The landscaping industry is growing rapidly. If you live in a warmer climate, you might be able to work almost all year. According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the landscape services industry generates $93 billion annually and employs over 1 million people. If you think this is the right decision, continue reading to learn how to start your own landscaping business.
How to start a landscaping business
The economics of owning a landscaping business is simple when you consider the variety and depth of landscaping, from residential to commercial, maintenance, and removal to designing and tree care. It can be as easy as renting a lawnmower and then knocking on doors.
Bryan Clayton, says that his previous lawn care company was one he started with a push mower and me. It grew to more than 125 employees. is the founder of GreenPal. It’s an online ordering platform for lawn care that works a lot like Uber.
Clayton says that customers are often faced with unprofessional and shoddy competitors. It is easy to create a successful landscaping business if you answer the phone whenever your customers call, return their voicemails promptly and do the work you have agreed to with them.
It sounds simple, right? What else can a landscape business owner do beyond the basics to make their landscaping business more successful? These are some tips to help you start your landscaping business.
1. Determine what services you offer and whether the equipment is available for rent or purchase.
Your first step in starting a landscaping business is to purchase your arsenal of landscaping equipment. You will know exactly what equipment you will need once you have decided on the services your landscaping business is going to provide. Next, you can decide whether to rent or buy the equipment.
You have two options when you start your business: to rent or buy equipment of lower quality. As your landscaping business grows, so do equipment costs. You could spend the same amount on maintaining low-grade equipment as you would on purchasing high-quality machines.
Clayton says that most landscape contractors will spend between five and ten hours per week maintaining their equipment, such as changing oil, sharpening blades, or changing spark plugs.
What are the essential elements of good landscaping equipment that you need to be able to start a landscaping business?
A few manual tools that every landscaper should have are shovels (such as square-mouth, spade, and trench), wheelbarrows, and tillers (such as rear-tine tiller or cultivator), as well as more powerful tools like drills and chainsaws. This is not the true cost. You might be surprised at the cost of more expensive equipment.
Clayton explains that riding lawnmowers used by commercial landscapers can cost more than $12,000, which most people don’t realize.
Clayton says landscape contractors must make bigger investments.
Clayton states that landscape contractors must also purchase or finance a truck and trailer. These trucks can cost at least $10,000 each used. A front-end loader is also necessary for landscape construction. It will cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000.
Clayton estimates that landscape maintenance and construction businesses will need to bring equipment worth $40,000 to $50,000 to customers’ properties. You might consider renting a house — Clayton estimates that set-up costs at a more reasonable ballpark of $3,000 but you shouldn’t rely on them for a long time.
2. Get the necessary business insurance, licenses, and EIN
There are several types of business insurance that you should have. You will need to have the right documents to be able to do business. General liability insurance is the most important. It covers everything, from repairs to legal fees to damages. If you or your employee causes injury, the company will pay for it. Accidents can happen — such as running over a sprinkler head while using the mower — and you want to be protected.
You may also need workers’ compensation insurance depending on where you are operating. However, Clayton states that “Many states require both types of insurance to operate a business legitimately.” Workers’ compensation covers injuries sustained on the job. It can cover everything from medical costs to court costs.
Insurance that isn’t necessary, but can be useful, includes inland marine insurance, which covers goods damaged during transit. Commercial auto insurance is not available. You can’t use your vehicle to transport most of your belongings, and your personal policy doesn’t cover you for commercial vehicles. Commercial umbrella insurance (which extends your coverage in the event of a major settlement).
You may also be interested in pesticide application as part of your services. Most states have a pesticide chart that must be obtained. Clayton describes this as “a very complicated process” and does not recommend it until you are well-established in your field.
Before you open your business, ensure you have all the necessary business licenses for the state where you are operating. Also, ensure you have registered to pay taxes, received your employer ID number (also known as a business tax ID number), and that your business is properly insured.
There are different rules regarding which licenses you will need and where you can get them. Before you start your landscaping business, make sure you check the details for each state.
3. Before you decide to scale, get employment law liability insurance
You will also need employment law liability insurance when you start a landscaping business. This covers you in the event that you make mistakes with overtime or wage and hour calculations.
This insurance could prove to be a lifesaver, or, better yet, a business-saver, considering the uncertainty surrounding overtime wages and the fact that many small-business owners are prone to do it all themselves without consulting a lawyer or accountant.
Clayton describes the “personal nightmare” he had as a result of not having insurance.
He says that in 2009, the Department of Labor audited my company and determined that crew leader managers couldn’t be paid a salary. Instead, they had to be paid as hourly-wage employees. This, in turn, kicked in additional overtime charges that were due to 80 employees, which resulted in a $450,000 fine my company had to make a payment.
Clayton almost lost his company due to not having insurance. Consider his experience as an example of how important it is to have insurance in place before you scale.
4. Create a marketing plan, and decide on prices
You already know where to begin when it comes to marketing landscaping businesses: Facebook, other social media, and SEO tactics will help increase your search visibility on Google and other search engines.
Word-of-mouth marketing, especially in hyperlocal markets, is the best. However, it does require hard work over time. While you wait for glowing reviews to spread around the town, you might consider setting up social media accounts as soon as you begin your landscaping business.
Clayton suggests that you should master all marketing channels and set aside $500-$2,000 to begin your journey to acquiring 10 to 100 customers. To take your landscaping business to the next level, a digital marketing specialist may be required.
You should decide the price of your services when you first start your landscaping business. This will allow you to include them in your marketing campaigns. Potential customers will want to know the prices for the different landscaping services that your company offers.
It’s a smart idea to look at the competition before you decide on your rates. See what other businesses are charging and then compare. You can adjust rates at any time.
5. Get your business financials in order
It’s important to keep track of your finances when you start a landscaping business. We’re likely past the time when you could use a pen and paper for all your business expenses, schedules, and accounts. Even spreadsheets, while capable of managing large amounts of information, are somewhat outdated.
There are many business apps that can make your landscaping business run more smoothly. Software and apps are available to assist with everything, from payroll and inventory management to timesheets and employee time sheets. This allows you to focus on the important stuff like actual landscaping.
Clayton recommends an accounting program for new landscape contractors. The program will allow you to manage invoices, and automate fixed asset management, depending on your needs.
Last Line — Start a landscaping business
The average hourly wage for lawn care workers is between $30 and $50. Want to go further? If you believe you have the work ethic and dedication to people skills, you can learn (everything about new technologies such as management software and small-business marketing) — Nothing can stop you from starting your own landscaping business.
Clayton sold his business in 2013, making it the largest lawn care acquisition in a decade. He also founded GreenPal. Remember that he started his business on his own with a push mower. Although success is not guaranteed for everyone who enters landscaping, it’s a field that’s not going away anytime soon. There’s no better time than the present to take advantage of people’s love for a well-manicured yard.