There are nearly a million people working in the landscaping industry throughout the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A career in this industry enables you to beautify your environment, work with your hands, and engage your creativity.
But, what if you want to do more than just work for a landscaping company? What if you want to own one? This guide will explain how to start a landscaping business, including steps like developing your skills, purchasing required supplies, and more. The tips will help you get a successful company off the ground and maximize your chances of consistently turning a profit.
- You'll need to develop landscaping skills to start a landscaping business.
- Purchasing landscaping supplies can be an expensive but essential upfront investment.
- A business plan will help you make the right decisions for your growing company.
- The right business structure can help protect you from liability.
- A detailed marketing plan will help you find the right customers for your landscaping business.
Pros and cons of starting a landscaping business
- There's a steady demand for landscapers.
- The barriers to entry are relatively low.
- You can work outdoors or lead a team from your office.
- The work may be seasonal in some parts of the country.
- You may have high equipment and labor costs for certain kinds of landscaping work.
- There's intense competition.
As long as there are homeowners and commercial buildings that need lawns mowed and flowers planted, there will be a demand for landscaping services. Since all you need is some basic equipment to get started, you can take advantage of the low barriers to entry and the high demand to get your company off the ground.
Unfortunately, in parts of the country with unfavorable winters, your work may be seasonal, and you may be forced to venture into related fields — like snow plowing — during the winter months. This can require finding a new customer base and purchasing additional equipment.
Depending on the type of landscaping you do, you may also incur high business expenses and startup costs for labor and for equipment. If you'll be doing specialized work that requires a bulldozer or other machinery, for example, it could cost tens of thousands of dollars to purchase this equipment. You could also face intense competition in many areas of the country.
Steps for starting a landscaping business
When you are figuring out how to start a business in the landscaping field, you'll need to both make sure your landscaping skills are up to par and make smart choices about the business side of your operations. Here are nine steps to take to get your company off the ground and make it a success.
1. Develop your landscaping skills
If you expect people to pay you for your landscaping skills, you'll need to make sure your talents in this industry are well-developed. There are a number of ways to do that.
You could obtain formal education, such as by completing an academic program focused on landscape management or horticulture. You could also complete various certifications through the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Depending on what type of landscaping jobs you plan to focus on, you may also want to undergo additional training. For example, you could become a landscape architect if you hope to focus on complex landscape design work, but would need at least a bachelor's degree and would be required to complete a Landscape Architect Registration Examination.
You will likely also need real-world training, especially if you are going to be working with machinery or performing complex tasks such as hardscaping. This can often be obtained on the job by working for a landscaper or through certification programs.
2. Purchase landscaping supplies
Landscapers use many tools, and you may need to purchase a variety of different supplies depending on the kinds of services your company plans to offer. Some of the supplies you may need include, but are not limited to:
- A truck to transport landscape equipment and materials
- A lawn mower
- Various shears and trimmers, including string trimmers (weed whackers) and hedge trimmers
- Edgers to create perfect borders around flower beds
- Rakes and leaf blowers to remove leaves and debris
- Shovels for removing and adding soil, mulch, and plants
- Spreaders and/or sprayers to distribute fertilizer and weed- or insect-control applications
If you plan to do larger jobs such as installing a swimming pool or moving large rocks, you will also need to buy or rent equipment such as a bulldozer or a skid steer.
3. Create a business plan
Running your own landscaping business involves more than just focusing on your landscaping talents. In order to become an entrepreneur, you'll need to develop your business skills as well, starting by making a business plan. Business plans serve as a guide or roadmap to help you lead your company to profitability and make cohesive decisions as you begin operations.
Traditional business plans are incredibly detailed and include things like:
- A description of your company
- An analysis of the market
- Details about your organizational structure
- A description of your product line and services
- Your marketing plans and sales methods
- Financial projections for when your landscaping business will become profitable and how much you might charge for different services.
You could also opt for a lean business plan that focuses just on the key elements of your business.
4. Choose a name for your business
You'll need to select a name for your new business. This should be something catchy, simple for customers to remember, and distinctive to your brand. You'll also want to register it with your local government if required, which can usually be completed through the secretary of state's office where you plan to operate.
You will need to make sure no other companies have the same business name as you, or you will not be able to register it. You'll likely also want to register an online domain name with your company's name so you can set up a website people can navigate to when searching for your services or information about your company.
5. Decide on a business structure
You'll need to decide on the right type of business entity your landscaping company should operate as. You have several options, including the following:
- Sole proprietorship. No paperwork is involved in creating a sole proprietorship, and you and your business are the same legal entity. You'll declare business profits and losses on your personal taxes and have no protection from liability.
- Partnership: If you are going to start the business with another (or more than one) person, you can choose to operate as a partnership. Partners in general partnerships share liability and are responsible for operations, whereas partners in limited partnerships are more hands-off and are typically protected from liability. Whatever type of partnership you choose, make sure you put a partnership agreement in place. And, you and your partners will declare company profits and losses on personal tax returns.
- Limited Liability Companies. When you create an LLC, your business has a separate legal identity. You'll typically have to file tax returns and register your business with the state. LLC owners are called members and are protected from personal liability. Profits and losses still pass through to them and are declared on personal taxes.
- S corporations: S-corps are also separate legal entities that must file their own tax returns and be registered with the state. They can be more complicated to create but provide liability protections as well as some tax flexibility, as you can declare certain income to be a distribution rather than wage income, which can have favorable tax benefits. Profits and losses pass through to owners with an S-corporation as well.
- C corporations: C-Corporations are separate entities without the restrictions on ownership that exist with LLCs and S-corps. Many large and publicly traded companies are C-corps. C-corps file their own taxes and declare profits and losses, which creates a risk of double taxation, as owners are also taxed on dividends the corporation pays.
The right business structure will depend on your goals for the company, your tolerance for paperwork, and how important it is for you to put liability protections in place.
6. Register your business for taxes
Once you start your company, you will typically need to apply for an Employer Identification Number, especially if you plan to hire workers to staff your landscaping business. You can apply for an EIN on the IRS website.
If your business exists as a separate legal entity, your company's EIN is used when filing tax forms with the IRS on behalf of the business.
7. Get licenses, permits, and insurance
Depending on where you live and what kind of landscaping work you plan to perform, you may need to obtain specific business licenses and permits to operate.
For example, you may need a commercial applicator license to apply pesticides as part of your landscaping work. Or you may need a landscaping construction professional license if you intend to design or plant trees, grasses, or nursery stock or may require other special licenses to do tree work. It's a good idea to research the specific requirements in your state to find out what the mandates are.
You will need business insurance to protect against financial loss as well. You should purchase general liability insurance in case you harm someone or damage a customer's property. If you will be hiring any workers, unemployment and workers' compensation insurance may also be necessary. And, it's a good idea to get business interruption insurance in case a covered event causes you to temporarily pause operations.
8. Fund and budget for your landscaping business
You will need money to operate your landscaping business, so you should open a separate bank account to keep your company funds in. You'll also need to look into how you will secure funding to get your business off the ground. You could rely on your savings, pursue a business loan, get a small business credit card, or ask investors to help fund your startup landscaping enterprise.
9. Market your business
The key to figuring out how to make money as a landscaper is knowing your target market and being proactive in reaching customers.
To do that, you'll need to identify who you want to provide services to, if there's a niche you want to fill, and how you will reach potential customers so they'll know you can provide the services they require.
There are a number of ways to market your landscaping company, including through ads in local magazines, creating a website, connecting with customers through local groups, creating a word-of-mouth referral program, or posting pictures and videos of your work on social media sites like Houzz, TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Don’t forget to print and hand out your business cards.
Consider what kind of marketing is most likely to help you reach your target audience — and what kind of marketing is within your budget and skill level.
What is landscaping?
Landscaping is the process of improving and maintaining a property's grounds. There are different kinds of landscaping work that you could do, with landscaping tasks ranging from planting flowers to installing a patio or pool to adding other ornamental features such as ponds and outdoor kitchens.
What is the difference between landscaping and lawn care?
Lawn care focuses specifically on lawn maintenance. A lawn care business could include mowing, trimming and edging, pest control, leaf blowing, and fertilization. Landscaping can include lawn care services but also involves a broader array of services designed to make land more attractive. Landscaping could include planting flowers and trees, leaf removal, or adding pools or other outdoor structures.
How profitable is a landscaping business?
According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the typical landscaping business owner's salary ranged from $54,000 to $115,000. However, the salary of a landscape business owner — and the profits a landscaping business makes — will vary depending on many factors, including geographic location, reputation, and services provided.
How much does it cost to start a landscaping business?
The cost of starting a landscaping business varies depending on what kinds of services you wish to perform. If you simply plan to mow lawns, you could potentially get started with a few hundred dollars. If you need an equipment truck or specialized equipment such as a bulldozer, then you may need tens of thousands of dollars to get your business off the ground.
How do I make my landscaping business successful?
To make your landscaping business successful, you must develop both your landscaping skills and your business skills. You will need a business plan and a marketing plan so you can reach customers, set prices, and determine how to become profitable. It can help to have certifications or other advanced training in landscaping. And getting good reviews once you begin work can become referrals and positive references to provide potential clients.
Figuring out how to start a successful landscaping business can be a challenge, but it is worth the effort if you want to help people enhance their homes or buildings — while also making a good income. Start working on these steps today, and your company will be off the ground before you know it.
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