Hedging Your Risk
A Lawn Care Business Owner's Guide to Subcontractors, Part 1

Hiring subcontractors can be a smart way for lawn care business owners to keep a flexible workforce and expand the services they offer. Of course, hiring subcontractors isn't always as simple as that. To get good help, you'll need to know what to look for when hiring temporary employees. And that can be challenging.

In part one of our guide, we'll talk about when and how you should hire subcontractors. Read on for more on hiring temporary help, or jump to "A Lawn Care Business Owner's Guide to Subcontractors, Part 2" for a discussion about how lawn care small business insurance can cover your subcontractor liability.

When Lawn Care Businesses Should Hire Subcontractors

Given how landscaping and lawn care work fluctuates with the seasons, it can be crucial for business owners to be able to add subcontractors to their ranks to handle sudden rushes and niche tasks. In particular, it can make sense for your landscaping businesses to hire subcontractors when…

  • You want to take on more work temporarily.
  • You want to try someone out before offering a full-time job or ongoing partnership.
  • A certain job (e.g., pesticide or fertilizer work) requires certifications or licenses that you don't have and don't have time to get.

Landscaping Business Tips: What to Look For in a Subcontractor

Hiring a subcontractor will be a lot like hiring an employee, but there are some wrinkles you'll need to address. Before you hire a sub, make sure you…

  • Check references.
  • Examine certifications (if relevant).
  • Look at examples of their work (if possible).
  • Verify their Certificate of Liability Insurance (if you require them to carry their own coverage).
  • Compare quotes/rates.

Many lawn care businesses will hire a subcontractor to do work they're unable to do because they lack the equipment or expertise. If you're hiring a subcontractor to do a land-grading, leaf-vacuuming, or other specialty service, check that they've got the right equipment for the job and verify they know what they're doing. You'd hate to hire a land grader who didn't have experience working on larger properties and lacked the tools for the job.

Paying Subcontractors and What to Charge Your Clients

Pricing subcontractor work can be complicated. Here's a scenario: a client hires you to do a land grading. You don't really have that expertise and don't want to make a mistake that could lead to flooding on your client's property. No problem. You hire a subcontractor.

The sub quotes you $1,200 for the job. Now what do you charge the customer?

  • It's standard practice to mark-up 20 to 30 percent.
  • In other words, you'd charge your customer $1,440 to $1,560 and pocket the difference.

See Landscape Management's tips for labor markup for more information.

It's easy to see why subcontracting work can pay off for lawn care companies. You're able to pocket a few hundred dollars simply by connecting your clients with a subcontractor.

One Final Thought about Working with Subcontractors

As a small-business owner, you're always trying to find new clients. Networking with contractors and subcontractors can actually help you find new clients.

Let's go back to the example above. You've hired a land grader. If you develop a good business relationship, the land grader may pass on clients to you. Just as clients will ask you for services you don't provide, the land grader's clients may ask him for lawn care and landscaping work they don't usually provide.

These "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" relationships are beneficial for both small businesses and contractors.

When you're ready hire a subcontractor, make sure to check out our article "6 Items to Include in Your Landscaping Subcontractor Contract" to learn more about protecting your business with a subcontractor agreement.

Next: A Lawn Care Business Owner's Guide to Subcontractors, Part 2.

Customer Rating 4.9 out of 5
Read Customer Reviews

Grab-n-Go Information

Landscaping Business eBook
Free eBook: Planting the Seeds of Success — Business Tips for Small Lawn Care and Landscaping Businesses
Browse eBook
Sample certificates
See a sample Certificate of Liability Insurance, the proof of coverage you need for most contracts.
View Sample
Sample Quotes & Cost Estimates
See what insurance really costs: actual quotes by policy & specialty.
Get Estimates
Ask A Question
Submit your questions about small business insurance and get answers from our experts.
Read Answers