5 Simple Steps for Starting a Landscaping Business

5 Simple Steps for Starting a Landscaping Business
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If you love working outdoors and want to enjoy the freedom of setting your own schedule, starting your own landscaping business can be a great decision. As long as there are lawns to mow and trees to trim, lawn care business owners will continue to enjoy steady demand from homeowners and businesses alike.

As of 2023, the U.S. landscaping industry enjoyed an estimated market worth of $176 billion, with a healthy 8.1% annualized market size growth over the previous five years. Find opportunities in that large market by turning your love of lawn maintenance into a legitimate business.

Throughout this article, we’ll walk you through step-by-step instructions on launching a landscaping company. From securing a business license to reaching potential customers, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started.

Table of contents:

1. Research and prepare

Setting out with a comprehensive business plan can increase your odds of becoming a successful entrepreneur. As a landscape professional, you’ll want to begin with a thorough understanding of the industry in the areas where you intend to operate. Take the time to research important questions, such as:

  • How much demand does your service area generate?
  • How many competitors already operate in your service area?
  • What sets you apart from the competition?
  • What service gaps are you in a unique position to fill?

You’ll also want to carefully consider your target audience—the people most likely to be interested in your services. Your target audience is an important consideration that can help you decide on everything from which services to offer to how to approach marketing. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who are my services most likely to appeal to: homeowners, small business owners, or large commercial clients?
  • How big is my target audience?
  • What problems are my services designed to help my target audience solve?

Go deep when assessing your audience’s pain points. If you plan to provide lawn care services, for example, your customers’ problems may require more than someone who’s handy with a set of shears.

Check out your competitors’ reviews in search of complaints that you may be able to solve. You might discover that customers in your target market are having a hard time finding a lawn care company that offers:

  • Prompt, courteous workers
  • Flexible plans
  • Service guarantees
  • High-quality products
  • Reliable communication

Last but not least, you’ll want to look into any local or state regulations that may impact your business. These might include things like safety requirements surrounding landscaping equipment and supplies. They could also pertain to purchasing, using, and disposing of any landscaping chemicals you intend to use.

2. Identify services and set pricing

Successful landscaping businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Now’s the time to nail down the landscaping services you’ll provide.

While specialized services can be a great way to set yourself apart from other local businesses, start by taking on jobs you’re confident you can do exceptionally well. Begin with the basics and earn referrals through great customer service, then build your expertise and provide more.

Here’s a collection of landscaping services to consider adding to your offerings:

  • Lawn mowing and aeration
  • Mulching
  • Pruning and hedging
  • Leaf raking and blowing
  • Weed control and yard cleanup
  • Sod or sprinkler installation
  • Planting trees or other plants
  • Fertilizing
  • Snow or pest removal
  • Hardscaping
  • Landscape design
  • Commercial landscaping
  • Horticulture and irrigation
  • Landscape design

A thorough understanding of your target audience can help you assess the best services to choose and how much to charge for each.

Once you have a solid idea of the type of services you plan to offer, you’ll be in a much better position to start figuring out your pricing strategy. This is another stage when your target audience will lend plenty of clues.

A lawn care company that caters to middle-income homeowners might adopt value-based or competitive pricing. On the other hand, a landscaping business owner who caters to high-end business clients might use a premium pricing strategy to attract clients.

The important thing is to choose a strategy that works for your business and customers. Also, look into templates or software that can help you project costs for your jobs and provide customers with estimates and invoices.

3. Complete legal and financial requirements

This is where great ideas transform into fully functioning businesses. Let’s break down a step-by-step approach to tackling the licensing and financial requirements that will form the foundation of your new landscaping company:

Keep track of startup costs

As the saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” Creating a startup budget is an important step in putting together a business plan, as it will help you avoid issues related to unexpected costs coming up along the way.

Start by making a list of the landscaping tools, equipment, and supplies you’ll need to offer high-quality service. Your equipment list might include things like:

  • Lawn mowers
  • Trimmers
  • Shovels
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Leaf blowers
  • Hand tools
  • Hoses
  • Sprayers
  • Safety gear

Supplies will include an initial stock, plus replenishment as needed based on usage. Find  suppliers who will meet your needs for cost and avaiability. Consider these items:

  • Fertilizer
  • Seed
  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • Mulch
  • Topsoil

Be aware that the landscaping business owner’s startup costs don’t end there. Throughout the following sections, we’ll discuss essential startup tasks, some of which come with their own fees.

Keep track of fees as you go, and consider using Upwork’s handy startup cost calculator to get a more realistic idea of what you’ll need to get your business up and running. Planning ahead now can help decrease the risk of having to turn to maxing out credit cards to cover unexpected expenses down the line.

Choose a business structure

Companies operate under various structures, each of which comes with its own set of ownership, liability, and tax considerations. The most common business structures for new landscaping businesses are:

  • Sole proprietorship. This is a business with a single owner who assumes personal liability, with no distinction between personal and business assets.
  • Partnership. This is similar to a sole proprietorship but with more than one business owner.
  • Limited liability company (LLC). An LLC can be formed by one or more business owners and offers legal separation between personal and business assets.

The Small Business Administration offers a list of company structures, including different types of corporations. Once you choose your business name and the type of company you want to form, services like Legal Zoom or ZenBusiness can help you file the necessary paperwork right from your own computer.

These top business formation sites can help you obtain an employer identification number (EIN) and supply the documents you need to file with your state. No matter what type of business you choose, set up a business bank account to separate your business and personal assets.

Check your state’s business license requirements

Business or contractor license requirements can vary on a state or local level. Reach out to your county clerk’s office to ask about landscaping license requirements in your area.

You’ll also want to look into any additional permits that may be required. For example, California requires landscape contractors to obtain a license to use certain pesticides.

Some states may require proof of business insurance to obtain a license. Depending on your business type, this could include anything from general liability insurance to worker’s compensation insurance.

Whether your state requires insurance or not, general liability insurance is highly recommended. It can prevent you from getting stuck paying out of pocket for accidental damage to a client’s property.

Design a budget

Recognize the importance of staying on top of your cash flow. Whether you plan to work alone or need to draw up a payroll budget, a strong project budget can take a great deal of stress out of keeping your business on track.

The good news is there are plenty of financial apps for small business owners that can help. Whether you need help making payments, tracking expenses, or filing taxes, there’s an app out there that can help.

As you move forward with purchasing supplies and equipment and completing jobs, track revenue and expenses versus your budget to see if you’re on track.

4. Meet basic branding and marketing needs

Now it’s time to address the problem of how to reach potential customers. This is where developing a solid marketing strategy comes in. A strong marketing plan can help you get the word out to more new customers faster.

Logo and website

Start by developing the perfect logo for your business. While there are plenty of template sites that will churn out a generic logo, it’s worth taking the time to perfect your choice. Keep in mind that you’ll be using your logo on everything from your business cards to your website.

Consider working with a professional logo designer who can walk you through different logo styles, fonts, and color choices. You’ll also want to invest time in building a professional business website.

Rest assured that you don’t need to understand code to build a great-looking website for your small business. You can use a drag-and-drop website builder to customize your own website or hire a professional freelance website designer to help get you up and running. You might also consider starting a blog to draw in more traffic and showcase your expertise.

Establishing a strong social media presence can also help you spread the word to potential customers. Whether you choose to grow your business on Instagram with paid ads or connect with clients on Facebook, social media is an excellent place to keep your customers up to date on your latest promotions and offerings.

Focus on service quality

No matter how flashy your website or marketing materials happen to be, never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. For better or worse, word spreads quickly about a small business owner’s service quality. Going the extra mile for each customer is an exceptional way to stand out from the competition.

Additionally, take the time to review and refine your finance model as you begin to get more customers. Understand and expand on the areas of your business that are driving the most value, adjusting key business aspects along the way.

5. Optimize operations and management

In the early stages, finding a sustainable business model can take some trial and error. But once you figure out what works best for your landscaping company, you’ll be able to focus on expanding and creating additional value.

Look into different ways of generating cash flow. If you haven’t already, this is also a great time to familiarize yourself with key financial metrics. Developing a deeper understanding of your budget will allow you to pinpoint exactly where your money is going and look for ways to cut down on losses and maximize profits.

There may even come a time when you decide to expand your business by bringing on additional employees. Approach this carefully, and recruit employees you trust to uphold the strong brand image you’ve worked so hard to establish. It’s also worth researching cost-effective hiring strategies that can help you find the perfect fit for each role without breaking the bank.

Last but not least, stay on top of the latest technological innovations designed to make life easier for business owners. For example, AI scheduling programs can take the hassle out of manually creating employee schedules for each week.

How Upwork can help your landscaping business

A great deal of work goes into launching your own landscaping company. From deciding on the right business structure to coming up with a solid marketing strategy, new business owners have plenty to consider.

The good news is that there’s no need to navigate the process alone. No matter which parts of the process you find yourself struggling with, Upwork is here to help.

Our mission is to make it easy for entrepreneurs like you to find the perfect freelance professionals to help with your needs. Need advice on where to start? Try speaking with an independent business consultant with expertise in startups.

Having trouble with the legal aspects? On Upwork’s Talent Marketplace, you can find legal advisors with a wide range of specialties for every budget. We can also make connections to some of the industry’s top freelance marketers and marketing strategists who would be happy to help you spread the word about your new company.

Find landscaping jobs and hire help

On Upwork, you’ll find all the professionals you need to help get your business off to a great start. We’re also happy to connect you with new clients. Check out our freelance landscaping job board to explore the possibilities currently available.

Some jobs, such as those that call for landscape design skills, are even open to professionals from anywhere in the world. Or perhaps you’re looking for a landscaper of your own? We’ve got you covered, too, with one-stop access to top professional landscapers equipped with the perfect skills for your needs.

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5 Simple Steps for Starting a Landscaping Business
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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