As a former landscaper who lives in Ontario I can answer this question. If you advertise yourself as a Landscape Architect then you must be one and a member of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects. Degrees and diplomas from other countries or provinces may be accepted as credit towards a degree in Ontario.
Landscape firms are another matter. There are hundreds in the city where I live ranging from one person and a truck to multi million dollar operations. They often have "landscape designers" whose qualifications may range from nothing, community college diploma,certifications or more.
Do I need formal certification to operate as a landscape designer or landscaper?
Do you need some paperwork to operate as a business?
Yes: charging HST/GST, business insurance requires some preparation. Consider
- Employees require paying salaries, Workers Compensation, Canada Pension etc
- Contractors require payment so you need a business bank account
Normally a truck is considered a minimum entry level to the trade which can imply a bank loan, insurance, backup plan when the truck breaks during the most inconvenient time
For softscaping, do I need permits?
Do I need permits for hardscaping?
No unless your work involves extensive grade changes
Do I need a permit to dig and modify outside land?
Things you must do:
- call Ontario One call before you dig. Even after calling them to locate utilities I guarantee you will hit telephone, cable, water, gas, sewer sooner or later. Your only protection is to have done your due diligence and called them first.
- have some type of business insurance: liability at a minimum
- know your competition: many firms offer a free landscape design if you sign with them to do the hard and soft scaping. Can you compete with free?
- know your market and margins: a typical landscape design build is $200 of design, $20,000 of interlock and some plants and shrubs to fill in the rest. Margins on interlock are slim for small quantities so you make money on labour.
Most suburban buyers are not interested in a unique experience that shows your talents. They want low maintenance, cheap and fast. You can make money if do volume quickly.
Stormy's answer has some excellent points. A good deal of thought is required before entering the industry. Although possibly out of scope for this question this joke has the ring of truth for many:
A landscaper won a large amount of money in a lottery. When asked what they were going to do with it they replied:
Just keep landscaping till the money's gone.