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How to Become a Gravedigger: Digging Into the Cemetery Business

rb3000 grave digging

Want to start your own gravedigging business but you're not quite sure where to start? Beginning a company is always hard work, but it doesn't have to be dirty. 

In this article, we bring you several tips to help you lay a clear foundation for your gravedigging business. 

What questions should you ask before you start a gravedigging business?

It's important to know your market in order to find out where there's opportunity and what your potential clients are looking for. 

Here are a few questions to ask during your research:

Who, if anyone, is your competition?

If you're planning to freelance your gravedigging services, focus on the area in which you plan to serve and make sure you can identify the answers to these questions:

  • Is there opportunity for regular, ongoing work digging graves?
  • Do you have competition?
  • What are the competition's strengths and weaknesses (and how can you leverage those to build your own business)?
  • What equipment does your competition use?
  • What range of services do your competition offer (and are you prepared to offer those services, as well)?

What license(s) do you need for gravedigging?

Whether you work for a cemetery management company or run your own gravedigging business, it's essential to familiarize yourself with local and state requirements. Some cemeteries may also have their own requirements.

Be sure to also obtain the necessary credentials for operating whatever heavy equipment you plan to use on the job.

What does your target audience need?

What are your clients looking for? Are there eco-friendly cemeteries that need gravediggers to do the hard work of digging a grave by hand? Are there veteran graveyards that need gravediggers with compact equipment to get the job done? How can you fulfill what your customer base needs?

Answering these questions will help you determine whether your business will thrive, as well as give the insight needed to market your company. 

Search online to find local gravedigging companies and cemeteries. Don't be afraid to visit cemeteries in person to learn more about the needs in the area. Also, be sure to attend events and join associations that would be applicable to your work.

How do you become a gravedigger?

shovel digging grave

One of the great things about becoming a gravedigger is that there's pretty much no professional training required to do your job well. But if you plan to start your own gravedigging business, you can't just go out and start digging.  

Take a look at these three steps to help you establish a solid foundation. 

1. Write a business plan.

Once you've answered all the questions in the previous section–and more–it's time to write up your business plan. When starting any business, it's crucial to develop a business plan, especially if you plan to seek funding. A solid business plan can also help you develop effective systems and keep your business on track.

Below are a few must-haves in your plan.

Proof of Opportunity in the gravedigging industry

Take what market research you've done and put it into your business plan. Explain how you plan to ensure your business will excel. What makes you different from all other gravedigging freelancers out there?

The initial financial investment

Make a list of startup costs and assets you'll need for managing your business and performing your services, such as software and gravedigging equipment, as part of a cost breakdown. Then touch on how you plan to obtain those assets.

Your insurance needs

Make sure you add the insurance companies and plans you'll be using for your business. These can range from standard business insurance to equipment insurance.

Your industry experience

List any training or experience you've had in addition to any additional educational courses you plan to take. A high school education can be enough, but it doesn't hurt to have experience in landscaping and operating compact equipment. If you don't have it, consider getting special equipment-operating training to ensure clients that you respect both the cemetery property as well as the people around you.

A strong marketing strategy

Include how you plan to get your brand and company name noticed. Would you consider print advertising, social media advertising, or direct mail marketing? Plan to implement effective, cost-efficient opportunities to reach cemetery managers and organizations. Don't forget to draw up a marketing strategy, too! 

For more tips and insight on writing a business plan and examples, check out this guide by the US Small Business Administration.

2. Invest in the right gravedigging equipment.

The right equipment can get you the job and/or help you get more jobs done. When you invest in your own gravedigging equipment, you increase your professionalism and reliability.

Here are a few pieces of equipment that help maintain a clean, professional image during the gravedigging process: 

A compact excavator

One of the pros of using a compact excavator on a gravedigging job is its compact size. It can be a great fit for getting between headstones and other landscape obstacles in the cemetery.

Excavators also have a 360° turning radius, which comes in handy when you're loading the dirt into a trailer, like the Equipter RB3000, or wheelbarrow. Being lightweight, a compact excavator reduces the risk of ruts in the cemetery turf.

A good old-fashioned shovel

A shovel is always good to have on hand in case you need it. It may even be the primary way you dig at some gravesites depending on accessibility, among other factors.

Some eco-friendly cemeteries don't allow machinery to be used for gravedigging. If you have a contract for a job at a cemetery like that, using a shovel may be the best way to accommodate your client's wishes.

The Equipter RB3000

Families spend thousands of dollars for high-quality gravemarkers and headstones and expect maintenance crews and other workers to respect the grounds. Using a dump truck to remove dirt at gravesites can cause devastating issues. Between the weight and width and length of a standard dump truck, headstones wind up damaged and ruts are nearly inevitable. 

RB3000 between headstones

Equipter offers a lightweight solution. The drivable, dumpable Equipter RB3000 makes it easy for gravediggers to haul away dirt from the gravesite during the funeral and easily slide it back in when the grave's ready to be refilled.

This unique cemetery dump trailer is a self-propelled trailer that holds up to 4,740 lbs of dirt. At 6 ft wide, it's compact enough to maneuver around headstones. The RB3000 is lightweight and has wide tires that help evenly distribute the weight of the trailer's contents, reducing and in some cases even eliminating the risk of ruts. It's the ultimate protection for cemetery lawns and other landscape features. 

Team up your compact excavator and the Equipter RB3000, and you have a team that'll help you move more dirt cleanly and respectfully.  

See Equipter's full line of graveyard industry equipment here.

3. Market your services.

After identifying and analyzing your competition, developing your marketing strategy, and investing in the right gravedigging equipment, it's time to execute! Consider working with a reputable marketing agency to kickstart a brand awareness campaign or keeping it simple by combing the local business listings for cemetery management companies. 

It's not too tough to dig your way into the cemetery business. Whether you're looking to start a gravedigging business or just become a gravedigger for a local cemetery, make sure you've got basic training and the right equipment.