How to Start a Tree Trimming Business

Do you have a passion for the outdoors? Are you fond of getting up high, climbing trees, and using heavy equipment? Then you may enjoy living life as the owner of a tree trimming business. The first thing that you’re going to need to know about this business is that it can be very dangerous. Sometimes trees grow near power lines or other hazards. You may be hired to remove these hazards. This means you’ll need to know how to use ladders, a pulley system, and remote equipment in order to remove bothersome branches and limbs.

Here are the other steps that you’re going to need to follow to start this type of business. If you already have a landscaping business, this service can be included in your customer options assuming that you can become licensed, insured, and/or bonded as needed for the work.

1. Make sure your paperwork is in order.

Most businesses today need to have a license in order to legally operate. This is generally obtained either through your local jurisdiction’s clerk’s office or through your Department of Revenue. Some areas have a Department of Labor and Industries that would cover tree trimming work instead. Apply for your business license, pay the necessary fees, and register your name with your jurisdiction. If you are using anything but your legal name, you’ll likely need to pay a registration fee for that as well.

2. You might need to prove insurance first.

Because tree trimming is often seen as a contracting business or one that provides value to a property owner, you may need to have insurance coverage secured before you can receive your license to conduct business. You’ll want at least $1 million in general liability and perhaps more if you plan to work around luxury homes. If a tree branch you’ve cut off falls through a home’s roof, that’s your responsibility to fix. That’s why insurance is such an important part of this business.

3. Bonding is a good idea, even if it isn’t required.

A surety bond is a simple, but very influential way of telling prospects in your sales funnel that you stand behind your work. Surety bonds are a form of credit that is used should you fail in your duties as a tree trimming business. If you didn’t get the job done in the right way and a property owner needed to hire someone else, then the surety bond could cover the costs of the new hire. It will also cover some damages that you may cause in the normal course of duties.

4. You’re going to need some office space.

Tree trimming equipment takes up a remarkable amount of space. You’re going to need to store it somewhere at the end of the day, so look for commercial properties, temporary storage locations, or think about where you could store the equipment on your existing property. You’ll also need an area of your home that is dedicated to administrative work if you don’t secure an independent commercial site. The good news is that a home office can produce a tax deduction for you if you make money with your tree trimming business, so you’ll be able to recoup some of the costs.

5. Do more than just purchase your equipment.

Even if you’re purchasing used tree trimming equipment, you’re purchasing a tangible asset for your business. These assets have a functional life to them, which means that they will depreciate over time. When you are filing your taxes, you’ll generally be given the option to fully depreciate your equipment the first year you’ve purchased it or to spread out the depreciation over a set amount of time based on what the equipment happens to be. If you make a lot of profits in that first year, then an advanced depreciation schedule can help you lessen your overall tax responsibilities.

What equipment are you going to need? Tree trimming also typically means stump removal jobs as well, so you’ll need chainsaws, stump grinders, pruning shears, and personal protection equipment for workers out in the field. Invest in a mulcher as well so that you can sell the tree mulch for extra profits.

6. Learn how to estimate a tree trimming job.

No two tree trimming jobs are alike. Each has a unique set of challenges and you may not be equipped technically or with your skill base to accomplish certain tasks. Before accepting any job, make sure that you go out to inspect the trees that need to be trimmed. If you don’t have the capabilities to get a job done, then you’ve got two options: refuse the work or upgrade your staffing or equipment to get the job done.

Estimating a job like this is a skill that takes practice to develop. You’ll need to know how fast you and your staff work, how many supplies will be used over the course of the job, and even how much fuel it will take to get you back and forth from the job site. Incorporate a fair profit margin into the estimation, give yourself at least 25% more time to get the job done then you think it might take, and you’ll be able to have some satisfactory first bids. As work comes in, you can then refine the estimates based on your tangible experiences.

7. Start looking for work.

With a business license, tree trimming equipment, and insurance all at the ready, you can begin to accept work. Residential work might be difficult to obtain at first, so look for government contracts, local parks district work, and other one-time jobs that can help to get your feet into some doors. Attend local trade shows and contracting seminars to discuss your package of services. Even consider running your own seminar about tree trimming so you can prove your expertise to new prospects.

A tree trimming business can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous if it isn’t approached correctly. Follow these steps and you’ll know how to start a tree trimming business that is safe and a valuable asset to your community.