As with any start-up business, there is a lot of knowledge you’ll need to acquire if you’re looking to start your very own landscaping business. Landscaping is a large industry and there are many factors that go into making your business a success.
You’re reading this for a reason. You want to know how to start a landscaping side hustle. No more wasting time. Let’s dive in!
Phase I: Planning Your Landscaping Business
What’s The Purpose Of Your Landscaping Business?
What is the purpose of this side hustle? Do you want to make some extra money for the summer? Will this be your full-time job going forward? Do you have a dream to start a landscaping empire? Are you trying to stay in the neighborhood or venture outside your local town?
Examine your goals and align on the purpose of this effort. It’s not hard but it’s not easy either. Doing landscaping is outside in the elements and can be tiresome. Once you hone in on your goal, it’s time to start diving into the details to ensure this becomes a success.
Research The Landscaping Industry
Have you ever done landscaping before? Do you know how to cut grass? What about trimming hedges and bushes? Have you used fertilizer? Do you know how sprinklers work and how to ensure lawns are in top conditions? If not, go online and learn. There are YouTube videos, articles, or even friends out there that know what they’re doing. Learn in the beginning, not the end. You can start a landscaping business with just cutting grass. Learn that first.
Landscaping Expenses And Pricing Models
This is the part of the planning phase that everyone hates but is, BY FAR, the most important to nail. The goals of this section are to figure out:
Up Front Costs
What amount of money do you need to get started? Do you have a push mower? Do you own a riding mower? How about a leaf blower to clean up the cut grass? These are the items that you need before you even think of getting your first customer and some of these things can be pricey.
Make a list of all the equipment you need to get started. This includes an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) and legal documentation, the mower, a leaf blower, perhaps? Estimate the cost of these items and total them up. That is your immediate up-front cost to enter the landscaping industry.
Tip – If you’re starting from scratch, purchase a manual or electric push mower first. You can get a nice one for around $100 and it’s much easier to transport. If you have access to a riding mower, try and get your hands on that but it’ll cost you in gas, transportation, and worry if it breaks down on you.
The good news about the landscaping business is ongoing expenses are relatively low. If you have a push mower and an electric leaf blower, you have no ongoing expenses. They don’t take gas and we’re assuming you don’t mind an extra dollar or two added to your electric bill. If you do more than cut grass, which I highly recommend, other expenses would include fertilizer, seeding for lawns, and weed spray.
If you have a riding mower, these expenses will include gas, transportation for the mower, and the other related expenses from above. Add all of these up as your ongoing expenses. These items you’ll have to replenish over time.
Tip – Try and estimate how much you’ll use per job.
Tip – Buy in bulk. It’ll cost more up front but price per ounce/pound will drop considerably saving you money in the long run.
Cost Of Each Job
Once you have your ongoing expenses, take that number, and divide it by the number of lawns you can cut with those goods. This is the cost of each job or how much you must pay in expenses to do a single lawn.
For example, let’s say you have a riding mower and every job you seed the lawn and put down fresh fertilizer. Gas for the mower is $30, seed is $10, and fertilizer is $20. Your ongoing expenses add up to $60. Let’s say you estimate that you can do 10 landscaping jobs with this amount of materials. $60 / 10 jobs = $6 per job. This means that is costs you $6 every time you complete a landscaping job.
Pricing And Margins
Once you know what it will cost you to do one landscaping job, you need to figure out what to charge! This largely depends on the size of the lawn and other add-ons. On average, a job can be $30-$80 a visit. Because you’re on your own and not a reputable company, I’d start with $20 for a regular cut and work your way up.
When creating a pricing structure, you want to make sure 1. It’s fair to the customer and 2. It creates margins that you’re happy with. Undercharging won’t make you any money. Overcharging won’t bring you many customers. The combination of these will help drive your pricing model.
A margin is simply the difference between what you charge and what it costs you to cut one lawn. If we take the previous example of $6 per job and you charge the customer $20, your margin is $20 – $6 = $14! This means for every lawn you cut, you make a profit of $14! Now you can play with the math and get you excited for the possibilities, right?
Tip – Remember, pricing is never forever. You can always change pricing as you see fit.
Once you have the cost of each landscaping job, calculating the breakeven is simple. Breakeven happens when you make back the money you spent on the items from the beginning. You take the up-front costs and subtract the margin per job which gets you the number of jobs you need to complete to breakeven.
For example, if you spent $120 in up-front costs and have a profit margin of $14 per job, you would do $120 / $14 = 9 jobs. This means that once you complete 9 jobs, you’re profitable moving forward!
Tip – You should never start a side hustle without a plan to breakeven. Plan for breaking even being the worst-case scenario.
Expected Range Of Revenue And Profit
Now that you have the estimated up-front costs, ongoing costs, pricing model, and breakeven points, you can start estimating what your revenue and profit could be! The formula is simple. Revenue – Expenses = Profit.
For example, say you expect to complete 20 jobs and we use all the information we previously discussed.
Revenue = 20 jobs * $20 per job = $400.
Expenses = $120 for upfront costs + $6 X 20 jobs in ongoing expenses. For 20 jobs, that means, you’d spend $120 in ongoing costs so $120 + $120 = $240.
Profit = $400 – $240 = $160!
Tip – 20 jobs is a lot and you’re going to need help. You may have to investigate hiring employees or expanding. The $160 is the business profit, not necessarily what goes into your pocket.
Tip – I would create a low estimate and a high estimate for the number of cars you will get and have a range of revenues and profits. This way, you can expect the worst and hope for the best!
Phase II: Running Your Landscaping Business
Legal and Incorporate as an LLC
Go to www.Legalzoom.com and start an LLC. It costs around $100. Just bite the bullet and do it. Trust me.
Marketing & Finding New/Repeat Customers
Do you live in a neighborhood? Walk door to door. Do you have friends or family friends? Message them. Do you have Facebook? Blast out a message on there, Instagram, and Twitter. For Landscaping, everyone who lives in a house needs it. Don’t be afraid to ask and work with them on prices and services.
Tip – Think about how you can compete with other landscaping companies. Can you beat their prices? Maybe you do a better job? Maybe you provide them with knowledge and information the other companies don’t. Get creative and beat out the competition.
Get To Making Money
You have a plan, your pricing models & margins, marketing, your equipment, and your LLC setup. Go find some customers, cut some grass, and make some money!
Phase III: Expanding Your Landscaping Business
Recurring Customers And How To Keep Them
After the day of cutting some lawns, make sure to take 15 minutes and think about:
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- Did you use more of less seed or fertilizer than you thought?
- How do you speed up the time it takes to do one job?
- Did you have fun?
- Did you make the money you thought?
It’s important to reflect on the day and ensure it’s everything you thought it would be and how you feel about the future. Do you want to do it again? Was it worth it? You worked hard! Make sure it was worth the time and effort to do it again.
Expand the Business
You did it! You created your side hustle and are profitable. You enjoy running your own business and want to make it bigger! What are the options? How do you do it?
To expand, you must hire more people. These people can help in one of two ways. They can either help you cut grass faster lessening the time for a single job or you can provide them their own equipment and have them do jobs elsewhere creating profits.
Another way of expanding can be to purchase better equipment like a riding mower or offer more services. Maybe you can plant & trim flower beds. Maybe you can remove lumber or install sprinkler systems. Maybe you can add a handyman component to your business. Expanding your services allows you to not only charge more but find more customers who require those to be done.
Starting a landscaping business can be a lot of work but is relatively easy to get going with minimal costs. If anything, it’ll help you realize what it takes to start a business and you can parlay that knowledge into something else down the line. Until then, enjoy the sun and cut away!