Starting a Small Business

Course CodeVBS101
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Start Your Own Garden, Landscape or Horticulture Business

Learn how to start a gardening, landscaping or horticultural business under the guidance of a professional business expert, and plan and initiate development of a business venture. A large percentage of small businesses fail within the first two years. Make sure your business isn't one of them! This course will be one of the reasons it won't be. There are two parts to the course. In the first part, you learn about how to run a business. The second part involves either you starting a business (this may be very small, or larger), or reviewing the running of an established business. Over several lessons, your tutor will guide you through several stages which assess, analyze and improve operations in this "real life situation".

Over twelve lessons you learn about marketing, planning, budgeting, reviewing progress, improving profit and more.

Give yourself the best chance to succeed in a new business.

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Small Business
    • Types of business and communication, types of language, office equipment.
  2. The Business World
    • Consultancy services, law and business, the landscape industry, business letters, communication systems.
  3. Your alternatives - different types of ventures
    • Buying and starting a business.
  4. Marketing
    • What is involved in marketing, advertising, selling, communication.
  5. Planning
    • Organising and planning to ensure the success of the business.
  6. Basic Bookkeeping
    • Financial statements, balance sheet, profit and loss statement,insurance.
  7. Sales Methods
    • Selling, sales method, telephone canvassing.
  8. Budgeting
    • Assets and liabilities.
  9. Developing a 12 month business plan
    • Protection, planning and production.
  10. Implementing a business plan
    • Communication with employees, planning the development of the business.
  11. Reviewing progress in a new business
    • Research, evaluate and decide on business plan updates.
  12. Improving profitability
    • Increase profit and reduce expenditure.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Discuss the nature of small business and the skills required to run one successfully.
  • Explain the legal requirements, restrictions and the costs of running a small business.
  • Describe the different aspects and considerations associated with starting a new or buying an existing business.
  • Explain the marketing process.
  • Explain the importance of planning in the running of a successful business.
  • Explain the importance of record keeping and the principles of bookkeeping.
  • Determine sales and promotions strategies in small business.
  • Explain the importance of budgets.
  • Develop a business plan.
  • Implement a business plan.
  • Identify factors that affect profitability.

Advice from our Principal, John Mason,

on Getting a Start in a Horticultural Business

The first decade of my working life was spent learning about business. The second decade was spent using what I had learnt. Now as I enter my third decade in the work force, I find myself with a series of profitable business interests which have a growth rate above the inflation rate and a structure which affords me a degree of flexibility I would never have had working for someone else.

For me, success in business is due to following some simple guidelines, and keeping balance between the attention I give to each one. It is all too easy to concentrate on one "rule" and ignore the others. No matter how important that rule is, sooner or later your business will come unstuck because of some other "rule"  or guideline you have been neglecting.

I believe a business has a greatly increased chance of success if the following is done:


Businesses which try to do too much too soon have a far greater chance of eventual failure (even if  initially they are successful). It is wise to go through thorough business planning before starting up and to have a long term plan (10 to 20 years), which you can slowly work towards. In my case, I was setting up a correspondence school. I saw the first step was to establish a reputable name and I considered that  to do so might take many years. Hence for the first 5 years, I was not impatient about making money   I made sure that I had other sources of income apart from my school. It was more important at this stage to gain acceptance and recognition amongst potential "customers", than to make a profit. This sort of plan will generally require you to put in quite a few extra hours of work, juggling the needs of raising a living, and trying to develop your new business. However, in the long term, if your business becomes a success, you should have greater opportunity for personal time (i.e. rest, relaxation, hobbies, family commitments, vacations).

Your chances of success will increase greatly if you can supply something people want, but can't easily get elsewhere. A lot can be gained by taking time to study the way people live, the things they do in their day to day lives and the problems they encounter.

Many businesses have been based on the observation that in modern society, where both husband and wife work, it is a problem for the family to find time to
et the mundane day to day chores done. Consider the rapid increase in recent years of such things as child minding services, nannies, lawn mowing businesses, and fast food chains. All provide ways to get essential things done more easily for people who have the money, but don't have the time. You do not necessarily have to provide a service or goods that are not generally readily available. You might, for example, live in a rural area where goods and services that are readily available in larger cities are scarce or not available. You might be able to create a valuable business providing one or more of these items.

Research plays a very important part in choosing what goods or services to supply. This might involve looking in newspapers and magazines to see what sorts of goods and services are, or are not, being provided in your area; and seeing what is successful in other areas, but hasn't been tried in your area. Get to know your market.  Market research does not need to be formal.  It can be based on observations of what is occurring, what people want and aligning your strengths to that area of the market not being served.

Taking heed of your own observations or needs can be an excellent way of finding a niche area that could be filled. For example, a lady in Melbourne was concerned about sunburn on her bare arm when driving. She obtained some material with a high sun protection factor, and after experimenting with a few designs, created a simple pull on sleeve to go over the bare right arm of a car driver. Other people expressed interest in her designs, and she began to make and sell them, many to friends and acquaintances. Word of mouth from these customers created more sales. She began to advertise a little, and approached selected shops that she thought might be interested in selling her product. She began to produce larger amounts in different sizes and a wide variety of colours. Several chain stores expressed interest or began to sell her products. She began to export her product. All of this happened in less than five years. She began small, and used her profits to finance her expansion, resulting in low financial risk to her. This is just one example, many others exist.

Another area to consider is to do a job better than what is already on offer.  One successful small business started when the receptionist at a doctor's office overheard two of the doctor's patients complaining about their hired house cleaners.  Both were saying they were very dissatisfied and the receptionist said, "Hire me.  I'll do a better job."  One of the two patients did hire her, and, true to her word, the receptionist did do a better job.  The ex-receptionist now has a team of house keepers.  Her success has always been in delivering top value for money.



If you have some existing skills or expertise and can work out a unique service or product you can supply you are off to a good start. You will often feel more comfortable, at least initially, supplying
goods and services you are familiar with, or are a logical extension of your existing skills and talents. In many cases skills and knowledge gained in one industry might readily be transferred to another (e.g. sales and marketing, bookkeeping).

If you aim to go into business in a new area then educate yourself in that area before anything else. This might be through formal study, perhaps while still working in another career, through informal study (e.g. buying books and trade magazines and reading them at home), working for someone else in a similar business, perhaps full time, or part-time on weekends, or at night, to gain experience before branching out on your own.

The important thing is to determine the skills and knowledge that you will need and make sure you obtain them. This also requires some prior research.

Your business knowledge will also play a huge part in your success or failure.  Many people who are true experts in their field have failed because their lack of business know how.  You must be able to accurately cost a job and provide value for money.  One Landscape company foreman felt cheated because he was the person who saw that the job was completed and managed well, yet the profits went to the company owner.  He believed that the "business" side would be easy, so went to work for himself.  What he didn't realise is, that while he was an excellent project manager, he was not very good at costing jobs and dealing with customers.  Fortunately for him, he was able to return to his previous job.

Experimentation: this is the key. Do not spend a lot of money until you have properly worked out what does and does not work for you. Try small advertisements in a range of publications, perhaps classifieds at first. Try different types of advertisements. I have advertised in over 200 different publications, of which only around 20% have been worthwhile. Try press releases. Send them to magazines, newspapers and radio stations. Record where your responses come from and where your firm business comes from (eg: one publication might give 30 responses and none of them do business, with while another might only give 5 responses, but 2 of these do business with you).

Talk to others in the industry. Find out what advertising has and has not been successful for them.  Join an industry group to make contacts.  Many business people will share their information, allowing you to learn from the mistakes of others.

Too many businesses go broke because they charge too little. Henry Ford may have become a billionaire by selling a large quantity of cars at very cheap prices, but more often than not, people are just as happy to pay a higher price if you give them quality and good service. Remember, small business is just that   small. If you are going to succeed with the low price high turnover formula, you need to be operating on a large scale, usually with a high level of investment.

All too often, small businesses pay more than what they need to for materials and equipment. If you take your time before starting to thoroughly check out suppliers, and learn to negotiate about prices, you can establish much lower costs for your business before you begin. Remember every dollar extra you pay in costs is a dollar less in your pocket.

Usually the first few years of any small business will require long hours, perhaps a 6 or 7 day week;
and all this for perhaps a lesser return than you would get working a normal 9 to 5 job. If you have money or other resources set aside, or supplementary income (e.g. your partner/spouse has a full time job) as a backup to cover you through this lean period, you will have a much greater chance of success.

It is important that you and your family consider the many sacrifices that come with starting up a small business, including less money to spend on entertainment, no time for travel or holidays, longer working hours, etc.  If you do not have the full support and understanding of the family, then making the business work becomes doubly difficult.

A happy customer is the best asset a new business can have. You will then get more follow up business from existing customers, and they will be your best source of advertising, simply by word of mouth.  There is truth in the saying "One happy customer will tell one other person.  One unhappy customer will tell ten others."

Subscribe to any magazines or newspapers which report on the industry you are operating in. Monitor advertisements in that industry. Keep a close eye on any other business offering similar services or products, and watch out for any new businesses which might offer competition.  Join industry associations or mentor groups, to keep abreast of what is going on.

Initially you should not try to provide too many different types of goods or services, but once your business begins to establish, look for other services or products which might complement what you are already doing. Demand changes, that is a fact of life. If you do one thing only, you will find there will be times your business will boom and other times it will be slow. If you do several things, there is a good chance that when one thing slows, the others will still perform well.

Keep in mind, though, that you cannot be all things to all people.  If you diversify, try to add either a business or service that complements your core business, but does not detract.  For instance, the addition of a restaurant service to an existing bed and breakfast is a good diversification.  It complements and could even increase the B&B business. Likewise the addition of weed control services to a lawn mowing round.

There is a natural tendency for your own sense of self importance to grow when you are the boss, and as that happens, there is a tendency to increase the size of your business beyond what is reasonable. Immodest employers tend to employ more people than are required, advertize more than is needed, and produce more than what they can sell. Just because a business is bigger, doesn't mean it is run better or more efficiently, or is more profitable. In many cases well run, smaller businesses can be very profitable, and enable you as the boss to keep good control (oversight) of the businesses activities.  Part of your long term business plan should also include what you want personally in the long run.  Creating a large enterprise that is still growing when you are ready to retire can cause a real dilemma.  Many people start up in small business because they want a more relaxed lifestyle.  This can be achieved, as long as you recognise your own goals.
Good quality staff are the most valuable asset in any business. If you are loyal and generous and flexible with regard to your staff, they will respond in kind.

You must be healthy to deal with the stresses associated with running a business, and still be able
to think clearly and operate efficiently. Healthy businessmen put in less hours and achieve far more than those who neglect their basic needs, such as exercise, diet, rest and recreation. Running your own business is not just about making money, it is also about taking control of your life. Your business should ideally give you the financial rewards, job satisfaction and personal flexibility you desire. This may not happen initially, and in fact is unlikely early on in the life of a new business, but should be a medium to long term aim of the business.



There are many common mistakes made by people operating garden service businesses.  Some of these are listed below:

* Advertising that you will do anything (when you don't have the skill or the equipment to
  do many  gardening jobs).

* Underquoting when you first start your business.
  You are best working on an hourly rate (at least until you become familiar with what you
  are  capable of getting done in a given time).

* Not including overheads in a quote.
  It costs you time and money to travel to a job, to supply tools, office costs, equipment
  maintenance costs, to give a quote in the first place, etc. All of these costs have to be

* Wanting to get a job no matter what the terms are.
  There are plenty of people who think gardeners should be cheap labour; there are others
  who think cheap gardeners are not good gardeners.  You should not be afraid to lose a
  job because you are too expensive.  Someone else may just hire you because you're not

* Liquidity Problems.
  Some types of garden service jobs require you to have a certain amount of cash in hand. 

   If you are not paid for a landscape job until weeks or months after doing the work, you
  need to have sufficient money in hand to carry you for that period.  If your work is
  seasonal, you need to save enough in the good times to keep you going in the bad

* Not being clear in what you are going to include in the job. Clients may expect free
  garden maintenance after a landscape job. Some people expect free removal of rubbish
  after a pruning job. Some people expect you to come back and spray again for free if
  your first pest or weed spraying doesn't work. Some people expect the roots removed as
  well as the top of a tree when you quote on tree removal, or for all of the wood to be cut
  up into short blocks suitable for fire wood. Clearly state EVERYTHING that is to be
  included on the job and don't feel pressured to do more than you contracted for.


* Legal Requirements.
  There are different legal requirements which must be met by different businesses in
  different places. In some places nurseries or landscape contractors must be registered
  with the government, or perhaps be involved in an industry accreditation scheme. Any
  business has certain obligations to keep financial records for taxation. Staff must be
  employed in accordance with other regulations. In some situations, workplaces must be
  registered or approved by government authorities. Businesses must be structured in a
  way which complies with legal requirements, and you must understand, decide upon and
  set up an appropriate structure if you are to minimize legal liability for anything which
  happens in your business. Most state governments have departments that provide advice
  to small businesses and what rules, regulations, etc. are relevant to their
  business. It is important that you find out what these are. Trade or industry organisations
  (e.g. Landscape Industry Associations) are also valuable sources of information.
  Licensing may be required for the tasks you plan to perform. Check with your local
  government authorities.

* Professional Advice
  As a business person, you are a professional. Respect the fact that you will also need
  assistance from other professionals to be successful.  The advice of a good lawyer and a
  good accountant can be invaluable.  Even advice from more experienced professional
  people within your industry may benefit your business, for example, getting the advice of
  professional irrigation consultants or horticulturists instead of trying to bluff your way
  through a job. You do not always have to follow their advice, but being better informed
  will help you to make sound decisions.
There are two common ways to get into your own business; one is to start your own business, and the other is to buy an existing business.

Use a Checklist:
1. Why do you want your own business?
   '...because I hate my current boss' isn't enough to make the decision. Is it because you
   prefer to be your own boss, because you think you can make more money working for
   yourself, because you want more flexibility in your working hours, because you have a
   great idea for a service or particular goods? You need to be really clear on your own
   motivations for running your own business.

2. Are you the type of person to tackle a business?
   Can you handle pressure, people, hardwork, etc?
   Could you cope with the needs of an expanding business?

3. Do you understand the business you have in mind?
   Don't go in blind. Oh! Joe Bloggs is making millions 
   You might not!

4. What are your chances for success?
   Study the market and make some assessments.
   Do you have the relevant skills and/or knowledge, or can you easily get them?

5. Can you afford to start?
   Have you the capital, the proposed income, etc?
   Do you have a fall back option if the business does not prosper (e.g. your partner or
   spouse has an income)?



* The Market Niche: 
  This is best when competition is weak, non existent or not keeping up with the growing
  market or customer demands/requirements. It can be good if customer loyalty is not a
  factor, or if you can bring customers with you.  Keep in mind that once you approach a
  niche market, a larger competitor may decide to move into that market.  Be prepared for
  competition, even if it doesn't exist in the early days.

* Personal Aspects:
  Starting a new business can be more of a challenge and more satisfying when you are
  successful. You can start when you are ready, or you can start part time initially.  You
  have the freedom to introduce your own ideas and style from the beginning. However,
  there is more worry and pressure; it requires certain skills and attitudes; and takes time
  to research, decide, organize and become competent.

* Goodwill: 
  You start with a fresh slate with potential customers; there is no cost of buying the
  `goodwill' price premium of an existing business. It is hard, however, to predict volume
  and market patterns, and there is generally a greater risk of the business failing because
  of the need to build up a customer base.

* Location: 
  You can choose your own site for your business in the best available area, or the area
  that best suits you (e.g. close to home). If you are going to have leased facilities you will
  be able to have the full lease period, however, good sites may be all occupied, and
  choosing an alternative site may involve a bit of guessing. You might also have to
  upgrade any new premises to meet regulations, or your own requirements, or to provide
  the necessary decor or services for your customers.

* Staff: 
  When starting a new business you can start small, and hire people to fit your particular
  needs and style. When looking at staff, consider what weaknesses you may have and try
  to select some staff that have strengths in those areas.

* Equipment & Stock:
  You can select the most modern equipment, or choose fresh stock, however it takes time
  to select, ship and install these. Costs are high for new equipment and stock, and the risk
  may prove unsuitable.

* Financing: 
  You can start small, BUT many costs are commonly not foreseen. Suppliers may require
  cash on delivery (C.O.D.), financing may be hard to come by, and initial cash flow can
  make servicing debts difficult.

* The Market Niche:
  It is best when the business you are buying is one of the main players in a market
  dominated by several strong competitors; or when a business has unique advantages
  such as location, name or rights\licensing agreements. However, you must be prepared
  to meet or exceed the standards laid out before you.

* Personal Aspect: 
  It is harder to make changes, or stamp your own style on an established business. An
  established business has proved it can work, so pressure on you is often less, although
  not always, particularly if you have difficulties being accepted by existing staff of the

* Goodwill:
  With an existing business you acquire an existing clientele. The risk is reduced and
  volume and market patterns are known. You can have immediate sales, therefore can
  more readily cover operating costs. The most important thing here is to be sure that the
  vendor has not misrepresented the businesses situation. Advice from an accountant, and
  perhaps a survey, on your part, of existing customers of the business could save you a
  lot of grief.

* Location: 
  The business may have a valuable unique location; lease terms may be favourable; and
  the business should already meet state and municipal code requirements; it could be
  decorated and serviced for customer needs; and be immediately useable, BUT the
  business could also be locked into a bad location or unfavourable lease terms

* Staff:
  Your staff may be experienced, tested over time, and able to assist greatly in transition,
  however, they might be deadwood, or incompatible with you, or resistant to change.

* Equipment & Stock:
  The equipment (including tools) is probably in working order and ready to use, but you
  should thoroughly check their condition. Maintenance records should also be checked.
  Stock will most likely be already assembled and suppliers known.  There may be
  problems, however, if equipment is in poor condition or obsolete. It might be hard to
  obtain finance for new equipment and/or sell the old equipment. It is also important to
  check the type and condition of existing stock. It may be  `dead stock', unable to be used.

* Financing:
  The Vendor may assist in financing; or conventional lenders may be more confident
  about success; suppliers may more readily give credit; and you also have immediate
  cash flow, however, the price asked may be unrealistically high, or beyond your means.
  Goodwill cost is generally included, and is usually hard to borrow for.


There are many franchises around in the garden care industry. Some specialise in lawn maintenance, some offer specialist services, and others diverge to offer a range of services.

There are advantages in a well run franchise business. Costs can be shared with other franchisees in many areas, including advertising, other promotions, product/service development, etc.

There can also be an advantage in reduced costs through bulk purchasing of materials or equipment.

There are disadvantages also though. You can lose some control over decisions in your business. You may be restricted to operating within a certain geographic area, or from offering different products or services which you come across. There is also scope for unethical operators to take advantage of their franchisees.
It is important to note that anyone considering franchising into garden care or landscaping, should be trained in the particular field. Too often stories are heard of customers paying for poor workmanship by untrained people. The public have elected to vote with their money and a noticeable increase in qualified people are now being employed, and are benefiting from their qualification and reputation.

Although may people have successfully worked a franchise, many others have lost a great deal of money in set up fees and establishment costs. The risk of business failure is great due to the fact that many people who buy into the franchise have not, and do not, undertake any form of business training.

The key to success is:
* Do research about the prospective franchise and the industry it will cater for;
* Do a small business course.
* Do training in the industry the franchise caters to.
* Above all, talk with people who have operated franchises for the company you are
  looking to deal with. It is a good idea to look up franchisees of that company
  in the phone book or local paper.
* Check with government consumer affairs departments to determine whether there have
  been any complaints about the franchise operation you are considering.
The very minimum of records to keep are:
1. Simple Cash Book:
   In this you record all you daily receipts and all daily expenditure.
   Each week or month this can be totalled up to keep a cumulative balance.

2. Cheque Book:
   Record all details of the transaction:
    - Date
 - To whom payment is made
 - Amount
 - The nature of the transaction (what for)
   It is also very wise to keep the butts up to date with your deposits.
   This ensures you have a balance to work with.

3. Bank Statements:
   This is not only a record for your bank but it helps you keep track of all amounts credited
   to and debited from your account/s. Check off all your cheques to ensure they have
   been presented. Adjust the balance for unpresented cheques.

4. Receipt Book:
   This should show: who paid what, how much they paid, and the date they paid.

5. Debtors unpaid invoices.

6. Creditors unpaid invoices.

   Without keeping track of these you can, without realising it, be well over your head in
   debt OR ... you may be losing money for unpaid accounts.

7. Balance Sheet
   Records all incomings and outgoings at one point in time.  This allows you to see where
   your business is at, or gives you the big picture.  This will be necessary for tax

8. Customer profiles:
   This should include as much detail as possible about your customers, but at a minimum
   should include contact addresses, phone & fax numbers and the person/s you deal with.

No one is an expert at every facet of running a business. It can often save you a great deal of time, effort, money (& grief) to consult experts in a particular field. These include lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, government small business departments, and local council staff. You should be able to claim any fees you pay as a tax deduction.  You may also want to talk to consultants in the field that you are entering into.

* Most of the major banks have leaflets/brochures on topics such as business planning,
  financing businesses, and franchising. It is worth talking to your local bank branch about

* The Australian Government Publishing Service in association with the National Executive
  of Small Business Agencies (NESBA) and AusIndustry has developed a series of
  excellent books relating to various aspects of small business. They are well worth looking
  at, and can be obtained from the Australian Government Publishing Service. They have
  shops in many major cities in Australia.

* Most Australian State Governments have agencies that specialise in assisting small
  businesses, for example, in Victoria they have "Small Business Victoria" which generally
  provide advice and a wide variety of publications relating to setting up and running a
  small business.

In different states and countries, the law requires different things. Even if you do not use an accountant regularly, it is advisable you consult one when setting up a new business, to ensure that your financial and legal record keeping is established properly.


When you commence business, you must promote yourself and the services you are going to offer.  This can be done in a variety of ways, including:
 a) Local Newspaper Advertising
 b) Major Daily Newspaper Advertising
 c) Magazine Advertising
 d) Letterbox Drops
 e) Direct Mail Promotions
 f) Telephone Books (i.e. Yellow Pages)
 g) The Internet
 h/ Other (eg. Press Releases, Product Launches, etc.)

These different approaches are discussed below:

In the trade directory is usually the most successful place. Prepare a sample design of an advert. Have a few friends and relatives look at it to see what they think. What sort of information did it convey to them, did it grab their attention? You might get the newspaper to design your advert for you. This type of advert works well for small businesses servicing home gardens (ie. lawn mowing, landscaping, pruning, rubbish removal, etc). Often a small advert works as well as a big one, and it will be a lot cheaper to run. You can frequently get better results from several tiny classified advertisements, than what you might get from one larger advert that costs the same amount of money.
Classifieds in Saturday papers often give best value for money.  Larger display ads work well on some services at some times of year, but be careful they can be expensive, and unless you get a lot of business from them, they are best avoided. They are better suited to advertising for larger scale work (ie. landscaping rather than weeding). Again, small ads often give the best value for each advertising dollar.

Similar to daily newspapers. In Australia, 'Your Garden' and 'Gardening Australia' magazines are generally two of the best. If you don't get a response there, you are unlikely to get a response in other magazines.

Usually you will get between 1 and 5 responses for every few hundred letterboxes you drop a leaflet into...depending on how good the leaflet is and how well you have chosen the area. For example, a leaflet on pruning dropped in summer in a new housing estate will not get any winter, in an old established, wealthy area will likely bring in some work; while a leaflet for new garden landscaping services will most likely do better in a new estate than in an old established one.

Letters or leaflets can be sent to real estate agents, shopping centre managers, council parks departments and anyone else you think might employ people to do gardening work.  Often you will get the best response by following these mail outs with a phone call.  SOMETIMES MAIL OUTS WORK, SOMETIMES THEY ARE A DEAD LOSS.

Many people find the yellow pages is the best advertising of all. Some don't!  Overall it is probably one of your better chances. Be careful when you first start advertising that you don't get persuaded to take out expensive display adverts. It is best to test the waters at first with a smaller advert to see what sort of response you get. As your business becomes better established you might then progress to a larger advert.

I have known landscapers, and garden care companies to mount a display once each year at a garden show, and get enough business from that effort to keep them employed for six months. I have known others to work for a week at a garden show and get no work from it.
Homes shows and various types of industry exhibitions can be equally as profitable (or unprofitable). This method of advertising works well if you exhibit the right product or service, at the right time, in the right way, and at the right show. You must get these variables right, and generally, you must make a considerable and often costly investment; so do not exhibit at a show without a lot of forethought first.

The internet was of little significance to gardeners or landscapers in the past, but that situation is changing very rapidly. A growing number of people are connected to and using the internet for all sorts of information. More and more landscapers, nurserymen and gardeners are using the net to promote their businesses. Even if you do not consider the internet when you start; you should consider it as a serious promotional tool in the future.
It can also be a valuable research tool.

There are many other ways of getting work.  Leaflets and business cards can be put on public notice boards or in shop windows; you can advertise in community directories or on calenders, you can take a series of radio or theatre adverts...these methods sometimes work, but are very often no good at all. Read the tenders section in the Saturday newspaper classifieds.  Various organisations call for people to give a quote to do a job.  Often different types of gardening work are advertised. Offering charity work for community groups can also lead to paid business.

When you first take out an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine be wary about being locked into long term contracts. It may be cheaper per advertisement to book your advert in multiple issues (e.g. once a month for 12 months), but if the advertisement is not working after the first few months you may have wasted a lot of money. Usually it is best to trial your advert for a month or two to see what sort of response you get, then decide if you want more regular bookings.

Whenever you take on a job, large or small, you are entering into a legal contract.
Under contract law, a contract DOES NOT need to be written down; but that can make things simpler. A contract is made whenever one party offers something (eg. to design a garden for a certain amount of money), and another party (ie. the client) accepts the offer.
In most cases, there is no problem if the contractor does what is expected, and the client pays what is expected; but if either one does not do what is expected, there is a dispute.
If everything has been written down, the parties can look at the written agreement, and the dispute can usually be easily settled. If things are not written down, it may need to go to court.

Often the best way to sort out any potential problems is to talk to a lawyer, explain your business activities with them, and have them make recommendations as to what should be included in any contracts you might establish.

The best way to avoid disputes is to try to forsee anything which might go wrong, and write those things down into a contract, to be signed by both parties before any work is started.

For example, if you are a lawn mowing contractor; you need to develop a standard quotation form. This form should state what you will do. It may say things such as:
-Lawn clippings are taken away (or are put in the compost heap)
-Edges are trimmed with a whipper snipper.
-Lawns are mown at a height of 2.5 cm
-The lawn is to be mown every 1 to 3 weeks, the frequency being in accordance with
 growth rates but totally at the discretion of the contractor.
-Any other work such as raking the surface, treating damaged patches, etc. are to be
 quoted as extra tasks.
-Payment is to be made immediately upon completion of each mowing. If payment is
 delayed, a 5% additional cost per week will be incurred.
-The contract is to last for 6 months and then be reviewed.

Generally a larger job will involve a larger and more complex contract. Large landscape contracts can involve a package of documents including several plans, written specifications for materials, and a contract of several pages specifying all terms, conditions and contingencies. In such situations, prior legal advice is essential.



Anyone setting up a small business or running a small business will nefeit from learning about the fundamentals it takes to do that and be successful. A great course that has had many students learn and succeed.


More from ACS