A step-by-step guide on how to start a landscaping business in 2022. From getting your license to picking a market and implementing the right tools, these tips have you covered.
Table of contents
- Define Your Scope of Services
- Decide Whether To Rent or Buy Equipment
- Choose a Business Structure
- Get the Necessary Business Licenses and Insurance
- Organize Your Financials and Your Administration Processes
- Assemble a Team
- Develop a Marketing Strategy
- Start a Landscaping Business and Watch Your Profits Grow
- Frequently Asked Questions
Running your own landscaping business requires hard work, attention to detail, and drive. By following these 7 steps, you’re well on your way to building a thriving landscaping business.
If you love working outside rather than being stuck behind a desk, then landscaping might be the industry for you. And by starting a landscaping business, you can be your own boss, setting the hours you work and choosing the type of work you want to do.
However, the prospect of starting a landscaping business can feel like a daunting task. Finding clients, pricing your services, buying the necessary equipment, managing employee schedules—the list seems neverending.
But by breaking it down into 7 easy steps, you can turn your dream of owning your own business into a reality.
Define Your Scope of Services
Defining your services is one of the first steps when starting a landscaping business. Jason Farr, President and owner of Aviara Pavers, explains this is essential because “it determines the equipment you will need depending on the landscaping services you plan to offer.”
The term “landscaping” encompasses a wide range of tasks, including the following:
- Lawn care, including mowing and maintenance
- Landscape design or architecture
- Maintaining golf courses
- Hedge trimming
- Tree removal
- Planting lawns, plants, bushes, or trees
- Building retaining walls or patios
- Seasonal clean-ups
A good starting point when identifying what services to offer is to think about your relevant skills, experience, or qualifications. For example, if you have a certificate in landscape design, you should offer this service.
You can also review the market to identify service gaps in your local area. This helps you to identify a unique selling point that distinguishes you from the rest of the competition.
It’s also useful to reflect on who your clients are to narrow down your target market. Are they individual homeowners or commercial clients? Homeowners may be a good place to start if you’re setting up a one or two-person business. Commercial clients typically have larger properties, with increased landscaping needs that are better serviced by a bigger team.
Keep in mind that your services don’t have to be one-off, stand-alone tasks. Designing seasonal service packages—for example, biweekly lawnmowing during the summer—is a great way to build client retention and regular work.
Once you’ve decided on your services, you need to set your prices. You might charge by task, time, or the size of the property. You can use online price estimators to see what similar services cost in your area.
Keep in mind that your pricing needs to cover your overheads, including equipment, maintenance, wages, marketing, and insurance.
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Decide Whether To Rent or Buy Equipment
The equipment you need for your landscaping business depends on the type of services you offer. It can range from basic manual items such as spades, wheelbarrows, and rakes to larger pieces such as rototillers and ride-on lawnmowers. You may also need to budget for a truck or trailer to transport your equipment.
To help you with your budget, here are some estimated costs for common pieces of landscaping equipment:
- Shovel: $25
- Rake: between $15 and $40
- Hedge trimmer: between $100 and $400
- Handheld leaf blower: $300
- Sprayer: between $50 and $500
- Push mower: between $2,500 and $6,000
- Trailer: between $1,000 and $10,000
- Pickup truck: $5,000 (second hand) up to $50,000 (new)
Even small items can quickly add up. But as Max Shak from survivalgearshack.com explains, “You can purchase standard lawn-care equipment such as mowers, sprinklers, etc., at reasonable prices.”
If you don’t have enough funds to buy larger equipment, such as a vehicle, outright, you can always consider renting or leasing it. Sourcing good quality secondhand items is another way to keep your costs down when you’re first starting out.
When calculating the cost of equipment, you’ll also need to factor in maintenance costs such as fuel, servicing, replacement parts, and storage. Personal protection equipment, such as gloves and goggles, is also an essential purchase. In addition, you should consider taking out tools and equipment insurance or commercial vehicle insurance.
Choose a Business Structure
Another important decision to make when considering how to start a landscaping business is what business structure to choose. This decision has potential legal, tax, and other financial implications, so it’s a good idea to seek professional advice.
Many landscaping business owners choose to set up a sole proprietorship. As one of the most straightforward and affordable business structures, a sole proprietorship can be an attractive option—but it also carries some risks. As a sole proprietor, there’s no separation between you and the business, so bear in mind that you can be held personally responsible for the debts, taxes, and other liabilities of the business.
If you’re going into business with one or two other owners, a partnership structure may suit your needs. There are different types of partnerships to choose from—including limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships—depending on how you want to structure the investment and liability of each partner.
A limited liability company (LLC) is one of the most popular choices for small business owners in the landscaping industry. With its simplified tax and accounting requirements, an LLC also offers the added benefit of limited liability. This separates your personal liability from the company, protecting your personal assets in the event of bankruptcy or a lawsuit against your business.
Depending on the business structure you choose, you may need to register your landscaping company with state authorities. Most businesses also need a federal employer identification number (EIN), which is a business ID number for tax purposes.
Get the Necessary Business Licenses and Insurance
As well as registering your business, you’ll need to apply for any mandatory licenses, which may involve a small application fee.
Most states require you to apply for a general business license when starting any business. You’ll also need to check at both a state and federal level whether any specific licenses and permits apply to your landscaping business and the services you offer.
For example, if you transport plants between states, you may need a license from the Department of Agriculture. If you use restricted-use pesticides, you must apply for the necessary certification in your state. Your state’s Secretary of State office or Small Business Administration are good places to start for guidance on any other requirements.
When starting a landscaping business, you need to take out general liability insurance. This covers the cost of any accidents related to your business—such as injuring a third party or damaging someone else’s property—including legal expenses, repairs, and replacements.
Check your state’s rules for any other mandatory business insurance. For example, several states require employers to take out workers’ compensation insurance. If one of your employees injures themselves while working, workers’ compensation covers any associated costs such as lost wages or medical bills.
Other optional forms of insurance you might consider to further protect your business include commercial vehicle insurance and commercial umbrella insurance. The latter will cover additional costs beyond those covered by your other insurance policies.
Organize Your Financials and Your Administration Processes
When starting your landscaping business, you need to set your prices and budget to ensure you can bring in enough revenue to cover your expenses and also generate a profit.
Given the seasonal nature of landscaping work, an important aspect of this is planning for the off-season. Consider how you can budget for quieter periods—for example, by accounting for them when pricing your services or by offering different services at different times of the year.
Starting a landscaping business requires some level of initial investment to cover costs such as business registration, licenses, equipment, marketing, and hiring staff. You need to decide how to fund your business: you might use your savings, or your friends or family may be willing to invest. There are also loans and government grants available to help get a small business up and running.
Below are some other possible financial considerations:
- Opening a business account to keep your personal finances separate from your business finances
- Setting up an accounting system or software platform to manage your invoices and payments
- Filing annual tax returns and paying any corporate tax liability
- Renting an office space where you can run your business
As a landscaping business owner, you also need to set up internal systems to manage functions such as timesheets, payroll, and assigning tasks and equipment to employees. A landscaping business app comes in handy for this.
Assemble a Team
While you might start a landscaping business as a one-person show, as your business grows, you’ll need to hire some landscape professionals. According to Tom Monson from Monson Lawn & Landscaping, “Landscaping is a great business to start because scaling it up is as easy as realizing you have more customers than you have time.”
You can find workers by word of mouth or by advertising on recruitment platforms such as LinkedIn or Indeed. You can also use a recruitment service, although this involves an extra cost. Make sure you’re offering your employees competitive pay so they’re more likely to stay with you long-term.
Due to the nature of the work, an essential part of managing employees in the landscaping industry is promoting safe working practices and conditions. Familiarize yourself with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s guidelines for the landscaping industry’s best practices, and use a forms and checklists app to help with compliance.
As you scale your business, you should consider taking out employment law liability insurance. If a current or former employee sues you for a work-related accident, wrongful termination, or workplace harassment or discrimination, this insurance can help you pay for legal costs and damages.
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Develop a Marketing Strategy
Now that you’re ready to get out there, it’s time to tell people about your new landscaping business. You can do this by developing a marketing strategy that builds awareness of your business and its services.
An important part of this step is naming your business. Your business name should help you stand out from the competition while communicating your services and values. Before choosing one, make sure the domain name is available so you can set up your website. You can also develop a logo to use on your uniforms, stationery, electronic signature, and vehicles to build brand awareness and recognition.
Most landscaping businesses use a combination of digital and traditional marketing methods to grow. Digital marketing channels include social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram—a great place for creating a portfolio of your work—or digital platforms like Airtasker or TaskRabbit. You can also build an online presence for your business using a free or affordable website builder such as WordPress or Squarespace.
More traditional marketing methods include posting flyers at your local shops or reaching out to potential local clients directly.
Keep in mind that your first few customers are an excellent source of referrals. Daniel Apke, CEO of Land Investing Online, says, “Landscaping business thrives with word-of-mouth marketing, so to gain more potential customers, you should be committed to satisfying your customers by providing the best service.”
Start a Landscaping Business and Watch Your Profits Grow
As you can see, it’s possible to start a landscape business with minimal initial capital to cover equipment and other setup costs. Over time, as you expand your services and client base, you can hire more employees and invest in more equipment.
Running your own business requires hard work, attention to detail, and a drive to grow your business. But by following the above steps as a starting point, you’re well on your way to building a thriving landscaping business.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to start a landscaping business?
When starting a landscaping business, there are some initial investments to set up shop. Depending on the size of your business, the services you offer, and your location, it’s likely to cost between $5,000 and $20,000 to start a landscaping business. Purchasing equipment and hiring employees will be two of your most significant costs.
How much can you make as a landscaping business?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average landscaper salary can range between $24,170 and $47,630. As an owner of a landscaping business, you may be able to make much more than this depending on the size of your business, the scope of your services, and your profit margins.
How hard is it to start a landscaping business?
Like any small business, starting a landscape business comes with its challenges. It can involve a steep learning curve as you learn the skills needed to establish yourself in the field. But with hard work, time, and persistence, your landscaping business will flourish.
What do I need to start a landscaping business?
Depending on the type of services you offer, you may only need some basic equipment and one or two employees to start your landscaping business. However, you also ideally need some experience or qualifications in the landscaping industry.