How to start a landscaping business

The essential steps when setting up your own landscaping business.

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If you've already discovered your love for landscaping, then opening your own business could put you on the road to success. If you're not sure where to start, this guide will help you get your venture up and running.

What is a landscaping business?

A landscaping business constructs, installs and maintains lawns, trees, yards, shrubs, gardens, patios and other outdoor areas. A landscaping business generally offers garden project planning, construction and landscape management, as well as garden maintenance for aesthetics and human enjoyment. Above all, a responsible landscaping business prioritises the plant ecosystem's sustainability.

The steps of starting a landscaping business

Before you do anything, you need to sit down and write out a business plan. The plan doesn't have to be a comprehensive document. Begin by considering how much money you'll need to invest in your landscaping business, what services you'll provide and how much you'll charge your customers. This will help you to make your business profitable in the long run. Here are some things you will need to consider.

  1. Business structure. Many business owners find operating as a Sole Trader or Partnership to be cost-effective and straightforward. However, registering your business as a Company might be preferred if external investors are involved or to better protect yourself against future liabilities.
  2. Legal requirements. Each state has its own requirements for a licence. Before starting on a job, you might also need to have a Service Agreement and Cancellation Policy in place.
  3. Brand name and logo. Create a brand name and logo that sets you apart. Then register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). You can create a memorable brand logo with a graphic designer's help or use graphic design tools and services to make your logo.
  4. Loan options. You might not need a sizable investment to start your landscaping business. Start with the essential equipment you'll need and build up your tool kit as the business begins to generate an income. However, there are several loan options you can consider. Depending on your needs, you can choose to get a small business loan, a car loan or a personal loan.
  5. Target market. Consider your choice of the landscaping business. You can choose to target lawn mowing and maintenance, structural landscape and/or landscaping maintenance. Your target audience will typically include homeowners or commercial property builders who don't have the vision, skill or tools to design their own landscaping. You should also reach out to facility managers for botanical gardens, historic buildings, municipalities and other government entities, universities, cemeteries and other public places with green spaces. By researching your main competitors, you will find the gaps your company can fill in.

landscapers at work

Skills needed to start a landscaping business

Contrary to a gardening business, a landscaping business requires a wide range of skills that extend well beyond laborious work. Landscapers are generally involved from the very beginning of an outdoor project. They are the creative eye that provides ideas and advice on transforming a garden into an enjoyable outdoor space.

A landscaper must be able to take a customer's idea, draw it up on paper, work out the logistics and then turn it into a wonderful reality. To do this, a landscaper needs to have great design skills, drawing abilities, communication skills, and, most importantly, have extensive knowledge of all things flora. Being a landscaper can be quite physically demanding, so make sure you are up for the challenge.

Away from the practical side of things, you'll also need to be able to keep on top of the administrative aspects of your landscaping business. This involves taking care of the business's incomings and outgoings, marketing your services and dealing with the legalities.

Courses and qualifications

You don't need formal qualifications or training to become a landscaper. However, having something substantial under your belt will make your landscaping business more credible in the eyes of your customers.

Many landscapers start by joining an apprenticeship with an employer – these last around four years. Gaining practical experience on the job allows you to develop landscaping skills without having to fork out for educational courses.

Alternatively, you can choose to enrol in a vocational course through a registered training organisation. These will take between 6 and 18 months to complete. Here are a few courses you might want to consider, some of which you can complete as an online course:

  • Certificate II in Landscaping
  • Diploma of Landscape Design
  • Certificate III in Landscape Construction
  • Certificate IV in Permaculture

If you want to go the whole hog, you can even get yourself a degree in landscape architecture. Although this type of degree demands three years of full-time study, it will allow you to work on much more complex projects and charge more for your work when you open your business.

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    Licensing your landscaping business

    Licensing rules vary across different states, so you'll need to check out your state's regulations to determine what applies to you. Here's a quick overview of what to expect along with where to find more information.

    • New South Wales. You'll need a licence for your landscaping business for any work that costs more than $200 and for any structural work that you carry out. You can find out more information at the NSW Fair Trading.
    • Queensland. For any work valued at more than $3,000, you'll need to apply for a licence from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. You'll also need a licence to carry out any structural work.
    • South Australia. To carry out any work as a landscaper in South Australia, you'll need a builder's licence and a supervisor's license. You can do this by heading over to the government's website.
    • Victoria. As a landscaper, you'll need to have a Domestic Builder's card. You'll also need to be registered with the Buildings Practitioners Board if you're working on projects valued at over $10,000.
    • Western Australia. You'll only need a licence for your landscaping business in WA if you're working on a project that exceeds a value of $12,000. You'll also need to register with the Building Services Board.
    • Northern Territory. You don't need a licence to work as a landscaper in NT. However, local rules vary across the Northern Territory. You'll need to liaise with your local council as you may need a Home Improvement Licence.
    • Tasmania. To work as a structural landscaper on projects valued at $5,000 or more, you will need to be licensed by the state. Find out more information on the state's website.
    • Australian Capital Territory. Landscapers don't need a landscaping licence but will need to get their hands on a builder's license to carry out structural work.

    Equipment and software needed to start a landscaping business

    The equipment you need will depend on the type of landscaping services that you're providing. For basic maintenance and landscaping, it's always worth having the following at hand:

    • Shovel
    • Rakes
    • Shears
    • Lawnmower
    • Grass trimmer
    • Leaf blower
    • Hedge trimmer
    • Lawn aerator
    • Hard-wearing gloves
    • Protective gear
    • Fertiliser
    • Hoes
    • Weed remover
    • Hose

    If you want to delve into the construction side of things, you'll need some more specialised equipment, including:

    • Sleepers
    • Concrete
    • Sandstone
    • Brick trowel
    • String line
    • Line blocks
    • Line pin
    • Spirit level
    • Concrete screeds
    • Angle grinder
    • Masonry saws
    • Cement mixers

    How to structure your landscaping business

    Once you know exactly how you'd like to set up your small business, it's time to get it registered. Your business structure determines who will be the key decision-makers for the business, how you'll pay taxes and who is financially liable for the business.

    Here are three business structures you may want to consider for your landscaping business:

    • Sole Trader. Managing all aspects of the business alone comes with its perks, including flexibility and ownership. However, you alone will be responsible for any debts or losses the business incurs.
    • Partnership. Setting up your landscaping business with a friend or family member can be a great way to share financial responsibility.
    • Company. A Company is considered to be a separate legal entity from its owners. Everything from its day-to-day operations to its funding is discussed and agreed upon by the company's shareholders.

    If you're feeling a little overwhelmed with the legal stuff, there's no need to worry. There are many online legal services out there that will help you make sure everything is in place before opening your business. Here are some legal documents they might recommend for your landscaping business:

    • A Client Agreement or Service Agreement sets out the expectations and obligations for each job you do.
    • If you've decided to set up your business with a friend, a Partnership Agreement is a great way to ensure that both you and your partner are on the same page from the offset.
    • Employment Agreements must be used when you onboard new staff. They help to outline their responsibilities and remuneration.

    Get access to legal services and documents online

    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month
    Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    $4.99 per month
    $59.88
    Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
    Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $49 + GST per week
    $2,548 + GST
    No
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
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    How to find customers

    When you open up your landscaping business, you'll quickly find that successful marketing is a key tool to its success. In the initial stages, you'll need to invest more time and money into this side of the business. But once things get going, and if you provide a quality service, your reputation should speak for itself.

    Along with setting up a website and harnessing the power of social media, it's worth joining an online marketplace too. These are websites that connect locals who need a job doing with tradespeople in their local area. Some of the leading platforms include:

    How much should I charge my customers?

    With landscaping, no project is the same, which is why pricing up jobs can be a tricky task. To begin with, you'll need to decide which services your landscape business is going to provide. Will you be involved in planning and designing outdoor spaces, building structures, maintaining gardens or all three?

    Once you've settled on your business plan, it's time to decide on a fair rate. To do this, you'll need to find a balance between pricing correctly for your quality of work and experience, while also staying competitive with other landscaping businesses in your local area. Landscapers charge by the hour, with the average rates hovering between $25 and $80.

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    Frequently asked questions

    How does a landscaping business promote sustainability?

    A landscaping business can prioritise sustainability by sourcing environmentally friendly goods and services. These goods can be organic matter, ecologically friendly lawn control products or choosing renewable materials for landscaping projects. Encourage the use of native, non-invasive plants and trees as they require less effort, expense and pesticide to help them thrive. Consider getting certified for your business's sustainability practices.

    Why do landscaping businesses fail?

    One of the most common reasons why landscaping businesses fail is due to improper pricing. Without taking care to price your jobs correctly, you might be doing yourself a disservice and losing money in the long run.

    What insurances do I need for my landscaping business?

    Starting a landscaping business will require you to make a sizable investment in tools. To ensure that your tools are protected, some companies provide a variety of insurances for landscaping businesses. These include equipment and tool insurance, Public Liability Insurance and trailer insurance or motor vehicle insurance specifically for landscapers. You should also consider sickness and accident insurance, which protects your income if you cannot work due to an accident or sickness.

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