Ever thought of having your own business? Well, starting your own landscape maintenance business is really very easy and start up costs can be pretty low. I operated a landscape maintenance business for 23 years. When I started the business all I had, that was mine, was a pickup truck. I borrowed my Mom’s string trimmer and a friends’ mower for my first job. Bought my own trimmer the next day and my own mower the next week. You can do that too!
Making Your Home Based Business Legal
There are a few things you need to know before getting going. Think of a professional name for your business. Acquire a business license, usually from your City Clerk’s office and register with the Department of Taxation and Revenue, for a tax identification number. Both of these tasks are easy, so don’t let the thought of paperwork scare you into not doing things legally. If you think you might want to hire a helper, you will also need a Federal Id Number, also easy to apply for at your local IRS office.
After the paperwork is out of the way, the next thing you need is a vehicle to carry your equipment and yard debris. A small pickup would be nice, but almost any vehicle will do with a little imagination, and you can work up to something more suitable later. Put the leaves and debris in large garbage bags if necessary.
What Equipment Is Needed
Let’s say you own a pickup, you are already off to a running start. The next two pieces of equipment you will need are a lawn mower and a string trimmer. Maybe you have these, but if not and you can’t afford an outright purchase now, borrow them from a relative, friend or neighbor for just a day or two. The money you make in one day can buy a trimmer and a few more days an inexpensive mower. Used mowers can be found at many yard sales, along with other equipment and tools.
You will also need an extra spool of trimmer line, a broom (move up to a gas powered hand held blower later), two gas cans (one for regular gas and the other for gas-oil mix), a leaf rake, shovel, a large trash can and bags, pair of hand pruners, lopping shears and hedge shears (move up to a gas powered hedger later), a few hand tools for repairs.
Learn How To Use Your Equipment
If you are not that experienced, get out there and practice. Get familiar with your equipment. The hardest thing for my new workers to perfect was the art of grass trimming. To get a smooth flat surface with a string trimmer, you need to practice holding it level. Try to make the grass look like the mower did that small area, smooth and flat.
Learn About Plants, Trees, Shrubs, Grass and Flowers
So you don’t know much about plants, grass and trees, do some research, learn as much as you can. The more you know, the more your customer’s will respect your opinion and your recommendations. My suggestion, if you live in the Southwest, for a good book on plants, The Sunset Western Garden Book, a reliable source of information, growth patterns, diseases and deficiencies and the best shrubs and trees for your climate.
Also, go to your local plant nursery and just walk around reading plant labels and looking at different shrubs, trees and plants. Don’t forget about the grass! Not knowing what type of grass is in a potential customer’s yard, would be a huge turnoff for them. Check out pallets of sod at your local nursery to familiarize yourself with different varieties.
What To Charge and Giving Estimates
What to charge, that is definitely the hardest part to figure out. If the person you are giving an estimate to has someone working for them now or has had in the past, go ahead and ask, “Do you mind if I ask what they are charging you?” That may sound a bit forward, but I can tell you most of the time it works.
Also, it is a good idea to do a bit of research before getting out there knocking on doors. Ask your neighbors and any other friends or businesses that you may know, what they are being charged, then you will have a better idea of what to charge. The worst thing you can do is to undercharge, if you do you will never make enough money to grow your business, you will get disenchanted and probably quit. Do not charge a customer by the hour and at the rate your last boss paid you. You have a business now and overhead to think of, charge by the job and be competitive price wise, but better than the rest when it comes to performance. You can even be more expensive than the rest, if you are the best in town.
OK, now that you have the necessary equipment and you have some idea of what to charge, it’s time to go find some customers. Drive around town and be on the lookout for homes and businesses that have unkept grounds. Look for lawns that have not have been mowed recently, weeds growing everywhere and yards that generally need some maintenance work. Try calling some realtors and ask if they have any rentals that need a one time clean-up.
It would be nice if you had some business cards, they aren’t very expensive and they make you look so much more professional. If you are handy with the computer you can buy Avery labels and print your own.
Don’t be shy, go up to the business or house, ask for the manager or the man or woman of the house and ask if they have anyone taking care of their yard. If they do have a lawn care company, point out what you noticed about their yard that looked bad and describe how you could do a better job. But, don’t just blurt out that their yard looks terrible, they may be trying to do it themselves, in that case, maybe you can help them out. Even if they don’t seem too interested in what you can do for them, don’t give up, go back every few weeks to check again, keep trying. One of the apartment complexes we acquired, took almost a full year to procure. The manager was under contract with a company that wasn’t doing a good job. I went back regularly and chatted with her, asked how things were going and so on, and when their contract was up, she hired our company. That is why I say, “If you want something, keep trying, don’t give up”.
Success Comes From Persistence and Dedication
If you will be persistent in looking for jobs, and work hard once you get them, you will have lots of customers and make a nice income. You will be working for yourself, be your own boss and have the freedoms that come with that position. The best advice I can give you is to give your customers great service and treat your employees well and you will go far!