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Pave the way to a career in garden landscaping

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A landscaper is an artist whose canvas is a park or garden. Here, we explain how to break into a career that’s both challenging and rewarding.

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You don’t need any training or qualifications to start working as a landscaper, but they will help give you a grounding in your chosen profession.

What is a landscaper?

A landscaper uses their knowledge of horticulture and ecology to design stunning outdoor spaces, such as gardens, parks and lawns. They also nurture and maintain what can sometimes be a long-term project, especially if it involves growing saplings or hedges until they achieve the effect they’re after.

What does a landscaper do?

Each new project starts with a landscaper surveying the site and developing plans until they settle on the right design. Next comes sourcing the right plants and other materials. These can include timber, rocks, pots, lighting and water features. With all this in place, the job of turning plans into reality starts, and when that’s done, it’s maintenance and adjustments.  

What skills do you need to be a landscaper?

You’ll probably begin as a gardening landscaper. This job requires you to be fit enough to cope with all the digging, clearing, raking, hoeing, lifting, planting, and shifting of soil and vegetation. 

You’ll also need an eye for detail, a keen sense of special awareness, plenty of ideas, and good organisational skills. The ability to communicate effectively is also vital, especially if you need to subcontract work such as external lighting – without this, you risk your plans being misinterpreted.

Most of all, you must be enthusiastic – happy to read about and visit other gardens and parks, learning about the variety of plants, soils and building materials that will form part of your job. 

For example, you don’t want to build a tropical paradise in a cold, windy climate and on the wrong kind of soil and have the fruits of your labour promptly die.

How do you become a landscaper? 

There are four main ways to start earning as a landscaper:

  • Apply for jobs – there is no reason you can’t approach landscape gardening firms to see whether they will take on an assistant landscaper. This way you learn on the job and can enrol in training courses when you’re ready. Your employer may even cover the costs

  • Go it alone – if you’re confident enough, you could start a business with no support or training. It’s risky, but with the right attitude and ability to learn it can be very rewarding

  • Apprenticeship – combines hands-on experience with more traditional-style studying. This approach enables you to earn a wage as you learn, with course costs covered. Courses typically take up to two years

  • Training courses – these give you the practical skills and confidence needed to start independently. It makes you an attractive prospect to potential employers and it can look great as a badge for your business

What qualifications do you need to be a landscaper?

You don’t need any training or qualifications to start working as a landscaper, but they will help give you a grounding in your chosen profession. 

Providing you have the required number of GCSEs grades nine to four, or A* to C, you could enrol in a course that’ll lead to an Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation accreditation. Costs vary depending on the course level, location and duration, but here are some to consider: 

  • Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture (example cost: £1,095; 33 weeks, part-time)

  • Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Plant Growth and Development (example cost: £1,065; 33 weeks, part-time)

  • Level 3 BTEC National Foundation Diploma in Horticulture (example cost: £1.095; 33 weeks, part-time)

Note: All courses are free for 16- to 18-year-olds. Also, some Level 3 courses are free to adults meeting the government’s eligibility criteria.

What does a landscaper earn?

A new landscaper can expect to earn around £20,000 to £23,000, with their income rising to around £34,000 with experience. The average salary is around £26,000 or £13 an hour. Freelance rates can differ and will typically be determined by your experience and reputation.

What are the different types of landscapers?

Although you can be a jack of all trades, you may decide to specialise from the start or after a few years. For example, you may want to become a:

Landscape gardener: selects and plants trees, shrubs, flowers and other flora that fit the brief and will thrive in their new environment. Jobs include soil analysis as well as pruning, fertilising, maintaining plants. Landscape gardeners also provide advice to clients. This job can also involve laying or relaying patios, artificial turf and installing a pond.

Landscape designer: plans new garden layouts from scratch, selecting and installing lighting, water features, paths and walls, as well as plants. 

Landscape architect: designs and plots out large-scale projects for parks, stately homes, commercial estates and domestic developments.  

These experts can work independently, or collaborate on projects. They may also bring in other specialists, such as:

  • Tree surgeons or arborists – care for, maintain, cut and shape trees

  • Lawn care specialists – provide year-round care for expansive lawns 

  • Irrigation experts – design, install and maintain garden water systems, including sprinklers, ponds and water features

  • Outdoor lighting specialists – install different types of lights and lighting effects in outdoor spaces

What insurance do you need to be a landscaper?

If you end up working for yourself, you’ll probably need some form of business insurance. The main types of cover include:

Public liability insurance – covers you if a client or a member of the public sues your business for injury or damage to their property. This type of insurance is a requirement to join industry bodies such as the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI).

Professional indemnity insurance – protects you if the advice you give a customer causes them to suffer financial loss

Van insurance – motor insurance specifically covering work vehicles 

Employer’s liability insurance – a legal requirement if you employ anyone other than direct family, even on a part-time basis. This type of insurance is a membership requirement if you have staff and want to join BALI.


How do you find clients as a landscaper?

Employ a range of strategies from printing and distributing letterbox flyers to posting on local or regional social media networks. You could also place ads in newsagent windows and buy advertising space in local newspapers.
Ten marketing ideas for small businesses

Do you need to be good at social media to promote your business?

No, but it helps. More than 90% of adults use social media, so if you’re not among the majority, you could be missing out. That said, plenty of local firms do well without social media.

Can you be a landscaper as a side hustle?

Yes. Research shows that one in three Brits earns £200 a month on side hustles. If you enjoy gardening and have the tools, time and experience, there’s no reason why you can’t earn a bit on the side.

Business insurance is a way to protect your company against financial risk if things go wrong.

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