Hi all, today marks 3 months since I did my very first job so I thought I would share my experience as a guide to anyone else starting out.
The first two months I was still working another job full-time so doing mowing jobs before and after work and so only been full time in the business for a month or so.
At this point I've managed to gain 35 regular clients and do a total of 145 jobs, most on fortnightly schedule however with summer over and the lack of rain in Brisbane I'm starting to see clients postpone jobs lately . My business plan goal is to have about 60-70 regulars, so I'm fairly happy that I'm already half of that. With summer over client growth will slow but I hope to reach my goal by the end of the year, ie after 1 year in business.
Location: I'm lucky enough to live in an inner Brisbane suburb which is fairly affluent area with larger yards and an older demographic. There are approx 10,000 properties within a 5km radius so for efficiency I limit myself to this small area. I see LOTS of competition but what I am finding is people appreciate that I am local rather than have someone driving miles to reach them.
Pricing: Best way I worked this out was to get 3 quotes (not beer bobs) for my own yard to understand the local going rates. All 3 quotes were the same so I got a clear idea that in my area $70/hr is rate I can charge and I've had no trouble getting this. I get about 80-90% of jobs I quote based on this. I stick to this rate for all work, apart from hedging which I increase to around $90-$100/hr.
What I have learned is DO NOT undersell yourself to try and compete with beer money bobs. You will never earn enough and burn yourself out trying to earn a living. Most clients are willing to pay a good rate IF you provide a quality job and most importantly are reliable and they know you will be around for the long term. If a don't win a quote or someone says I'm too expensive I don't care at all as I would rather gain long term well paying customers any day over slogging it out over cheapies- I happily leave such jobs to the beer bobs which I know will not be around in 6 months time.
- Flyers, have delivered about 5000 flyers to the immediate area, slow going at about 5 hours per 1000 delivered (bicycle) but they have been effective. At least half of all my calls are from the flyers. Design a quality glossy flyer on thick card stock over a cheap looking/home printed job. I used vista print and at about 4c a flyer is cheap. I also used them for some banners to put on my trailer.
-Gumtree: Probably only had 10 calls so far from the ad but is free so worth it.
-Local Paper: Started a 2 line ad in the local rag, only had a couple of calls so far from it but at only $70 or so for 4 weeks it's already paid for itself, probably only worthwhile doing in spring/summer.
-Webpage: Pretty much essential for any business to have a web presence so the webpage and google searches is where I get the 2nd most calls from and long term will probably be number 1.
-Yellow Pages online: Free and got a few calls so worth it.
-Facebook: Havn't put much effort into it and no success from it.
Equipment: When starting I didn't rush out and buy every tool under the sun. I find I really only need 4 things: mower, line trimmer, blower, hedge trimmer Obviously as well as the basics like rakes, ladder, fuel can, shears etc.
Mower: Starting off using my old reliable Masport but recently bought a HRX217. I wish I had bought this from day one. The self propel really saves me on those big jobs/days, mulching is superb and the increased size has cut my mowing time by at least 25% over my old mower. Only problem with it's size and weight it's quicker to use my old mower for small/tight yards with a lot of manuervering.
Line Trimmer: I'm big fan of battery gear and I got an Ego straight shaft at the Masters closing down sale with 3 batteries. It's been faultless and as cuts through anything I've thrown at it. Light, quiet, zero maintenance, reliable and no fumes- I would never go back to petrol powered. I can do 3-4 typical lawns on one battery charge so with 3 batteries it has covered 99% of my needs. Only got caught out once slashing a entire empty block, needed 6 charges.
Blower: Already had a Ryobi 36v battery blower, it does the job but will probably go with Ego 56v when it needs replacing
Hedge Trimmer: Existing ryobi 18v pole trimmer. Cheap but has been surprisingly effective, battery lasts a decent time and trims hedges fine. When I go to replace will look at something better though with a longer cutting head as I do quite a lot of hedging in my area.
Chainsaw: Ego 56v, again half price from Masters sale, as good as any petrol saw I've had.
Clothing: I wanted to avoid the fluro shirt look so wear king gee workcool shirts and shorts, all cotton and breath well. Just got some Merrel Moab waterproof hiking shoes, very happy with them.
Vehicle: This was tough one for me as I tossed up between ute, ute and trailer, van, existing sedan and trailer. I went with the last option and don't really regret it so far. I bought a 2nd hand 6x4 trailer that used to be one of those mobile dog washing trailers-high enclosed sides and roof that opens up. It can carry all my gear plus a few large chaff bags of clippings, which for 90% of my work is fine. With no gear it can carry a decent amount of garden waste although I don't do many garden cleanup jobs. I like the idea of my gear secured and out of the weather so I think I will end up getting a van like a hyundai iLoad that will do for 90% of my jobs and for the other 10% cleanups bring the trailer as required.
Accounting: I use Wave, online free software, it does what I need and is free whats not to like.
Lastly my best tip for those starting out: Read this forum, read every post. You will learn an incredible amount from it.