Originally Posted by Steve
If you could offer some advice to others just getting started, what would you tell them to watch out for and what advice would you suggest to overcome those issues?
What to "watch out for" ... hmmm...
If a customer "skips" a payment, trust your gut feeling. If they don't pay you for a $30 lawn service job and you keep servicing the lawn weekly, the chances of collecting $90 or $120 will be tough.
When you're starting out, you'll take just about any lawn to get some money rolling in. Think hard about how far you're willing to travel for that 1 lawn. You might get 2 more lawns in the neighborhood but there is no
guarantee on that. After a month of driving xx miles to that 1 lawn (and burning a lot of gas) you will eventually start to find a way to drop them. The customer doesn't care if you're driving 1 mile or 20; they know the market price for their lawn so adding a fuel surcharge is almost out of the question.
If you have 2 (or more) lawns in the same neighborhood, try to service them on the same day
. I had 2 houses, 1 across the street from the other, and they were both bi-weekly. As you can guess, 1 lawn was on the 1st week and the other lawn was on the 2nd week. I was wasting a lot
of time and gas going to their neighborhood every week to do 1 lawn instead of every 2 weeks and doing 2 lawns.
Equipment/supplies: you might think that you have enough gas and don't need to fill up the cans. Or, you have your 50:1 mix but don't have any more oil. Trust me, you better fill up your gas cans and get another bottle of oil mix! Also, if you think you just loaded your string trimmer with line and you're "good to go" for another week, think again! Take more line! Take a small toolkit, gloves, ear plugs, etc.
Keep a good eye on your equipment! When you go in the backyard and you can't see your stuff you better have it locked down. Gas cans and rakes are cheap enough and easy to replace. My Echo trimmer and Echo edger cost me a lot of money (and the thieves know this). There are actually guys out there that drive around all day long acquiring commercial lawn equipment!
The customer is your boss
. I always addressed my clients as Ms. [last name] and Mr. [last name] in my conversations and emails. If they say you left a part of the driveway with clippings, apologize and give them $5 off the next service (or whatever you decide is fair). At the worst, they'll drop you if they think you messed up again but at least you made $$$ (minus the small discount). Best case, you're building trust and rapport and
you'll be banking more $$$ as a result of that little discount.
Don't say "yes" to everything. I took 1 guy that was WAY out of my normal area and he kept asking me if I would pull weeds, trim bushes, etc. I thought I was going over there for a cut, trim, edge, blow and to make a long story short I ended up being 2 hours late to my regular full-time job because this guy kept me doing "stuff." It's my fault for not taking control but it's hard to say "no" since you're already there and you'll earn $$$. I can't even imagine what would have happened if I had 4 more lawns to do that day!
If you're a solo operator (like I was), you're not
going to finish a lawn in the same amount of time as 3 guys working a lawn. That was 1 thing that really got me down too. Let's say you can get a small lawn for $35/week. It takes you 20 minutes to get there (start the stopwatch when you grab your keys). 30 to 45 minutes to do the lawn and back home inside the house is another 20 minutes (stop the stopwatch when everything is put away and you sit down). That's 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes for $35, or about $23/hour. You'll be surprised how much time you actually spend doing someone's lawn if you use a stopwatch. Even easier, how long does it take you to run down to the hardware store to pick something up? Even though you may think you're only gone 15 mins it's more like 30. Now imagine hooking up a trailer, making sure you have everything, blah blah blah...
That's all I can remember right now and it's not in any particular order. These are my own experiences and, as they say, the best lesson learned is the one learned the hard way!