When it comes to landscaping, starting your own business can be quite the challenge. That is not to say that having your own landscaping business is not rewarding or cannot be profitable. In fact, landscaping is indeed quite a lucrative avenue for any entrepreneur to walk down, but it has to be right. As with any business or company out there, getting started can be one of the hardest parts.
There are usually many obstacles for any entrepreneur and that includes landscapers. If you manage to get past these obstacles, chances are that you will be successful. One of the obstacles has to do with licensing. Many first timers will ask “do you need a license to start a landscaping business?” Well, we’re here to get to the bottom of that right now because licensing laws can be pretty complicated and differ from one place to the next.
Different strokes for different folks
We definitely live in a great country here, but that being said, issues around landscaping licenses arise. One of the problems in terms of landscaping and licensing is that every State in the US is slightly different. One State may require licenses while others do not. This can even vary within States too. In the vast majority of States, licensing is not a requirement if you want to run your own landscaping business. Now, keep in mind here, we said most states—not all of them.
For instance, if you are starting a landscaping company in the State of Oregon, you need to get a landscaping contractor’s license. On that same note, States such as New York and New Jersey require landscaping companies to have a home improvement contractor’s license. If you are a landscaper in Colorado and you are looking to sell plants to your customers, you need to have a Colorado State Nursery License.
Moreover, if you are a landscaper who deals with pesticides, you will also need a license. In some areas of the US landscapes will require good irrigation systems, which once again may or may not require you to have a license depending on which State you are starting your business in. There may also be requirements or licenses that you need to have for the dumping of old landscaping materials such as dirt, wood, rocks, and other such things.
The real takeaway here is that it is almost impossible for us to be able to tell you whether or not your need a license for your landscaping business. The simple fact of the matter is that every State has varying requirements. So, your best bet for a definitive answer is “go look up the laws for your state and your local municipality” for a solid answer.
To assist you in the process, Home Advisor has provided State by State guidance on licensing requirements for contractors in the US, which could be a good place to start. They even provide links to the relevant jurisdictions for your locality to so you can quickly go to the source of the requirements.
The difference between being licensed and registered
People often get confused between a requirement to have a license to perform landscaping duties and the requirement of being registered. If you have a license it means that you have passed several tests and that you have reasonable competency to be in the business of landscaping. It is actually like a test to show that you are capable of doing the job at hand, much like doctors and many other practices need to do. Heck, even 5-year-old kids with lemonade stands need business licenses nowadays, business licenses being something we will touch on shortly.
Now, registration is a little different. Generally speaking, according to the laws in most areas, businesses of any kind need to be registered as such. This is pretty obvious because of legal issues, taxes, and all that other fun stuff. Simply put, governments want to know what kinds of businesses are out there, and how many of them exist. The "Start a Business" section of the USA Government website is a good place to start.
In pretty much any and all cases, a business needs to be registered with some kind of government authority to be considered legally eligible to work. This has to do with taxes as well as employment regulation too. After all, you can’t just start your own business, hire people at will, and not pay any taxes. Wherever you live, chances are almost certain that you have to register your business, even if a license is not required for landscaping.
The business license
You may or may not need a license if you are a landscaping entrepreneur (specifically for landscaping), but something you will need is a business license. A business license is something that any and all businesses need, like the little kid and the lemonade stand we mentioned earlier. Most of the time, you will need a combination of federal and state permits to engage in any business.
Governments want to know who you are, what business you have, how much money you are making, how much taxes you should be paying, who you hire, and much more. It’s a way for governments to keep track of you. You need a business license if you plan on providing customers with any kind of goods or services in exchange for compensation. Once again, to make things a little more difficult for you, depending on the type and size of business you are starting, the requirements will vary from State to State.
We recommend contacting your local Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) to find the requirements in your particular US State. Most States don’t have a comprehensive business licensing search website. However, there are some websites that provide State by State Business licensing information and resource links such as Nav, which will help you with your search.
Separately, for our Australia based readers, the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) should be your first point of call.
Incorporation of your landscaping business
Something else to think about if you are planning to start a big landscaping business is incorporation of your company. The main benefit of this is that your landscaping business will be seen as a separate entity. If you don’t have your business incorporated, if something goes wrong, you are legally and financially responsible.
Incorporation laws state that corporations are separate entities, so if someone does come looking for money, they can’t come for your personal assets. Another bonus is that corporations are taxed much less than individual businesses. You could even go public and start selling stock if things go really well.
Just keep in mind that requirements for landscaping licenses vary from State to State, so be sure to look up the laws for where you live before making a move.