comp, etc. Youll need commercial auto and a bit set aside for things like theft, deductables, a good cpa, a payroll company, etc. At the beginning I may have been operating at a 60% or better profit margin, but I didnt make more than 30k. Now my margin is closer to 30% but I have much more stability and I make closer to 48k.
My point, if you are really trying to make a go at this, bid as if you are the company you want to have in 5 years so that you can be that company in 5 years. That takes some thinking. You need to know what kind of lifestyle you want to have, how much money you'd need to make, and what type of business it would take to do that. I realize you may not know all those things yet or have the experience in this field to determine them. Atleast have them in your mind. If 5 years out is to far then think in 2 years.
Understanding how much time things will take and how much you need to make for your time to live the lifestyle you want are invaluable in this business.
Good luck, hope to see you on here in years to come!