How to start a gardening business
If the unpredictable British weather isn't enough to counter
your desire to work outside, gardening is a great industry to get
involved in. With the ease of networking and use of a strong hobby,
entrepreneurs are in a brilliant position to start a successful
If you have dreams of landscaping huge public properties, or
simply want to make a living interacting with people outside of an
office, this guide will help you start up and give you a few tips
to getting your name out there. Who knows, one day you may find
yourself exhibiting at the world famous Chelsea
It's hard to pin down a strict routine for someone running a
gardening business but, for many, this will be part of the market's
Typically, you can guarantee early morning starts and weekend
work. Customers are likely to want their work completed at specific
times and may want you to be around the house when it is
If you are taking on less residential work and working with
businesses instead, you will find you have a more regular working
day. However, it will be difficult to find these corporate
contracts in the early days.
An important thing to remember is the commitment you will have
to give to networking and administration.
Showing up on time, even early in the morning, and maintaining
good relationships with clients will help spread your name. At the
same time, you should be prepared to spend evenings dealing with
invoices and replying to emails.
Due to a combination of simplicity and pre-established
networking opportunities, it is most common to start a gardening
business near where you live.
However, don't assume this is the best option. Research your
location first as you need to know how many competitors you will be
up against, what they are offering and what they are charging.
If everyone you know is already using a well priced and
effective gardening business near you, it is going to be very hard
to start reeling in customers.
The best option is always going to be providing a service in an
area that is lacking it, so carry out the research and make sure
you know as much as possible about where you are going into
Once you've scouted out a few, large areas that you can reach,
weigh up their benefits, such as gaps in the market, against
disadvantages such as commuting time and expenses. Once you have
done this you can decide what will be the first location of your
Running a gardening business will require you to function in a
lot of different ways. While your ability to create beautiful
landscapes will be put to the test regularly, as a head of a
business, so will your financial expertise and people skills.
Therefore, before committing yourself to the business, ask
yourself if you have the following skills:
- A creative mind set
- Great personal communication ability
- A talent for organising
- An aptitude for design
- Planting and general gardening proficiency
- Negotiation skills to drive down costs and increase
- Reliability to hold up your business' name
- Motivation to keep working in the wonderfully changeable
- A grasp of business and accounts
Once you get past your immediate circle of contacts, you will
need some clout to show you know what you are doing in a garden.
While a bulging portfolio of your work will help, so will a
There are a wide range of options available, such as a diploma
in garden design, which costs £9,000 from the English Gardening School or a certificate
in practical horticulture, setting you back £500 at Capel Manor
A more innovative path to gaining the qualification is through
offers video tutoring of the course at a reduced fee of £6,750.
Another route lies in taking the Royal Horticultural Society
qualifications. These are progressive and allow many opportunities
to specialise along the way. Read through their offerings before making any
Make sure you research the best qualification for you in order
to help build your business and enhance your skills. If there are
optional modules that offer the opportunity for business courses,
do not shy away from them.
A specific building is unlikely to be necessary as a home office
will suffice for the administration aspect of a gardening
However, what will be absolutely essential is a safe, clean
environment to keep your goods and equipment. Maintaining the
necessary gardening tools and goods to use and sell to clients will
require a lot of space.
If you have use of a personal garden and shed, this may be
enough, but if not you may need to hire an easy to access storage
facility. Large examples of these can be found for around £100 a
month in many locations. Consider using Big Yellow
Storage or other options that give you flexible access
One of the best aspects of starting a gardening business is the
low costs, allowing you to set up without seeking outside
Other than what you spend on any qualifications, your outlay
will go towards equipment, goods and travel. You can keep the first
two down by establishing good relationships with suppliers although
you will need a wide variety of equipment from the outset.
When starting up, it may be wise to combine buying smaller
pieces of equipment with hiring the larger, more expensive options
to keep your invested cash to a minimum before you know how well
your business will be doing.
Shop around at wholesale stores and online for the best buying
deals (remember to negotiate and create lasting relationships for
the best prices) while using companies such as HSS to hire from.
You can expect to pay around £2,000 for everything you'll need,
including a good laptop or computer for design work.
At first, there will be no need for extra staff and while you
may need to invest in a larger mode of transport than you currently
have, it won't be anything expensive enough to stop your new
On the profits side, make sure to be realistic about what you
can make and take every opportunity available. When starting up, it
will take a lot of hard work combined with effective selling to
begin bringing in a good income.
Your market research should give you an idea of the current
prices being used in your location. From this you can work out if
you can undercut the competition, or if you feel you offer
something better and can afford to charge more while still reigning
Either way, prepare to be flexible with your price system.
Gardening is an industry which sees a lot of entrants come and go
and there may be times when the market is flooded and lowering your
prices is necessary to maintain clients.
Insurance is a big deal in the gardening industry. You need
something, which covers you for accidents, injury, theft and damage
to property. When starting a gardening business, you should
consider the following insurance options:
- Property insurance for wherever you keep stock
- Individual insurance of expensive pieces of equipment
- Motor insurance relevant to your specific form of
transportation and who is driving it
- Business interruption insurance
- Professional indemnity insurance if you are offering advice as
- Product liability insurance if you are selling equipment to
- Employers' liability (mandatory if you ever take on staff)
Consider talking to an insurance advisor and make sure to
carefully read all terms and conditions to fully understand what
you are covered for.
During any qualification or training you may go for, get a feel
for what you want to specialise in. Make sure it's nothing anyone
else is doing in your location and then set this as your area of
Having an in-depth knowledge and skill set attuned towards a
specific brand of gardening will give you something to sell
yourself on and will help you reel in business, even when there may
be others in the market.
Once you know what you can offer, get the word out as far as
possible. While local advertising such as papers and shop windows
may work, it will be far more effective to spread your name through
friends, family and contacts.
Luke Evans, a gardener in his local area, says: "I'll always
regret not making more of my time studying at college. I had
completely the wrong mindset. I wanted the qualification and
nothing more. If I do another course, I'll make sure to network as
much as I can."
Taking up any work available from those around you will give you
a basis to show what you can do, and give them the chance to
confidently recommend you to others.
Beyond this, consider trying to strike up deals with garden
centres and other related businesses in your area. If you are
buying goods from them regularly, and they do not offer landscaping
services themselves, then maybe they can recommend you to
- Don't be blind to the range of opportunities available. While
acting as a gardener, remember you could be selling tools and
products to your customers too.
- Seek out new ideas. Attending gardening shows and keeping good
relationships with others in the market will allow you to stay
attuned with trends and ensure you have a wide range of abilities
to offer your clients.
- Keep up-to-date with technology. Not falling behind on any
developments as far as equipment goes could be crucial to cost
saving and presenting a professional image for your business.
- Be inventive in a traditional market. Just because gardening is
a long-established market, doesn't mean all your thinking should be
traditional. If you don't use a website to advertise yourself and
effectively brand your company, you will lose out.
- Stay on top of your administration. Keeping up with invoices,
emails and maintaining spreadsheets will save you from last minute
revelations, missed deadlines and unnecessary stress.
- Be both professional and friendly with clients. Striking up
friendships with all your customers is the best way to bring in
business, but always stay professional, have prices agreed and
decisions documented to prevent unwelcome disagreements later
Cummings, of MC Garden Design adds the need to develop a
thick skin: "I've had some difficult clients at times and it's
disappointing when a relationship goes sour, but it does happen.
Some people are just not very nice or realistic or both, which is
the worst combination," he says.
"I've been advised not to take it personally. But
I do because it's my business. Moving on from that type of
situation takes time. Just be aware of that."
Not doing your research - the
biggest pitfall is always a lack of market research.
Being heavily invested in an area before you find out someone
already has a monopoly on the audience could kill your business
before it even starts to grow.
Not buying the right supplies - turning up to a job without the
right plants or equipment will waste time and leave you looking
very unprofessional. Once you've signed up for a job, make sure you
research it and have everything you need before turning up on the
first day of work.
Letting yourself become disorganised - just because you
currently have a few jobs lined up, doesn't mean you shouldn't be
canvassing for more in the near future. But, at the same time,
double booking yourself will leave at least one customer
dissatisfied and may spread a negative impression of you. Stay
organised to remain on top of your clients.
Forgetting to reinvest the profits you make - when revenue
starts to come in after a few successful jobs, it will be very
tempting to enjoy this in a frivolous celebration of success, but
remember to keep your stock up to date, your equipment in full
working order and some money reserved for emergencies.
Not appreciating the importance of your personality - once the
business is off the ground, every person you meet is a potential
client and, unless you are already dedicated to presenting the best
version of yourself at all times, you may want to start. Bad press
and bad impressions will hang around the growth of your
Trying to cover up the mistakes you make - when running a
business where your reputation is essential to its success, honesty
is crucial. While it may be difficult, never lie or hide what you
have done, even if something has gone wrong which you will have to
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