There are plenty of ways to make more money during the fall. Mowing tends to slow down and leaf clean ups begin but there is another great and easy way to make some big cash in the fall you might not have even considered performing before. The service is irrigation blowouts. Let’s check out this story from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum on how one lawn care business owner built up his irrigation blow out service and how it helped him gain more customers that brought in a lot more business the rest of the year too.
He wrote “I have blown out sprinkler systems (winterizing) for the past 8 years now and I am just starting to get into mowing this year. My original business plan with the sprinkler blowouts was to do about 150 - 200 a year (working just weekends) and make an easy $5,000. I got into it because I needed it done for my own home and thought the local irrigation companies charged way too much to perform the job and the work was easy!!
Now I have over 600 clients. The first 4 or 5 customers are fun, but working from daylight to after dark, 7 days a week, for a month gets to be work. As I grew, my clients kept asking for additional services. Especially sprinkler repair, so I continued to expand.
With a full time job, I didn’t have time and energy for all I was asked to do. I tried to find others I felt I could recommend to my clients but was unsuccessful. I then got a job landscaping two houses for a contractor to help him out of a bind when the new owner was moving in and his landscaper quit. From that job I made $1,500 profit in a week.
Next I lost my full time job and was unemployed. It really upset me and I sat and pondered what my next move would be. Did I want another steady full time job or did I want to see where my side business could go? I decided I wanted something I wouldn’t get fired from again, so I started my own lawn care business. I have about $4,000 invested in equipment (other than truck). I made that from blowing sprinklers out. So I haven’t spent any money out of my pocket to start up.
Next up I contacted my clients from sprinkler blowouts to see if I could mow their lawns. I subcontracted with a local herbicide and pesticide applicator to mow lawns for his clients and send him business that I couldn’t perform. This worked out very well for the both of us. I get a lot of $90/week mowing jobs from his leads.
If you are looking to re-create what I did, here’s how I got my first 600 customers.
I use lawn signs.
These are strategically placed signs. Most competitors signs I see are placed in the bar ditch and blocked by weeds at busy street corners. This is a mistake for two major reasons.
1) People from all over see the sign. That means you will be traveling all over the city. Using lots of gas and not getting much work done. Twenty minutes spent driving makes no money and it is time that could have been used to service one more customer.
2) Drivers are watching the road and other cars at busy intersections. They are not reading the sign and taking down a number.
I place my signs on the side road leading into a development I want to target. I find a homeowner who will let me place my sign in a conspicuous place in his yard. In return I will winterize his irrigation system at no charge. Everyone driving into the development sees my sign surrounded by a manicured sea of lawn. Many people who call think I live there and they want to do business with a neighbor. I get many customers all living close together. Sometimes I spend 2 or 3 days in one development. It might take me a week to drive 20 miles. All that time many waste driving to the next appointment I use to service more customers and make more money.
I also work hard to keep the customers I have. In my view, the best customer is the one I have. So I keep the customers I have and grow a bit every year. I do lose customers to relocation, etc. but I call them every year and they grow to expect me. One customer said three competitors had knocked on his door but he waited for me. I have even had competitors say they were me to get a client’s business away from me.
I have been doing this for eight years. It takes time to develop a loyal clientele but it is a worthwhile process.
Where I am from it freezes down a foot or so in the winter. When I winterize an irrigation system I isolate the system from city or irrigation water and using an air compressor, empty the lines of water. It’s big business in the fall as each system has to have it done or risk broken water pipes in the spring. I also do sprinkler repair so I can make money either way.
Here is how I do my pricing for sprinkler winterization. It is a service that everyone in a cold climate needs. Even if they mow their own lawn, not many have an air compressor to do the job properly. There is usually about a 6 week period from the time the irrigation company turns the water off to the time it freezes that I have to get all my blowouts completed. In my area that is from Oct. 15 to to the end of of November. During that time I gross about $20,000.
I use a 185 cfm air compressor with an industrial 4 cylinder John Deere diesel engine. I have a regulator on it adjusted to 40 psi. That way I don’t blow the heads off sprinklers if there is a water hammer. Unregulated air (125psi) will blow the heads off the sprinkler and send the internals into outer space.
Marketing is very easy. Remember it is a service that your customers need. It is not an optional service in a cold weather climate. Just offer it to your mowing customers as an end of season service. When starting out, I walked an area (always target your service areas) and handed out flyers. On average, I charge about $36 a blowout. I charge more for larger yards. Since each valve must be blown out separately, the more valves the longer it takes. So about $36 for 6 or 7 valves. For 10 or 12 valves I charge about $50. I figure my cost is in driving to location and having the compressor sit for 11 months out of the year. There is fuel for both the pickup and the compressor. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes per job. I guarantee my work so if I blow out a sprinkler head or there is winter damage in the spring, I repair it for free. Most of the call outs I get in the spring are for customer related issues (customer made an error) and so I get the repair business. The few times it has been my error, I repair it and it is great advertising. They tell their neighbors how honest I am and how I stand behind my work and I get more business from it.
When I started out I undercut the competitions price. I know this is controversial, however I felt I had to do something to get new customers to give me a try. Then I raised prices a little bit each year. Now I am on par with most others.
To keep customers from year to year, I keep a list with phone numbers and emails. I then contact the customers each year.
Scheduling is always a headache. You need to be able to go down a street picking up the customers in order. Just take customers that will leave a gate open so you can get to the hook up. I leave a bill on the door. If you have to come back and meet the customer on his schedule you won’t make money on that blowout. I will make a special trip for new customers in an area I am targeting because that will help guarantee I can put him in my schedule the following year as well.
Try these ideas out and see if they can help you make more money.”
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