Should you hand out flyers to homes with over grown lawns?

This is a great question that was posted on the Gopher Forum. It stands to reason if you see a home with an over grown lawn, they would be in need of a lawn care service. Let’s look more at this question and see what we find.

Gerald: “Hey guys I am new to the business and I had some flyers made and need to hand them out. I will go to shopping mall parking lots and such but was wondering has anyone had any luck driving around subdivisions and putting out flyers on homes that look like they need their grass cut pretty bad. I was driving around today and noticed several homes that are in dire need of grass cutting. I live close to New Orleans so we have been cutting grass here since February and some of these homes look really bad. I was just wondering what ya’ll think of this and if any of you had any luck doing this. Also any ideas on where else I can pass out flyers. Thanks.”

Steve: “That is a very interesting question!

From the things I have seen on the forum in the past, when a home is overgrown, it is overgrown for a reason. Is the homeowner absent? Maybe the home is in foreclosure? Or there is no money to cut the lawn.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into a positive.

A lot of communities will fine a homeowner if they don’t maintain their lawn.

If you know that someone living at the house is really in a bad position and needs help maybe you could clean up the yard and take before and after pictures. Send the pictures and the story to the local paper on how you are helping out your community.

These could be great photo ops.

Also make sure if you did this to document it on your website. It will build goodwill between you and your community.”

Blaine: “Steve I agree, especially in the New Orleans area post Katrina.
There are still lots of people that just have too many things to worry about besides there lawn. I target high end up kept yards that may need small things that the current lawn care may not be able to take care of.”

Rob: “I would put flyers at all houses whether they look like they need some maintenance or not.
I was thinking the same way when I was passing flyers out when I started, but my girlfriend told me to do it to all of them. One of my best and first customers came from a house that didn’t look like it needed any maintenance.

Some people are already on the verge of not doing their own lawn care because of medical reasons or whatever and your flyer might be that little nudge for them to get you to do it. That’s what happened to me.

I wouldn’t recommend putting flyers on cars in parking lots. I know I don’t like it when someone does that to me and a lot of the time people don’t like it when their cars are messed with. You might upset someone doing that and lose a customer instead of gain one maybe?”

Aaron: “My wife and I started our business this spring with 1000 flyers. We made a half page document and cut it in half to get the most out of our money on the initial advertising. It is printed in black and white.

I spent 30 minutes handing out flyers on day one in my own neighborhood of townhouses. I came home to grab a drink and the phone rang. Bingo! I received another call an hour later and then picked up the neighbor of that yard. Day 1 I got 3 yards. I realized I have been horribly underestimating jobs but I knew I would need to feel it out before I can really get my prices solid.

For the door hangers, I get about 2% business. So for every hundred flyers there are 2 that call and I have not been turned down by one yet.

I also posted to criagslist today. No calls yet but I will make sure I revisit the site. It seems to be a decent place to look for used equipment as well!”

Steve: “Can you tell us how you came to this conclusion that you were underbidding and what you did to resolve it?”

Aaron: “I found myself putting much more time into a job than what I originally thought. When I found myself edging, cutting, cleaning for 1.5 hours at the rate of 10 bucks I figured I was WAY off! That was a cleanup job though. The return trip should not take but 20-25 minutes. It will only be that long due to a hard to access backyard.

The guy was so impressed with the price and the work (or he really found a great bargain) that he paid 6 weeks ahead before I was done with the rear lawn. Halfway into it I knew I underbid but I put in EXTRA effort to make sure this lawn would shine and advertise for me.

To rectify it I am now trying to estimate the time better and setting a rate of $25 an hour. I plan to get a rider so I know my times will drop. I figure if it takes me 1 hour to mow a lawn with a self propelled mower, I can most likely do the same work with a 36-42″ rider in less then half the time. I am also putting more time into starting a job to get it to where I am just doing maintenance. Do all the hard edging now and just trim later. I also add a touch with diagonal cuts which will be cut perpendicular every other mowing for the appearance and better growth.

I want the client and their neighbor to see a manicured lawn. I think I will estimate jobs at $50 an hour if I cannot get access with a riding mower and $25 an hour if I can. That way my prices will not need to be changed when I do get a mower. I tell my customers that I estimate based on me having a rider even though I am using the self propelled.”

Steve: “I am a little confused. Are you shooting for $25 an hour now or $50?”

Aaron: “Yeah confusing I know. My intentions are to shoot for $50 an hour. However, I am estimating the time it will take to do it as though I am using a riding lawn mower if and only if the client approves its use on there property. Since I am not using a riding lawn mower I am charging $25 an hour with the push. I feel that I will be able to get at least double the performance from a rider.

So if I charge $25 for 2 hours today I will be keeping that same price when I have a rider.

2hrs x$25 = $50 with self propelled
same work 1 hour or less = $50 with rider.

Again if I come across a property that I either cannot get the rider into or onto I will be charging $50/hour and using the self-propelled.

Clients with soft lawns will be informed that a rider can cause damage to the turf and I will offer to mow with rider or without. Price will be less with rider since the time will be less. Am I making sense? It totally works in my head. I realize a lot of folks say $60/hr is the standard in their area but where I am at I am hearing $35. I think that is WAY low so $50/hr is my target when I am fully equipped and I will feel out my bids and client assets to increase prices when I think I am able to do so.

I’m happy to get a few slightly underbid jobs now and learn. I intend to get a crew when the work demands it. They will be making less than what I am charging and I’ll be free to mow other properties and visit sites for estimates while the crew member(s) do the underbid work. This will still net a profit with the right workers.

I’m thinking of offering 40% of a job payment (minus supplies) to the crew instead of hourly work, while still adhering to the minimum wage requirements. I’ll need to emphasize quality over quantity while instilling a sense of urgency that allows an employee to earn more based on his/her productivity. 10% will go to fuel and maintenance and the remainder to the company and owner benefit.

I have no clue how to pay myself as a sole proprietor. I believe I will be focusing my research on that this evening.”

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