How to Start a Landscaping Business:
Starting a landscaping business can be a lucrative option for entrepreneurs who have a knack for landscaping or working in the “green” industry. To help you start your own landscaping business in this growing industry, follow our step-by-step guide.
Decide if starting a landscaping business is for you.
Make sure it's the best career decision for you.
Do you have experience in the landscaping industry? Do you know basic gardening techniques? Many landscapers obtain valuable experience working for another company or through side jobs before taking on the challenge of starting a business.
To be a landscaper, you'll need to be physically fit, and have excellent knowledge of design, gardening techniques, and different plants. Ideally, you will need to invest some time in learning gardening basics and techniques, as well as the different requirements of plants and special environments.
Evaluate your decision, the job responsibilities, and the costs it will require. Make sure you are prepared financially and physically to take on this new job.
Consider your landscape designing skills.
Designing a large garden will be challenging. For every new client, you will need to consider their plot size, climate, personal taste, budget, and more. Have you worked with a budget? What experience do you have designing large gardens in warm climates? Make sure you are prepared to learn and improve your skills over time.
Research the landscaping industry.
Research the statistics in your area.
In the United States, landscaping businesses have proven to be profitable, netting over $99 billion in 2019, according to our research. But where will your business fit into this growing industry? Before you start setting up your business, make sure you do the research regarding landscaping businesses in and around your ideal location.
Ask the following:
- How many landscaping businesses are active in your community?
- What type of services do they offer?
- How much do they charge?
- Who is the target market?
- Which part of your community are they generally based in?
Decide what type of landscaping business you want to open.
Research the three types of landscaping businesses.
There are three common types of landscaping businesses: landscaping architecture, groundskeeping, and lawn care maintenance. Each business offers similar benefits and services, with the major difference being the design and layout of the garden, a responsibility the landscaping architect would take on.
Before starting your business, be sure to consider the benefits, costs, and skills requirements needed to complete each role.
Landscaping architecture. This service attempts to transform the current physical landscape of a piece of property. This business usually involves working on large, open, and public spaces.
Lawn care maintenance. This service offers basic care for pre-existing grass and other plants. Some states and neighborhoods have regulations regarding basic standards for lawn care. While your business may also offer landscaping services, doing general lawn work can be a good way to establish a customer base and cash flow.
Groundskeeping. Similar to lawn maintenance, groundskeeping is the service of tending an area of land for functional purposes. Groundskeepers generally work alone or in small groups. Their hours are more frequent than lawn care maintenance crews who tend to gardens once or twice a week/month.
Consider the climate in your area.
It's important to note that landscaping businesses will mainly thrive during summer and spring. Depending on the weather climate in your state, you may want to consider starting a landscaping business that offers off-season work as well. These include raking and collecting leaves during the fall or shoveling snow in the winter.
Create a business plan.
Use your research to compile a detailed business plan.
A well-researched and comprehensive business plan is the foundation of any new business. This important strategic tool will help you focus on your short and long-term goals, document strategies, and list your financial expectations. In addition, your business plan is a valuable asset to have when approaching investors, bankers, or potential partners.
Your business plan should include:
- Executive summary.
- Company description.
- Description of products/services.
- Market analysis.
- Financial plan and projections.
You can use our free landscaping business plan template listed above.
Name your landscaping business.
Write down name ideas.
Your business name will represent you and your services. Therefore, it's important to take your time on this step. Write down your name ideas and test them with friends, family, and business partners.
If you want customers to identify you, talk about you and recommend you, you need a catchy and memorable business name.
Perform a trademark search.
You can perform a trademark search using the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). This will help determine if your desired name is available for trademark.
Conduct a name availability search with the state.
Before you register your business name, check with the Secretary of State's (SOS) office in your state to ensure that your business name is not already registered with the SOS. If your name is available, you can go ahead and register your business name with the state.
Register your domain name.
If your business requires a company website, it will be wise to conduct a domain name search. If your desired business name is available, you can register it as your domain name. This will add a sense of credibility and professionalism to your business.
Ask friends and family.
Prepare a well-researched presentation and present your business plan to family and friends. Ask family and friends if they're willing to invest in your business goal.
Opening a new business can be quite costly. If you're unable to afford the initial start-up costs for a large business, consider starting small by offering small gardening services. This eliminates the costs of location space and supplies needed for major projects.
Apply for a small business loan.
This is a popular choice with any new business. It's ideal if you need more funding than you or your family and friends are able to afford. You can apply for a business loan at your local bank, the Small Business Administration (SBA), or through an SBA-approved lender, such as Fundbox, Fundera, and Lendr.
Apply for a business credit card.
This option gives small businesses a tool for borrowing money on a regular basis, building business credit, tracking expenses, while also earning reward points and other useful perks.
Consider equipment financing.
Before purchasing equipment upfront, consider applying for an equipment loan. This option will provide you with monthly payments, at fixed interest rates, over a period ranging between six months and six years.
Form your landscaping business.
Choose your business structure.
There are four common business structures:
Sole Proprietorship: owned and managed by one individual. No legal distinction between the owner and the business.
Partnership: a legal agreement between two or more individuals who share management and profits.
Limited Liability Company (LLC): offers the protection of a corporation but only the owners pay taxes on business profits.
Corporation: the most formal structure available which includes officers and a board of shareholders.
Each business structure offers its own advantages and disadvantages. With a partnership or sole proprietor, you will have an easier time filing your taxes. However, if you choose a corporation or LLC, you are able to limit your liability for anything that happens while you operate your business.
Your ideal business structure should give you the best liability protection, and tax and financial benefits.
Obtain applicable licenses and permits.
To operate a landscaping business, you won't always need a general business license. However, each state is different. In order to legally operate your business, you will need to research and understand the state and local licensing laws that oversee lawn care businesses.
Regulations that affect landscapers:
Fertilizers and pesticides: Part of the job includes working with many toxic chemicals, which can contaminate public water resources. Therefore local jurisdictions regulate the use of fertilizers and pesticides. You may need an additional license if you plan on using one of these.
Irrigation: In some states, water is scarce. You might need to use different techniques that bring water to your customer's land. States, particularly in the American Southwest, regulate this kind of water transfer, so you will need to be familiar with local laws and permits.
Waste removal: Your line of work can produce a large amount of waste in the form of extra dirt, grass clippings, branches, and other forms of waste. You will need to know how the local jurisdiction expects you to deal with this type of waste.
Common licenses and permits needed to start a landscaping business includes a contract license, commercial or private applicator license, landscaper license, and an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Open a bank account.
This will help keep accurate bookkeeping records, help with clear audits, and add an air of professionalism. Contact your local banks and research the different business accounts they have on offer.
Different businesses require different insurance plans. Because you may be working in hazardous spaces or with heavy equipment, you may require special insurance. It's essential that you research the different insurances applicable to your specific state, business, and industry.
There are various types of insurance to consider, including:
Business interruption insurance.
Commercial property insurance.
There are specific types of insurance coverage and policies that landscaping businesses typically need. For example, a small lawn care business will require general liability coverage. Other coverage types, such as commercial property insurance, will be required when you start acquiring valuable equipment.
Comply with tax regulations.
You will need to research the tax laws that affect your business. To legally operate your business, you must adhere to all tax laws and regulations. Failure to do so may result in additional fines or the closure of your business. The tax laws that apply to your business will depend heavily on your business structure.
Before looking into tax deductions and write-offs, you need to understand your business structure because the type of structure greatly impacts how your business's expenses are deducted on a tax return.
Establish an accounting system.
The financial state of your business will be a top priority for you. Start by establishing a solid accounting system. To do this, you may need to obtain accounting software or hire an accountant.
Accounting software. There are various accounting software available on the market. These will help you meet your business needs by simplifying processes, such as expenses, tuition, payment processing, and reporting.
Hire an accountant. It's wise to research the benefits of this option. Besides giving you more time to focus on your business, hiring an accountant may allow for fewer mistakes and less time worrying if your taxes are in order.
Choose a location.
Only consider obtaining additional space when your equipment no longer fits in your garage or driveway, or if you need to present landscaping designs to clients in a professional setting.
Think about the following factors when making your choice:
- Is the location accessible?
- Is there public transportation nearby?
- Is the location safe?
- Is there enough space to run your business?
- Does it have sufficient kitchen/bathroom facilities?
Because most of your work will be done outside, it would be wise not to obtain a location space in the beginning stages. This will save you money on rent and office supplies.
Before you choose your location, you should first identify a local need for lawn care or landscaping in the community. Are there public spaces nearby? Is there a new housing development on its way? This will help you determine where your business is needed most.
Get your equipment and supplies.
Decide if you want to rent or buy equipment.
An important step in starting a landscaping business is to acquire your armory of landscaping equipment and supplies.
If you plan on starting small, you have the option of renting your equipment. Chances are you will not need to own all of the equipment out there to be an effective landscaper. While the equipment you rent should be of high-quality, you are not required to purchase brand new equipment.
Purchase some equipment.
You can also choose to buy lower-grade equipment. As your business grows, so will equipment costs. Beware, you could find yourself spending the same amount of money on maintaining cheap equipment as the price of purchasing higher-grade equipment.
You will need to acquire some or all of the following:
- Gardening tools.
- Safety gear.
- Smaller supplies.
Start with yard sales and auctions, which may have quality pieces at better prices than buying brand new.
Hire and train employees.
Be clear on what you're looking for.
Depending on the type of services you intend to offer, you may find it necessary to hire and train additional employees. Landscape businesses attract all kinds of people, so you will need to be multifaceted in your recruitment strategy.
When recruiting a potential employee, keep the following in mind:
- Previous work experience.
- Additional training and certification.
- Physical abilities.
- Background checks.
- Gardening and design knowledge.
Register new employees with the state.
Federal law requires all employees must be registered with the state. This process must be repeated every time you employ a new staff member. The employer must report employees, whether full-time, part-time, or student worker, generally within 20 days of employment.
You can report a new hire online, by fax, or by mail.
Set your pricing.
Research market prices in your neighborhood.
Consider calling local landscaping and lawn care businesses to get an idea of market pricing for your services. Think about your professional experience and highlight why your pricing is justified.
Consider your expertise and knowledge.
Most customers will want to get a quote for how much the job will cost. Before you can do that, you will need to be able to figure out your skill and speed, as well as an accurate estimation for your work. Your costs should include materials, labor, equipment, and overhead.
Meet with clients and discuss the job.
How much you charge for gardening service will depend on the landscaping job. Therefore, you'll need to meet and discuss the job requirements. Be sure to ask lots of questions that help gauge the size of the landscaping job.
During this process, try to visit the actual site of the project and walk through the space with your client. This will help you create a plan that lays out what kind of materials and supplies, features, plants, subcontractors, and additional labor you may need.
Track job hours.
Tracking the time a job takes is a vital part of establishing a price. Before you take on a new job, you should already have average time periods for different types of landscaping jobs. For example, for a simple mowing and pruning session, you might estimate less than two hours. But for a large landscaping job, you may have had to take an entire week with eight-hour shifts per day.
We suggest investing in a stopwatch or a time-tracking mobile app. Once you've established a pattern, you'll be able to estimate the length of a job.
Estimate material and supply costs.
During the client meeting, you established a plan with the help of your client. Now it's time to calculate the costs for materials and supplies. By now you should already know what type of materials are needed based on the design you established with your client.
Calculate how much materials and supplies you’ll need based on the measurements of the project site. Add this total to the total project costs.
Calculate overhead costs.
Your overhead costs should include transportation, marketing, office rent, equipment repair and maintenance, gardening tools, uniforms, accountants, and insurance. With this step, it's best to have an accurate estimate. According to our research, at least 20% of a landscaping business's total income is allocated towards overhead costs.
Add your weekly overhead costs and divide that number between the average hours you work per week. Then add that amount to the job's cost, based on the estimated number of hours you think the project will take to complete.
Estimate subcontractor costs.
If the landscaping job requires the help of subcontractors, you will need to source for quotes. Generally, landscapers work with a set list of subcontractors that they've grown to trust. Send the project specifications to subcontractors and ask for a pricing estimate. Add that price to your total job cost.
Calculate cost of labor.
If you are performing the duties alone, include your hourly rate. While your hourly rate will heavily depend on the location of your business, the average rate stands between $15.00 and $75.00 in the United States. If you require additional employees, calculate each of their salaries by multiplying their hourly rate by the time needed to complete the job.
Calculate your markup.
Your markup costs need to be applied on top of the total cost needed for you to complete the landscaping job. Do not include your overhead costs when calculating your markup.
According to our research, charge at least a 15% - 20% markup on residential landscaping jobs, 10% - 12% on maintenance landscaping jobs, and 10% - 15% on commercial landscaping jobs.
Add total costs.
Add all the costs listed above together with the markup costs. This will give you the total costs of a landscaping project. If your state requires sales tax, add this as well.
Market your business.
Create a marketing strategy.
To help successfully grow your landscaping business, it's wise to invest in a solid marketing strategy. Having the skills and owning the proper equipment does not mean customers will come streaming in. During the early stages of your landscaping business, you will need to rely on small scale advertising activities like fliers, or going door to door.
However, before you start marketing your business, think about the image and values of your business. What message would you want it to convey to the public? To help sort out your different marketing ideas, compile a list of the services you're offering and what type of values your business will hold.
Consider the following:
- Will you be working alone?
- Is it a family business?
- Is your office location marketable?
- Are you a full-service landscaping business?
- Can you market your previous work?
- What colors will represent your business?
- Will you invest in a logo?
- What special services do you offer?
Try word of mouth.
The best way to get new clients is by impressing your existing clients. If you provide consistent and quality work, clients are more likely to recommend your services to family and friends. If they're willing, provide them with a business card or flier.
Advertise your landscaping business.
Try different advertising platforms. Save room in your budget for newspapers, radio stations, and television ads, which will give you the biggest exposure. However, these advertising formats do not come cheap.
If you plan on renting an office space, to help generate awareness ahead of your opening, begin advertising at least three months before your landscaping business is scheduled to open its doors.
Obtain a company vehicle.
Consider obtaining a good size truck to market your business. On your truck, advertise your business with logos and signage, as well as contact details. As a landscaper, you will be on the road a lot, driving through different cities and communities. Your new clients could be standing next to you in traffic.
Approach local organizations and businesses.
Distribute your business brochures and business cards at libraries, recreational spaces, PTA meetings, neighborhood get-togethers, office buildings with lawns, etc.
Market your business online.
Many potential clients can be found online, searching through the different landscaping businesses in your city. The online world is fast-paced and more people are looking for instant answers. Therefore, it's important to have a visible and strong online presence.
Get a website. All the important information about your business should be on your website including costs, location, policies, values, mission statement, services, contact details, and more.
Open social media accounts including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Social media is an easy way to access thousands of potential clients. However, social media requires constant updates and admin support. Furthermore, there are additional charges for advertising your business to larger audiences.
Form a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.
When clients search for 'the best landscaping business near me', your business should appear in search results of the first two pages. To do this, you will need to invest in a proper SEO strategy and register your business with Google.
Set a daily schedule.
Work out the time estimates for each service and job.
Calculate how many jobs you will be able to complete in an 8 hour day. Don't forget to add in your clean up and traveling time. For example, if you're simply planning on basic lawn care of 45-minute sessions, including an additional 20 - 30 minutes for a clean up and traveling, depending on the location of your jobs.
Manage employee schedules.
If you are opening a major landscaping business, you will require additional employees. To prevent scheduling conflicts, ensure that all your crews have their daily schedule. Consider different factors, such as employee leave, job estimations, available equipment, part-time employees, employee breaks, and shift changes.
How much does it cost to start a landscaping business?
It costs $500 - $100,000 to start a landscaping business, depending on the size and scope of the business.
Do you need a license to start a landscaping business?
There is no general landscaping business license required. However, some states may require a Landscaper License from the American Society of Landscape Architects. To get a license, you will need to pass the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (L.A.R.E.). In addition, you will also need to obtain applicable licenses and permits to conduct certain gardening services.
How much money can you make as a landscaper?
You can earn between $5,000 to $50,000 in the first year. Over time, these figures can rise to $150,000 - $250,000 a year.
How do you estimate a landscaping job?
This depends on the job's landscaping requirements, the services you offer, the number of employees you'll need to complete the project, the budget, and the size of the job. Start by calculating your business's hourly rate for basic landscaping.
Is landscaping a hard job?
This depends on your skillset, experience, and gardening knowledge. In addition, landscapers are often required to be physically fit and able to work for long hours on their feet. Before you consider starting a landscaping business, decide whether this profession suits you by weighing the various cons and pros of the job.
How much does a landscaper make an hour?
In the United States, landscapers make an average of $19.50 an hour. The total salary depends on the size of the business and services offered.
How do you obtain a commercial applicator license?
Visit your state's certifying agency and Pesticide Safety Education Program for training and requirements.
How much does a landscaper earn a year?
Between $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the size and scope of your landscaping business. Large projects and commercial properties can go well over $250,000 a year.
What are common requirements for a landscaper contractor license?
- Practical experience.
- Pass license examination.
- Obtain a contractor license bond.
- Get certified.
What is needed to start a landscaping business?
- Gardening tools.
- Safety gear.
- Smaller supplies.