Advice for starting a leaf raking business?

by jvest
27 replies
I'm working as a writer, but my boyfriend is unemployed right now so we are struggling. Now that fall is really underway, and there are a ton of leaves on the ground, I thought it might be a good idea to start a leaf raking business. That way he can get out of the house and bring in some money, even if it's not a lot. Tomorrow I'm going to go to the dollar store and pick up a couple of rakes, some gloves, and trash bags. Then I thought we could advertise on craigslist, and put some fliers up around town. Since so many of you do offline marketing, I was wondering if you have some advice for us? We were going to charge $20 for a small yard, and $40 for a large one. Would you pay that to have someone rake leaves? Thanks in advance.
#advice #business #leaf #raking #starting
  • Profile picture of the author Red Kaiser
    Make people WANT for someone to rake their leaves.

    "Want to ensure your lawn is vibrant and has no bare patches in the spring? Then you should rake your leaves today! BETTER YET, hire me to do it for only $20"

    Not much of a copywriter, just an idea. I would then go to a neighborhood in where the leaves cover the entire lawn, ask an owner if you could rake the leaves for free in return for a referral and do that job for free. Then when you go to the next house asking if they'd like your service for $20 tell them their neighbor John (the name of the first guy you raked the leaves for) loved the work you did for him.
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    • Profile picture of the author jvest
      Originally Posted by Red Kaiser View Post

      I would then go to a neighborhood in where the leaves cover the entire lawn, ask an owner if you could rake the leaves for free in return for a referral and do that job for free. Then when you go to the next house asking if they'd like your service for $20 tell them their neighbor John (the name of the first guy you raked the leaves for) loved the work you did for him.
      That's a great idea, thank you!
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      • Profile picture of the author jvest
        Originally Posted by xlfutur1 View Post

        I would gladly pay someone $50 to rake and clean all the leaves out of my yard. Last time I had it done 3 guys charged me $150 and they didn't do the greatest job. Someone could make a killing in my neighborhood doing this if they put forth the effort.
        Wow, that's way more than I thought people would pay. Thanks for the heads up

        Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

        Here's the flyer to put in mailboxes

        Enjoy!
        Ewen
        Thank you so much! I'm a writer, but I usually do web content, not sales copy. That's much better than what I would have come up with.
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  • Profile picture of the author RichAnderson
    I remember back in 2008 I was laid off for about six months. A buddy of mine that was also laid off called me and asked if I wanted to make some extra cash. He said he had a job raking leaves for a guy that had three or four rental properties. By the end of the day we had 11 different jobs and had to complete the last two the next morning. Over the next three weeks we must did 25 jobs.
    Our base price was 50 bucks for normal size yard and we gave free quotes to large yards and commercial properties. Most of our jobs came from referrals or just drive by stops. I called up my girlfriend at the time and asked her to print out a bunch of flyers. We passed some of the flyers out but most of the time we just handed them to the customers and ask them to tell their friends and family. If you work hard and you are polite to your customers you can make a nice little side income.
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  • Profile picture of the author xlfutur1
    I would gladly pay someone $50 to rake and clean all the leaves out of my yard. Last time I had it done 3 guys charged me $150 and they didn't do the greatest job. Someone could make a killing in my neighborhood doing this if they put forth the effort.
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    • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
      Here's the flyer to put in mailboxes

      Enjoy!
      Ewen

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      • Profile picture of the author Red Kaiser
        Incredible ewenmack, you never disappoint. Everything in that copy has a purpose, unlike my attempt at copy lol.
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      • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
        Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

        Here's the flyer to put in mailboxes
        Can I play too?


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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    Leaf raking is very LITERALLY a business that ten year olds start every day. Go door to door, thats the classic way. I did it myself as a kid, as Im sure many others have.

    If you are a little older and wiser, all the better.
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  • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
    Stop;

    Grab rake, bags/ blower / mower ... edger if you have one.

    knock on every door you see.

    script(s)

    Hi, i am bob, i see your grass is a little high, i am starting a new route,
    i will do your front and back lawn ... plus ( edging - blowing ) for PRICE
    for 3 months... just to prove i am awesome.
    after that my price is .... XXXX ...
    lets get started ... any pets in the back yard? great...


    ++++++++++++++++++

    starting at nine.. my family was one of those " find your own way or perish mindset "

    SO.. for school clothes... candy... ect

    that was my script to mow lawns.. rake lawns.. shovel snow.. clean gutters...ect

    i started at nine, and kept it going thru high school...

    i also sold newspapers and delivery...

    I was also the shy, ugly, quiet kid...

    if i could do it... then ... you can too
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      When I lived in Atlanta I had a big yard filled with huge pine trees. Smelled great after a rain but the pine needles were a mess.

      For several years there was a couple and their teen son who came several times a year and raked all of the pine needles up - for nothing! It was a great deal - they took the haul of pine needles and pinecones away - they made Christmas ornaments, wreaths and pine candles to sell at flea markets and they sold the pine needles as mulch. Talk about a win win.

      They had this arrangements with several people in the piney area where I lived and the wife told me they made a "tidy sum" each year.
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  • Profile picture of the author Eddie Spangler
    1. Dont do any free yards-that is a hideous idea and totally not required to get a referral
    2. Dont stick stuff in mailboxes, may be okay where Ewan lives but in the US its illegal
    3. Post 10 is all you need to get all the business you can handle, no need to struggle when money is everywhere just waiting to be had... Although I would combo cold knocking with leaving flyers that has a picture of you on it for people that are not home.
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  • Profile picture of the author dalegolden
    Good thinking. I hope you will get success with it. Thinking from whatever you have, is the best thinking. Do not think from the top while you are at the bottom.

    All the best wishes for you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rob28x
    I used to do lawn care full time. Charge by the hour, as it is going to take you much longer then you could have imagined. We had backpack blowers and everything and it still amazed me at how long it took. Most lawn care companies charge $60 per hour for leaf cleanup using 3 guys for example. I quoted a yard $80 once, I was doing it myself as it was a smaller yard (1/3 acre), had a high powered backpack blower and everything. It actually took me about 10 hours to do that yard. The next one I did that size worked out to $220.

    If you are planning on using leaf bags, then you need to figure those into your cost as well.

    Check out the website www.lawnsite.com for more information. Just search for "fall cleanup" or "leaf cleanup"

    Like others have said, its something that pretty much anyone can do. Thing is that most people do not price it right, and do not do it for long. $20 or $40 per yard is way too cheap. It also depends on the type of trees in the yard, if they are wet or damp, etc. so it's hard to just quote a price on the job as a whole.
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  • Profile picture of the author bob ross
    Something like this can work really well with flyers if you don't want to go door-to-door.

    Pick a neighborhood/area that you want to target and get a bunch of flyers printed. Post the flyers everywhere you can find that people in that neighborhood will frequent. Grocery stores will be really good, just place them where they put the free magazines and stuff at the exit areas.

    Put them on corkboards/bulletin boards in gas stations or convenience stores. Churches, senior centers, and Banks often have these as well. You can also shove them in newspapers.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Definitely charge more than you first posted. I personally would love someone to come deal with the problem that is my messy yard. Do not do freebies.

    The thing about hourly rates that can scare some customers off is the fear that you'll be slacking. Every time they look out the window and see you taking a 10-second break, their blood will start to boil. "Why y'all leaning against them rakes?!"

    I would charge a high fixed price and then do a great job.

    Keep track of who and where you do the work for; maybe a receipt book or a notebook.
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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    Walk neighborhoods and charge a fair price based on how long he thinks it will take.

    Kids have been doing this for years and if the price is fari and you do a good job they will pay again and again. You can even get routes for snow removel and mowing.
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  • Profile picture of the author vndnbrgj
    I would look at getting a leaf vac.
    I would go to DrLeafVac.com
    Order that. If you don't have a riding mower, you can go to a John Deere dealer
    And buy a riding mower, trailer combo.
    Now you can do a job faster, mow and remove elaves at the same time.
    Kill two birds with one stone. Charge at least $99.
    Then grab and air compressor, an extension, and a J shaped hook.
    Now you can offer 1 story gutter cleaning as an add on.
    With the extension and the hook, you can do it from the ground.
    Charge $149 for lawn and gutter services.
    Do the gutters first, then the lawn.

    Even if people charge $30 for a lawn and $50 for the leaves, you can do both while you are there.
    Only target middle to higher end homes.

    I have some before and after pics of a lawn if you want them.
    Just send me a pm.
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  • Profile picture of the author RedShifted
    I would target affluent neighborhoods. My cousins does general landscaping but he has only targets wealthier people. This is after 12 years of busting his ass in middle income to low income nieghborhoods. The ONE thing he told me he learned, was to never target those places again.

    Instead of doing 40-50 lawns a week, he only does 3, and makes about 5 times what he use to. How is this possible? Because he started off doing just lawns. Then when he started getting more affluent accounts, he'd upsell everything. Because they were able to afford it. Trimming, mowing, mulching, leaves,etc. These people will pay to have their lawns cleaned once a week.

    Instead of middle income folks who only care about getting this stuff done once every other week, or worse once a month. Hes never had a website either which is impressive. He is able to clear over 6 figures a year from only **3 accounts** (I think last year he made $120,000 just from his landscaping business). So trust me, waste your time focusing on richer neighborhoods. One of the homes he does is an 3 acre property, the home itself is worth 4.2 million. They have gates in the front that open automatically, water fountains and everything. Its an incredible piece of property. You don't have to aim that high, but its sure as hell better than targeting middle/low income homes.

    The one thing he does different, which is discrimination, but it works, he never outsources the work to mexicans. He always outsources to college students.

    If I was you, I'd focus on nothing but getting your first few accounts. Then post ads on CL looking for college kids and pay them $10 an hour. You can charge $40 an hour per each person you hire. Then keep $30 an hour for yourself. This may sound greedy, but its exactly how he's been doing it for the last 3-4 years.

    He never branded his business or anything. If I was you though, it would be a good idea to have some machinery rather than rakes. Thats the only thing about rich neighborhoods. Their lawns are HUGE, you don't want to rake. The least I'd do is invest in a couple of commerical blowers, a tarp, and thats all you really need to get started.

    If you really want to do this, do it the right way. Thats my advice. Don't follow what everyone else does. Whats funny is how he spends his time now. All he does is drive his truck over to one home everyday, drops the college kids off, and they work all day. He tells them exactly what needs to be done, and they do it.

    The only thing is, anytime he hires a new person, he will stay on the property for the first 2 weeks. He'll make sure they can work on their own. He doesn't even have someone who watches them. Don't ask me how it works but it does. I think people like it better when theres noone around barking orders all day. They just put their headphones on and get to work.

    After he drops them off, he goes fishing 3 days a week. The other 2 days, he operates a italian ice stand which is also great money. He's got a few locations where I've seen him clear over $2,000 profit in one day. Its not always like that, but I never realized how much money there is in italian ice. Its seasonal, but so is landscaping. During the winter he doesn't do anything but fish. Most years he shuts his landscaping biz down a couple weeks before xmas. Then restarts around april I believe.

    For italian ice, he had to buy a machine for like $1,000, but thats his side hussle 2 days a week. His landscaping business almost runs itself. So if I was you, I would try to follow a model like that. It takes a bit of work to set up, but you will thank yourself later. Trust me.

    Good luck - Red
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    Doing ANY yards for free is TERRIBLE advice.

    I had a bad business failure about ten years ago and was literally feeding the family from food charities. I bullied my way back out of debt doing exactly what you are talking about.

    kenmicheals has a great approach...I would add

    1. Put every piece of yard equipment you can get your hands on in the car. Mower, hedge trimmer, clippers, rakes, etc...every single house you see has something that needs to be done. Just go to every door in a middle to upper class neighborhood, find something in the yard that needs to be done and offer to do it.

    2. Put soap, a bucket, some towels, some windex, armor all etc...in the car. Offer to wash and detail the cars for $25 each. People like this one.

    3. Only offer one service to each house. I found after HUNDREDS of trials that if you try to stack services you will sell much less. Point out something that needs to be done and sell them that. The cool thing is, a few weeks later (after they have had another paycheck) you come back to the same homes and offer them a different service. They will appreciate you coming back and the amount of rejection you get goes way, way down.

    4. Raking is very labor intensive. Charge at least $50 for a small yard.

    5. Here was my script that I worked out and it gets the business:

    "Hi, I am down on my luck right now and I am doing everything I can do pay my bills. I see your yard needs to be raked, I can do it for you for $50. I will bag leaves and stack them neatly by the curb."

    Same script for washing cars, trimming bushes, mowing grass etc...

    You only needs a few jobs per day and you are making $150. It is a great way to bring in cash. I literally did this seven days per week while working two other jobs too. Paid off my debt ($50,000) in 14 months.

    Trust me...it is worth doing this. It will prove something to your boyfriend. Every time he has to work hard in the future he will look back and think "this is nothing, I can handle anything."
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  • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
    When the leaves start falling I have to go out (at least) once a week and blow them off my loooong driveway:

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  • Profile picture of the author sandalwood
    Originally Posted by jvest View Post

    I'm working as a writer, but my boyfriend is unemployed right now so we are struggling. Now that fall is really underway, and there are a ton of leaves on the ground, I thought it might be a good idea to start a leaf raking business. That way he can get out of the house and bring in some money, even if it's not a lot. Tomorrow I'm going to go to the dollar store and pick up a couple of rakes, some gloves, and trash bags. Then I thought we could advertise on craigslist, and put some fliers up around town. Since so many of you do offline marketing, I was wondering if you have some advice for us? We were going to charge $20 for a small yard, and $40 for a large one. Would you pay that to have someone rake leaves? Thanks in advance.
    1) Great idea
    2) Don't do any yards for free
    3) Follow the tips about flyers from the pros in the previous posts
    4) Minimum charge = $50
    5) Be over at my house tomorrow at 9 and the fifty will be under the front door mat

    Tom
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    • Profile picture of the author sandalwood
      @kenmichaels

      I was also the shy, ugly, quiet kid...

      has anything changed? yuk, yuk, yuk...

      Tom
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      • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
        Originally Posted by sandalwood View Post

        @kenmichaels

        I was also the shy, ugly, quiet kid...

        has anything changed? yuk, yuk, yuk...

        Tom
        only... the "kid" part
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  • Profile picture of the author vndnbrgj
    I like that flyer... it looks nice.
    I would just edit the bottom
    So instead of saying "*Pain In The A s s"
    It says "*Pain In The, Well, You Know What!"
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  • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
    @ MrSubtle...

    is the typo in the word weekends on purpose ? so no one can copy it..

    or a clever pun that i am not understanding?
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    • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
      Originally Posted by kenmichaels View Post

      @ MrSubtle...

      is the typo in the word weekends on purpose ?
      ....Ooops.
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