Advice on starting, and how to price jobs.

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Killavolt, Mar 20, 2019.

  1. Killavolt

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    I've had a landscaping busniess registered officially for about a year now, but all in all life took over and I ended up doing literally one lot clearing job before life did what life does.

    I'm at a point now where I'd really like to actually make a go at landscaping, but as smart as I am, I'm lacking confidence in this area. I'm educated as an electromechanical engineering technician, and I actually really enjoy landscaping.
    The problem is I'm not sure what to do or where to start or how.

    Basically I'd like to start cutting lawns, but my two problems with that are;
    1) How do I drum up business?
    2) How do I know what I should be charging for the jobs I do, instead of just pulling a random number out of my ass.

    So for all you professionals out there, Where/how do I start this. I have equipment, riding mower, couple of push mowers, backpack blowers, chainsaws, small tiller, weed eater, Sthil edger, and I think that's about my line of equipment.
    My truck will be on the road soon, and I have a small open trailer to tow stuff or remove junk etc.

    What I cannot do right now, due to the fact that I am honestly dirt poor (There's likely dirt worth more than I am right now) is go about getting any kind of loans or anything. I have to work with what I have and start from there, but I feel I do have a good amount of equipment to tackle some of the more intermediate level jobs.
  2. LPSiowa

    LPSiowa LawnSite Member
    Messages: 78

    You're licensed. Good.

    Now you need insurance.

    Then business cards.

    Those are pretty much the minimum.

    To get business. Make a Facebook page. They're free. A My Google Business. Bing business listing. Yelp listing. All free.

    Call all your family and friends. Ask them if they need work. Ask them if they know anyone who does. Talk to friends of friends. Neighbors. And finally, don't be afraid to door knock. You'd be surprised what you can get from doing that.

    As far as pricing. Figure out your monthly bills for your business. You need to figure out an hourly rate that will cover your bills, expenses, and still leave enough room for business profit and your pay. If you've got a full time job, you could elect to make it all profit and not take any of the money.
  3. Jeff@diyokc

    Jeff@diyokc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 179

    I applaud the fact you don’t want to “pull a number out of your ass”, the problem you have as a new business is cash flow! You will find yourself in a position where customer A says “ my old guy did it for xx” and you, wanting and needing business meet or reduce your price! Happens all the time! lP siowa gave you some good direction! Work to make money, not just to work, or your business will not be as successful as you want!

    Guys on here will help provide a roadmap, but in the end it’s up to you to formulate and execute whatever business plan you make! Jeff
  4. OP

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    well I know I'd need a minimum of $2500/month to be able to live. and that's not exactly live comfortably, just pays the bills and food.
    When somebody says to me "my other guy did it for X price" I'd simply have to say "I'm sorry, I'm not your other guy and I'm unable to match that price"

    I know some people have routes, where they do different areas of the city on specific like maybe the north end of the city on mondays, I'm both wondering if that would work for me, or if I should just be doing jobs where I can get them until I have more (or any) business.
  5. LPSiowa

    LPSiowa LawnSite Member
    Messages: 78

    Do you have a full time job currently that pays those bills previously mentioned? If so, keep it. Slowly grow your business until it reaches the point where you can comfortably switch from part time to full time.

    A good rule of thumb for that is when you make enough after all expenses each week to match your full time job's wages. Ideally a little more.

    Start taking customers almost wherever. Don't drive 40 miles to get one customer. But starting out you have to build a client base and a reputation. Most guys on here will tell you that the more time you spend in one area working, slowly you'll start to get more work in that area. THEN you start working on route density for particular subdivisions or suburbs when you have the volume to do so reasonably.
  6. JMK26

    JMK26 LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Missouri
    Messages: 14,476

    Keep in mind invoicing $2500 a month isn't the same as your paycheck. You'll have to gross a lot more than that to pay yourself $2500 a month.

    My brother is an electrical engineer....he's making 3 times more than I am. I am solo, but if this is a move to make more money, you won't be anytime soon, and will have to grow the business to a pretty large outfit to get the same salary and benefits holding a degree in electrical engineering.

    Other than that....Facebook marketplace for your area, I don't, but I know guys that do for other types of work and it works. Craigslist is ok....don't rely on craigslist...but it's a cheap $5 ad and it's good to have an extra hook in the water....You'll get a lot of cheapos, but you'll also get some good people...some of my highest paying accounts are from CL ads in the past...and they've been with me 5+ years. Website when you can....

    Pricing, figure out your costs. Until you do this for a bit and have hard numbers you'll have to estimate how much gas you'll use, 2 stroke, blades, trimmer line, tires (truck and trailer), grease, insurance (liability and inland marine and commercial vehicle), oil changes (equipment and vehicle), the usual maintenance and how much misc to put aside for the times things just happen like a belt breaking, or having to get new blades because you didn't see the water main lid or a baseball bat in the lawn and your blades are now crushed, that sort of thing....more on the list but you should get hte idea, then what you need to pay yourself, and then your profit you want to make. Add it all up....divide by how many work hours you want/have to work and that's your hourly rate. Have a minimum charge as well.

    That's very basic but it gives you an idea on where to start.
  7. OP

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    There's a lot to answer here, and I'll try to reply a little more in depth later.

    As of right now I'm still working for myself, and it's not going well. I work in the cannabis industry which you would think would be profitable but I'm not that far up the chain.
    I have a lot going on in my life so getting a full time job is going to be hard for many reasons that I'm not going to get into here.

    So my cannabis industry job is very quickly coming to an end, and it's just not paying the bills. I'm lucky if I get $1200/month, and I'm still technically self employed.

    I had registered the business last year and then ran into legal troubles (not the cannabis kind) so I'm just now getting my truck back on the road, and the commercial insurance is $350 less than what I'm paying now on my car.

    I have no customers or clients, but I will be able to do some landscaping during some of my off hours, because I don't generally have to work a full day everyday.

    basically at this point I'm wanting to supplement what income I do make now, with something else that's coming more regularly even if it isn't a ton of money. I'm stuck with a house I can't sell until june either so that's hindering any option I have for assistance, as much as I hate that thought.

    so for now I want to supplement my income, while working on trying to grow and run an actual business. I really do enjoy working for my self but the instability right now is far too much and I'm only getting paid maybe once per month which isn't cutting it.

    I really do enjoy landscaping, and have a fair bit of equipment. my biggest problem is storing the equipment as I live in an apartment and can't move either. I am working on that little problem though.
  8. OP

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    So I'm thinking of charging an hourly rate, $20/hr (minimum 1 hour charge) and then $15/hr for every additional hour.

    That seems like it could be a good starting point.
  9. LPSiowa

    LPSiowa LawnSite Member
    Messages: 78

    If I may ask, how did you arrive at that number? Because that seems radically low to me.
  10. Rockbridge Lawn Care LLC

    Rockbridge Lawn Care LLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,089

    ** STOP ***

    NEVER EVER should "it seems like..." should be in your vocabulary as a business owner. YOU NEED TO KNOW if this price makes you money or does not....YES or NO.....there is no "I think" or pulling stuff from your backside

    Everything has a cost to use! even your current equipment. Really read up on depreciation, and overhead expenses. Those two points will be the financial foundation

    with that are you talking labor rate at $20/hr.....or man hour $20/hour? if man hour you'll be out of business in 6-months or less...$40/man hour is breaking even in most markets. Mim. wage is $15 in some states....$10 in others. and you as a business still have to cover ALL YOUR expenses before you "make a dime'...+ taxes... a $12 employee cost the business about $18.50 after taxes and if your calculating $20/hour for paying yourself, your basically working for minimal wage, and the stress and headaches are for free:)

    You need to sit down and figure out all the anticipated cost of the business incurring for a full year. This is called a business plan: insurance, cost to rent a storage unit, license, equipment needed to compete basic jobs, marketing budget, gas budget, maintenance etc.... Then get the accounts to cover those expenses and keep looking for more accounts/customers/clients.

    So now you know what you need to cover your expenses, you can figure out how much revenue you need to generate, and translate that to a given number or average clients. Now when you go out to bid, you have a figure to check "yes or no" i'm going to make money.

    *** there are some other conditions in estimating, but that is the very basic, by figuring out what to charge per hour, and gage how many hours or percentage of an hour it will take to complete a job

    I'm jut going to be frank with you and tell you that if you want to bring in $2500 a month prior tax (employee FICA subject) then the business needs to be doing $5-6K in revenue a month or $162 in sales per calendar day or $1,250 a week in total sales which is 32 yards cuts at $40 each week, again this is just a base line ball park figure., but you need to realize you need to sell sell sell to obtain that valuation.

    In the end revenue must be greater than expenses to stay in business

    YES YOU will quickly figure out that on average you have $25 in cost to service a typical residential property, + non billable (travel) time... this is why most successful companies charge a company minimum.

    NO WAY is commercial auto cheaper than personal for the same coverage limits and deductibles. YOU would have to have a flawless driving record to get the same rate and some discounts in there. Because commercial auto in their algorithms see that your vehicles is on the road more often for more miles there by increasing the likely hood of an accident.....there by increasing your rate...and if you have employees for driving a crew, it just doubled. also the rig is bigger heavier and will cause alot more damage...100/300/100 is 5x the state limit here in coverage limitations...but $100k in property damage is under insured in my opinion when your rig is pushing 8K lbs. in the event of an accident generally your totaling whatever you hit, and most things on the road these days are upwards of $50k your half out your coverage and I would assume your rig replacement would be greater than that difference...there by out of pocket expense in the 10's of thousands. and lets not even get started on medical cost in the even of an accident...$300k don't stretch far these days

    Engineer a balance sheet before you start to see if the solution is viable
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019

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