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should I try it?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Detroitdan, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. Detroitdan

    Detroitdan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 75

    Here's my situation, I've been wanting to do this for years, but have always found a reason not to try, mostly due to holding down a day job to make ends meet. I work full time at a job I hate, and part time at a job I like a lot. I've been wanting to quit the full time job and try to stretch the part time job into a full weeks paycheck, but it doesnt look do-able. What I'm thinking now is leaving the FT job, getting as much as I can out of the part time job, then starting up a small one man lawn mowing operation to try to make another couple hundred a week. The plus would be that I would have days off during the week to mow. The minus is I have no idea how many customers I could really get, there's just no way of knowing without taking the leap. I also have no idea how to estimate jobs. On the plus side, there is a zillion new residential homes around here, a lot of money, and I dont see an awful lot of guys doing it. I think (and I've read it here also) that a lot of these guys start landscaping companies and only offer mowing as a sideline, but really want to do the landscaping. One guy I talked to said they dropped 40 mowing customers to focus more on landscaping, now they only mow one day a week. Personally I have no interest in landscaping, I just want to cut grass.
    So if I do this I want to do the following: buy one good used commercial mower, (I dont want to use my personal riding lawn tractor, too slow and does a lousy job.) and some kind of a bagger or catcher attachment. I have a couple string trimmers already, need a trailer but I have a good 4wd truck that I use for plowing and sanding. I think I will do a direct mailing to 3 towns, a newspaper ad, and I already have some ideas about signage. I have some money aside to pay cash for a used mower and trailer, plus some advertising. I dont have a clue what the insurance will cost, but I insure my truck commercially for plowing and its not too bad. I also dont know how much to charge, and I dont know that any locals will tell me what they charge. I mean, until you know how long a lawn takes to mow, how can you set a price? I'm just a little nervous to jump in with both feet, it's a little late in the season already and what if the phone doesnt ring? How can I find out the going rates in my area? I thought about calling around and asking for estimates on my own lawn, but mine is smaller than most. Takes me 25 minutes, could do it in 10 with a ZTR. I've read a lot on this site about pricing, but I am still lost as far as that goes.
    Thanks in advance for any input or encouragement you can give me.
  2. cwlawley

    cwlawley LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 470

    I was in a similar situation....kind of. First, you have to remember that this is a seasonal field if you are just going to simply cut grass. Landscaping, cleanups, etc are there for you in the winter, if you want to do it. If not, plan very accordingly.

    In my opinion I think the best thing you can do is to keep both jobs, and advertise now. See how many accounts you can get and then frop one of the jobs. Don't just quit, know what you are in for. For a little while it may be very busy for you, one fulltime job and two part time jobs, but a lot of us started that way. Who knows, maybe next year you'll be asking about just doing lawn care fulltime with no other jobs. Either way, good luck there is plenty of work there, you just have to go out and get it.
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I would start saving TONS of money right now to prepare for next spring.
    The more you put aside, the better.

    Not to say you can't start today, but it's slow going from here on out.
    Spring is the best time to start, and having the skill of saving is essential at least to me, so I can out last these effin' 6-12 and sometimes 2-year long droughts (thou the latter is rare, 3-4 months of slowness is nothing and you need to be able to save so you have cash to last through - nothing better than developing this skill on a fixed income so that you can later use it on a sporadic income - nothing worse than lacking the skill and experiencing feast / famine).
  4. Sandgropher

    Sandgropher LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 903

    I would keep both jobs and build up a lawnmowing round on the weekends, this will get you work faster to as home owners will see you working.

    Once i have filled up the weekends i would leave my full time job and resheduled the lawns to week days.

    This will give you an idea of the demand thats out there, also with all the new residential homes out there the time is ripe to get in now while they are looking for some one to mow there lawn.

    Dont worry about being to busy to start with as things usually start off slow, also you say its not the best time of the season to start.

    Dont worry to much about the pricing side of it you will learn quicker than you think (can you ask your landscaping friend) here its a dollar a minute or $60 an hour so here we look at a lawn if it takes about half hour its $30.(solo).

    Always get the best equip that you can afford, make sure its commercial grade gear not home owners stuff because you will save $$$ in the long run.

    Always do the best job you can as this will get you referalls hopefully in the same street to save travelling time this will increase your hourly rate as you only have to unload once and less driving.

    Also have a lot of patience , it can take time to make good money 2 years+ in a lot of places, so its not an over night thing.

    Put out your flyers if you wish, targeting the main area you wish to work in, but do not sit by the phone waiting, because the response rate may be 1% or less( hopefully better in your new area).

    I am sure you will succeed if you keep both jobs at the moment, then get rid of your F/T job when you have enough customers, also you will have the money to keep you going until the growth is suffient to continue with out F/T work.

    One last point don't be afraid of doing clean up jobs, weeding etc these can help in the off season (plus starting up) .

    Any way you may get plenty of pricing advice here hopefully and from some one near your area may be helpful.

    P.S as you get quicker the 30 min job will take 20 min thereby increasing your hourly rate with out increasing the price.
  5. garth1967

    garth1967 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 640

    i like both responses to the question.what colin said is what most people do .it gives you a good look at what you have to do ,whats involved ,if like it and if you can handle it etc.i like the topsites way though.have a good think and save ,plan and read the posts and threads on this site in the meantime ,get to know your market.who is operating there and what are they charging.after all grass will always be there.either way good luck mate .cheers
  6. out4now

    out4now LawnSite Bronze Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 1,796

    I like the above responses as well. What is the going rate there? Can you operate at a profit for that? How many other LCO's are there in the area? Try and keep windsheild time to min. so look in the surrounding area if possible, driving here there and everywhere eats profits and time. You have only so many hours to cut everyday so make the most of them. Have you tried making a business plan? The research may help you decide. There are tmeplates at SCORE.org. Its mainly for other types of businesses but what it is made up of is retired excutives. I know someone that has two patents pending with their help after my prompting them to go there. Its free however they can only advise you to a limit. Its to help small businesses get their start. Hope that helps and good luck! :waving:
  7. Detroitdan

    Detroitdan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 75

    Well, I guess I'm taking the leap-took out an eight week ad in the area paper, actually about 5 papers by the same publisher, and its also online. I'm encouraged by the fact that there are few others advertising in my area. I got one call on the first day it came out. I bought a used 52 inch Ferris walk behind, a commercial string trimmer and a blower. I also bought a 16' landscape trailer. Was looking at 10-12 footers but for about the same money as new, the used 16' should give me room to grow into it. Next purchase will be a small pushmower for tight spots. I'm going to look into some truck and trailer signs too, I've been noticing when I see guys parked along the road while they are mowing, theres no signage with name and number on the truck for the most part, or if there is it's on just the truck doors. I want something rear facing that people can see.
  8. Sandgropher

    Sandgropher LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 903

    All the best with your new business and keep us updated on how you are going, truck signs are a good idea a lot of people in my area dont have them because they are full up with customers and dont wish to advertise, so some times when you see no signs it means they are full up as there becomes a limit on how many you can mow solo. good luck:usflag:
  9. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,587

    its called a business plan.... get a book from the library and make a business plan, do a demographical study of the area and see if it can support another lco

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