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Specialised Work - Where to Find it/Advertise......

Good Morning,

Forgive me if you think I've come to the wrong place, but it feels like me of you have been around for a long time so might have some handy advice for me.

I set myself up as a self-employed gardener earlier this year when I was let go from a small private estate gardening job (last one in/first one out, cost of living etc, etc).....

Rather than general maintenance or landscaping per se, I see myself as more of a grower than a mower - specialising in productive (veg, fruit, flowers) and ornamental (large herbaecous borders) gardening and have managed to get myself a couple of really good clients that I visit on a weekly basis (large gardens, with plenty to do and some projects that should hopefully keep me busy during the winter with a bit of luck).  But I'm struggling to grow the business any further.  There are a lot of more generalised garden maintenance companies in the immediate area  - there is a lot of lawn and hedge cutting work - but as I'm offering something a bit different I am unsure where best to look for additional work.  Word of mouth, does not seem to be working too well right now, and I'm having trouble converting vague offers of potential work into something a bit more tangible.  

I'd be really grateful for any ideas/suggestions - and again, if I'm in the wrong place, and you know where I should direct my efforts, then please let me know!! 

Cheers guys

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  • Tracey,  don't wish to shatter your dreams and aspirations but you are looking at an extremely small niche market.  In my opinion you are unlikely to find enough clients who want help growing veg or planting up beds to make a viable business. 

    We've been in the trade 40 years and will get on average 3 decent planting jobs a year, which is a shame as we enjoy doing them and would do nothing else if the work was there. We've won several awards for planting schemes but the kudos and publicity doesn't bring an ongoing stream of new clients banging on our door.  We would have gone bust a long time ago if we were relying on this work. 

    Unfortunately we all need continuity of income and work and this is supplied by mowing grass, cutting shrubs and hedges etc, this also gives the opportunity to gain possibly some more of the type of work you're looking for,  hope that helps and good luck!


    • PRO

      Agree with Peter the general maintenance work is the bread and butter but equally rewarding if you choose carefully . 

      Colleagues I work with occasionally all bring their unique complimentary skills to a project and more horticulturaly minded , designing ,planting ,fruit ,growing produce but also all rounders they prune ,weed ,trim hedges ,mow lawns to keep the wolf from the door .

      That said it's a good idea to contact local garden designers they often need your skill set on planting projects .

      Also here we have the Northern fruit group , have picked up some work myself by making myself known , word travels and you start to create contacts , don't despair often slow to start but after a while you become known .

      Sorry to hear you lost your position on the estate but try and see it as the beginning of something better . 

      I was in the same position after having to leave my job on a private estate for over 20 years . 

      Give it time we kiss many frogs on our journey to find great opportunities but they do exist .

  • I think Peter is right, you will be very lucky to find specialied jobs like that. I have been self employed around 8 years now & I have t a list of regular clients, most of them have come from word of mouth.... But it takes time.

    I would pick up anything you can to start off with & then once you can, cherry pick the clients you want to work for. I'm lucky enough to be in a position that if I don't like the 'feel' of a client or the garden, I won't take them on & I have probably dumped more clients than have left. me. Saying that an 89 Yo passed away on Friday, I actally mentioned about her in another thread ages ago, about loosing clients. Now I have to put the feelers out to replace her, not that she is replacable :-)  

    Good luck with whatever you get.

    • PRO

      As above.

      You have to take every opportunity when you start just to tick over. In time you get to pick and chose.

      If i could specialise in specific areas it would be looking after shrubs, roses, climbing plants, fruit trees and hedges. 15yrs of self employment ive only had 2 gardens like that and i work for neither now. It just doesn't work like that even with advertising.

      I've seen adverts in the past for hotels or reasurants looking for people to grow veg in there kitchen gardens may that would be a good root for you.

  • As per the posts above, I think it would be extremely difficult to specialise like you suggest when starting out with a new business.

    Gardening is a multi-discipline profession. So I would say do a little of everything and don’t rule out highly profitable work. The work will evolve over time in any case. I can say that with confidence as I have been in this profession since 1985 and self-employed since 1991.

    We do what we do to make a living. So it’s best to make the most of our time and get the highest return for that time.

    I do a huge amount of mowing and a good amount of hedge cutting. I have done all the planting and landscaping/design over the years. But the real money is in mowing and hedge cutting. Grass cutting is at least £60p/h and often a fair bit more than that. Hedge cutting is £40p/h. This is what I charge in north Derbyshire, I’m not in the Home Counties. I am stretched to breaking point with work.

    So by all means do your specialized work but also diversify and do some mowing, remembering not to undercharge for your efforts.

  • Thanks all for taking the time out to reply and its helpful to hear your perspective on things.  However, for now I am going to continue to plough my own furrow - my father, at 83, is a semi-retired groundsman/greenkeeper (only semi-retired as he loves what he does!) and has took me most of what I know about growing, but I do not share his expertise and passion when it comes to lawns and just don't want to cut grass for a living.... I could prune roses all day long and take a real pride in it, but mowing just leaves me cold.... 

    I'm under no illusions that I'm looking at a very niche market - but talking in more general terms - what has been most effective when looking for new work??  Is it through word of mouth, referrals from others who have too much work, advertising, social media???

    • Word of mouth and recommendations are usually the best but they tend to come along when you've been established a while. We found the Google Business Profile very useful when we relocated. It's completely free and so many people just use Google now when they want to find a trades person. 

      • Thanks PGM, I will give it a go!


    • In our experience it's a combination or multi faceted approach, as the old adage says throw enough s*** at the wall and some will stick ! The world's a different place from when I started but looking at your target market would suggest a website of course but a bit hit and miss unless you want to spend on SEO. Ads in local papers,  parish notice boards, leaflet drops the Post Office do these and you can target specific postcodes,  get a listing on Yell it's free there also other Internet free listing sites. Send letters not emails to other grounds maintenance and garden service businesses with a business card which hopefully they'll keep, we have passed lots of other work onto other people in the trade when we've had enquiries for work which isn't our bag. We've picked work up from putting business cards into plant nurseries that we do business with, a lot of our commercial work has come from cold calling but probably not appropriate for you or your target market. You need to make yourself standout from the rest of us mow and go businesses as you're offering a more bespoke service so give some thought to an appropriate trading title EG Not another Gardener ! Emphasise your skills, be professional,  liveried workwear essential! Try to get your local paper to write a feature on you and your business, it's not hard as they are always looking for content in this Internet age. Hope that's all of some use?

      • Thanks Pete for all of the above.  I have tried several already, but trying to keep my marketing spend to a minimum... the last few suggestions were particularly helpful and I have just written and sent a first draft of a potential article to my local (free) parish magazine which emphasises how I differ from other gardening services and concentrating on specialised autumn/winter services such as rose and fruit tree pruning...

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