Summer's here! Setting up a gardening business can seem overwhelming but we hope to illustrate ten steps to make the process more straight-forward.
Gardeners work for domestic, commercial and public sector clients with gardens and grounds to maintain services can range from planting, pruning, mulching, mowing, fence construction to basic landscaping.
1. Getting Qualified
Although there are no formal qualifications required to set up a gardening business since most gardeners may have developed their personal gardening experiences, getting some qualifications will help you to understand best practice, new trends and how to operate as a business.
The following courses may be beneficial:
- The Horticultural Correspondence College- runs a course for those with no experience on gardening, costs £199 and takes roughly 18 months to complete.
- My Gardening School- online gardening course ranges from beginner to pro. Covers topics such as recycling, garden design, pond construction. Prices are around £120
- The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) - Britain's premier horticultural brand provides a Level 2 Certificate on Principals of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance. The qualification is recognised in the industry and covers garden planning, choosing plants, growing veg. It is studied over 9 months through (ICS) and costs £275.
2. Understanding The Industry
To help gardeners keep up with industry events and news its useful to keep up to date with industry trends and increase your product knowledge. A few events and publications to keep in mind are:
'Horticulture Week' Magazine
'WHICH? Gardening' Magazine
3. Key Market Issues & Trends
Some of the current issues affecting the industry are:
The garden sector grow by 1.7% - Datamonitor
The IPOS MORI poll stated that 71% of the UK population believe spending time in the garden is crucial to their quality of life.
UK gardeners spend on average £20,000 over their lifetime on garden services
Figures from the Horticultural Trade Association body suggests increasing confidence in the sector with 92% of their member implementing growth plans.
Government spending cuts will affect those looking to win contracts from local authorities.
According to the Skills Funding Agency there are 16,500 businesses operating in the horticulture, landscape and sports turfing industries. Eight of ten of the business have fewer than ten employees
The following list is not exhaustive but it will provide you with an idea of the equipment that is required to provide a full service:
Safety Equipment should also include:
For more equipment, check out the prices at QualityGardenTools.com or mowdirect
5. Running The Business From Home
Its a good idea to inform your mortgage company and landlord (if applicable) to ensure that you're allowed to operate from home. It may be an idea to contact your local authority or the Valuation Office Agency to see if part of your premises is eligible for business rates.
6. Domestic Gardening Work
The best source of domestic work may be within your local area/district offering mowing, hedge cutting and trimming. This could lead to additional work to tidying, pruning and weeding. Much of this likely to be regular work, so customer service is paramount when you get you first gig. Lawn maintenance for example requires treatment programmes, aeration and scarification maybe required 4 times a year.
7. Commercial Contracts
As pointed out the demand from local authorities has slumped, but working with the private sector may bring new opportunities, particularly amongst hotels, offices, pubs, leisure centres, spas, etc. There may also be the opportunity to sub-contract for property maintenance agents.
8. Your Fee
The fee charged by a gardener can vary depending on size & job type, local competition, location. When pricing a job factor in the following:
- Duration of job
- Travel requirements
Most gardening jobs charge on hourly basis of £15 p/hour. For domestic work ask to be paid in cash but provide a receipt for you own book-keeping. For commercial jobs it is common to invoice with payment through bank transfer or cheque. In some circumstances the owner may not be at home whilst the work is being carried out but on completion the gardener can pop a dated card through the door to confirm that the job has been carried out and call in the evening for payment.
9. Promotion & Trade Bodies
There are several 'tradesmen directories' in existence. We would urge you to use these with caution as we tend to believe that showcasing your work with a video, image, and an online following of satisfied customers can make a bigger impact to those seeking to hire you.
- Directories - Google Places
- Advertising In Specialist GardenDrectories
- Rated People
- My Hammer
- Advertising In Local Papers
- Social Media Profile
- Local Online Press Release
10. Cover Yourself
There are too many horror stories of gardeners who have suffered through lack of appropriate insurance and financial planning. Get the following:
- Public Liability Insurance - protection against claims from customers
- Professional Indemnity Insurance - protection against business claimants
- Employers Liability Insurance - required as soon as you hire your first employee
- Contract Dispute Insurance - for contractual disputes
- Tools and Equipment Insurance - to cover loss, theft or damage to your tools
- Vehicle Cover - for any car/van used for business purposes
- Income protection insurance to cover periods of sickness or injury
There are specialist insurers who can provide insurance for gardeners such as Tradesmen Insure and BLP Insure.