How to Be a Successful Landscaper: 6 Tips for Business Owners

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Updated September 24, 2021
A landscaper trimming hedge with a power saw
ArtistGNDphotography/E+ via Getty Images

Becoming a successful landscaper depends on a variety of things, from overhead to reputation

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Running a successful landscaping business comes down to outdoing your competitors. That means showing up on time with the tools and skills needed to exceed your clients' expectations. It also means making clients trust you. 

Each client should feel like you care for their property with the same dedication you'd give to your own. This is how you get repeat customers and new referrals. But don’t stop there. 

From cutting costs to quality tools, a lot goes into creating—and sustaining—a successful landscaping business.

6 Tips for Becoming a Successful Landscaper

Don't let clients wonder if the grass is greener with your competitors. Here are six tips for how to be a successful landscaper.

1. Keep Your Overhead Low

Landscapers can sometimes get in over their heads by making big investments before being fully booked with consistent clients. There are a lot of necessary costs that go into starting a new business, but it’s important to keep them under control. 

While initial investments are necessary, you don't want to force yourself into a game of catch-up with business costs. Here are some ways to keep your overhead low while you’re just getting started.

Be Patient with Equipment Purchases

Spending too much on equipment can force landscapers to keep saying "yes" to jobs that might not be worth their time. This can push them to rush through jobs without delivering the highest precision and care.

A little patience will help you decide what equipment will provide the best return on investment. Before buying, always break down how many bookings it will take for a new piece of equipment to pay for itself.

Don’t Lease

Hold off on making major equipment purchases until you get a feel for the types of jobs you're being called for regularly. That said, if you find yourself regularly leasing equipment to get the job done, it’s probably time to buy. Leasing is costly in the long run, and equipment purchases are tax deductible.

Safety First

If you have employees, make safety the highest priority. A single Workers’ Compensation claim can cause your rates to skyrocket for years. Purchase sturdy gloves, safety visors, chaps, and kneepads and make sure everyone uses them. 

Even once you've established yourself, keeping overhead low is a smart move. Keeping your costs down will protect you from seasonal dips, demand lulls, or unexpected expenses.

2. Invest in Quality Tools

While you don't want to get in over your head with equipment investments, even worse is showing up unprepared. It's important to identify the essentials based on factors like the local climate, soil type, and greenery. 

Purchase quality tools and equipment that will produce consistent results that your clients can be proud of. 

Among the essentials you’ll need are:

  • Hand tools

  • Shovels

  • Rakes

  • Pruning shears

  • Weed trimmer

  • Leaf blower

  • Push mower

  • Gloves

Investing in quality tools is also an investment in your time as a professional. Tools that are difficult to use, ineffective, or prone to breakage will ultimately cost you time and money. You need dependable tools to be a dependable landscaper.

3. Focus on a Niche

Your area may already have its fair share of landscapers. Booking clients comes down to doing what they can't. This is where a niche or specialty comes in. Establishing your landscaping business as the best in a niche is a great way to get clients to come to you. 

Here are some ideas for landscaping niches:

  • Eco-friendly landscaping

  • Residential landscaping

  • Lawn rehab

  • Family and child-friendly lawn design

  • Hardscapes

  • Public parks

  • Wedding venues

  • Churches

  • Medical buildings

  • Public outdoor venues

  • Pool houses

  • Hotels, spas and event centers

  • Golf courses

  • Commercial or residential new constructions

  • Retirement communities

  • Corporate parks

If you specialize, you can run a steady business with fewer clients because you'll be able to charge more. Once you excel at one niche client, it'll be easier to book more clients within that specialty. 

However, it's important not to oversell yourself if you're new to landscaping. Taking on a big job when you don't have the equipment and crew to get it done can put your reputation on a shaky foundation.

4. Pick the Right Rates for Quotes

Be prepared to be asked for quotes before you book jobs. Pricing too low could mean coming up short after you've covered all the costs to complete a job. Pricing too high can have customers running to your competitors.

Find out How Much Landscapers in Your Area Are Charging

While landscapers don't publish rates, you can call around to get quotes for various services you'll offer to see where your competitors land. There's a good chance that a landscaper who's been in business for a while has figured out how to price jobs appropriately to cover time and expenses while still making a profit.

Talk to Your Customers

Gauging how much the competition charges is just the first step. Then, you’ll need to talk to your customers. Visit the property and ask lots of questions to assess their needs. This will help you determine your overhead, materials, and labor costs.

Add Your Markup

Once you’ve gauged how much the competition is charging and what your overhead will be based on your customers’ needs, it’s time to add your markup to make sure you’ll be making a profit. 

You should add at least a 15 to 20 percent markup for residential jobs, 10 to 15 percent for commercial jobs, and 10 to 12 percent for maintenance work, according to Lawn and Landscape.

5. Determine the Operational Costs for How to Run a Landscaping Business

Once you have a rough idea of how much to charge for each service you offer, test your theories by breaking down all costs. Your total cost to do a job isn't just about what happens while you're at a client's property. 

Here's a breakdown of all the prep costs involved:

  • Labor costs for any staff you have to hire

  • The time you're personally devoting to a job from quote to completion. (This includes time spent corresponding with a client, drafting designs, and sourcing materials.) 

  • Equipment and materials costs

  • Website/marketing costs

  • Office space

  • Business software

  • Business insurance

For the larger, static business costs, break down how much you're paying per day when you add the costs together. This will help you determine what your daily revenue spread across all clients needs to be in order to break even. You can then add other job-specific costs to see how much you need per job to be profitable. 

It's OK to raise prices incrementally each year to keep up with the cost of doing business. Keeping your prices too low without adjusting for rising costs can cause you big problems with customer perception if you suddenly need to increase your rates.

6. Maximize Referrals for Your Landscaping Business

Customers are often more than happy to provide positive referrals if they love your work. Recommendations from real people are better than paid ads because most people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. 

Here are some ways to get glowing reviews that you share on your website, social media pages, or ads:

  • Make it easy for customers to leave reviews. Include a link to your website and in the signature of your emails. You can even put a QR code on the back of your business card to make leaving a review super easy. 

  • Offer coupons or discounts for clients who leave reviews.

  • Create an incentive program that includes discounts or freebies when clients refer friends or family to you.

  • Ask customers if you can take before and after pictures and videos to post on your social media accounts.

  • Offer to do pro bono work for local charities and non-profit organizations. 

Organic buzz is great. But you can still use paid marketing options to grow visibility. Once you have a website and a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, start researching online advertising campaigns. 

Start by targeting homeowners and businesses in your area. Be sure to choose a “pay per click” campaign and not “pay per impression.” That way you only pay for advertising when somebody actually clicks on your ad.

Be a Successful Landscaper in Your Local Market

If your dream is to make your green thumb lucrative, learning how to run a landscaping business the right way will let you do what you love for the rest of your life. Getting those first few bookings can be crucial for getting positive reviews and testimonials to help you grow your landscaping business in the long run. 

Make sure you're getting qualified leads like the ones from Angi. Sign up for Angi Ads today and start getting seen by people looking for landscapers in your area.

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