Monday 13 August 2018

How to Become A Gardener

When you find a job you are truly passionate about, you won’t work a day again. Instead, you’ll be eager to get going each day, with the motivation to complete any projects to the highest possible standard. For someone who loves nothing more than spending time outside in their garden, the natural career choice may be becoming a gardener or landscape designer. This is a highly rewarding profession for those who strive to nurture plant life, creating outdoor havens. It’s a job which leaves the worker with a sense of achievement when they can look at the newly transformed landscape and say “I did that.” If this career path sounds ideal for you, how do you come about becoming a professional gardener?

The variety of gardening roles
The profession of gardening is wide, and knowing how you want to specialise will go a long way in deciding how to become a gardener. For example, landscape gardening takes into account the building of specific structures including walls, pathways and sheds, while maintenance gardening requires you to care and tend for plants and complete jobs such as mowing the lawn and trimming trees. If you decide to focus on landscaping, you can specialise further by focusing on eco-friendly solutions or ornate structures. What you will need, however, is plenty of hands-on experience, to truly get an understanding and a feel for the role. For more experienced jobs, including building structures and cutting trees, you may need to undergo training.

What skills do I need?
Being passionate about the outside world is, of course, essential, but there are many other specific skills which can help you tackle the world of gardening successfully. These skills include:

·         Science: A key element of becoming a gardener is being able to nurture plants, trees and shrubs from infancy. To do this, you will need to understand the life cycle of specific plants and how to best utilise every aspect to get the best results. Understanding the pH balance in certain types of soil will also help you find the correct plants for the client’s garden.
·         Maths: As this will be your business, rather than a hobby, you will need a head for figures. You will need to understand profit margins, how to complete tax requirements and how to keep your business in the black.
·         People Skills: The role of a gardener is a client-focused role. It means that you will need to be able to communicate successfully and calmly, as well as adapting your views and advice to each individual project. You will need to be diplomatic in your responses to requests you may not agree with, and you will need to be able to respond to any frustrated, irate customers professionally.
·         Creative Skills: Designing and creating a garden takes vision, the ability to pair colours together to get the best results, as well as being able to add features, such as water features and statement trees.
Attending a gardening course and gaining a qualification is one way to build vital skills, such as the RHS General Certificate in Horticulture or BTEC First Diploma Award. However, the qualification isn’t essential to becoming a career gardener.

Full-time or part-time
One reason many people choose to work for themselves is to give up to daily 9-5 grind and become their own boss. Becoming a self-employed gardener is an ideal way to do this, especially if working inside an office isn’t for you. However, when launching your own gardening business, at first, it may not be a viable option as a full-time job. As you need to build a solid client base and a positive reputation, it can take months before you can give up your work for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it’s best to start in a part-time role, one which you can increase your hours as you successfully build relationships with happy clients, perhaps taking on weekend work.
It is important to be realistic about salary expectations when you decide to become a full-time gardener, and this is depending on the specialism you decide on. For example, The Professional Gardeners Guild discovered head gardeners at establishments such as the National Trust can earn between £20,000 to £32,000, while self-employed gardeners can expect to charge client’s £10 an hour.

Investing in tools
No gardener can complete their project without the appropriate tools, and these tools are numerous. They can be split into two sections: hand tools and power tools and machinery.
·         Hand tools can include items such as a rake, hand trowel, pruning shears, secateurs and a spade.
·         Power tools and machinery includes lawnmowers, which are essential as a maintenance gardener, strimmers, rotavators, lawn scarifier and seek and fertiliser spreader.
It is essential to invest in your professional gardening tools, as they can make the difference between an award-winning garden and one which looks cut to pieces. To decide what gardening tools you will need, take the time to compare tools and assess each carefully. While it may be more expensive, sticking with well-known brands for your tools is a good idea, as they are known for their longevity and craftsmanship. If you are selecting a metal tool, look for stainless steel as it will avoid rusting and be durable.
When investing in your tools, there is also the option to hire, rather than buy outright. For example, if you are still new to the profession and working on a part-time schedule, hiring an expensive item such as a lawn scarifier will work as much cheaper in the long-term, rather than buying one which may not be used again for many months.

Building a business
Much like any business, it takes time, effort and often money to build a successful, sustainable company. A client-focused business, such as gardening, relies on positive recommendations from previous happy customers to first get it off the ground. You will also need to nurture a positive reputation, and one way to do so is to be well-known for charging fair, accurate prices. As you grow, your prices may increase, but at first, ensure what you charge is fair to both you and the client. This is where maths come into play, as you will need to understand the figures to make sure you make a liveable profit, secure the material (compost, plants, wood, for example) for a good price, and provide value for money which clients won’t be able to turn down.

Where to find work
In today’s digital world, the best place to advertise will always be online. As a creative profession, you need a website which shows off your flair, your style and is easy-to-use and navigate. You also have to ensure your website is SEO-ready, meaning the search engines will be able to crawl your site for the information it needs to rank your website high in the results pages. Once you have done so, you can undertake a digital marketing strategy to promote your business to your target audience.
However, as mentioned above, word-of-mouth recommendations still plays an important part in finding you work, as well as offline advertising such as displaying a sign outside a garden you have just designed. You will need the client permission to do so, but it’s one way to make sure your logo and name are on people’s minds, especially if they live on a busy street. You should also place an advert in your local newsagents and paper.

Becoming a gardener is a highly rewarding career path, as you see the designs and plants you’ve carefully created and cultivated come to life before your eyes. It provides an unrivalled sense of achievement, one which, for someone who prefers the outdoors, will struggle to find in a traditional office. If you are motivated, experienced and prepared, you can turn your passion for flowers into a viable business.