Do you love being outside and working with your hands? How about the idea of being your own boss?
If your answer to these questions is a resounding “Yes!” then starting a landscaping business could be the perfect career for you. It certainly was for Mike Andes, the founder of Augusta Lawn Care.
Mike started Augusta Lawn Care as Andes Lawn Care to pay for college, but it became so successful that today it’s one of the fastest-growing franchises in the U.S. with over 93 landscaping business owners operating under his business model. The franchise office makes between $65K and $112K per month, and the average franchise makes approximately $37K per month.
What Is a Landscaper?
A landscaper is someone who uses their understanding of horticulture, building practices, and artistic design to beautify land. Landscape professionals perform tasks like:
- Leveling land
- Selecting plants and other materials that will thrive in the local climate
- Creating a layout that will create specific emotions, paths to follow, or lighting conditions
- Planting and caring for the landscape
What Is the Difference Between a Landscaping and Lawn Care Business?
A landscaping company is focused on the design and transformation of an outdoor area through planning, construction, arrangement, and planting of trees, shrubs, grass, and other decorative elements like paths and water features.
Lawncare and landscaping are similar, and many companies provide both services.
What Does a Landscaping Business Do?
Augusta Lawn Care is a lawn care company that provides landscaping services as well. Their list of landscaping services includes:
- Mowing: Cutting Grass
- Landscaping: Leveling services, design, planting new greenery
- Hardscaping: Creating pathways to encourage people to use when traveling through the lawn
- Lawn Care: Performing upkeep of customers’ lawns on a regular basis
- Property Cleanups: Removing weeds and leaves, plus trimming bushes
- Snow & Ice Removal: Removing snow and ice from pathways
Another landscaping services list might look like the list below.
Basically, anything involving the land around a home or business is the domain of a landscape professional. While larger landscaping companies will provide all of these services, others specialize in one area, like lawn maintenance or flower bed design.
Now that you know what landscapers do, let’s look at how to start a landscaping business.
How to Start a Landscaping Company
Starting a landscaping business is as simple as:
Step 1: Get Landscaping Experience
Mike didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start Augusta Lawn Care. He grew up less than affluent and knew he would need to earn the money to pay for college. So he started mowing lawns at age 11 and kept doing it through his bachelor degree and MBA (He started college at 13!).
Eight years later, he was making over a million per year and started building out his landscaping business. He told us the biggest difference in his business now is:
Check out our interview with Mike below.
Mike found podcasts and YouTube videos were one of the best ways to learn from other landscaping businesses. It gave him the knowledge and tips he needed to start his successful landscaping business.
You might want to start providing lawn maintenance services to learn more about the lifestyle and gain some experience. Lots of people like the idea of working outdoors, but the reality is often less than pleasant.
The workday usually starts between 6 and 7 AM, and the weather can be tough to adapt to. You never know whether you are built for starting a landscaping business until you’ve spent 4 hours moving rocks on a hot summer day.
Mike’s Courses and Franchises
Mike offers a business course to help you get into the landscaping industry. It provides lessons on:
- Starting a Business with $15,000
- Landscaping Business Basics
- Marketing Strategy
- Bookkeeping and Accounting
- Growing to $250,000 / Year
- Adding Retail Products
- Pay for Performance (P4P)
Plus, the course includes done-for-you templates and access to previous videos. It’s effectively providing you the same information he provides the franchisees, but you build your own brand. Check out what Mike has to say about the difference between his course and franchises.
Check out Mike’s Landscape Business Course!
Step 2: Choose Your Niche and Services
As you saw above, landscaping covers a wide range of construction and lawn maintenance services. For a small landscaping business today, it’s often best to focus on just one specialty, like lawn care or landscape design, rather than trying to start off as a full service landscape company. Mike told us:
A new landscaping business will reduce startup costs and business expenses if they specialize. You’ll only be purchasing equipment that you need for the jobs you do. You’ll also need fewer skills, which means a smaller crew to get the job done.
Common niches in the landscaping industry include:
- Landscape maintenance: Rather than building or installing landscapes, you’ll be the one pruning hedges, mowing the lawn, and watering the flowers to keep them looking beautiful. Maintenance companies require the lowest initial investment because they require less equipment. On the other hand, you won’t be able to charge as much per hour as you could for more creative and labor-intensive services.
- Fertilization, weeding, and pest control: This is a specialized form of maintenance that focuses on keeping plants and lawns healthy. It requires expert knowledge of plant and grass care. You’ll also be working with potentially dangerous chemicals, so you may need to obtain extra permits or training.
- Sod and lawn installation: Businesses in this niche lay sod, spread grass seed, and install lawns for customers. This often means more one-time contracts than the recurring services offered by maintenance companies.
- Deck and patio construction: Those who have skills with building and construction can put them to great use in a landscaping business. Along with installing the deck and patio, you’ll beautify the area around it. Since this often involves new construction, you’ll need an intimate knowledge of your region’s building codes and other regulations.
- Landscape architecture and design: Businesses in this niche both design and install landscape features for clients. This can include labor-intensive projects like building retaining walls, building terraced gardens, or contouring the landscape. Designers work with customers, using their input to create attractive, livable outdoor spaces, so creativity and vision are key tools of the trade. You’ll also need to have some horticultural knowledge so you can arrange plantscapes that last and thrive.
Mike sticks mostly to the first three tasks, but he’ll occasionally do pathways and more detailed landscaping jobs.
Commercial vs. Residential Landscaping
Along with deciding which specific services you’ll offer, it’s also a good idea to consider what kind of customers you’ll work with. Mike focuses on residential landscaping for two key reasons:
- Lower up-front costs: Residential landscaping companies typically take a deposit at the start of the project that covers the cost of the materials. In commercial landscaping, you often don’t receive your pay until the job is finished, so you’ll have to pay for the materials out of your company’s funds.
- More creative freedom: In commercial landscaping, you’re typically working from a plan provided by the company. Even if this plan has flaws, you don’t get any freedom to make changes or improve it. With residential landscaping, you can work with the customer and make recommendations, giving you more control over the quality of the end result.
Commercial landscaping also has its advantages. You can have fewer clients, since commercial projects are often larger both in regard to the area and the client’s budget. It can also provide a more consistent revenue, especially in the maintenance and lawn care niche.
Create a Basic Lawn Care Price Sheet
One of the hardest things for new landscaping businesses is knowing how much to charge for services. Mike’s advice:
Different regions have standard price ranges for landscaping services, so that’s the first thing you should look up when you’re deciding on your prices. Each project is unique, though. Many new landscaping businesses have a tendency to under-bid for projects. They want all the work they can get and don’t want to be turned down by the client.
Another business owner, Brian Linson, told us:
Check out the rest of the interview with Brian below.
Check out Home Advisor’s list of costs for landscaping services:
- Lawn mowing/maintenance: $130
- Removing a tree stump: $349
- Leaf removal: $400
- Sealing asphalt: $527
- Tree and shrub maintenance: $800
- Deck sealing and waterproofing: $919
- Concrete removal: $1,081
- Patio or path repair: $1,454
- Deck repair: $1,987
- Installing sod: $1,997
- Driveway repair: $1,714
- Resloping/contouring: $2,116
- Fountain installation: $2,673
- Pond installation: $3,352
- Landscape installation: $3,300
- Patio and path installation: $3,900
- Landscape design: $4,569
- Installing a retaining wall: $5,933
- Building a deck: $7,650
Step 3. Plan for Landscaping Services Success
A landscaping business owner needs to have a plan if they want their small business to be successful. It’s a seasonal business, so don’t forget to plan for reduced cash flow during the winter months.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Landscaping Business?
Initial expenses for a landscaping company vary widely, depending on the size and scope of your operations. If you’re a one-person operation that only performs basic maintenance and mowing services, you can get started with as little as $1,000. Mike told us:
That said, most landscaping businesses will require a larger investment. The average start-up cost is between $15,000 and $20,000 if you’re starting from scratch.
There are ways to lower these start-up costs, though. Buying used rather than new equipment can cut down significantly on your expenses. Mike specifically suggests buying your work vehicle used because they get damaged easily and the business asset will be devalued more if you buy it new.
You can also rent much of the equipment from home improvement stores, typically for around $100/day. While this is less cost-effective in the long term, it can be an excellent way to save on initial expenses if your financial resources are limited.
If you don’t want to start a business from the ground up, your other option is to buy a franchise. While this often takes more money up-front, it can be a good option for a first-time entrepreneur since you won’t need to do as much leg work to get it off the ground.
How Much Does a Landscape Business Owner Make Per Year?
The short answer, again, is “it depends.” According to Lawn & Landscape Magazine’s State of the Industry Report, the average annual salary of a landscape company owner ranges from around $31,000-$69,000 per year.
Mike hasn’t shared his salary, but with $699 to $1200 monthly franchise fees from 93 franchises, it’s fair to say he’s making decent money.
Writing a Landscaping Business Plan
A business plan is a living document that plans for the future of your company. You’ll definitely need one if you plan to apply for small business loans or other financing, since both bankers and investors will ask to see it.
Even if you’re opening the business with your own savings, a business plan is a helpful document. It’s where you’ll outline your company’s mission statement and long-term goals, along with detailing your initial and ongoing expenses.
If you’ve never written a business plan before, take a look through a sample business plan to get more guidance on what to include and how to write it. Among the things, your business plan should include:
- The business’s mission and objectives
- A description of the company
- The services you’ll offer
- An analysis of the market
- A summary of your sales and marketing strategy
- The business’s organizational and management structure
- Initial budget figures and financial projections
Mike even recorded a whole video about planning your own company. Check it out below.
Step 4: Choose a Landscaping Business Name
It’s important to put some thought into choosing the name of your company. Your landscape business name is the first impression customers will get, so make sure the name explains what you do.
Once you’ve picked business names for a landscaping business, it’s a pain to change them, so that’s more motivation to get it right the first time. If you’re having trouble coming up with landscaping business names, a business name generator can help you get started.
Keep in mind that much of a business’s presence in the modern day is online. Check to see if the business names you’re considering are available as domain names so you can get one that matches. You can use the WhoIs LookUp to see if a domain is available with the business name you want.
Step 5: Establish Your Company
Once you’ve determined what kind of services you’re going to offer, you’ll be better able to do the logistical work of establishing a company. This includes:
- Creating a Business Structure
- Getting a Landscaping Business License
- Opening a Business Bank Account
- Getting Landscaping Insurance
Keep reading for more information on how to start a small landscaping business.
Create a Business Structure
Creating a separate business entity for your landscaping company separates your business assets and your personal assets. Most local landscaping companies choose to use a limited liability company (LLC), but there are other business models that will protect your assets. To create a business entity, just go to your Secretary of State business portal.
Find out more about business entities.
Landscaping Business License Requirements
Every new business has to be registered before they can legally operate. First, obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is your business’ federal tax ID, which you’ll need to open a bank account, hire employees, or apply for local permits. You can apply for an EIN through the IRS website.
You’ll also need to register with the county clerk’s office for local business licenses. Depending on your state’s laws, you may also need to apply for a sales tax permit. Each state is different, so check with your local SBA.
The specific licenses and permits required for a landscaping business vary depending on your state. Check with your state’s business licensing association to find out what’s required in your area.
Get a Business Bank Account
Go to a local bank and open an account. That way when your clients pay an invoice, it goes straight into your bank. Then you can pay yourself, your business expenses, and your employees. Learn more about business bank accounts.
Potential customers expect landscaping companies to be insured to cover job sites if they damage something while on the job. That means you need to have at least property damage and general liability insurance. Commercial clients might have other requirements.
If you’re using your personal vehicle, don’t forget to get commercial driver’s insurance.
Step 6: Purchase Landscaping Equipment
The types of landscape services you’re going to provide will determine which specific equipment you’ll need. After you’ve decided on a niche, create a landscaping tools list.
If your start-up budget isn’t enough to cover everything on your list, you don’t need to fret. Start by renting more expensive tools, then buy them as you go. This was Brian’s approach when BL Landscapes was first starting. Even now, he says,
This can cut into your profits, of course. If you spend $500 on equipment for a $1,000 job, you’re not going to have much left over at the end. It’s worth it in the long run, though, because the next time a job calls for that tool, it’ll be pure profit.
Generally speaking, it’s better to buy fewer pieces of high-quality equipment than try to buy a full range of tools right off the bat. All tools wear out over time, but a well-made shovel with a fiberglass handle will serve you well for longer than the cheapest option on the shelf.
Craigslist can be a good place to find used equipment if you want to save some money. For new tools, you can check hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes, as well as nurseries and farm supply stores.
Landscape Tools List
Here is some of the equipment you’re likely to need as a landscaping business, along with each tool’s approximate cost:
Check out this blog by Spyker to learn more about each tool.
Step 7: Build Your Team
Other landscaping companies might be one-man operations, but for larger jobs you’ll need some help. Hiring employees is one of the most difficult aspects of owning a business, and while you can find plenty of advice on the topic, there’s no substitute for experience.
Offering competitive pay is a good way to attract top talent to your company. There are a few approaches you can take:
- Mike uses Pay for Performance, which means the more effective the employee is, the more money they make.
- BL Landscapes pays $25 per hour.
- You can combine the two and give a minimum hourly wage plus commission.
You can find quality employees at a variety of places:
Sometimes, you’ll even meet them at lunch. We talked to a recruiter to find out how to hire.
Step 8: Attract Customers With Marketing Efforts
You’ve started your own business, but how do you find potential customers?
You’ll want to create a marketing plan that identifies your target market and how you’re going to communicate with them.
You’ll also want to make sure you have:
- A Business Website
- Landscaping Business Cards
- Truck Decals
- Social Media
- Paid Ads
Mike told us:
The first thing Brian did when he started BL Landscapes was reach out to local real estate agents. He also built relationships with his local suppliers, like nurseries and home improvement stores. As a low-cost marketing option, Brian says,
Mike encourages landscapes to share as much about their existing business as possible. The more you share what landscapers do, the more capable you are of benefiting from word-of-mouth marketing.
Step 9: Deliver Quality Work
The absolute best advertising for a landscaping company is a well-completed project. If you consistently deliver long-lasting, beautiful landscapes, that will secure repeat business and bring in new clients when those happy customers tell their friends.
Make sure to make it easy for clients to recommend you. Give them some business cards, and provide the link to your Google reviews on your invoice. Don’t be afraid to ask. You can book clients for routine maintenance, too.
About 50% of BL Landscapes’s business comes from repeat customers. Continuing service and after-installation coverage is a huge part of this. They cover their work with a warranty, and will often help fix issues for customers even after this period has expired.
As Brian says:
This approach has paid off for him. In their six years of business, BL Landscapes has a 100% customer satisfaction rate. His customers know they can count on him to use high-quality materials that will stay beautiful for years to come.
Start Your Own Landscaping Business!
We’ve answered your questions about landscaping companies, including:
- What do landscapers do?
- How much do landscapers make?
- How much to start a landscaping business?
- How to start a landscaping business with no money
- How to find what landscaping license you need
- How to come up with business names for landscaping
It doesn’t take a huge investment to start a lawn care company, and the revenue potential is high. As you can see from Mike’s success, the best way to financial success is to plan ahead and provide your company with a strong foundation.
Whether you start your own company or buy one that’s already up and running, the ultimate key to long-term success is to provide quality services. Starting a new business is never easy, but the effort you put in can yield fantastic results if you follow Mike’s advice about how to start a lawn mowing business.
What’s keeping you from getting started?