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Starting out - part time to full time

Morning everyone, i currently run a small garden maintenance company a couple of days a  week in my spare time along side my full time job. This has built up over the last few years to the pint where my "gardening" days are now fully booked from March to october with my regular weekly, fortnightly, monthly customers. Ive reached a stage where i'm considering leaving my full time role (which is fairly well paid) and going it full time with the gardening as this is what i enjoy and i'd like to regain a quality of life and have the flexibility to see the kids more etc.

I focus on regualar maintenace along with fencing and decking, hedge work but leave all the hard landscaping and tree work to the bigger companies. I turn down lots of work so am clearly doing something right........but was keen to get the views of those on here around how they cover their winter months and what they realistically take home as an annual salary (I'm north east based). Wholly appreciate people aren't going to post their earnings on here but ball park figures or private message would a huge help.

I currently work off £20-£30 p/h depedning on the job and have built up a couple of good pockets of customers with minimal travel so that rate increases when i can do 3 or 4 gardens in the same street.

As i say, any advice or experience welcomed as i wrestle with wehtehr to take the plunge. 

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  • PRO

    Sounds exciting Dave.  Best of luck with your plans.  We're approaching our first winter as a partnership which is bringing in our sole family income so are in a similar position.  We have got regular maintenance customers booked in until the end of November so have our 'standard' income through to the beginning of December.  

    For December and January we have tried to book in some proper winter garden jobs like tree planting, pruning and leaf clearance.  We've also booked in some other work like fence painting, patio and drive jet washing and always look for an opportunity to offer a garden revamp or clearance.  Heather is studying for a design qualification so we'll try and get some of that for next winter.  To be honest we expect a dip in income for December and January but hope to be at least 50% of normal income.

    Your hourly rate sounds ok to me.  We both try and do around 20-25 hours a week each which allows for school drop offs etc. and still gives us a reasonable income.  It also avoids being knackered by the weekend!

  • Hi Dave, talk to your customers, let them know what you can do / are prepared to do - fencing, patio re pointing, small landscaping jobs, re - felting shed roofs etc. Try to get yourself as their first point of contact and hopefully they will be prepared to let you do these jobs as winter projects. Good luck. 

    • PRO

      I feel your existing customers will already have recognised your reliability and integrity Dave which can often lead to offers of diverse winter work , sometimes they might not like to ask so perhaps a prompt before or when the time comes to put the garden to bed for the winter . 

      I have an elderly relative in South Shields she pays her gardener £22 per hour and she finds this a very reasonable rate and value for money . 

      No winter from my own experience is the same , existing customers should be your point of focus perhaps , promote the value you can add by making them aware of your other skills and services , also try and maintain your profile over winter . 

      One customer i have is in an area of strictly no cold calling or leafleting because the residents are considered vulnerable but its also an area of great need where they are crying out for reliable gardeners , word travels quickly so worth considering a method of advertising which will reach areas like these .  

      I agree it sounds as if you are getting something right and attracting opportunities . 


  • PRO

     Morning Dave... I am coming up to my 3rd winter and while there are fewer hours you can work (unless you want to garden by torch) the days are just as busy for the most part. My advice is not be too picky as to what you turn down... and keep close to those who give you regular work.

    I talk to one client about something I maybe doing for another client (no names of course) - example one client wanted a small water feature, I have now got orders for 3 small ponds to be dug and fitted out over the winter... these jobs are in the bank "for when the lawns stop growing" :)  They will probably be around a day each... one of them looks as if it will be more than that! Together with a bit of gutter clearing and jet washing slippery decks and patios on sunny days, the few months of winter whittle away quite quickly.


  • i was quiet from january to march the wether is the main thing i service and repair of the tools, Gutter cleaning,odd jobs hear and there i had 2 all day jobs all year round,bit of painting at home that earnd me browni points but when you get a winter like the last one its hard to find work 

    i would not pack your job in just yet get the winter over first 

  • Thanks for the replies everyone - reassuring to know all this is do-able!! Think I’ll sit tight for this winter and see what next year brings with a view to winter 2019 being my first.

    Thanks all 

    • You,ve had some good advice there. After being made redundent in 2001 (foot and mouth) i juggled 3 part-time jobs and a bit of gardening for about 2 years until i had enough work to go full time. Don't be too fussy what you take on to start with , that can come later. You're price is reasonable. One thing that saves me alot of money is servicing my own machines, in 17 years i have never paid for a repair and service all my machines in winter.

      Best of luck 

  • I started from scratch in october the winter was first winter was steady but it was a good opportunity to get adverts out and try and drum up some business and get your name about.  Winter is always hard but the last 2 winters I have been busy you don't know what your going to get but I look at it as an opportunity to do jobs around the house! This year I'm going to do the bathroom as I failed to get it done last year (to busy working). It sounds like your already in a good position. 

    Take the plunge you wont regret it! 

  • Hi Dave when u say 20-30 p/h are u just doing 1/2 hour jobs? what is your main job?

    I started off years ago doing small 1or  2 hour jobs fortinghly jobs, but over, the years i found that in this 2 hours they wanted the whole garden maincured. It seemed i was chasing my tail come the spring/ summer months, 1 visit of rain and a big struggle for each job, i  was rushing to get the work done in the time limit and alo removing far too much waste. Although i might of made ok money all them little jobs i had did Not last. I now do larger half a day type jobs alot of contracts too  or 3 hour residnetial jobs and the half of my work is weekly so im not chasing my tail.

    I would wait to spring as its going slow down of luck.

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply.....

      Ive been doing this in my spare time over the last 7 years and I work flexi time so have every Friday off work from my “proper” job. I quickly built up enough regular customers to fill my one day per week with lawn cutting and tidy ups - often doing 2 or 3 in one street minimum £15 each taking approx 30-40 mins so equating to around £25-£30 ph often able to do around 10 jobs in a day.

      I also do fencing and decking which keeps me going into the winter but not all the way through.

      Because my available time is restricted I’ve knocked back piles of additional regular work and one off jobs as I just couldn’t fit them around my regular job and give a service I’d class as acceptable without messing people around.


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