Landscaping can be the perfect part-time business. Lawn care can even be a year-round source of income, if you live in the certain climates. Those that live in cooler climates might consider adding a snow removal service in the winter months. The late fall period can be a good time to offer leaf removal services.
While landscaping isn’t a complicated endeavor, having a plan before getting started can make your life and business venture much easier.
Researching your competition to identify your unique value proposition
Before starting your landscaping business, it’s important to do some research. When you do the appropriate research before starting your business, the odds for success are greater and the number of surprises can be greatly reduced.
Consider these items when researching the viability of your landscaping business:
1. What services are being offered by your competitors?
Take a look at what’s being offered in your area. Can you offer something different than competing companies? Are there required services that would be difficult for you to offer?
2. How much is your competition charging?
If you can’t readily find out how much your competition is charging, call some of your competitors and ask for some quotes for various services.
3. How do other companies present themselves?
Are they professional in appearance with new trucks and logos on all their vehicles? Or is the competition primarily a single person with a rusted pick-up truck from the 1970’s?
4. How are other companies marketing?
Consider how other companies are making themselves known to potential clients. What is your plan? Marketing for landscaping companies is much like marketing any other business. You must consider all avenues available—not just the most obvious ones.
For other information and resources on marketing your landscape business online, check out our article on the 5 steps to a profitable landscaping company.
5. How can you be better?
After gathering all of that information, find ways that you can make enhancements. Could you be more professional in appearance? Could you offer more reliable service? What about better rates or additional services? What offers and promos could you try implementing?
Research is an important part of starting any business. If you’re exactly like the other companies, it will be difficult to be successful. Having a unique value proposition is important when there are several companies that appear just like yours.
Planning out how to operate your landscaping business
Now that you know your marketplace, it’s time to make a plan. Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, and odds are that it won’t be. But you have to start somewhere. Strive to make your operation better over time as you gain more experience.
Consider these factors when deciding how to profitably meet the needs of the marketplace:
1. Figure out how much money you are able to invest.
Landscaping doesn’t require a great outlay of funds to get started, but it’s important to assess your financial situation. Do your best to avoid taking on any unnecessary debt.
2. Get the proper equipment.
A vehicle, lawnmower, trimmer, fertilizer spreader, shovel, rake, and wheelbarrow will take care of most of your needs. If you’re short on funds, a lawnmower and trimmer are enough to get started.
Find a mower that has the option to bag the clippings. Most modern mulching mowers do a great job without the need for a bag, but some customers will want the clippings to be taken away.
Be sure the trimmer is gas-powered rather than electric. Some customers would prefer to not supply the electricity. Electric trimmers are also limited by the length of your extension cord. They also have less power and are slower. And time is money!
3. Think about how you want to organize your business.
If you’re just mowing a few lawns, you might consider not formalizing your business at all. A sole-proprietorship can be a viable option for small operations, especially if you have limited assets.
A limited-liability corporation will be the best option for most. Your personal assets are protected from any legal actions resulting from your business operations. This will cost a few hundred dollars to get started, however.
Consult a local attorney for advice on how to structure your business.
4. Consider how you want to get paid.
Getting paid is the most important part. It’s relatively easy these days to accept debit and credit cards with a smart phone. There are many good options. The easier you can make it for customers to pay you, the more likely you are to get paid.
If possible, avoid any co-mingling of business and personal funds. Again, if you’re just mowing a few lawns, putting your earnings into your personal bank account is unlikely to be an issue.
However, realize that it’s possible to have the bank account you use for business purposes to be frozen in the event of any legal issues. For that reason, separate bank accounts are probably a good idea.
Companies like PayPal make it easy to set up recurring payments. This can be great because you minimize the amount of time you spend collecting your fees. However, be aware that these online companies typically charge high-fees for their services.
Remember to provide an invoice for your clients. Invoice forms can be found in your local office supply stores. There are many free forms available online, as well.
5. Figure out how to advertise.
Advertising is a critical part of any business. Some forms of advertising are expensive, but many are free or at least very affordable. It’s perfectly acceptable to start with the lower-cost forms before moving up to the more expensive options.
It can be surprisingly difficult to rank in the search engines for local search terms. A little research into search engine optimization can really pay off.
Print up some flyers and go door-to-door. Copies are inexpensive, so all it really takes is your time and energy.
Phone book advertising is getting less effective every year, but it can still work with the older generation. Be aware that Yellow Pages advertising is expensive.
There are many free, online advertising opportunities. Craigslist is one of the most well-known.
Post flyers on telephone poles and in other public areas such as grocery store bulletin boards. However, be careful of local ordinances.
6. Start making money!
Answer inquiries from potential customers, schedule the work, and start earning some money.
Respond to potential customers as quickly as possible. Few things shout ‘unprofessional’ more than not answering your phone and not responding to calls and emails in a timely fashion.
Be professional. Make an effort to sound and appear professional. Landscaping has a relatively low barrier to entry. It’s important to do what you can to rise above the competition.
Be on time. If you say you’ll mow a lawn or plant a tree at 2:00 pm on Thursday, make every effort to abide by that schedule.
Ensure you get paid. Many service providers struggle to get paid, even your local dentist. Those that sell goods get paid at the time of the sale. Service providers typically get paid after the service has already been provided.
After customers already have the service they want, they lack the motivation to pay. Be diligent with your collection efforts.
Ask for referrals. This is the cheapest advertising around. It doesn’t require time or money. There’s no better endorsement than word of mouth.
Regularly assess your operation and seek ways to make your business even better.
Next steps for growing your landscaping company
Starting and running a part-time landscaping business is a viable idea. Avoid diving in headfirst without first performing the necessary research. Stand out: try to do things better than your competition and offer services that they don’t.
As you probably noticed, there are a lot of things to figure out. At Flagstone Marketing, our mission is to allow landscaping business owners the freedom to do what they love while we take care of the digital marketing strategies.
Landscaping can be a lucrative part-time business that can be expanded to full-time once a suitable customer base is in place. If you enjoy the outdoors, consider spending more time outside, making money in your landscaping business.