Author Topic: Garden consulting as a "side hustle" - want informed advice  (Read 1679 times)

Trudie

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I'm considering developing an LLC to be an umbrella for a garden/landscape consulting business.  In real life, I play a CPA and work full time at a job I've grown weary at.  But, gardening/landscaping is a passion of mine and people around town know me for it.  I am regularly called upon by friends and acquaintances for advice and design help.  My own gardens are well known and I get lots of positive feedback on them.

Is anyone here in the business -- particularly as a part-timer or side hustle -- who can offer some advice?

My expectations for this umbrella are very modest to start.  Basically I want to legitimize my hobby as a profit-making activity over the next few years while I achieve FI and semi-retirement.  I want to make enough of a profit to keep the IRS off my back but also to write off some expenses.  I eventually hope to pick up a certificate or two in landscape design and greenhouse operations so that I can hold myself out even more legitimately.

I don't want employees.  I don't envision doing the back breaking work of landscape construction (I'm 44) or hiring crews to do it because I don't want the liability.   I would see myself doing the following kinds of activities:
1- Design consulting
2- Brokering wholesale plant orders (this is where I'm interested in more background on minimum orders) and helping clients source materials.  I am struck at how often people can't find the plants they need at local garden centers.
3- Potentially leading garden "travel tours"
4 - Hiring out as a professional gardener to do container gardening, watering and maintenance for corporate clients
5 - Garden writing, community gardening
6 - Developing an online presence to sell garden antiques and possibly hand-crafted garden items (iron trellises sourced through local artisans)

Keep in mind that I realize a lot of these things are not huge money-makers... I understand the economics of it.  Some of the activities (e.g. writing) would be for the sheer love of it, but also -- again -- it legitimizes the fact that I am trying to make a go of it (business, versus hobby).  My premise is that I will already have achieved FI but just want something I can dabble at to generate some cash here and there and to stay mentally engaged in something I love.  I want a play job that allows me to disengage from the 9-5, and I want to do things (writing, educating, interacting with people) that I don't get enough of in my current job.

Because I'm a CPA working in industry I understand a lot of the mechanics about organizing, getting permits through the state dept of ag, getting registered with the state, and remitting taxes.... I'm not so concerned about those aspects.

gavint

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Re: Garden consulting as a "side hustle" - want informed advice
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2018, 04:36:10 AM »
An old thread, but how did you make out with it in the end, did you go for it?

There is potential there to do those things.  The big problem is that you're in competition with every other landscaping company in town, most of whom do their own design work AND do the construction themselves afterwards.  I've had experience working with subcontractors in Landscaping - contracting other companies to take over interlocking pavers - only to find that they turn around to do all of the work I do, and steal my customer in the process. 

You're also in competition with landscape architects, who are known as the go-to for bigger design projects, and who have those networks in place and landscaping companies that they work with to do the actual construction.

You might approach landscaping companies as a freelance designer.  It helps if you have some sort of credential behind you.  In Canada a relatively simple one to get that still carries weight is the CLD (certified landscape designer) through Landscape Ontario and its sister organisation the CNLA.  I'm pretty sure that they joined with PLANET in the states to make it recognisable across the continent.  Some companies would be happy to contract that work out, it would be under their umbrella though, not the other way around.

The garden tourism idea is a cool one.  They do that kind of thing in England, it's a big deal there.  Check out the RHS and the National Trust there to get some ideas as to how to get that ball rolling in North America - I'm sure it would be possible.  You might even contact travel agents - your prime demographic would be retirees, people who still use travel agencies.

Doing container planting is something I don't offer my client base, because most people are hopeless with plants and containers are a stressful environment for them from the start.  The customer won't look after them properly (99% of the time), the plants will die, and you are the one that ends up looking like an idiot, because obviously, it's your fault because you planted them.  I don't do it.  Unless you want to offer regular care (at least once every couple of weeks) better to keep away.

Anyway, let us know how you made out!
 


wenchsenior

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Re: Garden consulting as a "side hustle" - want informed advice
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2018, 07:43:31 AM »
I'm glad you posted. I've kicked this idea around as well.

gavint

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Re: Garden consulting as a "side hustle" - want informed advice
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2018, 08:48:53 AM »
When I was a self-employed landscaper in Canada, I did gardening consultations and landscape designing as part of my service offerings.  It became apparent over time that they were both much more effective as sales tools for getting construction and maintenance work rather than as income generators in their own right.  There is okay money in design work, better money in landscaping contruction (but carries with it a certain amount of risk), but the best money is in maintenance i.e. gardening, because it is a constant source of new work with virtually no risk and no disruption for the customer.  Look at it this way, design work is for getting construction projects, which are themselves for getting maintenance projects, which is where you make your money.