So you are considering starting a gardening business? Armed with your newly minted qualification, you are ready to set up your business and earn money. Unless your course was deliberately chosen as a leisure activity, you will want to see a return on your investment.
Setting your own gardening business requires a multitude of skills. You may already have experience running a business, or have a background in business management, or responsibilities for staff, projects, or finance. Being an experienced freelancer or be adept at sales and marketing and a whizz with figures is invaluable. You might be highly creative and talented in three-dimensional or visual arts. Rarely will you be all of these things, so recognise your strengths and build on them.
A gardening business cannot easily be neatly pigeonholed into retail, corporate, or commercial. To be successful as a garden designer you will need more than a little talent and some plant knowledge. Your skill set will require knowledge and application of sales techniques, marketing, budgeting, personal relations, English usage and IT. A basic understanding of some of these will be included in your course and you will receive advice on specialist help for SME start-ups.
Gardening Business Catchment Areas
Do your research carefully. Your geographical catchment area will probably initially cover a 25-mile radius around your office. If you apply to join an existing gardening business, you will usually find that the proprietor employs a design service as an adjunct to their core business. Some landscapers are so confident in their own design capabilities, no matter how untrained, they will be unwilling to incur the costs of a designer.
Gardening Business Options
Some will be established partnerships. No matter who you talk to make sure you examine their portfolios of built gardens and see genuine testimonials from clients. Be aware that you will not be the main contractor and may have little influence on design and build. You may have to insist on being present at the initial client meetings. And you must be involved in the site survey. You may feel like a minion but you should learn a lot about the practical issues and costs of the build.
Another possibility is to team up with another designer whose talents and abilities complement your own. Study the competition and try to offer something a little different. (see also Aspire and Specialise). Most clients have no idea what a designer actually does and may confuse your role with that of a gardener, or a landscaper. So be clear in your choice of partnership name and in your advertising.
As a sole trader, you could start with your own family and friends, creating a business page via social media. Be sure that your funds are sufficient for you to work for at least eighteen months without profit. You will also need to find a reliable and good landscape contractor. Someone willing to be the sub-contractor and who is able to understand and interpret design plans. That is not always easy.
If you would like help starting your business the Oxford College of Garden Design has a Mentoring Course for working designers Click Here for further details