Running my own successful gardening company for over 10 years now hasn’t happened without costly mistakes along the way, I wish that I knew then what I know now! I hear of so many gardeners who have gone self employed and quit after just a month or 2 because their phone just didn’t ring. I started this blog with the intentions of sharing everything I know about gardening, and business is no exception. I want to pass onto you the mistakes I made, and what forms of advertisement work, and don’t work for my gardening business.
Is starting a gardening business right for me?
Being a professional gardener isn’t for everyone with only 8 out of 12 months being very busy, as well as rainy days. One question that is always being asked when I take on a new customer is “do you work in the rain”. This question goes both ways, because some customers don’t like their garden being maintained in poor weather, and some don’t want a gardener that won’t work in the rain as it means that you may have to skip the maintenance on their garden for that week.
With a large portfolio of regular garden maintenance customers, this allows me to be very selective with who I take on as a customer. Not being short of customers, I can afford to lose customers if I feel that they aren’t right for me or my garden maintenance business. For example, I work through all weather, whether that be rain, snow, extremely hot days and so on. This is because I run my business on a strict rotor and if I chose not to attend a customer’s garden on a particular day due to bad weather, then they would have to wait a hole week or 2 for me to come next as all time slots will be booked.
For example, my gardening business offers potential customers the option to have their garden maintained on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Nothing more and nothing less. If a customer agrees to have their garden maintained every Monday for 2 hours, I will give them a time slot of lets say 8AM – 10AM. If it rained heavy on any Monday, then providing that all time slots are booked, then it just isn’t possible to visit their garden until a hole week later. In the garden business, I would say that at least half of my customers are gained due to firing their previous gardener for poor time keeping, this is something that you need to keep on top of in order to keep business flowing. Are you prepared to take the good with the bad and work through all weather?
If however, you are just starting your gardening business, then it’s best to take on all customers regardless of what their thoughts are on bad weather. As your garden business grows, you can pick and choose which customers will benefit you the most.
What’s the first step to advertising my gardening business?
The absolute first step that you should take is to advertise your garden business on all free listing directories. These include Yell, Yelp, Thomson Local, Google listings and so on. Remember, these are free business directories, and will start to get your name out there!
The downside to the majority of these websites is that you won’t be at the very top of the business directory website, since you will need to pay to be up the top. And at this stage, you won’t know which business directory websites are worth paying for. I would advise to get your gardening business on their site, and get as many 5 star reviews as possible. Remember, if you are (for example) number 8 down the page for ‘garden maintenance in Enfield, Middlesex’ but you have 40 5-star reviews, compared to only 12 reviews for the garden business in first place, then you are much more likely to be selected. Reviews are an amazing way to gain new business!
Will advertising my gardening business on social media websites work?
I joined my gardening business to Facebook 2 years ago (I know, a bit late) and have only received 8 likes in that time! Twitter wasn’t much better with receiving 25 followers in that time, with most of them being other gardening businesses!
The way that social media works is that if you have lots of likes, followers etc., then every time you post an offer, or show off the work that you have done, the more people that we see it, and the more likely you are to be contacted for more work. But you could spend a lot of money for only a few likes or followers who may not actually be in need of a new gardener. At this stage, I would advise keeping your money and using it for advertisement on a website that is only aimed at new customers.
Should I get a website for my gardening business?
You should definitely get a website for your garden business and it doesn’t have to be as expensive as what you might think. I created mine with 1and1 (now known as ionos) who offered my site at 99p per month for the first year, followed by monthly payments of £9.99. At this price, you need to build it yourself, but websites are so easy to build in this new era of website design and it gives you the freedom to consistently make changes to your gardening business website like adding pictures etc.. You can pay a company to build you a website, but the majority of these companies charge at least £300 to create the most basic of websites which isn’t great when trying to keep advertising costs down for your gardening business.
You will need to learn how to make your new gardening website search engine friendly so that websites like Google and Bing can index you and rank you highly online. This is known as SEO (search engine optimization) and focuses mostly on keywords. It’s not hard to do!
The alternative to this is to pay to have yourself at the top of Google which can be very expensive, since you pay ‘per click’. Yes you can have your new website at the top of Google immediately, but as a new business, any mistakes made can easily make your advertising costs more expensive that what your budget allows. For now, the best thing to do is create a website, work on it as much as you can to get to the top of Google organically (no paid advertising) and put the link to your gardening website on as many free business directories as possible such as Yell, Yelp and so on with plenty of reviews.
The best form of advertising that has worked for my gardening business
I’ve tried it all, and the most inexpensive way to gain the most customers in my experience is to pay for advertising with a business directory website. This may not work for everyone of course, but it has worked for me. This is because they aim their website for those only looking for a service, in this case gardening.
I chose Yell.com for my paid advertising. This is because, in my area at least, if I search ‘garden services in Hertfordshire’, Yell are the first organic website to appear on Google. This means that they have already done all of the hard SEO work for you. Not only are Yell already (in my opinion) the most well known business directory website in the UK, but they are also ranking at the highest level on search engines. Not only this, but once you have paid for a space (I have first place) on their website, no one can take that space from you until you decide that you no longer want to be part of it. It doesn’t matter how many clicks you get on their website, or how many phone calls, it’s a flat fee every month which helps keep on top of advertisement costs.
I called Yell and gave them my location, and they showed me on a map a large area for my gardening business to cover. They explained that first place is available and at £180 (approximately) per month on a 12 month contract. After the 12 months, it will roll on monthly but that I will keep my place on their website.
This of course was very risky! Business was very slow up until this point, and I had spent most of it on other forms of advertising for my garden business. I’ll be honest, I only went ahead at the time because I didn’t have to pay anything for 30 days, which took a huge weight off my shoulders! Luckily, business picked up almost immediately, although I did start my garden business advertisement in May! With reminds me, please don’t start advertising in the colder months, it’s best to wait until March/April time to get the most out of your money!
Everything I do today to advertise my garden business
I have 5 employees. 4 of those are fully booked offering weekly and fortnightly garden maintenance visits, with the 5th one and myself offering landscape services such as fencing, decking, paving etc..
I have a website, and I am listed on pretty much every free business directory there is out there. With 5 star reviews on all of them. I am also on Facebook and Twitter with hardly any followers but it allows me to update regular pictures, and if someone asks me for a portfolio of my work, it provides an extra site to direct them to.
The only advertising commitments that I have for my gardening business are my website and Yell. I pay £9.99 per month for the website, and £180 per month for Yell, totaling £190.00 per month. This allows me to have a professional store front and be on the top of the largest business directory website in the UK.
My brother also runs a successful gardening business, and uses Yell for his advertisement. The only place available was 3rd place, and he is just as busy as I am. Although I wouldn’t recommend using Yell if the top 3 places aren’t available, and remember that in the beginning, the first 12 months are in contract. So you will need to make sure that it is the right financial decision for you and your gardening business.
Of course, depending on where you provide your garden services also depends on how many inquiries you get per day. From March to October I will receive an average of 5 inquiries per day. I grew my business steady and when I started employing people for my garden business, I done this at 1 additional person per year. Once one employees diary is fully booked, keep it that way until the following year, when you can employ an additional gardener and start on a new diary.
The advertising advice that I have given above doesn’t mean it will work for you, but it has worked for my gardening business. At the very least, I hope that I have given you a better understanding of what each form of advertising I have tried means, and if it could work for your garden business. Have you wasted your time on paid advertisement? Or have you had great success? Please share your stories below so that we can all help each other!