Outdoor living spaces are an important aspect of residential and commercial property. They add aesthetic appeal and curbside value. The National Association of Landscape Professionals reported a market size of $105.1 billion in the U.S. in 2021.
While lawn care professionals saw some set back during COVID-19 restrictions, there’s an upward trajectory. According to Research and Market, the lawn care and landscaping industry in America has an estimated CAGR of 5.1% between 2022 and 2027. Overall, it’s a promising time to get involved.
This guide will cover a variety of details on how to start a lawn care business, including costs, lawn care business insurance, customer outreach, and more.
1. Conduct Lawn Care Business Market Research
Research is a crucial step in starting a lawn care business. There are two types of market research, primary and secondary. Both are important to preparing a successful business plan.
Primary research includes first-person initiatives such as polling homeowners for preferred services and visiting competitor websites. Any data you gather yourself.
Secondary research involves gathering available information from other resources. Statistics from government websites and online reviews left on competitor sites are two examples of secondary research sources.
As you gather data, think about concepts such as:
- Number of local home and business owners with outdoor spaces
- Competitor lawn care service offerings
- The average price of lawn care services
- Gaps you can fill in the industry
- Native and non-native plants found in local gardens
- Typical weather patterns in your area
- Seasonal services to offer during winter (snow clearing, ice removal, etc.)
Use your research to develop an outline for marketing, services, and even prices.
Choosing the Right Services for Your Lawn Care Business
Lawn care and landscaping businesses often go hand in hand. There are a variety of services you might offer depending on the season, and your client base. Some typical lawn care services include:
- Lawn installations (example: retaining walls, koi ponds, etc.)
Some specialty services you might consider during the off-season include:
- Gutter cleaning
- Holiday light installation
- Snow removal
Lawn care companies sometimes offer products for sale to maintain lawns and gardens. Base these offerings on your services and consumer needs.
2. Analyze the Competition
To be the best lawn care specialist in your community, you should get to know the competition. Competition is mainly local for field-based businesses like landscaping. Some ways to get a foot up on competitors, include:
- Checking out competitor services
- Talking to locals about their experiences with local lawn care
- Reading social media and website reviews
Some things to consider as you analyze competitors are prices, lawn care service locations, and reputations. There are plenty of local lawn care companies in every city. Here are some of the top competitors industry wide.
Brightview is a leader in commercial lawn care and landscaping in the United States. According to Statistica, the company brought in a whopping $2.5 billion USD in 2021. Services include:
- Snow and Ice
- Water Management
- Tree Care
- Sports Turf
- Multi-Location Management
Brightview has locations scattered across the country including 43 offices in California and 29 in Florida.
TruGreen is another big shot in the lawn care industry. They offer lawn care, tree and shrub care, pest control, and a variety of other niche landscaping services. TruGreen offers residential and commercial services, and like Brightview, can be found in cities across the country.
3. Understand the Costs of Starting a Lawn Care Business
Beginning a lawn business takes start up capital and ongoing costs. From the products and equipment you use to paying staff and setting up an office space, there are many financial factors to consider.
What Does It Cost to Start a Lawn Care Business?
Creating a realistic budget is wise as you begin your lawn care company. There are a lot of moving pieces involved in any new business, some of which you may not even think of. Whether you’re starting your own brand, or opening a franchise, here’s some financial food for thought.
The main expenses every lawn care business encounters are:
- Equipment storage and office space rental
- Insurance for business and commercial vehicles
- Business license, permits, and registration
- Some form of POS
- Legal fees
- Web design, hosting, and domain name
- Marketing costs
- Supplies (fertilizer, nursery plants, soil, etc.)
- Staff training and wages
- Landscaping equipment (grader, hoe, tractor, lawn mower, etc.)
To start a landscaping company, you’re looking at a cost between $15,000 to $50,000. This cost fluctuates with the amount of commercial vehicles, large equipment you lease/own, and how many staff you hire.
Opening a lawn care franchise is more expensive, but comes with the benefit of an existing brand and client base. You could pay anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 for a franchise fee, and a total investment between $80,000 and $100,000.
Lawn care businesses need some essential tools and equipment. Not all lawn care businesses start with big equipment. As you grow your business you might invest in excavators and trenchers. Here are the basics to get going.
- Lawn Mower: You may invest in push and ride-on mowers depending on the lawns you care for. Push mowers are cheaper, running around $100 to $500. A ride on lawn mower is more costly, running from $1,000 to $6,000.
- Edger: Costs for edgers vary depending on design and brand. For a high grade commercial grader you’ll pay over $1,000. You can find a basic model for as little is $100. The cheaper edgers have less power.
- Weed Trimmer: Mowers clear large grassy spaces, but a weed trimmer is necessary for hard to reach spaces. They cost between $100 and $500.
- Pruner: These large garden shears are used to trim small branches, rose bushes, and shrubs. They run around $30 to $200.
- Mulcher: Mulch is a layer of shredded organic material mixes into, or laid on top of soil. A mulcher creates mulch by grinding and shredding leaves and other garden debris. They cost between $1,000 and $6,000.
- Shovel: You’re bound to have several shovels for lawn care. From small spades and trowels to diggers and trenchers. The cost varies based on size and brand. Expect to pay $15 to $100 per shovel.
- Rake: Like shovels, your company may need different rakes depending on the job. Rakes cost $30 to $150.
Lawn care businesses also need bulk supplies of garden bags for trimmings and leaves, gas for equipment fuel, and bulk quantities of soil and fertilizer.
Cost of Renting or Leasing a Location for Lawn Care
Lawn care companies don’t often require store fronts. What you will need is space for inventory, including equipment storage and a plant nursery.
Most commercial spaces rent by square-foot. A 1,000 square-foot storage or retail space might ask for $25 per square foot. This would run you $25,000 annually, with monthly payments of $2,083.33.
If you’re running a lawn care business from home, invest in a large shed and green house. A shed costs $1,500 to $10,000 depending on materials used, and whether you build new or buy a premade shed. An A-frame greenhouse costs about $25 per square foot.
Becoming a legal business in the U.S. means registering your business name with the Small Business Administration. It costs between $300 to $800 for registration and permits.
Lawn Care Business Insurance
Business insurance is a must-have product for any business owner wondering how to start a lawn care business. It protects you from financial hardship due to damage, theft, vandalism, and liability. Most lawn care businesses need general liability insurance, but you may also require commercial auto insurance and property insurance.
Lawn Care Business Utilities
Lawn care business owners pay utilities whether a business is run from home, or out of a commercial property. The main types of utilities are water, heat, electricity, phone, and internet. If you run a nursery, water will be an especially important resource.
Most U.S. commercial properties pay about $2.90 per square foot for electricity. Water costs vary by city and season, but run roughly $50 to $100 on average a month based on commercial usage.
What Are the Ongoing Costs of a Lawn Care Business?
Equipment, tools, and registration are all lawn care start-up costs. Your company will also incur ongoing costs throughout the life of your business. Some of the most common ongoing lawn care business costs include:
- Equipment fuel
- Plants and trees
- POS fees
- Banking and credit card fees
- Commercial auto insurance and payments
- Employee wages
- Web hosting
- Equipment maintenance
If your company sells lawn care products like fertilizer, garden bags, or sprinklers, retail inventory will also need to be replenished.
4. Form a Legal Business Entity
All U.S. businesses must be formed as legal business entities. The most common entities are Limited Liability Corporations, Partnerships, Sole Proprietorships, and Corporations. For a lawn care business, an LLC is most beneficial.
Limited Liability Corporation/Limited Liability Company (LLC)
An LLC keeps you in the driver’s seat where your own lawn care business decisions are concerned. It also separates personal and professional wealth. If something happens and your lawn care business goes under, an LLC protects your personal assets.
Any single person or married couple can from a sole proprietorship business entity. This model gives you all power over your business. Unlike an LLC, however, it doesn’t maintain separation between personal and business assets. If something happens to your company, your personal assets are at risk.
A partnership is very similar to a sole proprietorship. The main difference is the number of business owners. This is a good model for a family-run lawn care business because it gives joint and equal ownership to each partner. It also reflects sole proprietorship in that your personal and business assets are both connected to the business.
Corporations are the most complex and protective of all business entities. They offer separation between personal and professional assets; and let you share ownership and decision-making among corporate members.
A corporation entity isn’t the best choice for a small or new business. It’s an expensive entity to create, and the registration process is intense.
5. Register Your Business for Taxes
Another step in the business start up for new lawn care companies is applying for an Employee ID Number, or EIN. This is your federal tax ID number, and it’s used to pay employees, file your annual taxes, and even open a business bank account.
To apply for an EIN, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration. All the forms are available through the website, and are straightforward to fill in. You should also check with the U.S. government for state sales taxes when building your price model.
6. Setup Accounting for Success
Accounting is essential for a successful lawn care business. As a field-based business owner, you don’t want to be juggling financial information while dealing with employees, equipment, and customer accounts. Accounting processes streamline incoming and outgoing money, and keep reports organized for tax season.
QuickBooks is a leader in U.S. accounting software. It offers an assortment of tools and information to seamlessly invoice customers, pay employees, and manage your business banking. It creates reports to document all financial transactions and files them for later review.
Accounting software is an amazing supplement to a part-time accountant. It provides an affordable alternative to a full-time bookkeeper, while maintaining financial records and inventory.
Find an Accountant
An accountant is an asset along with your accounting software. Expect to pay somewhere between $150 and $400 an hour for these services. It sounds like a lot, but at tax season it’s worth the extra amount.
An accountant is trained in all the fine print and red tape of business finance. Your accountant makes sure all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted at tax time.
Get a Business Bank Account
A business bank account keeps all your finances separate. The IRS endorses business bank accounts in their Small Business Workshop, and it’s not tough to see why.
Things get mixed up when you spend and receive money for business related expenses through a personal account. It might even look like something illegal is going on, even if everything is by the book. It’s best to keep things separate and organized to avoid trouble.
Apply for a Business Credit Card
Along with a business bank account, consider a business credit card. This helps build credit for your lawn care business, and offers benefits like cash back, travel miles, low APR and more.
Be careful with business credit payments. Your business credit card impacts your personal credit score.
7. Obtain Business License and Permits
Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration for business license and permits for your lawn care company. You may not require any federal licensure if you’re operating in one state and don’t intend to cross state lines.
Small businesses can also use the SBA’s Find Local Assistance tool for state permit requirements.
8. Get Business Insurance
Business insurance protects your company from legal and liability issues. Most landscapers invest in general liability insurance to cover damage to people or property caused by your service or products.
For example, if a tree you plant during lawn care falls onto a client’s house, insurance covers costs of damages, legal fees, or medical fees. Expect to pay $300 to $1,500 annually for coverage up to $1 million.
If you require commercial real estate insurance add an additional $1,000 to $3,000 a year for $1 million in protection.
9. Create an Office Space
Lawn care jobs may be completed in the field, but every business has administrative tasks to tackle. An office space is necessary to fill out paperwork, answer emails, and check finance reports. There are a few options for a lawn care office space.
A home office is ideal for a small business not looking to expand into commercial property. It requires no long-term lease or contract, and there are tax benefits to explore. The IRS allows home office tax deductions up to $1,500 a year.
Deductions can be made independently for things like utilities, remodeling, or the mortgage. You can also make deductions based on square footwage at $5 per square foot.
A coworking office is a great investment for business owners looking for an official workspace without the bells and whistles. Again, there’s no long-term lease for a new commercial property. Instead, you use an existing office space based on your preferences for a shared or private space.
WeWork is a top coworking business model. They offer several packages for every budget and work style.
Commercial Building Office
Leasing a commercial building office is pricey and usually requires a lengthy lease. This is a good choice for large businesses looking to create a professional space for meetings and administrative duties.
10. Source Your Equipment
Lawn care equipment is expensive. Sourcing the best equipment at the right prices is an important part of the startup process. As a new company, you might choose cheaper equipment and upgrade later. Here are some options for sourcing.
New equipment is attractive to lawn care business owners because it ensures longevity. You know the product is fully intact and probably under warranty.
Used equipment is an asset for new business owners. There are plenty of great finds on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. You may also get lucky and find a landscaper selling equipment they no longer need. Used equipment isn’t as shiny but it works. It’s a good way to save money as you start out.
11. Establish Your Brand
Branding yourself establishes your place in the hierarchy of the local lawn care movement. Customers get to know you by your brand, and use it to distinguish you from competitors.
There are many ways to establish yourself as a brand, both in person and online. As your company grows, your brand reputation grows too. Here are some ways to start establishing yourself.
Get a Business Phone Number
Nobody wants to get business calls on their personal line. Investing in a business phone number helps you keep track of business calls, and looks professional to your customers.
There are different options for business phone lines, including traditional companies like T-Mobile and AT&T. A modern alternative is Google Voice . You can add a business line for as little as $10 a month. Google Voice works from your mobile phone, tablet, or even laptop.
Create a Logo & Brand Assets
Logos create a visible brand for your lawn care company. It helps customers find you through signage, and lets you make branded merchandise.
Creating a logo for a new business doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. Platforms like Looka take all the guess work and uncertainty out of logo creation. Using state of the art AI, Looka makes your new logo based on your personal preferences. You choose several logos you like, a color scheme, size, and even a font. Looka does the rest.
Create Business Cards and Signage
With your logo in play, printing business cards is a snap. Business cards might sound like an old school market tool, but they’re used every day in modern business. Hand them out at local events, send them with mailer coupons, offer them during introductions. The more that business card gets around, the more visible your brand becomes.
A great place to start the business card creation process is Vistaprint. The Vistaprint process is a bit like Looka. It lets you design a card based on color and style preferences. There are different packages and prices to choose from, making it easy to buy under budget.
Purchase a Domain Name
Before new clients contact you for lawn care services you can bet they’ll visit your website. Having a custom domain name makes it easier for customers to find you. It also puts you in a position of authority within your field by creating a more professional digital footprint.
Namecheap.com is a simple place to start the domain name hunt. You can get a .com address for $5.98 and up per year.
Build a Website
Website accessibility is important. Modern consumers want to find information quickly and efficiently, and they browse from an assortment of devices. This means a mobile-friendly browsing experience is a must.
As you build your website think about things like:
12. Join Associations and Groups
There’s a reason so many lawn care professionals take part in trade shows and networking events. Connecting with like minded people and other lawn care business leaders provides support and information on industry changes and new lawn care services.
Getting involved in landscaping associations like The National Association of Landscape Professionals is a good place to start.
Along with international associations, you should look for local groups to join. Networking with other businesses in your industry keeps you in the know, and could help with future partnerships.
The best way to find a local association is online (or by asking around at local landscaping events). A quick Google search will likely find you with some state-wide groups, for example the Lawn Care Association of Pennsylvania or the Iowa Professional Lawn Care Association.
Online groups are useful, but getting together in person at local tradeshows, networking events, and conferences is even better. Use tools like Meetup to search for local events by zip code or city. You can also create your own group or meetup on the site.
Facebook is an undervalued business resource, especially when it comes to Facebook Groups. Join others in your industry for chats, marketing, even equipment and product sales. Some top Facebook lawn care groups include:
Use these groups to make friends, market yourself, and learn new tricks of the trade. These are great resources for free advise and support in your niche.
13. Focus on Marketing
Small local businesses depend on marketing efforts to build community relevance and brand recognition. Whether your community has an oversaturated lawn care industry, or you’re one of two companies in town, marketing gives you a leg up on the competition.
There are many ways to market yourself as a landscaper, here are a few.
Ask Friends, Family, and Coworkers
As you start your lawn care efforts, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to help you market yourself. You’d be surprised how impactful these first marketing initiatives can be.
Some of the ways friends and family can support your advertising include:
- Trying your services and leaving a positive online review
- Handing out business cards to friends and colleagues
- Sharing company newsletters and social media content
Word-of-mouth marketing is still effective. Tell your loved ones to spread the word about your lawn care services.
Digital Marketing Ideas
You made a website, got a personalized domain name, now you need to market it all online. There are so many digital resources for advertising. The first, and one of the most important, is registering your lawn care brand with online business registries like Google Business. This makes it easier for consumers to find you online.
Some other ways to create a digital footprint include:
- Google and Facebook ads
- TikTok or YouTube video creation
- Posting photos to Instagram and Facebook
- Hosting social media contests
- Engaging with customers online
- Writing a company newsletter or blog
Consumers love companies they can relate to. Humanize your lawn care brand by posting photos of your staff on your website, or making “a day in the life” videos to show how your office runs.
Traditional Marketing Ideas
Traditional marketing offers tangible advertising resources to customers in your town. Things like flyers, coupon mailers, billboards, park benches and city bus signage, and even newspaper ads are all forms of traditional marketing.
These touchable ad forms leave a lasting impression. Even if customers don’t choose to keep the flyer or business card, they’ve seen it, or physically held it. That’s more than you can say for emails which sometimes get stuck in junk mail filters, or deleted.
14. Focus on the Customer
A lawn care business depends on its customers for continued income. Many of your customers will be returning for weekly or monthly services. Focusing on your customers maximizes the chance of repeat sales and an ongoing service structure.
A few ways to show customers you care are:
- Engaging on social media
- Offering loyalty rewards
- Requesting customer reviews and polls to evolve and enhance services
- Offering custom lawn care packages for unique circumstances
We hope this guide has offered some valuable insight on starting your own lawn care business. Best of luck with your ongoing efforts, and keep it green!