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Gardener - new business

(14 Posts)
KisstheTeapot14 Fri 26-Jan-18 13:44:01

Hello all,

DH has given in notice to a stressy and long commute job. He's been thinking about it for quite some time for various family reasons too.

What advice would you give for someone starting life as self employed?

We have done research on service and prices (20 an hour seems general, with some variations) and he's doing a website and leaflets to hand deliver round our country town. We know from experience there is room for a good gardener and he has plenty of experience. He's handy with a spreadsheet too.

Any tips? What else do gardeners do in winter? He has plenty of strings to his bow, but just curious what else people do in the cold months. Thanks!

OP’s posts: |
NigelMolesworth Fri 26-Jan-18 14:03:54

Ok, from my experience:

Don't undersell yourself.

Don't be afraid to turn a job down if you get a bad feeling about it.

Even if you are not busy, pretend you are. Somehow it makes people keener to have you do the job.

Be clear to the client about what the job entails, how much it costs and when you expect to be paid by (email is fine). Most people are lovely, but if you've done a massive job, you don't want to have to chase and then argue about payment.

Put money aside for your tax bill during the year, particularly in year 1 as you will have to pay a sum on account to HMRC for the following year.

Keep good financial records, including all receipts for supplies.

Where are you? If you're near Warwickshire, you can come and help me with my garden!

Whippetmamma Fri 26-Jan-18 14:10:32

Some examples winter gardening jobs;
Winter pruning
Chainsaw work (will need his chainsaw tickets for insurance purposes)
Leaf clearing
Ground prep
Clearing areas

I suggest if he hasn’t already, he gets his RHS level 2 qualification and his spraying tickets too, also maybe a bit of voluntary work at a big garden 1-2 days a week to add to his experience/learn new skills.
A few of my volunteers started their own business and this is the route they took.

KisstheTeapot14 Fri 26-Jan-18 14:10:41

Thanks for all that! V Helpful. Sadly we are not near you, quite a bit further north -otherwise I'd send him over! He's a hard worker. AND he's a qualified masseur.

You can see why I married him, right?

I'm chuffed he's taken this step, but we have always both been in paid at the end of the month jobs, so this is new territory.

Think we'll have an accountant. Friend who is an actor has one for £300, who goes through all her files and explains what's deductable etc.

How much to put away for tax bill yr 1? quarter of earnings?

OP’s posts: |
Whippetmamma Fri 26-Jan-18 14:12:44

RHS 2 can be done distance learning and is roughly about £500 but is is the BASE level qualification asked for in all professional gardening jobs (obviously a bit different self employed, but still, more knowledge about your trade is never a bad thing)

KisstheTeapot14 Fri 26-Jan-18 14:14:18

Thanks. Yes to winter gardening jobs. He already volunteered at a big house, and may well go back again once a month or so to keep learning.

He's decided no weedkiller, so not a sprayer. He'll handweed or recommend someone else if client really wants that.

I also meant other jobs aside from gardening.

Do you think RHS is worth time and money - in terms of getting customers?

OP’s posts: |
awankstainonhumanity Fri 26-Jan-18 14:19:11

As far north as Manchester??

I think good on him.

NigelMolesworth Fri 26-Jan-18 14:22:25

I used to put away about 40% I think but that also covered my pension. The payment on account is normally around about half of the tax you owe for the year which is fine once you're in the swing of things, but I remember it being a bit of a shock in year 1 (so year 1 you pay the tax owing for the year plus half again - but you will already have earnt that money as long as you have been putting it aside as you go).

It was a bit scary to start with but after a while I stopped worrying about finding my next job. Something always comes up!

Good luck.

PS I would personally like a gardener with an RHS qualification. It would give me confidence that they knew what they were doing and weren't going to hack my wisteria to death...

Kazzyhoward Fri 26-Jan-18 17:03:35

It's a good idea for him to have some leaflets in his van. Whenever he does a job, spend 5 minutes dropping leaflets in the neighbouring homes. Personally recommendation is the best form of marketing - neighbours talk, so having a leaflet reinforces it.

Also, a professionally looking sign-written van - the image is vitally important.

Websites and facebook are fine, but when it comes to personal service, word of mouth recommendations are priceless, especially as he won't be competing with loads of other people - word of mouth recommended customer tend not to ask for multiple quotes whereas those surfing the net are more likely to fire off loads of emails. Less competition means more likely to get the work and less likely to lose out to the cheap end of the market.

KisstheTeapot14 Fri 26-Jan-18 17:11:09

Thanks everyone.

Great idea about the van sign and leafleting in areas where you have jobs. We have lived here a good while, so hoping that quite a bit of initial work is via word of mouth. With the other stuff to back it up.

I know its going to be hard work, but setting up your own venture is quite exciting too. It means DH will be around more for DS too and that means a lot.

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extinctspecies Mon 29-Jan-18 18:06:32

I am looking for a gardener at the moment, but not in your area.

Previously have found via word of mouth, however our local town also has a very active community Facebook page where I see a lot of referrals.

In fact, your DH should set up a Facebook page as well as a website - then he can post images of stuff he's worked on to keep the interest up.

For me, experience is more important than qualifications - however i also expect the gardener to be able to do things like repair a fence, or install a raised bed, etc.

I expect them to bring all the equipment they need.

You should also look into whether he will need to charge VAT and whether he's better off being a sole trader or a Limited Company.

And I think it's great your DH doesn't want to spray - but does he have a more eco friendly way of clearing large patches of weeds (flamethrower? no idea if they work).

KisstheTeapot14 Tue 30-Jan-18 12:40:55

extinct - thanks for the ideas. He is going to make a facebook page. He's pretty handy so repairs fine.

will check about the VAT and the legal thing. Probably sole trader but will look into that.

I will pass on the flamethrower idea!

OP’s posts: |
Alpestris Sat 10-Feb-18 15:34:38

I started up a garden maintenance business as as a sole trader 5 years ago. I usually have about 4-5 clients at a time. And occasionally get one off planting or clearing jobs too. I have one job which is 2 days a week in a large garden, so it's year round, and that keeps me ticking over.
Get public liability insurance (not expensive).
I volunteered one day a week for a year at a National Trust garden first - an excellent way to get experience. & Definitely do the RHS Level 2 Diploma. I'm on the last certificate now (there are 2 theory certificates and one practical which make up the diploma). It's excellent, you learn such a lot, but it's hard work. I have an Archaeology degree and a Masters in Computer Science, and I've found it full on. It's not an easy course as there's a lot of material to get through, lots of people underestimate and fail. I've done the theory online through BEST in Horticulture, they do the practical course too. Highly recommended.
Good luck! He won't regret it, it's a great way of life. I love going to work every day, even at this time of year!

KisstheTeapot14 Sat 10-Feb-18 17:20:33

Thanks! He's volunteered at local stately home a couple of years ago (took A/L from his day job in computer trouble shooting), and learned lots from gardening team there. He plans to go back 1 day a month once he's established his clients. Has been out and about with his posters and leaflets today and got 3 potential clients just chatting to people in local cafes/shops/library.

Wondering if you charge separately for hedges and lawns (like, £20 for a medium sized lawn) or all in the hourly fee? A few gardeners we know do the former. Not sure of the cost of petrol tools like hedge cutters and mowers, so difficult to weigh up time and costs before he gets going.

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