Gardening is said to be one of the most stress-relieving hobbies one can have. If you have extensive knowledge and would love to turn it up a notch with your experience by offering your expertise to other people, you can start your own gardening business.
How big your business is going to be depends on you, your free time, the scale of services you would offer and of course the money you can afford to invest. These are the basics on how to set up a gardening business.
Essential Skills and Requirements to Start a Gardening Business
If you’re wondering how to become a landscape gardener for profit, first you’ll need to have the most important base of the craft, and that’s natural skills. The best you can offer from yourself is experience. If you have no expertise whatsoever, you might need to invest time, money and effort in training.
As a gardener, you will have to function in different ways and with a different vision for every project. For that, your most valuable skill is flexibility. Before committing yourself to the gardening business, see if you possess the following skills:
● A creative mind set
● An ability to understand people and communicate clearly
● A good attitude toward planning, organization and design
● General and preferably above average gardening proficiency
● Negotiation skills that can make both you and the client happy with the costs and profit of the individual service
● Flexibility when someone changes his or her mind, or in the occasion of accidents and unforeseen circumstances
● Reliability to your business name
● Fearless attitude towards weather
● Basic administrative skills for keeping your documentation organized
● Basic marketing skills to make yourself noticed
● An attitude towards growth no matter how successful you get
● An eye towards innovation
● Interest for new ideas all the time
You will need a building for a home office. You will have to keep your administration somewhere. It can be your own home. If you live in a house with a back yard, you can exercise new ideas there and even use it as an example of your work.
A landscape gardener needs the right tools. With time, you can expand, but make sure you have the basic, most important tools for a beginner:
● Kneeler/knee pads
● Hand trowel
● Garden fork
● Garden hoe
● Dandelion digger
● Hand cultivator
● Bypass pruners
● A long hose
● Lawn mower
● A laptop for administrative work
● A van for transport to distant locations
It’s a good idea to invest in all the tools. You will most likely start local, so you won’t need the van that much, but with time, as your business expands, it will be your most valuable companion.
How to Write a Business Plan
Your business plan is the core of your whole endeavor. In order to have a successful start and execution of your gardening business, you have to look at a few basic points. Here is an example:
1. Objective: Create an independent service provider for gardening and landscaping offers.
2. Mission: Provide good quality gardening services at affordable rates for local households.
3. Start Up: Long-term assets
● Transport van
4. List of Services + Prices
5. Competition Research
● Scale of competitors
● Service offers by competitors
● Location coverage by competitors
● Experience and quality of work by competitors
● Marketing strategy by competitors
6. Financial Strategy
A detailed investment/profit analysis with a forecast for the first 6 months.
7. Marketing Strategy
● Recognize target audience
● Implement exposure channels
● Create a business portfolio
You target client who would most probably need any type of gardening service is basically anyone with an outdoor space.
You might think it will mostly be old people and pensioners, the baby boomer generation. And that’s true to an extent. But it’s also true that retired people tend to have a lot of free time on their hands and would prefer to do the gardening themselves.
Most experienced gardeners would tell you that they mostly help out young families, young professionals and people who often go on trips out of town.
People who simply want their outdoor space to look good, or at least a little neater. This is why your most frequently purchased service would be mowing lawns and trimming bushes. Maybe watering a few plants.
Traditional young families who can afford a garden might hire you for a full landscaping project with planting flowers, adding decorations, even looking for fancy customized garden design to brag about to their neighbors. These people would look for good quality and would also pay for your most expensive services.
There is also the group that has no idea their outdoor space needs to be taken care of, until someone points that out. And, that someone could even be you. A good walk around the neighborhood could tell you which house is in need of your services. A group like that will most probably look for your cheapest offers.
How much does it cost to start a landscaping business? Good news is, gardening and landscaping businesses do not require big outside funding.
You can work small scale with what you have and what you know. Then, gradually start to expand the tools and the coverage of your services as you gain popularity in the niche.
Assuming you have no prior expertise in anything involving the gardening business, you should spend a good amount of money and time on education and practical work.
Tools and Travel
Most of your financial investments will go for tools and travel expenses, if you’re doing a job away from your local neighborhood.
Signing a contract with a big supplier is the most secure decision you can make, but this is better saved for when your business is blooming. As a start, you can shop in wholesale stores and find deals online.
And, if you don’t have a laptop by now, you’d better get one.
You cannot do anything without insurance, not just in the gardening industry, but in any industry. Once you get in touch with a client, the first thing they’ll ask is whether you have insurance.
If your answer is no, you’ll probably lose them. Insurance covers you in times of accidents, injury, theft and damage to property. Talk to an insurance advisor when choosing the right one for you.
You might need to hire a marketing specialist or pay a few one-time fees to independent promoters in order to gain some exposure in the service market. Of course, you can always do this job by yourself, which is the topic of our next point.
When you ask yourself how to start your own gardening business, if you’re not hiring a marketing expert from the start, you should consider doing the promotional stuff yourself. The word won’t spread if you don’t help it a little.
With that said, what you need to do is find all your available exposure channels and take good advantage of their benefits. And, since you’re starting on your own, your first stop is the Internet.
Create a Website
The best way to give enough information about yourself is a website. Here are the most important things your official website should contain:
● Information about all your services
● Location coverage of all your services
● Contacts for your clients – phone, email, fax, address, booking form, etc.
Create a Social Media Presence
Most people would find you in social media, so make sure you can be found. Make an individual user profile and a business profile on the following sites:
● Google+ (for better exposure in the Google search engine)
Create a Blog
It’s a good idea to invest some free time in a blog for your website. Write about gardening topics. You can attract the attention of garden enthusiasts and, with some luck, expand your audience and list of possible clients.
Create a Mailing List
If your blog earns a following, you can add a mailing list feature in order to keep your subscribers up to date with your gardening topics and new ideas.
A portfolio is the best way to promote yourself to potential clients and possible partners. It’s the best way to present yourself and your work.
Why Do You Need a Portfolio?
Without a business portfolio, it will be hard to showcase your work to clients and business partners. The competition is huge just about everywhere in the gardening business. So, you need to show everyone why you’re a gardener worth hiring.
How to Create a Gardening Business Portfolio
1. Include samples of your work. As a gardener, photos, video and other visual materials speak best. You can make before and after albums, or record the process of your work step by step. Or, you can have a real-life presentation of your own garden if your potential clients can come to you.
2. Make a list of accomplishments. Every gardener has ups and downs, so this is the section where you boast with all your ups. If you managed to do something exceptional like setting a record for speedy execution, or coming up with a really interesting innovation in garden design or technique, mention it with all the best words you can find in the English language.
3. List your best traits. Every professional is good at something more than at something else. If your best work is about garden design, or lawn care, or anything else, mention it. This can ease your client so they would know what to hire you for at first.
4. Include a table of contents. If you have a lot of things to present, it would be better to ease the reader.
5. Make it presentable. If your portfolio turns out to be a huge folder or notebook of photos and lists, make it smooth and shiny, with hard covers. Format it in a way to be easily read and understood.
6. Make the digital copy of the portfolio. Your target audience is both young and old people, and these days, even the old ones have computers. If your potential customers are on the other side of town, you need a good way to pass your portfolio, and that means relying on the Internet.
7. Add reviews and references. No portfolio is finished without at least a few testimonials from previous clients. If someone enjoyed the fruit of your work, ask them for a review. In this section, you should also include references from contests and other professionals in the field, if you have any.
● Take on any job that is presented to you. At first, there shouldn’t be anything too big or too small for you to handle. Jump on any opportunity, as long as you have the tools and expertise to complete it.
● If bookings for projects are not going well, you can always sell tools and products, and even advice.
● Attend gardening events in your area. If you have the time, attend national ones as well. Get in touch with other gardeners and get noticed in the community. Attend contests. Find and share new ideas.
● Keep up to date with technology and innovation. New tools and products come out on a regular basis. Make sure to check and test them. This can also help you expand the scale of your services. Customers love when there’s more to pick from.
● Organize your documentation. You will be getting lots and lots of jobs; some will come though the phone, others through email, or by chat, and even in person. Keep the documentation of each booking. Keep the invoices. Keep a copy of the receipt you give. A well-organized hard drive is perfect for the job. The easier it is to open a file of a long-passed booking, the better. Be the chief of bureaucracy.
● Be friendly and pleasant to all your clients. People are different. With some, it will be easy to talk to and communicate their best interest. With others, not so much. Make sure you have a personal approach to each and always be polite, even to the tough ones. A good relationship may at any time bloom into a lifetime opportunity.
Lisbeth Larose is a professional writer for JoinFantastic, which offers gardening franchise opportunities in the UK. Her fields of expertise include all kinds of topics such as business, management, marketing, blogging, travel, cooking and many more. What makes Lisbeth happy the most is helping people succeed in business, and that’s why her main focus is writing guides. The company she works for is currently looking for gardening franchisees.