Start a responsible landscaping business by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your responsible landscaping business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a responsible landscaping business?
Although you may be able to purchase an independent landscaping business turnkey from a retiring owner, you’ll more than likely be starting your own business or buying into a franchised landscaping operation. Franchising can be a great way to start if you don’t have a lot of expertise or investment capital. You will also be representing a known name in the industry, which helps with customer retention and acquisition.
You’ll also have a proven business model to adhere to, which can give you some great insight into the steps you’d need to take if you decided to branch out on your own. You will be paying a franchise fee to the parent company, but most franchise opportunities make it very reasonable, as it’s in their best interest to have successful franchise owners.
In contrast, starting your own business will ensure you see 100% of profits, but you’ll also incur 100% of the costs for the start-up. If you are experienced in small business finances and have a natural green thumb, you may be more successful going it alone, as you can build your business from the ground up. There will be competition to contend with, but by positioning yourself in a niche market of ecologically mindful lawn care, you have a good chance of standing out in the crowd. You may also find that you can set your prices a bit higher to match your specialties, as the economically stable customers are more likely to be attracted to a green business solution for their landscaping needs.
In both cases, your start-up costs will range, depending on how big or small, independent, or franchised. Average costs can start around a few thousand to buy equipment and a trailer or upwards of six figures for a fully-functioning franchise. Some essentials will include:
- Lawn equipment, including mower(s), weed eaters with various edging and trimming attachments, leaf blower(s), gas tanks, hand tools, and a trailer to haul the equipment
- Eco-friendly fertilizers and pesticides
- Possibly a vehicle upgrade or a dedicated work truck or van
- T-shirts, with business logos and other work apparel
- Magnetized company advertising, business cards, or even a company vehicle advertising wrap
- Marketing and other standard business expenses
- Accounting and CRM software applications for proper management of accounts
- Business insurance for your company and employees
- Landscaping contractor licensing and associated fees
What are the ongoing expenses for a responsible landscaping business?
Equipment maintenance, fertilizer and pesticides, gas, and consumables, such as yard waste bags will constitute a majority of your costs. Additionally, wages for employees will also factor in, as your business grows. You will also need to factor in advertising costs, website maintenance, and any company clothing or accessories, such as gloves, hats, dust masks, and goggles.
Who is the target market?
Clients may range from residential customers to medium to large businesses with multiple properties and outdoor spaces. The type of customers will most likely determine the size and scope of your business and crew. The added element of providing an ecologically sensitive approach to landscaping will also attract more eco-conscious consumers, as well.
How does a responsible landscaping business make money?
Successful landscaping companies make their money from contracted customers. Most landscaping businesses offer annual and semi-annual, or possibly seasonal service terms, which outline the basic services agreed upon and the frequency of the visits.
How much can you charge customers?
Pricing varies depending upon the location and demographics as well as the services offered. Price other lawn and landscaping services in your area and determine a reasonable yet competitive price. Build pricing guides for customers, as well, which explain basic services and the sliding scale for specific services and products.
How much profit can a responsible landscaping business make?
A successful landscaping and lawn maintenance small business can expect to make anywhere between $40,000 and 80,000 annually. Your profit margins will fluctuate by the size and scope of your business. Offering green options may cost a bit more if they are hard to find in your region, but you should be able to price accordingly for this type of service. When determining your profit and sales goals, be sure to consider that this industry is seasonal and plan accordingly.
How can you make your business more profitable?
As has been our focus, your business should promote the eco-friendly methods your business offers. Make this a focal point without making it the only substantial difference you have from your competition.
Consider teaming up with local and regional groups who also focus on cleaning up and protecting our natural spaces. You may even want to have your company participate in neighborhood clean-ups and national celebrations, such as Arbor Day or Earth Day. Positive exposure and connectivity can influence many customers to seek you out.
You can also consider offering weekend classes to help customers and consumers enact eco-friendly practices in their homes and gardens, regardless of if they use your service or not.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Responsible Landscaping Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your responsible landscaping business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an art consulting business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
How to promote & market a responsible landscaping business
As stated earlier, your niche is your eco-friendly techniques and products. Make this a major selling point for potential customers, along with affordable, competitive pricing and services. Explain to customers how their responsible decisions will positively impact the local, national, and global push for greater sustainability and protection of natural resources.
Offer plants and grasses which use less water and require less maintenance. These choices will more than likely survive and look more hearty than plants which require lots of water and specialized care.
Network online as well as in person. Developing a social media presence can help you connect with customers who aren’t aware of your work, but find your green push commendable and intriguing. And create a company motto that reflects your commitment to the Earth.
Ask to place flyers in local and chain hardware stores and plant nurseries. If possible, develop relationships with local businesses pertaining to yours. The same niche customers who recognize local businesses are often themselves proponents of eco-friendly options.
How to keep customers coming back
There can’t be enough said about the importance of hard work and your attention to detail. Customers want to know they’re getting their money’s worth and landscaping and lawn care is a business in which the work is visible and speaks for itself.
Once you develop your customer base, involve them in your business by way of positive reviews and testimonials posted to your website. Offer specials or seasonal discounts for loyal customers as well as incentives for customer recommendations. Loyalty works both ways and should be rewarded, whenever possible.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Responsible Landscaping Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Do you enjoy working outside and with plants? Are you also socially and ecologically active and aware? Combining knowledge of landscaping best practices with ecologically smart techniques and options is the focus of this modern business model. If you have experience in business or finance, agricultural training, or have a strong desire for working hard and ecologically-friendly, this could be the job for you.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a responsible landscaping business?
For most landscapers, day to day activities include servicing the outdoor spaces of customers, managing inventory and supply levels, and canvassing for new customers. Most landscaping businesses begin their days pretty early to make the most of more reasonable temperatures and outdoor conditions. In addition to the landscaping itself, maintenance on lawn machines, edgers, and trimmers, as well as service vehicles is also a critical part of the routine.
A new focus on greener solutions for products and techniques will additionally require some research and inquiry to determine where you can find more ecological options for fertilizers, pesticides, use of native and drought-tolerant plant species, and more efficient options for managing clippings and yard take away. Fortunately, this is a growing area of interest, which offers numerous angles of input from landscapers, scientists, and other related professionals.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful responsible landscaping business?
Make no mistake, starting a landscaping business is hard work, both in the field and in the books. You build sweat equity from the daily work you perform, but your name and reputation must be curated properly. The work is there, but you need to be prepared to hit the ground running and plan on dedicating at least two years to building and developing the business through customer acquisitions, proper advertising and marketing, and equipping you and your crew with reliable tools, supplies, and vendors. Developing a realistic business model first will allow you to consider the numerous scenarios and associated costs.
A friendly and engaging personality is somewhat necessary for garnering customers. You’ll have to be able to sell your business and articulate how you’ll perform a superior service over your competition. You must also be able to engage in physical labor, especially if you start as a small outfit. The work may be harder than relying on a crew, but your overhead will be significantly lower.
Your knowledge of plants and horticulture/agriculture will also be on display, so make sure you’re regularly studying up and adding to your palette of services. And finally, a sound business mind is needed. You, or a partner, will have an initial uphill challenge to raise capital unless you can secure outside investors from the start. Either way, your business acumen will also greatly contribute to the success of your business.
What is the growth potential for a responsible landscaping business?
Landscaping businesses tend to be fairly lucrative, whether small or large. Your success will be determined by your work ethic and the attention to detail you show your customers and their green spaces. And again, the added element of Earth-conscious products and techniques will bode well with many new and future customers, as consideration for our world is garnering more positive and vested attention.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a responsible landscaping business?
Seasoned eco-friendly landscape business owners offer the following advice:
- Due to a saturated market, advertising will be key when starting as a business. You’ll have to make yourself known, so an advertising blitz may be necessary to gain a foothold.
- Invest in items on an as-needed basis.
- Your success is defined by how consistently you meet and exceed customer expectations. As you build with customers, your reputation will precede you.
- Proper pricing is important. Find the right balance - you don’t want to undercut everyone else in the community, but you also need to avoid inflated prices.
- Look for vendors who share your outlook on going green. You’ll need a partner for your supplies.
- Look for customers in a certain region and canvas small to medium areas heavily. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to work in certain related customer zones, so you aren’t driving too far from day-to-day. For instance, you may work only on the West side of town one day, and in the downtown area another day.
- Always put your best foot forward and look to main good relations with clients and vendors, alike.
How and when to build a team
Landscaping and lawn maintenance is hard work, so choose wisely when picking your crew. You need dedicated, hard workers on your team, but you may be able to build slowly, one person at a time. Developing regular customers may take time, so you could operate successfully for some time with yourself and only a few other employees.
If you are franchising, or you can start with a substantial business budget, you’ll need to vet your potential hires carefully. Consider a month trial basis to see if they’re capable of keeping up with demands and work conditions, especially in the summer months. Once you have a strong team, treat them as you do your loyal customers with bonuses and incentives to keep working hard for your combined business.