landscaping

How To Start A Landscaping Business: A Step-By-Step Guide

You have a lot of questions if you’re thinking about beginning a landscaping business. Where should you begin? What kind of services should you provide? What actions should you take to create a long-term business?

Let’s go over the ins and outs of starting your landscaping business—and going from where you are now (considering starting a landscaping business) to where you want to be (the proud owner of a profitable landscaping operation):

Why start a landscaping company?

Because there are so many lawns in the United States, the lawn care industry is an excellent place to start a business. The lawn care sector is thriving, with $76 billion in yearly revenue and a 3.4 percent annual growth rate. Lawns aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Pros and cons to starting a lawn care business

There are benefits and drawbacks to owning a lawn care business. While most people believe that the benefits outweigh the expenses, it is still vital to explore these factors for yourself to make the best option for you.

Pros:

  • Freedom to work outside
  • Ability to establish your hours
  • Opens the door to new chances
  • Unlimited earning potential
  • Control over your funds
  • The satisfaction of working with satisfied clients
  • Tax breaks and benefits
  • Get involved in your community.

Cons:

  • Entails physical labor
  • Requires hard work
  • Impacted by adverse weather
  • Often involves poor seasons
  • The stress of running your own business
  • Some starting costs (e.g., equipment, transportation, etc.)

Who are the customers?

landscaping

Who is driving this industry? The 77 million aging baby boomers, many of whom are well-to-do homeowners, understand the value of a well-kept lawn and a nicely designed and maintained yard. Still, they don’t always have the time or motivation to handle the maintenance themselves.

Of course, baby boomers aren’t the only ones who search online or in the phone book for a reputed lawn or garden professional. Other prospective clients include:

Landscaping:

  • New homeowners who want to update their landscaping
  • Homeowners who don’t have the vision, skill, or tools to design their landscaping
  • Builders of both residential and commercial properties who don’t already have their landscaper on staff
  • Homeowners who intend to sell their property and want to increase its curb appeal with new or renovated landscaping

Lawn maintenance:

  • Retirees who don’t care to do their maintenance any longer
  • Homeowners who are regularly out on business
  • Course managers who may need assistance with maintenance
  • “Snowbirds” with winter homes in warmer climates
  • Facilities managers for historic buildings, municipalities, botanical gardens, and other government institutions, cemeteries, universities, and other public places with green spaces
  • Managers of condominium associations or rental properties lacking in personnel

Commercial landscaping vs. residential landscaping

commercial landscaping
Front or Back Yard, Window, City, Cityscape, Springtime

Along with deciding which specific services you will provide, it is also good to consider the type of customers you will work with. BL Landscaping specializes in home landscaping for two primary reasons:

  1. Lower initial costs. Residential landscaping businesses often require a deposit to cover the cost of the materials at the start of the project. Because you are typically not paid until the task is completed in commercial landscaping, you will have to pay for the materials out of your company’s funds.
  2. Greater creative freedom. Working with a plan provided by the company is standard in commercial landscaping. Even if this plan contains defects, you are not allowed to amend or improve it. With residential landscaping, you may work with the consumer and provide recommendations, giving you more influence over the end product’s quality.

Commercial landscaping offers its own set of benefits. You can have fewer clients because commercial projects are frequently larger in terms of both size and budget. It can also give a more stable income, particularly in the maintenance and lawn care segment.

Types of landscaping and green industry businesses

landscaping
Caucasian Garden Worker in His 30s Trimming Plants Using Large Scissors.

Believe it or not, there are several types of landscaping companies, and they don’t all provide the same services. A green sector business can genuinely supply a wide range of services.

This is significant since several of these fields necessitate specific talents in addition to a green thumb. Landscape architecture and hardscape design, for example, may necessitate formal education and professional expertise.

If you’re starting a new business from scratch, consider starting with a general landscaping company that provides typical landscaping and lawn care services. You can always expand your knowledge and provide more services later on.

Landscaping

In the most basic sense, a landscaper is someone who rearranges plants, soil, water, and other organic resources to create a visually appealing environment. Typically, the goal is to create a landscape that is both aesthetically beautiful and functional.

A professional may work to improve on an existing garden layout or create an entirely new one. They will frequently place plants, trees, flowers, rocks, mulch, or sod in an arrangement that matches the client’s needs.

You don’t have to be an expert designer or understand design principles to create stunning landscapes. Many young landscapers begin with little to no expertise but a keen eye for detail. They then use design software to put their ideas “on paper.”

It should be noted that most states require landscapers to be licensed to do business. If you want to establish a landscaping business, research your state’s licensing requirements and make sure you understand what’s required.

Interior landscaping

Interior landscaping, as the name suggests, is landscaping that takes place indoors. Interior landscapers typically work for huge office buildings, shopping malls,  and public indoor spaces.

General care and maintenance, plant selection, and indoor landscape design are examples of interior landscaping services. Their services frequently overlap with traditional interior design.

Gardening/groundskeeping

A gardener or groundskeeper is typically responsible for the care of plants and the upkeep of the existing landscape. The key difference between gardeners/groundskeepers and landscapers is that gardeners/groundskeepers do not provide design services.

This type of green industry specialist may also be in charge of mowing lawns, applying fertilizer, applying pesticides, cleaning up leaves and trash, composting organic waste, and other duties. They must learn the fundamentals of horticulture to care for numerous plant species.

Landscape design/architecture

This is the most technically minded green industry professionals, as it necessitates knowledge of design and the ability to use design tools. Landscape designers and architects typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture for these reasons.

These professionals frequently collaborate with architects to develop projects and design both indoor and exterior landscapes. They may be contracted to create scapes such as public parks or common areas for commercial malls, apartment buildings, or college campuses.

Because this field necessitates more experience and education than the others, it typically offers the highest earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for landscape architects in 2019 was $69,360. From 2018 to 2028, this field is expected to increase by 4%.

How to start a landscape business

landscaping

Given the breadth and complexity of landscaping services — from residential to commercial, maintenance to removal, and design to tree care — the economics of starting your own landscaping business is surprisingly straightforward. Renting a lawnmower and knocking on doors can suffice.

Here are some tips to help you get started with your landscaping business.

Choose your niche

“Landscaping” is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of services, from simple (such as mowing or routine lawn upkeep) to sophisticated (such as landscape architecture or landscape design).

Before you start your small business, it’s critical to identify your niche and limit down both the landscaping/lawn care services you’ll provide and to whom you’ll provide those services.

Not sure which aspect of landscaping or lawn maintenance to concentrate on? Here are some questions to help you narrow down your niche:

  • Do you want to focus on commercial or residential properties?
  • What is your expertise/know-how? Is there an area of lawn care or landscaping that you specialize in?
  • Do you want to tackle smaller or large-scale projects?
  • Do you want to focus on design or maintenance (like lawn mowing)?
  • What kind of demand for lawn care and landscaping services exists in your area—and how can you best meet that demand?

Choose a name for your landscaping company

Here are some ideas to help you come up with a name for your landscaping company:

  • Pick something unique that will set you apart from the crowd. People are more likely to overlook your business if it has a generic, catchy name.
  • Because most businesses ‘ presence is now online, it’s important to choose a name that allows you to obtain a noteworthy matching domain name.
  • In the name, explain what your business does. If possible, include the words “lawn” or “landscape” so potential buyers don’t have to guess.
  • Keep it simple by keeping it short and to the point. People will have difficulty remembering your business’s name if it is too complicated and long.
  • Don’t confine yourself. For example, if you intend to expand beyond sprinkler repair in the future, do not name your business “Bob’s Sprinkler Repairs.”

Draft up a business plan

retainer agreement

A comprehensive business plan is essential for any new business; it puts down the information you need to successfully start your business and develop a clear strategy for getting there.

Your business plan should contain any important information about your industry, market conditions, and business goals. This includes the following:

  • Pricing for your services
  • Your landscaping services/the niche you plan to offer
  • Your top competitors
  • Your target demographic
  • Budget
  • Projected startup costs and profit margin
  • Sales, revenue, and customer goals
  • Profitability projections
  • Marketing strategy

The more extensive your business plan, the more information you’ll have to guide your business decisions when you start your landscaping company—and The more those decisions are aligned with your long-term objectives and set you up for success, the better.

Plan scope of services

Next, you must decide what services you provide and what your price point will be. To enhance basic lawn mowing services, landscaping companies generally include tree and shrub pruning, sod/seed installation, and weeding (among many other services).

Do some pricing research on other landscaping companies in your region to get an idea of how much you should charge for your services.

Brand your company

Remember what was mentioned about honing in on your target market? Here’s where niching down comes into play. The aim here is to establish a strong brand identity and set your new business apart from competitors in your niche.

Here are a few things to have in place to establish a strong brand for your landscape business:

  • Write your mission statement: What does your business do, and why does it do it? A mission statement will help you stay focused on your higher-level goal of servicing your clients, as well as tell prospective clients what your business entails.
  • Pick a business name: Pick a unique name for your business that will be catchy to your target customers. Run a business name lookup on Google to confirm that it isn’t already in use in your area.
  • Refine your brand messaging: Potential buyers will be drawn in by your brand messaging, which will be used across your marketing materials. What would you like your business to say? How will you convey your USP to your target audience?
  • Define your unique selling proposition (USP): Your unique selling point (USP) is what sets you apart from your competition. Do you specialize in high-end landscapes? Have the finest customer service? Do you have a diversified staff of designers? Attempt to define what makes your business special.
  • Create a professional website: Having a professional website can help to put your business on the map and attract clients online. You may make a simple website using a free template on sites like WordPress, or you can hire a website designer to build a custom design.

Decide on your prices

Invest in a visually appealing logo: Professional logos can cost anywhere from $30 to $1,000, depending on the complexity and quality. You can look for graphic designers in your area to build a unique logo for your company.

Your best choice for determining your pricing is to look at what your competitors are charging. Consider their level of experience, but attempt to set your charges near to theirs to remain competitive. Your long-term goal should be to gain more experience and boost your fees accordingly.

Consider how much time and work goes into your services. What is the lowest hourly rate you are willing to accept? Remember to budget for expenses and taxes.

Most landscaping companies provide clients with estimates for landscaping services before agreeing on a final price. You can then pick whether to make a deposit, get paid upfront, or receive money at the end of the project.

When you’re ready to be paid for your job, you can deliver landscaping invoices to your clients in person, by mail, or by email. Professional accounting software is recommended if you want to issue automated invoices and accept credit card payments online.

Take care of the legal aspects of launching a business

After you’ve planned out your landscaping company’s strategy, it’s time to deal with the legal aspects of getting your business off the ground.

Before you begin working with clients, you must complete a few legal tasks, which include:

  • Obtain your business licenses. Before you begin working, ensure that you have obtained all of the business licenses required to operate legally in your state.
  • Obtain insurance. Certain types of insurance are required for landscaping business operators. Depending on where your business operates, this may include liability insurance, which protects you and your company in the event of an accident or damage to a client’s property, and workers’ compensation insurance, which pays for costs if an employee is hurt on the job. Investigate the types of insurance you’ll need to operate legally and safely—and make sure you have those policies in place before you begin taking on clients.
  • Secure your EIN. You should be given an employment identification number when you register your business. This serves as your landscaping company’s business tax ID number, and you’ll need it when it comes time to file taxes, so be sure you have it before you start your business.

Financial side

You want to build up your landscaping business for financial success from the start, which involves having the correct financial tools and systems in place from the start.

There are a few financial tasks you should cross off your new business to-do list, including:

  • A commercial bank account. It’s crucial to keep your personal and business finances separate for tax purposes, so register a business bank account and maintain your financials separate from the start.
  • Financial management software. While you could keep things on a spreadsheet, using financial management software to track your business spending, invoices, and client payments can make managing your business finances much easier.
  • Payroll software. If you have a team, you’ll need payroll software to manage the payroll process and ensure your employees are paid accurately, on time, and with as little effort as possible on your end.

Determine whether you require an office or additional storage

Lawn care and landscaping companies primarily operate on-site with clients and store their equipment at their residences. That is why an office isn’t always required.

However, not all equipment may be housed in your garage or shed. Alternatively, you may expand to the point where you need people to manage administrative, marketing, finance, or other activities.

If you buy or rent the property for storage or office workers, commercial property insurance must safeguard against theft or property damage. Mortgage lenders and landlords typically require this coverage.

Make sure your equipment is secure

landscaping

You will need the proper equipment to start a landscaping business.

The specific tools and equipment you’ll need will vary depending on the type of landscaping or lawn care services your company provides, but some essentials include:

  • Gas containers (for the mowers)
  • Mower (push and ride-on)
  • Edger
  • Trimmer
  • Shovels
  • Rake
  • Shears
  • Leaf blower
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Safety equipment (including gloves, safety goggles, and noise-canceling headphones)
  • Fertilizers
  • Watering can
  • Toolbox

You can rent or buy landscaping tools depending on your budget and long-term goals, but whatever you do, make sure you have the tools and equipment you need to operate your business effectively.

Secure Reliable Transportation

Because you’ll most likely be transporting large landscaping equipment, you’ll need a dependable mode of transportation. This may include purchasing a truck capable of transporting large, dirty, and bulky equipment for most landscapers.

A reliable vehicle will most likely be your most expensive expense, but it will be extremely valuable to your business. Consider this a long-term investment that will help you earn additional landscaping work.

Hire a team

team

You may need to recruit a team of landscapers and landscape contractors, depending on your business model.

You should think about hiring a team if:

  • You want to take more of a managerial or leadership role in your business.
  • You plan to handle larger projects.
  • You want to handle multiple projects at the same time.

If you need to recruit staff, make sure they have experience and understand how to give high-quality work to your clientele. Remember that the people you hire are an extension of your company. You want to build a team that will help your landscaping company build a favorable reputation in your neighborhood.

Labor rates

labor rates
Gärtner bei Gartenarbeit

It’s never easy to figure out how much to charge your clients for your time. If you’ve been working for another landscaping business for a year, or even ten years, you know how much you’ve been paid for each hour you work.

Making the huge decision to go it alone is almost always motivated by a desire to make more money, right? That is more than the hourly salary. So the major question is, “How do I decide how much to charge?”

To figure that out, make a list of all the costs associated with running a business. I know what you’re thinking: “But there are so many ‘hacks’ out there with no insurance — how can I even live if I work that in?” My recommendation is to avoid hacking at all costs. If you concentrate on what the “fly-by-nighters” are doing, you will concentrate on the wrong things and never grow.

The main conclusion is that what you charge is NOT what you want to make. What you charge covers the costs of running a business as well as a fraction of what you’d like to earn as a business on top of that.

Find your customers

After you’ve completed all of the necessary preparations for your business, it’s time to get out there and market it.

You can utilize a variety of tactics to interact with new clients and grow your customer base, including:

  • Search engine marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Online advertising
  • Word of mouth marketing/personal referrals
  • Offering first-time discounts for new customers
  • Traditional advertising (for example, buying an ad in the local newspaper)

As you begin, try various marketing methods to see which are the most effective; then, utilize those strategies to connect with new consumers, spread the word about your business, and drive business growth.

Plan for the off-season

Landscaping and lawn maintenance are not a year-round business in various parts of the country.

If your company is forced to close during the winter, you’ll need to save and lay aside money to get through the season.

The off-season is also an excellent time to catch up on neglected tasks during the busy season. You may look for new clientele, investigate marketing opportunities, or study for a professional qualification.

Industry snapshot: Is there money in landscaping?

While reputable studies are scarce, landscaping industry blogs discuss projected trends for 2020 and beyond. Predictions from  The Greenery Inc. vice president Bill Davoli, 2020 will be a “strong year” with “the highest work backlog” landscapers have seen in the last 12 years.

This tendency is reinforced by the fact that the landscaping services industry grew at a 3.8 percent annual rate between 2015 and 2020 on average. This is encouraging news for ambitious new business owners interested in entering the lawn care sector.

Furthermore, the average compensation for landscapers in the United States (now $34,579) increased by 11% between 2019 and 2020. Landscapers can earn a livable wage in this sector, even if their wages are not the highest.

The major point is that landscaping is growing in popularity, and there is a lot of money to be made, especially if you manage your own business. While working for a landscaping company may limit your earning potential, establishing yourself opens the door to nearly endless alternatives.

What does it take to start a landscaping business?

The initial costs of starting a landscaping business vary greatly based on the size and breadth of your activities. If you are a one-person business that solely provides basic maintenance and mowing services, you can start with $5,000 or less.

However, most landscaping enterprises will necessitate a higher investment. If you’re beginning from scratch, the average startup cost is between $15,000 and USD 20,000.

There are, however, ways to reduce these startup expenses. Buying secondhand rather than new equipment can help you save a lot of money. Much of the equipment may also be rented from home improvement stores for roughly $100 per day. While this is less cost-effective in the long run, it might be an excellent strategy to save on initial fees if your financial resources are restricted.

Get out there and start your own landscaping company.

Starting your own business might be intimidating. However, now that you understand how to establish a landscaping business, you have everything you need to break into the landscaping sector, differentiate yourself and your services, and connect with your target customers.