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How did you start?

As someone who is looking to start up in the future, I am interested to know how some of you guys got set up.

Did you get all the top gear from the off?

Did you arrive at jobs in your hatchback with tools bursting out?

I was a landscape gardener for three years back when I was 17. And ever since I lost the job due to injury I have always wanted to get back out into the gardens as a job, but responsibilities came my way and I had to settle for whatever supported my family. Now im coming up to 30 I want to make that a reality after all these years.

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      • Wow I would love if you could keep me updated on how things go Del. Wish I had the capital to really get everything together like you have, but its just not possible at the minute. Will probably just be starting out with a mower and a set of edging shears and the car the way its looking at the moment.

        Not ideal I know!

        What sort of experience did you get working for the council? Was it just maintenance work or more advanced things?

        It's been over ten years since I last did this kind of work and I am a little apprehensive that I won't be any good now. And end up ruining some poor persons lawn or hedges.

        • Its been well worth it mate.

          I had zero experience of petrol machinery. Now im confident enough to use anything and apparently im good at lawns and hedge cutting. I found a lot of the guys have years of experience and all have been more than helpful. I had the chance to go on all the ride on mowers (etesia/iseki/scag/bobcats) last year but stupidly said no. Luckily they asked me again last week and ive jumped at it this time.

          Its been a struggle financially as agency is minimum wage but weve coped i just cut out some luxuries.

          Im really glad i did it. Im one of only 2 agency staff theyve kept on over winter out of about 50. My love of gardening made me stand out as most just want to strim and not get into the planting side of things where as i loved getting stuck in. 

          Im now the sole gardener looking after a remembrance garden with 2 guys coming in once a week to help cut the lawns.

          Over winter i was paired up with the head gardener at a green flag park. It was cold and a bit boring at times as lots of leaf clearance but he was a top bloke and really clued up. 

          Its 7.30 till 3.30 so il be working on my own jobs after and on weekends. 

          • What software did you use to design your leaflets Del?

            I am looking into this option myself.

      • PRO

        If you are starting out with no customers you may like to try offering your services to a garden nursery 

        when I managed a nursery I was always looking to recommend a gardener labourer to plant the trees and shrubs I sold  

         people who paid for a designer and spent thousands on plsnts would happily pay hundreds to have it planted 

        now I’m established as a gardener I’m too expensive and too choosy for this role but made good contacts with start up gardeners who in turn guided me when I left retail 

  • Trust me it is worth it in the end. You have already the gear spend a bit on marketing as you earn and it will soon build ip

  • PRO

    I started off differently to most by the sounds of it, I worked for a gardener/landscaper for 2 years, was fortunate enough to be sent to college before my landscaping employer decided to jack it in to do something different, perfect timing for me to go alone .

    Personally I decided from the beginning to start as I meant to go on, I sold the car and brought a van for £500, clean enough at the time and did the job, I then spent 3k on machinery and have never looked back.

    Im not saying there is anything wrong with using cheaper tools and working out of a car but it's not for me, good luck, you have to start somewhere, loved the first few years of business, was so exciting... 

  • PRO

    I am still in an estate car and this is the start of my second year full time. I plan to get a van and will do so this year, work is as much as I need and I have to turn things down as I'm happy with what I've got in the way of regular customers and get to choose the nice one off jobs.

    Never had a problem running the car and trailer, I am swapping to a stickered up box trailer though and will use the open trailer for waste etc.

    I use a car still purely as I don't  like to bite off more than I can chew, I'd rather have decent reliable machinery than be financed up to the hilt! 

  • PRO

    Started this the last year as my work I'm my previous job dried up.

    Did my own leafletting locally, with careful selection of where I leafleted. Looked for big houses with slightly unkempt gardens.

    Picked up enough customers to keep me going last year, and am picking up more now.

    Using a Mondeo saloon currently, no customer gives a fig about my transport, only what work I do.

    I do a lot more detailed work than I thought I would, weeding and planting rather than mowing and hedge work, but it's okay. Greta to be out in the fresh air after years indoors.

     I just sold some hobby equipment and raised about £500, and bought secondhand mowers and trimmers etc. Got me started, then I upgraded in time.

    • Did you have much experience of the job before you started Alex?

      • PRO

        Not commercially no. I have gardened all my life though, had allotments etc, and done many varied jobs. I spent many years in the motor trade, so understood physical work and problem solving, and am more than happy with machinery.

        I'll admit my plant knowledge is lacking in terms of identification etc..... but Google is your friend here. A few customers are very knowledgeable on gardening, and I would identify that usually on first visit for quote, and usually tell them that I'd be "guided by them". Otherwise I'm usually left to my own devices as most people just want their gardens looking tidy.

        Currently I charge an hourly rate, and quote for grass cutting. I found I made a few errors in pricing to begin with, but you have to accept that I think and just learn from it. Your confidence will grow as time passes.

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