Hi all,

This is my first post and I'd like to say that I have found the forum incredibly helpful so far when researching many different topics.

A bit about myself: I have worked in gardening jobs on private gardens, commercial sites and those open to the public for many years but have always had a dream to go it alone. After some research on here and some courage I have begun the process to set up my own garden maintenance business. I am still employed full time but hope to do jobs in the lighter evenings until I can get enough clients to go full time alone. I have a van and some tools, insurance etc. Initially I will do maintenance but would like to do one offs and landscaping later. I bought a waste carriers licence so I can do garden clearances too.

I would really appreciate some advice on the following topics:

Business phone - I have read mixed reviews on how a landline number looks professional vs a mobile number. Some have mentioned using TTNC for a virtual landline number, which I think is great though I'm wondering if it is worth the expense when just starting out. I am a bit reluctant to put the mobile number as my only contact. Do you believe it is worth having a local landline number that directs to my mobile, even though it costs about 10p per minute to receive calls? This would be as well as paying credit to use data/calls with 02.

Machinery  - For about £1000 I'm going to buy the best I can afford, which at this point is a Honda Izy 18" mower and Stihl FS94CE strimmer. I was thinking of buying a Stihl HS82R hedgetrimmer as I use them at work and they are reliable. I know that isn't much money but I spent most of my budget on the van.

Storage - Contemplating whether I need to rent a storage container or just keep the tools in the van/garden shed. I am aware of van theft and that is my biggest concern. What are your opinions on that?

Pricing - I know this comes up a lot so I'll keep it simple. I've worked out all my costs to get a minimum price per hour. For regular maintenance would I just add a profit margin to that hourly figure then add cost of using machinery on top of that? I understand quoting for the job is better but not quite sure how that would work for doing 2 hours of mowing and weeding etc. 

Admin - I'm tempted to use accounting software like crunch or xero, but trying to keep my costs down. I am a little confused as to the process you need. Do you post a quote to the prospective client and then once doing the work post an invoice with payment details and print one for your records? 

Thanks  Rob

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  • I'd try to steer away from an hourly rate although you can use the information you know to price a job so you know how much money to charge, I feel you become someone's puppet and you cannot even go for a pee without getting dug up about it.

    Hs82 is a bit over the top for domestic use, I'd recommend hs45 at half the cost.

    Dream big! I started out with a budget of £800, half went on an old banger Van and the rest second hand tools, being in the right place at the right time helped me win a few contracts and now got 5 employees out, 3 covering grass cutting today and other 2 with me.

    Good luck
  • Hi Rob, where about's do you live? I only ask as I'm in the Isle of Wight. Van theft is pretty low, and I've a few friends with fields where I can burn my green waste/dump my grass clippings. I've an HS45 and found it to be great. Best wishes Sam

  • PRO
    I think keeping your costs down when you start is one of the most important things to making a success of it. I didn't have a lock up when I started and don't now. But I do have a garage now. I know it can be risky keeping tools in a van but depends on your area I suppose. I have extra security in my vans like a motion sensor that sets an alarm of in my house and tools have chains with screaming padlocks that go off very loudly if moved so would hopefully put off most theifs if they got in the back. If you just have a basic set of tools it might be worth the risk over the cost of a lock up.

    I dont think having mobile number only is any problem in this day but absolutely key to have a professional looking website and email address. I only display an email address in my busy periods now as I prefer the kind of customers I pick up that way and can answer enquiries in my own time without the distraction of my phone ringing all day but obviously when starting out you'll probably want as many ways to contact you as possible.

    I have online accounting and invoicing using Wave which is free! It connects to your bank account and has transformed my admin. I've used it for years now and I highly recommend it. Certainly no need to be posting anything and wasting money on stamps or the delay of having it delivered. Quote using software or email and then invoice using software which shows when the invoice has been viewed and shows as unpaid /overdue. Payment can then be added to the invoice in the system so it then shows as paid. You will never lose track of who has paid what using this system and you can clearly see what your profit is as you progress through the year so you can see if you are on track to make what you need to earn.

    Good luck
  • PRO

    Hi Rob,

    Virtual landlines are cheap as chips - mine cost circa £100 over the last year, and most potential clients call it rather than the mobile. I guess we are in a world of regular mobile use now, think of your potential client base, people of a certain age still prefer to see and call a landline. 

    I set up a Giffgaff mobile number when I started, tops up automatically, cheaper than contract phones.

    Same issue as you with storage, my garden has become a storage yard unfortuntely. Mowers stay out, tools and equipment are in the shed. If you have space to store, go with it until you have regular income, nothing worse than trying to find that extra job to pay for your storage rental.

    Is a miniumum price per hour enough? Perhaps turn it around, and ask yourself what is the maxiumum price per hour you can achieve. I've only been in the business a year so I'm still learning but have changed my outlook on pricing, and now lose a good percentage of work due to price. I guess it depends on what is acheivable locally, it has surprised me how much people will pay for a good, regular and reliable standard of work,

    Many clients are email savvy so emailing quotes works well. Probably a good idea to call a few days after sending - sometimes email addresses are not quite correct, and once in a while an email has bounced for me, so client doesn't receive the quote. Post the ones that are not tech savvy. Often you will get paid on the day, if not, yes post or email invoices.

    • So do you pay to use the giffgaff sim around £15 a month as well as paying the £100 per year? That is what I thought I'd do as the majority seems to be retired people where I live. Thanks

      • PRO

        Yes, GG for me is £7.50 a month, doubles up as my personal phone so seems good value and keeps costs down.

  • Good advice Matt and Sam, I will buy the HS45 instead as that will save me a lot. I am based in Devon so I'm not expecting high crime but always aware. I will look at getting some extra security fitted for peace of mind. Green Girl, I will look into Wave software. I prefer using computers, though I believe the elderly population where I live may not be so tech savvy, so I may need to go with traditional paperwork for the few who pay cash/no email.

    • PRO
      I'd say get the bigger hedge cutter I know it's more money but the vibes are horrible on the hs45 mine hardly gets used!
      • I should have said I've never used anything else so have no comparison!

        • PRO
          Don't get me wrong they are a good machine for very light work.peuning shrubs etc but any more than 15 mins I use the bigger stuff
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