To get through the long winter and lack of lawn care work, many landscapers take on winter-related work like plowing and snow removal. Whether you're clearing sidewalks in a Bobcat or plowing parking lots in your truck, this can be a nice way to get extra income during slow months.
If you're thinking about offering these services, now is a good time to look at the associated risks and what you can do to be prepared to meet the needs of new customers.
Want to Offer Snow Removal Services? 8 Tips for Getting Started
Adding a new service to your business often comes with growing pains, so let's look at what you should know ahead of time before your offer snow removal services:
- Connect with your current customers. One reason landscapers get into snow removal is that they already have a list of potential customers. Connect with your landscaping customers to see if they're interested in snow removal. It can be a great way to achieve a running start on your snow removal business.
- Consult with your insurance provider. Whenever your business offers new services, you should check with your insurance provider to see if you need to change your insurance coverage. To run a snowplow business, you'll probably need to modify your Commercial Auto Insurance.
- Equipment makes a huge difference. If you're just starting out, you probably won't have the same high-quality equipment as the company that's been doing snow removal for a decade. When you invest in snow removal equipment, remember that skimping on equipment could end up costing you if it harms your productivity. (Don't forget to check with your insurance agent if you need to upgrade your Property Insurance to cover new equipment.)
- The schedule can be brutal. Like driving your truck around at 3 a.m.? Some snow removal professionals like the solitude of this work, but it can be taxing for others. You'll be sitting at home about to go to bed when snow begins to fall. That means it's time to put on a pot of coffee and get ready for a long night.
- There are hidden costs for car repair and fuel. Snow removal isn't as simple as strapping a plow on the front of your truck. The wear and tear on your vehicle can be substantial. Plowing can be especially harmful to your transmission — and that's a costly repair. BOSS Snow Plow offers some recommendations for protecting your transmission.
- Business depends on the weather. Many snow removal professionals charge one fee for the entire winter's snow removal (maybe $300). A winter with a ton of snow can mean you're working harder but making the same amount. It can be especially difficult to budget because your costs will depend on how many snowfalls there are. More snow means more driving, fuel costs, and repairs.
- Decide whether to offer commercial or residential services. Commercial and residential snow removal differs much like it does for landscaping work (see our article "Commercial vs. Residential Landscaping: Small Business Tips"). Keep in mind that commercial clients stand to lose business if their parking lot isn't plowed. Because businesses can be sued if their customers slip on icy patches at their property, commercial clients may have high standards.
- Timing is everything. If you don't clear a client's driveway by the time they leave for work, you'll have to deal with frustrated customers who don't understand why they're paying for your services. Snow plowing can be thankless work. Customers expect you to do everything perfectly and only notice when you've made a mistake.
Like any business endeavor, snow plowing is good and bad. The schedule can be tough and a sudden transmission repair could cost you, but you're already connected with dozens of potential customers. For many landscapers, that gives them a leg up on the competition. Before your rush into snow plowing, make sure you're prepared for the up and downs that come with the job.