how to start a landscaping business - landscaper smoothing cement

Starting a landscaping business gives you the freedom to choose your own projects, set your own hours, and create beautiful outdoor spaces for your clients—and bring in big money doing it.

In this article, we’ll go through how to open a landscaping business that turns a profit right away and how to grow the business over time.

1. Choose which landscaping services to offer

Now that the legal side of your business is set up, you’re ready to provide landscaping services. But there are lots to choose from—which ones will you offer?

First decide whether you’ll serve residential clients, commercial clients, or both. Homeowners and businesses have different landscaping needs, so choose the one that best fits your skills.

From there, you can choose to provide services like:

  • Landscape design (also known as landscape architecture) involves planning and designing outdoor living spaces. This can be a standalone service or part of a bigger landscaping project.
  • Hardscaping includes any “hard” elements of a landscape design, like patios, decks, fences, paths, and water or fire features.
  • Softscaping deals with plant life in a space, from grass and flowers to bushes and trees. This could include planting, turf, grading, and even plant removal.

You can also provide lawn maintenance services like mowing, edging, wedding, and fertilizing. Along with winter landscaping services, this is a great way to stay busy year-round and create repeat clients.

Pro Tip: Check with your state or municipality to see if you need a landscaping license to perform certain services. For example, landscapers in California require a state license for any job that exceeds $500.

2. Get your landscaping equipment

What do you need to start a landscaping business? Use this equipment list to see what you’ll need to start your own commercial or residential landscaping business:

  • Lawn mower
  • Weed whacker
  • Leaf blower
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Lawn aerator
  • Broadcast spreader
  • Tiller
  • Pressurized sprayer
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel, spade, hoe, and rake
  • Pruning shears
  • Tool kit (hammer, screwdriver, etc.)
  • Small gardening tools (weeder, trowel, etc.)
  • Garden hose and nozzle
  • Landscaping gloves
  • Safety goggles and earmuffs
  • Steel-toed boots
  • Bucket (to carry smaller tools)
  • Cargo net (for vehicle)

Otherwise, all you need is hands-on experience for each of the services you  offer. Start by getting your equipment, then asking friends and neighbors if you can landscape their yards at a reduced rate.

You can also work for another landscaper for a year or two to gain some practical experience. Or, get a mentor in the industry to share their knowledge with you.

“One of the best things when you are starting something new is go find a mentor,” said Brian Boase, owner of MIL-SPEC Landscaping. “Someone who has been in the business and has been successful in it.”

Brian found a lawn care company in his city that he admired—then asked the owner, Mark, if he could be Brian’s business mentor.

Mark didn’t mind helping out a competitor. “There’s enough grass for everyone,” he said.

READ MORE: How MIL-SPEC Landscaping went from 0 to 60 clients a week

3. Price your landscaping services

Pricing landscaping jobs might feel challenging when you’re just getting started. Use this tried-and-proven process to accurately estimate the cost of any service:

  1. Estimate labor hours required, then multiply by hourly labor cost. Make sure to factor in any wage differences between your employees—for example, if one employee makes $3.25/hour more than another.
  2. Estimate total material costs for the service (e.g., plants, rock). This should also cover any equipment rentals you might need.
  3. Add up your overhead costs (e.g., rent, marketing, utilities). Then divide this amount by the number of weekly labor hours worked. This gives you the amount of overhead you need to charge for every hour of labor.
  4. Factor in your markup percentage. This allows you to profit from a service. Charge a 15–20% markup for residential clients and 10–15% for commercial ones.

If you offer lawn care maintenance, you’ll need to explore different pricing strategies for your work, like square footage rates, hourly rates, or flat rates.

FREE TOOL: Try our free profit margin calculator

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4. Register your landscaping business

Pick a landscaping company name, register your business, and get a business license to ensure you’re operating legally.

Choosing a business structure

Before you do anything else, choose a business structure. You’ll need that information for the rest of the business registration process.

Here are your options:

  • Having sole proprietorship (U.S., CA) or becoming a sole trader (UK, AU) allows you to run your business alone and have complete control over it. This is the most common option for individuals starting a landscaping business.
  • Register as a partnership (U.S., CA, UK), or form a joint venture or co-operative (AU) if you’re starting your business with two or more self-employed people.
  • If your business has medium or high liability risk, register as a limited liability company or LLC (U.S.), corporation (CA), limited company or limited partnership (UK), or company (AU). This will help protect your personal assets in case of legal problems.

You may be able to get special registration for your business if you belong to certain visible minority groups.

Pro Tip: Want to find out more about the business structures and registration process in your country? Just search “COUNTRY + business registration” and find your government’s website in the search results.

READ MORE: Should I incorporate my small business?

Business name registration

Next, register your business with your regional government. You can do this at any local registry, or using a tool like Ownr. All you need is the registration fee and a name that’s unique, simple to spell, and easy to remember.

Here’s how the registration process will look for you, depending on your country:

If your business is a partnership or has employees, you may need to apply for an employer identification number (U.S.) or business number (CA). You’ll use this unique ID when tax time comes around.

Pro Tip: Check if your business name is available to use by googling “[NAME + LOCATION],” or search your country’s trademark database.

Landscaping business license

You may be required to have a landscaping business license in your city or state. If you do need one, don’t start landscaping homes or businesses without it.

Your business license will have an up-front cost, and you’ll need to renew it every year. The cost will depend on the type of license you need and what services it allows for.

Head over to your city or state website and look for information about business licenses. You can also find other local regulations by googling “YOUR CITY NAME + business laws.”

Pro Tip: Get a business address or PO box, and open a bank account to manage your income and expenses.

Get resources for landscape professionals

Learn more about running and marketing your business, hiring employees, and building a successful landscaping company with our free resources.

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5. Market your landscaping company

Marketing helps you reach potential clients and show them what you have to offer.

Start by setting a budget that you can afford. Then create a marketing plan that describes the landscaping and lawn care business marketing ideas you’ll invest in, like these:

Some of these ideas might work better for you than others. Give each of them a try, then focus on the ones that bring in the most new residential or commercial landscaping clients.

READ MORE: Commercial lawn care contracts: how to price, bid, and win them

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6. Hire landscapers and grow your business

If you find yourself turning away work because you’re too busy, or unable to manage your business’s daily operations, it might be a good idea to hire your first employee.

This will free up more time for you to focus on running and growing your business.

Here’s how to hire lawn care employees and landscapers:

  • Write a lawn care job description and post it on social media and job search websites
  • Prepare questions to ask a new employee and interview qualified applicants
  • Check applicants’ references and ask them to get a police background check
  • Choose the applicant you’d like to hire and offer them the position
  • Schedule the landscaper’s first day of work and train them to do the job properly

FREE TOOL: Get our free landscaper salary guide

Ready to get your hands dirty? Start your own landscaping business today.

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