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A Brief Guide to Becoming a Landscaper in the United States

At least a few good years await landscapers in the United States. The recent market data suggests that the market will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of at least 4.5 percent from 2020 to 2025.

Factors like the demand for curb appeal, the active housing market, health and wellness, and millennial homebuyers drive the industry’s growth. In other words, there’s a lot of doors to join the field. But how does one become a landscaper?

Education

While there are no specific educational requirements to become a landscape contractor, many landscape professionals have some form of postsecondary training in horticulture, arboriculture, or landscape design. Many programs offer this training.

Others can also take landscape design and drafting courses at vocational-technical centers, community colleges, and adult continuing education programs to learn the basics of drawing up designs for projects and use computer applications such as AutoCAD or Landscape Architectural Desktop (LAD) software.

Besides vocational training or academic education, would-be landscapers can apply for an internship or apprenticeship with a commercial landscaping company, a municipal department of parks and recreation, a golf course superintendent’s office, a nursery, or a landscape architect.

Licenses and Certifications

Some states may require a license to work as a landscape contractor. To get licensed, a contractor must pass an exam that tests their knowledge of landscaping business practices, contracting law, and horticulture. They may need to pass an exam administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use pesticides.

Many landscape contractors become certified through professional organizations, such as the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), or the Professional Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (PGA). Certification can demonstrate your professionalism and knowledge in the field.

Career Pathways

Many landscape contractors work for landscape contracting companies. The company will likely hire entry-level employees who work their way up to more responsible positions as they gain experience.

Prior work experience in landscaping, horticulture, or plant nursery management can also be helpful when applying for jobs working with plants and soil at nurseries, golf courses, theme parks, and other commercial properties.

Some landscape contractors may also start their own business, which can be a very rewarding career path. Those who want to take this route needs the right tools and equipment:

  • Lawnmowers: Mowers are tools that cut grass efficiently and quickly. Landscapers can use different types. Small-time work might need battery lawnmowers, which are cost-effective and produce almost no noise. However, for larger areas, a gas-powered lawnmower may be required.
  • Grass Trimmers: A landscaper’s best friend, grass trimmers allow one to quickly and easily cut grass and other plants near sidewalks, trees, and fences without using a mower.
  • Edgers: An edger is a hand tool that allows for a clean, crisp edge on lawns and gardens. It is especially important for flower beds and other areas where precision is key.
  • Shovels and Rakes: A shovel and rake are essential for the landscape industry. They allow contractors to dig, remove, and smooth out soil and earth for landscaping projects like patios, gardens, and pools.
  • Trucks: A truck is essential for keeping equipment at the job site. Trucks are often used to keep lawnmowers, trimmers, edgers, shovels and rakes, tree spades, mulch, compost, fertilizer bags, and other types of materials on-site.

Marketing and Sales

Marketing landscaping requires a deep understanding of the market, industry trends, and a unique selling proposition (USP). Here are some ideas to start:

  • Build a strong network of homeowners, realtors, and real estate agents. This can be done by networking with people at home shows, pre-foreclosure fairs, weekend craft shows, business expositions, property auctions, charity events.
  • Join neighborhood organizations and focus on community beautification projects close to schools or churches.
  • Develop a website and social media presence. Use online tools to showcase completed projects, share tips and advice, and post before-and-after photos.
  • Write articles for trade magazines or local newspapers, talk at garden clubs, home and garden shows, or other events.
  • Offer free consultations and estimates to potential customers.
  • Generate leads through telemarketing, direct mail, or email marketing campaigns.
  • Partner with other complementary businesses (like garden centers, home improvement stores, real estate firms, etc.) to cross-promote services and products.
  • Make a short video about the company and post it on YouTube.

The landscaping industry is a great way to start a career outdoors. It offers many opportunities for personal growth and creativity, and there are various ways to enter the field.

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