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Moving from IT to Gardening!

Hi all,

First post here. After a number of years within the IT industry, I understand that it's no longer for me for various reasons (long hours, being on call etc) and I'm going to start up a Gardening & Maintenance Service business.

I've done garden maintenance on and off over the years for my family and also some gardening when doing seasons abroad and it's something that I enjoy, also the freedom of being self employed is something that, although daunting going alone, excites me. I've never ran a business before so I will have lots of learning to do, especially on the accounting side of things. I'm not looking to become a millionaire off this, just comfortable. My current IT job pays quite a fair bit and I don't have many outgoings or debts. I also repair Macbooks on the side which can get me anywhere between £150-£400 a month. (Although this may go up as I may have more time to do it)

I wanted to start off small by doing maintenance / clearing / weeding / hedge trimming to start with, then possibly branch more onto planting & landscaping. My only main experience is with Maintenance. I don't have the best of knowledge with plants / shrubbery at the moment but this is something I'm going to be learning. I haven't left my current job yet, but I was also thinking of trying to get a part-time job and try to build up my business. I was aiming to try and get some Saturday / Sunday work with making some business cards (circa 200) and posting them around the area and posting on Facebook Groups etc. I have done research on my area and I think there will definitely be work for me. I also have seen many times to quote by the job, and not the hour. Is this still true?

Looking at equipment to start off with, I was looking at;

Hand Mower, Petrol Mower,  Backup Mower, Digging Spade, Garden Trowel,  Petrol Strimmer, Petrol Hedge Cutter, Brush, Rake, Sacateurs, Trowel, Blower, Loppers, Knife / Cutter

Does this sound like a good start?

Also what are peoples experience using QuickBooks as opposed to an Accountant? I will definitely consult with an accountant first but would be good know how people have got on with acccounting softwares.

Thanks for reading all, I look forward to the feedback!

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Replies

  • PRO

    Hi Craig.

    Welcome. 

    I noticed long hours is one of the reasons you want to jump ship from the IT world. Depending on whether you want to go full time or part time as a gardener, if it's the former, long hours will probably still be a part of your life.

    Having said that, it is a very rewarding trade to be a part of and that shouldn't really put you off.

    The accounting side of things depends on what type of business you wish to start up. As a sole trader you should expect to pay up to approximately £600 per annum for an accountant; as a Ltd company £1000 - £1200 per annum. In my opinion it's best practice to employ an accountant in either case though I am open to counter opinions. It shouldn't really be Quickbooks as opposed to an accountant, more like Quickbooks with an accountant. On that subject, I started out with Quickbooks, but after a strange 'payment transfer' from my private account to my business account of £120 couldn't be explained, and my accountant advising me to swap to Xero as it would be costed as part of their service, I swapped over to Xero. A little more time consuming with reconciling, but have had no problems with it so far.

    Stick to what you are comfortable at regarding the services you wish to provide. The equipment you are intending to purchase seems logical, to try and make your life easier, try to purchase the best tools your budget will stretch to. Can't say I've seen many hand mowers being used, but if you have some gardens in mind that you can use it in then why not though I suspect your petrol mower will do as good a job.

    Again this is personal experience but I found flyers to be more productive and provide a larger return on investment than business cards. You can pick up 1000 flyers from Vistaprint for circa £23 which you can design. 200 business cards is only likely to present you with a maximum of 3 leads, it's roughly a 1% response rate to flyers, which makes it a numbers game, with those 3 leads not necessary resulting in guaranteed work.

    A Facebook business page is a good free platform along with a Google My Business page, also free.

    Facebook groups are ok, but depending on what type of group, many won't be too happy with anyone constantly posting advertising type posts, it would be treated as spam.

    Hope this helps a little & I wish you all the very best in your new venture. 

  • PRO

    Hello and welcome - a copy and paste post here so i can answer some of your questions....

    "After a number of years within the IT industry, I understand that it's no longer for me for various reasons (long hours, being on call etc) and I'm going to start up a Gardening & Maintenance Service business."

    Being self employed generally means long hours, especially in the busy season, I will often be 'onsite for 10-12 hours, then a few hours paperwork each evening.....As self employd, you are ALWAYS on call - customers can and will text, email and phone at all manner of random times of the day (and night!)

     

    I've done garden maintenance on and off over the years for my family and also some gardening when doing seasons abroad and it's something that I enjoy, also the freedom of being self employed is something that, although daunting going alone, excites me. I've never ran a business before so I will have lots of learning to do, especially on the accounting side of things. I'm not looking to become a millionaire off this, just comfortable. My current IT job pays quite a fair bit and I don't have many outgoings or debts. I also repair Macbooks on the side which can get me anywhere between £150-£400 a month. (Although this may go up as I may have more time to do it)

    Having a second income stream at least initially is a good fall back - especially when its something you can do in poorer weather/out of season.

    I wanted to start off small by doing maintenance / clearing / weeding / hedge trimming to start with, then possibly branch more onto planting & landscaping. My only main experience is with Maintenance. I don't have the best of knowledge with plants / shrubbery at the moment but this is something I'm going to be learning. I haven't left my current job yet, but I was also thinking of trying to get a part-time job and try to build up my business. I was aiming to try and get some Saturday / Sunday work with making some business cards (circa 200) and posting them around the area and posting on Facebook Groups etc. I have done research on my area and I think there will definitely be work for me. I also have seen many times to quote by the job, and not the hour. Is this still true?

    Job pricing is good but only works when you have a pretty good idea of how long a task will take - after 10 years I still get the odd one undercosted (and its never the ones you think it might be!). Hourly CAN work in certain circumstances but fixed price jobs make it far easier to plan your projected income for a period. Flyers are so cheap on internet printing sites, its not cost efficient to print your own - we usually pay about £90 for 5000....Flyers are a numbers game with a 5% to 10% return.

    Looking at equipment to start off with, I was looking at;

    Hand Mower, Petrol Mower,  Backup Mower, Digging Spade, Garden Trowel,  Petrol Strimmer, Petrol Hedge Cutter, Brush, Rake, Sacateurs, Trowel, Blower, Loppers, Knife / Cutter

    Does this sound like a good start?

    Sounds reasonable, although two mowers is possibly overkill for a start up. A small self propelled petrol mower will cover most jobs. You will end up with a multitude of different tools - Wolf Garten interchangeable heads are a god send - two handles, yet twenty heads - much easier to store in the van and such good quality they will last you forever.

    Also what are peoples experience using QuickBooks as opposed to an Accountant? I will definitely consult with an accountant first but would be good know how people have got on with acccounting softwares.

    Quickbooks is good - I have used it for 5 years to run our limited company, BUT it's a book keeping package, it can't do your taxes for you. If you want to keep costs down (especially initally), you can book keep on paper (you need to keep all your paper receipts for years anyway), then get the accountant to check your figures at year end and fill in your self assesment form (usually a few hundred quid). Don't forget, if you are running the MacBook repairs as a business, you will need to keep all the figures and paperwork for that and add that into your self assesment too, otherwise its undeclared income and very sticky wicket with HMRC.

    Would imagine, the first year (or two) you will be earning below the tax threshold anyway as it takes quite a while to build a year round profitable business.

    Using the search facility on this site will show you that virtually anything you can think of has been discussed on here before, so use it wisely!

  • PRO

    You have some good answers so far, 3 mowers seems a bit excessive to start with, I started with a wee honda izy that is still going strong after 6 years. Not fast but very reliable with decent but not perfect wet pick up, during the drier months I use its mulch ability so I'm not having to empty its bag and take any grass away. If you are going to removing any waste and not leaving it on site make sure you at least get a free lower tier waste carriers licence.

  • Hi Craig, with your background I should imagine you are well capable of doing your own accounts. Definitely keep the side lines going as gardening can be a bit of a part time occupation unless you are very hardy and inclined to work in all weathers irregardless of conditions. But due to its seasonal nature there are periods of demand when you could be at it 7 days a week if you can stand it. Also it can be boring and lonely at times but very satisfying too and great exercise. Worth looking into some of the Cordless kit as it can be very good although petrol gear might seem cheaper to begin with. I don't have the skills or patience to tinker with broken carburettors etc so I like many now have gone down that route and ongoing running costs are minimal, plus it is more pleasant to use. But the main thing is to get a few customers to get yourself up and running and don't be afraid to say no to massive or particularly difficult jobs until you have the equipment/vehicle and confidence to take them on. Best of luck.

  • This was quite an informative thread a few weeks ago. As Adam says, it's all within that search bar somewhere. 

    https://landscapejuicenetwork.com/forum/topics/greetings#comments

    Greetings
    Hello All, I'm new to the forum and thought I would introduce myself. Currently looking to start a small gardening business In March after handing in…
  • I think you are making a good move. I was a teacher and lived on anti depresants and fear for years. Since I made the change to being a self employed gardener I have never been happier. My family regularly comment that its like have my old self back.

    I work the hours I need to, I have paid off the mortgage so that makes life easier and I do realise Im very lucky in that repect. Ocasional saturdays but generally Monday to Friday.

    I used "Start and Run a gardening business" by Paul Power to help me get started and it was invaluable in that it showed clearly opportunities and pitfalls. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Start-Run-Gardening-Business-4th/dp/147211...

    Quickbooks has saved me so much trouble, the Self Employed version is about £10 per month and makes record keeping and invoicing a piece of cake. I dont do Cash in Hand jobs, they are not worth it as the customer expects a big discount.

    Quickbooks also makes self assessment easy, though I do employ an accountant who costs about £250 to do the forms and calculations for me. It just saves hassel.

    I had my van sign written but feel its a mixed blessing, It has got me some business, looks very professional but does mean any van theieves know what you are likely to have inside, I lost a mower, blower, strimmer and hedge cutter to the bastards not long after I started.

    I have a web site, though it doesnt generate much business but good business cards andlocal magazine advertising brought in a lot of work.

    I now dont do less than 1/2 day viits and prefer whole days. 

    In winter I do hedge laying to fill in days when Im not needed in folks gardens, I just invoiced a local farmer for £2500 for a hedge job so it helps.

    Buy good kit as it will last and look after it properly.

    Get good 3rd party insurance, I use NFU and when my tools were nicked they paid up straight away as their scheme covers tool theft as well as 3rd party liability.

    Finaly, and very importantly. Dont under value yourself. You will find it difficult to increase your prices if you start off too low. I wish I had started higher as Im still behind the price of some local guys. You will get clients who tell you they "know someone much cheaper" to which you should reply "use them then" and move on. Find out the rates of as many local gardeners as you can. then pitch your price where you feel comfortable. There are gardeners round here who charge £80 and others that charge £200 per day and as far as I can see they offer similar services.

     

    I wish you the best of luck 

    Happy to talk if you want a chat.

    Start and Run a Gardening Business, 4th Edition: Practical advice and information on how to manage…
    Buy Start and Run a Gardening Business, 4th Edition: Practical advice and information on how to manage a profitable business 4th Revised ed. by Paul…
  • Hi

    you will probably need long handled edging shears and a petrol blower  ( back pack the best) we use stihl BR 600 on all our sites. Always leave hard standing blown clean

    Good luck. You will definitely be fitter, but probably cash poorer in the short term

  • Welcome to the industry, its full of really great people.  I would agree with the others they all make good and valid suggestions.  Its a learning curve but then so is life.

    It takes a couple of years to establish yourself so I would recomend building up a good cash reserve and tighning your personal finance for a bit.  That said i got going pretty quickly and I started in October not March!  Looking back I really enjoyed the set up period and making decisions on what kit to go for and like others have said by the best you can.  Don't under price jobs to secure a deal you will regret it and when you price jobs make lots of notes and take photos go home and write a quote out.  If you give a price on the door step people will try to haggle!  Try to get in a postion where you have a good core of regular customers in one area rather than driving all over the place chasing poxy jobs.  Do what works for you and don't worry about what others are doing.  

    Don't know anything about Quickbooks et al, I use an accountant and keep an ordered file at home.  It works for me and costs about £300pa.  Ive been at it for about 5 years and don't have any regrets.  Oh yes, and buy a site radio as well, somedays the silence drives you mad, (well it does me).  Also make sure you invest in safety gear, helmet, googles, ear/eye protection and steel toe cap boots are a must.

  • PRO

    Working saturdays and sundays is ok on occasion but not every week. You're not legally allowed to make noise(work) on sundays in a lot of places and could get fined by the council. Consider working for someone else one or two days a week as well to see how much is expected of you. Lots of startup people are incredibly slow in comparison to a professional and don't even realise it. I think leaflet drops are 0.1% return so consider a few more cards!

    I would stick with the accountant if you have multiple revenue streams they will get you a lot more than online services who just do everything by the book from what i have heard. I've also heard Xero is better if you do go for that route. Seriously though most people save everything take it to their accountant once a year and thats it. Its generally accepted that the accountant is essentially free because they will save more then they charge, where as those services require a lot of work on your part uploading invoices and receipts etc and don't get you as much.

    Quote by the job when you know and by the hour when you don't.

    Get split shaft units and one mower, you can always hire one. Expect to take waste away too, people carrier and trailer is a good start.

    • PRO

      Don't get split shafts! They vibrate like mad.......

      other  than that all good advice

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