Newbie trying to prepare for next season ?'s

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by jermana232, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Hi I'm a college student in Carbondale, IL. First off I have no experience in lawn care or landscaping besides mowing my own yard with our basic push mower and weed whacker. I would like to get prepared over the winter to start mowing the next season.

    I plan on doing small to medium sized residential yards. I also plan on doing this out of the back of my '95 F150. I will be purchasing a decent push mower and weed whacker. I have no problem putting in a hard days work.

    1. Is it possible to be successful with a push mower?
    2. What would I do with the clippings? Rake them up? (remember, no experience)
    3. I plan on charging per job rather then hourly. Do you collect your payment every job, once a month etc...?
    4. Do you tell your customers that you cut once a week, once every two weeks... Or do they tell you what they would like done?

    Thanks for the taking the time to read this. I don't plan on getting rich but I would like to have some extra income. Like I said, no experience but I am more then willing to spend this fall/winter getting everything set up and figure out my game plan.

    Also, is there any type of basic "independent" work that I can do over the Fall and Winter? I've got a truck and I don't mind investing in the tools/equipment. I've already read about doing Christmas lights and decor, any other suggestions?

    Thanks again.
  2. Dr.NewEarth

    Dr.NewEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    You want to maximize your productivity.

    Get a decent rear wheel drive mower with a rear bag and a mulching blade.
    At least 6 horse power. Then you can bag or mulch.
    Expect to spend 5 or 6 hundred.
    -buy an extra mulching blade
    -maintain your machines at least once a week and learn how to fix things on the fly.
    -learn how to grease your wheels and gears

    There are alot of discussions on equipment maintenance on this site.

    Use your regular push mower as a back up, or if you have to carry a mower up alot of
    stairs to do a small lawn in a residential landscape.

    I would apply for a home depot card and shop for a mower in February, just before the season starts. They usually have lawnboy and toro. This is a good place to start.

    Down the line you can buy other beasts, but for now you want some-thing reliable and mostly inexpensive to get you started.

    For a trimmer, I recommend a straight shaft. It will save your back and also get under things better. The more expensive ones, such as echo or stihl will last you alot longer.

    A hand held blower will help with quick clean-ups. A decent back pack can be picked up later in the year before the leaves fall.

    You need a tool box with you while you work. Also get some carburetor spray, wd-40

    Buy an extra gas filter for your trimmer. This will be where you will have your first sluggish performance. Bend a coat hanger to pull out the filter.

    Also, keep the air filters clean.

    Read your equipment manuals and use all safety gear and precautions

    The f-150 will work well for residential. Perhaps a small trailer down the line...

    Buy some tarps. It's easier to get a really big one and cut it up.

    We tarp our clippings and dump them every day or two. If things are tarped up it will give you more space in the back of your truck and keep it tidier so you can get in and out quickly.

    This site will give you alot of information.

    I wouldn't get too excited about advertising until a bit after new years....although you could start now....advertise for free where you can on line. If you use the newspaper, you will have to keep advertising for a few months to realize growth. People need to see the ad a few times before they will act on it.

    Liability insurance, workers compensation? If you can advertise that you are fully insured, more people will call you.

    Consider joining a landscape association. You can get group insurance rates and alot of really important information from them.

    My associations get me gas discounts, insurance, uniforms, trucks and equipment discounts and so much more....

    Look into "Planet" at

    Put togeather a contract that people sign and get a copy of. List your services
    and the price.

    My company has residential pay at the start of the month, for the month. We take cheques, but also require a credit card for security. We accept visa/MC/AMEX.

    Be firm with people when they sign...don't let them bully you....and don't low ball

    I suggest a "tail gate drop price" That means similar sized yards pay the same price, even if they are next to each other. If one quits on you, you still need to make your money.

    Check out the discussions on this site about how to figure out your "overhead" and what to charge per yard.

    Good Luck
  3. JDiepstra

    JDiepstra LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,510

    What is your equipment budget? A 36" wb mower will cut your mowing time in half. Im sure u can find a good used one for about 1k.
  4. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Wow, thanks for all of the replies. So after each mowing job you rake up the clippings using a backpack blower onto a tarp/bags?

    Do you think I will have some success with absolutely no experience? I would just like to keep it small and simple offering only basic mowing and trimming at residential homes until I could build up some experience. I don't know how to spread mulch or landscape. Are there any people that just offer mowing without the whole lawn care and landscaping side of it?

    What does a fall clean up consist of? I was thinking of buying a decent blower, tarps and rakes to just offer a leaf clean up service during the fall so I could at least get my foot in the door on the biz. Does anyone just offer a basic leaf clean up? Right now I'm making minimum wage as a cashier standing around all day. If I could make above minimum wage (8.25) raking leaves and being outdoors moving around I would be quite content but for some reason I'm scared to go about doing it. I have no idea what to charge and I feel like once I'm done with the leaves or mowing the yard they will expect something more then just that but I have no lawn care experience.

    Sorry I have so many questions, I don't know where to start.
  5. 2stroked

    2stroked LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    Mulch the grass clippings up. Buy a husqvarna 128ld trimmer lowes 200$. A 36 walk behind would be very nice, but If you get one make sure its a ferris, exmark, or one of the better brands. Don't buy larger mowers from stores like homedepo, lowes, or sears. You will need a blower; A Stihl handheld blower is a nice place to start. I'm 14 btw I have probably 25 accounts. If i can do it than you can do it. There is no reason to be nervous, you have mowed grass before, right? You need customers, and the best way to get customers is to put out flyers during spring. As your company grows, so will the need for bigger equipment. A riding mower is a nice place to start. Good luck with your business.
  6. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, right now I mow my average sized yard with a Bolen '22 push mower and some no name weed eater. Over the fall and winter I will be looking for a decent used walk behind and probably the trimmer you mentioned. Another very newbie question... Is a trimmer, weed whacker, weed eater all the same thing? Used for places that your mower can't cut?

    When you say mulch the clippings do you mean blow the clippings into a pile and go over with the mower and leave them there? I watched a couple guys mowing some yards and I never saw them blow or rake any clippings up afterward but while watching a different guy one time I saw him raking clippings onto tarps and throwing them in the bed of his truck.

    I don't really see any ads in my area offering just the clean up of leaves. How much should I set the price for average sized neighborhood home yard? Looking for something to do in the Fall.
  7. billpiper

    billpiper LawnSite Member
    Messages: 82

    Mulching the grass you cut is a function of your mower and the blade it uses. It means that the clippings are cut into smaller clippings by leaving them underneath the mower instead of discharging them out the side or rear of the mower. Most LCO's will prefer to mulch the clippings as they mow and leave them in the lawn as opposed to bagging them or raking them up. It feeds the grass and saves time. If the grass is too long or wet, the mowers don't do as well and you may have to bag or rake. When you get your mower, get one that mulches and comes with a bag. Your customer will let you know if he prefers you to not mulch the clippings. I use a 5 year old Honda HRX 217. It works great.

    A standard size yard to you won't be the same as a standard size yard to anyone else. I started this in earnest this year and I have yards that I can cut, trim & blow in 15 minutes and I have yards that take 3 hours. You have to keep in mind the limitations of your equipment - You can't cut an acre lot as fast as a guy with a 48" Zero Turn mower. I have my old honda self propelled, the world's oldest 42" Murray lawn tractor and some hand power tools. I try to make $35 per hour, but I quote by the job, not the hour. Pay yourself $10 or $12 an hour out of what you make and save the rest to cover overhead and fund new equipment.

    There's nothing wrong with used equipment to start. I use a $5 Craftsman hedge trimmer, $20 blower and a $40 chain saw. It gets the job done. Be sure to get a good, commercial slightly used or new trimmer. You'll use it every day you cut to trim and edge. A blower is faster than sweeping or raking.

    The cheapest marketing is by networking and referrals. Go see your neighbors and ask them if they or anyone else is interested in having their lawns done. Maybe offer a referral fee or a discount on a cut if they send you a customer. If you make flyers, walk them around in the neighborhoods you want to work in. Stay away from the homes with well - manicured yards until you learn what you're doing.

    Every teen in the area can use Daddy's mower & cut the grass to make a fast $20. And a lot of people will let him. What will set you apart is that, when you're done, the grass will be cut, the drive & walkways will be edged and blown clear of debris and grass, maybe the shrubs will be pruned and the beds weeded. AND you'll be back the next week or in 2 weeks to do it again for them.

    I get a fair amount of extra income from cleaning up yards - raking leaves, removing dead branches, cleaning gutters, removing debris. Fall is leaf time and all you need is a blower and or rake, some tarps, and a truck. we don't have snow much here in GA. , but you're up North aren't you? Maybe you could get into some snow removal in a small way.

    Stay on this site and you can learn a lot. I learn every time I get on here, and it's free. Thanks to all of you for the education.

    Good luck to you.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  8. LawnSite Member
    Messages: 169

    Good replies by all!

    We do fall clean with a mower with a bagger (Off topic: spell check is griping at me and my brain isn't made for spelling but that's how you spell it, right? lol) and high lift blades (creates more upward force) and just mow over the leaves and through them in 55 gallon bags... much faster than raking/blowing.

    In the summer, Either side discharge or mulch don't bag... one it's a waste of time, two bad for the lawn, three you have to charge more and people don't like that...

    before buying equipment we calculate how much it cost us per hour of work and how much more it will make us compared to what we have. (also consider how many seasons you'll be working!) We're in the business to make money remember! There are other factors that work into this decision as well (durability, image, ease of use etc.)

    I would recommend getting a bigger walk-behind mower... 21" just isn't very productive when mowing bigger areas!

    Good luck!
  9. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks a ton for the info Billpiper, it was really helpful. I'm sorry new questions keep popping into my head so don't feel obligated to answer all but when I say I have no clue I really mean I have NO clue:dizzy:

    So raking and bagging is usually not an everyday event?

    After everything is mowed, trimmed and edged I would just blow the clippings from the sidewalk and driveway into the lawn (unless wet or long)?

    Is there a difference between edging and trimming, should the trimmer that 2stroked recommended suit me well?

    Any blowers you would recommend for cleaning up leaves this fall and using next season for mowing? I live right next to a Lowe's and Rural King.

    Say I put up fliers and I got a call back about a job for just mowing, edging and blowing a house weekly and they asked my price. Would I take a drive over and check out the size of the yard or do you have a standard set price for "standard" sized yards?

    I tried checking out other people's prices for leaf clean up but I can't really find anything specifically for that. I don't want to price too high but I also don't want to be too low. Is there any ballpark range for a neighborhood home? $20 $30 $50?

    Once again I realize I have a lot of questions and I don't expect each and everyone to be answered. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to help me out!
  10. jermana232

    jermana232 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks for the advice. It's bad for the lawn to bag the clippings? The 21" I have is the mower that my family has used for our personal yard. I'm looking in to buying a 36" walk behind mower before next season. Any brand/model you'd recommend?

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