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How To Start A Land Clearing Business

If I had to start over from scratch, here’s how I’d make $238k profit in 2024.

Start a land services business as an Owner Operator.

Work 7 months out of the year. Manage only 1 crew member. Take the winter months off to ski, snowboard, and snowmobile.

I did it, and here’s how you can start your own small land clearing business (and grow it!) as fast as possible.

Land Clearing 101: What Is A Land Services Business?  

A land clearing business is simply any service involved in improving land: land clearing, excavation, tree removal, demolition, hardscaping, boulder walls, etc. 

These are all services that can be done with a skid steer and mini excavator to begin.

In 2022, I quit everything to go full steam into land clearing in my area, Winter Park, CO. I learned a lot, and I’m more convinced than ever that this is a great business for anyone with a little bit of skill in the trades and a good work ethic.

You don’t have to be the best equipment operator around, and you don’t even need a ton of hours in the driver’s seat. If you come from the construction industry or simple have some gumption, starting a land clearing business can be a great way to make real money and have control over your time.

So, here’s my crash course land clearing business plan.

Before you purchase equipment…

Before you go looking for low interest loans…

Before you consider leasing equipment, vehicle maintenance, specialized equipment and ALL of the things that people tend to overthink when starting out…

Start here.

Here’s the step by step breakdown of exactly how I’d start a successful land clearing business if I did it all over again.

… without making an outrageously significant financial investment.

This business structure does assume I’m using a few personal assets (namely a personal truck I already own) and have a $10k budget.

Here’s what I’d buy first when starting my land clearing company:

  • 8’ x 20’ Utility or Dump Trailer – $7k 
  • Chainsaw – $400
  • Domain – GoDaddy – $10
  • Landing Page – Temp Website – free
  • Google Business Profile – free
  • Logo – Canva – Free
  • Flyers – Canva – Free 
  • Business Cards – Canva – $100 
  • LLC (Limited Liability Company) or Business Entity – Secretary of State – $50
  • Branded Shirts – Shirts – $10 each
  • Insurance – Simply Business – $500
  • Yard Signs – $300 

Total cost to start a land clearing business? <$9,000

Picking Your Land Clearing Business Name

Your name should be short, simple, and recognizable. Importantly, find a name with an available .com web address.

Mine is Bear Claw Land Services at www.bearclawlandservices.com.

Do I need to name it “land clearing” or “land services”?

That’s up to you.

If you want to give yourself options for multiple services to offer, make sure your name isn’t too restrictive. Consider “your geographic area” + “land services”.

If you know you want to specialize in land clearing, excavation, or demolition work, choose “your geographic location” + “service you want to specialize in”.

To Generalize or Specialize Your Land Clearing Services?

There’s no right or wrong answer:

Generalize = better in the short-term (more options to generate cash flow earlier).

Specialize = better in the long-term (own one specific market & get REALLY GOOD at it!).

Make sure your name is short, sweet, easy to spell, and with no repeat letters.

Examples:

I’d go to YouTube and spend all day watching videos about the different services I wanted to offer. If you’re never operated equipment before, you should probably pick a different business model. Or go work for an excavation company for a year or two to get some operating experience.

Check out The Owner Operator YouTube channel if you want to learn more about starting the business or see our day to day operations including running the equipment.

Here are some other YouTubers I’ve learned from:

Next, you’re gonna need to line up some equipment. 

Bobcat E50 & Bandit tracked whole tree chipper used for land clearing.

Land Clearing Business Equipment: Rent To Begin

Don’t rush out and by a bunch of heavy machinery. This is your chance to keep startup costs low!

Open Google Maps and search “your area” + “equipment rental”. Find the local mom & pop shop. Make sure they have plenty of skid steers and mini excavators. You can always go to the big companies later if you need to, but it’s better to build a long-lasting relationship with the smaller company., Trust me: they’ll prioritize you once you start renting consistently.

Introduce yourself and ask them to email you a rate sheet for all their equipment. Leave them a business card and ask if you can leave a business card & flyers on their bulletin board. Yes, they are guaranteed to have a community bulletin board, and if you establish a great relationship, you may be surprised to attract customers simply by word of mouth.

Now you’re ready for your first land clearing project.

Get Your First Jobs Clearing Land

In order to get your first jobs, you’re gonna go knock on doors. You don’t need to make a big investment in marketing materials or an elaborate marketing strategy just yet.

Check out the detailed article here where I outline how to get your first jobs. The bottom line is: be genuine, find your target market, talk to as many potential customers as possible, do incredible work, and you WILL grow a successful business.

Post Flyers

You’ll want to post flyers all over town. Get creative with this! Where would people with property hang out? Think about your local farm and ranch stores where you’ll see high demand compared to urban neighborhoods.

  • Tractor Supply
  • Ace hardware
  • Home Depot 
  • Lowes

You know the places, just get there and start putting up signs.

Identify The Areas of Town  or Neighborhoods Where The Land Clearing Industry Makes Sense

You probably have an idea of what part of town your ideal job is going to come from

Go to that neighborhood and knock on doors.

Talk to people.

Tell them you’re starting your own land clearing business (bonus points if you’re young). People love helping out young entrepreneurs.

Play that card ALL DAY LONG if you’re in your 20’s, and this can even work into your early 30’s too.

Tell people you’re starting a new land services business. Don’t pressure them with sales tactics, just be genuine! Your job is to get the word out about your new business, and you’re simply trying to get as many “impressions” as possible.

Impressions lead to sales.

Potential Customers: It’s A Simple Math Equation 

If you can convert your impressions into sales at a conservative 1% –

Talk to 100 people = 1 new job lead 

Hand out 100 flyers = 1 new phone call

Put out 10 yard signs with 100 daily cars = 10 new calls 

This thinking helps to reframe your focus on controlling what you CAN control: talking to people.

In the early days, you can’t control whether people call you or not. YOU CAN control how many people you talk to, flyers you hand out, or yard signs you put up.

Focus on the things you CAN control.

Quoting Your First Land Clearing Job 

So what happens when the first person calls you from a yard sign? 

Walk the property with them! Take notes.

Don’t use your phone; older people hate that and they’ll think you’re texting instead of listening to them. Bring a notebook and pen.

Tell them you’re listening and taking notes as they walk through the project with you.

When they ask you, “so, how much is this gonna cost?” 

Kindly say, “I’ll take these notes and write up an estimate for you.”

Ask them for their email.

Shake their hand, look them in the eyes, and thank them for their time.

Tell them you will have an estimate to them by end of day the following day, which gives you enough time to work up your numbers. If you can send it same-day –– that’s even better.

Estimating Your First Job

The goal in the beginning is to get a job under your belt. That doesn’t mean you should do the job for free, but don’t get so caught up in getting the estimate right that you lose out on the job. Here’s how to do your first estimate

  1. Get your equipment rental cost from the equipment rental company
  2. Estimate how many days the project is going to take you 

Pro Tip: Most rental companies usually give the machine to you for a week if you hit 3 days

If you think the job is going to take you 3 days, use the weekly rental rate. Charge a below-market rate for your labor (so you can ensure you win the job). Fair market rate in my area for an equipment operator is $85/hr.But i’m in the mountains of Colorado where cost of living is high. If you’re in the south or midwest, this is probably closer to $55 or 60 bucks an hour (just a guess). At the end of the day, charge whatever you’re happy making for your hourly time to get the job

If it were me, I’d even be willing to charge the customer $25 / hr for my time if it meant the difference between getting that first job or not.

Keep in mind that you’ll be able to increase your prices as you grow your business 

But that only comes with leverage.

Once your schedule is full, you have more leverage to charge customers fair market value

In the early days, you gotta take what you can get.

Example of a 3-day land clearing job estimate:

  • Equipment rental – $1500 / week
  • Labor – $1200 ($50 / hr) 
  • Fuel – $400 

Total: $3,100

This is not how I recommend estimating jobs long term, but in order to get your first job, you want to charge the absolute bare minimum to ensure you get the job. And it’s a pricing strategy that works.

If you want to learn how to estimate profitably from myself and other experienced contractors, consider joining the OWNR OPS Alliance , an online group of local service business owners and contractors.

In the future, you’re going to add your markup to equipment, labor, and fuel costs. And you’ll also want to add in a line item for overhead & profit. 

But you’re not there yet. You need to get some jobs under your belt… AND GET 5 STAR REVIEWS

In the beginning, your goal is to get a 5 star Google Review from EVERY SINGLE job you do 

If you get a 5 star review on your first 5 jobs, and only covered your equipment rental & fuel costs, it’s worth the sacrifice in my opinion 

Most people aren’t willing to sacrifice time in the early days. But you gotta do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get your first jobs (and 5 Star Google Reviews).

Submitting the Estimate

When you’re ready to submit your estimate, send it via email and text. Jobber makes sending estimates simple, and you can get a free trial here if you want to check it out 

I don’t recommend anything I don’t personally use in our business, and I’m a big Jobber fan (as of right now).

Once you send the estimate via email & text, IMMEDIATELY call the customer. “Hey (customer name), it’s Austin. I just wanted to let you know that I just sent over your estimate. Can you let me know if it came through on your end?”

THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART BELOW:

Be quiet and let them talk. Gauge their reaction over the phone. They’re either going to be ecstatic about the price, or they’re going to be wishy washy. 

Or they’re going to immediately tell you the price is too high. Your job as an entrepreneur is to MAKE A DEAL.

I can’t teach you how to make a deal. You either got it or you don’t. But here’s what I’d say if they tell me price is too high:

“Mr. Customer, as you can see in this estimate, I’ve given you my BARE MINIMUM costs without any markup. As I mentioned, I’m just starting my business and I would love to do this job for you. I’ll tell you what, I’ll make you a deal…You cover my direct expenses (rental equipment & fuel), you name a set total price for my labor, and I won’t leave your project until you’re satisfied enough to leave me a 5-star review. Does that sound fair?”

Most people will take advantage of a deal like this. If they won’t, the next person will. Either make the deal or move on. Repeat this process until you complete 10 jobs with 5 star reviews.

Find Your Crew Members

In the beginning, you’re likely gonna be a solo Owner Operator, which means selling the jobs, fulfilling the work, and sending the invoices. But if you plan to hire crew members in the future, you need to start your search NOW!

Places To Find Crew Members as Your Business Grows

-Home Depot

-Lowes

-Ace Hardware

-Gas Stations

I met our lead operator (and now business partner) filling up diesel at the local Shell Station. I met our first general labor hire at Ace Hardware. 

Talk to people any chance you get. 

“How’s your day going?” when you’re filling up gas / diesel next to someone. 

If you’re waiting in line to check out at Home Depot, ask the person in front or behind you:

“busy today?” Get the conversation started. Get to know people. Never leave one of these conversations without saying: “I’m looking for crew members to join my team. Know anyone looking to join a land clearing/excavation company?” Give them a business card.

Just like winning business, finding great employees is about talking to a lot of people.

Other Creative Ways To Find Crew Members

Look for solo operators on the following platforms:

Facebook Marketplace 

Craigslist 

If they have a company name & website listed skip to the next one. Find the solo guys with a Craigslist ad. I find subcontractors like this when I get leads outside of my service area 

Ask them what kind of work they specialize in and ask them if they have availability to quote a job in the next week. Here’s my pitch:

“I have a land clearing job in “xyz area” Do you offer these services in this area? Can you meet me at (upcoming job) at (time)?”

I’ll have multiple contractors meet me at the same job site 30 minutes apart, and I’ll have everyone quote me the same job. “How much to clear this 2-acre patch?” I’ll take note of all their prices in my sheet & interview them. I want to know a few key things:

How long in the business?

Do they have referrals?

Do they have business insurance?

What type of equipment do they use?

Did they quote hourly or by the job?

Do you have other operators? General Labor? 

I trust my gut feeling with these guys. Do they sound flaky, or confident & honest? This process can provide 3-5 good options for future crew members to fulfill the work.

Marketing Your Land Services Business 

Now it’s time to start digital marketing. This is my favorite part.

You’ve generated some cash in your pocket, and now it’s time to reinvest in the business. 

Here’s what you’re gonna need in the beginning: 

  1. Professional Website w/ SEO optimized service pages 
  2. Google My Business
  3. Social Media Pages

As an Owner Operator, it’s going to be tempting to DIY this part. But you’ll never be able to grow your business if you fart around building your website & social media. If you want to grow, you need to practice delegation. This will be your first test as a business owner: will you be a solo owner operator forever, Or will you be able to let go of the reins & pay someone else to do what they’re good at? 

I’ve owned & operated three small businesses in my entrepreneurial journey.

The first two, I spent my time building and tweaking the websites, posting to social media, etc. I did it all.

Now that I’m on the 3rd business, I don’t lift a finger for my websites or social media. It’s a COMPLETE waste of your time as an entrepreneur. You need to be focusing your time on hiring, selling, and taking care of your team rather than wasting time editing your website or posting to social media. You can pay a professional to set up your website and post to social media and be light years ahead of other businesses who try to DIY.

Get a Great Land Clearing Website

  • Cost: $2500 plus $99/mo unlimited support plan

You MUST have a website in this day and age. All of your baby boomer competitors are neglecting this. If you reinvest back in a website, you’re gonna blow them out of the water

Getting a website with an unlimited support plan is the KEY. You need a backend support team that you can request updates at ANY TIME. This saves you hundreds of hours of time over the long run. Want an update? Simply fill out a form with your update request. Want to add a photo from a recent job? ill out a quick form and upload the photo. Update is made within 72 hrs.

This allows you to leverage other people’s time while you’re focusing on growing your business. If you want a professional to build your website, get one here.

Set Up A Google Business Profile (Formerly Google My Business)

Just like the website you MUST set up a GBP. In this day and age, people search for your business on Google. You need to be there. Lucky for you, this is included when you get a website with OOHQ. You can set up the Google Business Profile account yourself, but you’ll want to read up on best practices for optimizing your account. It’s much easier to just let the professionals do it for you.

Get Your Land Clearing Business on Social Media Platforms

I personally hate social media. I’m like an old person in a 32 yr old body. It’s SUCH A WASTE OF TIME…but, it’s a valuable tool for your business.

As an entrepreneur, you need to get good at separating your personal emotions from logical decisions that can grow your business. Don’t be the old crusty boomer who doesn’t have social media for your business. You’ll want to set up all of the following accounts:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. YouTube
  4. TikTok (yes, I said it)

You can do all of this yourself and waste all of your time trying to come up with creative post ideas. Or, you can just outsource this and hire the same rockstar agency I use for my business. If you want an intro, email me austin@callbearclaw.com and put “SOCIAL MEDIA AGENCY INTRO” in the subject line. It’s the best $1500 / mo I spend. They’ve helped me grow my Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel without me ever having to login to any of the platforms and get lost in endless scrolling.

Get On Craigslist and Facebook

You should post ads in multiple Craigslist categories and on Facebook Marketplace. You will need to word your posts carefully on FB Marketplace. They don’t like service companies posting. Ideally, create a post in Canva with your name, number and list of services.

How To Use Facebook Groups as a Land Clearing Business Owner

People love to hear about young entrepreneurs starting their own businesses. Join every local Facebook group and tell your story!

Stories sell 10x better than products or services. People buy YOU, not your services. Just like in-person, tell your story every chance you get. Tell people you are young, hungry, and willing to deliver 5 star service at all costs. .And you’re willing to deliver it FAST! 

Most people will spend $3k to have the job done tomorrow rather than wait 3-4 weeks and spend $2k.

Post Your Own Business Story Everywhere

Every city has 10-30 local FB garage sale or gossip groups. Join them all. Start a conversation, don’t just copy/paste your same pitch. This is a high ROI activity. Trust the process. These posts will draw some calls.

Yard Signs For Land Clearing Businesses Work Too

Calls slowing down? No worries, time for bandit signs (also known as yard signs). These will be 10x more effective and cost about $300 for 100 of them.

Use DirtCheapSigns.com. Get 18×24″ signs. Black background color, Orange heading text, and white services text. Use this template I created in Canva. Get 2-sided with 15″ stakes.

They say:

  • LAND SERVICES
  • PHONE #
  • Service
  • Service
  • Service
  • Service
  • Service

CALL “insert your name” 

Put this on both sides.

Now, find intersections with the highest traffic counts in your area. Go to Loopnet.com and research the busiest intersections in your town. After dark, go on a yard sign delivery MISSION. Put 4 signs on every busy intersection corner.

100 signs x 1,000 (conservative) views per day = 100,000 daily impressions for $300 paid ONCE.

YARD SIGNS ARE CHEAP & EFFECTIVE MY FRIEND.

Remember when I said this is simply a math equation? You’re about to get TONS of eyeballs on your services daily, and I KNOW your phone will start ringing.

Ready For More?

Use a list scraper like Outscraper.com to get contact information for the following companies:

  1. Property Management Companies
  2. Home Builders
  3. Real Estate Agents 

Call these up and say, “I just started a land services business and I’m committed to delivering 5-star service. Do you have any jobs I can quote?”

Get 5-Star Reviews

Your goal on the first 10 jobs is to get 5-star reviews from all 10 jobs. You need to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get these reviews. I like to set the expectations with the customer at the beginning of the job: “My goal is to deliver service that is worthy of a 5 star Google review on your project. If you have questions or concerns about my work at any point throughout the process, please feel free to let me know.”

This does two things:

  1. You opened up the door for them to ask you questions or address any concerns along the way. It’s better to fix it during the job than come back and fix it later.
  2. You set the expectation that you will be delivering 5-star service. And, they already know you’ll be asking for the review at the end of the job.

After you complete the job, your order of operations will be as follows: 

What To Do After You Complete The Job 

  1. Walk the customer through the completed project
  2. Ask them to point out anything they have concerns about
  3. Fix anything they bring up (no matter how long it takes) 
  4. Ask them again if there’s anything else they need while you and your equipment are on site
  5. When they’re satisfied, send them the invoice from your phone with Jobber 
  6. Make sure to text it to them on-site, they will be impressed with the speed 
  7. Ask them for a 5-star review
  8. Text them the link to your Google Business Profile 
  9. Don’t leave until they leave you a review: “Would you mind to leave the review while I’m here? Most people get busy and forget.” 
    1. This may feel uncomfortable, but get over it. You’re building a business and you’ll be uncomfortable plenty more times. Get used to it.
    2. You NEED the 5 star review to fuel your business!

After you complete the job, go knock on the neighbors’ doors and say:

“The Smiths just had me clean up their property. Do you need anything done on your property while I have my equipment in the neighborhood for a 10% discount?”

FOMO is a real thing. When people see their neighbors getting work done they immediately have an urge to “keep up with the Jones”. I can’t tell you how many jobs I’ve picked up this way. Often times, neighbors will see your equipment. They’ll come over, make you get out of your machine, and ask if you can come to their house after.

If they don’t come out, go knock on their doors!

Tell them you just did “xyz” for the Smiths. Point at the Smiths house when you tell them.

Yur conversion rates on this will be through the roof 

If they don’t want any services now, leave them a business card and tell them you’re happy to come back later in the year if they ever need anything.

Knock on 10-20 neighbors doors every time you do a job! 

This is the ABSOLUTE BEST way to get new jobs. Neighbors want what other neighbors have! 

It’s the American lifestyle!

Now Go Start Your Land Clearing Business

I appreciate you reading this long-winded post. If you made it this far, you’re clearly serious about learning how to start a land clearing business.

If you have any questions about the process, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

The best way to reach me is on Twitter (X) @theownerop. If you’d like to get personalized 1v1 support on starting & growing your service business, you can get a 4-pack of 1v1 consulting sessions with me by signing up here. My goal is to get your to your first $100k!  

Why should you trust me? 

Short answer: you shouldn’t trust me (or anyone else on the internet). But, I have used this exact process to generate over $650,000 in my first 10 operating months.

I’m not some random person writing about small business growth “theories”; this isn’t a well researched strategy I came up with online: I’m writing about the exact process I’ve personally used during the summer and fall months.

Now that snow is on the ground, I’m spending my winter months helping others do the same. Let’s grow that business you’ve always wanted to have! 

And for more land clearing business resources, check out the rest of my blogs and vlogs.

FAQs I Get All The Time

Do I need a land clearing business license?

Probably not in most rural areas where you’ll be working, though you may need some kind of permitting in more urban areas. Of course, few people need land clearing businesses in for their 1/4-acre lot.

Do I need business licenses?

Again, you very likely do not, but check with the appropriate government agencies in your state or area. You don’t even need an LLC to get started. Too many people overthink business structure: win business first!

What about liability insurance for a land clearing business?

Ok, this is one you should take care of. If a tree falls on someone’s house, you’ll want to be adequately protected. Call a few local agents and find out what it takes to insure your land clearing service business adequately.