Carry out a skills analysis

Before you start looking at your own individual markets, and working further on market research, you'll need to carry out an analysis of the skills you currently have.

The tools of our business are not too important at this time. Whether or not you have the latest gardening gismo means nothing if you're not able to use it properly.

You will need to identify your own skills and recognise what services you can immediately offer. I stress immediately, as knowledge and skills are things which you can acquire and build on as your business grows.

Limited skills should not hold you back.

Make a list

It's time to take a look at yourself in terms of what you can offer potential clients.

Remember, if you can cut a lawn then you've enough skill to start your own business. All of the other skills can be acquired and learnt. So don't be put off if you only get one item down on the list.

  • Begin by listing all the jobs you can think of that will need doing around the garden at any time of the year.
  • You may find it easier to do this if you divide your list into the 12 months of the year.
  • Don't limit your list to outdoors. If you're a wizard with houseplants then that is another angle for your business.
  • Brainstorm your ideas. Do this by writing down everything that comes into your head, no matter how stupid or incredible it may sound.
  • When your list is completed take a short break before listing all the gardening skills you have.
  • Remember, everything that you can do in a garden is a skill. The apparently simple act of collecting and bagging autumn leaves is a skill, and something that people will pay you to do.
  • Skills can be anything from repairing, painting or erecting a fence to sweeping the garden paths. Put everything down.

Interpreting the results

Let's assume that initially at least you've only put down lawn cutting. That's fine, because this is a service in itself. Lawn cutting isn't about fashion, it's about need. Every garden that has a lawn will need it cut either once or twice a week. Thus representing a market for your services. The most important thing is not to dwell on the fact that all you can do is cut a lawn, but to make sure that you cut lawns better than anyone else. Aim for the top end of the domestic market where clients will pay extra for a professional cut. Imagine for a moment that your lawn cutting service were a hairdresser's or barber's shop. Are you a £5 short back and sides operation hoping to boost your earnings with tips? Or are you looking to offer the best lawn cutting service in your locality and therefore able to charge more?

Whatever you do. make sure you do it well

Say your list goes beyond this. Perhaps you're confident at planting and at pruning, or you're an expert on roses or vegetable growing. Maybe you're one of the ever-increasing groups of gardeners who are using organic methods of gardening and are determined to make your garden as environmentally welcoming as possible. Then initially, at least, you're ready to offer a whole range of services that come under the heading of organic:

  • organic pest control methods
  • preparing the soil using only recognised and approved organic products
  • running an organic gardening advisory service.

As I've said before, skills are something that can be acquired and learnt. When it comes to gardening, I don't think anyone would be foolish enough to claim that they know it all. Even the most seasoned of gardeners, who've spent a lifetime caring for and tending gardens, tell me that they learn something new every day. So don't be afraid of what you don't know. Instead, concentrate on what you do know and the rest you can learn as time goes on.

Further research

Libraries are full of gardening books. Huge, wonderful, glossy books full of information and practical advice that are available to you free of charge. At any one time I will have anywhere between three and ten gardening books on loan from the library. Some I take out regularly. Some I need just once for a specific project or job. I have also built up my own comprehensive gardening library. Those books that I have borrowed from the library and found myself going back to again and again, I have eventually bought. To me books are as important as tools. In fact they are such an integral part of your business that buying them is a legitimate business expense and therefore tax deductible.

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