With the Covid 19 outbreak expected to lead to mass redundancies, it’s inevitable that many of those affected will look on this as an opportunity to start up on their own. Here is a quick overview of how to start a gardening business.
For those with only limited gardening experience, garden maintenance would be the best field to get started in. It requires the smallest amount of finance to get started and has the fewest legal requirements of pretty much any type of business. There are some basics that any new business has to set in place before they can start trading and we’re going to run through a few of them to help newbies get off on the right footing.
First insurance. A basic public liability insurance is essential, and a legal requirement. If you are planning to just do garden maintenance then this is fairly cheap. Landscaping or tree work is a different matter and can run into the thousands but a basic gardening policy can be obtained for under £200.
Next waste. You must get a waste carriers licence. If you are just taking green waste then the licence is free but anything else and it’s over £150 for the upper tier licence. Both can be obtained online but make sure you have one because you’ll need it at the tip and it’s a massive fine if you are caught without one.
Register for Self Assessment and Class 2 National Insurance as soon as you start trading.
That’s the legal stuff of how to start a gardening business , now for the practical. That’s transport, machines, and most of all, customers.
A van is ideal but it is possible out of an estate car. Small vans are the usual starting point as they drive like a car and can be used as such in your spare time. I started with a small Bedford van, then an Escort van. It took several years to work up to a ‘transit’ sized vehicle. A trailer will normally suffice for rubbish etc if you get a small vehicle.
Next, machines. A big headache for even the hardened long time gardeners. Just look at the arguments on social media over which machine is best. The problem for start ups is of course the price. Most pro mowers with a rear roller for stripes are over £1000. I’d suggest a small push mower with roller such as the Hayter Spirit 41. These are £415 new and are nice and simple to maintain. There’s no power drive for that price but they are easy to push and surprisingly easy to use.
If you start getting really big grass areas go for a cheap mulching mower. Look for one with a deep deck and not a multi purpose mower that also mulches. They are not as good as a designated mulcher. You need a really deep deck for mulching to work and a shallow deck to get the vacuum for collection. No single mower can do both effectively. A collector with a mulching plug will leave unsightly clippings behind. The 22″ Titan is a good choice. It has a very deep deck and narrow blade for mulching. They say it will also collect but it’s pretty useless at that, leaving large clumps of grass in your wake. The mulching power, however, is superb and at under £500 it represents great value especially with that 7.5hp Kohler lump.
As for hand held machinery-your strimmer, hedgecutter, and blower, you first have to decide on petrol or battery power. If you decide on battery then unless you have a large redundancy payment, the top of the range pro ranges from Pellenc or Stihl is going to be financially out of reach. The batteries alone cost between £1000 and £1500. EGO do a pro set up for a similar price but also do a multitool for £679. That’s hedgecutter, strimmer, edger and chainsaw for that price. Remember that you can’t use the chainsaw professionally without a licence. If you decide on petrol then you can’t beat the Chinese multi tools for power and economy.
52cc power, with strimmer head, chainsaw, hedgecutter and extension for £150.
Blowers the same, about £150 will get you a 65cc monster backpack blower easily capable of taking care of your autumn leaf problems. Obviously these machines are not in the same league as the big brands, and anyone that has tried the top of the range machines from Stihl or Echo will find these machines lacking in ultimate power, but for normal use they are perfectly adequate. We are talking about how to start a gardening business and not your dream machinery set up here!
Now for the vital ingredient on how to start a gardening business, getting the work! When I started my first business over 30 years ago, there was no internet so it was a case of fliers and knocking on doors. Nowadays there are much easier options where you can simply ‘buy leads’.Bark, My builder and Rated people spring to mind as a starting point. Just sign up then you get job leads sent straight to your phone. Your business will still have to compete with other gardeners. Recipients must reply quickly to new leads and be competitive when it comes to price. Gardeners also have to pay for the leads whether they get the job or not. The work is normally low profit but it’s a great way to quickly build up a round. Once you have a steady income you can then start to work on your customer’s neighbours or take your time getting better paying customers from your own advertising.
Remember, you are the business’ engine and full time gardening is hard work. If you’ve never done a full time manual job then you are in for a bit of a shock. It’s not the same as doing your own garden. You have to work hard all day, everyday, and the effects are cumulative with shoulder, back, and arm problems common among the pros. Still, if that hasn’t put you off, roll up your sleeves and welcome to the club!