Starting a Yard Maintenance business has great potential to be a rewarding and lucrative career. It does take a certain type of individual to run a successful Yard Maintenance or Grounds Keeping business. Before starting there are many things to consider if this is the right business for you. Starting and running your own business is very satisfying yet also takes a huge commitment to make it prosperous.
While not required to run your own business and perform yard maintenance, a formal degree in Grounds keeping is an excellent way to gain some formal training. When it comes to larger clients they very well may request to see your education experience. A bachelor's degree in Grounds Keeping will often provide you with general business classes, lawn care, horticulture, pest management and landscaping architecture classes. This formal education should prepare you to get your business going.
Before securing your first client you need to understand the cost, time, resources and requirements to start your business. A good place to start is by checking with your state small business division for business licensing and insurance requirements to operate in your state. Depending on the services you intend to offer will also determine the necessary certifications and/or licenses you will need to obtain. For instance if you are applying fertilizer or pesticides your state may have specific licenses you must obtain.
Once you've determined the necessary state requirements you should consider the additional expenses you will incur. You'll need a lawn mower, rake, leaf blower and the means to transport all of your yard and lawn care equipment. If you're a one man operation then you can get started with basic equipment. You'll want to keep your tools in good working order too. If the lawn mower breaks down you won't be able to service your client's yards. As you gather more clients you can put aside money and invest in better equipment. Have a plan of action and stick to it. You will also want to determine what you intend to charge your clients. With that in mind be realistic about how long a job will take you to complete. Have a pricing structure that you can use as a reference for the services you are offering. For example mowing a small front lawn will not take much time. Although if you are mowing, blowing leaves and trimming bushes this will take significantly more time. If you're performing weekly lawn and yard care you might want to offer a lower rate versus a monthly yard maintenance project. Consider your disposal fees for yard waste and be sure to calculate those fees into your pricing.
There is more to just mowing and blowing a yard. If you are trimming trees or bushes you need to have a thorough understanding of horticulture. When is the best time to prune different plants, suggestions for proper watering and fertilizing during different seasons, organic and environmentally friendly plant or pest care solutions for best results. These will be tasks you need to manage and have answers for when a client asks questions. Be informed and talk with other gardeners and nursery workers to stay on top of your business. Read gardening magazines or websites to gain tips and additional knowledge. If you are asked a question by a client about yard care and you don't have an answer then be honest with them. Tell the client you will research their questions and get back to them and then do so. Your clients will appreciate a correct answer rather than making something up to pacify them at that moment.
Next begin forming your business. You may start as a sole-proprietor or even form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Typically an LLC will protect your personal assets in the event you are held liable for any damages or injuries. There are different costs and processes involved based on the company types so do your due diligence when forming your company and determine what best suits your business needs. Regardless, be sure to carry business insurance to cover any liabilities.
Acquiring new customers can be done in many ways. First look to family, friends and neighbors for opportunities to care for their yards. Start off with a few clients to get a better understanding of how long a job will take you. As you get a handle on things you can promote your business via a website or even fliers at local business. Hand out business cards to your existing clients and let them know you are looking for referrals. You can even offer a one-time discount to an existing client that sends you a referral. Another option is to offer a small discount for a group of neighbors. If you can secure 2, 3 or 4 yard maintenance jobs on the same block that will save you travel time and might warrant a discount to encourage more neighbors to request your Yard Maintenance services. Act professional and take care in the jobs you do perform. These existing clients are an excellent way to create a network of referrals and continue to grow your business.
You should also invest in your business. As mentioned above put aside money to purchase better equipment. If you're growing and the jobs are requiring more time consider hiring an assistant to help. It's not uncommon for a grounds keeping business to be able to generate over $100K a year in revenue when well established with a consistent list of clients. After expenses and taxes this can translate into a $30,000 to $50,000 salary. Don't expect to make that kind of money right out of the gate as it will take time to build your clientele but there is a lot of potential in the grounds keeping industry. As you continue to grow you can also begin to offer other services such as Landscape Architecture or Landscape Installation. Do note these services will often require additional licensing and/or certifications. Keep at it, work hard and before long you can create your own successful Yard Care business.