How to start a tree surgeon business

Learn these important steps before you launch your new venture.

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Launching a business you are passionate about is an exciting milestone. But there's plenty of planning to do first to ensure you put down roots that set you up for success.

Read on to find out what you'll need to know before starting your tree surgeon business.

What skills or qualifications do tree surgeons need?

The skills and qualifications needed for a tree surgeon vary by state in Australia. However, it is generally recommended that at the very least you complete a traineeship in AHC30810 Certificate III in Arboriculture.

This certificate teaches you how to:

  • Maintain and prune trees
  • Trim felled trees
  • Undertake tree climbing
  • Install cabling and bracing
  • Prepare and apply chemicals
  • Work safely at heights and around power sources
  • Manage traffic while working
  • Operate skid steer and boom-type elevating platforms
  • Provide first aid.

The course fee for Certificate III in Arboriculture is estimated to be around $10,000 for a duration of 18 to 24 months. You may choose to complement your course with an apprenticeship.

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    What business structures should I be aware of?

    tree surgeons at work
    Before starting your tree surgeon business, it's important to be clear on the structure of your organisation. The most common business models to be aware of are:

    • Sole trader. A sole trader is an individual person running a business. You manage all aspects of the company. If you employ workers, you'll be required to pay their super (whereas it's up to you if you decided to pay super to yourself).
    • Partnership. A partnership business involves two or more people setting up a business together. They share income, loss and control of the business. In this case, you'll want to have a partnership agreement signed and sealed.
    • Company. A company is considered its own legal entity. Companies are owned by shareholders who can be directors or investors. Essentially, the owners are liable only for debts or liabilities that the business incurs up to the total that's unpaid on their shares (often zero).

    Ultimately, you'll have to choose the structure that is right for you and your business model.

    Once you have decided on your business structure, you'll then need to register your business and your business' name, register your GST for tax purposes and gather the necessary documents for record-keeping.

    What other documentation might I need before I start my business?

    • A business license. For starters, you'll need to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) in order to gain profits from your new venture. Every business in Australia gets a unique nine-digit number. This is an Australian Company Number (ACN) and it's automatically given to you when you register a business. You can find all the licences required for your company through the ABLIS.
    • Australian Arborist Industry License. To ensure that any tree work and advice follow Australian and international standards, the Australian Arborist Industry developed a national license to show that the holder is qualified and vetted. The license they receive will show their level of experience.
    • Landscaping contract. It is vital to have a disclaimer of liability. It should include the account and expenses for the work, payment options, confidentiality, limitation of liability, uncontrollable events and miscellaneous legal matters. You can find legally drafted templates from websites like Net Lawman.
    • Business insurance. You'll want to ensure you've got adequate insurance in place to protect you against a range of unexpected events. One type of cover you'll want to think about as a tree surgeon is public liability cover, which offers protection in the event you injure someone or damage their property. Read more on your business insurance options.

    Also, you'll want to get peace of mind that you have all of the necessary legal documents in place from the start of your business journey.

    You can access online legal services with membership or annual fee with the likes of Sprintlaw, Lawpath, LawDepot, LegalVision and Wonder Legal. Helpfully, many brands like these also offer legal templates that help you to draft your own documents and agreements.

    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.
    Law Central
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Free for the Silver membership
    Gold: $99
    You can view samples and create your own document for free with the Silver membership.
    Law Central offers a large number of legal templates for super, trusts, estate planning, employment and commercial uses.
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    Where can I find more customers?

    There are a range of ways you can source more customers for your business. For example, online jobs marketplaces like Airtasker can link you up with clients who are looking to hire your service.

    Here are some of the leading platforms in Australia:

    • Airtasker. With Airtasker, you can post your service and be found by people who want help with a task.
    • hipages. Source leads from potential customers in your area who are seeking out certain trades.
    • Oneflare. This marketplace matches experts to consumers and is especially focused on the home improvement sector.

    How much should I charge my customers?

    Every tree is a different job, so your services will vary according to the complexity of the work. Consider factors such as the number of workers, the size of the job and the equipment needed when calculating the cost of a job.

    As a general guide, tree surgeons might charge rates of about $35 per hour. The cost for a tree surgeon to remove a medium-sized tree could be around $500.

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    What other services can I offer along with my tree surgeon business?

    Like any business, there can be days when work is slow. To help supplement your services, you might consider looking into the following services:

    • Firewood sales. You can find companies interested in buying quality hardwood logs if you decide to cut and split it.
    • Tree consultancy services. Offer tree risk assessments, advise on tree preservation and conservation, on disease prevention and treatment and condition reports.
    • General landscaping and garden maintenance. Assist in altering and beautifying landscapes among residential and commercial areas.
    • Fencing. Fencing involves trimming trees and overhanging branches from neighbouring properties.
    • Equipment hire. Rent out your equipment to customers who might be having theirs repaired or require a specialised machine.

    Before you begin any of the services, you'll want to look at all the legal requirements and licenses that apply to your state.

    Frequently asked questions

    What equipment is needed to start a tree surgeon business?

    The Arborist Safe Work Practices guide provides a list of some equipment that is used by tree surgeons. The equipment that's typically essential to your business includes a harness, safety equipment, chopping tools, log handling devices, hammers, chisels, load control devices, an elevation platform and a truck.

    What are the common tree problems tree surgeons can help with?

    A tree surgeon inspects trees to figure out their condition. They also recommend the appropriate treatment for a diseased tree(s). They offer help with the following:

    • Removal of storm-damaged trees
    • Deadwood removal
    • Hedge maintenance and removal
    • Pruning and tree reduction
    • Crown lifting, thinning and reduction.

    Why should I have my trees pruned?

    Regularly pruning your trees keeps them healthy by encouraging stable re-growth. Pruning removes deadwood which could cause significant limb or tree failure.

    What is an arborist report?

    A report is a document that's needed to comply with a development application lodged for any new significant changes to a property. An arborist will consider the conditions of the trees on the property and how the development will impact their future health. The report will determine if the trees will cause any future harm to the persons or property.

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