Make Money by Mowing Lawns

Seemingly, anybody can make money by mowing lawns regardless of age, gender, or economic status. Lawn care in general, however, has become a very competitive industry and it is harder to start out on your own. A good advertising plan, a small investment, and a desire to provide great service is all you need to not only succeed but also to expand.


Getting Started

  1. Weigh the pros and cons. It seems everybody has a yard to mow and as the world becomes a busier place, people just don’t have time to take care of their yard, hence the opportunity to start your own lawn mowing service. There are many things to consider before entering into this line of work. Taking time to consider the pros and cons before purchasing equipment, advertising your services, or dreams of expansion is a good idea.[1]
    • Pro: Stable and repeat business. As long as grass grows, customers will need to cut and trim it at least once a week.
    • Pro: Most people do not like weeds or bugs on their lawns so they need special fertilizers and treatments every one or two months. This is a revenue-generating consumable, or reoccurring product usage, allowing you to buy cheaply in bulk while charging a premium price.
    • Pro: Many opportunities exist for expanding your business with inside sales. Offer to mow the lawn and then build on top of that with landscaping, sod installation, gardening, weeding, or tree trimming. Once you are trusted, customers will have no issue expanding into other areas when they are ready.
    • Con: It is seasonal work in most places. You will most likely have to venture into snow-removing services of some type and that will add to your expenses for only seasonal work. In other words, the snow plow or lawn mower sits in the garage for half the year unused.
    • Con: This is a competitive market because it is so easy to get started. You will have to offer competitive prices and probably have to specialize to gain new business.
    • Con: The economy. Lawn mowing is considered a luxury service. As long as people have expendable income, they will pay for this service. When times are difficult you can expect this to be one of the first expenses cut (no pun intended).
  2. Research licensing and insurance. Visit the local city government or Chamber of Commerce to inquire about the laws regarding a business license and insurance requirements. There are several rules and regulations that you need to be aware of to run your business legally.[2]
    • All states have different requirements. Some states require that you register your business no matter what type it is while other states only require corporations, non-profits, and limited-liability companies. Make sure you check your state’s specific requirements.
    • If you decide to register as a sole proprietorship, then the state government usually requires you to file under your own name. This is called Doing Business As (DBA).
    • Insurance coverage exists for just about every business risk possible. The biggest difference is cost and amount of coverage. Choose among general, product, and professional liability; commercial property; and home-based business insurance. Check with your local insurance agency representative.
  3. Purchase equipment. If you do not already own the necessary equipment, you will have to prioritize which equipment and supplies best fit your immediate needs. Plan this step carefully because equipment costs can derail your small business before it gets started.
    • Focus on what specific services you are offering. If you only want to start by mowing grass, then check for local wholesale rates on consumables and other necessary tools. Start small and then expand once you gain capital.
    • Instead of purchasing equipment consider leasing it. Leasing provides several advantages such using modern equipment, tax benefits, minimal maintenance, and time to evaluate your needs.
    • To start a lawn mowing business on your own, save around $500 to buy a push mower, trimmer, and leaf blower. If you prefer to buy into a franchise, it could cost approximately $80,000.[3]

Advertising and Marketing

  1. Design your strategy. Unless you advertise and let people know that you are offering a mowing service in the community, your business will flounder. Advertising takes patience and a good strategy.[4]
    • Before making an advertising campaign, think about the purpose of advertising and what it can and cannot do for you. What are your long-range goals? Make a plan that you can measure success and failure against. Set financial goals, timelines for product updates, and increases in customer base.
    • How much can you invest in advertising? Too little or too much can hurt your business and wastes valuable time. Consider your income, expenses, and sales to come to a reasonable percentage of how much you can afford to spend on advertising.
  2. Conduct market research. You do not have to invest significant money or resources to conduct research on potential marketplaces. Much of the information is free and will allow you to analyze trends and demographics.[5]
    • You can check statistics and data on income and employment. You will want to target areas where people are both employed and busy. Two factors that will place a higher demand for your services.
    • Searchable databases for geographic location and social, economic, household, and demographic information exist for you to generate enough information to make good decisions where to start your business.
    • Government websites are good places to check for economic and population trends, crime, and education arming you with data needed to find a good place to start.
    • All that is left is to check out the competition. Check the phone book to see how many other lawn care services are advertising in the area. Or, drive through a neighborhood you are targeting two or three times during the week and keep track of how many companies are mowing grass.
  3. Detail your services. Provide the features and benefits of your services. Will you specialize or seek out a wide audience? You will need to clearly convey the benefits of your services to your customers. Customers need to visualize the benefits and agree they need your services.[4]
    • Profile your ideal customer base and target them specifically for your advertisements. As a lawn mowing service, you might want to focus on neighborhoods instead of individuals.
    • Search who your competition is and find out what they are offering. Determine their strengths and weaknesses and use this to your advantage. This will allow you to sales pitch your services better and find a profitable niche in the market.
  4. Stay informed of best business practices. As society evolves so does business. Purchasing a riding mower in today’s marketplace will make you appear outdated since zero-turn mowers provide a faster and more complete service. Modern technology will always make you appear ahead of the curve to your customers.[4]
    • There are many ways to conduct research without great expense. Most research for industry standards, market direction, and buying trends can be found either online or at the public library. Don’t spend a great deal of time and money on market research for this industry.
  5. Build your advertising plan. After you establish your target audience and specialization, it is time to implement your strategies. How are you going to deliver your message? There is a wide-range of media outlets for you to utilize. Stay within your budget and stretch your funds as much as you can in the most effective way. In many ways, your audience will determine the mode of communication.[4]
    • Always be on the lookout for special deals or promotional coverage in newspapers, magazines, and flyers to promote your business.
    • Other methods include mailers, cold calls, door-to-door sales, referrals from existing customers, and making yourself visible at local or community events. A good marketing campaign could also include “referral rebates” to reward your customers for recommending your services to potentially new business.
    • Consider creating a Facebook or LinkedIn online site to promote your business.
    • Offer free promotions that, although an initial loss, would gain more permanent customers down the road.
    • Print your company’s name on your equipment, work clothes, pens, paper, and calendars and make them readily visible or available to the public.
    • Cosponsor community events and advertise your participation in these events to expand your exposure to potential customers.

Growing Your Business

  1. Save money. If successful, you will be able to save a portion of your savings to either reinvest or expand your business. As you grow, you can ward off competition with superior customer service, referrals, and good advertising strategies.[6]
    • Research shows that lawn mowing and landscaping business owners earned between $5,000 and $50,000 during their first year of business. Thereafter, the earnings increased to $160,000 to $250,000 after a few years of business. Depending on size, location, and services, lawn care companies charged between $20 and $85 per mowed lawn.[7]
  2. Open a new location. Once you establish yourself in the community, consider opening up shop somewhere else. This is typically the first step towards expansion.[6]
    • You can use the same strategies you initially used to open your business. If they worked once, there is a good chance they will work again. Keep your audience in mind.
    • Target other markets and audiences. To reduce competition, expand your geographic range and diversify your customer base.
  3. Add a partner. If you are successful, it will not be too difficult to find a partner who is willing to invest in your company as long as it is profitable. Additional capital will allow you to expand, upgrade equipment, and distribute responsibilities.[6]
    • Don’t limit yourself to finding someone who does the same thing you do. Instead, consider somebody who offers different types of lawn services and combine companies. This will expand your services and customer base.
  4. Diversify your services. Lawn care is a seasonal occupation. By diversifying your business model, you will be able to supplement your income during seasonal voids.[6]
    • Increase sales and profits by selling complementary products and services.
    • Develop an offseason business.
    • Look for community work that is seasonal like substitute teaching in the winter.

Mowing Lawns for Extra Cash

  1. Start a lawn-mowing business. If you are looking to make extra cash as a student, retiree, or in addition to your regular job, starting a lawn mowing business is a good way to do it, especially if like working outside, providing a valuable service, setting your own hours, and making decent pay.
  2. Obtain equipment. Start by looking for older or in need of repair equipment because it will be cheaper. It will also make you learn how to fix the equipment you will be using. Once business picks up and you save some extra cash, you can invest in newer and better equipment. It is best to make sure you are successful before spending thousands of dollars on a failed business. [8]
    • The mower is the most expensive piece of equipment. Plan on obtaining an 18 inch push mower to cut grass at most residents. A larger model will cut faster but it is more expensive, heavier, and difficult to use around lots of shrubbery. You might want to get a grass-catcher that you can attach to the mower.
    • If you plan to focus on larger yards with several acres of grass, you will need a riding mower with a 36 to 48 inch radius in addition to the push mower. There is a great range in price for riding mowers so make sure you can afford it and be able to generate enough business first.
    • Tractors will break down. Make sure you do research on reputable dealers and mechanics in your area. In general, the more automatic the tractor is, the more breakdowns that will occur. Make sure to obtain a machine that is simple to operate and easy to disassemble and repair.
    • You will need to move your mower and other supplies with good transportation. In other words, you will need a truck or trailer. If you use a trailer, make sure you check the department of transportation for requirements and licensing. Same goes for insurance.
    • In addition to a mower and transportation, you will also need scythe for weeds, hand clippers, rake, basket, gas can, oil, spare blades, and tools for repairs.
  3. Set your rates. You will have to formulate a fee schedule before you begin. It is good to offer cheap prices to make your business more attractive to customers, but don’t sell yourself short. You still have overhead and advertising costs and savings to figure into your price.[9]
    • If you know or come across anybody already using or cutting grass as a service, inquire about how much it costs or they charge. Consider both hourly rates and lump sum charges.
    • Consider all factors in your pricing: roughness of the yard, height of the grass, moisture, the number of trees, shrubs, and flowers, and the amount of time you need to spend on hand trimming. These factors are in addition to the cost of gas and oil. Time is money.
    • Try not to estimate the size of the yard. Instead, pace it off and find out how many acres you will mowing. A good estimate to keep in your head is 210 feet x 210 feet is one acre.
  4. Generate business. When you are finally ready to begin, make people around you know that you are offering a lawn-mowing service. You will have to plan how to advertise and market your business.[10]
    • Start with word of mouth by visiting residents, garages, lawn equipment dealerships, hardware and general stores, and even the post office. These are high traffic areas and if you can even just a few people interested, you can get started.
    • Place advertisements in the local newspapers and flyers, radio stations, grocery stores, and leave them in people’s mailboxes or on their doorsteps. Nowadays, you can also advertise online with Facebook or LinkedIn.
    • Inform families and friends who can pass this information to other family, friends, colleagues, and other people they know.
  5. Collect payment. Depending on the type of customers you have, try to arrange flexible payment plans. Some people will like to pay as you go, weekly or monthly, or in advance. It is important to keep accurate records so make sure to keep an accounting book of some type. [10]
    • Provide a detailed invoice that includes the date, time, service time, and services rendered, along with an explanation of the cost.
    • Have a written agreement prepared for your customer to sign before you begin cutting the grass. The purpose of a written agreement is a safety net you can use to take non-paying customers to small claims court to try and win a judgment against them.

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Sources and Citations