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What is a Landscaping Business?
With 87% of UK households having a private garden, equating to more than 23 million outdoor spaces, and more than 5,000 public gardens in the UK, it should be no surprise that the landscaping services industry in the UK is worth an impressive £5.3 billion.
The term landscaping refers to planning, laying out and constructing gardens and outdoor spaces to create an attractive and useable space.
Landscaping typically involves two main processes:
- Hardscape: This refers to all the man-made features in the garden design. Hardscaping usually defines the space and involves hard materials, such as stone, bricks, tile or wood. Examples of hardscaping include constructing patios, driveways, paths, walls, firepits, water features, pergolas and pools. The hardscape features of a garden are typically where people gather or walk, so they need to be both functional and attractive.
- Softscape: Softscape refers to the growing elements of the garden, such as plants, flowers, trees, shrubs and other horticultural components. Softscaping is generally designed to beautify the garden, make a space more attractive and attract wildlife.
Hardscape features are usually more permanent and require long-term planning, whereas softscape features are usually more changeable, for example, plants and flowers can be replaced with different species. However, softscaping typically requires more maintenance, such as watering, fertilising, trimming and weeding. Both hardscape and softscape are essential in landscaping and should function well and work together.
If you set up a landscaping business, you will likely be making changes or additions to a piece of land in three main categories:
- Plants: The addition, removal or management of native, edible, ornamental or other types of landscaping plants.
- Terrain: The changing of the shape of the land through the processes of grading, backfilling, mounding or terracing.
- Structures: Constructing structures, such as walls, fences, patios, decks or raised planters.
As a landscape professional, you will need to use your knowledge of design and construction to help you plan and design the layout of the space and the structural features and your creative side to plan the softscape elements and the overall appearance of the garden. A landscape business should also be aware of how to make plants and flowers thrive and the optimal conditions for planting and ensuring the softscape features flourish. For example, knowing the areas of the garden that have optimum conditions (e.g. sunlight, ground conditions, exposure to wind) for different types of plants.
A landscaping business can work on different types of land and gardens, for example:
- Private estates, including manor houses, castles and country estates.
- The gardens of people’s homes or apartment buildings (residential landscaping).
- Public land, including parks, cemeteries, fields and other green areas.
- The grounds of establishments such as hotels, restaurants, schools and churches.
- Interior landscaping (e.g. greenhouses).
- Wildlife reserves.
- Natural habitat restoration.
- Therapeutic gardens.
- Historical outdoor space preservation.
A landscaping business can have many different responsibilities, primarily to ensure that you design and construct an outdoor space that is functional, attractive, healthy and in line with your client’s wishes. Because of the wide range of tasks and responsibilities associated with this type of business, you will need to have expertise and experience in a variety of different areas.
If you are thinking of starting up a landscaping business, you first need to decide what type of landscaping to specialise in.
There are two main types of landscaping businesses:
- Landscape design business: Also referred to as landscape architecture, this type of business usually focuses on larger outdoor areas. A landscaping design business works on the design of the outdoor space and the architectural components. They analyse, plan and design areas to create functional and beautiful outdoor spaces but may not actually be involved in the physical labour.
- Landscape gardening business: This type of business is usually involved in the project from start to finish. Not only will they plan and design the outdoor space, but they will also be involved in constructing any hardscape features and planting any softscape features. They have complete responsibility for the project.
Although your responsibilities can vary depending on the type of landscaping business you set up, some of the tasks typically associated with a landscaping business include:
- Surveying and analysing sites.
- Discussing clients’ requests and requirements.
- Creating plans, designs and drawings, consulting on these plans with clients and making any necessary changes or adjustments.
- Presenting proposals to clients and calculating expected timescales.
- Estimating costs and creating contracts.
- Implementing landscape plans.
- Overseeing each project carefully.
- Purchasing, maintaining and servicing garden tools and equipment.
- Ordering the necessary materials for each project (e.g. bricks, seeds and bulbs).
- Constructing hardscape features, such as fences, pergolas, walls and water features.
- Laying paving, gravel or patio areas.
- Analysing growing conditions in the area, including monitoring and controlling diseases or pest infestations.
- Preparing and maintaining seedbeds and planting areas.
- Planting flowers, trees, shrubs and other horticultural components.
- Fertilising and watering planted areas.
- Pruning plants, trees and hedges.
- Using chemical control agents, where necessary.
- Using gardening tools and equipment to complete tasks.
- Advising clients on how to look after the landscape.
- Ensuring your business complies with all health and safety regulations and legal guidelines.
- Marketing and advertising.
- Completing business and administrative tasks.
If you are thinking of starting up a landscaping business, extensive knowledge, skills and experience in the gardening and landscaping industry are essential. It may also be beneficial to obtain training or qualifications. You will also need to ensure you have extensive knowledge about landscaping, plants, garden design and the different plant diseases and pests and insects you need to be aware of. An understanding of gardening regulations is also necessary.
You will also need visualisation and creativity, to ensure the garden design matches your client’s requests every time. Because you will likely be working outside in all types of weather conditions, a love of the outdoors and nature is also recommended.
Types of Customers
The types of customers who use the services of a landscape business can be wide-ranging. However, it is important to keep in mind that your target market should not simply be everyone who requires landscaping services. Defining your market makes it easier to focus on the specific customers who are most likely to pay for your services and determine exactly where and how to market your business.
The types of customers that typically use a landscaping business can vary, depending on:
The type of landscaping business you set up (e.g. landscape gardening or landscape architecture)
Different types of landscape businesses have significantly different responsibilities and will perform different tasks. The types of clients they attract also tend to differ, for example, a landscape architect typically works with larger outdoor spaces rather than smaller gardens attached to the average-sized home. When potential clients are looking for a landscape business, they usually already have an idea of what they are looking for, and if your business is inexperienced in a specific type of landscaping or is unable to provide certain services, the client is unlikely to choose your business.
Your previous landscaping jobs (your portfolio)
When choosing a landscape gardener, clients will expect to see examples of your previous work. You will therefore need to prepare a portfolio with photographs of previous landscaping (before and after pictures if possible). If you have previously worked with high-profile clients (such as a celebrity, a local council or a well-known site) this should also be included in your portfolio.
Your skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications
Clients often meet with multiple landscapers before making a final decision. They will consider your skills, knowledge and the level of expertise you portray during your meeting, as well as your previous landscaping experience and any qualifications you hold.
Your reputation and customer reviews
This is another important factor that many people will look at. They may look at your customer reviews or decide based on recommendations.
Your reputation and reviews will likely be based on multiple factors, such as:
- The quality of your work.
- How you interacted and communicated with clients.
- How long a job takes and whether you adhered to the timeframe.
- Your pricing.
Your time and availability
Your availability, the number of hours you work and the number of employees you hire will all impact the types of customers your business attracts, as these factors can influence how long it takes you to complete a job. Larger grounds will have a higher time requirement so a landscaping business with high time availability and multiple employees is more likely to be chosen.
Clients can typically be separated into three pricing tiers.
- Budget: For this type of client, price is one of the most important factors. They will likely choose the cheapest landscaping business, regardless of reputation and experience.
- Mid-range: This type of client is looking for a combination of quality and affordability. Although price won’t be the most important factor, it will definitely be something they consider.
- High-end: This type of client is willing to pay the highest prices for the best landscaping. They will likely request superior service, comprehensive landscaping and high-quality hardscaping and softscaping.
Some of the customers you could target include:
- Local councils (for parks, grounds, green areas and public spaces).
- Hotels and resorts.
- The owners of large private gardens or grounds.
- Establishments such as restaurants and cafes that have outdoor space.
- Property management companies, landlords and letting agents.
- Care homes, nurseries, schools and other similar establishments.
- New build properties (as these gardens are not typically landscaped by the builder).
Equipment You Will Need
Equipment is an essential purchase, as without it you will not be able to run your business. The type and amount of equipment you require will depend on the landscaping services you offer and the number of employees you hire.
Below is a list of the equipment typically required by a landscaping business.
Landscape designers and architects have specific equipment requirements that are needed for them to complete their roles. Some of the equipment you will require includes:
A computer or laptop
A computer or laptop is a necessary piece of equipment, as it will be used to create and modify your designs, present to customers and create databases and spreadsheets. You will also use your computer for business and administrative tasks, such as creating invoices, ordering equipment and tracking spending. Although a desktop computer has a larger screen, a laptop is transportable, meaning you can take it with you to client meetings.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software
CAD software is essential in helping you create your designs. The software will help you to create designs in 2D or 3D to help you visualise construction, create your design plan and present your designs to clients. The software also allows you to develop, modify and optimise your designs. Using CAD software allows you to improve the quality of your designs and the level of detail. There are many different types of CAD software to choose from.
A drafting table
Particularly in the early stages of your design, much of your planning will be done on paper by hand. A drafting table is a type of table with an adjustable sloped surface that is used specifically for making designs or plans. Drafting tables come in a variety of vertical adjustments and different sizes. Some drafting tables also have storage drawers or compartments and a raised top lid.
A drafting table lamp
If your work area does not have sufficient lighting, you will need to invest in a drafting table lamp. These differ from regular lamps as they have an adjustable arm and usually use LED lightbulbs.
Your sketchbook will likely come with you on all your jobs and will be an integral part of your design process. You can use it to make observational notes, record notes from your meetings, record ideas, sketch your plans and test elements of your design.
As well as your sketchbook, you will need writing accessories, including:
- Mechanical pencils.
- Good quality pens.
- Coloured pencils and markers.
- A ruler.
- A sharpener.
- An erasing shield (to protect other lines and parts of your design when you are erasing).
Tracing paper is used in the early phases of the design process and as your design progresses. It allows you to transfer lines and measurements of one drawing onto another piece of paper and overlay multiple ideas during the design process. You will need tracing paper in a variety of sizes.
An engineer’s scale
Drawing scales allow you to understand the relationship between a drawing and reality. An engineer’s scale is the most popular type of drawing scale and is a piece of equipment that looks similar to a ruler. It measures scale on technical drawings and helps you to produce ratioed drawings.
A T-Square is a T-shaped instrument that is used for drawing straight horizontal lines and testing right angles on a drafting table. They are used when creating your plans. T-Squares come in different sizes.
A drafting triangle
A drafting triangle is used for drawing straight vertical lines. The triangles come in a variety of lengths and heights, with some being adjustable.
A circle template
A circle template can be utilised for creating rounded corners or turning radiuses and accurate circles or arcs. It can be utilised for things such as trees and furnishings in your plan. Choose a circle template that has a large number of different circle sizes.
Landscape designs often involve working with organic or natural shapes that are difficult to create with other pieces of equipment. A French curve allows you to create the specified curves more accurately, without needing to use freehand. A set of French curves usually comes with multiple styles and angles of curves.
A tape measure
A tape measure helps you to record or verify dimensions and take measurements of the space to help you in the design process. You will likely require a large, inflexible tape measure for measuring larger spaces and a flexible tape measure for measuring curved areas (e.g. the inside of a pond or the dimensions of a tree).
A video camera
Many landscapers use a video camera to record videos or a series of images of the terrain. This allows you to see the space at different times of the day to see what parts of the space receive sunlight and shade and how much sunlight the space gets. This can help you to make decisions on where plants should be located and where shaded areas, such as pagodas, should be built.
Physical samples can be integral in a design pitch or meeting, as they allow you to show your client or other people involved in the design process the colours, textures and feel of the different materials. Material samples could include paving samples, wood samples (e.g. for decking or fences) and paint and stain swatches.
Construction and Gardening Equipment
If you are involved in any of the construction process and follow the landscaping process from start to finish, there are multiple pieces of equipment you will require. Some of the larger equipment typically used in the construction process may be hired on a need-by basis, rather than bought. However, you could choose to purchase all of the equipment, particularly if you will use it regularly.
Some of the construction and gardening equipment you may require could include:
A van not only allows you to travel between different clients, but it also allows you to transport any of the equipment you will need. To help your business gain exposure, you should also install adhesive door and body panels with your business name and logo, your contact information and the typical services you offer.
If you will be involved in the construction of any of the hardscape features of your design, such as driveways, pagodas or water features, there are specific pieces of equipment you will require, including:
- An excavator machine – To dig up a site and prepare it for construction.
- A concrete and cement mixer – To prepare concrete and cement mixtures.
- A soil compactor – To compress the ground and fill in air pockets.
- Concrete pouring moulds – To set the concrete in a specific shape, e.g. for a paving slab or driveway.
- A concrete edger – To shape and consolidate the corners of concrete slabs and prevent them from chipping.
- A finishing trowel – To smooth out the concrete.
- A caulk gun – To seal up cracks and gaps.
- A hand saw – To roughly cut wood or logs.
- A circular saw – To cut wood or metal more easily and to ensure straight edges.
- A chainsaw – To fell trees.
- A carpenter’s level – To ensure your structures (e.g. a decking or patio) are level.
- A power drill – To drill holes and fit nails and fasteners.
- A framing hammer – To hammer in nails and screws.
- A rubberwood mallet – To align posts, joists and boards.
- A sander – To sand the wood to make it smoother and help it to absorb treatments, varnishes or stains more easily.
You will have specific equipment requirements for the gardening aspect of your landscaping (the softscape tasks). Some of the equipment you may require includes:
- A lawnmower – You can opt for an electric mower, a battery-powered cordless mower or a petrol mower. Choose your lawnmower based on the size of the area you will typically be mowing – the larger the grounds, the larger the mower should be.
- A hedge trimmer – Hedge trimmers are used for more heavy-duty cutting as they quickly and efficiently cut larger hedges or cut through branches. Choose a hedge trimmer that is lightweight and easier to lift and hold for longer periods.
- A grass strimmer – This can be used for edging the borders of the lawn, trimming long grass or weeds that are less accessible and tackling ivy.
- A leaf blower – Rather than raking the entire area, which can be time-consuming and strenuous, a leaf blower allows you to blow all of the leaves into one area. This tool is particularly necessary for autumn when gardens are often covered in leaves or for larger grounds.
- A chainsaw – A chainsaw can be used for cutting down trees, pruning larger branches and shaping trees and bushes.
- A garden shredder – These are used for reducing garden waste and making it easier to compost.
- A wheelbarrow – To move a variety of things around the outdoor space, including compost, plants, mulch and waste.
- Gardening spades – You will need spades of different sizes for digging and planting.
- Gardening forks – For breaking up compacted soil, clay soil and stony or rocky ground to enable you to plant in the area. A gardening fork can also be used for turning soil.
- A hand trowel – A trowel can be used for hand weeding, planting, potting and sowing seeds.
- A rake – For breaking down soil and raking leaves and debris.
- Pruners – You can opt for pruning shears (for cutting branches, stems and shrubs), secateurs (a type of one-handed pruning clippers) or loppers (a long-handled pruner for cutting harder-to-reach areas or thicker branches).
- A hoe – Used for cutting down weeds and preparing flower beds. A hoe can also move around the soil and cut through tougher soil.
- A soil knife – This can be used to remove weeds and rocks, cut through roots, and plant bulbs.
- A weeder – This can cut the weeds below the surface and help to prevent them from growing back as quickly.
- A hand-held hedge trimmer – Hand-held hedge trimmers are recommended for smaller hedges where more delicate work is required.
- A pruning saw – This saw is used for cutting branches, especially those that are higher up or are more difficult to reach.
- A watering can with a sprinkler attachment – This will allow a more even (and less intense) distribution of water.
- A hose – This is recommended for bigger or more established plants.
- Plant care – There are multiple things you will need for plant care, including compost, fertiliser, soil test kits and lawn care products.
It can be risky to guess the length, size or placement of anything when landscaping. Marking tools allow you to mark exactly where something should be placed or where you need to make a cut or place a nail. You could use marking chalk or pencil or opt for marking tape.
These are used to define the borders of each area. They can be used to lay out the design in the real area, making it clear where each task needs to take place. Plastic boundaries can also be used for pouring concrete.
There are multiple tasks in landscaping that may require the use of a ladder, including working on tall structures, trimming and shaping trees and hanging planters. There are different height ladders, depending on the task. There are also different types of ladders, including step ladders and leaning ladders.
Keep in mind that for certain tasks, you may need to partner with other professionals who provide their own equipment. For example, if your design includes a swimming pool or a pond, you will likely need to work with a plumber who will use specialist tools.
Some other equipment you may require for your landscaping business includes:
A high-quality camera
You will need a camera to take photographs for reference (e.g. during the design process). You will also need a high-quality camera to take before and after photographs of the space to be used in your portfolio and for advertising purposes.
A physical portfolio
Your portfolio should be professionally designed and feature clear, high-quality photographs of your previous work (including before and after pictures). You could also feature client testimonials in your portfolio.
A website is useful for advertising your business and will likely act as your primary advertising strategy. Your website should list the types of services you offer, descriptions and photographs of your previous work, the areas and locations you operate in and your contact information. Design your website to include your business logo and to reflect your branding.
Whether you are involved in the construction or gardening aspects of landscaping, or you are present on site while work is being done, there are multiple types of safety equipment you will require, including:
- Helmets or hardhats.
- Goggles or safety glasses.
- Gardening hats.
- Steel toe-capped boots.
- High-visibility clothing.
- Dust masks.
- Gardening gloves.
- Long-sleeved tops.
- A knee pillow or strap-on knee pads.
Brochures, leaflets and business cards
These items are essential to your marketing and advertising strategies. These items should look professional, be made using high-quality materials and fit the design and aesthetic of your business. Ensure all of these items feature your contact information so potential clients can get in touch with you.
A business phone
A business phone will enable you to communicate with your clients and be contacted by potential clients. Your business phone number should be advertised on your website and any leaflets or business cards you use.
A transportable fully stocked first aid kit
Accidents and injuries can easily occur in this type of environment. Some injuries will be minor and can be treated onsite. Others may require medical intervention but initial treatment using items in a first aid kit can reduce the severity of the injury. Ensure your first aid kit is stocked with items to treat cuts, stings, burns and sprains.
When you are creating your business plan, an important consideration you will need to make is your expected start-up costs and running costs. Calculating your expected costs allows you to determine your initial investment requirements, your pricing strategy and your profit goals.
There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a landscaping business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.
Although the costs can vary depending on the type of landscaping business you set up, some of the typical costs you can expect are:
Your equipment will likely be your biggest expenditure when setting up your business. Your equipment costs can vary, depending on the type of services you offer your clients and how much equipment you require. To reduce your start-up costs, you could buy only essential equipment initially and then purchase more equipment as your business grows. You can expect to spend between £2,000 and £30,000 on equipment.
A van will likely be the most convenient type of vehicle for your business. The price of a van can vary significantly, depending on the make and model and whether it is new or second-hand. Keep in mind that if you work on multiple jobs at the same time, you may require multiple vehicles. The cost of a van can begin at £5,000 (for a second-hand vehicle). For a new van, expect to pay at least £30,000.
Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment
Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment and machinery will come with warranties or guarantees, repairs and replacements are inevitable because much of your equipment will experience heavy usage and may be used in a variety of weather conditions. Correctly cleaning and maintaining equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its life, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget.
Materials for customers
Although these costs will be absorbed by your customers and will be included in your invoice, you may have to initially front these costs yourself (depending on whether your clients pay before or after the project). Some of the equipment you may need to purchase includes labour materials (e.g. tiles, bricks and pond pumps), bulbs, seeds, plants, plant care products and décor items. Ensure you have the available finances to purchase these items or create a payment policy that involves the client covering all costs upfront.
Vehicle running costs
Your vehicle running costs include your vehicle insurance, petrol, MOT, services and the costs of any repairs. These costs can vary significantly, depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, the level of insurance you choose and the amount of travel you need to do. Typically, you can expect to pay between £50 and £200 per month.
Your business website
Your business website will act as your primary advertising and marketing tool, allowing potential customers to find your business online. Your website should be functional, easy to use, attractive and search engine optimised, to ensure it ranks highly on search engines, such as Google. Your website will need regular monitoring, updating and upgrading. You also need to make sure your website is secure, particularly if you will be collecting any customer information. You may choose to set up and run your website yourself or hire someone to do this for you. You can expect to pay between £20 and £100 per hour for someone to set up and run your website.
If you hire any staff to work for your business on a permanent basis (rather than as an independent contractor), you will need to pay them at least the national minimum wage and account for other expenses such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions.
When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived by potential customers. When creating your brand, consider the type of landscaping services you offer and your typical customer base. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.
Marketing and advertising
To ensure your landscaping business attracts customers and creates maximum profits, you will need to spend money on advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £70,000, you should spend between £700 and £2,100 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your business or when you are trying to grow your business. To reduce your costs, capitalise on free marketing strategies, such as on social media or in your local community. You can also advertise on your website, on your van, and through leaflets, posters and business cards.
There are several types of coverage you could choose for your landscaping business. Prices can vary depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you choose.
Business insurance typically chosen by landscape businesses includes:
- Public Liability Insurance.
- Employers’ Liability Insurance.
- Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- Tools and Business Equipment Cover.
- Stock and Materials Cover.
- Personal Accident.
- Legal Expenses.
- Own Plant Coverage.
- Business Interruption Insurance.
Insurance costs can vary depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you require. Prices typically start at £10 per month.
Typical Pricing Customers
Once you have calculated the expected costs associated with setting up and running your landscaping business, you can then determine your pricing.
Although you can choose to charge a per-hour fee, you will likely charge your customers a set fee based on the size of the job, the number of workers that will be required and the timeframe. These costs may change if any unexpected issues come up once the job has started (such as unstable ground) or if the customer requests additional work.
When creating a price for a customer, you should consider:
- The size of the outdoor space.
- How long the job will take.
- Whether specific contractors are required (e.g. a plumber).
- The level of work that is required.
- The number of workers that will be required.
- Whether any specific tools or equipment will be required.
- Your experience and skill set.
- Your business’s reputation.
- Your location.
- Your competition and the demand for your services.
Safely Running a Landscaping Business
Safe practices in your landscaping business can help to protect the health, safety and well-being of you, your staff and your clients.
Some ways you can safely run your landscaping business include:
Be aware of potentially harmful plants
TMultiple plant varieties in the UK can be potentially poisonous or result in skin irritations or reactions. You and all your employees should be aware of potentially dangerous plants and how to recognise them. If you are handling potentially harmful plants (e.g. removing stinging nettles), ensure you wear PPE and handle them with care.
Consider whether your clients have pets or children
Many plant varieties are dangerous when ingested. Although adults are unlikely to eat plants or put them in their mouths, pets and small children may ingest them. You could avoid planting any potentially dangerous plants in your clients’ gardens or warn them of any specific plants so that they can supervise pets and children in their gardens and reduce the risk.
Pay attention to noise hazards
Noise levels can sometimes be high when gardening or constructing, for example, when using a lawnmower or power tools. Measure noise levels and make sure you are aware of noise levels that are too high. Have a protocol in place that all employees follow if they are being exposed to noise hazards (for example, wearing protective ear coverings or taking regular breaks).
Obtain landscaping qualifications
Qualifications are required if you plan to operate as a landscape architect. Even for landscaping businesses that do not require formal qualifications, a qualification can teach you all the relevant health and safety laws you should be aware of, help you to run your business more safely and make your business more attractive to clients. The type of qualification you choose will depend on the type of landscaping business you set up.
Your options include:
- An undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture accredited by the Landscape Institute.
- Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture or Gardening.
- Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Horticulture.
- Level 2 National Certificate in Horticultural Land Practice.
Obtain health and safety training
Obtaining health and safety training can ensure that you and your employees follow safe practices at all times.
Some training courses you could opt for include:
- Manual Handling.
- Workplace First Aid.
- Working at Height.
- Ladder Safety.
- Assessing Risk.
- PUWER Awareness.
Properly maintain and set up equipment
Any equipment you use, including gardening and construction tools, must be properly maintained, correctly set up and safe to use. You must protect yourself, your employees and your customers from accidents or injuries caused by equipment. You should also perform regular equipment inspections to ensure your equipment’s safety and help extend the lifespan of your equipment. Maintenance includes cleaning equipment regularly and checking it is functioning correctly.
Check and maintain electricals
Not only can this save you money by avoiding damage, repairs and replacements, but checking and maintaining electricals can help to protect your equipment from faults and protect the health and safety of everyone who interacts with your business. Implement a system for regularly checking electricals and ensuring they are up to code.
Always read the manufacturers’ instructions
Reading the manufacturers’ instructions is imperative when you work with chemicals and other potentially harmful products (including pesticides and lawn care products). Follow the instructions carefully and abide by the use-by dates on the label.
Carry out risk assessments
Risk assessments are a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees. However, even if your business has fewer than five employees, risk assessments are still recommended to ensure the safety of you, your staff and your customers. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.
As part of your risk assessment, you should:
- Identify hazards.
- Determine who could be at risk.
- Evaluate any potential risks.
- Implement relevant safety measures.
- Record the results of the risk assessment.
- Review the risk assessment regularly.
Keep a fully stocked first aid kit
If a client or employee has an accident or injury, it may not be serious enough to warrant medical intervention. Instead, you may be able to offer treatment yourself. Having a first aid kit that is checked and replenished regularly and is easily accessible is recommended.
Implement security measures
Security measures can be implemented to protect your business. Your business will use expensive equipment that could attract thieves. Some ways you can protect your equipment and materials include always storing equipment somewhere safe at night, installing a CCTV system, using secure and reliable locks and installing an alarm system.
Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE can help to protect you and your employees from obtaining an injury at work. Some of the PPE you may require include protective headwear, steel toe-capped boots, goggles and a dust mask.
Complying with legal requirements is essential when setting up and running a landscaping business.
Failure to comply with legal requirements could not only result in an accident or injury, but you could also face consequences such as a warning, a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious circumstances, prosecution.
Some of the legal guidelines you should be aware of include:
Comply with the Environment Agency’s regulations on invasive non-native plants
You must ensure your business does not plant any invasive non-native plants or allow them to grow in the wild (for example, by moving contaminated soil or cuttings of the plants). If you see any invasive non-native plants you must stop them from spreading. You must also follow the government’s guidelines on treating invasive non-native plants and disposing of them safely.
Apply for a waste carrier registration
If you carry away any garden waste, such as grass, weeds and branches, you will need to register as a lower-tier waste carrier if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland or a professional collector or transporter of waste if you live in Scotland.
You can apply for your registration with the following governing bodies:
- England: The Environment Agency.
- Wales: Natural Resources.
- Scotland: The Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
- Northern Ireland: The Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998
PUWER regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure any equipment is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. You must also ensure the equipment is used under appropriate conditions. PUWER covers all equipment, including lawnmowers, power tools and gardening equipment.
Apply for chainsaw certification
Under the PUWER regulations, you must obtain the relevant chainsaw training and receive certification in chainsaw operations. You must ensure that you and all your employees are competent and adequately trained to use a chainsaw safely. You must also ensure that you wear appropriate chainsaw protective clothing whenever you use a chainsaw.
Comply with the Work at Height Regulations (2005)
The Work at Height Regulations are designed to prevent death or injury caused by a fall from height. If you are ever working above ground level, for example, on a ladder, you will be classed as working at height. Working at height incorrectly can result in serious injury and even death, so you will need to ensure your business complies with the regulations at all times, for example:
- Avoid working at height where possible.
- Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall.
- Ensure any work at height is properly planned and supervised and carried out by competent people.
- Ensure you use the correct equipment when working at height.
Comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations
The COSHH regulations state that you must control any potentially hazardous substances. You must appropriately assess, control and reduce any risks or potential hazards and protect people from harm. COSHH applies to chemicals that are present in pesticides and fertilisers, as well as any other hazardous substances you use as part of your business.
Comply with regulations regarding storing and disposing of hazardous substances
Some of the substances you use as part of your business are classed as hazardous substances. This includes fertiliser, pesticides and weed killer. Different local authorities may have different guidelines regarding hazardous substances, so contact your local authority or the Environmental Health department for more information.
Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013
RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. As injuries may be more likely in a landscaping business, because you will be working with potentially dangerous tools and hazardous items, appropriate recording can help you to recognise any mistakes or patterns and prevent future injuries.
Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any workplace that uses electricals must construct electrical systems in a way that prevents danger. You must also maintain electrical systems to ensure they are safe, ensure electrical equipment is checked by a competent person annually and conduct Portable Appliance Tests (PAT). These regulations apply to electrical equipment, such as lawnmowers, power tools and laptop chargers.
Comply with the Manual Handling Regulations (1992)
Manual handling is an inevitable part of landscaping. You will be handling heavy equipment, carrying waste, bending down and reaching high and using repetitive movements, all of which could result in pain or injury. Following manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks.
Ensure your clients have the appropriate planning permission
Depending on the type of outdoor area you are working on, your client may have to seek planning permission for some aspects of landscaping. For example, if the outdoor space is connected to a listed property or if the terrain is protected, you will not be able to make certain modifications, such as building a swimming pool or disturbing a natural habitat, without seeking the appropriate permissions. Ensure your client has contacted their local council to check there are no permits or planning permission they need to apply for.
Comply with invoice or receipt guidelines
You may make it standard that you send all of your clients an e-receipt or invoice once they make a payment to your business. Even if you don’t make it standard, some clients will request receipts or invoices.
You must include certain information in any invoices you create, such as:
- The word ‘invoice’ and a unique invoice number.
- Your business name and address.
- The client’s name and address.
- A brief description of your work.
- The total you are charging the client and when the payment is due.
- The payment method.
Prepare a health and safety policy
The law states that every business in the UK must have a specific policy for managing health and safety. Your policy should state exactly how you will manage health and safety in your business, who is responsible for specific tasks and how and when these tasks are completed.
Appoint a competent person
A competent person should be appointed to help your business meet your health and safety legal duties. You can act in this role yourself or appoint another person to fulfil this role. The competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify any hazards in your business and put controls in place to protect people from harm.
Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)
You must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your customers’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. If you process or store personal information such as personal details and banking information, you will need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.
Comply with employment legislation
You must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.
Ensure your website complies with the guidelines
If you set up a business website, there are several guidelines you need to comply with, including:
- Privacy policies.
- Cookie legislation.
- Service descriptions.
Under the Equality Act (2010) you must also make reasonable adjustments to your website to ensure it is accessible to people with disabilities.
Comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992)
Under these regulations, if your business has five or more employees you must ensure you conduct appropriate risk assessments, minimise any risks and maintain all equipment. You must also make sure high levels of cleanliness are maintained.
Register your business
You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information.
Register for self-assessment tax
This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.
As part of your tax responsibilities, you must:
- Record all forms of income and expenses.
- Complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
- Register for VAT if you earn above the threshold (currently £85,000).
- Pay National Insurance contributions.
- Keep a record of your business accounts for the previous five years.
Positives of Owning a Landscaping Business
Running a landscaping business can be extremely rewarding in multiple ways.
Some of the main pros associated with this type of business include:
Landscaping is a creative field that enables you to use your vision, imagination and creativity to design the perfect outdoor space for your clients. Every design and every garden will be different and you will be able to work with different structures, outdoor décor, plants and flowers to design the perfect space for each client. Putting your creative footprint on a space can be extremely rewarding.
An interesting and fascinating career
As technologies and design techniques evolve and change, landscape design also changes. As a landscape business, you will need to keep up to date with new technologies and new design styles, as well as keep up to date with garden trends. Landscape businesses need to regularly educate themselves. This helps to keep the industry interesting and ensures you never get bored with your work.
Benefit the environment
As a landscape designer or gardener, you will be able to create environmentally friendly designs and encourage your clients to make choices that will benefit nature and the Earth. For example, you could plant certain flowers and plants that are more likely to attract bees and other insects and that are beneficial to local wildlife. You can also plant more trees that give off oxygen. Knowing that your business is helping the environment is not only personally rewarding, but it can also help to attract more customers.
There are many ways a landscape gardener can help their clients to be more sustainable and conserve energy. This includes arranging plants and trees to reduce a building’s need to use heating or cooling systems and installing green roofs, which can help to reduce the temperature and can clean rainwater. Your business can help private and public properties to be more eco-friendly.
Landscape businesses can work on a wide range of projects, with significantly different requirements. Every project is likely to be different and you will constantly be learning and perfecting new skills. You will also have the option to specialise in a particular type of landscaping (e.g. residential design or wildlife reserves) or work on a variety of different outdoor spaces.
Easy to get started
A landscaping business has a simple business model that makes it easy for you to set up and expand your business. Because this type of business is highly scalable, you can initially set up a small business with few equipment requirements and low start-up costs. Low initial investment requirements make it easier to set up your business and make your business lower risk.
Create community spaces
Your business can help to create community spaces, such as parks, community gardens and other outdoor spaces, that can be used by the whole community. As part of your design, you could also focus on ways to make the space more communal and encourage a community feel, such as installing an outdoor stage or a children’s play area.
Because every project will be different, you will be able to innovate and use your own creativity to come up with new design elements or new ways to solve challenges related to the landscape or the terrain. Being able to approach each challenge in your own way can be very rewarding.
Be immersed in nature
If you are passionate about nature, landscaping can be a very rewarding career. You will spend a lot of time outside, in nature. Even during the design stage, you will spend time in the outdoor space planning the project. You will have plenty of exposure to the sun and natural light (which can have physical and mental health benefits) and can choose how involved you want to be in the construction and gardening phases of the project.
Physical and mental health benefits
There are many benefits to spending extended periods of time outdoors. These can include:
- The cardiovascular benefits of gardening.
- Increased exposure to vitamin D can have a positive effect on your immune system and overall health.
- Reducing the symptoms of stress and anxiety and improving your overall mental health.
Because the landscaping industry is growing, there are an increasing number of job opportunities becoming available every year. With more people, businesses and local councils employing the services of a landscaper, now could be a great time to set up a landscaping business.
Seeing your plans come to life and the beauty and functionality of what you create and witnessing the plants grow and the positive impact you are having on the natural world can be very rewarding. You will likely experience a daily sense of pride and achievement and seeing your clients satisfied with your work can be extremely rewarding.
Do something you are passionate about
If you are passionate about nature and the outdoors and you love landscaping and designing, running a landscaping business can be extremely rewarding. Sharing your talent and creativity with the world and working in an industry you love can be very gratifying and make your business feel less like work and more like a vocation.
Control your own workload
You can choose how many projects to accept at one time and set your own working hours and take holidays whenever you want. You can choose whether to work weekdays or weekends and run your business around your personal life. As your business grows and you hire more employees, you could also choose to take a step back and hand over a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities.
Customer retention and customer recommendations
The outdoor spaces you work on will be your strongest form of advertising. If other people see the work you have done, this could result in increased business. Your customers could also hire you for other projects if they like your work.
Design your dream business
You can make all the key business decisions and design your dream business. You can choose the type of landscaping business you want to set up, the type of landscaping you are going to specialise in and focus on your favourite design and style ideas. You can decide how to run your business and design the best business for you and your clients.
Connect with other people in the industry
You can build connections with other people in the landscaping industry, other professionals and tradespeople and even your customers. Building both professional and personal relationships allows you to stay up to date with new ideas and designs and create useful business connections that can help you to grow your business.
Free advertising on social media
You can easily gain exposure on social media by posting photos or videos of your work online. Your customers may also post pictures to their own social media accounts which will be seen by their followers. This can help you to gain exposure and be noticed online. Social media is a form of free advertising which can help you to grow your customer base and increase your income.
Opportunities for growth
A landscaping business has high scalability, meaning that it has the opportunity and capacity to expand and grow easily. Once your original business plan succeeds, you can grow your business, for example, by hiring more employees, partnering with more contractors and expanding your customer reach. You will already have positive relationships with suppliers, vendors and contractors and can utilise these relationships to help you grow your business with minimal stress.
Unlimited income potential
The more experience and exposure you gain, the more successful your business will be. As your business grows and you develop a good reputation, you will see your profits grow. You can even charge higher prices and hire more staff and expand your business to increase your profits. Landscaping can have a high-income potential and your profit margins are likely to be high. With a good business plan and strategy for growth, your business could have unlimited income potential.
Be your own boss
There are multiple ways you can run your business and maximise your profits. As the business owner you decide the type of landscaping business you set up. You can choose the employees you hire, choose the clients and projects you accept, choose whether to expand your business and decide exactly how to run your business. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.
Negatives of Owning a Landscaping Business
Although starting up a landscaping business can be rewarding in many ways, there are some potentially negative aspects to this type of business that you should be aware of.
Because the landscaping and gardening industry has low entry barriers, more and more businesses are beginning to operate in this industry. If there are already established businesses operating in your area, this can make it difficult for your business to grow and succeed and can reduce your profit margins. You may have to reduce your prices and offer discounts, all of which can affect your profits.
High labour costs
Landscaping and gardening are labour-intensive, particularly if you are working on a large outdoor space or have accepted a complex job. This could mean you have to hire several workers, which can increase your costs, or partner with independent contractors or freelance labourers, which can reduce your profits. If you hire staff, you will also be responsible for training them, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
Landscaping businesses are significantly busier in Spring and Summer when the weather is usually better. This could mean there are certain times of the year when you have little or no business, resulting in lost revenue. This can lower your profit margin and make it difficult to budget your income to last for the entire year. It can also mean that you are required to work long hours throughout the Spring and Summer to maximise your income, which can have a negative impact on your personal life.
It can be difficult to grow your client base
Many clients choose a landscaping business that has been recommended to them or has a strong reputation and good reviews. This can make it difficult to grow your client base, particularly because there are already a lot of well-established landscapers in operation. Difficulties in growing your client base will result in a reduced income and could affect your ability to continue pursuing your business.
A lot of skill, knowledge and experience is required
To help your business succeed, you will need to be highly proficient in a variety of skills and will need to have a lot of experience working in the landscaping industry. You will also need a high level of knowledge about design, construction and plants and an understanding of health and safety legislation. It can be time-consuming to gain the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to make your business succeed.
If you are involved in any of the physical tasks (constructing or gardening) this can be physically demanding and take a toll on your body. You will be on your feet for a lot of the day, handling bulky or heavy machinery and materials, handling sharp equipment and being involved in manual handling tasks (such as bending down to take measurements or plant bulbs and carrying heavy materials) which can result in pain, strain or injury.
Some clients can be difficult and demanding and have unrealistic expectations of you. For example, they may have an unrealistic timeframe or unrealistic budget that you cannot adhere to. They may then complain and you may feel like you have to try and appease them to avoid a negative review, even if it affects your profits. Trying to deal with this type of client can be stressful and time-consuming and can have a negative effect on your business.
Even if you only operate seasonally, the weather in the UK is very unpredictable and you may find yourself outside in all weather, including the cold, rain, wind, sleet and snow. Unless you want to lose revenue, you will have no choice but to work and this can be very unenjoyable.
A landscaping business can have high liability. If an employee, client or another visitor to a site becomes injured (particularly if the injury occurs during a high-risk task, when using potentially dangerous equipment or because of the ongoing work your business is doing), your business may be held liable. You also need to ensure any hardscape features are installed safely and correctly and that you have followed the manufacturer’s instructions and that any softscape features are safe to use in the space.
Issues out of your control
This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a business, as things that are out of your control can delay projects and have a negative impact on your profits. For example, extreme weather can halt the progress of a project or a delayed materials delivery can prevent you from completing tasks. These issues can cause you to miss a deadline or cause rising costs, which can result in unhappy customers and a loss of business.
Less physical involvement as you age
As you grow older, you may find that you have to start taking a backseat and being less involved in construction and gardening. You may find yourself struggling with some of the more physical tasks or find that you are dealing with more pain or worry that you are at higher risk of injury. You may have to hire more workers, which can affect your profits.
It can be demanding
Not only can running a landscaping business be intellectually and physically demanding, but as the business owner you will have a lot of additional responsibilities, such as advertising, maintaining equipment, liaising with clients and admin tasks. You will also be solely responsible for ensuring your business succeeds.
Although the majority of clients leave honest reviews, some clients are difficult to please and will leave a negative review because of the smallest complaint (even if it is something outside of your control, such as their garden furniture becoming weather damaged). Sometimes a fake customer also leaves a fake review, which can be extremely difficult to disprove and remove. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business, particularly if your business is new or you’ve had relatively few reviews.
It can be stressful
Not only will you have a lot of day-to-day responsibility, but you will also be responsible for ensuring each project is completed to perfection and that your clients are completely happy. You will also be responsible for managing your employees and ordering materials. Running a landscaping business and ensuring your business succeeds can be very stressful.
As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.
Your business could fail
Starting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if there is another recession or a period of financial difficulty.
Planning Your Landscaping Business
If you are considering starting up a landscaping business, an effective and well-designed business plan is essential. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.
Your business plan should contain information such as:
- Your company information.
- Your company description.
- The services you will provide.
- Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
- The structure of your business.
- The operational plan for your business.
- The financial plan for your business.
When creating your business plan, some factors you will need to take into consideration include:
The type of landscaping business you are going to set up
This is the first consideration you will need to make when planning your business. Will you set up a landscaping business that focuses mainly on planning and designing or will you set up a business that focuses on construction and gardening? Alternatively, your business could offer a complete service, following the project from start to finish. Consider your own skills and experience and the expectations of your customers when deciding what type of landscaping business to set up.
The landscaping services you will offer
Will you offer construction of the hardscape features? Will you offer a gardening service? Will you offer services that you are not qualified for (e.g. by partnering with other contractors), such as installing a pond or water feature? Consider your own training and experience when deciding what services you will offer. You should also consider your target market and your competition. You may choose to offer a wide range of services or focus on a specific niche.
Hiring employees and partnering with independent contractors
Your staffing is an important consideration you will need to make. Will you hire permanent employees to work for your business or hire employees seasonally? Your employee requirements could change as your business evolves and grows. You should also consider whether to make business connections and partner with independent contractors, such as plumbers or builders, that you can work with as and when you need to.
Your target market
Determining your target market is a key step in helping your business succeed. Different types of landscaping and different landscaping services will attract different clients. Some other factors that can influence your target market are your reputation, your portfolio and your pricing strategy. Once you have identified your target market, you can then focus on how to attract them to your business.
Your local competition
Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your business. Analysing your competition allows you to look at what they do well and what you think can be improved upon. Look at the landscaping services your competition offers, their pricing, their target market and the number of employees they have. Analysing your competition also identifies whether there is space in the market for your business, for example, if there is already a successful landscaping business in your area that works primarily with restaurants, you can focus your business on a different target market.
Your brand and your unique selling point (USP)
Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your local competition. Branding can help you to focus your target audience, attract clients and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on your business’s visual identity (e.g. your business name and logo and your website) and creating a brand story. Your USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what makes your business special and how this fits into what defines your business.
Your advertising and marketing strategies
There are many ways you can choose to advertise your business. This can include partnering with other businesses in your area, advertising in your local community, advertising on social media and using paid online ads. Your marketing and advertising plan should detail what your brand is and how you plan to promote your business. As part of your marketing strategy, consider the most effective ways to reach your target audience and attract potential customers. Create an advertising plan that is specific to the type of landscaping business you are going to run and how you plan to operate.
Your equipment requirements
Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you require will depend on the type of landscaping business you set up and the size of your business. Once you have determined your equipment requirements, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing the equipment.
Your start-up costs and running costs
Consult the list above to calculate your approximate start-up costs and running costs. Determining your approximate costs allows you to calculate your initial investment and what your monthly or yearly running costs will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself. Being aware of your expected costs also allows you to create a budget, which is a key part of your business plan. Once you have calculated your approximate costs, you can then calculate your pricing policy and determine your profit forecast.
Financing your business
Consult the list of start-up costs and running costs above to determine what capital you will require. Can you finance the business yourself or will you need to source outside investment? You will also need to calculate when you are likely to begin turning a profit. If you require outside investment, you could consider a bank or other financial institution, a business loan or an investment partner.
Your pricing policy
How will your price your services? If you are pricing per project, what factors will influence your price (e.g. timeframe)? When pricing your services, you should also consider the pricing of your competitors. When creating your policy, you will also need to decide when payment will be due. For example, will your clients make full payment before work begins on the project, will you accept split payments, or will payment be made once the project is complete?
Your sales forecast
How many projects can you take on at one time? Are there certain times of the year that are likely to be busier than others? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? You can also analyse the sales forecasts of similar businesses and look at how sales vary throughout the year to estimate demand. As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change.
Your strategy for growth
Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. Being aware of any potential challenges can help you to prepare for them and hopefully avoid them. This can help to make your business more successful.
Potential challenges could include:
- Decreased business in Autumn and Winter.
- Difficulties growing your customer base.
- Delays in obtaining materials.
Some potential strategies for growth include:
- Hire more employees.
- Market your business towards commercial clients.
- Build your portfolio.
Your business summary
Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of landscaping business you are setting up, the services you will offer, your primary selling strategy, your typical customer base, your staffing and equipment requirements and your business goals.
Your business goals
Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your landscaping business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Realistic
- T = Time-bound
Check you have complied with all legal requirements
Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.