If you like the idea of working outside, setting your own schedule, and tapping into the cash of a fast-growing market, learning how to start a landscaping company could be your path to profits in an $81 billion industry.
From cutting grass and designing custom gardens to trimming trees and installing sprinkler systems, landscaping businesses specialize in a sprawling field of niches. With more than 912,000 workers at over 100,000 firms in 2017 alone, the industry has a broad labor base, and customer demand is expected to continue growing throughout the 2020s.
Benefits of Opening a Landscaping Company
Whether renovating outdoor spaces or simply not having time to cut the grass, people want someone else to maintain and upgrade their outdoor surroundings for them. Despite a 6% dip during 2020, the industry grew 3.3% between 2015 and 2020 — faster than the national economy. With the average American household spending over $500 per year on lawn care and gardening alone, growth is expected to resume in 2021.
When you own a landscaping company, you work outside and build your own client list based on the quality of work you do. You’re not stuck at a desk, and the business can start as small as one person with a lawnmower and easily scale up to several landscaper crews as your reputation grows.
How to Start a Landscaping Company Checklist
Getting started isn’t all roses, of course. Competition is high: The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) forecasts over 100,000 new landscapers and entrepreneurs entering the industry by 2025. How will you stand out?
Use the checklist below to help you on your path to running your landscaping business.
1. Create a Business Plan
While the industry is home to big companies such as TruGreen, SavATree, and BrightView Landscapes, no major name has more than 5% of market share. Most landscaping companies are small businesses, and many employ no one but the business owners.
Standing out, earning landscaping jobs, and building recurring business starts with a solid business plan.
Work to understand who your customers are, from local residents in upscale neighborhoods to businesses to a mix of both. Also take some time to decide what unmet need you’ll satisfy. It can be easy to think of a landscaping business as one person using a lawn mower in the front yard of a customer’s house. However, less than one third of companies handle residential landscaping.
Your business plan may stick with yard and garden maintenance or landscape design that includes installing flower beds or planting trees and shrubs. Some lawn care services also offer snow removal or manage holiday decorations.
Also examine how you’ll charge. Will you have a set fee for certain services? An hourly or daily rate? Innovative companies create weekly or monthly packages that drive recurring revenue from regular customers.
Be SMART about how you want the business to grow. Tracking goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timely can help you see how the business is doing, and what adjustments to consider as experience teaches you about your customers, services, and pricing.
Lastly, if you don’t know at least some Spanish, consider learning. Latinos constitute over one third of landscape and lawn care company workers. If Spanish is the preferred language of a significant portion of the talent you’ll employ, some level of Spanish fluency could help you hire, retain, and engage with employees.
2. Choose a Business Structure
Sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and S corporations are all common entities you may use for your lawn care business’s structure. S corps can be more expensive and complex to establish and maintain. Sole props and partnerships are simple to set up, but higher taxation can prune your profits. Plus, as a sole proprietor, your personal assets may be in trouble in the event of a lawsuit, business debts, or other problems that may arise from financial troubles, a project gone wrong, or an employee injury claim.
That’s why many landscape businesses, especially smaller operations, choose a limited liability company (LLC) as their business structure. While there’s typically some upfront and annual costs (such as filing fees), starting the LLC makes up for it with better shielding of your personal assets. Plus, it may be easier to seek outside funding for adding employees, upgrading tools, or increasing services.
3. Determine Your Business Costs
- Leasing or purchasing property to house the office, plus garage/workshop space for vehicles and equipment storage and maintenance
- Costs to establish an LLC and draft an operating agreement
- Business licenses, local zoning permits, plus quarterly and/or annual business taxes
- Payroll and payroll taxes
A local business insurance agent can be a good resource to get the right coverage, such as workers comp, property casualty insurance, and general liability insurance. As you book jobs, process payments, and grow your list of repeat customers, software and hardware for bookkeeping and payment processing can help you keep the company’s finances ship-shape.
How do you fund your startup costs?
Government assistance, such as grants or Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, may be available. If you are a veteran, minority, and/or a woman, additional federal small business programs may be an option, too. Availability and requirements vary, so do your research on the program requirements.
Business credit cards can expand your purchasing power, build your company’s credit, and make costs more manageable, but watch your interest rate and develop a pay-down strategy, or you may take on too much financial burden too early.
Loans from friends and family can be a good avenue. Having terms in writing can prevent ill will and confusion. You may also explore offering your services as payment for the loan. Your relatives or friends get their money’s worth, and you can gain experience, request testimonials, and refine your business before working to gain more customers.
4. Name Your Business
Precision Lawn Maintenance. Cutting Edge Landscape & Design. Sperry Tree Care. Your business name is part of the first impression you’ll make with potential customers.
Before settling on a name for your LLC, see what competing landscaping businesses are in your area. Business names need to be unique, especially when they’re in the same industry, so search the business database at your state’s secretary of state website. Also explore what domain names and social media accounts are available.
5. Register Your Business and Open Financial Accounts
Once you’ve picked out a name, register your LLC or other business structure, then apply for any required business licenses. Licensure requirements vary by state. Landscaping services may only need a general business license, but some specific services — such as pesticide applications, irrigation, or landscape architecture — may have additional licensure requirements. Also see what zoning or permitting requirements you may need for your base of operations.
In addition to getting the correct insurance, open business bank accounts to separate your business and personal accounts.
6. Purchase Equipment For Your Landscaping Company
Depending on your startup size and what equipment you already have, you may need landscaping tools such as:
- Pickup truck and trailer
- Power equipment: Edgers, walk-behind or riding mowers, blowers, string trimmers, chainsaws, etc.
- Hand tools: Rakes, shovels, pruning shears and hand saws, loppers, hoes, trowels, wheelbarrows, etc.
- Computers, mobile devices, and/or point-of-sale hardware
You also need to maintain your equipment. Estimate up to 10 hours per week for maintenance, such as fueling vehicles, replacing parts, changing oil, and sharpening blades.
Here’s an essential list of landscaping company equipment to get your wheels turning.
7. Market Your Landscaping Company
How will people learn about your landscaping services?
Marketing and advertising assets can help spread the word, such as business cards, door hangers, postcards, vehicle branding and signage, and advertising online, in print, or via broadcast.
Claim and optimize your business online, too, such as with a Google My Business listing. Also consider building a presence on social media platforms like Facebook. If you’re looking to land commercial or government clients, a LinkedIn profile may enhance your professionalism.
Lastly, budget for the design, content, and hosting of your landscaping company’s website. Like a 24/7 all-in-one customer service and sales rep, your website can be an essential way people find your business and become customers.
Examples of Landscaping Businesses to Start
Landscaping businesses can take many forms, such as:
- General mowing, landscape maintenance, and/or lawn care
- New lawns (such as seeding or sod)
- Weed and pest control
- Interior landscaping in office buildings
- Design/build landscape construction services for outdoor space such as gardens, patios, etc.
- Water features such as ponds and fountains
- Irrigation systems
Groom Your Path to a Successful Landscaping Business
Growth abounds in America’s high-demand landscaping industry. It’s competitive, but with the right business plan and understanding of what customers in your area are looking for, you can build a landscaping services business that grooms your path to profits and success.
Landscaping Business FAQs
- Where should I incorporate my business?
- How much should I capitalize my business with at the beginning?
$5,000 to $15,000 may be sufficient to get a small company underway. However, you may need up to $250,000 if you plan to open your doors with employees in an office and in the field, you’re pursuing government property contracts, and/or you need to purchase equipment such as vehicles and riding mowers.
- What are the biggest challenges to starting a landscaping business?
Marketing, bookkeeping, and retaining customers can be challenging. Landscaping businesses that upskill in these areas may have a higher chance of success.