Business OverviewLandscaping increases the tangible and intangible value of homes, encourages business at retail locations and enhances the productivity of corporations. If you like planting trees and flowers, transforming the world one project at a time, and you're not afraid of physical labor, then landscaping might be just the business for you. And there's plenty of it-- according to the Professional Lawn Care Association, more than 22 million households spend $14.6 billion on professional landscape and lawn care services. You'll carry out landscape architects' plans by purchasing plant materials, sprinkler systems, and decorative accents like boulders and river rock, and installing them. You can then contract with your satisfied commercial and residential customers to maintain your work with weekly watering, pruning, fertilizing and pest control services. And you can carry out seasonal projects as well--everything from winter holiday lighting and decorating to snow removal. The advantages to this business are that your start-up costs are relatively low, you're outdoors every day, and if you like making things grow and the accomplishment of putting in a good day's physical labor, then this can be a rewarding field. You'll need a solid working knowledge of planting and maintaining a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers, as well as of sprinkler systems and nonplant materials like gravel, boulders and paving stones. A sense of logistics will also be valuable--the better route you map out of customer sites, the less time you'll spend on the road and the more efficient and cost-effective you'll be.
The MarketYour customers will be homeowners and businesses that want their properties beautified and kept looking good. Target commercial types like apartment and condominium complexes, hotels and motels, hospitals, large and small businesses and office parks, and government institutions. Architects, real estate developers and contractors building new homes or small tracts also make good customers. Nab residential customers by going door-to-door with fliers or door hangers. (Don't place them in mailboxes--the U.S. Postal Service gets very upset about this.) Place ads in your local newspaper and in your neighborhood Yellow Pages. For small-business commercial customers and architects, developers and contractors, go on-site to hand-deliver fliers or brochures and explain your services. You may not get any takers the first time you visit, but don't get discouraged. A repeat visit or two can often seal a deal. A direct-mail campaign of a brochure will work better for large corporations; follow up with a phone call. You can also target real estate agents with noncurb-appealing sale or rental properties on their books. Take a Polaroid of the place, then give it to the realtor with suggestions of how you can spruce it up.
Needed EquipmentYou'll need a power mower, edger, leaf blower, seed and fertilizer spreader and sprayer, an assortment of shovels and rakes, and a gasoline can for on-the-job refills (take care to use an approved container and follow safe storage and usage practices). You'll also want a pickup truck and perhaps a small trailer to carry it all in.