Some people wait until their midlife crisis to start a business, but if you’re a teenager can you think of a single good reason to wait?
As long as you’re fulfilling your scholarly obligations and doing your chores at home, you can sacrifice some of your free time to start a mowing business which will not only help pay for discretionary purchases but will also teach you a whole lot about what it means to be an adult.
Why Would A Client Hire You, A Teenager?
At first, it might seem unrealistic that a person would hire a teenager with basically no experience instead of a professionally trained gardener. But if you think about it for a second there are actually some benefits that you can offer them that nobody else can.
Firstly, you’re going to be cheaper than an established business because they have a lot more costs than you have, and let’s face it: they’ll probably do a better job more quickly than you can due to the fact they’ve been doing it for years.
Another reason why you might win a job over an established business is that it just feels good to help a teenager out. Everybody remembers what it was like to be your age and it’s a beautiful thing when a teen puts their heart and soul into an endeavour such as this, especially if they’ve known you for a while and have watched you grow from a child.
This means that you’re going to have the greatest success with people you already know such as neighbours, friends and relatives so try there first and then ask your existing clients to refer you to their family and friends.
You can also do a letter drop around your neighbourhood in Australia, just avoid mailboxes with “No Junk Mail” or “Aus Post Only” signs.
Another thing you can do is suck up your pride and go door-to-door. Let them get to know you, and have a business card or flyer to give them. Fridge magnets are more expensive to print but are likely to be kept for longer on the client’s fridge.
Usually I wouldn’t recommend door knocking for a gardening business owner, but because you’re a teenager you’re still cute enough to get away with it.
Equipment You Need
Realistically, you can get away with just a whipper snipper (a.k.a. weed whacker/brushcutter), a mower, a blower plus a few hand tools like a pair of secateurs to cut the trimming line and consumables.
Consumable equipment includes trimming line and petrol that need to be replaced regularly.
Your parents may have some of this equipment but you’ll need to purchase consumables like a new roll of trimming line, etc. It would be nice if you at least replaced everything you borrow, if not add more equipment to the shed than when you started. Nobody likes a mooch, especially parents.
I’ve written an article with a comprehensive list of equipment an established gardening business usually has.
When To Work
You’ve probably got school, so obviously you’re going to have to work in the afternoons and on weekends. Before you even start this enterprise consider whether you actually have the time or not.
It may mean sacrificing some of your leisure time.
Moving Your Equipment Around
It’s probably best to work in the neighbourhood until you get a driver’s licence so that you can walk your parents’ equipment from their shed to the job. If you have some kind of cart you might be able to take multiple items at a time so you don’t have to keep going back and forth.
You can also ask your clients if you can use their equipment so you don’t have to move so much heavy equipment. You can just ride over on your bike with a backpack full of PPE (personal protective equipment).
Doing The Work
It’s pretty simple work but there is a knack to it. You could either spend years learning from your mistakes or you can learn from my experience by reading my 8500 word article on mowing lawns. It’s a good read.
Other Services You Can Offer
Hedging and pruning is a no-brainer because you can move this equipment around more easily than a mower, whip and blower. Make sure you check out my pruning section to learn how to do it properly.
Another service that your neighbours probably don’t want to do is dog poo removal. You can charge an additional fee each mow as an upgrade. While you’re at it, why not also offer to offer a dog walking or washing service to squeeze as much work out of every client as possible.
Less Is More
While it can be a good idea to help your clients with tasks other than mowing, it’s important to be realistic about what you can offer and not over-extend yourself.
Take it in baby steps. Don’t try to take on too many tasks that you simply aren’t qualified to undertake like spraying chemicals, plant health identification, handyman tasks, etc. because you don’t want things to get out of hand.
Someone needs to teach you these things so you don’t make serious mistakes. Besides, mowing, pruning and dog poo removal is enough to take on anyway, don’t you think?
If you’re catching lawns or removing pruning waste you need to think of what you’re going to do with the rubbish. You can either use the client’s green bin, borrow or hire a trailer to take the rubbish to the dump or you can ask your parents if you can build a compost pile in their backyard.
Once the compost is finished you can charge your clients to spread it on their properties. Cha-ching!
Coming up with a quote is one of the most difficult, and one of the most crucial parts of running a mowing business.
There are a number of different ways to quote, but one way to think about it is in terms of time. Choose an hourly rate and think about how long the job will take to travel to and complete, then do the math to work out a quote.
A normal mowing business usually charges a minimum of $40-80 per hour in Australia. As a teenager, I suggest you charge somewhere between $20-40 per hour depending on your costs and expertise.
You can ask clients to put money in an envelope under the mat or in their letterbox if they aren’t home to hand it to you in person. It’s up to you to ensure you get paid; I know it’s confrontational but unfortunately there are some people out there that are a bit “relaxed” when it comes to paying.
Just be kind and honest, but firm and fair.
The fact that you’re a teenager provides you with the perfect brand identity; people love paying the neighbourhood kid to mow the lawns. It’s a great tradition.
If you know an artist (especially a graphic artist) you can have them make a logo and flyer for your small business. Alternatively, you can have one created on Upwork (not an advertisement but an honest recommendation).
While you’re building your business you can simply schedule in a Google calendar doc or another app on your phone. Eventually you can move on to a better scheduling app like Service Autopilot (again, not an ad – I just love this technology).
The old cliche is that teenagers think they’re invincible, but you’re better than that aren’t you?
Be generally competent, by which I mean become good at your job, be aware of dangers and pay attention. Never start a machine without your proper safety glasses, ear protection and any other relevant PPE.
The sun is a slow killer and the time you spend outside during these years are the ones that will affect you the most later in life. Slip, slop, slap yo.
Saying Thanks To Your Parents
If you’re planning to use your parents’ equipment and building compost in their yard, you should make it up to them, even if they say it’s totally fine.
You could do this by pledging to do their lawn as part of your run for free, and to use some of the compost in their gardens. Keep spreading that love, baby!
Starting a successful mowing business is a real possibility for you. If you actually put your heart and mind to this, you can make just as much, if not more money than working for somebody else. And wouldn’t you rather try to start something of your own than work for some old miserable bastard at the fish and chip shop?
We’ve really just started to scratch the surface on what’s possible here and just because you’re a teenager doesn’t mean that you can’t start setting up your future now. Running a mowing business is a fantastic career for any person that loves the outdoors.
Where To From Here
I mentioned a few articles above that I recommend that you read, which were how to mow, a list of gardening equipment and how to prune.
Besides that, I reckon that learning to start a mowing business without any money is a good idea for a teenager looking to set up their own business on the cheap.
You can also go through plant biology, plant health problems, fertilisers and plant water needs. Now we’re really learning about plants and their needs!
Plant identification skills come in handy from time to time, but they’re mainly used to flex on clients who are (at least subconsciously) impressed when you know something they don’t. You can also go through my series of plant families, subfamilies and genera for a crash course on many of the plants we see and work with every day in Aussie gardens.