Imagine if you could start a real business without a single dollar to your name. Can it be done?
As far as traditional trades and service businesses are concerned, a mowing business is one of the closest options you’re ever going to get to that dream. I would argue it’s almost possible to start the business with a balance of $0 if it weren’t for things like insurance and registering your business.
Not to mention petrol if you don’t already have a full jerry can of unleaded fuel as well as some 2 stroke oil.
Walk Before You Can Run
Now is not the time to learn too many new skills. When you’re first starting, it’s simply about getting your business started, sourcing your clients and mowing lawns after your day job and on the weekends.
Ideally, you will have professionally gardened for at least 6 months before starting your business so you know your way around the tools and the garden, or at least you’re familiar with the environment. You can always work as a gardener for your day job while you’re starting this side-hustle, either full-time or you can go part-time so you aren’t over-working yourself.
Wait a little while before investing in a lot of equipment. I don’t mean to sound too negative but there’s a good chance that you might fail in this enterprise; in fact, it’s estimated that one in three small businesses fail within the first year alone.
If you’ve gone and invested a whole lot of money into a business that fails, that’s pretty horrific for you you and your family whereas if you’ve been patient and grown slowly it won’t mess your whole life up quite as much if you fail.
With that being said, it has to be acknowledged that this is just a strategy and it can equally be true that you have to spend money to make money. If you do have money to invest (meaning risk) you can see faster results.
Use The Car You Own
Any car that you can fit the equipment in and you don’t mind ruining is a good car to run for your budget lawn mowing business. Maybe just roll down the windows because the smell of petrol can become overwhelming. It doesn’t go away and will make the car harder to sell in the end.
Alternatively, you can buy a roadworthy bomb that you intend to run into the ground. It will help if you know about cars but do your research and choose something with a good reputation.
Use Tools You Already Own
If you already have a whipper snipper and a mower that fit into the boot of your sedan, you really have everything you need to start a shoddy mowing business.
I’m honestly not even saying that’s a bad thing; there is a place in the market for an absolute bottom-dollar mowing option. You don’t even need a blower if you’re going for this market; you can get away with blowing most paths with the whip.
Your jobs won’t look as good without a proper blower, but hey. Once you’re ready to add a blower to your tool kit you’ll be able to do a better job and in the meantime, you can use a broom to help you.
Here’s my list of equipment that an established gardening business needs for something to aim for in the future. You can also check the list to remind you of items you already own.
Use Clients’ Tools If You Don’t Own Any
It’s not unheard of for a gardener to use their client’s tools. If you’re comfortable asking them to use their tools and they’re happy to lend them, that’s a great way to do it. Once you can afford to buy your own equipment you’ll have access to a much wider market of clients who want you to have your own tools.
Registering your business is relatively simple and cheap, you just need a tax file number. Having a separate business means that you as an individual wear less personal responsibility for any accidents.
As a brand-new mowing business without many tools, a good hourly rate starts at about $50. It’s not much, but it pays for petrol and your time. A minimum charge on a fixed price lawn might be $40 or more if it’s overgrown.
Remember, you are a business owner now, not an employee. You should be charging significantly more than you were making in your wage to cover other expenses and time spent doing unpaid tasks like accounting, driving, quoting, etc.
While it’s almost possible to start a mowing business without spending a dollar, insurance simply must be paid for before you even think of stepping onto a client’s property.
So many things can go wrong every single time you work, from smashing windows to injuries, and you’re responsible as the contractor. Seriously, make sure you’ve got the correct insurance or you can go down big time.
Grow As You Go
Over time you can accumulate some more equipment so you can open up into other services such as pruning, spraying and mulching.
Put aside a little bit of money each work for more equipment or for a rainy day. You never know when you’re going to need to pay an insurance premium.
Eventually, you’re going to need to start charging your clients more so increasing the price a little bit each year can soften the blow as opposed to going up steeply in one jump.
Okay, so it isn’t really possible to start a mowing business without spending a single cent. But if you save just a little bit this is a really achievable dream.
Avoiding spending money and patiently building your business in your off-time is a smart move. If the business fails, or even worse, if you find you don’t actually like the work you can move on to a new chapter with minimal remorse.
Where To From Here?
Start by reading my article about getting in and out of lawns quickly. It’s full of helpful tips for the uninitiated mowing operator that will have you finishing an hour earlier every day.
Read my list of equipment and dream of what your business can be in the future.
Learn about hedging and pruning for natural shape through my pruning series. Or alternatively, you can learn about weeds through another of my series.