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Solo operators: making a living ?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by RI Wayne, Mar 3, 2006.

  1. RI Wayne

    RI Wayne LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    Been in the business several years, struggling to make ends meet. In this part of the country, mowing season is about 6 months. I average 35 lawns a week, at average of $35 each. So mowing brings in about $ 31,850 per year. Spring and Fall work add about another $ 7000, for a total of about $ 38,850. (I'm near the ocean, not enough plowing potential to make it worth the investment.) Expenses run $ 12,000 to 13,000 per year. Business taxes (15.4 %) run about $ 3,600. So, I'm left with an income of about $ 22,250 before federal and state income taxes.
    I guess one answer is to try to mow more lawns, any other ideas? Bear in mind, I do not have a spouse or other live-in to contribute to the total.
     
  2. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Senior Moderator
    Posts: 6,074

    It's too hard to survive on just mowing lawns if you are a solo operator. You need to add other services to provide to customers. Mulching, hedge trimming, aerations, are great, but for us, we need to land a few bigger jobs throughout the season to put a few extra coins in our pockets. ex: a couple retaining walls always help.
     
  3. lawncuttinfoo

    lawncuttinfoo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,010

    Are you having fun working outside and only working 1/2 the year? If not then I doubt 22 grand is enough for anyone to make doing something they hate. If yes then, why not mow more lawns? if its the equip holding you back invest in upgrades. If you have great equip and you still can only do those 35 in a week you need to up the price per lawn. If you need more accounts you need to put out some ads.

    I am a solo op having fun at what I do, I am still growing and am not making much profit yet but it's more than enough for me.
     
  4. guntruck

    guntruck LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 523

    I have to agree with Major Tom, I would seriously consider adding some other services to your business and exhisting customers. Some time invested in some pesticide courses or landscape install courses as well as aquiring your home improvement license could pay very high dividends in the long run and well worth the time. Looking into other services could take your business places you never dreamed of going with just mowing.
     
  5. Precision Lawns

    Precision Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 283

    What do you do for those 35 lawns? And how long do they take you? Are you working 5 days a week? I'm asking because if I had 35 of what we consider $35 lawns and I was working as a solo op (we're a partnership, so we move a bit faster, but I know how long it takes to do it on my own too), I could probably get them done in 2-3 days, depending on how tight my route was. That leaves 2-3 days left to fill, if you'd like, which means you could probably double your # of lawns and thus increase your income. But, as the above poster states, that's only if you love this work. If you hate it, there's no need to keep doing it - plenty of guys out there who will be more than happy to grab your 35 customers.

    The other question is the quality of customer. I knew a guy back when we lived in Arkansas (which, granted, has a 9-month season instead of 6) who was a solo op, had 40 customers, and took home $80K/year after business expenses and before taxes (and after his CPA was through with all his deductions, he didn't owe that much in taxes). He did it by picking the "right" customers - customers that cared a lot about their lawns, were willing to pay for excellent service, and wanted multiple services on top of just mowing and blowing. He then was a complete perfectionist about his work - and it showed. His lawns were by FAR the nicest in the area.

    So I think it's very doable to make a living as a solo op, but you'll either need to increase your client base or increase the quality of your clients (and then probably your service, because they'll be expecting impeccable service if they're paying top dollar).

    Good luck!
     
  6. weathervane

    weathervane LawnSite Member
    from mass
    Posts: 19

    try more things like cleaning gutters or maybe salting in the winter for commerical propertys it pays big money
     
  7. Sir mowsalot

    Sir mowsalot LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 310

    I would definatley(how the heck is that spelled?) add some more accounts. 35 is not a whole lot. Im solo too, and i mow way more than that. I do pretty good, im not rich but im not struggling. I work M-T, and that is it, i got 3 days off for my family and life, unless of course i have rain makeups.

    You can do what the others say also and get add ons with your existing accounts, (i happen to hate shrub trimming, and mulching so i dont really do those), or you can have another side biz going also. When i started out, i also started a window washing biz., which i hated so i quit doing it, but i was swamped with work. Now i have another biz.(also seasonal) from Sept.-Dec., which actually makes more than the lawn biz. Im actually thinking about growing that alot more, and i could easily only work 4 months a year, and not do the lawn biz. anymore.

    So there are many ways in which you can go here, but it sounds to me like you simply dont have enough work.
     
  8. Randy Scott

    Randy Scott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,915

    You answered your own question when you stated you were struggling to make ends meet. Obviously you need more money, therefore, mowing isn't cutting it for you. Your lifestyle exceeds the profit potential of your current business. Expand your business to have employees make YOU money, or give it up. There are only so many hours in a day, and when a larger company is bidding against you and taking smaller profit margins, but have multiple crews making them those margins, you will lose out every time.
     
  9. lawncutterupper

    lawncutterupper LawnSite Member
    Posts: 61

     
  10. sanfordandsonfan

    sanfordandsonfan LawnSite Member
    Posts: 103

    Before I really got into the lawn business full-time, I did a ton of junk hauling. It was not great work but it was work. That work can be done in any kind of weather. We still do it and it actually has gotten me through some long winters. Extra services during the year as well will help.
     

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