How to start a gardening business: a step-by-step guide for landscape gardeners

If you want to work for yourself, and you enjoy the outdoors, starting a landscape gardening business can be a great choice.

Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to starting a gardening business to get you off the ground.

Working as a self-employed landscape gardener means you’ll have flexible working hours and you can choose which projects to work on. What’s more, it can provide great job satisfaction.

Here’s a step-by-step checklist to follow when starting your landscaping business:

  • 1. Understand the job. If you’re starting out as a landscape gardener for the first time, you need to understand what the job entails.
  • 2. Plan for the seasons. Gardening is a seasonal job, and you’ll need to plan for busy and quiet periods.
  • 3. Choose a legal structure. Whether you operate as a sole trader or a limited company, you’ll need to make sure you choose the right legal structure.
  • 4. Get the legal side sorted. There’s a number of legal obligations you have to fulfil when starting a new landscaping business.
  • 5. Get insured. Insurance is a key consideration for gardeners – make sure you’re covered.
  • 6. Find customers. Now that you’re set up, it’s time to start looking for business.

Steps to starting a landscaping business

1. Understand the job

Starting a landscaping business for the first time? It’s important that you know what the job entails. Landscape gardeners might work with residential clients, commercial clients, or both.

Generally, work is conducted during the summer months. Most landscapers in the UK work on their own, but you may need to interact with tradespeople in order to deliver for clients. You also need to be prepared to promote yourself to win business.

Some of the elements of your role will include:

  • Working with clients to understand their garden and what they want from the design
  • Sketching out plans in line with your client’s vision
  • Making sure your plans come in on budget, calculating the costs of labour and materials
  • Working out estimates for clients
  • Constructing water features, planting trees, cultivating turf and ordering furniture

Do I need any qualifications to become a landscape gardener?

You don’t need any formal qualifications. But a love of the outdoors – as well as a healthy dose of creativity – are natural prerequisites for the role.

There are courses available in horticulture and gardening, so taking these may put you at an advantage. Keep in mind though that it’s a role where experience is perhaps more valuable than qualifications. Finding people and organisations that need volunteer landscapers could give you the experience you need to forge ahead.

2. Plan for the seasons

Landscape gardening is a highly seasonal profession. Most of your practical work will be carried out in the summer, while planning tends to occur in the winter.

In addition, many private, residential clients prefer not to have work done during holiday periods. Because of this, many landscapers supplement their income with other jobs during the colder months.

 How much can I earn as a landscape gardener?

The fact that landscape gardening is a seasonal job affects how much you’re paid – you’ll likely have more work in the summer, so it’s best to save for the winter.

Landscape gardeners will usually set a fixed price per job. When working out how much to charge, you should factor in what materials you need to get the job done, how difficult it will be (and what skills you need to use), and how long it will take to finish.

Self-employed gardeners can charge between £10-25 an hour depending on where they work, with London and the South East commanding the highest rates. Research what other landscape gardeners are charging in your area and set your prices accordingly.

3. Choose a legal structure

One of your first steps when setting up a gardening business is to choose a legal structure. Many landscape gardeners operate as sole traders, and this may be the simplest route to choose. However, there may be good reasons for setting up a limited company, or if you’re in partnership, a limited liability partnership.

Your choice of legal structure will have impact down the line, particularly on accounting and other paperwork. Read more about the differences between sole traders and limited companies.

4. Get the legal side sorted

Before you begin trading, you’ll need to register with HMRC for tax, National Insurance, and possibly VAT. If you’re employing anyone, you’ll also need to register for PAYE.

It’s important that you do this promptly, as there are fines for those who register late. Remember that you’ll also have to file an annual Self Assessment tax return, and file your tax on time. Read more about Self Assessment for small businesses.

5. Get insured

Insurance is a key consideration for every new business, including landscapers and gardeners. You’ll want to start with public liability insurance, which can cover you against claims arising from injury or damage suffered by a member of the public.

If you employ people in your landscaping business, employers’ liability insurance is likely a legal requirement. You can be fined if you need it and don’t have it.

Simply Business offers tailored insurance policies to landscape gardeners – compare landscape gardener insurance quotes today.

6. Find customers

Now it’s time to start looking for business. There’s a range of channels you can use in order to find clients. Many landscape gardeners advertise in local newspapers or directories, but there’s an increasing move towards online marketing.

First, you can use these free tools to build a business website. You should also get set up on Google My Business. You might also wish to experiment with Google AdWords.

Finally, remember that repeat and referred business is the most valuable business – so make sure that you’re offering customers the best possible service, and encourage them to tell their friends!

Here are some of our top tips to win customers:

  • Build a portfolio. Working quickly on multiple projects is one way to get your portfolio – and marketing – off the ground. It builds experience, and being able to easily demonstrate your skills is the best way to win clients. When you have your own website, you can update it with images of your work.
  • Build relationships. As we mentioned, repeat and referred business is the most valuable business, so rapport with your clients is key. Be the only person they think of when they want work done. If you perform ongoing maintenance work for a number of clients, it can supplement your one-off projects.
  • Build promotional activities. Use both online and offline marketing and cultivate your brand. Think about flyers, posters, signs – and where you will put them. Advertise your services on online directories.

Ready to set up your business? Let us know how you get on in the comments below.

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