- Developing a good relationship with your customers – seeing some of them every week.
- Healthy, enjoyable, challenging, outdoor work.
- Flexible working hours.
- Potential to earn a good wage.
- Practically recession proof – a maintenance gardener’s customers are typically retired and have fixed incomes.
- Some days lost due to bad weather - but not as much as you might think.
- Competition from casual labourers.
- Labour intensive work.
- Unpaid travel time between work.
- Supplies, equipment and tool maintenance is expensive.
- Danger – as well as hiring a gardener to do a job that the customer physically can not do themselves or that requires special equipment, you may also be hired to do a job that is dangerous or difficult to access.
and being insured
- Your accountant will prepare an accounts report – essential if you ever want to get a loan / mortgage.
- An accounts history will help if you ever want to sell your business.
- Your accountant will ensure that you make best use of any tax deductable expenses – even some you may not know about.
- Your accountant will want you to pay all your earnings into your business account. This is a good idea as your bank will often grant an overdraft equal to the amount paid into the account each month. This will help with your cash flow during the winter.
- You don’t get in trouble with the Inland Revenue. If you don’t keep good accounts they can decide how much they think you earned and tax you accordingly – even if you earned less! It will be up to you to prove them wrong.
Insurance is also essential. Accidental damage to property is all too easy and common. The cost of repairing damage will often exceed the amount you were earning.
Large, national maintenance contractors often have a high minimum charge which makes them unappealing to smaller maintenance contracts - but ideal for a small, professional, local garden maintenance business. For the same reason, there will be many opportunities for small commercial contracts.
Large private gardens and grounds
Small domestic gardens
Anyone with temporary or permanent physical limitations
Estate and Letting Agents
Housing and residents associations
Solicitors and estate executors
Flats with shared gardens
Property Management Companies
Local councils for public spaces
As a gardener your tasks could include:· raising plants from seeds or cuttings· digging, planting and weeding flower beds and borders· pruning shrubs· checking the health of plants by identifying any pests or diseases and controlling them· applying nutrients to plants and maintaining moisture levels· using machinery such as lawn mowers, rotovators and hedge trimmers· maintaining high levels of presentation in public parks and gardens· cleaning and maintaining tools and equipment.
Winter: Landscaping, hard pruning, fencing etc
Spring: Planting, weeding, feeding, fence painting
Summer: Lawns, hedge trimming,
Autumn: Pruning, leaf clearance, lawn treatment (aeration, scarifying etc), planting
Educate your customers and encourage them to delay work until the appropriate time.
You must tell your customers that you have a minimum charge before work starts. It is best to do this in writing.
- You can charge a fixed price for each lawn rather than an hourly rate. Because your professional tools help you work quickly and efficiently, the faster you work the more you earn - easily £20 - £40 an hour.
Think of your business as a shop – Labour is your most basic service. However, as a gardener you can offer additional services such as waste removal (if you have a waste carriers license), weed killer, collect and deliver plants etc from local garden centres, lawn treatments or even charge for advice alone. These are extra services in addition to your basic hourly rate for labour. Having a clear pricing policy will give people the option to ‘buy’ these extra services from you as and when they need it.
Alternatively, you may use a PDQ machine. These are now completely mobile. The benefits include being able to take payment over the phone, payments go direct to your bank, receipt printed automatically for your customer, makes it easy for you to do your accounts.
These machines cost from £15 pm plus a small fee for each transaction (around 50p) which most retailers pass on to the customer. The customer benefits from this service as they needn't keep any cash in the house, have an instant receipt and can pay from an account that's convenient for them.
For more information do an internet search for 'PDQ machines'.
- They will give you good advice
- They will stock spare parts for the equipment they sell
- They can tell you what other gardeners are buying
- Manufacturers often make two versions of their tools – a cheap version for the large DIY stores and a trade version for the independent stores. Although slightly more expensive they give much greater value for money.
Your tools will likely, on average, need replacing every 3 years either due to ware and tear, breakages, theft or, if they are green, simply getting lost! Remember to factor into your these costs into your income target.
You will likely earn more per-working-hour by quoting for each job individually. This is most common for the type of work you would only do once a year - hard pruning, soft landscaping, hedge reduction etc. However, if you want to quote per job for all your work you will have to spend more on advertising in order to find new customers and spend more time visiting customers to survey the site. Remember, you won't get every job you quote for and they may not use you again if they always look for the cheapest quote.
A gardener may therefore offer a:
- Fixed price service for very simple, regular work i.e. lawn cutting
- An hourly rate for general, regular garden maintenance with a higher hourly rate for petrol tools.
- Quote per job for irregular/annual work or regular maintenance contracts for flats/commercial grounds.
- Have a minimum call out charge
- Charge separately for waste removal, weed killer etc.
If you charge by the hour then separating costs such as fuel, weedkiller, waste removal etc from your hourly rate may also make it easier to adjust your prices should specific expenses increase - without giving the impression that your prices are going up. For example, if the cost of tipping fees increases you can increase the cost of waste removal without increasing your hourly rate.
- Your basic domestic bills
- Your regular professional overheads (insurance, mobile phone, accountant)
- Irregular overheads - petrol, oils, lubricants,
- Annual costs - MOT, vehicle servicing, Road TAX, tool servicing, waste carriers license, tyres
- Maintenance costs - tool depreciation and replacement
Advertising is a science. A good advertising campaign is regular and consistent and utilises many different kinds of media.
Advertising on radio and in local newspapers and magazines can be expensive. However, many people who advertise in papers and on radio comment that they didn't get any replies from their adverts. Others will say that they get all of their work from these adverts.
Inland Revenue - Register as self-employed www.hmrc.gov.uk
From APL founder and TGG consultant Alan Sargent.
TGG member Kev Jones says 'I found it very interesting and some of the experience in this book reminds me of my time with my mentor the head gardener I trained with in Wales. I recommend this book for any gardener who needs to run a garden the way it should be.'