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How to Start a Landscaping Business

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Is your happy place in your yard, with an edge trimmer or lawn mower in hand? Starting a landscaping business is an excellent way to turn your passion into a career, but it requires some prep work. You’ll need to create a plan and budget, get the necessary equipment, register your business and much more. Still, this field is relatively easy to enter, especially if you already have some of the equipment.

While there’s a lot to do to bring your landscaping business ideas to life, it’s much more manageable when broken down into steps.

1. Find Your Focus

Landscaping can take many forms, so start by making a rough outline for your business. Will you work on residential or commercial properties? What services will you offer? Research what other local landscapers provide and what your customers might want. Identify any gaps that could give you an edge, such as a convenience residents want, but your competitors don’t have.

Some services to consider include:

  • Lawn mowing and maintenance
  • Spring and fall maintenance and cleaning
  • Trimming, hedging, pruning and edging
  • Irrigation
  • Lawn aeration
  • Garden design and architecture
  • Snow removal during the winter

Figure out what sets you apart and lean into it. Maybe you worked at a plant nursery and have a comprehensive knowledge of the area’s local flora, or perhaps you have certifications from organizations like the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the Irrigation Association, the International Society of Arborists or the Snow and Ice Management Association.

During the planning stage, you’ll also want to get a rough idea of what equipment you’ll need and how much time you can spend on the job. Consider whether you’ll work during the winter and how administration tasks, like accounting and marketing, will affect your billable time.

2. Determine Your Budget and Availability

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Once you know what you want to offer, give yourself a budget. Starting a landscaping business can be as simple as heading out with a lawn mower and trimmer or as complicated as investing tens of thousands of dollars in heavy equipment and employees. Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

Find how much you want to invest in the business. As we dive into each topic, jot down how much you think you’ll spend.

3. Choose a Business Structure

When setting up a business, you typically have three options that will affect your liability and taxes.

  • Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is the easiest and most inexpensive way to start doing business, but it leaves you responsible for all business debts, taxes and legal liabilities. It doesn’t separate you from your assets and expenses. If the business cannot fulfill its debts and obligations, you become responsible for them. This choice doesn’t require any formal filing, and it could be appropriate if you want to test the waters with a small operation.
  • Limited liability company: Becoming an LLC requires more paperwork and the costs of filing with the state, but it offers more long-term legal protections and tax benefits. An LLC is a separate legal entity from you as a person, meaning business creditors can’t take your personal assets if your business can’t pay its obligations. The LLC structure also protects you from the company’s bankruptcy or liability due to employee action. LLCs can choose to pay taxes as sole proprietorships, S corporations or C corporations.
  • Partnerships: A partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship but with two people. You can opt for a limited partnership or a limited liability partnership. The LP gives all liability to one partner, called a general partner, leaving other partners with limited liability. Many businesses with hands-off investors use this approach. LLPs limit both partners’ liability but still don’t separate personal and business obligations. LLCs separate all owners from personal liability, but the owners typically all have management roles.

LLCs are usually the best choice for minimizing risk. You’ll need to file with your state, but most charge less than $200. LLCs also have some different tax structures and reporting fees to consider.

4. Get Your Business License and Permits, Tax Number and Phone Number

With your business name established, you can register for state and federal tax numbers, licenses and permits. Getting your tax number is simple, and you can head to the websites for your state and the Internal Revenue Service to get started.

From the IRS, you’ll get an employer identification number, also called a federal tax identification number. It works like a Social Security number for your business. You’ll use this number to file taxes and open a business bank account.

Figuring out what licenses you need to start a landscaping business can be challenging. Different entities, including local, state and federal governments, can determine these requirements.

On the local level, you will likely need a local business operating license and possibly zoning or land use permits. If you maintain an office open to the public, you may need licenses and permits related to the building, fire safety, health requirements, signage and environmental activities. Your state could also require an operating license and a professional license. You may need additional certifications if you apply pesticides or transport plants across state lines. Check with your state’s department of agriculture for more information.

One more number you’ll need to check off is a phone number. Your business should have a dedicated number, and it’s wise to get a second phone to separate personal and business communications.

5. Get Insurance

Landscaping businesses will need many types of insurance to cover everything from equipment to legal fees. Here are some insurance policies you may need for a landscaping business.

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  • General liability insurance: This insurance is a must-have for small businesses. It helps protect you if someone claims your company caused an injury or property damage.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: Workers’ comp pays the costs if an employee has a work-related injury or illness. Your state will likely require this if you have employees. Workers’ comp can offer protection even if you are a sole proprietor. Personal health insurance usually excludes work-related illnesses and injuries.
  • Commercial auto insurance or hired and non-owned auto insurance: If you plan to buy vehicles in your company’s name, you’ll need commercial auto insurance, which all states typically require. They work similarly to personal auto policies, but personal policies generally don’t cover business activities. If you want to use a personal vehicle, hired and non-owned auto insurance can offer liability coverage for accidents that occur when using the vehicle for business purposes.
  • Contractor’s tools and equipment insurance: This policy can cover repairs and replacements if your equipment gets lost, damaged or stolen. It doesn’t cover wear and tear, and it usually only applies to newer, lower-cost tools like mowers and hand tools.
  • Property insurance: If you purchase or rent storage space or an office, property insurance helps cover damage and theft costs. Lenders and landlords will typically require this kind of policy.
  • Employment law liability insurance: Consider this policy if you plan to hire multiple employees. Many small business owners make mistakes when navigating complex employment law requirements, such as when to pay employees overtime or how many hours is too many in one day. Employment law liability insurance helps you cover costs such as back pay or fines due to these errors.

6. Make a Hiring Plan

If you’re hiring employees, spend some time developing a human resources plan. You may need to learn more about keeping team members happy and safe while complying with the law. Some areas to consider include the following.

  • Wages and benefits: Competitive wages and benefits are crucial for long-term employee satisfaction. Research the going rates for your area and field.
  • Provide training: Hazards are inherent to landscaping, from the blades on a lawn mower to the threat of heat illness in summer. Determine how you’ll train your workers, keeping regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in mind. OSHA offers many resources to help small businesses stay safe and compliant.
  • Provide personal protective equipment: Usually required by OSHA, PPE can include items like safety goggles and hearing protection. Include these items in your supply list, as you must offer them to employees.

7. Set up Your Business Finances

With your EIN and business registration ready, you can set up business financial accounts, including a checking account, credit card and payment gateway.

A dedicated business account can help separate your business and personal finances. Many don’t have monthly maintenance fees, and banks may waive them if you keep your account above a specific threshold. Having a business account can help you avoid confusion and keep all your transactions in one place for easier tax filing at the end of the year. If you plan to accept a lot of cash, consider going with a brick-and-mortar bank or making sure you have convenient deposit options.

Business credit cards provide similar benefits to personal credit cards, like allowing you to earn rewards and access more money when needed. Unlike personal cards, business cards tend to offer higher credit limits, better rewards for specific purchases, longer interest-free periods and special business perks. They can be nice to have when buying what you need to start a landscaping business. You can also create employee cards so they can make purchases on the account.

Lastly, you must set up a payment gateway if you want to accept credit cards. These include card readers that attach to a smartphone or tablet, like Square, and payment apps like Venmo and PayPal. These programs typically charge transaction fees, but some charge you while others charge the customer. Look into the options and find one that works for you.

8. Get Your Equipment

Once you have a shiny new debit or credit card, you can start buying equipment and supplies. Here are some tools for starting a landscaping business you may need.

Large Equipment and Vehicles

Some of your most significant startup costs for a landscaping business will come from heavy equipment and vehicles like these.

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You may buy your equipment in full, rent it or use a rent-to-own program, any of which can be a good option depending on your business and plans for the future. When you’re a new business owner, rent-to-own and affordable used equipment can help you save on initial costs.

Hand Tools

Hand tools are the smaller items, like push mowers, tillers, shovels, trimmers, leaf blowers, edgers and wheelbarrows. Consider whether you’ll need to buy multiples for your employees.

Supplies and PPE

Supplies include consumable items you’ll use on work sites, such as sod, fertilizer and plants. Develop an inventory management plan to ensure you have these supplies on hand.

You’ll also need to get PPE, such as:

  • Safety goggles
  • Work boots and gloves
  • Hearing and respiratory protection

Storage Space

A small operation might do well out of a shed in your yard, but a larger business will likely require more storage space. Consider renting or buying a garage or other storage space to house your equipment.

Software

Lastly, you will need modern software to help you keep track of finances and staffing, if you have employees. Today’s software solutions offer low-cost apps and programs to help with basic accounting tasks. More professional-grade platforms may also help with tasks like inventory management and timesheets.

9. Determine Your Rates

Deciding on your rates can be one of the most confusing parts of starting a business. It includes many variables, like hourly labor, material and overhead costs. If your work is more involved, such as design rather than maintenance, you may even need to generate estimates for each job.

Do some digging into the going rates in your area and come up with a price that pays you fairly for all your work and costs.

10. Develop Your Marketing Plan

With everything in place, you can start working on a marketing plan. Fortunately, plenty of free online tools make marketing a small business easier than ever. Here are some avenues you’ll want to consider.

  • Social media and Google: Social media is an excellent place to start. Set up profiles on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Add contact information and pictures of your work. Post frequently to spread the word and engage your customers.
  • Website: Today’s website builders allow you to create attractive sites with templates and drag-and-drop tools. You can often use them for free with watermarks and branded web addresses, but low monthly fees can help you eliminate these aspects for a more professional site. Include contact information, pricing and other details that will help your customers.
  • Search engine optimization: SEO is about getting your business to appear higher in search results. You want your name to appear if someone searches “landscaping near me.” Start by creating a Google Business Profile, which enables tools like ratings and buttons for calling you. Read up on SEO best practices to boost your performance.
  • Business directories: Register with popular business directories like Yelp and Angi. Your listings can provide up-to-date information.
  • Local opportunities: Your local community could be full of potential. Consider joining your area’s chamber of commerce, advertising at local events or partnering with other businesses to get your name out. Word of mouth is also a fantastic tactic, especially in smaller towns.

With these steps complete, you should be well-prepared to hit the ground running with your landscaping business!

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Find the Right Landscaping Trailers at Brechbill Trailers

At Brechbill Trailers, we have the inventory and purchase options to support landscaping entrepreneurs. Whether you need to carry equipment or transport grass clippings and shrubs, we can find you the ideal solution from our vast selection of new and used trailers. Our financing and rent-to-own options make it easy to acquire the tools you need, even with the budget of a new business.

Reach out today to find the best trailer for your future landscaping business.