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how to start a landscaping business in college

How to Start a Landscaping Business in College

A lot of high school seniors want to go to college but can’t afford it. Even with a full academic scholarship, the cost of living is too high to make it feasible.

What if you could work and get a college education? 

By running a landscaping business in your downtime, it’s possible to have both. 

Yes, you’ll need equipment to start, and that isn’t always easy on a student budget. 

But with this step-by-step guide, you can build your landscaping business from scratch and make money while you’re in school.

1. Understand What Landscapers Do

Before you decide that this is your next business move, you should know what a landscaper does. It’s  not just about mowing lawns — landscaping can involve lots of other tasks.

As a landscaper, people will ask you to do jobs like:

  • Designing and creating their outdoor landscapes
  • Planting greenery in the optimal way to ensure its growth
  • Trimming hedges and shrubbery
  • Cleaning up weeds and clearing lawns

Unlike a lawn-mowing business, landscaping doesn’t require a hefty investment in equipment. It’s easier to get work if you have your own tools, but there are many things you can offer customers without equipment.

Weather-Dependent Jobs That Can Be Done Without Equipment 

Some landscaping jobs require very few tools. Dethatching is one example — a strong rake is all it takes to clear dead leaves and grass from the property.

Designing and planting greenery is another inexpensive job. It’s hard work, of course, but you can ask your customers to buy the plants they want in advance.

You won’t have to spend much out of your own pocket unless you have to buy the basic tools. Even if you do, it’s a one-time investment.

Weeding, seeding, and yard-cleaning are also things that landscapers can do without equipment.

2. Get Experience

Is landscaping interesting to you because you grew up working in your yard and seeing others do the job? Or are you starting with zero experience?

Depending on the level of experience you have, you’ll know if you can jump right in or need to get some practice first.

If you want to get some experience before marketing your services, spend a year working with another landscaping company. Most of them are pretty busy, so they’ll probably be happy to give you a few shifts per week when you don’t have classes.

Or, ask your campus landscape if you can shadow them. They’ll certainly be glad to have some help, and you’ll save a lot of time by not having to commute to work.

3. Check Out the Licensing and Insurance Requirements

What services do you plan to offer? If you need equipment, do you want to lease, buy, rent, or borrow it?

A lot of clients have their own lawn care tools but lack the time to do the work themselves. You could make a living working for clients like that and never have to buy any equipment.

If you break a lawnmower, though, you’ll have to replace it. So, you’ll probably want insurance.

In some states, you’ll also need a landscaping license to do business.

Different Types of Landscaping Licenses

Various licenses and exams are required on state and local levels. As you research the requirements for your state, you’ll learn that there are various types of licenses for different professions:

  • Landscaping contractor
  • Tree trimming and removal contractor
  • Pesticide applicator
  • Ornamental pest management
  • Landscape horticulturist
  • Arborist

Each license gives you legal permission to perform a set of jobs as defined by that title. When you know what types of services you want to offer, you should learn about the exams, licenses, and insurance required to perform that job.

Your state and local authorities could be lenient about these things. But even if you can get around licenses and insurance, do you want to be responsible for the damage if something happens?

4. Set Your Prices

Are you going to freelance or set up an official company?

This decision can affect your prices. Setting up a company will require you to get business licenses and file taxes as a business instead of as an independent contractor. 

As a freelancer, you’re still legally obligated to file taxes if you make more than $400 in the tax period. There are benefits to owning a business that independent contractors don’t receive, such as tax write-offs, 

Talk to an accountant to see which type of business is best for you, but don’t play around. The IRS takes taxes (and fraud) seriously!

Determining Prices

With that knowledge in mind, the next best step is to check out the competition in your area. Who are the most popular landscapers, and how much do they charge?

One way to conduct research is to ask for landscaping company recommendations from friends on social media. Browse those companies’ websites and read their reviews to get a feel for the local competition.

Keep your prices comparable to the average going rates in the area. Over time, as you get busier, you can increase what you charge.

5. Spread Your Name

You have a list of things you can do, prices for those jobs, and are ready to get started! 

The easiest way to get the word out is by asking your friends and family to tell their social circle about you. In the meantime, you can use the college computers and printers to design business cards and flyers to pass out.

As you build your business and know your target customer, you can start marketing more strategically. Facebook and Google ads are inexpensive, and building your own website is easier than ever.

Get the word out about your landscaping business any way you can. If you get too busy, you can always hire someone to help you. It’s a great problem to have!


Building a landscaping business (or any business, for that matter) isn’t rocket science.

It is possible to get in over your head, though. You don’t have to take out loans to buy expensive equipment before you’re making any money. 

Use these tips to start a strong foundation for your new company, then grow it slowly. Before you know it, you’ll be running a successful and thriving landscaping business while pursuing your education.

Author Bio
Proxi Lawrence offers luxury housing for Kansas State University students in Lawrence, Kansas. Learn more about their housing options today!

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