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How to Start a Landscaping Business: A Step-By-Step Guide

8-minute read

Mariah Bliss

Mariah Bliss

4 February 2020

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Ever thought about starting your own landscaping business?

You know you’ve got the skills. You may even have experience working as a landscaper for another company. But there’s a key difference between knowing you’d be a good landscaper, and actually turning your skills into a money-making business. That’s why this article is dedicated to walking you through the exact steps you need to set yourself up for success.

Let’s get started!

Top Tips For Starting a Landscaping Business

  1. Figure out what your competition looks like.

    Before you start your landscaping professionally, ask yourself: Is there even a market for your services?

    Think about it: If you live in an area where there’s already a lot of competition, it’s going to be a lot harder to start a landscaping business than if you’re one of a few. The more competition in your neighborhood, the harder it’ll be to get customers. If, however, the competition is pretty low, you’ll find it easier to find and keep clients.

    So how can you tell what the competition looks like in your area?

    Online research is one way to do it. Take a look at this article, which lists the states where landscapers are needed the most. You should also do a quick Google search for landscaping services in your location and see what pops up. If you’re looking at a lot of results, don’t worry - you can still start your business! It’ll just take a little more elbow grease to find a customer base.

    Another great way to figure out your competition is to ask local landscapers for their feedback. A few questions to ask:

    • Is it easy to find customers?
    • How tough is it to keep customers?
    • Do you spend a lot of time marketing?
    • Do you have more work than you can handle?

    These questions should give you a good idea of what to expect once you start your business.

    Ultimately, the bottom line is this: Don’t start a landscaping business until you have a good understanding of how much competition you’re up against. A little competitive research can make it easier to come up with a solid plan on marketing to customers.

  2. Look at who’s doing a good job.

    If there’s a landscaping business owner in your area that’s doing some awesome work, there’s no harm in figuring out what makes them so successful. After all, these are the landscapers who’ve gone through the process of starting and running a business…

    And if they’re doing a good job, you should pay attention to what they’re doing!

    Once you identify popular landscaping and lawn care services in your area, take a look at:

    • Their websites - What are they charging? What services do they offer? What kind of customers do they serve?
    • Their marketing - Do they send out flyers in the mail? Are they on sites like Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor? Do they have commercials?
    • Their employees - How many people do they work with?

    While you don’t want to copy them, you can definitely use them as a guide for setting up a successful business.

    If all else fails, ask a successful landscaper out for a beer or coffee. You’d be surprised at how willing other landscapers are to help people get their own businesses off the ground.

  3. Plan for lots of busywork.

    A lot of landscapers are surprised at how much of their day is spent on admin work, like invoicing and marketing. If you’re not prepared for these unexpected tasks, you could end up spending less time out on the job (and that means less money flowing into your pocket).

    Here’s the deal: During your first few months as a professional landscaper, you’re going to spend a LOT of time on busywork. We’re talking about:

    • Marketing to customers
    • Invoicing
    • Registering the business
    • Building a website
    • Opening a bank account
    • Collecting and tracking receipts
    • Buying and maintaining equipment

    And that’s just the stuff you’ll need to take care of when you’re not out on the job!

    This information isn’t meant to scare you away from starting a landscaping business; in fact, it’s the opposite! It’s meant to help you manage your expectations for your first 3-9 months. Don’t get us wrong, this admin stuff never fully goes away - but once you’re settled into your landscaping business, you should be in a good spot where you can get some extra help.

    Worried you won’t have time for it all? Consider asking a good friend or family member to help with the workload. Whether your spouse handles invoicing or a friend helps you build a website, asking for help can really make those first few months go a lot more smoothly.

  4. Figure out how much $$$ you’ll need.

    Here’s the most popular question that people ask when starting their landscaping business: “How much money will I actually need?”

    We’ll admit it; It’s a tough question to answer. Startup costs depend on a variety of factors, like:

    • Your location

    • How much equipment you already have

    • Your vehicle needs

    • How much marketing you want to do

    • Business fees

    • And more

    For example, if you already have a stand on mower, truck, and leaf blower, you probably only need $2,000-$4,000 for additional equipment. On the other hand, if you’re starting from scratch, you may need a lot more money. To get a quick estimate of how much money you’ll need to get started, check out this online calculator.

    Of course, you can always talk to another landscaper business owner to get his or her feedback on how much it costs to start.

    No matter how you get the information, make sure you detail two things:

    • How much money and assets you already have; and
    • What assets/equipment/materials you need to start

    The gap between numbers 1 and 2 may need to be filled with a small personal loan or business loan, depending on how large it is. Either way, if you have a good idea of how much it costs to start a landscaping business, you’re less likely to end up spending money you don’t have.

  5. Write out a business plan.

    Don’t worry - you won’t need to create a super-official document that will need to be shown to bank managers and accountants. Think of this business plan as a personal roadmap that you can use to achieve your goals.

    Here’s why it’s important to create a business plan: You know in your heart that you’re a better landscaper than a lot of other people out there. Maybe you worked for a really terrible boss who charged way too much and paid you way too little. Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “Hey, I’m actually really good at landscaping - why not make some money from it?” You believe it so much that you’re willing to take this chance and start your own business.

    But a feeling only lasts so long - and when that initial motivation burns out, what’s going to keep you moving forward from one goal to the next?

    That’s where your business plan comes in.

    Your business plan is a written checklist that will keep you on the right path. Ideally, your business plan should be built around three key deadlines:

    1. Six months after starting your business
    2. One year out
    3. Five years out

    Once you have these three deadlines down, focus on the first six months after starting your business. Identify what needs to happen for you to consider your business successful. Here are a few questions that can help:

    • How many customers will you need?
    • What kind of profits do you want?
    • What areas will you serve?
    • How many employees will you have?
    • How will you get new clients?

    Keep the answers realistic; after all, you’re probably unlikely to make six figures in profits within the first six months of starting your landscaping business. If you need some help figuring out what’s realistic, get feedback from someone else in the industry. They should help you adjust your expectations or let you know if you’re not being ambitious enough.

    Once you reach each milestone, take a look at your business plan to see if you’re on track for success. Are you making the kind of profits you thought you would be? Are you getting enough customers? Have you found new areas to serve?

    Ultimately, your business plan can help prevent you from straying too far from the path to success. That way, you won’t end up in a position where you realize - too late - that your business isn’t doing so well.

  6. Get licensed and insured.

    Landscapers are pretty lucky in that they don’t need a lot of licenses to start working with customers. Depending on the state you’re in, you may only need a business license, which is a pretty straightforward license to get. Just check out SBA’s website to find out how to get a business license.

    Note: there are a few states that require a landscaper-specific license or a license to spray pesticides. Check them out here.

    Once you’ve got your necessary licenses in hand, it’s time to get landscaping insurance. Business insurance is no joke - and if you want even the smallest chance at having a successful landscaping company, you have to have it. A lot of customers won’t work with you if you don’t have liability coverage, which can cause you to miss out on some pretty good projects. Besides, most states legally require you to have business insurance before you even work with your first client.

    Don’t worry, you won’t need complicated coverage if you’re just starting out. Most landscapers will need general liability insurance, which covers you in case of accidents, property damage, or reputational damage (like if you post something untrue about a client on social media and they decide to sue you - really!).

    If you’re working with full-time or part-time employees - and even subcontractors - you’ll probably need workers compensation insurance. This type of coverage covers the medical and legal costs of any employee who’s injured while working on the job.

    If you need business insurance, you can get a quote from Simply Business. We specialize in small business insurance for landscapers, so you’ll get personalized coverage at affordable prices. All you need to do is provide a few details about yourself and your business - we’ll take care of the rest.

  7. Find your first customers.

    If you’ve already done your research, you know that there’s a pretty good demand for your services (and if you haven’t, go back to the beginning of this article right now!). What you need to do now is reach out to those potential customers…

    Without wading your way through tons of competition.

    For this reason, forget advertising your services on sites like Craigslist and Facebook. Every other landscaper and lawn care business you’re competing with is on these sites - and that means you’ll be fighting more established businesses for their scraps. Check out this article on the key techniques you need to start building up your client list!

  8. Determine your hourly rate.

    One of the biggest mistakes that landscapers make is that they charge an arbitrary project rate and wait to see if it works for them. The problem here is that if you end up choosing the wrong hourly rate, you could end up losing money - and fast.

    Instead, you need to lay the groundwork for determining your best hourly rate - and that involves figuring out how long it takes you to perform various tasks and services. While each landscaper is different, start by figuring out how long it would take you to complete the most common landscaper tasks, like mowing a lawn, mulching, yard clean-up, tree trimming, and more. Compare those tasks to how much you need to make in a day in order to have a successful landscaping business. For example, if you need to make $400 a day to maintain your business and pay yourself a salary, set your hourly or project rate so you make that.

    If you have a hard time figuring out how much you should charge, don’t hesitate to ask another landscaper for their feedback. They can help you figure out if your hourly or project rate is in the ballpark of what’s normal for landscapers in your area.

    Remember, your hourly rate isn’t set in stone. Test out what hourly rate gets you the most projects, or try raising your hourly rate every year to reflect your growing experience.

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Mariah Bliss

Written by

Mariah Bliss

I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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