Starting a landscaping business can be the pathway to the freedom you crave, especially if you love working outside. Landscapers have the freedom to choose where they work, how much to charge, and who to work with. You only need a few steady clients to start making serious money, buying better equipment, and taking on bigger jobs. Here’s how to take the first steps.
Why Starting a Landscaping Business Is Worth It
Until plants stop growing, there is always going to be demand for landscaping services in every part of the world. The demand varies slightly depending on the season and location. But the landscaping business is relatively stable despite unpredictable markets and a fluctuating economy. People will always need lawn care services, so this business promises a steady stream of revenue.
The landscaping business also has relatively low barriers to entry. The simple business model means that you can set up your business quickly and with limited resources. You can get started with a few pieces of equipment and reliable transportation. Additionally, this business is easy to start on your own and hire staff as your business grows.
Finally, the landscaping business offers a lot of freedom. You’ll be able to set your hours, choose your clients, and even provide the services you want. You can choose to work locally to save on transportation costs. Alternatively, you can pursue higher-paying corporate clients like community parks, apartment buildings, and hotels. This freedom allows you to build precisely the kind of business you envision.
The Investment Needed To Start a Landscaping Business
The cost of starting a landscaping business varies widely depending on your budget and where you’d like to start. The actual cost can be anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for a small landscaping business and upwards of $250,000 for a medium-sized business.
The most significant investment will be the equipment you need to get the job done. The equipment you need depends on the landscaping services you plan to offer. Standard landscaping tools may include lawnmower, edging shears, string trimmer, backpack blower, hand tools, wheelbarrow, turfing iron, weed chemical supplies, brooms, half-moon cutter, and leveling rake. A vehicle to transport all that equipment will also be necessary–likely a truck or van, possibly with a trailer as well.
The equipment alone could cost you up to $50,000, and a reliable vehicle will likely cost five figures as well. But you can keep costs low by borrowing, hiring, or leasing equipment. Also, consider waiting to buy equipment until you need it. Cash flow may be a significant challenge when starting your business, so it pays to invest slowly and as needed.
You’ll also need to factor in the cost of creating your business entity. This could cost you around $750. There’s also the cost of licenses and permits, which also vary depending on your location. Each license and permit may cost between $70 and $250. The number of permits and licenses you need also varies by state and locale.
You’ll also need to insure your business. You may need general liability insurance, property and casualty insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance. Landscaping business insurance will cost you around $2,400. In addition, you may need to factor in other potential costs like marketing, employee salaries and bills, phone, equipment storage, and business website.
Finally, a project management software like Jobber will certainly help organize your business operations. This software allows you to schedule jobs, manage crews, build client quotes and estimates, track time spent in the field, and track customer and job information. We’ll talk more about this software in a later step. But this software is specifically designed for the landscaping industry, so it’ll prove invaluable in your business. Jobber prices start at $49 per month for one user.
7 Steps To Start a Landscaping Business
Here’s how to go about starting a landscaping business, step-by-step:
Step 1 – Decide on the Services You’ll Offer
Many people use landscaping as a blanket term that includes lawn care. But, lawn care also referred to as lawn maintenance, is a standalone business.
A lawn care business exclusively deals with the health of the lawn or garden. Typical lawn care services may include:
- Weed control
- Lime application
A landscaping business is more encompassing and covers many aspects of the outdoor space. Typical landscaping services include:
- Installing sod
- Hardscaping work such as installing water features, pavers, concrete, and retaining walls
- Foundation planting
- Ponds and outdoor patios
- Garden sculptures
- Driveways for vehicles
- Landscaping design
Many businesses choose to offer either landscaping or lawn care services exclusively. Of course, you may choose to provide both if you have the capacity. But, for a startup, it is better to stick with landscaping services in this case.
You can start by assessing your skills and knowledge when deciding which services to offer. For example, you may be exceptionally knowledgeable in pairing hardscape materials with plants. Business owners who specialize in services that fit their skill set tend to do well in this industry.
Also, consider the local competition. Finding a niche can help you to stand out from the competition. For example, you may notice that there is a surplus of sod installation services in your area. In this case, choosing a different niche like garden sculptures will work to your advantage. Alternatively, you can choose to offer a unique package of services that your competitors don’t provide.
Be sure to do some market research to determine whether there is demand for your services. Furthermore, find out the profit potential of your niche before deciding it is your best option.
Step 2 – Form Your Business Entity
You’ll need to create a business structure. There are two main options, each with its advantages and drawbacks.
Sole Proprietorship – This is the easiest and least expensive type of business to start. This business structure means you are the sole owner of the business. But, you’ll be personally responsible for the business’ taxes, debts, and legal liabilities. Your business and personal assets and liabilities aren’t separated in this business structure.
Limited Liability Company – This business structure is much better than the sole proprietorship. Here, your personal and business assets and liabilities are separated. That means that your personal assets are protected in case of bankruptcy, lawsuits, or other liability risks.
Step 3 – Apply for the Appropriate Licenses and Permits
Contact your county clerk’s office to find out if you need a business license. The permits and licenses you need also vary by state and the landscaping services you plan to offer. For the most part, you may not need a permit if you plan to undertake basic landscape maintenance or lawn care.
However, you may need a license if you plan to offer specialty services. In Alabama, for example, you’ll need a Horticulture Professional Services license to offer most landscaping services. Some of the services that require you to be licensed include tree surgery, landscape design, turf pest control, and setting landscape plants. In California, you’ll need a C-27 Landscaping Contractor license to offer services. In addition, virtually all states require you to have a special pesticide license to work with pesticides.
Don’t forget insurance, even when it is not mandated for your class of landscaping services. General liability insurance will help cover you in case you accidentally cause damage to a client’s property. For example, accidents like running over sprinkler heads with a mower are relatively common. So naturally, you’d want to be covered in such incidents.
Some states also require you have workers’ compensation insurance, even if you don’t have employees. This insurance will cover you in case an employee is injured on the job. In addition, the insurance may cover medical costs and even legal costs in case you are sued.
Finally, make sure you have the required business licenses to operate in your area. Additionally, you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you’ll be paying taxes for your business. You can consult with an attorney or seasoned landscaper for the precise licenses, permits, and insurances you need to operate in your city and state.
Step 4 – Decide On Your Prices
Setting your prices can get complicated when starting your business. It may even take a little trial and error before you settle on the perfect pricing formula. The easiest route is to check what your competition is charging and use that as a baseline to set your prices.
Also, don’t forget to factor in your experience level. Additional factors to consider when setting your pricing include your desired hourly wage, overheads, materials costs, taxes, and markup. Also, decide how you’re going to charge. Your options include setting an hourly rate, a flat project fee, or by the square foot of land service.
Finally, decide when you’ll get paid. It is typical to ask for an upfront deposit to cover the cost of the materials. Then, you collect the outstanding payment after completing the project.
Step 5 – Sign Up For Project Management Software
I highly recommend Jobber to help you organize your business. Project management software also allows you to appear professional to your clients. In addition, jobber offers three pricing tiers, including:
- Core – Costs $49 per month with an annual plan
- Connect – Costs $149 per month with the annual plan
- Grow – Costs $249 per month with the yearly plan
I also recommend going with the annual plan rather than the monthly billing. You’ll save up to 20% off the monthly cost this way.
The Core plan is good enough to get you started. You’ll get all the essential features you might need out of project management software. For example, the CRM feature lets you keep track of crucial client information on the go. The client hub is a self-service feature where clients can check appointment details, approve quotes, print receipts, or pay invoices. Other features you’ll get with the Core plan include:
- Real-time scheduling
- Job details and attachments
- Consumer financing
- Tip collection
- Instant payouts
- Credit card processing
- Jobber app marketplace
- 1-on-1 product support
Step 6 – Acquire Your Equipment
Create a complete list of all the equipment you’ll need to offer your services. Standard landscaping equipment includes:
- Leaf blower
- Clippers and pruning shears
- Fertilizing equipment
- Lawn aerator
- Eye and ear protection
- Hedge trimmer
- Gardening gloves
There is the choice to purchase the equipment outright. But, this route can be expensive. A more viable option is to rent the equipment you need. Mainly, it makes more sense to rent equipment that you don’t use often.
Renting the equipment also means that you won’t be responsible for servicing it. Landscapers spend a lot of time and money servicing their equipment. Meanwhile, you can slowly put away money to purchase your equipment outright as you grow your business.
Also, decide whether you’ll buy new or used equipment. The latter option is cheaper. But, used equipment may require more maintenance and repairs. Consider also limiting the number of services you offer in the beginning. This will help reduce the startup cost of purchasing equipment.
Finally, don’t forget about transportation. As mentioned above, you’ll probably need to purchase a truck and trailer. A reliable vehicle is a crucial business asset, so be careful when buying a used truck.
Step 7 – Land Your First Client
You are now open for business! But, it will take some time to build your brand and become the go-to landscaper. Even so, landing your first customer shouldn’t be that hard if you’re savvy. You can start by reaching out to your current network. This includes your friends, family, acquaintances, and previous colleagues.
Let your network know about your business. They may be your first clients, or they may refer you to their friends and family. Additionally, don’t forget to post about your business on social media. A simple Tweet or Facebook post about your business may be all it takes to get your first paying customer.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your local neighborhood. Create fliers and posters and hand them out to potential customers. You can also go door to door and leave your flyers, door hangers, or business cards to advertise your services.
Lastly, connect with your local Chamber of Commerce and local business associations. These networks can be a great source of potential clients.
The next obvious step is to market your business. It will take some time before word-of-mouth can help you build a steady client base. In the interim, work on building a solid social media presence. Create dedicated social media accounts for your business. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are obvious choices for reaching a large audience.
Social media offers a perfect space to interact and connect with an audience. You can provide helpful information, deliver high-quality content, and interact with your customers one-on-one. These strategies are great for building engagement with your target market.
These options are also easy to use. You can create your professional website without any coding knowledge or experience. Additionally, these services also take care of the technical aspects of your website, like hosting.
Wix, in particular, manages their infrastructure and security in a proactive way to make sure your site is reliably available and safe for visitors (and your own data).
Finally, make it easy for clients to find you online. Marketplaces such as Angie’s List make it easier for clients to find you. This is also a great way to build much-needed credibility for your business.
I’ll leave you with a few of our best posts for more information on building your online presence: