A first year lawn care business has a halfway point review.

Was your first year in business a good one or a bad one? How did you know either way? Did you compare your situation to others or did you simply set goals to achieve and hoped you hit your benchmarks? In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, one entrepreneur shared with us his updates after hitting the mid-season point of his first year. How does his first year in business compare to yours?

One lawn care business owner wrote “I have reached the halfway point of my first year and so far I have 7 full time lawn mowing customers and five single services that I do. Things seem to be going well and I am making some money. I am somewhat happy with where I am at right now but I really want to see thing grow. It seems though that I have hit a wall and have been stagnating a bit these past few weeks.

My marketing has consisted of putting out three groups of fliers and signs at local stores and service stations. Business cards at a local hair salon and a local restaurant. I have put an ad on craigslist. I put together a web site. All of it seems to be getting interest but it’s not resulting in a lot of work. My rates are on par with my local competition and I will not low ball. I feel like I have covered all the bases though I do wonder why I don’t have more customers. Have I missed anything ? Is this normal for your first year ?

I talk to most of my neighbors but it seems the majority of them mow their own lawn, though I will  keep trying. I have performed some aeration jobs for neighbors but not mush else. I do mow one friend’s lawn but the rest of them live in apartments or condos. I try to keep things moving along with word of mouth every chance I have to talk to people. I’ve had some referrals from customers but the problem is usually price. They all seem to want something for nothing.

Yesterday I had a caller ask how much I would charge to mow her lawn, sight unseen. I told her I had to see it first. She said it was a small city lot. I said I had to see it and she continued to insist I give her a price on the phone, so I said $35.00. So then she says would you do it for $20.00? I said I wouldn’t even start my truck for $20.00 and she hung up. I know I’m new and I should take what I can get but I am not about to start taking on money losing jobs just to stay busy. I have expenses and I can’t work for less the $35.00 a mow. I definitely will not do half ass job for cheap. It’s my company name out there and I don’t want to tarnish it. I love the job and the work. I never worked for myself before and  don’t know what to expect. I do wonder if my situation is normal for your first year.

I find that my lawn mowing jobs are mostly for seniors and the price is shopped to death. Most younger people mow their own lawns. So far, light landscaping is where the money is for me.  Flower gardens, edging, weeding, fertilizer, hedge trimming, vacation services and yard clean ups. Getting these jobs so far has been all about timing. You have to be in the right spot at the right time.

Here is a good example of a vacation service job. I got a referral for a couple going away for 7 weeks. The lawn would be a typical $35.00 mow, trim, and blow. I’d be in and out of there in a 1/2 hour or less. But because it’s a vacation service, it becomes a $45.00 job and I can fit it in where ever I want in my schedule. It’s an extra $45.00 dollars each week for the next 7 weeks $315.00 for the service. If I do a real good job there are always tips and sometimes a full time mowing contract. I am finding there is also a huge market for vacation snow removal services as well. When people go south for the winter, they want the snow removed for weeks they are gone. I don’t have to do this at any specific time, I just need to get it done after each snow fall so the house can be accessed.

Mid summer, things did begin to pick up. I had thought if I didn’t get customers at the beginning of the season, it would be next to impossible to get them later on but it seems the opposite is true. As the summer gets warmer, more people want to hire me as it gets tougher for them to mow their own yards.

My total now has come to:

  • 9 full season mows.
  • 2 full property cleanups.
  • 5 bi-weekly mow jobs.
  • 2 current real estate jobs and 5 completed real estate jobs.
  • I also booked my first snow removal job for the winter today.

All of this and I am still growing.”

A second lawn care business owner said “In my first season I had a total of 16 properties that I was maintaining. That was 1 over my first year’s goal! So I was pretty happy. At the end of the season, I felt I could have added at least 10 more and still be efficient. As the season went on, I got a lot more phone calls. Some were for services that I did not provide so I let them go. Others were one time service calls for tall grass, clean ups, it’s too hot outside to mow, etc etc. With all that work, I was eating, paying my bills, and learning like crazy. It was  a good season and I made some really strong contacts that I nurtured and tended to.

The next season I learned that there was big money to be made in upsells to existing customers. Here is an $600 example of what I mean.

  • I sprayed the grass to kill it for a small bed (4×8).
  • Installed a 1/2 yd of mulch around 6 shrubs and added mulch around an existing flower bed.
  • Cleaned gutters.
  • Power washed a carport.
  • Install 10 plants (flowers).

I bid $600 dollars for the job. My expenses were $150 and it took about 6 hours of work to complete. All of this was for an existing customer who has a 1.5 acre yard I mow weekly at $60 a week.

When it comes to vacation services and one time mowing jobs, I charge more because it is taking time out of my schedule that could be going to a long-term customer. Our most valuable asset in this business is the available slots in our work schedule.

If you’re just starting and you have open slots anyway, maybe you could charge the same as a weekly customer. However, if you’ve got a pretty full schedule and someone wants a few cuts they should expect to pay a premium.

You sound like you are doing well your first year. Keep at it. Save your money when you can. Making it through your first winter can be rough, but if you get through it, your second year should get easier.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success