For some people, the idea of setting up a gardening business is a dream. And that might be you – particularly if you love gardening, the outdoors and – literally – getting your hands dirty.
But, there’s just one issue. Where do you start? The world isn’t in the best shape right now, and, regardless of that, if you’ve never set up a business before, it’s virtually impossible to know where to put your first stake in the ground.
I’ll dispense with the puns now, I promise. Instead, I’ll offer some genuinely useful advice for first-time entrepreneurs (because, that’s what you’re about to become) who want to set up a gardening business.
The initial checklist
We’re going to dive into each of the points below in more detail in a moment, but I’m guessing you’re pretty fond of a list (most gardeners and wannabe business owners are).
So, we’ll start with a list which will become your bible during these early stages of the business.
- Research what the job entails.
- Plan for every season.
- Pick a legal structure that works for you and your future.
- Get all of the boring legal bits sorted.
- Find some insurance.
- Find those all-important first customers.
That’s it. Simple. And, just like any seemingly momentous task, when you break it down into small chunks like I have done above, setting up a gardening business suddenly feels far more achievable, right?
Let’s get into each of the points above.
1. Research what the job entails
Gardening is actually a hugely diverse term when it comes to building a business. It’s possible to spin off a gardening business into all sorts of areas, from landscaping to general tidying and long-term support.
This is why you need to spend some time researching what your job will entail – and what you want it to entail.
It’s also important bear in mind that, while most gardening work is conducted during the spring and summer months, that doesn’t mean you’ll be out of pocket during the winter.
Let’s consider some of the elements your business might include:
- working with customers to realise their dream gardens
- agreeing short- or long-term maintenance periods
- ensuring gardening projects meet budget expectations
- estimating the complexity and costs of jobs
- building water features
- planting trees
- clearing out and levelling unkempt gardens
That’s a relatively short list above, so start your own and list absolutely every type of service and constituent element of your gardening business.
2. Plan for every season
As noted above, you won’t down tools during the colder months of the year, which is why it’s important to plan your gardening business for all seasons.
The bulk of your work will definitely take place during the spring and summer, but there’ll be lots of opportunity to work during the winter, too.
Think about the types of service you can offer during the winter (cleaning operations, planning for the warmer seasons, etc), and build them into your business plan.
3. Pick a legal structure that works for you and your future
This is where a lot of first-time business owners get confused, and for good reason. If you’ve never started a business before, how on earth are you supposed to know which route to take in terms of its legal structure?
The good news? This is actually a pretty straightforward decision. You can either:
- be a sole trader; or
- set up a limited company.
The former absolutely makes sense to begin with. You can change in the future and create your limited company once the client base and cash begins to flood in, but a sole trader business is incredibly easy to set up.
If you’re unsure, have a chat with HMRC or an accountant for some professional, fair advice.
4. Get all of the boring legal bits sorted
Sorry – there’s no escaping this, but most of it is, thankfully, a one-time affair.
You’ll need to register with HMRC for tax, National Insurance and, at some stage, most likely VAT, too. If you intend to employ someone from the outset, you’ll also need to register for PAYE.
It’s important you do this stuff now because a lot of these tasks are legal requirements, and the last thing you’ll want to do is head backwards and fix legal errors you made when things are going well.
Once again, if you’re unsure, find yourself a great accountant (they’re worth their weight in gold) and ask every single question you can think of. There are no stupid questions.
5. Find some insurance
This is really important in the gardening business. The potential outcomes should something nasty happen during a project don’t bear thinking about, but that’s why insurance exists.
Start by getting yourself set up with public liability insurance. This will cover you for claims that arise from damage or injury suffered at the hands of your work.
If you’re employing people, you’ll need employers’ liability insurance, too. If you don’t have it, you’ll be fined because it is, once again, a legal requirement.
6. Find those all-important first customers
Ah, those first customers. Where are they? How do you find them?
When it comes to setting up a gardening business, it pays to keep things simple. If you have a bit of cash to spend on marketing, you can do a lot worse than have a play with Facebook ads. These enable you to precisely target people in specific areas with certain interest – just go easy to begin with when it comes to your budget, and trial a few low cost ads.
Leaflet drops are also completely relevant today – even in the digital society. They can be created and printed yourself, or, if you have that money to hand, it’s worth asking a designer to assist.
Lastly, tell all of your friends and family about the new venture. There’s nothing like word of mouth in this game, and they’ll help you with that, big time.
I hope the tips above help you on your quest to build a profitable, long-lasting gardening business.
The good news is that you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a gardener, either, so as long as your business planning is relatively water-tight, you’ll find customers and be able to grow faster than you think (sorry – that’s it for the puns).