Small Business Advice

How to start a landscaping business

Learn everything you need to know about how to start a landscaping business in this step by step guide.

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Starting a landscaping business can be an excellent way to make money, given you have the experience and startup capital to get started. If you are someone who enjoys working outdoors and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty, this may be the job for you. If you live somewhere with a warm climate, you may even be able to offer your services year-round.

This guide will help you learn what goes into starting a landscaping business, including an overview of the work, startup costs, and the business registration process. If you’d like to find out whether a landscaping business is right for you, and how to get your business started, read on.

What does a landscaping business do?

A landscaping business takes care of lawns, trees, shrubs, and other living greenery on private property. Landscapers design gardens, install water features and maintain lawns for homeowners. When well-executed, landscaping adds value to real estate and personal property. As well as increasing property values, it also enhances daily lives by creating beautiful environments conducive to work or leisure. While some homeowners prefer to do all their own gardening, many choose to hire professionals for help with large projects or ongoing maintenance. 

How much do landscapers make?

If you're interested in starting a landscaping business, knowing how much money you can make from it is essential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that landscape gardeners earned an average salary of $35,820 per year. 

However, factors such as location and experience level have a significant impact on income. For example, those who worked in metropolitan areas made significantly more than those who worked outside of urban centers. Additionally, experienced workers tend to earn higher salaries than novices. 

To start a landscaping business, you need access to equipment and supplies. You also need training in horticulture or related fields. Aspiring entrepreneurs should also consider hiring an attorney to draft legal documents and register their businesses appropriately. Before launching your new venture, check local zoning laws for information about licensing requirements and potential restrictions on business premises.

How profitable is a landscaping business?

Your business’s profitability depends on a few things, including how much you invest in equipment and supplies and whether you subcontract work. But if you put $50,000 into your startup costs and figure that each customer spends an average of $500 on services every year, it shouldn't be challenging to come up with $5,000 in revenue after expenses. If you can keep costs low by doing some work yourself, profits will be even higher. And if you do well enough, there are extra benefits that come with the work, like being able to set your own hours and choosing which projects to take on. The ideal size of a yard is around 5,000 square feet or less: choosing lawns that are just big enough to be worth your time will help you generate the most profit for your efforts.

At least at first, it's best to focus on properties where homeowners have neglected their yards for quite some time - this means you'll need to learn how to properly care for all types of plants (and weeds) before starting. When people see that their grass has been freshly cut and edged, they're more likely to trust your skills and hire you again in the future.

Startup costs of a landscaping business

Landscaping can be a highly lucrative enterprise, but it's also competitive and requires upfront investments in equipment. According to The Balance Small Business, you should prepare to invest anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 on specialized equipment like lawn mowers, rakes, and shovels - and that's just for starters. 

Be prepared for operating costs as well. For example, if you plan to hire employees or subcontractors, you'll need to consider workers' compensation insurance. Also, if your business is seasonal (like many small businesses are), keep in mind that most insurance policies require a minimum number of insured hours per year before they kick in. If yours is a part-time operation, make sure you take that into account when setting up coverage. Finally, don't forget about taxes. You may not owe any tax at first, but depending on how your business grows over time, you could owe thousands of dollars each year. So think ahead and consider setting aside some savings to cover those eventualities. You can begin putting your landscaping ideas into action once you have all of your financial affairs in order.

Steps on how to get started

1. Research what goes into landscaping in your area

If you're new to landscaping, it's wise to learn as much as possible about what's involved, specifically for lawn care in your area. Your local library is a good place to start. Check out landscaping books and consider investing in online courses from reputable organizations. In addition, join lawn care forums, and ask for advice from more experienced entrepreneurs in your area.

It may take a while, but researching ahead of time will help you prepare for success. The same goes for any aspect of starting a business - from choosing an industry to determining a price. Read up on similar companies and use them as examples when making decisions for your own business. You don't have to wait until after launch to do research, you can start planning now. Getting all the information you need by reading relevant books and articles or speaking with experts can provide helpful insight into whether or not your business will be profitable (and how to make sure it is). Before you jump into starting a new landscaping company, you should ensure that there is enough demand for your services in your area. Talk to neighbors, friends, and family members who may be interested in hiring someone like you to help maintain their property.

2. Get the investment needed to start

Unless you already own all the necessary equipment, your landscaping business will require an initial investment to get started. You should aim to gather the funds needed for your new venture from the sources available to you. Having access to capital will help you jumpstart your landscaping company faster. If you plan on taking out a loan, speak with local banks to ensure that you meet their set requirements. Once you know what the bank requires, you may want to pre-qualify for a loan. Make sure you have an agreement in place before asking for funding from outside sources. When it's time to repay them, establish a payment schedule and follow it. Remember, you can start your landscaping business with as little as $5,000 or as much as $50,000. How much your business requires depends on what type of equipment you need and how many employees you plan on hiring. If you have enough savings or have access to investors, starting small may be a good idea to test the waters before expanding too quickly.

3. Choose a name for your company

When choosing a name, you want something memorable and easy to pronounce. If you plan on having employees or subcontractors, you should also ensure that your business name is not too difficult for them to spell. You can check whether your desired business name is available by visiting your state government’s small business website and conducting a name search.

5. Choose a business entity

There are several options for choosing a business structure for your landscaping company, including a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or an LLC. Consider what will work best for your business’s needs. A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure, though you will need to apply for an EIN if you want to hire employees.

If you want to upgrade from a sole proprietorship, the next step would be to form an LLC or a corporation. Either of these options offer added tax advantages with the benefit of limited liability; meaning, unlike with a sole proprietorship, you cannot be held personally liable for any legal action taken against your company. You may want to consider starting as a sole proprietorship, and as your business grows, choosing an LLC or a corporate structure to optimize your revenue and reduce liability.

You can learn more about the differences between a sole proprietorship vs. an LLC, the two most popular business entities for a small business, in our handy guide.

4. Register your business

To comply with local laws, you must register your business with the state. This process can take a number of weeks depending on where you live and whether you register by mail or online. Once you have registered your business, you will likely also need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), a federal tax ID number. If your new small business has no employees, you can use your Social Security Number (SSN) in place of an EIN for your taxes.

You may also need local licensing depending on what type of work you will be doing. If you plan to hire employees, you must register with state unemployment tax agencies, and you will also need to pay federal unemployment taxes. If you plan on operating vehicles such as tractors, forklifts, cranes, and so on, you may also want to register with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Contact your state's Department of Labor or revenue office for more information about registration requirements in your area.

6. Decide on an insurance policy

Before investing money into starting a business, sit down with an insurance agent and discuss what you need protection against. Enterprises have specific insurance needs, whether it’s property coverage for equipment and buildings or liability insurance for customers and vendors. Remember that each state has requirements for certain types of coverage - for example, some states require contractors to carry liability insurance, but others don't. Your insurance agent can help you navigate these regulations. 

7. Market your landscaping company

Once you've registered your business and chosen an insurance policy, it's time to get out there and market yourself. This involves networking, marketing, promoting, and building relationships with customers. You can advertise your new business both off- and online. For example, direct mail is still an excellent way for local companies to stay in touch with their customers. That said, don’t underestimate the importance of social media marketing. Make sure you have a solid online presence across several platforms that can quickly alert potential clients about your services. You might also consider purchasing a website to lend your business increased credibility.

Final thoughts

If you're searching for a flexible source of income, landscaping can be a great opportunity. Remember that starting and running a successful landscaping business depends on hard work and dedication. Consider a career as a landscaper if you love the outdoors and have a green thumb. It can take some time for your business to be profitable, but with hard work you may achieve a profitable and enjoyable business for the longterm. If you put in some effort and passion, there is no limit to what you can achieve as a landscaper.

Frequently asked questions

How do landscaping businesses make money?

You can earn money in landscaping through several types of projects. Depending on how much time you plan to invest, you could earn anything from $15-$30 an hour doing basic lawn care or $75+ per hour performing heavy construction work like building retaining walls and patios. You can also supplement your income by selling mulch, plants, trees, and shrubs at retail prices. If you're interested in being more than just a hired hand, it's possible to set up your nursery and sell plants wholesale at local hardware stores or even directly to other landscapers. Some people get into gardening full-time and have no desire to perform any labor; they sell plants to others who do all their work for them. How much you make all depends on which types of services you offer and how great the demand is in your area.

What licenses are needed to start a landscaping business?

If you plan to hire employees, you will need to meet additional requirements regarding workers' compensation, insurance, and payroll taxes. This will vary based on where you live, so check with your state and local municipalities for more details. Typically, you'll need a Business Tax Certificate from your Secretary of State's office and an Employer Identification Number from the IRS. You may also need a contractor's license or other business permits. 

How can I start a landscaping business with no experience?

It's not that simple to launch a landscaping company from scratch. You need to take many steps before hanging up that first open-for-business sign. This guide will help you launch and run a successful landscaping company, regardless of experience or startup capital. Take these steps one at a time, and don't skip any - each will get you closer to owning your own successful business.

References

  1. Eric Goldschein (2020) How to Start a Landscaping or Lawn Care Business. Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/small-business/how-to-start-a-landscaping-business
  2. Kimberlee Leonard (2022) How To Start A Landscaping Business. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/how-to-start-a-landscaping-business/
  3. Statistics of US Businesses: 2006: US Landscaping Services. Retrieved from www.census.gov/epcd/susb/2006/us/US56173.HTM
  4. Steve Milano (2020) What Is a Landscaping Business? Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/landscaping-business-16923.html
  5. U.S. Small Business Administration Advocacy Small Business Statistics and Research 2007 www.web.sba.gov/faqs/faqIndexAll.cfm?areaid=24
  6. US Census of Agriculture-State Data–Table 35. Nursery, Floriculture, Sod, Mushrooms,Vegetable Seeds, and Propagative Materials Grown for Sale: 2007 and 2002 pp. 566-579

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