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How to Start a Landscaping Business

When folks think about how to start a landscaping business, it can be pretty daunting to consider. In any sector, from lofty visions of high-tech startups to corner shop mom-and-pop operations to a niche restaurant, entrepreneurial ideas big and small can face some pretty serious challenges. After all, when you look at the statistics, most new enterprises fall short of expectations, with many being forced to shut down before they ever have a chance. Dreams of making a decent living out of hard work can fall by the wayside.

But they don’t always have to, especially if you go into the process smartly and choose a business that has a high potential for return on investment — or ROI. There are many elements to think about when starting any business. When you set out to establish a landscaping business, you will see some clear advantages and some less obvious disadvantages.

On the positive side, there is always a large pool of potential clients. Lots and lots of people need landscaping services. From busy homeowners to multi-property landlords to commercial properties, busy folks all over both value having a well-maintained outdoor space and little time to take care of it.

On the more challenging side of the ledger, there are all sorts of costs, risks, and unexpected obstacles that may impede the success you sought when you first began thinking about how to start a landscaping business. This brings us to why we’re sharing a little information with you.

If you know what the challenges are and prepare for them, you can greatly increase your chances of getting your new landscaping enterprise off the ground. From the basics of creating a strategy to finding customers, picking your equipment, and even securing credit to finance your dreams, there is a plan to follow.

If you’re ready to seek greener pastures, here’s a guide on how to start a landscaping business!

The Business Plan

It’s never a good idea to start up a business without working out a strong business plan. And it’s no different when you’re thinking about starting a landscaping business. Create a document that will look at both costs and expected ROI to see if there’s a path for profitability shaping up.

Craft an outline that looks at the areas you seek to work in, the specific services you will be offering, any special services you plan to offer, how big of a team you need to hire, and the types of tools and equipment you will need. From there, have a budget prepared and do your best to stick with it. Your ROI depends on risking the least amount of funds possible. And be sure to include marketing and advertising strategies for customer acquisition.

Once you’ve created those categories, create line items addressing each category. Break down equipment costs from $5 gardening gloves to the $30,000 pickup truck. Factor in what a strong social media ad campaign will cost you to reach your target clientele. Calculate your labor costs down to the last person you will need to hire. Look into licensing and insurance expenses. And finally, create a menu of services and how much you will charge for each. From there, it’s simple math to figure out what your expected earnings will be. Take things one step further to think about what kind of taxes you will face, adding that to your calculations.

Taking Care of Official Business

Entrepreneurs considering starting a landscaping business need to remember that second word: “business.” Regardless of what sector of the economy you want to enter, being a business owner means you’ll have to take care of certain requirements. For example, you need to set up a bank account for your business. Along with that, you will need to have payment methods set up, from accepting checks to providing digital alternatives.

Now it’s time for all of your necessary official registrations and documents. You will need to register your business with your Secretary of State’s office, whether it’s an LLC or corporation. Next, you want to be properly licensed in your local municipality. On the federal level, you will have to acquire a Tax Identification Number. And if you have employees, you may also need Employee Identification Numbers.

Finally, think about the type of insurance you will need. Obviously, when thinking about starting a landscaping business, you have to think about associated risks. Accidents can happen, especially when dealing with power tools and sharp gardening equipment. You will want to cover liability for any injuries that happen on the job, and if you have employees think about getting worker’s comp insurance as well. Then there is the expensive equipment you are buying. You have to insure your truck but consider lawnmowers and anything else that you need and can break and are also very expensive to replace.

Physical Safety and Financial Security

As a business owner, you are responsible for the well-being of your employees (even if it’s just yourself) and the fiscal health of your company. Now that you’re starting a landscaping business, you have to think about both of those things. In terms of keeping yourself and your employees safe, seek out OSHA guidelines for your landscaping profession and be sure to adhere to them closely.

A quick look at what those OSHA practices include will make common sense and also serve to prevent serious problems as your business grows. They include potential occupational hazards like cuts and amputations, stress from hot and cold weather, noise pollution, heavy lifting, and the use of pesticides. You can also look at industry standards for equipment like ladders and respiratory protection or having the right first aid on hand.

Identifying Your Customer Base and Services Provided

As already mentioned, there are all kinds of areas to ponder when you look into how to start a landscaping business. Will you be looking at residential or commercial landscaping? Commercial landscaping businesses will likely have far higher up-front costs as those types of clients are less likely to pay before work commences, while you can secure a deposit from residential customers more easily. On the other hand, having a handful of reliable commercial customers can be less of a hassle than constantly filling work orders from individual homes.

Then there are the types of services you are looking to provide. If it’s all pretty much straightforward things like mowing lawns, fertilizing, weeding, pest control, and seasonal pruning, you are likely to find a larger customer base, although you will also be charging less for that work. The more specialized you get, the fewer customers you will easily acquire, but those services can be more lucrative.

Think of everything from installing sprinkler systems to sod and lawn installations. You can also expand into bespoke maintenance of flower beds, vegetable gardens, and fruiting trees. Hybrid your landscaping with construction-related work like designing and building decks or patios. Step things up another notch, and you could get into retaining walls and contouring. Something to consider: the higher level your landscaping specialty you take on, the more likely you will require certifications, so keep educational costs in mind as you budget.

Finding Your Customers

The traditional way landscaping businesses find customers is by literally driving around their neighborhood, looking at the state of lawns, knocking on doors, or dropping business cards in mailboxes. While those methods can be great supplemental activities, the digital age means you can find many more people with a lot less effort by using the internet to your advantage.

Creating a social media presence is an easy first step. Get on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and everything else you can navigate. Have lots of pictures of your work and as many testimonials as possible. Better yet, get a website up so folks can find you more easily, with an even more expansive set of imagery and information indexed for easy review. And supplement these efforts with digital ads so you reach people in your geographic target area.

If you have the time and money, there’s no harm in seeking traditional marketing and advertising strategies when starting a landscaping business. Local newspapers still reach a good number of potential customers. And word-of-mouth campaigns still have legs. Perhaps offer loyal customers a referral reward. In the case of commercial landscaping, direct outreach to target companies can be very efficient as well. However you go, stepping into your landscaping enterprise can work — if you’re ready for it!

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