Saturday, August 21, 2021

How to Start a Landscaping Business

If you’re ready to invest and start your own landscaping business, you’re in luck.

The landscaping industry is a lucrative venture for those with an entrepreneurial spirit and a green thumb. Plus, there will always be thousands of lawns in your city waiting to be cared for, regardless of where you live, so you’re assured of abundant work opportunities. 

Moreover, entering the industry isn’t very difficult—even if you have no experience.

In this guide, I’ll give you a step-by-step outline to eliminate any hurdles in your path to landscaping success.

The Easy Parts of Starting a Landscaping Business

Starting a landscaping business allows you to be your own boss. You have complete control over which jobs and clients you take on, set your own hours, choose what services to offer, and set your prices.

No one gives you any commands to follow. No one forces you to work against your wishes. 

You also don’t have to spend a single penny on getting formally trained or educated. While a degree or certification could help attract more customers, not having academic credentials isn’t a deal-breaker.

Limitless potential is another benefit. Most landscapers set their schedules in a way that allows them to take on as many clients as they can, which ends in them making more money. That said, you should only accept work to the point you can handle it. If you allow yourself to get overworked or double-booked, you may end up with disappointed clients and negative reviews.

You’re also assured of repeat business. Managing to impress clients with your services nearly always leads to them hiring you again for future work. So, in addition to more clients, you’re also creating a loyal customer base—provided you deliver quality work every time.

To ensure you are staying on schedule and streamlining your process, we recommend using scheduling software to coordinate appointments and bookings. Booking Koala is our top pick for any service-based business, such as landscaping. 

The online booking forms are mobile-responsive and contain an intelligent schedule to only show available appointment times in real-time. Booking Koala also has payment processing built in, so you can take care of invoicing and payments through the same system. 

In addition, Booking Koala has in-app live chat and SMS and email notifications to respond to customer queries quickly. For additional fees, you can also access marketing tools, track field employees, and access a referral system you can use to encourage clients to recommend your services.

Booking Koala starts at $27 per month. Try it for free with a 14-day free trial now.

The Difficult Parts of Starting a Landscaping Business

The manual labor involved in running a landscaping business can get incredibly challenging. 

It’s no secret landscaping requires hard work and physical labor. This means a tiring day for you every day you work, especially if you plan on running a business as a one-person operation.

What’s more, finding reliable and professional people who understand the work and do it correctly can get time-consuming and difficult when you hire a team. Many landscaping workers are beginners, so you may not always find experienced individuals.

Seasonal changes and inclement weather pose other challenges—ones you have no control over.

Step 1: Choose Your Niche and Landscaping Services

Landscaping is an umbrella term. There’s a wide variety of services that come under it. 

While you can start as a full-service landscaping company, it’s best to focus on just one service when you’re starting out. Plus, choosing a landscaping niche will also help you save money in your initial budget, giving you more wiggle room to buy equipment, hire people, and advertise your business.

Survey the Market

The very first step of building a successful landscaping business is knowing your local market. This is called market research and validates that your business idea is a good fit for your area.

You should know who your competitors are, if the market is oversaturated, your customers’ pain points, and the average prices for the services. Use this knowledge to determine the services you want to offer.

Question local landscapers for feedback. Here’s a list of questions to ask:

  • How easy is it to find customers?
  • Do you face any difficulty retaining your clientele?
  • Is marketing a landscaping business time-consuming or expensive?
  • Do you find yourself juggling more landscape work than you can handle?

The above questions will give you a fair idea of what to expect once starting your landscaping business. 

You can also question potential clients and ask  them things such as:

  • How much would you pay for X or Y service?
  • Do you currently have a landscaping company you work with?
  • Have you ever had a negative experience with a landscaping company?

Pick Your Landscaping Niche/Services

As mentioned, you won’t find yourself getting short of options when choosing landscaping niches. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones:

  • Lawn and tree maintenance
  • Fertilization, weeding, and pest control
  • Sod and lawn installation
  • Landscape architecture and design
  • Deck and patio construction

As you narrow down your offerings, keep an eye out for your competition and the overall scope in your niche. This will help you identify potential customers.

Another aspect here is deciding whether you want to cater to commercial clients or residential clients. Each has its advantages, so it really boils down to your personal preference.

Analyze Your Competition 

The rule here is simple: Don’t start your landscaping business without doing your homework. 

You need a good understanding of your competition to create a solid marketing plan and ensure better outcomes. Besides, you should be paying attention to any business that’s doing a good job so you can improve your strategies.

Once you identify the top performers in your chosen niche, take a long, hard look at their:

  1. Website —  What landscape services do they offer? How much do they charge for their services? Who is their target clientele?
  2. Employees — How large is their company? Are they direct competitors to you? How big are their service teams?
  3. Marketing — Are they listed on sites like HomeAdvisor? Do they send out flyers in the email? Do they have commercials?

You should not copy your competitors. But you can use them as inspiration to set up your landscaping business and make good business and marketing decisions.

Step 2: Establish Your Landscaping Company

Now that you know the kind of services you’re going to offer, it’s time to shift your focus to the logistical part of establishing a company. This involves registering your business, creating a business plan, and getting the necessary licenses.

Decide Your Company’s Name

Choosing the name of your company is serious business. You want something that accurately conveys the services you offer, especially since your business name is the first impression you’ll make on a customer.

And changing a name after registering a company can be very tedious. So if you want to save yourself from extra paperwork, make sure you focus and brainstorm a great name. 

The best business name is simple, short, and relevant. It should be easy to remember but unique enough to stand out from your rivals. 

Sounds confusing, right? Trust me, it won’t be once you get down to brainstorming.

You can always use a business name generator for ideas if you have trouble coming up with a business name or want additional inspiration.

Create a Business Plan

A business plan is a living document that outlines your company’s future. It includes several crucial details about your business, including your goals, financials, strategies, and management. 

Your business plan helps improve your chances of being a successful landscaping business. Plus, it outlines your company‘s mission statement and long-term goals and details your expenses, both of which facilitate better decision-making.

A business plan also makes it easier to secure business loans or other financing options from bankers and investors. 

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be intimidating. You’ll find tons of sample business plans available on the internet. To give you a brief idea, here’s what a business plan generally covers:

  • Mission statement and objectives
  • Company description
  • Services you’ll offer to customers
  • Market analysis
  • Sales and marketing strategies
  • Organizational and management structure
  • Budget figures and financial projections

It isn’t necessary to prepare an overly detailed business plan. However, the more detail you include, the better the document will serve as a roadmap for your company.

Choose Your Business Structure

Before registering your business, you have to choose your business structure. Most landscaping businesses opt for one of the following three options:

  • Sole Proprietorship. Owned by a single person responsible for all of the business’s legal liabilities, taxes, and debts. Although the easiest and least expensive type of business to start, you can be held personally liable for your business’s obligations and debts (limited liability).
  • Partnership. Involves two or more people coming together to form a business. There are two types of partnership: Limited partnership (one general partner with unlimited liability) and limited liability partnership (each partner has limited liability).
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC). LLCs allow you to enjoy the benefits of both partnership and corporation structures. Owners have to file a simple tax return and pay taxes at the personal income tax rate—all the while personal assets stay protected from third-party lawsuits or bankruptcy.

As you can see, each business structure has its benefits and drawbacks. Consider consulting with an attorney to help you make the right choice.

Get the Required Industry Licences

Starting a landscaping company doesn’t involve procuring special industrial licenses, but you need a state business license. Contact your county clerk’s office to find out the licenses required, business licensing fee, and if there are any potential restrictions. 

Although getting a landscaping business license is a simple process, you can be turned down if you have a criminal record, violate zoning laws, file the wrong paperwork, or fail to pay taxes.

Obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also important. 

For those of you who aren’t aware, an EIN is your business’s federal tax ID that makes you eligible to open a business bank account, hire employees, and apply for local permits. You can apply for it for free through the IRS website.

Step 3: Figure Out How Much Money You Need

When you know how much it costs to start a landscaping business, you’ll automatically be more vigilant with your money, which, in turn, will help you sustain the business.

Maintaining a positive cash flow is key to ensuring you can buy the necessary tools and pay your team members without running into debt. It’s why you should budget your money and make well-informed decisions when renting or purchasing equipment and tools.

Analyze Your Business Requirements

You have to figure out how much money you need ASAP.

Finding the answer isn’t exactly easy since landscape startup cost depends on various factors. You have to consider your location, vehicle requirements, how much equipment you already have, the kind of marketing you want to do, business fees, and so on. 

Confused? Let me explain in more detail. 

If you already have a truck, leaf blower, hedge trimmer, and a mower, you’ll probably only need about $2,000-$4,000 worth of additional landscape equipment. But if you start from scratch, you’ll need way more money to have everything checked off your list.

Getting your landscaping business insured is also critical to protect yourself against expensive liability lawsuits.

To simplify it further, you need the information for the following two questions:

  1. How much money and assets do you already have?
  2. What more assets or equipment before you can start taking clients?

Figure out how to fill the gap between the questions above. For instance, you can apply for a personal loan or a business loan.

Buy Your Initial Tools and Equipment

Once you know the landscape services you want to provide, you can create a list of all the tools you need.

I found this excellent list prepared by Spyker that covers all the standard equipment used in the landscaping business, along with their average cost:

  • Manual gardening tools (shovels, rakes, shears, trowels, etc.): $10-$50 each
  • Push mower: $200-$1,000
  • Riding lawn mower: $1,000-$5,000
  • Leaf blower: $100-$500
  • Lawn spreader: $100-$500
  • Sprayer (for fertilizer, pesticides, etc.): $50-$200
  • Trimmer: $50-$300
  • Edger: $80-$350
  • Water saw: $500-$4,000
  • Plate compactor: $300-$5,000
  • Trailer: $1,500-$5,000
  • Heavy-duty truck: $10,000-$50,000
  • Portable generator: $500-$2,000

If you have the startup budget to cover everything on your list, you’re golden. But if you don’t, you can rent the more expensive tools initially and then buy them once you have enough money.

A good rule of thumb is to buy fewer pieces of high-quality equipment rather than purchasing a full range of landscaping tools of lesser quality right off the bat. Remember, tools wear out over time, so the more high-quality your tools, the longer they’ll serve you.

Decide Your Prices

The average hourly pay of a landscaper is about $14.25 per hour, according to Payscale. However, you can set your rate based on your experience, location, and the services you offer.

I highly recommend looking at what your competitors are charging. The idea is to price your services closer to theirs to stay competitive—you don’t want to be too high or too low.

You can also test out what hourly rate gets you the most landscaping projects. Once you gain more experience, you can raise your rates accordingly.

Also, you already know the kind of money you need to maintain a positive cash flow and buy equipment/tools. So don’t forget to plan for those expenses and taxes when setting your rates.

Step 4: Hire a Crew 

While some landscaping projects are one-person jobs, you’ll need a team of reliable people when handling larger jobs.

Finding good workers is one of the most challenging parts of running a landscaping business. You want experienced and friendly individuals you can trust—without going over your budget.

Post Job Advertisements 

Job marketplaces like Linkedin and are excellent places to find quality employees. Alternatively, you can also reach out to trade schools and colleges to find candidates looking for work.

Ask for Referrals

The other option is to work your contacts. Contact your current vendors, clients, and other peers in your community, and inform them you’re hiring. Ask them to pass along contacts of reliable and professional people they think would be a good fit for the job. 

Passing out flyers can also work.

Step 5: Sort Out Your Business’s Branding and Marketing

As a business owner, you want to create a strong brand identity that sets your brand new landscaping business apart from your rivals. You also need effective marketing strategies to attract a steady stream of clients for your business.

Fine-Tune Your Company’s Brand

I cannot emphasize the power of great branding enough. It really can make all the difference when it comes to outshining your local competitors. 

Your brand is how your clients perceive you, so you have to strategize in a way that best reflects who you are and the services you offer. Since we already have a business name and a mission statement, you can work on understanding your unique selling point (USP).

Your USP is the defining characteristic that distinguishes you from other landscapers. Think about what makes your company unique. Do you have a diverse team of designers? Do you offer 24/7 customer service? Are you only focused on luxury landscapes?

Next, you have to refine your brand messaging to best highlight your USP. Consider what you want your business to say and how to communicate it to your target audience effectively.

Lastly, you’ll need a unique logo for your business and build a professional website to put your business on the online map. 

Market Your Landscaping Business

You need a solid web presence to land more clients and, of course, start earning money.

The good news is there are both online and offline marketing strategies to implement. For instance, you can create profiles on leading social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram and regularly post content relevant to your target audience. 

Posting high-quality, SEO-optimized content on your website is another effective way to drive organic traffic through search engines. As for offline tactics, you can focus on building strong relationships in your local community to land new job opportunities. 

Another excellent way of boosting your clientele is by delivering the best possible service. Satisfied customers are more than happy to refer your services to their acquaintances, friends, and family.

You can also use Booking Koala’s marketing tools and automated referral program to further market your business. 

Step 6: Start Booking Clients

Once you have put everything together and have a team ready to go, you are ready to start booking clients and working on jobs!

Use Booking Koala to help you manage all your bookings in real-time and make sure to give excellent customer service. 

You’ll do great!

The success of your new landscaping business depends on your work quality and your relationships with clients. And while you should give your best at the job, don’t forget your budget and always stay on top of emerging marketing trends to ensure your landscaping success.

from Quick Sprout