At what stage do you start paying yourself lawn care business income?
When you set up a lawn care service, the whole idea is to be working for yourself. In a small business paying yourself is very important otherwise it defeats the entire purpose of being self-employed in the first place. Would you work for someone else without pay? Don’t do that to yourself.
You can hold off paying yourself for a small period when you first start a lawn care business if that is in your plan and you have the savings to cover it. As long as your business was not undercapitalized when you started, you should be fine. Fortunately, the financial entry level for a lawn care business can be minimal A lot of people just go out with a lawn mower and a trimming machine and that is it. This does not require a lot of finance.
Start keeping track
Start by keeping your business account separate from your personal account. You will now need to go a step further and keep a business account strictly for business only. You won’t be doing yourself any favours if you grab money out of your business account when you need it. No pies on the company card when you fill up with gas.
Any payments going from the business account to your account need to be structured and made on a regular basis. You cannot pay yourself in an ad-hoc manner. Remember that the company bank account is not your personal piggy bank.
You need to set up a regular pay period and stick to it. I pay myself a set amount every week without fail and have been doing so for the last decade or so. The fact that I had regular payments allowed me to do things like getting approved for a home loan.
Banks can have an issue with self-employment, and when I started, I found it hard to get any kind of finance. It used to frustrate me when people who worked for me had fewer problems financing than I did, and I can guarantee you that my income was more secure than theirs. As your business grows and your profit margin grows you start getting a history of regular payments from your company it will become easier to get personal finance when you need it.
Why regular income payments are best.
Having a regular income payment from your business can help in other ways too. It will make your household budgeting easier as you will know beforehand what is coming in. Having a set amount each week allows you to plan your household expenses.
Another major problem with erratic payments to yourself is that it will eventually attract the wrong sort of attention. The IRS dislikes business owners irregularly paying themselves. If this carries on for an extended period, then this is going to raise a red flag, and you may be marked down for close examination.
Even if you are running your lawn care and landscape business entirely above board, this can still be a huge distraction and a waste of time and money. You are better off avoiding this entirely by not sending out this sort of signal in the first place.
Now it is time to do the sums to pay yourself as a salary for a lawn care business. Wondering how much lawn care professionals make. Read more about that here Lawn Mowing Income – How Much Can You Make With a Lawnmowing Business?
Growth over income
Some lawn care business owners run their companies for years and pay themselves a minimum wage or even worse nothing at all. I heard of a business the other day that was taking in over a million dollars a year, and the owner was still not taking drawings. Their partner worked a full-time job to bring in money. I think if you are so focused on growth that you find yourself in this position then you have truly lost your way. Isn’t the whole idea of self-employment to employ and pay yourself a salary for a lawn care business?
Sure it is good to leave some money in your business to enable it to grow, but that is not the be-all and end-all. You need to focus on your goals and build your business to suit them.
When I first started my lawn care business, I thought I wanted the largest lawn care business I could build. Everything I did was focused on moving towards that goal.
Fortunately, I paid myself from day one (although a bit erratically at first). Within six months I had a fixed amount in regular weekly drawings from my business. I grew my customer base to over 450 customers, but I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was focused on growth, and I should have focused on building a profit-driven company. It worked out okay, and I did make a good amount of money but looking back I now think I could have done better.
I could have built a smaller lawn mowing business with fewer lawns and made the same amount of profit.
Sometimes leaving money in your business is the best investment you can make.
When weighing up your options if your business is growing in an optimal and highly profitable way then that can be the best place to put your money to keep the business going in the right direction. You will have to decide if this is the best thing for you.
For new lawn care companies, your aim should be to get 40 hours per week before you even begin thinking about employing other people.
As you are getting that 40-hour workweek going I recomend listening to audiobooks while you work. That’s what I do. I have a subscription to Scribd. I can read as many audiobooks as I want for a low monthly fee. Don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself on a two-month free trial here
Five ways to pay yourself a salary for a lawn care business?
You may want to do a bit of research on how best to pay yourself based on your business type such as Partner, Sole Proprietor, etc. I won’t cover that here, but if you go to this site about business structures. , you will find information that will help.
There are five ways you can pay yourself with a small lawn care business.
- As you need it (not recommended)
- Enough to cover living costs – good to start with but not as a long-term plan.
- The lawn care industry average for your role plus a bit more – good once you have grown.
- What you think you are worth – (not recommended unless it is pegged to turnover)
- Whatever is left over – is the worst idea.
When you start your own lawn care business with no idea about what you should be taking can lead to you overpaying yourself and not even realising it until your expenses start becoming due.
You need to know your numbers. Every business is different. I will be listing percentages for my business at the end of this post.
Yours will not be the same but they may be similar.
Before working out your pay rate, the final thing you should do is work out the break-even point for your business. That way, if your drawings are eating into your expenses budget you will know and reduce your overhead costs or increase the average cost of lawn before you run into problems.
I am going to briefly this here but if you want a complete guide you will find courses on how to do this at the lawnmowing101 membership
Wondering how much to pay yourself as a lawn care business owner?
The figures in this industry are all over the place, but from my experience, I would put the figure at around 50-60% of turnover. Also, remember to put money aside for taxes.
If you have a turnover of $2k a week you would be spending 40% ($800) on expenses and paying yourself around 50-60% ($1000-$1200) before taxes. You can get the running costs down if you pay attention to the details.
When you are starting your business the worst thing you can do is to draw more money than your company can afford to pay you. It is easy to do and may end up crippling your fledgling business. The method I would use to determine your starting income is simple.
- First, go to your personal bank account.
- Then go through all the expenses you have made in the last three months.
- Separate your expenses into two columns. The first column is the necessary expenses and the second column is luxuries.
- Divide column one by twelve.
- Add 25% to allow for taxes.
- Now you have the weekly income amount that you can pay yourself for the first three months.
Hang on you might say. I am just starting, and I haven’t got 5 lawns yet so I can’t do this. If this is the case, then this is the amount of savings you are going to need to put aside for the first three months.
Please note that if you are using savings, you can skip step five. You will not be paying taxes on your savings. If you have not got the savings or access to the funds, then you are going to be going into this business undercapitalized. Starting a business without funds does not mean it won’t work, but you are going to have to be hard-headed and put in twice the amount of effort if you want to succeed.
Do your first evaluation of your drawings after three months. If you are still not paying yourself after the three-month mark, then start now. Your next three months should have regular payments going into your personal account. Get used to your drawings and treat them like wages. Learn how to start to live frugally for a little while now, and reap the rewards later when you start paying yourself a great salary from a successful lawn care business.
Other things you may need to consider in a new business.
What happens if you want to spend extra money on a luxury item? Well, you can still do that if you plan it right, but you will have to do the work. If you aim to bring on eight new customers a month in your business plan, then aim for more and pay yourself a small bonus if you get over that amount.
It won’t hurt your business if you are doing a little bit better than predicted so you can reward yourself. On the other side of the coin, if you are continually failing to meet targets, then you are going to have to tighten your belt and re-evaluate your objectives to make sure they are not unfeasible.
What you want to aim for is to get your personal income to an industry level within twelve months and then add a bit more (for the stress of self-employment). Do some research here and also ask yourself how much would I pay someone to do my job. That is an excellent place to start.
Now you may be thinking “What if my business can afford to pay me more than that”? If you are in this fortunate position, don’t pull out the profit in a piecemeal fashion as bonuses. Wait until the end of the year and then make a lump sum payment to yourself. If you are making this payment in October, it will undoubtedly help with the winter squeeze.
Looking for a few ways to increase your income by upselling to existing customers? Read more about that here. Upselling Lawn Care Customers Can Unlock More Profits
Do not attempt to reduce your taxes by keeping yourself on minimum wages forever. This behaviour is another red flag for the IRS and unless you want them to come “knocking on your door” don’t even think about it.
We have found it pays to be honest about income. You can’t exactly go to a bank to buy a house and say “On paper, I earn 32k but I actually earn 50k”. You can’t sell a business like that either. To succeed you need proof of income.
There are also algorithms that tax organisations run to pick up discrepancies in expenses such as the amount spent on fuel and the amount of income produced. They have industry figures on all of these things made with information accumulated from thousands of businesses like yours. If you continuously fall outside these industry averages, you can expect a friendly visit from your local tax office.
There are legitimate personal expenses that your business can cover.
This list is just a general idea as different locations have different rules. You will need to see an accountant for professional advice for your business.
Health insurance – We have some of our policies covered by our business. Others don’t qualify, and we have to pay for these ourselves personally.
Home office – If you have an area set out in your home solely for business use you will be able to claim for it. This claim will not cover the kitchen table, but it will include a desk in the corner of a room.
The use of your personal car for quoting – If you find yourself doing a lot of quoting or visiting customers in your family vehicle you can claim for this. You will need to keep a logbook.
There is a multitude of other expenses that can be covered therefore reducing your taxable income. IRS has a list of them IRS expences.
General running costs
As I said earlier, I am now going to run through a few of my percentages. These may be similar to yours if your business is turning over less than 350k per year.
If you are over that mark, then things begin to change as you will have different kinds of overheads needed to run your business.
I will start with an owner-operator first. My wife and I now aim to pay ourselves around 60% of turnover these days. We allow 35% for running my business and leave 5% in the company as a buffer.
When we had staff and worked actively in the business, we aimed for 40% of turnover. Every sole-operated van we put on the road increased our income by 20% of their turnover. Running costs can get up around the 35-45% mark when you employ people as you always seem to have an endless supply of equipment that needs repair. As a side note, we always bought equipment new, and the repairs were mainly due to the rough handling of the gear.
If you want to keep things really simple then you can pay yourself 50% of whatever you turnover every week. Then your business will always be healthy and you will be able to pay yourself a little bonus every year at tax time.
Growing your assets
One good way to increase your assets with your business is to buy your own company building if you ever get to the size where you need one. You can then pay yourself rent and produce an income while building the value of your business.
Remember why you became self-employed in the first place.
As a final note, I would like you to think about what is your motivation, money or lifestyle.
If this is solely a money-making venture, then grow the business and put any spare cash back into your company. If you work hard for four to five years, you may be able to build a business that doesn’t need you. Be cautioned that this is not as easy as it sounds but with diligence and determination it is doable.
If you are getting into lawn care for a lifestyle change and do not want to employ people, then focus on maximising your returns so you can achieve the best income for the least amount of time spent in the field and ensure a steady stream of income.
If you started the business, so you could spend time with your family. Then don’t go and plough all your extra time back into the company if it’s going to take time away from your family. Remember why you started the business in the first place.
I hope this helps and that you now have a plan for how you are going to deal with your personal income going forward.
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