Field Services

How to Start a Gardening Business: Complete Guide to Success

If working outdoors is your passion, you might consider a nature-based career. While there are plenty of outdoor businesses to explore, building a gardening business allows you to gain access to a range of residential and commercial clients. If you’re an experienced gardener, you may think that starting a business in this space will be easy. Still, even if you have the skills needed to keep clients happy, there’s a range of other factors to consider when you start a new venture. It’s essential to understand the power of budgets, business plans, marketing strategies, equipment, and other key elements.

In this guide, we take a step-by-step approach to explaining exactly how to start a gardening business. Let’s get started!

What to Know Before Starting a Gardening Business

We overview everything you need to know about starting a gardening business in clearly defined steps throughout this guide, but it’s essential to start with a clear understanding of a gardener’s role. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is confusing gardeners with landscape architects. Let’s explore the key differences between these careers.

Difference between a landscape architect and gardener

While there is certainly overlap between a landscape architect and a gardener, it’s essential to understand the core differences of these job definitions if you’re going to start a gardening business.

brunette woman holding a crate of plants and smiling because she knows how to make money gardening

Landscape architects design residential and commercial landscapes. While this often includes grass, plants, flowers, and other elements, it can also include waterfalls, tiling, and a host of other non-plant factors.

Also, in some cases, landscape architects require specific qualifications gardeners do not. While many gardeners provide garden design services to their clients, they do not offer official landscape designs.

If you want to open a gardening business, it’s essential to understand the limits of your services before you begin. Below are some common services that gardeners provide to their clients:

  • Weeding
  • Planting flowers, bushes, and other plants
  • Laying grass
  • Fertilizing plants and grass
  • Mulching
  • Trimming hedges
  • Mowing lawns
  • Removing plants, bushes, and flowers
  • Helping with garden design
  • Sourcing niche plants and flowers

Step 1: Define Your Goals and Set Expectations

Before your gardening business gets off the ground, you should understand your end goals. Of course, any successful business owner has to adapt throughout their career, but a solid startup plan is essential to begin on the right foot.

Why are you starting a gardening business?

Many individuals launch gardening businesses because they love outdoor work, plants, and other elements involved in gardening. In other cases, individuals choose to start gardening businesses because they have extensive experience in the industry. Lastly, some garden business owners join the industry to provide something revolutionary or currently unavailable to their local clients.

Assess your reasons for starting a gardening business before you make the leap. If there’s no reason that you want to start a gardening business, then it’s worth considering other options. Consider your passions, talents, and resources before you decide on a niche.

What services are you offering?

Next, narrow down the types of services you want to offer. Consider what types of services you have experience with, as well as what types of labor you will be able to attract. You must ensure you can hire staff to complete the services that you want to offer.

Sometimes, starting with a small range of services can help you focus your resources on being the best you can be in your niche. For example, you may consider only offering residential gardening services when you first open your gardening business. Commercial services will often require more machinery, more gardeners, and more overall inputs.

Can you make money gardening?

You can be the world’s most talented gardener, but you still need to make money if you want to run a successful gardening business. Assess whether your local market is big enough to sustain a career in gardening. If you don’t have enough local clientele, your investment in machinery, licensing, and other factors may prove futile.

What do you need to start a gardening business?

Gardening is often thought of as a task you can complete with your hands and a few tools, but if you want to run a growing gardening business, this won’t be the case. The best gardening businesses have access to machinery, technology, high-grade tools, reliable supply chains, and more. Let’s explore in more detail below.

Lawncare business equipment

Starting a gardening business requires extensive equipment. Lawnmowers, fertilizers, leaf blowers, hedge cutters, and a variety of other tools are necessary. The cost of this will add up, likely being the most expensive part of opening your new gardening enterprise.

In some cases, you may be able to rent this equipment in the early stages of your operation. You may also be able to seek financing if you want to reduce the upfront cost of buying lawn care machinery.

Gardening experience

If a resident or business owner hires a professional gardener, they expect quality. You need experience delivering gardening projects and services successfully. You also need experience with the type of terrain and climate present in your service area.

If you don’t have a background in gardening, it’s best to secure a business partner or business manager that does.

Gardening license and permits

Research if your state or local community requires you to gain licenses or permits to perform gardening services. In some cases, you might be subject to local health and safety legislation. If so, this may require a license or permit.

Step 2: Market Research

One of the most challenging elements of being a garden business owner is understanding your market. If you want to efficiently use your resources as a business owner, it’s critical to define your market position and target the correct market segment.

Define your niche and services

crate of orange flowers and white flowers and yellow flowers for gardening businesses

Start by defining your niche and initial services. Your niche should be a segment of the gardening market that your services are likely to target. For example, your niche might be residential lawn and hedge care.

As discussed, it can be better to stick to a core list of services when you start your gardening business. If you try to offer everything to everyone, you might not have the focus needed to deliver high-quality services. Also, as gardening can be a capital-intensive business, remember that keeping your service list shorter reduces your need for a large range of machines.

Define your target customers

When defining your target customer base, be specific. If you’re located in a particular city, choose the neighborhoods and types of clients to whom you want to speak. For example, you may choose a cluster of five neighborhoods and target residents that have specific lawn sizes and hedge sizes.

Step 3: Choose Your Business Structure

We live in a country that allows enterprises to conduct business in a variety of ways. One of the most essential elements to consider when starting your gardening business is its business structure. There are three primary structures from which you might choose: limited liability companies, partnerships, and sole proprietorships.

It’s best to speak to an accountant in your state before choosing a structure, but below does provide an overview of these three options.

Limited liability company (LLC)

A limited liability company (LLC) combines the convenience of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the limited liability provided to corporations.[1] This type of business structure shields you from some personal liability if your company is threatened with legal action. It’s a useful tool for protecting your personal assets.

This is a popular choice for individuals wanting to hire a large gardening team, but it can also be useful for business owners who want to run a one-person operation.

Partnership

Partnerships are businesses owned by two or more people.[2] While you don’t typically have to register partnerships with local officials, it may be a good idea to form a document outlining the partnership’s ownership. Partners can contribute funds, property, and other resources in exchange for shares of the partnership’s profits.

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the most common type of business structure in the United States.[3] If you begin conducting business on your own, you are automatically a sole proprietor. You do not have to register this form of business.

If you want to open a one-person gardening company, this is the most convenient option. While you won’t have to fill out extensive paperwork or incorporate a company, it does leave you exposed to liability.

Step 4: Plan Your Budget

A solid budget helps you avoid financial pitfalls when first starting your gardening business. You should understand how much your services will cost before you develop an accurate pricing list. Below, we take a closer look at the budgeting elements you should consider.

How much does it cost to start a gardening business?

While some costs of starting a gardening business, like tools, machinery, and plants, might be obvious, there are a number of less obvious costs that can blindside a new business owner. Below looks at the obvious and less obvious individual startup costs for a gardening business.

1. Business insurance

If you want to avoid overexposing yourself to liabilities, it’s critical to have insurance. This can protect you from large costs stemming from mistakes. You may also want to insure large machineries, such as trucks and lawnmowers.

2. Incorporation & licensure fees

Depending on the business structure you choose and the requirements of your local authorities, you need to budget for incorporation and other fees. If you choose a sole proprietorship or partnership, these costs will likely be lower.

3. Technology and software costs

While gardening businesses aren’t often associated with technology, it’s more critical than ever to take advantage of the power of software. Whether it’s creating a website, building an online booking portal, or investing in any other software, you must consider these costs.

You may also want to invest in mobile payment systems. This can help you accept payments by credit or debit card while on the job. The days when clients would have cash on hand are gone.

4. Equipment costs

Gardening equipment can be pricey. Lawnmowers, leaf blowers, trucks, trailers, and other equipment are essential. It’s best to research pricing from multiple suppliers before you buy. Also, you may want to consider renting equipment. This can have a lower upfront cost.

5. Supplies and other costs

If you’re running a gardening business, you need to routinely purchase gardening products. Grass, plants, soils, fertilizers, and a host of other products might be essential to your business.

Budget your money

Gauge how much money you need to start your gardening business, as well as how much you will need to keep it operating in the near and long term. Understanding how much capital is required to start your gardening business can help you define your initial goals.

Budget your time

Next, decide how much time you want to spend running your gardening business. You need to determine how much time you will be gardening, as well as how much time you will devote to administrative tasks.

Account for the off-season

When considering how much money you need to run your gardening business, remember that gardening is a seasonal industry. For example, you may receive a lot of leaf clean-up jobs during the fall, but fewer during the spring. On the other hand, you might receive requests to plant new flowers in the spring, not the winter.

Make sure to consider what part of the year is the offseason for the types of services you’re planning to provide and use off season efficiently.

Insurance, taxes, and other expenses

As discussed, insurance policies are necessary to protect you and your staff from the costs of mistakes and other issues in the workplace. If you don’t insure your business, you may have to shut down if a client sues you for damages.

And while taxes are a cost that will come after you begin earning money, it’s essential to know how much to save for tax season.

Equipment and vehicle insurance

You also need to take out insurance for your equipment and vehicles. Theft, damage, and other issues can arise without warning. This can be catastrophic for your gardening business if you don’t have equipment and vehicle insurance.

Step 5: Write Your Gardening Business Plan

Writing a strong business plan is one of the best ways to plan for the future. This can also be a useful tool if you’re trying to obtain financing from a bank or investment from a third party. Proper business plans incorporate a range of different elements, but there are generalized business plan templates online to help you get started.

Pricing: How much will you charge?

male gardener admiring the gardening work her did for his gardening business

It can be difficult to assess pricing when you first start a gardening (or any) business. Over time, you will gain a deeper understanding of how much it costs to provide each of your services to your clients. For now, a good starting point is reviewing what competitors in your area are offering and what they’re charging for it. Once you have this ballpark figure in mind, begin analyzing your own costs.

You must consider all your inputs, such as machinery pricing, labor, insurance, and your own salary. You also need to be able to service any debt that you take to purchase machinery and other equipment. Finding a price where you’re both competitive and viable is essential.

Gardening Business Names: How to name your business

Choose an original business name that is both unique and rememberable. Keeping your name short, sweet, and uncomplicated is the best way to avoid confusion. You may also want to incorporate your location, as this can help with advertising online.

Things to consider when choosing a business name

Make sure that your business name is not in use by another company. It can also be useful to choose a name that has an available domain name online, making it easy to purchase the domain name for your website.

Step 6: Get Your Paperwork and Finances in Order

With your initial plans in place, it’s time to start the paperwork, such as local licenses and incorporation paperwork. Physically filling out the required paperwork can be one of the most daunting elements in starting your new gardening business, but in many cases, you can complete this paperwork online.

If you apply for loans to purchase equipment, vehicles, and other products, it’s time to fill out these applications too. You may need business funding before you can begin conducting your gardening business.

Step 7: Register Your Business and Obtain a License

Now that your paperwork and finances are in order, it’s time to register your gardening business and obtain any other necessary licenses. After submitting the federal, state, and locally required paperwork, wait patiently until you hear back from your Secretary of State. Make sure to research the requirements for both your state and locality.

Step 8: Open a Business Bank Account

Once your business receives its documentation confirming licenses and registration, open your business bank account. A business bank account helps you separate your gardening business’s finances from your personal finances.

In some cases, it can be more difficult to open a business bank account than a personal bank account. This is because business bank accounts are ripe for fraud. Speak to your existing bank about whether they’re willing to open a business bank account for your new gardening enterprise.

It pays to have all your licenses and registration documents in order if you want to open a business bank account.

Step 9: Hire Your Team

If you’re planning on hiring staff, it’s time to look for the correct candidates. Place ads online and on local notice boards. Make sure to check references before you offer anyone employment, as it can save you many future headaches. Of course, that may seem obvious, but below we explore some other less obvious issues to consider when you’re hiring your team.

Employment law liability insurance

The United States is a very litigious country, which means that your staff may decide to sue you for employment-related offenses. Even if your gardening business does not commit the alleged offenses, the cost of defending yourself in court can be extortionate. Purchase employment law liability insurance to protect your gardening business from the fallout of an employment dispute.

Hiring employees vs independent contractors

Whether you hire full- or part-time employees, you benefit from staff members directly tied to your gardening business. However, this comes with greater responsibilities as an employer. You need to withhold income tax and abide by various employment laws.

On the other hand, independent contractors act as their own business, so you have to provide neither the same tax withholding services nor guarantees mandated by employment law. You should speak to a lawyer or an accountant if you want more information about the benefits and drawbacks of hiring employees or hiring independent contractors in your specific state.

Step 10: Get Set Up to Accept Mobile Payments

As credit card payments are now much more common than cash payments, it’s a good idea to set up a mobile payment system for your gardening business. There are many companies that can now offer portable point of sale devices and payment processors that attach to your phone or tablet. This can be an invaluable tool when you’re providing services onsite at homes or businesses.

brunette woman on laptop in greenhouse managing her garden business

Utilize field service management software for easy invoicing

Field service management software allows you to control your gardening business when it’s operating outside of your headquarters. For example, if you have staff traveling to jobs, you can use this software to manage their schedule, create invoices, and assign tasks. It’s very useful for gardening businesses.

Step 11: Market Your Gardening Business

Once your gardening business is ready to start providing services, it’s time to start building a client list. Utilizing a comprehensive marketing strategy is the best way to grow your clientele. Below examines the marketing channels you should consider when strategizing a marketing plan.

Social media

Social media is a powerful tool for marketing your business. You can set up a page that acts as a digital storefront for your gardening enterprise. You can also pay for advertising targeting residents and businesses in your area. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media companies have advertising platforms that you can utilize to target your market segment.

Physical advertising

Physical advertising is still a powerful tool for local businesses. Whether it’s paying to advertise at a local little league, buying a local billboard, or placing a poster in a local shop, it can help you source nearby clients.

Flyers

Placing flyers in mailboxes is still a useful tool for many gardening businesses. While this is an old practice, there are now new technological tools you can use to upgrade your flyers. For example, you can print a QR code on your flyer that, upon being scanned, takes potential clients to your business’s website.

Business cards

Produce professional business cards and hand them out to friends, family, and local businesses. It’s always useful to have business cards available if anyone asks about your gardening business.

Customer referrals

Offering discounts and other incentives to current customers who refer friends and family is a good way to increase your clientele while rewarding loyal clients. An upfront discount for referrals can pay off in the long run.

Mailing list

Sending out emails, as well as physical mail, announcing new deals or services can be an excellent strategy. Consider mailing a welcome offer to new clients when you first open your business. As time progresses, make sure to keep a list of email addresses and physical addresses to which you can send advertisements.

Personal connections

You’re likely to have many family members, friends, and connections who require gardening services in your area. Email your contacts announcing your new gardening business. You can ask them to forward your details to their network as well.

A Typical Day as a Gardening Business Owner

A typical day as a gardening business owner will depend on the size of your gardening business and the number of clients you service on a daily basis.

If you’re a sole proprietor just starting your gardening business, your days will likely start with early mornings to prepare your truck and machinery for a long day of gardening at various homes and businesses. Late afternoons and evenings will involve administrative tasks, such as paying bills and implementing marketing strategies.

On the other hand, if you employ a large team, you will spend more time arranging call-outs, scheduling services, and inspecting the work of your employees.

Starting a Gardening Business: Final Thoughts

Now that you know everything you need to know about starting your own gardening business, it’s time to put your plan into action. While starting a new business can be daunting, this guide provides you with a step-by-step process that can help you begin serving clients and accepting mobile payments in no time. Time to get to work providing excellent gardening services to your area!

Sources:

  1. USA Corporate Services Inc. “Learn About Limited Liablity Companies (LLC)“. Accessed February 4, 2022.
  2. Lexology. “Partnerships in USA“. Accessed February 4, 2022.
  3. U.S. Chamber. “How to Choose the Right Business Entity: Sole Proprietorship“. Accessed February 4, 2022.