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Starting up part time, any support welcome...

Hi everyone,

After spending some time landscaping with a friend I have decided to set up on my own in my spare time around my current job (I am a postman so i finish my rounds at 2pm every day).

I have experience in hard landscaping but not as much in lawn care, but after reading some posts on here and Paul Powers start up guide book I am sure this is the best way to start up focusing on small local garden maintenence jobs. 

My questions are...

1, Does anybody or know somebody that has started from where I begin, with a full time job that finishes early and can offer me any advice?

2, Is it essential that I get a van or is a car sutible enough to begin with?

3, What jobs did you have success with at the very beginning that you would recommend me to focus on? 

4, What is the best cost effective way of buying all the tools I will need to begin? ( I currently only have the Lawnmower)

Any other advice would be great!




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  • Rufus, I started working in the evenings and the weekends to get my business started. I did it for a year before I took the plunged and now in my 7th year this coming May. 

    This is the time to get your pricing right and buying the essentials while you are still in a full time job. As mentioned Paul Powers is very inspirational. Essentials tools are secetuers, loppers, hand fork, trowel, digging Spade and digging fork, border Spade and border fork plus mattock. Buy quality tools, not cheap trash though. As for Machinery, a good Stihl hedgecutter and brushcuttet but get them at trade's price. Keep all receipts so you can set this against your business. 

    I would aim to get a van/ pickup once you have sorted out what your main work will be as that will guide you to what you will need. To me it does look better to have a van but it is not essential but worth having.

    I am aprofessional Gardener having worked for the National Trust for 20 odd years so I concentrated on th top end clients with big gardens. I would concentrate on the fundamentals such as grass cutting, hedge cutting, garden tidying, cleaning patios, general weeding and so forth. Well worth reading about how to garden or even do a evening glass to broaden your knowledge which in turn allow you to do more interesting tasks.

    • Thanks Andrew,

      How would i go about getting Stihl power tools at trade price?

      I have been looking at them recently and want to know if its better to get the Kombi systems or the individual set?

      • In my experience, I've not encountered a "trade price"................   most places give all their customers a discount over "list price".......... some more than others.  Look online to give you an idea what discounts can be given... F R Jones is one that I use and gives pretty much the best at approx 20% so with a bit of haggling, you might be able to get a local dealer to match that.  Stihl have a policy that they insist that the dealer personally hands the machine over to you rather than getting it posted......this obviously restricts online purchases... so you might then have to visit the store to get the item. F R Jones, within a certain distance limit, use their own delivery dealers that will do this "hand-over" at your address/premises for a small extra charge. 


      • When looking at buying machinery, make it clear that your a running business and that you would expect a trade price. They do make reductions for the public below the list price but I know what of two Machinery firms locally who were selling the same bit of kit and one was selling it around £25 cheaper! Buy the best you can afford and take into account the vibration figures and so forth as you would be using that machine considerably more than you do now.

  • PRO

    To Add to andrews reply,

    get the basic tools you will need for 80% of the jobs, if doing hard landscaping jobs what i do is instead of pricing in for profit (whats made on materials etc etc) i will allow for the cost of any tool i don't already own but will need for the job, you won't then make as much on the first job but will make more for consecutive jobs after that.

    if you have good tools and equipment then don't forget to add a usage / hire cost of these into the job pricing (you don't just price for labour and materials) you have to remember that any tool damaged will have to be repaired or replaced and this is where the profit in jobs is used.

    take on small jobs to start with so you can get an idea on time taken to do somthing because we all have our own working pace and this will help in later years for pricing bigger jobs of the same style of work.

    as for a van, it makes things easier to have one however i do hard landscaping and building / plastering work at weekends and its all word of mouth jobs, i work from a car and get materials delivered to the job, i am planning on getting a better vehical soon but right now this works for me just fine as i do it more for the enjoyment than the money (i get to play with my powertools and most people know me so well they give me freedom over the job to know what will be best for them or look right and its a lot of fulley bespoke work )

    find out what you want to do most and work your plan from there because there is a big difference between soft and hard gardening work each giving a different level of enjoyment

  • I started in March working around my mon-fri 7.30 to 3.30 gardening council job.

    I work for about 2 hrs each evening visiting regular weekly and fortnightly customers, and then one offs and quoting on a Saturday.

    I bought a berlingo, but space is limited so I don't remove green waste. It's actually just been written off by some pillock driving into me so I'm hunting for another vehicle right now. Tempted to just buy a big old 4x4.

    I bought some 2nd hand stuff, etesia phts mower off eBay which was £240 and has been amazing. A stihl hedgecutter and backpack blower (used) for £425. A new hyundai strimmer/hedgecutter combi. 

    Plus tons of other bits....added up quite a bit tbh.

    Your job is perfect to work around. I very nearly went to RM myself for that very reason.  

    • Thanks for all your replies,

      Del, as you finish at a similar time to me, what kind of jobs are are best for you with the hours? do you do any bigger jobs at the weekend over 2 days?


      • I'm doing lawn cutting and general garden maintenance. I had quite a few enquires about patios and fencing which i pass onto my mate for a 10% cut, or if I have time we do them together.

        I think I could make more money if I had stuck to lawns only, but that would mean loads more customers and travel.

        All my customers are either 5 mins from my job, or 5 mins from my house. I only have 8 regulars but are 2hrs a peice on weekly or fortnightly.

        I have just shuffled a few around and made a bit more space so hopefully I can get those filled.

        I'm taking it slowly and building a round of nice customers.

        One of my customers has loads of work lined up for me we're just waiting or the better weather. This extra work will have to be on a Saturday. 

  • My wife started her business a few years ago and I now work with her part time around my current job. My first bit of advice is to stop talking about doing it and just go for it, you have nothing to lose. Make sure you have liability insurance in place (approx  £50), stick some cards in local newsagents and away you go. Don't spend much on tools until you know what sort of work is available and what you actually want to do. Use your domestic tools to start with and add to them as and when you need to. When you get busier you can invest on better equipment that will then save you time. Choosing a mower will depend on your clients - Large or small lawns, stripes or not. Its only when you start that you will find out what work is available. Don't be afraid to turn down work if you are not equiped to complete it, but if if you get lots of enquiries for that type of work you can then get the equipment with the knowledge that they will be used. Just go for it and adapt to suit the work available and what you enjoy the most.

  • Once again thanks you for all your help.

    Tomorrow is the day I begin my journey!...I am starting off focusing on mowing lawns then onto bigger and better jobs when I can invest in better equipment. hopefully I will do enough gardens to a good quality this summer I will keep some clients for next year when I hope to take on bigger jobs.


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