There’s nothing quite so rewarding as being your own boss, but if you want to start up your own landscaping enterprise, there are a few key skill sets you’ll need to brush up on before you register for your business license. There are an estimated 12,000 landscapers in the United States, so you have quite the competition to keep up with. Give yourself a competitive edge by brushing up on the following 8 skills.
1. Basic Lawn Maintenance
First, you need to understand the basics of the job. You need to know your way around essential tools like a lawnmower, leaf blower, soil rake, lawn trimmer, and spreader. You’ll need to invest in your own equipment and understand the finer points of how to apply fertilizer and pesticides and how to ensure healthy botanical growth throughout the year.
2. Tree Care
Expert tree care goes beyond basic lawn maintenance, but it’s an essential skill for any serious landscaper. In addition to the obvious trimming and pruning jobs, you need to understand how to treat diseased branches, how to address the seasonal complexities of tree care, how to keep palm trees looking their best, and how to spot and treat mold and bacteria. And that’s just the beginning.
3. Landscaping Design
This is a big one. It’s the skill that sets landscapers apart from gardeners. You’re not just in business to prevent overgrowth; you’re there to enhance the aesthetics of your customers’ property. It requires precise planning, outlining, measuring, and implementation. You need to understand the role of different plants, how they grow in a given climate, and how they complement various types of landscapes.
Most landscapers study landscape architecture at the university level, though some are self-taught. However, if you want to call yourself a landscape architect and take on higher-profile jobs, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree from a university accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
4. Basic Botany
Growing and maintaining plant life isn’t as simple as just placing seeds in the ground and watering them from time to time. Different plants are suited to different climates. Some require excess water while some require very little.
Each plant has its own sunlight needs, its own soil requirements, its own pests, and its own growing complexities. If you grow elephant ears (which require a lot of water) directly beside succulents (which require very little water), you may weaken or kill the latter plant.
5. Soft Skills
It’s not enough to be good at your trade. If you want to retain customers and also gain new customers via word of mouth and positive online reviews, you need to have people skills.
Offer excellent customer service and make informed recommendations, but also listen to your customers’ needs. Communication is key, and attitude is everything. Focus on creating a stellar customer experience every time.
6. Basic Business Acumen
A lot of brilliant landscapers watch their businesses fail because they never took the time to properly learn the entrepreneurial side of their operation. You need to know the legal requirements for operating your business, how to remain in compliance with local and federal regulations, how to manage your money, and how to manage employees or contractors in a way that keeps them happy and also keeps the IRS happy.
And even if you decide to hire an accountant (which is highly recommended), you still need to understand your tax obligations and the finer points of making quarterly estimated payments. There are a lot of moving parts, and that’s why every prospective landscape business owner can benefit from taking university-level business courses.
Your business isn’t going to market itself. Your landscaping skills may be on point, but unless you make your presence known and distinguish yourself from the competition, your business will just get lost in the noise.
Even if you hire a marketing professional or team, you should brush up on how to distinguish the unique selling points of your business, how to make your business stand out online (a solid website, local SEO, and paid advertising), and how to engage your local community.
8. Time Management
As the saying goes, “time is money.” As a landscaping professional, you can charge by the hour or by the project, but regardless, your ability to turn a profit and maintain an aggressive schedule will depend on your ability to remain focused, on task, and efficient. This is true whether you’re completing the labor yourself or allocating it to other workers on your team.
You must be able to effectively estimate the time required for a job, anticipate any potential delays, and minimize the time required without cutting corners on the work. The better your time management skills, the more jobs you’ll be able to complete and the more satisfied customers you’ll have.
Additional Tips for Landscaping Businesses
If you want to get started, the best thing you can do is spend time with other landscaping and business professionals. Consider working for someone else for a while as you hone your skills. Take classes related to landscaping design, finance, and business management. Then accept that you’re going to make mistakes along the way, but go for it anyway.
Never stop learning, and you’ll be on the road to becoming the best landscaping professional in your community.