If you’ve decided to start your own landscaping business then here are some of the key factors you’ll need to know. This article will look at how to start a landscaping business in the UK by covering the following areas:

  • Define your business’ purpose
  • Plan for the seasons
  • Choose a legal structure
  • Set up the business
  • Register with HMRC
  • Get equipped
  • Get insured
  • Find some customers

Define your business’ purpose

Like starting any business, you first have to do some groundwork and research. What is your business purpose, target market and goal? 

First try to find out if there is a lot of call for landscaping services in your local area. You may choose to work on residential clients, or commercial clients, or both — but first you need to understand if there is an audience for it, or if there are a lot of competitors in the landscaping industry where you are.

You might choose a speciality to make your business stand out from the competition. Say you have a lot of experience with dry stone walls, or are skilled at crafting patios. By choosing a specialist area you can gain a reputation for providing a specialist service. Not only will this be better for your clients, in that you can offer specific services for them, but you’ll develop your skills and learn new ways to work smarter in this area.

Pull together your business ideas, your competitor research and details about your audience (are they the general public, or commercial businesses, or other contractors) into a business plan. This will allow you to make sure your business is viable in the current market, and plot some important milestones you want to achieve.

Plan for the seasons

Landscaping is a professional that is highly impacted by the seasons. A lot of your physical labour will be completed in the summer and your planning will be carried out in the colder months. There are certain services that you can offer during the colder months, but it’s important to prepare for those quieter periods — either with another job to supplement your income, or careful yearly planning so that you have enough work and money to see you through the winter.

Choose a legal structure

When setting up a business you have a few options when it comes to your business.

Sole trader

Many landscapers will operate as a sole trader. This structure is simple to manage and there are less rules and regulations for you to abide by. It means easier accounting responsibilities and you can access any business funds you’ve earned immediately without implications.

You won’t have a business to hide behind though, like you can with a limited company. You will be liable for any debt you take on, and you must be properly insured as you won’t have business insurance to fall back on.

Limited company

A limited company may give off a more professional image, but there are more administrative responsibilities associated with this business structure. 

You’ll have to make your accounts public, and you’ll act as a director and employee of the business. You will not be personally liable for any debt that the business can’t pay, unlike with a sole trader, but you will have more legal and tax obligations to meet so be prepared to spend more time on business administration tasks.

Set up the landscaping business and register with HMRC

Once you’ve chosen whether sole trader or limited company is best for you you’ll need to register the business.

Pick your business name. You may choose to operate under your own name, like ‘D Lloyd Landscaping’ or something a little more ‘general’ that doesn’t specify your name, such as ‘Roots & Shoots Landscaping Services’.

If you’re a sole trader, you’ll need to register with HMRC as ‘self-employed’ and ensure you are set up to pay your own tax and National Insurance contributions. Then you’re ready to go!

If you’ve chosen a limited company to operate from, then the process is a little more complicated. First you’ll need to register your business with Companies House. This is called ‘incorporation’ and you can do this online or via post. You’ll need to provide:

  • The company’s registered name and address.
  • Names and addresses of directors (you, and any other person who has bought into your business)
  • Details of shareholders (you and any other person who has bought in) and capital (how much money your company has).

Your company is almost ready to trade, but read up on what records you will need to keep, as this is one of the main differences between sole traders and limited companies — and if you don’t adhere to the record and tax obligations there can be penalties.

Get equipped

Now consider what equipment you will need to be able to run your business.

Landscaping equipment

First, will you need a vehicle? Purchasing a van or trailer to keep your equipment in, and be able to travel from client to client will be one of the biggest purchases you make. 

Consider the other tools you’ll need to operate. Many tools needed for maintaining or tidying gardens you could get hold of for relatively cheap, such as:

  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shears
  • Spade
  • Fork and hoe
  • Plant feeder and food
  • Secateurs 
  • Planters
  • Trowel
  • Gardening gloves
  • Protective goggles and hard hat

But there are other bits of equipment that you might need to do your job. These are likely to be more costly items, and you can have the choice of buying them so you have them as a permanent part of your kit, or you might choose to rent them for occasions that you need them:

  • A van or trailer
  • A professional mower, or a ride along mower.
  • Strimmer
  • Leaf Blower
  • Axes or a chainsaw
  • Power washer 

If you choose to buy then you’ll have your own with no worry about getting hold of one, but you will be responsible for the repair and upkeep of those items. Usually you can expense the cost of maintaining your equipment on your tax return. 

Or you can choose to hire tools and equipment as and when you need those items. Depending on the price of the hire this may be a better option for when you are just starting out, and once you’ve started to save money and have good cash flow coming in from your client work, you can start to build out your kit with other tools and machinery.

Landscaping tools, rules and regulations

As a landscaper you may often work with pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals, and you will need to read up on regulations about how to handle, transport and store these safely. This might also apply to certain types of plants or weeds that are potentially poisonous or dangerous. Always make sure you are informing customers of any risk and protecting yourself effectively by being compliant and prepared.

Protecting yourself is very important too, so when hiring machinery or purchasing it, make sure you are also prepared with protective clothing when it is appropriate to do so. This may sound obvious, but it’s about protecting yourself as much as it is about protecting the business from potential negligence — insurance supports this, which we’ll come to next.

Get insured

It’s important to protect yourself and the future of your business in case a claim is made against you. Often compensation can be in the tens of thousands depending on the claim and that kind of cost could be devastating for a small firm. Here are a few types of insurance that could be most relevant to your landscaping business.

Public liability insurance

Public liability is insurance that covers you if a claim is made by a member of the public against you or your business if they are injured, hurt or emotionally harmed during your work. For example, a customer might trip over your tools whilst you are working and cause themselves a long-term injury and be entitled to compensation.

Public liability insurance will also cover a claim if a customer’s property or home is damaged while you are carrying out your services for them. For example, if your digging work created a damaged pipe and a leak.

Though public liability insurance is not required by law, it would be ill-advised to go without it. As a landscaper, you’ll probably have to deal with the public frequently and it covers you for any accidents that may occur. 

Also, you may be required to prove that you have a valid public liability policy before you will be awarded a contract for a commercial business, or allowed to work on another contractor’s site. 

Property insurance

Property insurance could be very important for a landscaper to have because it protects your tools and equipment against accidental damage or theft. 

A standard policy will insure your property at your business premises but there are policies that will cover your belongings in a vehicle. In this case, if anything were to happen to your tools in your van, the insurance would prevent you from having to replace them  all out of your own pocket. Always check the small print of the contract to ensure that your vehicle is part of the policy, and if you keep your equipment at home then ensure your home contents insurance is up to date too. 

Personal accident and sickness insurance

As a self-employed person the responsibility to bring in the money usually lies with you. But what happens to your income if you are unable to work for longer than just a few days? 

This insurance is for when you are unable to work for a period due to injury or illness. If you are recovering for a period of months or years then the payout on this will usually be a weekly sum, to cover bills and living expenses while you recuperate. If your injury or illness means that you can’t return to work at all, then a lump sum payment would be awarded to you.

Employer’s liability insurance

Employer’s liability insurance is for if an employee claims that you, or the activities they performed for you, are responsible for any injury or illness while working for your company. 

It’s  likely you may be a one-person operation, but you may hire someone on an infrequent basis to help on certain projects. You are legally required to have employer’s liability insurance in place if you ever pay someone to help you out with your gardening jobs. There are severe penalties if you are found to employ someone (even on a casual basis) and don’t have this protection.

Find some customers

Your business is ready to trade, so now you need to find clients. If you’ve identified what makes your business stand out, then use this to your advantage in your marketing messaging. While creating your business plan you may have also carried out some audience research — simply put, figure out where your audience finds out about businesses, and position yourself there. Here are some great methods of marketing you can try, to draw customers to your business:

  • Offers: give vouchers for a discount for referrals or new clients.
  • List your business in online or physical directories, like Yell or CheckaTrade.
  • Use digital marketing techniques such as social media, content marketing or email. Using imagery on these channels of garden transformations may be particularly effective as it engages potential customers’ imaginations.
  • Local SEO may be particularly effective for finding clients in your local area who are searching for services like yours.
  • Use offline marketing such as an old fashioned flyer campaign, business cards or newspaper and radio ads.

Save time on your bookkeeping with Countingup

Countingup is the business current account and accounting software in one app. It automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for thousands of self-employed people across the UK.

With the Countingup app, you can create invoices in seconds, get notifications when you’re paid, and receive automatic invoice matching so that you don’t have to worry about bookkeeping admin.  

The app automatically categorises your expenses, provides an easy receipt capture tool and gives you real-time cash flow insights, so that you can confidently keep on top of your finances and spend your valuable time growing your business. Find out more here.