Author Topic: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread  (Read 750 times)

gavint

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Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« on: October 21, 2018, 02:40:27 AM »
Hi Everyone,

I'm a self-employed gardener/landscaper/arborist, and would like to start a dialogue about cost savings, investments and business development opportunities particular to our industry, from a mustachian perspective. 

Let's share tips and tricks to help each other keep costs down, and maximise our earnings per hour. 

This might also be interesting for people thinking of transitioning into the green industry, to get some helpful tips as to how to get going with it.

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

jessmess

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Re: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2018, 01:25:43 PM »
Hello! this post actually encouraged me to finally sign up to be a part of this forum!

I am an arborist out of Canada.  While my husband is no mustache enthusiast I am, and we've had to get our company started with very very very little funds. We do not have any debt on the company and we've done this mainly by getting and fixing up older equipment.

We slowly upgrade our equipment as it makes sense but we really enjoy the flexibility it gives us not to have to worry about payments.

I have a question for you though~ I've heard that tree work is very difficult to do in Germany as there is a lot of paperwork involved. We are lucky that doesn't really affect us in the smaller town we live in.

gavint

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Re: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2018, 05:55:38 AM »
hey @jessmess, I'm also from Canada, but have been living in dear old Deutschland since 2011. 

Congratulations on getting started, and  both of you in the same line of work, cool! 

I was also self-employed in Canada, as a landscaper primarily, and it went really well until it didn't.  I got into the equipment and fixed-cost trap, racked up a pile of debt and had to roll up the business and sell off everything I could.  I dug myself painstakingly out of debt afterwards, relatively quickly, and made the move to Germany to be close to my wife's family.  Huge advantage here over Ontario is no winter!  The Germans complain about the cold here in January, but zey know nozing!

I wish I had discovered Mustachianism while I was self-employed in Ontario, I wouldn't have gotten myself into that mess.  Totally great that you're on board though!  My biggest piece of advice that you already seem to have learned is avoid fixed monthly costs like the plague!  Expensive machinery you rent unless it's being used daily - forever.  Also, customers don't really care about your truck.  It has to be presentable, but that doesn't mean it can't also be 10 years old and used!  Good plan buying as you really need it - that has been my strategy in my second attempt at self-employment here.  Another tip:  Buy the best quality you can when it will be used at least weekly, buy China-brand stuff that doesn't get used that much - a lot of it surprisingly good quality.  Do the math on rentals, often a tool will pay for itself after only two or three uses. 

And about your question:  Work is different in Germany, but once you get used to it, it's fine.  Though, that getting-used-to-it period has its moments of extreme irritation.  My temples went grey shortly after moving here, and I blame that squarely on Deutschland.  If you're doing any kind of tree-work for a town or bigger company, the paperwork is insane.  I don't go after those jobs, though sometimes I work as a subcontractor for others who have landed those jobs.  I mostly work for private customers, who are pretty reasonable as a rule.  You need various insurances (they love being insured in Germany, you can buy insurance for your insurance here), and you need to have recognised certificates to be able to do the work here.  However, there are still lots of people who don't have the insurance or certification and do jobs for cash here, like anywhere else.  That's a big risk though.  But, the mild climate and jumping economy (I live in one of the three cities here in Germany that drives the whole EU essentially) means that the work goes year round and doesn't stop.

Anyway, battery's going, thanks for the response!



 
 

jessmess

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Re: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2018, 01:33:10 PM »
hi @gavint

Nice to hear from you. I am actually also a german and have family in Germany so I am having a lot of fun reading your comment (heehee insurances)...and I live in Ontario too!  thank you for answering my question. I always wondered just HOW serious germans where about their paper work. That is quite a move! I've thought about it before, but its mostly the rules that turn me off... we experience a little bit of freedom here.

I agree about customers not caring what kind of truck we use! We started by chopping wood up in a dump trailer. Once we bought a chipper we would take 2 trips to every job. One to tow the chipper, and then one to tow the trailer after it! Eventually we built a plywood box on a Chevy Silverado 1500. It looked like junk but work still picked up. we moved on. we actually broke that truck by overloading it too many times so we bought something more heavy duty... a '75 Ford with a dump box! it turns a lot of heads but is surprisingly cheap to maintain (for now). We have only ever had one customer who wasn't impressed by our truck and in fact there is someone in the area who owns a whole lawn care business with a whole fleet of very old pickups with plywood sides!

Our secret weapon is truly my husband though. He is extremely sociable and that seems to keep the calls flowing.

Our main issue right now is saving for a disaster. We enjoy our work and our version of retirement would probably involve me quitting my second job (part time at a call centre) and both of us simply taking on the tree jobs that perk our interests. I also hope to gain a better education over time and I am having trouble finding cost effective educational options for what I want, so I must work for now. My husband doesn't believe in saving.... so I am alone trying to squirrel away and unfortunately he is in charge of most of the money (I'd like to be)

How is your second attempt working out?

smalllife

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Re: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2018, 01:37:14 PM »
Following, as I've had a business idea along these lines mulling in my head for awhile and want to soak in your experiences.

gavint

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Re: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2018, 02:10:10 PM »
@jessmess, you don't live in Peterborough perchance, do you?  That business with the old trucks and plywood sides sounds pretty familiar...

I learned a lot about what makes a successful business by watching others and deeply analysing my own mistakes and trying not to repeat them.  This time around it's going really well.  I'm able to keep my overhead costs really low by owning all of my equipment and working out of our house, and the rates I can get here are really good.  There is so much work around, it comes my way without me having to advertise, I've decided I need to hire someone in the new year.  Last year I got the truck and trailer paid down, plus saved a pile, this year it's just been saving like crazy.  I've been able to put away around 60% of what I've earned.  Helps that my wife pays for the food and kid clothes though, for sure, but working as a team is a huge advantage anyways.  I figure FIRE around age 50, in 11 years.

Call centre, yikes!  I could see you wanting to get the hell out of there.  Do the math about it, if your husband is willing to save a bit more, he can free you from that prison - put it that way to him, see what he says.  Also really look at education, and do the cost-benifit analysis - I wasted tons of money and time on college and uni courses in Ontario that didn't help me in the end.  I was one of those suckered in by the BA = good job myth...  Targeted courses with a definite goal in an in-demand field are the only way to go. 

Lustig das du eine deutsche bist!  Canadian husband? 
 
and @smalllife any specific questions, just shoot, I'll answer as best I can.

jessmess

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Re: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2018, 07:01:04 PM »
@gavint I am not in Peteborough but rather in Welland. The business I was talking about was Paul's Lawn care. He seems to be doing well.

Good for you! Perhaps I can learn a bit from you too. So far no debt and working out of the house has been working for us!
 Please continue sharing tips ... and other mistakes!

As for the education, we've recently spoken about this and have decided to only pursue free/ inexpensive education for the time being. I am working on amassing more certifications. These tend to offer the best return I believe... although we've only ever had one client ask us for proof of our qualifications before. I think I would like these just to qualify for more conservation authority contracts as I really enjoy those.

My husband is not a saver, no mater how hard I try. In fact, he wants me to quit that job, I just don't want to loose the house! he has adhd and is very impulsive. I think that is part of what makes him such a gutsy entrepreneur... but I am a much more conservative person.

I can be consoled by the fact that he does mostly spend on enriching our assets rather than disposable junk for the most part.


My husband is Canadian and a Welland native.

gavint

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Re: Self-Employed Gardeners, Landscapers, Arborists Thread
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2018, 02:02:39 AM »
@jessmess, about certifications that make sense in our business:

Landscape Ontario, www.horttrades.com, has certifications in landscaping, landscape design, garden and lawn care and horticultural management.  Being allowed to take the tests is a pretty flexible process, and the certifications are recognised as the industry standard.  They also have a partnership with the Red Seal qualifications offered through the Ontario College of Trades.  Landscape Ontairo has a pretty robust marketing presence, and is recognised as the provincial authority in the green industries, being certified by them takes advantage of that to some degree.

The OCT is also worth looking at, they are the ones giving out the Red Seal qualifications as Landscape Horticulturists.  You can challenge the exam (which is pretty easy) if you can prove you've been working in the field long enough.  Otherwise, this is the body that oversees trades apprenticeships in the province.  www.collegeoftrades.ca

Also definitely get ISA certified if you're doing tree work, you may even be required by law to have one before working on site, or to be able to get liability insurance - not sure on that one.  They have regular course offerings and exam dates all over the place, just get in touch with them to see what is the most sensible for your situation.  www.isaontario.com

The U of Guelph horticulturist certificate is good, but expensive!  In my opinion, it doesn't get you any more recognition as a professional than does the CHT from Landscape Ontario, which is faster and cheaper to get.

Everything else you do by self-study - uni and college don't buy you much in our line of work as a self-employed person.  Buying a book off Amazon is way cheaper than taking a uni-course, plus you can write them off as a business expense.  And don't bother with certifications from out-of-province, things like online courses from US universities or the RHS in Britain - although they are often good courses, they're not recognised or heard of in Ontario. 

Hope that helps!
« Last Edit: November 17, 2018, 02:16:32 AM by gavint »