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How to start a landscaping business

Starting your own landscaping business is a great if you’re a recently qualified landscaper, or want to work for yourself. In this post, we show you the practical steps and top tips to ensure the future success of your venture.

As a landscaper, you’re no stranger to putting in the hard graft. But while employment offers a safety net, starting your own landscaping business let’s you benefit from your own hard work.

As you know, the work of a landscape gardener (or landscaper) is varied. It can include garden design, building decking, garden rooms, installing water features, paving or pergolas, planting trees, and more.

At this stage of your career, you have several options on the table.

If you’re keen to explore more about setting up a landscaping business of your own, read on. We’ll show you the practical steps you need to take to get yourself up and running.

We’ll also cover how to market your venture and provide guidance on how to grow your landscaping business.

landscape gardener hedge trimming

Create a business plan for your landscaping business

Before any new business is launched, there should be a business plan in place.

A business plan will outline your goals and how you plan to achieve them. It will also make sure you remain focused on your business activity and allow you to make informed decisions.

Your plan should include detailed financial information. For example, how do you plan to cover your start-up costs? If you don’t have sufficient savings, consider a business loan.

But make sure you understand the interest charges and that you’ll be able to afford the repayments.

We have a fantastic guide for how to write a business plan. And a free business plan template for you to use. Simply add your email below.

Training and qualifications

You don’t need any formal qualifications to become a landscaper. But no doubt you’ve built up considerable experience working alongside your boss.

However, if you’re thinking of starting your own landscaping business, you can choose to bolster your skills with formal qualifications.

This has the added benefit of increasing your credibility with new customers.

There are a variety of college courses you can undertake as a landscaper including:

  • Level 1 Diploma in Skills for Working in Horticulture Industries
  • Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture
  • Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Horticulture
  • T Level in Agriculture, Land Management, and Production

You may also wish to enhance your horticultural knowledge through a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) course.

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Other useful skills and attributes

You may have excellent knowledge in your field of work, but running a successful business requires different skills.

To excel at both your job and running a business, you’ll need a variety of attributes including:

  • Horticultural and landscaping knowledge
  • Attention to detail and highly organised
  • Interpersonal skills and great customer service
  • The ability to have conviction in your decisions
  • The ability to lead and manage a team
  • Patience, fairness, integrity, and self-awareness
  • Enthusiasm, endurance, creativity, and the ability to find innovative solutions

How to start your landscape business step-by-step

Getting a business up and running requires a great deal of thought and organisation.

These are just some of the steps you can take to ensure you’ve ticked all the necessary boxes:

Register your business

To help define your business and stand out from the crowd, decide on a name for your new business.

Next, you’ll need to register your business with HMRC and ensure you understand your tax liabilities and national insurance contributions.

Finally, decide on a company structure. Will you be a sole trader or a limited company?

Settle on an arrangement that suits you by weighing up the different regulations and taxes that apply to each.

If you’re unsure or need some guidance, contact a professional accountant.

Get business insurance

Insurance for your landscaping business is vitally important. You are your business, so it’s important to insure your business properly to protect your income if you can’t work.

Consider insurance for your work vehicle, tools and equipment, and any stock you wish to cover. Professional indemnity insurance is also a good idea to protect you should a customer bring a claim against you for alleged negligence.

Public liability insurance (PLI) is recommended to cover your liabilities toward your customers, members of the public, and third-party property.

All Checkatrade members are required to have PLI to become a member. As a result, our members can save 20% off PLI. Log in to our Member’s Area to see the latest deals!

Employers’ liability insurance is a legal obligation if your business employs someone else, even on a temporary or casual basis.

Finances

Managing your cash flow, understanding your tax liabilities, and keeping your books in good order is crucial for success. We have three articles to help you do this:

Poor cash flow management is one of the key reasons for new businesses failing. Don’t be tempted to hide from it!

We’ve put together this guide to help you avoid falling into common traps with your cash flow:

Save up to £470 on business essentials

Checkatrade members receive exclusive discounts on tools, equipment, van leasing, fuel, insurance, workwear, and more

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Tools and equipment

You’ll know from experience that the right tools, of the best quality you can afford, will make your job easier. Here’s an outline of some of the tools you’ll need:

  • Gardening tools including secateurs, a shovel, a garden fork, trowels, pruning shears, and a rake
  • Landscaping tools including a lawn edger, strimmer, lawn mower, chainsaw, hedge trimmer, and leaf blower
  • Basic equipment such as protective safety gear, a wheelbarrow, ladders, and buckets
  • A selection of power tools

Marketing your landscaping business

A robust marketing strategy is vital for any business.

If you have some experience in your local area, word-of-mouth marketing can be an effective way to generate work.

Advertising in local print can also be a way to build awareness of your new venture. This can include advertising in your local magazine or newspaper or sending out direct mail.

Checkatrade members have the opportunity to feature in our leading trade directory, which is delivered to homeowners around the country.

At the same time, it’s important to build an online presence for your business.

A cost-effective way to do this is to create social media profiles for your business. Then populate them with good-looking content to showcase the quality work you offer.

Check out our best landscaper marketing tips for help getting your business out there on people’s minds.

Save money and time marketing your business

Marketing will cost you in time and money. Therefore, you must decide on the most effective marketing strategy for your business, considering budget and your available time.

With our digital marketing strategy and online presence, becoming a Checkatrade member makes it easy for customers to find you.

You get a business profile on the UK’s leading trade directory, and a search listing in Google. This is something that can take months, even years, to achieve otherwise.

As a Checkatrade member, you can display customer reviews, testimonials, and examples of your work on your profile page.

You can also manage customer enquiries on the go, directly from the Checkatrade app, keeping everything in one handy place.

We’ll also help you with free marketing materials and don’t forget, our members get exclusive discounts on business essentials. This includes workwear, tools, equipment, insurance, van leasing, fuel, and more.

How to grow your landscaping business

Having set up your own landscaping business, you might be wondering how to grow your business? How do you scale it up and taking things to the next level.

While this marks an exciting time for your company, it does present several questions too:

  • Is your company in a good financial position to scale up?
  • Will you need to employ others? If so, who, when, and where do you find the right people?
  • What responsibilities will you take on if you employ others? Perhaps you have questions about payroll, HR, or holiday pay?
  • Can you afford more work vehicles, tools, equipment, and workwear?
  • Would you/your team benefit from training to offer new services, or simply to help manage the demands of a bigger enterprise?

No doubt your mind has been whirring with questions like these as you contemplate the future of your business.

In this next section, we’ll guide you through how to grow your landscaping business with a structured approach. Helping to identify, set, and achieve realistic targets to scale up in an attainable way.

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What is business growth?

Business growth can occur in different ways, including generating more revenue, developing a larger customer base, and offering more services.

However, growth isn’t just about ‘increased sales’. It’s also about maintaining or improving profitability. This can be done through greater efficiencies and minimising costs, for example.

Before you launch into the ‘growth’ stage, it’s important to think about what growth means for your business:

  • What does ‘growth’ look like?
  • How will you achieve that growth?
  • How will you gauge success?

What growth targets should you set for your business?

As we touched on above, growth can be achieved in many different ways. Here are some examples of growth targets to consider:

  • Increasing your revenue
  • Obtaining more work
  • Developing a bigger team
  • Expanding your services

How will you achieve your growth targets?

Once you’ve narrowed down your growth targets, you can plan how you’ll achieve these goals in your business development plan.

We have a FREE business development strategy template and a really useful article to explain what information to include:

We also have some useful articles depending on the growth targets you set.

Want greater revenue?

You might have a good idea of how much landscapers earn. But there’s no ceiling to the potential of your new business! Sharpen your sales toolkit with the help of these expert articles:

Want more work?

Review your marketing strategy and think about what you can do to achieve your goal of getting more work:

  • Will you expand the geographical reach of your services?
  • Will you offer new/improved services?
  • Will you source work from alternative sources, e.g. insurance jobs?

There are various strategies you can implement to get more work for your business. Here’s a selection of ideas to get you started:

Traditional marketing

  • Print marketing (e.g. an advert in a local magazine)
  • Sponsorship (e.g. a local sports team or community event)
  • Company signage (e.g. on your work vehicle)
  • Networking (e.g. building relationships with other trades)
  • Word-of-mouth marketing

Digital marketing

  • Build a company website
  • Add new content to your company’s social media profiles
  • Join an online trade directory
  • Set up a Google Business profile
  • Ask for customer reviews

To create a clear list of marketing tactics and who’s responsible for them, use our free marketing planning guide.

Want a bigger team?

If your goal is to grow your team, there are several factors to consider around your responsibilities as an employer.

For example, you’ll need to run the company payroll and learn about holiday pay.

How much do landscapers earn

Want to expand on the services you offer?

Your landscaping business can also grow by:

  • Offering new services
  • Developing existing services
  • Specialising in niche areas 

Identify the training and development needs of you/your team or look at how your skills could transfer to another service. Perhaps there are accreditations or certifications you could aim for too.

For example, you might offer a bespoke service for additional needs, such as sensory gardens for those with dementia. Or perhaps you’re passionate about developing environmentally friendly services, using only sustainable products.

Remember, whatever growth targets you set, they must be S.M.A.R.T

  • Specific – what does the task involve?
  • Measurable – how will you quantify success?
  • Achievable – is this attainable given the resources, knowledge, and time available?
  • Realistic – is the target realistic to the confines of your job and your existing responsibilities?
  • Time-bound – when should the target be achieved?

How to tell if you’ve reached your targets?

The simplest way to know if you’ve achieved your targets is to measure them.

Draw up a chart that includes your target, your current figure, the figure you’re aiming for, and the % increase. Populate the chart at regular frequencies so you can monitor your progress.

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Other key considerations for business growth

As your landscaping business grows, there are several other factors to consider:

  • Funding – will you need to source additional funding to facilitate your growth plans?
  • Business structure – is it still appropriate to operate as a sole trader as your business expands? It might be time to speak with your accountant about becoming a limited company
  • Company finances – an accountant can help you to stay tax efficient and compliant, and even help to source additional funding as you grow
  • Business processes – review your processes to make sure they’re scalable. Consider what technology can help to make your business more efficient

Grow your landscaping business with Checkatrade

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