How to Start a Landscaping Business

Tired of the office? Turn dirt into dollars and rake in the profits by starting a landscaping business that’s ready to go today.

Business at a glance

Income potential

Hourly
$35-50

Yearly
Owners report earning anywhere from $30,000-70,000 per year depending on the scale of their business and location.

Income potential
It's not uncommon for owners of well-established landscaping companies to earn $160,000-250,000 per year (or much, much more).

Startup costs

If purchasing equipment:
$2,000-5,000

If willing to rent equipment for first few jobs:
$100-200 (depending on scale of first few jobs)

Training

None required. Optional certifications are available from National Association of Landscape Professionals and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

State organizations, such as California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), also exist.

Landscaping on a shoestring

Starting a landscaping business from scratch does not have to be a big expensive hassle—it doesn’t even have to be your full-time job right away. If you’ve got a few tools, reliable transportation, and the willingness to get your hands dirty, you can start booking landscaping jobs today. Let’s take a look at how to start a small landscaping business with the bare minimum of money, equipment, supplies, and effort.

Figure out what you can offer

If you don’t have professional experience as a landscaper, it’s probably not wise to launch a business with a full menu of yard services. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn while making some money. So rather than trying to figure out how to be a landscape architect, start with an easier niche or two, like:

  • Hedge trimming
  • Lawn mowing
  • Watering plants and flowers
  • Weeding
  • Weed eating
  • Leaf collection (blowing or raking)
  • Brown waste removal
  • Winter maintenance
Landscaping is largely seasonal, but there are still options once the snow starts falling.

Most of these services require hardly any equipment or specialized knowledge. Even pruning specific species can be learned in just a few minutes from a YouTube video like this one.

If you run into trouble on-site, pretend you’re taking a phone call, whip out your phone, and Google whatever you don’t know off the top of your dome. If it seems manageable, dive in with both feet. Chances are good that your clients aren’t experts anyways.

One thing: before you get too far into learning about new landscaping techniques, make sure you check in with your local and state governments to find out if any permits or licenses are required in your area. For example, many jurisdictions require professionals applying pesticides or herbicides to have a license.

What’s it going to cost and how much should you charge?

How much does it cost to start a landscaping business? Well, that depends. Most sources will tell you that a budget of $2,000-5,000 is an appropriate expectation, but they’re not really getting creative enough. If you just want to mow lawns, you could conceivably find a used mower for cheap (or free) and tow it around town behind your bicycle. Fuel is your only input cost so your first few jobs will be almost entirely profit! Nice. Is it realistic? Maybe, but you might want to have a few other tools on hand to expand your service offering (check out our list of landscaping tools), so your startup cost is more likely to be a few hundred dollars.

Essential details

Potential Services

The services offered by landscaping businesses is pretty expansive, and can depend a bit upon your region. Here are a few of the essentials along with rough costs per job.

  • Lawn mowing/maintenance: $130
  • Removing a tree stump: $300
  • Leaf removal: $355
  • Tree and shrub maintenance: $800
  • Installing sod: $1,850
  • Resloping/contouring: $1,950
  • Pond installation: $3,100
  • Landscape installation:  $3,300
  • Patio and path installation: $3,900
  • Landscape design: $4,400
  • Installing a retaining wall: $5,400
What to charge

Hourly
Most landscaping operations charge $50-100 per hour for two people. If you're working solo, anywhere in the $25-50 range (or more if you have specific skills) is about right.

Per square foot
The faster you get at landscaping, the better it pays to charge per square foot instead of per hour.
$4 to $6 per square foot for basic services (mowing, weeding, hedge trimming, watering, leaf removal, etc.)
$6 to $10 for advanced landscaping services (landscape architecture, land contouring, patio installation, retaining walls, etc.)

Skills required
  • Customer service
  • Organizational skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Attention to detail
  • Physical labor

As for pricing, some landscapers charge by the hour, others charge by square foot, while still others charge by service. Ultimately it comes down to your personal preference—it can be helpful to set an amount that you would like to make annually and then price your services accordingly.

Just be sure that you account for all of your costs, such as supplies, equipment maintenance, taxes, transportation, etc.

What kind of equipment and supplies do you need to have?

Even a bare bones landscaper just starting out is probably going to need some equipment for their landscaping business. The specific tools and supplies that you’ll need are up to you of course—for example, if you are just planning a mow and blow operation (basic services like mowing lawns and leaf removal), you definitely won’t need a hedge trimmer. So take this list as a starting point for your toolbox and feel free to get creative.

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The essential landscaping tools list

  • Lawn mower
  • Weed eater
  • Shears/pruner
  • Hand edger
  • Rake
  • Shovel
  • Buckets
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves

There’s a solid chance that you have many of the items on this list in your garage right now. They’re enough to get you started. If you think you need to add something to your equipment collection, consider waiting to buy it until you’ve booked a job that requires it so you can be sure it’s earning you money.

How much is all this going to cost? If you have these tools already, nothing! But if you need to purchase some items, consider looking at used sources such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or local message boards before paying full price. Used items, especially lawn mowers and other power equipment, can be had for a fraction of the new price. 

And if you need something really expensive that you might only use once for a big job, rent it! Home Depot is great in a pinch but you can also look for a professional tool rental service in your area, which is likely to have bigger and better tools. No need to spend thousands of dollars on something in the early stages of entrepreneurship just to make a few hundred dollars.

Now build a website

So you’ve got your shears and rakes together and you’re ready to start working. Stop. Before you do anything else, you need to build a website. Your website is going to your homebase for everything you do from now on and it needs to be ready when you start looking for clients. If people are searching for landscapers in your area, your website will be there. If happy clients want to refer their friends and family to your company, your website is there. If over-the-moon customers want to leave positive reviews so all can bask in the glory of your mowing skills, your website is there. Get it?

The easiest and faster way to build your website, no coding or design skills necessary, is with Durable’s AI website builder. Using the power and convenience of artificial intelligence, Durable will write text, select photos, choose fonts, pick colors, and lay out your website so it’s beautiful and functional. It takes just 30 seconds, so you can get back to planting flowers as fast as humanly possible. Want to see some samples of what Durable can do? Check out the landscaping website template.

Start promoting your landscaping business

When it’s time to start looking for work, don’t worry too much about fancy ivy league marketing tactics. Just put yourself out there and build a client base that appreciates your hard work. Cast a wide net and take whatever jobs you can handle.

  • Share your website with anyone and everyone in your network
  • Look for leads on Angi Leads
  • Spend small amounts on targeted digital ads on Facebook and Google Ads—learn how with this guide
  • Post on services like Craigslist, Nextdoor, Thumbtack, and Angi  
  • Set up social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), post frequently, and make sure you respond to comments
  • Knock on doors in your area and have real conversations with homeowners
  • Ask satisfied clients to leave great reviews

Make sure you can get paid

You’re not raking leaves for the exercise, you need to get paid. So make sure you’re ready to receive payment before you go asking for gigs. Durable’s invoice tool ensures that your clients receive easy-to-understand bills that can be paid quickly and conveniently, with very little effort on your part.

It’s also a good idea to keep your business money separate from your personal finances, especially when you get to tax season. Durable Money gives you an online business bank account that works hand-in-hand with invoicing and your website, automatically keeping you on top of your finances.

Once your landscaping business starts to grow

You’ve got some jobs under your belt, you’re gaining experience, and you have a base of loyal customers. What should you do next?

Brand your landscaping business

As you start to find clients beyond your immediate network, it can be helpful to have a recognizable brand that sticks in the minds of potential customers. Consider developing a name for your business that isn’t just John Smith Landscaping or whatever. If you need some help getting creative, try out this AI business name generator. A simple but memorable logo and brand colors can also do wonders for customer recognition on your website, lawn signs, door hangers, etc.

Boost your marketing strategy

Once you’ve got the basics of promotion under control, it’s time to GO BIGGER. 

  • Competitive analysis: start looking at what types of services competitors in your area are offering, how much they are charging, and how they are promoting their businesses. Use that information to tweak your own strategy.
  • Understand your customer: look for commonalities between your regular customers. Are they wealthy homeowners, condo dwellers, property developers? As you work more you’ll naturally gain an understanding of who your ideal customer is, which allows you to target more clients in the same category, or adjust your strategy so you can branch out.
  • Send email: you’ve got contact info for previous customers, visitors to your website, and people in your network, so send them email. It’s way more effective than social media and you can talk to them about anything that benefits their yards and your business—seasonal reminders, promotional rates, new services, anything!
  • Set up a CRM: client relationship management software that is. This is like a superpowered digital address book that captures data about your clients and prospects so you can manage and market to them more effectively. 

Invest in equipment and supplies

Now that you know how long it takes to complete different landscaping tasks, it might be time to level up your equipment so you can do more jobs faster, earning you more money.

Equipment with MORE POWER

  • Zero-turn riding mower
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Power edger
  • Leaf blower
  • Power pruner
  • Spreader/sprayer (for fertilizer, pesticide)
  • Lawn aerator
  • Snowblower (remember think seasonally!)

The key here is to only add items that will increase revenue for your business. If you don’t mow that many lawns, maybe save the $5,000 you were going to spend on a riding mower for something that will earn more cash.

Cover your butt

The truth is, no matter what industry you’re in, accidents happen and customers get grumpy. Liability insurance can protect your and your business in the case of personal injury claims, damage to property, and more.

There are plenty of different insurance offerings on the market so do your research in advance of writing any checks. If you need some help, check out our in-depth guide to business insurance.

Planting the seeds for future success

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Get that second hand lawn mower and start raking in green without trying to plan a landscaping empire.

But, once you’re established, it can’t hurt to sit down and have a think about where your business is going. Here’s some steps you can take to ensure that your landscaping business stays on the right path.

Write a business plan

A business plan can help you set goals and build a strategy that will achieve them. It doesn’t have to be an encyclopedia, just a simple document that will keep your eyes on the prize. If you need help writing one, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers a handy template.

Register your business entity

Most small business owners start out as sole proprietors, which is an informal business type that doesn’t require any paperwork in most states. But there are advantages to registering a formal business structure for your operation, such as protection from liability, increased funding options, and tax benefits. You should work with a business attorney or CPA to choose the right business structure for you.

Scale your landscaping business

Growing your business can help you to earn more money without having to work a lot harder. Small boosts to capacity and productivity can result in big profits, so it’s worth it to have a look at what you can do to expand your business.

  • Add more landscaping services that appeal to a broader range of clients
  • Hire employees so you can service more customers
  • Secure financing for major purchases, such as company vehicles
  • Open your company to investors to increase capital for significant expansion, such as franchising or offices in multiple locations

Just remember that scaling comes with the same advice as the earliest days of your small business: spend carefully, only take on what you can handle, learn as you go, and build relationships.

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