What Type of Landscaping Business Should I Start?
Gone are the days when having a landscaping business solely meant cutting your neighbors’ grass for a little extra income. The scope of landscaping has expanded greatly for various reasons, including technological advances, changes in construction trends, and a greater general awareness by the public of different landscaping possibilities available.
Starting a landscaping business first involves learning about the different types in order to make an informed decision before jumping in headfirst. Factors such as having an agricultural or design background, your budget for start-up expenses, and your comfort level with communicating all come into play when determining which type of business is best for you.
To help you with this important decision-making process, this article describes five different types of landscaping businesses as well as some of the associated advantages and disadvantages of each in order to help you decide which type is best suited for your personal needs.
Putting the “Business” in Landscaping Business
You may be interested in starting a company because you are passionate about landscaping, enjoy the flexibility of setting your own hours, value the earning potential, already have skills and experience in the field, or like to work outdoors. Regardless of your reasons, it is essential that you not become so focused on the landscaping aspect that you neglect the importance of the business side. When considering the different types of landscaping companies to start, it is important to also acknowledge some of the basic business skills you will need to increase your chances of success. These can include the following:
● Staff management and coordination (if employing or hiring others)
● Planning skills, especially as the business grows and requires inventory management and prioritization
● Good interpersonal communication skills to ensure that both you and your client are on the same page before you begin a job to reduce misinterpretations or unclear expectations
● Research and obtain insurance and any necessary permits, certifications, and licenses
● Account management and record-keeping skills for budgeting and tax purposes, especially as the business grows
Weighing the Options: Which Type is Best?
The five types of landscaping businesses discussed here include:
● Lawn Mowing & Landscape Maintenance
● Landscape Design
● Landscape Architecture
● Outdoor Pest & Weed Control
Depending on your personal situation, there are factors to consider when choosing which type of landscaping business to start. These can include the following:
● Start-up costs – Including tools and equipment, advertising, insurance, and credentialing fees
● Ongoing costs – Upkeep and maintenance of tools and equipment
● Skill level – Some landscaping businesses require a higher level of technical expertise than others in terms of agriculture, scientific, and construction know-how
● Education level – While some types of businesses are entry-level, others require an undergraduate degree
● Competition level – Depending on your location, you may have heavy competition from fellow landscapers which can make it more difficult to become established and reduce your asking rates for projects
LAWN MOWING & LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE
You probably already know that mowing and maintaining landscapes can involve cutting grass, hedging, trimming, edging, pruning, and performing basic gardening to ensure well-groomed lawns. However, you should avoid the common mistake of thinking that owning a lawnmower is the only prerequisite for starting this type of landscaping business.
Start-up costs can vary greatly depending on the type of equipment necessary to purchase. Common examples of the larger items include lawnmowers (push or riding), edgers, trimmers, weed eaters, and chainsaws. Keep in mind that you will need to transport this equipment as well, which usually makes it necessary to have a large van, truck, and/or trailer.
Unlike some other landscaping categories, it isn’t necessary to have prior knowledge or training, but it is helpful to learn some of the basics of gardening, trimming, mowing, and pruning to remain as competitive as possible in such a crowded field of business rivals.
While there is potential to make decent profits with this type of business, it is wise to lower expectations during the first year or so until the business gets established. Until you become established and earn a reputation, you may have to spend a relatively high amount on advertising and/or charge a much lower rate to beat out the competition and get hired for a job.
● Entry-level with no education required
● Minimal ongoing costs of tools and equipment after initial expenses
● High potential for repeat business
● High start-up costs depending on the needed equipment and tools
● Heavy competition
The terms “landscape design” and “landscape architecture” are frequently used interchangeably, and they essentially involve doing the same type of work except for a few differences. However, these differences are important to know when you are looking to start a business that focuses on these areas. Landscape architects are legally required to hold a college degree in the field while designers are not, and architects generally work on larger projects than designers, such as those for commercial or public sector clients.
Landscape designers focus primarily on the layouts and designs of lawns, including analyzing the best place in residential yards or commercial grounds to place a decorative walkway, fishpond, flower bed, or patios. While no formal education is necessary, you should have a background in design or engineering in order to be competitive. Clients tend to pay more when you give them highly creative, innovative, and unique layout options to choose from.
While most landscape designers are concerned only with the actual creative aspect of designing the layouts, many also physically work on the actual construction side as well. It is important for you to determine if you plan to personally work on the construction of your designs or not since this can drastically change the overall picture of your business.
You can benefit from being a dual threat to your competitors and earn more by performing the physical labor yourself, but this may not be something you want to do or are skilled at doing. If you decide to solely focus on designing, you will need to plan accordingly for hiring subcontractors to perform the work. This can be a big headache for some business owners since they have less control over how the job will be performed and must deal with the financial aspects of hiring others.
● Can be extremely lucrative
● Advanced design software is less time-consuming than traditional drawing methods
● Minimal expenses if solely focused on designing
● May require the hiring of subcontractors
● Stronger management and communication skills to ensure these subcontractors follow blueprints and directions correctly
● Heavy advertising and patience required while you wait to break into the business
Landscape architects typically have formal education in landscaping and tend to work with larger clients than designers. Typical projects include creating the specifications and layouts for pedestrian paths, recreational parks, athletic fields, bicycle trails, playgrounds, courtyard designs, and other large areas where more in-depth analytical abilities are required.
Strong computer skills are also beneficial since much of the work involved is conducted using designing software. This software is frequently used when presenting ideas to current or potential clients, making it a huge plus if you can create dazzling and attractive presentations of different layout ideas to get more business. If you have not worked regularly with design software, you should start to familiarize yourself by taking courses on the subject.
If you do not already have a college degree in a related area but are passionate about landscape design, you can still work as a designer while you pursue your education. In fact, many landscaping architects start out as designers to gain experience with smaller projects. Many clients also prefer that their architects have at least some prior hands-on experience with construction as well, whether that be with building patios, constructing small lawn structures, or laying brick driveways.
● Same as Landscape Design
● Higher earning potential
● Same as those listed under Landscape Design
● Requires at least a Bachelor’s degree in the field
OUTDOOR WEED & PEST CONTROL
When thinking of landscaping, many people can overlook the importance of upkeep and prevention in terms of plant health. This is where a landscaping business based on weeding and outdoor pest control comes into play. This focuses primarily on controlling lawn disease, weeds, and pests to promote and preserve the overall health of lawns.
Start-up costs can vary depending on the exact services offered but common equipment purchased includes flame burners, various types of hoes, and rakes. The costs of pest control chemicals can also vary depending on how eco-friendly your methods and services are.
You should have an above-average understanding of the scientific and/or agricultural causes and subsequent solutions for common problems associated with this type of business. Examples include infestation and fungus growth responsible for stunting plant growth, causing brown patches in lawns, and withering grass.
Knowing which types of insects may be potentially dangerous to lawns as well as which methods are the most environmentally friendly for dealing with pests are other examples of technical expertise which are beneficial.
● Relatively low start-up costs
● Low competition of skilled landscapers
● In-depth technical knowledge required
● Greater communications skills required for explaining problems to curious clients regarding why they are experiencing problems with pests, weeds, or fungus
Hydroseeding landscaping is a cheaper, more customizable alternative to using sod or straw mulch for lawns. It involves spraying a blended mixture of fertilizer, seeds, bonding agent, and mulch in small or large areas to either start or renovate lawns. It is frequently the preferred method when spot seeding or repairing specific patches of grass. Hydroseeding can also help with erosion control which is especially important for larger areas and commercial clients.
One of the better selling points of having this type of business is that you can tailor and customize blends based on what your client wants or based on geographical and environmental needs. If you have no prior experience with hydroseeding, it will be necessary to learn about the different aspects of how to properly blend the ingredients, efficiently spray the product, how to budget for different variations and gain knowledge of what to look for in terms of the irrigation systems used by each of your clients.
There are more costs associated with this type of business than some of the others since high-quality machinery and regular expenditures on the mixture products are necessary. The equipment used should have auger systems that thoroughly blend the ingredients to help reduce spottiness after you apply them. Since the ability to create special blends is one of the most appealing aspects to potential clients, you will also need to keep a variety of seeds and other ingredients on hand and available.
A successful hydroseeding business can largely depend on environmental factors that are out of your control, making it necessary to learn about how your geographical location and climate come into play. Since this involves spraying seed mixtures, steep areas where the product can wash away should be avoided. Other regionally dependent examples include particularly windy areas where mixtures can blow away as well as any zones where erosion levels are high.
● Cheaper for customers which can lead to repeat business
● Usually large and commercial jobs, increasing your earning potential
● Less competition since many landscapers lack proper machinery and/or the necessary skills
● Not recommended for newbies to the industry or those unwilling to undertake in-depth learning in the areas of agriculture and science are necessary
● Higher start-up equipment costs
● Environmentally dependent, requiring constant awareness of surroundings
No Right or Wrong Choice
Factors such as prior landscaping experience and personal financial situation should be considered when trying to decide on which type of landscaping business to start. Perhaps the most important factors to weigh are your knowledge and skill level. If you do not already have experience or the specific agricultural knowledge required, you should be honest with yourself regarding the level of interest you have in learning about these topics as well as your willingness to put in the necessary time it will take to really understand and master them.