How To Start a Landscaping or Lawn Care Business
Starting a landscaping business or lawn care business is easier than ever, thanks to two factors: people are hiring landscaping and lawn care contractors more than ever before, and there are software tools that help you run even a small landscaping business like a big business. If you’ve been thinking about starting a landscaping business or lawn care business, here’s how to get started.
Decide On Your Business Location
Landscaping and lawn care businesses are usually local, but they don’t have to be anymore. Chances are, you’ll want to start in your local area and scale up the traditional way by hiring more local employees, but consider when you’re starting your landscaping and lawn care business whether you want to stay regional or franchise your business nationally. This might affect which software you use to run your business, or how you hire.
Can’t decide yet? That’s okay. Lots of businesses these days start operating one way, and then grow in a different direction. If you’re just getting started, you’ll want to begin by deciding which local market you want to serve. This might be an underserved space where there are plenty of customers waiting to hire you. The countryside around cities is often a place where new lawn care businesses can get started, because there aren’t as many companies serving those areas. Just be aware that if you sign up for a location that is spread out or distant from you, you’re going to have to factor in your driving time and costs to your fees. You might also want to ask around locally to see if businesses are hiring lawn care or landscaping services, to find the best market for you to start. Lawn care businesses often start with private residential customers and build up to larger company clients over time, but depending on your resources, you might start serving a few local business clients. Work in a competitive market? Ask what they’re paying currently and offer to give them a discount.
Legal & Tax Requirements
If you start a lawncare or landscaping business, you’ll need several things to start. One is an EIN, or employer identification number, which functions as your business’s social security number for tax purposes. You can get this from the state by filing your own paperwork, but it can be easier if you have someone help you. You’ll also need general legal advice, or at least someone to call when you have a question or need support doing legal paperwork for your business. Tax prep for a business is best handled by the professionals, as is accounting, so you’ll want to hire an accountant, and you might want to hire out bookkeeping as well so you can run your business and not spend all your time counting beans.
Good news. All of the paperwork you need to start a business in your state and all the business support services you need are affordable through software and professional services such as 1800Accountant and LegalZoom, which give you choices in levels of service and, more importantly, walk you through what needs to be done for your business to be in compliance with local laws. Want someone to act as your registered agent to receive and process legal paperwork? Want someone to create your annual report that’s required to show the state your business activity? You can have that handled and you just answer a few simple questions. For a small business to start, these services often run several hundred dollars apiece per year to have each service available to you whenever you need it without paying by the hour. Budget for about $1,000-2,000 total for the low-end of service, and expect that to go up if you’re hiring a local legal representative or other professionals by the hour to do more in-depth work for your business.
You’ll also need to choose whether you’re forming your business as an LLC, partnership, C corp, or S Corp, which depends on your circumstances. This is something you should ask your legal or accounting advisor to help you decide. Why is accounting able to advise? Because this decision has a lot to do with how you’ll pay taxes, how you will pay employees, and how big you expect your company to get in the future. Don’t worry if this is confusing up front. You can choose what’s best for you now and change it later if you need to. We recommend that if you’re new to starting a business, you hire a service to walk you through what’s required, so you don’t miss a step. If you feel comfortable with the routine later, you can always switch your services once you know you have eyes on the whole process. It’s worth the peace of mind.
One note of caution: when you’re interviewing legal and accounting services, make sure that any software is compatible. It’s common these days to have a bank add third-party security services on to make it harder for someone to hack your account, and suddenly your financials won’t sync with your accounting portal. One way to get around this is to choose a larger bank for your business, which makes it more likely your accounting and payment software will be compatible as they often work with the largest institutions first.
Banking, Insurance, & Licensing Required for Lawncare & Landscaping Businesses
Once you have an EIN registered with the state, you’ll need a business bank account to process all your financials. Try to use your business debit card for expenses when you can to keep your bookkeeping simple and above board. You need the EIN first in order to open a business banking account, and you’ll need a business address. For most paperwork, you’ll use the address of your registered agent, but for any financial documents you need, give them your address.
You’ll also need basic liability insurance to protect your business against claims if there is ever an accident. For your employees, you’ll want workers comp insurance, and possibly law liability insurance to cover any mistakes you might make in paying employees properly. Your legal representative should be able to advise you on the best insurance for your company.
If you want to work with pesticide application in your landscaping or lawn care business, you’ll need a pesticide charter and some training for the workers who will be working with chemicals.
Finally, in some states, you need a contractor’s license or other licensing to work as a landscaper. Lawncare businesses tend to require less on the licensing front. The more you are changing landscaping, the more likely you are to need a license as well as extra forms of insurance and permitting. Here is a handy guide on licensing and insurance required by state for lawncare and landscaping businesses.
Should You Rent or Buy Landscaping and Lawncare Equipment?
You’ll need at a minimum a mower, probably a rider mower to be efficient, and a vehicle that can tow your mower to each job site. Tractor mowers are expensive, and push mowers aren’t big enough to handle more than small local jobs, so you’ll probably end up in the $15,000 range for a good rider mower, and $30,000 for a decent truck and trailer to get the mower to the job site. This is something you can finance, but if you’re just getting started with a small number of jobs or, conversely, if you’re starting out your company with multiple mowers and workers or larger jobs, consider renting equipment until you can make enough capital to buy. Also factor in maintenance and running costs like fuel.
Hiring for Your Landscaping or Lawn care Business
You’ll want to talk with your legal representative about whether you’re required to pay your workers hourly or by salary, as requirements can vary by circumstance. Once you’re ready to hire workers, make sure you collect the right paperwork with social security numbers, and set up a system to pay them. Often the best way to hire workers for a lawn care and landscaping company is through referrals from your personal or business network, but you can also post jobs on local job boards.
Marketing Your Lawn care or Landscaping Business
When you’re first getting started, marketing your lawn care or landscaping business often is grassroots. These days that looks like social media pages that offer new customer discounts or referral bonuses, and word of mouth or local flyers and advertising in local media publications. Also, you’ll want to be listed as a business on Google, and ask your first customers to review you on business review sites so you pop up when people search for local lawn care and landscaping businesses near them.
Once you have a marketing budget, try Google Ads to target local online searches for businesses like yours. You can also run social media campaigns, but the trick with a local landscaping or lawn care business is targeting local customers. Don’t sign up for any marketing that doesn’t get in front of eyeballs in your region. If you scale your business nationally, focus your advertising on unique services you offer, or your unusual level of customer service, to set your business apart from other businesses.
We hope this helped you get your landscaping business or lawn care business off the ground, and helped you create a list of to-dos to make it happen. One final tool you’ll need for your business is Yottled. Yottled handles scheduling clients, payment processing, keeping in touch with customers, and even invoicing, all in one simple tool. Once you’ve got your landscaping or lawn care business started, keep Yottled in mind to keep it running smoothly.