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How to start a landscaping business

How to Start a Landscaping Business: 10 Key Steps

Raina Becker // May 6, 2024

As long as there are homes with yards and gardens, there will be a need for landscapers. Landscaping businesses are relatively future-proof, making them a good choice for entrepreneurs. Yet, as with any new business, there are challenges. Having a good plan of attack helps.

If you’re interested in starting your own landscaping business, this article outlines 10 steps to take to get your company underway.

You’ll learn why landscaping is so appealing as a business venture. There is a ton of variety in the profession, as well. With a little direction, you can begin your journey with our actionable tips, even if you’re not fully up and running yet.

Benefits of Starting a Landscaping Business

Landscaping as an industry is growing steadily. Between 2017 and 2022, the field grew at an average rate of 4.2% per year. That’s pretty remarkable, considering how the pandemic affected other industries.

Landscaping is an attractive profession for many reasons:

  • The profession has a low barrier to entry
  • You can be your own boss with more flexibility
  • You can work outdoors in nature
  • It’s healthier than sitting at a desk
  • Different jobs bring different tasks and challenges
  • Landscaping can be a great creative outlet
  • You may collaborate with other interesting professionals
  • Income is steady, with lots of repeat business
  • Your revenue is potentially uncapped

Property owners are realizing the benefits of hiring a service to maintain their yards. They can come home from a hard day’s work to find the lawn manicured, the hedges trimmed, and the flower beds neatly mulched. 

With the advent of social media, these homeowners also expect a certain level of quality. They are inspired by beautiful gardens they see on YouTube or Instagram, then they want the same look for their own homes.

As the demand has grown, the number of working landscapers has increased, too. This makes the market more competitive. It forces companies to produce exceptional results to stay ahead of the competition.

There are many different types of successful landscaping businesses. Some of the services they provide include:

  • Lawn mowing and edging
  • Flower bed planting and care
  • Tree pruning and hedge trimming
  • Fish pond installation
  • Mulching and weed control
  • Yard and leaf cleanup
  • Irrigation system maintenance
  • Fertilizing, dethatching, and overseeding
  • Sod lawn installation
  • Seasonal garden preparation
  • Tree planting and tree/stump removal
  • Xeriscaping and drought-friendly planting
  • Sustainable landscaping solutions
  • Winter snow and ice removal
  • Landscaping and hardscaping consultation

You can be a generalist and offer all or most of these services if you live in an area with few professional landscapers. If you live in a more densely populated area, you can hone in on a specialty. Specialization tends to be more profitable in a competitive environment.

10 Key Steps to Start Your Landscaping Business

If you know you’re ready to start your own landscaping business, it’s best to tackle it methodically. Follow the steps below to make sure you have everything covered.

1. Decide on Your Specialty and Target Customer

These two business elements are closely intertwined. What kinds of landscaping jobs do you enjoy most? Is there a need for that in your area?

For instance, in places like Florida and Southern California, some landscapers only deal with palm trees. There is a demand for this work, especially from affluent property owners. But clearly, this wouldn’t fly further north. Winterizing lawns and beds might do really well, though. You need to match the demand for your services with your skills and interests.

When you’ve nailed your services down, create a profile for a hypothetical perfect customer. Where do they live? How much do they spend on landscaping services? Give them a name and write down all their details. Let that profile inform your services and marketing.

2. Study the Competition and Set a Pricing Schedule

No matter where you are, you likely have at least a few competitors. Do a little research on their services and pricing compared to your ideal structure. If you price services much higher, customers may go elsewhere. Too low, and you won’t turn a profit. It’s a fine balance.

Your pricing should be determined by multiple factors:

  • Your landscaping niche
  • Demand for landscapers in your area
  • Pricing for the competition
  • Seasonal fluctuations

You’ll need to be competitive with other landscaping companies. But at the end of the day, you still need to make a profit.

You’ll also need to calculate your monthly expenses (overhead) like:

  • Staff payroll
  • Insurance
  • Fuel
  • Loan payments
  • Rental equipment
  • Supplies

To do more than break even, you want to charge enough to cover them and still have money left to pay yourself.

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS:  How to Price Landscaping Jobs

3. Decide on a Business Structure

How will your business be structured? Will you be a sole proprietor or hire helpers? Will they be employees or 1099 independent contractors?

You may want to form an LLC or S-corp to protect yourself and receive certain tax advantages. At this point, it’s smart to invest some money in a certified public accountant consultation to see which one is best for you.

Then, file for whichever type of incorporation you decide on.

4. Write a Business Plan for Your Company

Once you get the tasks above checked off, you can start creating an official business plan. Your plan will be your company’s roadmap for the next year or two. It will also be necessary if you intend to apply for any business financing.

A business plan includes the following components:

  • An overview, called the Executive Summary
  • Description of structure and employees
  • Market analysis and demand for services
  • Marketing strategy to attract clients
  • Services offered and prices
  • Financial projections by month, quarter, or year

Your financial projections are your best estimates for income, growth, and what you need to break even. Ideally, you want to do more than just break even, though. You need to show you can make a profit.

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS: Creating Your Own Landscaping Business Plan

5. Obtain any Business Licenses or Permits Required

Proper licensure is critical to operating your landscaping business. It lends you credibility, but it’s also legally required in many areas.

Every state and municipality has different requirements for credentialing. Check with your area to see what’s required and get the proper documentation. 

Permitting requirements can also vary depending on the kind of work you’re doing. Things like irrigation systems or lighting installation may require permits, while simple lawn mowing does not. You’ll still need to check your local regulations.

6. Open a Bank Account and Apply for Any Necessary Financing

You want a business account that’s separate from your personal bank account. Be prepared to show your articles of incorporation to open a business account at some banks.

If you need financing for your venture, it’s smart to open your account where you have the best chance of getting approved. We use the word “bank” here loosely. Don’t forget to check out credit unions as well. Both will want to see your business plan before offering you a loan, line of credit, or business credit cards.

7. Purchase Equipment and Vehicles

Now, it’s time to invest in the equipment and trucks you need to conduct business. You’ll likely need lawnmowers, edgers, and protective equipment. You may also need certain items related to your specialty, like pruning shears or drop spreaders.

How many vehicles will you need? You’ll need transportation that can hold all your gear and stand up to dirt, water, and other landscaping abuse.

8. Buy Landscaping Business Insurance

You cannot operate your landscaping truck or van under your personal insurance policy, even if you use your own vehicle. You must have a commercial insurance policy.

Your company should also have the following insurance plans:

  • Property insurance in case of loss, theft, or damage to equipment
  • Workers' compensation, if required by your state for employees
  • Cyber insurance, if you intend to take online payments from clients
  • General liability insurance in case of a non-worker accident or injury

9. Hire and Train Staff as Needed

If you plan to take on workers, you’ll need to advertise for them, screen them, and do the hiring.

Be sure to train them on any equipment they’re unfamiliar with. Also, go over safety, customer service and etiquette expectations. You want stellar client reviews for things like punctuality, cleanliness, and manners.

10. Start Marketing Your Services

The final thing you need to do is bring in customers through marketing. Marketing can be informal, like networking with friends and neighbors about your new business.

Marketing can also entail:

  • Creating a professional website
  • Setting up social media accounts
  • Paying for client leads through a service
  • Joining groups like the local chamber of commerce

The idea is to balance keeping current customers happy with bringing in new clients.

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS: How to Make an Invoice for Landscaping Jobs (with Free Template)

Startup Tasks You can do Today to get Your Landscaping Business off the Ground

If you use the list above, you’ll be able to get your business off the ground sooner and with fewer problems. Here are a few final tips as you get started:

  • Don’t forget to network with other home service providers for business. Professionals like contractors and pool specialists can refer you to clients. Property management companies are another great source of customers.
  • When you build your website, use search engine optimization (SEO) to help it rank higher in online searches. This is simply including keywords people use when looking for landscapers. Also, include your city, county, and some area landmarks for local SEO.
  • One of the best ways to connect with clients on social media is to join your town’s Facebook group page. You can advertise for free just by interacting with local residents. There will always be people with landscaping questions you can answer. You don’t even have to be officially in business to start networking there.
  • If buying some equipment is too costly at first, consider renting it. This gives you the added advantage of trying out different models to see which ones are best for your needs.
  • Always think about where you want your business to be in a year or two. Are there services you cannot provide right now but would like to? Figure out how to invest in the required equipment or training you need. The actions you take now will pay off in your profits in the future.
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