From an outsider’s perspective a gardener’s life can appear idyllic, offering green grass, birdsong and warm lazy days in the sun. As anyone in horticulture knows though the reality can be very different, life as a landscaper or gardener one that brings significant challenges.
Garden work is extremely competitive and there’s no regulation to speak of, bona-fide business owners constantly battling with cash-only operatives and clients. Many of these still think it’s acceptable to pay a measly £5.00 an hour, ‘anyone can do gardening’ an attitude we’re forced to confront.
The business challenges are relentless – even more so during the winter – so with that in mind here’s some tips for surviving the season intact.
Save up for a snowy day
On top of fighting the pirates for a fair price horticulturalists are at the mercy of the elements, a bout of bad weather a considerable threat to our financial health.
In 2010 snow and ice descended upon the UK leaving many of us unable to work, whilst 2011 was little better with another prolonged spell of snow. This erratic weather impacted upon us severely and brought the industry to its knees, so much so that even the larger firms were forced to lay-off staff.
The following years have brought similar weather, suggesting that it could be here to stay. As such, when the weather seems relatively stable put whatever you can afford to away.
Adapt to the lack of daylight
The moving back of the clocks changes the whole business dynamic. In the depths of winter it can be hard to complete as little as five hours of work safely, so you’ll need to adapt in some way to cope with this loss of hours.
Perhaps bring in an extra pair of hands for the winter or look to diversify your business. Failing that just simply put in more hours in the summer and make up for the winter shortfall then.
Above all else don’t sacrifice quality in the desire to get a job done quickly.
Keep a keen eye on cash flow
Cash flow is often a major problem throughout the winter months, practitioners relying heavily on personal savings just to get them through to the Spring.
With this in mind consider establishing budgets and do a little cash flow forecasting. A basic grasp of your ingoings and outgoings is vital and can prevent a cash flow crisis. Don’t forget that January 31st marks the self-assessment deadline either – file late and you’ll be facing a fine.
Phil Voice is the founder and managing director of the Landscape Juice Network, an organisation dedicated to helping landscape and horticulture practitioners navigate through the challenges of business via social media.