Money Does Grow on Trees: How to Start a Leaf-Raking Business
Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? If your parents ever paid you to rake the leaves, you know that there’s green in those red and orange beauties. When the fall colors start to turn, it’s time to think about making a little extra cash by getting into the leaf-raking business.
Leaf raking is one of those jobs, like babysitting and paper routes, that used to belong to kids but is now often performed by adults. It’s an easy business to set up, and a quick way to make a little extra money in the fall.
How to Get Started
To run a successful leaf-raking business, you’re going to need two things: supplies and knowledge.
While supplies are fairly inexpensive, you might want to wait to buy them until after you have your first client. Even if you have to make a last-minute run to a lawn and garden supply center (or call a friend to borrow his rake), it’s still better than buying a bunch of supplies before finding out whether you’re going to have anything to rake!
- High quality rakes. Yes, you might need more than one, especially if you’re going to want to pull leaves out of shrubbery and do other finicky tasks. Check out This Old House’s list of speciality rakes to see what options are available.
- Both biodegradable and compostable leaf bags. Not only are these leaf bags required in many cities, you’ll also impress your clients by “going green.”
- Novelty leaf bags. Bags shaped like giant jack-o’-lanterns let you offer your clients that extra seasonal, whimsical touch — which might distinguish you from any other local leaf-raking entrepreneurs.
- Work gloves, boots and other protective gear. You’ll need to stay comfortable while raking, so make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Gloves are crucial — you need to avoid blisters!
You’ll also need a certain amount of knowledge, including:
- How to rake leaves quickly and efficiently. Popular Mechanics has a list of professional leaf-raking tips, if you need a good starting point.
- How to remove leaves from tough-to-reach places. You’re likely to spend a lot of time pulling leaves out of shrubberies, gutters, kids’ playhouses and other places they get stuck.
- Town and city ordinances on leaf raking and leaf removal. Some towns require leaves to be placed in biodegradable bags. Others require leaves to be put into clearly marked compost bins. Many cities have designated leaf pick-up days. Check the rules for your area.
How Much to Charge
For leaf-raking services, you’re going to want to charge enough that you make a profit, but not so much that your clients wonder if they could get a professional lawn care company for less cash.
Several people shared their experience and pay from both the leaf-raking and hiring sides in this post on Warrior Forum, but you’ll want to do your own research in your area. Check your town’s classified ads or Craigslist postings to see what other people are charging for lawn services. You can either price per hour or price per lawn, but if you choose the flat rate, make sure you have different prices for small, medium and large lawns!
How to Get Clients
Ready to get started? Try one (or more) of these options to find clients for your new leaf-raking business:
- Put a classified ad in your local newspaper
- Put a classified ad on Craigslist
- Hang flyers in coffee shops and other local businesses
- Post about your new business on Facebook
- Ask friends if there are any people they know who might need leaf-raking services, especially senior citizens, people who travel often or others who might not be able to rake on their own
What’s the one thing you probably shouldn’t do? Go door-to-door asking people if you can rake their leaves. Many towns and cities have solicitation laws that strictly regulate door-to-door salespeople. A 10-year-old might be able to get away with it, but as an adult, you’ll want to follow the rules.
While you’re at it, it’s worth checking out your city’s small business regulations to see if there are any permits you need for a small leaf-raking business. A simple call to your city government office, asking something like “I’m thinking about starting a short-term leaf-raking business. It will be a one-person operation and I expect to earn around $1,000 in total. Do I need any permits or licenses?” should get you the answer you need. (Also, while we’re on the subject of following the rules: don’t forget to keep track of your income and expenses for tax purposes.)
Once you have the go-ahead and your first client, grab your gear and get ready to rake in the cash!