You’ll need to establish some sort of fee schedule before you begin your first job. Start by inquiring about the prevailing charges for lawn-mowing in your locality. When I bought our first John Deere tractor, I asked the dealer what the going rate was and he “thought it might be” $7.00 an hour. We asked that and got it easily. The second year, we bought a bigger JD and raised our charges to $8.00 an hour. The year after that, our price went to $10 an hour (to cover higher gasoline, labor, and other costs). If this seems steep, just remember that the fee included two operators working two machines (a tractor and a trimming mower) at once.
Many customers — the ones who see an hourly rate as an invitation to a slow drag — prefer a contract (or “lump sum”) price to a by-the-hour charge. My advice is to figure on the high side if a firm price must be given in advance. Consider every possible factor in your estimate: roughness of terrain, grass height, amount of moisture (which can slow you down), the number of trees and shrubs to cut around, how much hand trimming will be required to finish the job, etc. And don’t just guess at the size of a green . . . pace if off. (It helps to remember that an acre is a square measuring approximately 210 feet on a side.) If youdon’ttake all these factors into account (and remain unflinchingly Of course, in the final analysis, there’s only one way to get a feel for how long it’ll take you to mow a given amount of lawn, and that’s to practice mowing. I strongly recommend you do so.
How to Generate Mowing Business
When you’re finally ready to launch your service, you’ve got tomake yourexistence known. Leave word at garages, lawn equipment dealers, feed stores, general stores, and the post office. Place an ad in the local paper. (“Large lawns mowed” was our tag line.) Visit, write, or phone nearby institutions that have large lawns. Advise your local radio station. And by all means tell your neighbors and friends. (Word of mouth advertising is the best kind.)
I landed our biggest job simply by doing a little investigating. One day — as I was passing through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area — I noticed several large, thoroughly overgrown lawns surrounding some homes and estates that the Park Service had taken over. I sought out the appropriate official and asked if we could mow the pasture-like expanses of grass. Our timing must’ve been perfect, because (much to our gratification) the answer was “yes”.
No big lawns in your area? Other opportunities exist. At our former homestead, I used my Allis-Chalmers “C” tractor and a six-foot sickle bar to do contract cutting of hay. (I’ve also made money clipping brush and high weeds with an A-C tractor fitted with an eight-foot bush hog.) And, after the regular mowing season was over (October, in this area) Stan and I found we could still rig a shield over the exit chute of our mower and get work mulching the leaves on lawns.
The opportunities are there. All you have to do is seek them out.
Home Business Bill Collections
Some customers pay cash upon completion. Others — including the National Park Service — prefer to be billed monthly. A few others, alas, never pay up at all.
Most of the people we dealt with were honest and agreeable, I’m glad to say, but we did have a couple of “cuss-tomers”. One was a fast-talking “big operator” who said he wanted his place manicured and never mind the cost. He paid for the first two mowings, then — when the bills for the third and fourth jobs were sent — skipped town. Another guy was very apologetic and kept explaining that his “foundation grants weren’t coming through”. He, too, moved away and left us holding the grass-bag.
What can you do about customers that rip you off? Ideally, you should always have all your clients sign written agreements in advance. That way, if polite persistence doesn’t get you your money you can take non-payers to small claims court and win a judgment against them. We made the mistake, in the beginning, of not requiring customers to sign a work order . . . and — as a result — we had nothing on which to base a small claims action.
Small Business Accounting and Taxes
Sad to say, youwillhave to keep accounts in this (as in any) business, both for your own future information and for the benefit of the Internal Revenue Service. I recommend that you keep a pad and pencil in your tow vehicle and take down dates, towing mileages, working hours, and expenditures as they occur. (You’ll be glad you did when income tax time rolls around . . . or whenever you feel the need to compute your profits/losses.) Likewise, save all receipts (your expenses are deductible) and be sure to take depreciation on equipment when it comes to filling out Schedule C of Form 1040.
Since accounting is not my forte, I get a tax lawyer to do our returns. The peace of mind — to me — is worth the expense . . . and anyway, the expense is deductible.
A Rewarding Small Business Job
Now that Stanley and I have become experienced grass-cutters, we’re convinced that the “mow for dough” business has a lot going for it. For instance: You can get started with a minimum of equipment (equipment you probably already haveanyway) . . . you get to work outdoors and meet people . . . you can put in as many — or as few — hours as you want . . . and the pay is pretty decent. As I said earlier, Stan and I took home $8,000 in three seasons of part-time work . . . and man, that ain’t hay!
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