Preparation is the watchword for this industry, says Andy Winston, business development manager at Lloyds TSB: "Given that this industry is largely seasonal, some people diversify. We always ask how people intend to pay their mortgage. We have to play devil's advocate - how will they approach this? What other lines of work are there for them? Some people combine it with tree felling, for example. The most successful people are those that have considered what lies ahead."
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but the bank will be looking for an awareness of what may lie ahead. “If the area you are working in is affluent, there will be competition. You also need to consider what equipment you need. If you're catering for a niche market, you won't need the same equipment as if just tidying gardens . In many cases you could almost start tomorrow."
It's not advisable, though. "Most people want to do it straight away, but I can't put enough emphasis on waiting," Winston advises.
Why wait? You need to be sure of the type of work you want to do as well as the market you wish to target. If you jump straight in, you risk getting it wrong. While it may be easy to run down to your garden shed, grab your tools and - hey presto - become a gardener; like every business, you need to do your homework beforehand.
Landscape gardening is an excellent way if you enjoy the outdoors and want to help improve people's environments. It is also a profession where you can build an excellent reputation for yourself. There are, unfortunately, a small number of 'cowboys' in this industry, who overcharge and perform shoddy jobs.
They're the sort of operations who, if gardening work is slack, will start laying patios or tarmacing drives. The best way to avoid tarring yourself with the same brush is to be professional and accountable. It's small things, like having headed paper to send out with your invoices, and your name on the side of your vehicle, which can reassure your customers.
What are the rules and regulations?
As a gardener you may find yourself handling pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals. You obviously need to handle, transport and store these safely. You may also come across poisonous plants or weeds. Again, the way you approach dangerous plants is important. In this case, you must inform the customer of any risk, and labels need to be visible. There are also rules about wearing protective clothing when using certain machinery or equipment. This may all sound obvious but you need to protect yourself against things like this as well as protecting your business.
What sort of insurance will you need?
Professional indemnity insurance
This will protect you in disputes with the client over whether the initial agreement and the customer's requirements and your fees have been met. You should really have a clear fee structure and provide the customer with detailed plans, lists and itemised bills to avoid this. As already discussed, you should aim to be accountable.
Public liability insurance
This will cover you in the event of accidents. Roger Davie, owner of Roots landscape gardening in Norwich estimates that this will cost you somewhere between £200 and £250 a year.