Need Advice : Just Getting Started

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by hesscapes, Jun 22, 2005.

  1. hesscapes

    hesscapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 21

    Hey there!
    Me and my husband are just getting started. We had planned on not starting up till next year, but some cirumstances pushed us sooner. Although I am getting that horrible pit in my stomach as I watch the weather forcast!!
    We just sunk what little savings we had into this.
    Any advice on getting started and getting customers ? Any and all advice is welcome. My hubby is experienced , but I am NOT :help:
    Also, has anyone done flyers ? If so what is the best way to get those suckers out ?
    Thanks so much!!! :D
     
  2. gogetter

    gogetter Banned
    Posts: 3,256

    Use the search button and type in things like "gettting customers" "flyers" "advertising", etc. and you'll have plenty of reading to get you started.
    Good luck.
     
  3. ChadA

    ChadA LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 521

    When I first started I made flyer's on my computer. Sure there not as nice as professional ones but they will do the trick at first. Just make a template and print one out or save it to disk and go to office max or staples and put them on 110lb paper. Its nice and thick and gives them more weight. I would print two per sheet and cut them in half and then cut a circle in the top to slide over the door knob. Then just get some good shoes and get to walking. The more people you have the better. Get the family involved
     
  4. hesscapes

    hesscapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 21

    Thanks guys!
    I've been printing many flyers!! I planned on heading out with them tomorrow.
    Thanks for the advice!! :)
     
  5. Brianj

    Brianj LawnSite Member
    Posts: 196

    word of mouth is the best.. get your current customers to give you referrals, do a good job for a fair price and they will come, i started out with a push mower and weedeater, borrowed edger and blower, working out of the back of my truck, try to stay in one area though, so you can cut down on expenses and keep overhead, low.. you guys will make it!!!
     
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    If your financial situation is dire, so was mine the first year. Learn to live on next to nothing: Thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer and 64 in the winter. Get water-saver faucets for the shower, get those fluorescent light-bulbs for the whole house and hang your laundry OUTSIDE to dry.
    My electric bill for April and May was 60 dollars/month.
    You won't get rich if you spend too much, so learn frugality, you'll need it.

    Far as work, if you're doing flyers it's all in the numbers, so sheer volume counts. Here again, I have a local newspaper charges $85/week for an ad and it goes out to 200,000 households: That's WAY cheaper than flyers (you can't argue with those numbers) and I can concentrate on my business, but whatever floats your boat, still I think you ought to consider a newspaper ad.

    Now, cheap + effective pamphleteering:
    Once you get a flyer designed on the comp, see if you can fit it in HALF the space of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, horizontally. Well they fit vertically one on top the other but the flyer is now a 4" x 10" or so and then, double the ad (fit one on top of the other no not overlapping - side by side but one on top the other on bottom) per 8.5 x 11 so you get TWO ads on one sheet of printer paper. Once you get the final copy, head to Office Max or Staples (no don't do Kinko's - too expensive) and get them to run you either 2000 or 4000 copies: It has to do with cost - At 2000 the rates/copy drop a bit and again at 4000 but keep the next thing in mind:
    Once the whole stack is printed (copied), get them to power-cut the entire stack in HALF right between the two ads. Now you have either 4 thousand OR 8 thousand flyers, depending whether you originally printed 2 or 4k - The cost for 4 thousand is around 50-60 bucks, I think it's 80-90 bucks for 8k.
    Yeah, so about a penny per flyer, if you design it yourself.
    Keep in mind you can only put out these flyers at a rate of around 150- 180 per hour so the more you have, the longer it takes (and 8k takes TWICE as long as 4k and 4k will take you SEVERAL days).
    Also before you leave, see if they have an empty cardboard box to fit them all in with a COVER. This is helpful.

    Now...
    The absolute BEST method to put out flyers is this (For sheer volume):
    - Go out and buy 2-3 rolls of 1/2 inch masking tape, should cost less than a dollar or 2. This works great if hubby comes along, doesn't matter who does the driving but for company.
    - Put the BIG box in the backseat and one of you grab a STACK of flyers.
    By yourself:
    - Drive alongside the wrong side of the road and in between mailboxes, tear off a small (between 1-3 inches) strip of masking tape and paste this tape near the top of a flyer with tape left over.
    With hubby, you can drive alongside the correct side of the road.
    Oh - watch how close you get, LOL - the mirrors and the hood!
    Back in the days, I used to tear off pieces of tape and paste them on the dashboard when there was extra time between mailboxes so I could use THOSE in cul-de-sacs where time is not so abundant - Remember, you'll be pasting a flyer every 20 seconds or so, so yeah, time flies.
    - When you get to a mailbox, tape the flyer to the POST or POLE of the mailbox! Make sure you do NOT put the flyer inside the mailbox and do NOT tape it onto the mailbox cauz you can get fined by the US postal service (cost of postage, 37 cents/flyer). Stick it on the POST or the POLE of the mailbox so you have no probs with the law.

    This following tips helps also:
    - Stay away from neighborhoods with paperboxes. You might think the paperboxes are great to put the flyers in but so does every other busybody - You'll only face a TON of competition you do not need AND your flyer is much less effective, those neighborhoods get spammed unmercifully and the home-owners pay close to NO attention to this type of advertising.
    - Put a flyer in EACH and EVERY mailbox, do not attempt to target them by looking at the yard BUT from time to time you might do some weeding out:
    - If there's a car or obstacle in front of the mailbox, yeah, skip it.
    - If the house IS abandoned you might wanna skip it.
    - If there's a notice like 'no soliciting' you might wanna skip it.
    - IF the yard is something WAY impossible, maybe skip it
    BUT overall you want to sticker at LEAST 90% of mailboxes, the more you skip the more you waste your own time, too.

    Stick, drive, stick, drive: Via this method, do this for 2-3, maybe 4 hours/night and keep doing it as much as you can stand it. Do it for a long, long time until you just can't take it anymore, then do it some more (ok after 8 or 16 hours you can take a break until tomorrow but you HAVE to keep doing it, day after day, week after week!).

    Keep doing it, do it more, and more, and more, and more. Yes, you need to go NUTS about this because honestly, 10 or 20 thousand flyers wouldn't hurt but 4k - 8k is a good start.

    G'luck.
     
  7. hesscapes

    hesscapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 21


    thank you :waving:
    I hope we can make it starting so late in the yr. I guess we need to focus things other then mowing.
     
  8. hesscapes

    hesscapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 21

    Wow! Thank you very much for ALL the advice. I was very unsure about the mailbox thing so I was going to avoid them all together. Good to know I can tape to the post. The first set of flyers I made was one on one sheet. After about 50 of them I realized I could make them a heck of a lot more efficient!!
    I got some quotes for the local paper, but I just wondered how effective it would be. Do people really look in the paper for landscaping ads ? How much info should be included ? I was going to try to make it simple. Our name and number, but then is that too simple ?
    It's a heck of a lot better then putting flyers everywhere!!
    Thank you again :)
     
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    Other stuff: It helps to buy a map (or print one from Mapquest) and mark OFF sections on the map as you do them. Go from hood to hood, one after the other, methodically, like a serial marketer.

    Again, learn to save and learn to live on next to nothing.
    This is an attitude I find absolutely essential to survival because when times are tough, I can go month after month for several years without breaking down and going back to work for someone else. FTS, I'll *never* go back, even if I have to wear religious clothes and drive 20-year old cars, I don't care.

    Tighten up your belt buckles: tough times ahead.
    If you make it, you'll be a better person.

    Have a little faith, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
     
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    Well that's what I used to do...

    Yes the local newspaper is VERY effective for me and I find I get about 20 percent more respect with the prices (less low-balling). I used to get 3-4 calls/day per week (that is a LOT), now it's more like 3-4/week but then today I'm more established and that makes a BIG difference:
    MOST of the volume comes from people looking for a deal and over half of all new companies fail in the first 5 years and that's where the volume is - ALL the people looking for a deal (which is most of the people) are now with the new guys.
    This is good, and bad, take it with a grain of salt and remember that perseverance (stick with it-ness) pays off in the *long* run. Most the companies that fail just couldn't tough it out, so to speak. Is it hard? Well, kinda, but really it just takes time and getting used to and maybe a little bit of an attitude like 'I am *NOT* going back to the real world.'

    And, here's an Ad :

    Name of Company
    Things you do (3 or 4 things I find works good)
    Call *name* at *phone number*
    (Licensed and Insured - optional but do not lie)

    I found 3-4 things works best: Less than 3 appears to reduce calls considerably (you just don't DO enough) and more than 4 also appears to reduce calls (I think it gives you the appearance of a Jack-of-all-Trades (and master of none)). If you HAVE 5 things that you do then pick 3-4 of the BEST out of the 5 and in my case I had a hard enough time coming up with 3-4 ...

    So for example:
    Your LawncareCo. Name
    Grass Cutting, Hedge Trimming,
    Mulch, Brush clearing
    Call First-Name at 555-1212

    (maybe put licensed if you are but do NOT put insured if you're not, be upfront, always be honest). Well it does not matter for the survival of your business if you are honest or not but I will tell you this: The manner in which you run your business dictates the kind of customers you will attract later. If you operate a dishonest affair, then most your customers will be dishonest as well, and vice versa if you are honest then most of your customers will be, too. BOTH the honest AND the dishonest business can and DO survive but I find the honest business is easier to operate and a lot less hassle (yup, been there, done that). But it takes time and hopefully you decide on the honest path and please do not frustrate yourself too much as the dishonest ones will over time go away: It's in the long run.

    Things to keep in mind:
    Advertise things you WANT to do or things you THINK you might want to do.
    NEVER advertise something you do NOT like doing, and here's a tricky one:
    If you do not HAVE 3-4 things in mind then you will need to do some trial-and-error and that can be costly so it pays to sit and think for a while (yeah a few hours now is better than hundreds of dollars wasted on some trial thing later). I suppose you could advertise 'Most aspects of general yardwork' but I find specific things is MUCH more effective.
    Here's the thing:
    Once you figure out the few things you like doing the MOST, that's what you want to specialize in. The secret is there is no secret: The more you do something, the better you get - So do your favorite things over and over and over and then some, and soon you will be an expert because when all you do is one thing, there is NONE better.
    The idea is in the end you want to do what you enjoy doing the most so you can laugh as you wonder how people are paying you to have so much fun.

    As an example if all you did is grass-cutting, then you would do nothing but cut grass (I know, boring). Lawn after lawn, you rack up experience month after month, and after some years suddenly you realize you've cut over 2000 yards and NOTHING beats a 2000-yard streak under your belt, you are one awesome grass-cutting fool!... Alas it comes with time, don't despair, it is after all: One yard, and one day at a time.

    Far as what you want to do, how to figure it out:
    Got some friends or family members would let you try some things out on their yard/lawn for free or cheap? :) A day (or three) of this before the printing might save you some headaches, dunno just a tip...

    You will get there, I'll keep my fingers crossed.
     

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