Updated: Aug 14
Over the past year, I've already spent time on the blog talking about outdoor based side hustles. Things like mowing lawns, shoveling snow, cleaning windows, and selling used golf balls are all side hustles that are well-documented and have followers nationwide.
But nobody said that your side hustle can't be unique. In fact, I have an outdoor gig that I bet you've never even considered.
Today, I'm back to talk about a highly unusual side hustle: starting a mulching business.
What is a mulching business?
A mulching business is one that visits residential and commercial clients to provide mulching services. You'll attract customers,
In addition to laying mulch, these businesses may also perform a number of other services, including:
Erosion prevention work
Flower bed design and edging
But particularly in areas with cold winters and warm springs, you can do quite well freshening up flower beds for customers each spring.
How to start a mulching business
Starting a mulching business is actually really simple to do! To get started, you'll really only need to solve for a few logistics, mainly:
Where to buy mulch
How to get it delivered
How to get customers
How to price your services
Where to buy mulch
The best part of laying mulch as a side hustle is that you won't really need to have a way to transport it. Rather, retailers like Home Depot or Lowe's may be able to deliver it directly to your job sites for you!
Depending on price, you may also consider partnering with local nurseries in your area.
Ultimately, to decide where you'll source your mulch from, I recommend that you consider these three main points:
Convenience and service
Good quality mulch will oftentimes cost somewhere between $25-$40 per cubic yard.
Ultimately, this cost must be baked into the price that you charge your customers. So, to keep your pricing competitive, you don't want to overpay for your materials.
One way in which you may be able to source discounted mulch is by building relationships.
2. Building relationships
Whether you opt for a national retailer or a local nursery, building a relationship and asking the right questions may earn you a contractor or business account discount, which could be up to 10% off - or a little more.
Regardless of where you decide to source from, just ask to speak to someone in charge of business accounts. Explain to them that you'll be purchasing in bulk throughout the season to fulfill customer orders and see what they say.
Ultimately, there are no guarantees, but you have nothing to lose.
Plus, if you're able to secure this discount, you may directly add it to your profit margin, rather than pass it down to your customers, since they wouldn't be able to buy mulch with this discount anyway.
3. Convenience and service
Convenience and customer service are also worth something.
If you have no problem getting the mulch you need, where and when you need it, then it probably does not make sense to change suppliers to save $1-$2 per yard. But if the price discrepancy is fairly large, then you may have a harder decision to make.
Getting the mulch delivered
In most cases, it will be logistically easiest for you to have the company deliver the mulch to your customer sites for you. In fact, many nurseries will even do so for free, provided you meet a minimum order size (may be determined in dollars of yards of mulch).
In most cases, though, the added expense of buying a truck won't materially save you money on your materials.
You'll just need to find the right cadence with your customers, since the delivery date may be out of your control. If they place an order with you and your supplier is backed up with orders for a couple of days, for example, then you may have to explain to your clients why the job is delayed.
At least initially, the hardest part about getting your side hustle going will be regularly getting clients to hire you.
Depending on the time and money you have to dedicate to this mulch laying venture, you may opt to consider marketing efforts with a loner term focus, like building a website.
Other marketing efforts to find clients in your geographic area include:
Creating a Google Business profile
Build a website
1. Create a Google Business strategy
The easiest way that you can start to spread word about your mulching services, Google Business profiles allow businesses exposure when someone in your service area looks for services that match yours.
You'll likely recognize these profiles as those companies that appear on a map on the Google results page when you search for something like "mulch companies near me."
To add your own listing to Google, you'll need to register your business here.
It is really easy to do, and you'll just need to provide Google with:
Your business's name
Whether you have a customer location
Your service area (up to 20 cities, zip codes, etc.)
Your phone number and website URL, if applicable
Then, once you verify that your profile is complete and accurate, you'll be ready to go!
2. Social media
Social media can be another excellent way to spread the word about your business. With a local service-based side hustle like mulch laying, Facebook can be a particularly helpful platform, particularly Facebook Groups.
Local town/city groups can be an awesome way to connect with potential customers and spread word about your offerings.
You can also create a Facebook Business Profile to post before/after pictures and past customer testimonials.
3. Build a website
A website may be the marketing strategy that best positions you for longer term success. To assure that your efforts don't go to waste, you'll want to learn a bit about search engine optimization (SEO).
Good SEO skills will help others in your area locate your services and website online.
When I first started my website, I used Wix because of the drag and drop functionality and SEO help directly through the platform. Other companies you may consider to get started include WordPress or Squarespace.
Results from blogging and SEO take some time to materialize, but once they do, it can be an excellent way to earn some free marketing!
Pricing your services
Once you have an interested prospective client, you'll be asked for a price quote.
There are a couple of ways that you can price your mulch laying:
By the yard
By the time it takes
There are pros and cons to each strategy.
For example, pricing by the yard allows you to give a concrete quote to your prospects up front, which they'll appreciate. It can be over simplistic, though, and leave you underpaid if you experience any logistical challenges, like sloped yards or tight flower beds against homes where you'll need to move more slowly.
On the other hand, you can price per hour of labor that you anticipate spending at a job, which will also allow you to quote a job before you lay the mulch. But it is important that you learn to estimate correctly, or your quotes will either come in too high or too low, where you don't earn enough money to make the work worth your time.
Here are a couple of pricing benchmarks to help you.
Most mulching businesses charge between $60-$100 per hour in labor or $30-$60 per yard.
Quoting mulching jobs
I believe in transparency when quoting potential customers for work you'll perform. So, make sure that you quote your clients for both the materials you'll need to purchase, as well as for the labor you'll put into it.
Remember that, if you're able to start a business account at a percentage discount, it is okay to not pass that discount along to your customers. Actually, I wouldn't.
This will pad your margins somewhat and lessen the financial risk of a deal should the labor be more arduous or time consuming than you estimated.
For example, let's say that you plan to lay 10 yards of black mulch that costs $35 per yard. A 10% discount means that the mulch will actually only cost you $31.50 per yard. Charging your customers the $35 though, plus another $50 per yard in labor, means that you'd quote this job at $850, plus tax.
Quoting these jobs doesn't have to be any more difficult than this.
How much money can you make laying mulch?
As I've alluded to, laying mulch can be a profitable side hustle for you. Depending on the number of jobs you complete each day, week, or month, you may be able to earn $20,000 - or more - per summer!
If you live in a warmer area or work spring, summer, and autumn, you can earn far more than this.
Laying just twenty yards of mulch per week, at $50 per yard in labor, could net you $1,000 per week! Hustle a little harder and $2,000 per week is within reach, all while getting some great exercise.
Though an unusual side hustle idea, starting a mulching business can be an excellent way to make some really good money, while at the same time improving your physical health.
Will you consider laying mulch in yards and business sites for money? Tell me why or why not in the comments below.
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