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How to Start a Business Gardening
Many people dream of working for themselves, of being their own boss, and starting a gardening business is a great way to do just that. It’s an active job that pays well and can be set up with minimal outlay, but there are a few things to consider first.
How to Start a Gardening Business
Are You Up to It?
Gardening is physical work, and one thing that hampers many of us as we get older is our back. If you are the sort of person who struggles with back or joint pain after a couple of hours of digging, then gardening probably isn’t for you.
You do need some knowledge about plants and gardening methods, and I guess no one would be looking at this type of work unless they had some basic knowledge about gardening. However, arming yourself with a couple of good reference books in the first instance is a great idea. If money is tight, borrow them from the library, or scour second hand stores until your first wage packet comes in.
The most common gardening tools you will need are:
Really good hand cream
Once you have built your business, other equipment that you might consider could be:
Ride on mower
Many people will allow you to use their own tools, and equipment hire stores are a boon for the bits and pieces you are missing, but don’t want to buy. If you have little cash, second hand or recycling stores often have old gardening tools for sale.
Choose your client
Most gardening businesses begin with the domestic market, where clients expect to pay up to $30 (£10-£15) per hour, but commercial gardening can be more lucrative. Try targeting local businesses, such as care homes, offices, hotels, holiday lets and churches. It may be worth contacting your parish council or municipal organization to see if they require a gardener.
Printing fliers on your computer is a cheap and easy way of getting started. You could do a leaflet drop door to door yourself, or you could pay a small amount and have your flier delivered as an insert in the local paper or parish magazine.
Having magnetic signs made for your vehicle is a good idea – keep it simple ‘Daisy the Gardener 12345 222222’ is all you need. Then your car becomes your static advert while you are working. You can also have sun visors printed in the same way.
Early spring is a good time to have a marketing push, with a repeat push around one month after the first. Easter and Christmas are good times to make a Happy Easter, or Merry Christmas card from Daisy your gardener, just as a little reminder.
In summer you will have more work than you know what to do with, whereas in winter there may be nothing. The way I see it, there are three options here:
- Earn enough in summer to last you over winter. There is usually no gardening at all between November-April in areas that have a winter season.
- When you are gardening for your clients, they will often ask if you can do other jobs, such as painting, basic DIY or cleaning, so you could develop an additional income stream to tide you over those winter months.
- Remember that mini digger you were going to buy? Become a gravedigger. There’s usually plenty of work over winter.
Most gardeners begin the work alone, but as your business builds, which it will, you may wish to take on staff. An easy way to do this is to take people on an ad hoc basis. You find the work and bill the client, including a fee that you take out before paying the gardener, usually up to 25%. This means that the individual is responsible for paying their own tax and insurance, and when you no longer need them, you do not need to employ them.
Another income stream worth investigating if you have a little time and access to a greenhouse/polytunnel/windowsills, would be to grow a few popular plants that you could sell to your regular customers.
Some knowledge of basic bookkeeping would be good, but again can be learned, either by taking a course, or from a book. It’s a good idea to be scrupulous about billing clients and giving receipts right from the word go, as this makes tax returns much easier when the time comes. Having knowledge of Excel on the PC is helpful, as then you could do all your accounts this way rather than on paper. Bookkeeping becomes slightly more complex when you begin to employ people, as you need to know about how to pay them, taxation and insurances, which is where a course comes in.
In short starting a gardening business is lucrative, provided you are prepared to diversify over the winter months.