This is for those of you who like getting your hands dirty. For those who want to be your own boss, plan your own day, and aren’t too keen on being inside. If you like gardening, love the smell of freshly cut grass and aren’t afraid of making a big mess, then you could be a candidate for opening your own landscaping business.
It sounds great, doesn’t it? Sunshine, plants and flowers, and good, honest work.
Before you throw down your computer mouse and storm off to your local mower store, there are a few things to keep in mind. Starting any new business requires careful planning and serious forethought. In this guide, we look at the key steps any entrepreneur should take, and how you can complete them to get closer to your green dream.
What gaps can you fill in the market?
If your area is mostly taken care of by a small army of teenagers wielding push-mowers, you might be well-placed to take off quickly in the landscaping industry. However, if you find yourself surrounded by topiary prunings, checkerboard lawns, and beautifully manicured flower gardens, you may need to refine your business plan.
One way to do this is to become an expert: there is always room in the market for a specialist. So if most potential clients already have a landscaper, perhaps you can put your vegetable gardening know-how to good use and offer to set up veggie patches. Or if you are an expert in flower bed design, or planting to attract pollinators, let people know! Otherwise, you can learn about tree and bush pruning, or even lawn-care equipment maintenance.
Whatever you decide your market has room for — or you can compete handily in — advertising to that specific niche will be your best way to get started.
Write a business plan
Now that we’ve established your area of expertise in the landscaping world, the next step is to turn your passion into a business. To accomplish this, you must first create a comprehensive and detailed business plan to guide you, arrange your money, and legally establish your firm in your state.
If you don’t start a business — any business, even a small one — with the mindset of a tycoon, you will not be successful. Or you will find yourself easily bogged down and overwhelmed. Either way, starting off on the right foot is critical. This is why one of the very first things any new business owner needs to do is write a business plan. A good one will cover things like budget, structure, and reasonable timeframes for your goals. Have a look at our blog post on writing a great business plan.
Budget, budget, budget
As mentioned above, your business plan should include a budget. But because this is such an important area, we are going to drill down into it a little further. Without a firm control over your finances, things can get out of hand, fast. New businesses have a huge uphill battle when it comes to making money. Aside from the expected overhead costs such as equipment, fuel, and consumables, you will also need to advertise heavily. At least until you can count on word-of-mouth recommendations and your reputation to bring in new customers. On top of advertising costs, remember that as you grow you will start having payroll needs and worrying about business tax.
Budgeting can be tedious, because every asset needs to be accounted for, down to the nickel. So start by jotting down all the expenditures you expect to have, and then how much you will need to make in order to cover those costs. From there, you can decide what to charge clients for your services. So while a budget may seem like hard work, it pays dividends almost immediately when you can set your rate properly.
You will undoubtedly need funding to get your business off the ground. Some people say that new business owners need to be prepared to live at least one or two years with no income before they are earning enough to pay themselves a salary. If you can describe — in detail — how you expect to raise funds, and if your idea is convincing enough, a bank or an angel investor may lend you money. If you can have help from an outside investor, they will make that initial period much easier for you.
What will you call your new business?
Deciding on a name for your landscaping business may be one of the most important decisions you make. Names can say a lot about a business: they can be funny, they can be serious, they can be descriptive, they can be anything! Consider naming your new venture after a flower, or yourself, or your favorite salad, anything that means something to you.
If you need help thinking of some name ideas, our business name generator can get you started.
While it may seem counterintuitive that you need a web presence to work outdoors, potential clients will turn to the internet to find help before they look anywhere else. Therefore, it’s important to establish a professional web presence early on.
We recommend that your domain name (your address) be the same as or very similar to your business name. If someone is using that domain name, maybe work backward: use our domain name generator to find an appropriate domain name, and name your business from there! There are no rules for deciding on a name, do whatever works for you.
Setting up a website isn’t as difficult as it may appear; in fact, several hosting companies have targeted their services at small businesses that aren’t necessarily tech-savvy. WordPress and Squarespace have mastered the ‘drag and drop’ website building technique. If you want some guidance on format and content, we break it down here.
Get the word out
With your new website, you’ve got a great springboard for social media campaigns. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter are fantastic marketing places if you know how to harness their influence.
Aside from online marketing, there are always traditional print materials. Flyers under windscreen wipers, newspaper advertisements, online forums and community pages, and — our favorite — a branded wrap for your work vehicle. However you do it, take the time and invest the money to make high-quality, professional advertising.
If graphic design isn’t one of your skills, or you struggle with snappy copy, consider finding someone to do this very important job for you. Fiverr is a good place to find custom logos, as is Upwork.
While you’re on your business social media accounts, use them to find new customers. Your social media sites should also function as a forum for showcasing your work, since they can provide you with visibility. Instagram in particular is great for visuals. Don’t forget to follow other local business accounts and engage with their posts. This is the best way to forge relationships and network in the digital age, and is a great way to get recommendations.
You should always ask your clients to leave testimonials on your website and a Google review for every service you provide. Good ratings will give new clients confidence when contracting you.
Keep track of your goals
As you will be intimately familiar with your budget and business plan, you will know exactly how much you need to be raking in, and when.
When you planned your budget, you needed to include not just expenses, but also projected income. You should be comparing your actual income with your projected income very regularly. The same goes for expenses: if you have had a particularly difficult year with a certain type of lawn grub, you may find your pesticide budget higher than expected. Similarly, if a client has a ride-on mower or other equipment that they prefer you use, you may find your expenses coming in under budget. Either way, you need to be very aware of the flow of money, in both directions.
Knowing you’ve made more than expected is helpful, as it helps you save money for when times may become tighter. If you find yourself making less than estimated, you will be able to adjust your business model to adapt.
Find help when you need it
You’re a business owner now! That means you can employ people to help you with the jobs you’re too busy for — or really don’t like doing. For some people, this is the accounting side of running a business. For others, it’s inventory and warehouse, or purchasing. Some entrepreneurs are not skilled with people and need someone to answer the phones and customer relations. However you need to staff your company, you must know what your skills are and where you are lacking.
A landscaping business will almost certainly need a few extra hands on the ground in terms of the actual labor. You’ll find that come spring, demand increases, while in winter you may need to supplement your income with snow removal (depending on your area). Luckily, seasons are predictable, and if you’re organized, your changing staffing needs won’t catch you by surprise!
Ps & Qs of service-based business
As the owner and representative of your own business, you will want to always put your best foot forward. This means you need to be organized, tidy, and punctual.
Any employees that you hire to work for you will also be ambassadors for your company. This means that aside from being efficient and knowledgeable, you will need to provide training on being well-presented and professional.
“The customer is always right“ may be trite, and certainly not true in the literal sense, but as a business owner, you will need to adopt this mentality. This will help you provide excellent service and maintain an excellent base of returning customers.
Nuts and bolts of your landscaping business
As an employer, a landscaper, a bookkeeper, a customer service operator, and a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats. It’s important that you stay on top of changes in these diverse areas if you want to stay competitive. Best hiring practices may change or clients may prefer a certain communication style. On the landscaping side, some pesticides will be brought onto and taken off of the market, all of which you need to be trained in using (or replacing). Congratulations: as an entrepreneur, you are a lifelong student as well.
You must decide on the structure of your company. It could be a partnership, a sole proprietorship, an LLC, or something else. Each has advantages and disadvantages that you should consider carefully. For example, an LLC (limited liability company) limits your personal liability in the event of a lawsuit, which is very useful for small businesses. Some structures are eligible for franchise tax, while others are not. Will you be entering into this business venture with a partner, or alone? This will also change the nature of your business, so consider consulting both a lawyer and a business accountant.
Permits, licenses, and trademarks
Since you’ll be working with many chemicals, fertilizers, insecticides, and so on, you must obtain the necessary permissions. There are different licenses required in each state, such as a license for fertilizers, waste removal and irrigation, pesticides, and a contractor’s license.
Accounting and Bookkeeping
You may need to outsource some of your work for a landscaping startup to freelance services such as Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer. Because you have access to a global pool of expert freelancers, make sure you select the greatest talents.
With the above guide, we hope we’ve given you not just the information, but the motivation you need to get started on your own landscaping business. It may start slowly, and you might have to work in the rain sometimes. But what a joy it will be to be your own boss, doing what you’re passionate about, and making the world a more beautiful place. As the saying goes, “a bad day doing what you love is better than a good day doing something you don’t.”
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