If you enjoy gardening and relish spending lots of your working time in outdoor environments, starting your own landscape gardening business could be for you – and since gardening has never been as popular as it is today, now could be the perfect time to do it.
Why start a landscape gardening business?
Landscape gardening services have become increasingly popular in recent years, fuelled further by the many garden makeover type programmes appearing on television. If you’re the right type of person and don’t mind getting your hands dirty then this is a business that can be both highly rewarding and profitable in equal measure. With relatively low start up costs, this is also a business that is ideally suited to new entrepreneurs and there is great potential to expand and diversify – most landscape gardening businesses start off as one-man bands and grow from there when the time is right.
Start-up costs are fairly low. You will need a reliable vehicle to travel around in, as well as essential gardening tools and equipment. In order to save money you should perhaps consider hiring your equipment as and when it is needed rather than buying it outright. Other notable costs include investment in a good design package, admin and marketing.
What skills will I need?
As a landscape gardener you will design gardens and then make them a reality for your clients. Landscape gardeners need to have an extremely diverse range of skills. Far from merely doing some hedge trimming and weeding, most customers who choose to hire a landscape gardener will have much higher expectations. As a landscape gardener you will need to understand garden design and be able to complete all kinds of work – from laying a new patio or decking, installing water features, ground work and joinery. Aside from gardening skills, you will need to undertake other elements of running a business such as general admin and managing accounts.
What are the keys to success in this business?
Building a strong reputation is essential since landscape gardeners tend to gain most of their business through word of mouth. Achieving a positive reputation means consistently meeting or exceeding your client’s expectations – people are hiring you to achieve a result that they would be unable to get without your expertise and skills, so you must be able to deliver on your promises. Planning ahead is also extremely important since this is a business that is very much affected by the weather – expect delays and disruptions throughout the year, especially so during the winter months where a drop-off in trade is also likely. Flexibility is key – when you can’t work outside because of the weather you will need to spend those days doing other productive things such as client garden design and admin tasks.
There are many specialist horticultural colleges that offer courses that can equip you with the skills and expertise needed to run a landscape gardening business. As a landscape gardener you will also be coming into contact with potentially dangerous chemicals and poisonous plants, so you need to know how to handle and deal with these in the correct manner.
In order to operate a landscape gardening business you will need to take out both public liability and professional indemnity insurance in order to protect yourself against damages or accidents during the projects you undertake. When the time comes to take on staff you will also need to take out employer liability insurance. Remember that a specialist insurance broker will often be able to negotiate a better premium on your behalf.
Your next steps
Planning ahead is essential in any business – this means doing thorough research and then writing a detailed business plan which provides you with a ‘map’ of how you are going to achieve your business goals.
Start by conducting some market research. Find out about other landscape gardeners in the area you intend to operate, look at the services they offer and the prices they charge. Although this is a competitive market, some areas are much more so than others. Generally speaking however, the more services you can offer to your clients the more money you will make.
Gavin and Andrew, founders of Wilson McWilliam Studio, work on bespoke gardens and public landscapes. Take a look at our interview with co-founder Gavin McWilliam about the company, based at Barley Mow, and their business journey so far.