Getting a lawn care business started can be a tough experience. Being a teenage entrepreneur can further add a unique level of complexities to it. A teenage member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum had a few start up questions that were answered by another business owner who had gone through the same experience.
He wrote “this spring is when I plan on officially getting my lawn care business started. I have a fellow classmate who has agreed to work with me. We are both very involved in sports so mowing during the week is going to be limited to usually 1-2 yards per day and all day on the weekends. What I’m really in need of is any tips or advice on how to get yards and commercial businesses as a teen. Also, any advice on the type of equipment I should get?”
A second lawn care business owner wrote “I’m also a teenage lawn care business owner. I started mowing when my handicapped neighbor asked me if I could maintain his lawn, over 4 years ago. Initially, I was motivated by the money, but after a couple years went by and I picked up a few more clients around the neighborhood, I learned that I also very much enjoyed doing lawn work.
When I was 15 I decided that I wanted to expand my business since I would be able to drive. So I mowed that entire summer and I saved every dollar I made. I was mowing for 6 people at the time.
W hen I turned 16, I was able to get a truck, trailer, zero turn mower, a 21″ mower, trimmer, and a blower. I advertised with flyers in my neighborhood that had small yards because I found that small yards yielded a higher profit. From my flyers I got 5 additional customer right in my immediate area. This gave me a total of 11 yards a week. I was doing most of my mowing on the weekends, due to school and sports.
When school started again in the fall, I found out very quickly that doing all of that and mowing most lawns on the weekends was not working out for me. I made the decision to quit sports all together. I did like it and had played for 9 years, but found myself enjoying my business stuff way more. So now that sports was out of the way, I was able to spread out the lawns during the week days, and not just the weekend.
During that year, I picked up another 4 clients through word of mouth. So I had a total of 15 clients by the end of the year. That winter I began doing snow removal and with all the snow we have had, I made more money than I could have projected.
For my last year of high school, I got 7 more weekly customers. When I graduated, I was able to get insured and hire a helper. I also focused on doing more mulch jobs in the spring. I learned the mark up on it provides a very good profit.
I’m 16 as well and started mowing for people in my neighborhood when I was 12.
Here are some words of advice that I have learned from my experience. The most important is to make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew and make school your first priority.
If you are involved in high school sports, I can tell you straight up that doing 1-2 yards a day, plus school, plus practice is not manageable. You have to keep in mind that you can’t mow in the rain and unexpected things will come up. Pretty soon if your schedule is full, you will find yourself playing catch up and running out of time with everything else you are involved in. On the flip side, trying to do the majority of your mowing on the weekends can lead to bad news. If it rains all weekend, what then? Not only do you have 1-2 yards scheduled during the week, but now you also have to juggle all the lawns you would usually do on the weekend.
Will you be working with a friend? I can tell you from experience that this can be both a good and bad idea. The good side of it is that you can usually get things done faster. The bad part is that it will dramatically cut into your income and potentially cause trouble between you and your friend.
The thing I see a lot of teenagers do when they work with a friend is they split the income 50 - 50. Before you do that though, you gotta think it through. Say for instance you mow a lawn for $30. It takes you 45 minutes to do when you add in the time it takes to load and unload equipment as well as get there. In the end, you are getting $15. Now you have to figure out how much it costs you to mow that yard. Gas to get there, gas in equipment, and putting a little aside in case of equipment repairs. Insurance, advertising, cell phone, etc. After you tally up your expenses, you will find that you basically walked away with no income, while your friend made $15 for 45 minutes of work. I had to learn all this the hard way.
As far as commercial accounts, yes they look like a good thing to get involved with, but as a teenager they can be a bad path to follow. Commercial customers are going to want proof of insurance.¬† They may also require references from other commercial properties you have worked on. Keeping all that in mind you will probably make more money mowing residential properties at this stage.
Also, in order to succeed in the lawn care industry, you HAVE to like it. If you are dreading the next lawn you have to mow, you will never make it in this business.
When it comes to lawn care equipment my advice is to start small and cheap. I can say this from experience. It’s best to start with a walk behind mower. Then as you add customers you might want to scale up to a zero turn mower. A zero turn mower WILL spoil you, and you will never want to use a walk behind mower again in your life.
Remember to work hard and never settle for anything less than perfect work. Another VERY important lesson I learned is DO NOT BE SCARED TO CHARGE PEOPLE!!!!! On many occasions, when I first got started, I regretted not charging enough on my bids. There is no worse feeling than putting in some hard work, doing a great job, and not getting paid what you deserved, because you underbid.