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The backyard is many Aussies dream, though as we find ourselves increasingly time-poor, this dream can turn into an inconvenience; a constant battle to mow the lawns, trim hedges and keep plants alive.
This all adds up to a real opportunity for anyone who enjoys working outdoors. Offering consistent, fulfilling work, and with a low barrier to entry, gardening might be the business opportunity for you.
Gardening businesses come in a couple of different forms. There are product-based businesses, like nurseries, and there are service based businesses, like gardening contractors, which we’ll focus on today. Below we look at how to start a gardening business, we’ll cover equipment, insurance, laws, permits and how you can get yourself paid.
Ready to learn how to start a gardening business? Read on to find out.
6 benefits of owning a gardening business
Why should you consider starting a gardening business? Here are six reasons:
Low barrier to entry: Gardening requires equipment that you might already have in your back shed. You also need little to no training, licences and permits, plus no shop front or warehouse. For most people, the upfront investment will be perfectly affordable.
Regular work: In Australia, plants grow all year round, so most clients will require your services regularly. Once you’ve built up a solid customer base you can consistently fill your week.
Greater autonomy: Owning a gardening business means you can set your own schedule and make your own money. Take on as much work as you’re comfortable with and take breaks whenever you need to.
Variety in your day: Say goodbye to the office cubicle, and say hello to a different, gorgeous, sun-drenched view every day. You get to travel around, meet new people and make gardens look beautiful.
No limits: If you have an overflow of work, bring someone else on board! You could eventually find yourself at the helm of your own large business or franchise – where your gardening journey goes is up to you!
A sense of accomplishment: As a business owner there’s a real sense of accomplishment in seeing your business grow.
Requirements to start a gardening business
The next step in how to set up a gardening business: knowing the requirements. What are the skills you’ll need to bring to the table, and the rules and regulations you’ll need to abide by?
Skills and knowledge
First and foremost you’ll need to know how to maintain a garden! While it doesn’t require any official course or qualification, there’s actually a little more to this than you might first think, as you’ll need to know:
- The watering, fertilising, pruning, trimming and mowing requirements of each type of plant.
- The difference between weeds and plants.
- How seasonal changes affect plants.
There was a time when the owner of a gardening business would need to bring some basic knowledge of the machinery they work with in case of a breakdown, but as electric tools begin to take over the market, there are far fewer ways for your machinery to fail.
In Australia there’s no such thing as a gardening licence. You will need a driver’s licence to get you and your equipment to your customers though.
As a fully-fledged business, you’ll need to register for tax. Thankfully the process of applying for an ABN is a surprisingly simple one. While most gardening businesses start out as ‘sole trader’ operations, those with visions of building an empire might choose to create a company or trust. If that’s you, you’ll need an ACN instead.
If you earn more than $75,000 in a year you’ll need to register for GST, at which point a professional accountant is advised (if you haven’t found one already.)
Insurance needed for a gardening business
Insurance is as critical for a gardening business as it is for any business as you’re undertaking physical work on another person’s property.
The most significant liability you face is injury or damaging property. Thankfully public liability insurance is built for these exact situations, with reasonably priced policies covering you for millions of dollars in damages. If you do commercial work for another business or a property manager, they may stipulate other types of insurance coverage.
Other forms of insurance that can apply to a gardening business include:
- Vehicle and trailer insurance
- Tool and equipment insurance
- Income protection insurance
Essential equipment needed to start a gardening business
What equipment will your gardening business need? The following core items will get you on your way.
- Lawn mower: A quality adjustable mower is a must for a gardener. These are available in petrol or electric, catcher or mulcher form.
- Whipper snipper: Otherwise known as a line trimmer, whipper snippers get into the corners, cracks and crevices that lawnmowers can’t.
- Hedge trimmer: Neatly trimming hedges is a breeze when you’ve got a tool built for the job.
- Blower vac: If you want to keep your customers happy, you’ll clean up after yourself – a job that a blower vac makes easy. These pieces of kit are particularly valuable in Autumn.
- Petrol cans: All of the tools above are available in either petrol or electric. Electric machines are less prone to breakdown and are cheaper to run, though petrol refuels in seconds where batteries can take hours to charge. If you choose petrol, be sure to invest in some cans.
- Large hand tools: You should carry a range of rakes, shovels, hoes and long-handled forks in your vehicle.
- Small hand tools: Hand forks, hoes, hand trowels and weeding forks are built for finer and more detailed gardening work.
- Gardening PPE: At a minimum, you should invest in gloves, sun protection, hearing protection and overboots.
- Ute or trailer: You’ll need a way to carry all of the above from customer to customer.
Market your business
It’s time to get to work! But where will that work come from? The reality is you need to go out and find it, which means that you need to market yourself. Marketing a small business is such a big subject it has its own guide, but the most effective strategies include:
- Creating a website: Every business, no matter the type or size, needs a website, as this makes you Googleable. With Square Online, making one for your gardening business has never been easier!
- Social media marketing: Facebook, Instagram and other platforms allow potential customers to get a sense of you and your work. If you’re particularly proud of a job you’ve done, ask the customer whether it’s OK to share some photos!
- Create a Google My Business profile: Formerly known as Google My Business, creating a Google Business Profile means that your business is added to Google’s directory, ensuring it comes up as a result on Maps or within the search engine results page (SERP) when potential customers search for products and services you offer.
- Word of mouth: Perhaps the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, word of mouth continues to be how most gardening businesses get their start. Spread the word via family, friends and former colleagues, and encourage customers to leave reviews online.
- Job marketplaces: It’s worth posting your services on all-purpose marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, or on job-specific equivalents like Airtasker and hipages.
How much can you charge customers?
The average hourly rate charged by Australian gardening businesses is $45-$50, though that can vary greatly – a gardening business in the Sydney CBD will obviously have higher costs than a business in a small country town, so will need to charge far more.
How Square can help gardening businesses
Starting your own gardening business is a big step, so at Square, we aim to make it a little bit easier, with a complete suite of affordable and easy-to-use business tools.
- Square hardware: Whether you want a simple, portable tool like Square Reader, a slightly more feature-rich solution like Square Terminal, or a top of the line system like Square POS, payments will be handled instantly, securely and cost-effectively with your choice of Square hardware.
- Square software: You don’t necessarily need a physical payment system at all, as Square Virtual Terminal turns your computer or laptop into a payment processing station.
- Gift/loyalty cards: Return customers are the best customers, and they’re far easier to create when you offer a loyalty program like Square Loyalty, and Gift Cards that your best customers can buy for friends and family.
- If you end up working in the commercial space, taking care of gardens for businesses, you’ll need to be able to produce professional quotes and tax invoices; tasks made super simple by Square Invoices.
Online booking system
- Scheduling your work can be a time-consuming task for a gardener. Square Appointments allows your customers to book your time and make payments upfront which seriously simplifies scheduling.
While Australians might be increasingly time-poor, their plants continue to grow. A service-based gardening business offers regular, satisfying work, and is easier to establish than a lot of other ventures, including a product-based gardening business (how to start a plant nursery business is a subject for another day!)
If you’re ready to capitalise on this green and growing industry, Square is ready to deliver the knowledge, tools and support you need!
***This article is only for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, financial or tax advice. Make sure you consult a professional regarding your unique business needs.