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View Full Version : pricing jobs for people that dont have money


scagwildcat
05-19-2006, 05:17 PM
first off i would like to say that after mowing for years i wanted to add something other then that to offer to my clients, and after talking to a lawnsite member that also lives/works in my area, i have had the opportunity to hook up with a masson that doesnt want to climb on roofs anymore, hes a old italian friend of my father,and he would like to teach me the ropes and get me started, i was just sick of giving a fair price for mowing just to have a guy with a push mower show up and do it for 1/4 of my price!! you know what i mean... SO, this past month i recieved my lic.. we have looked at three jobs without even advertising. i thought maybe i should have done this sooner, well, , one was for 60k two walks, small patio, and a decent size wall... it went from i even want you to price out pavers for my driveway. to i really think my wife wants more then we can afford !!!the next job.. patio + stairs going into the water, they live near a river and wanted a place to sit and wanted stairs to get in the water and fish.. picked out stone, all set to go, just needed permits, tell them the price... well, i thought it would be like 3k... what? thats only for the stone. no labor, no concrete, not stone dust , no excavation...the last one is still up in the air!!
the problem i have or the part i cant swallow is it takes so much time to give a estimate for this type of work, just for people to pick your brain so to speak, atleast with mowing, this is my price take it or leave it.... i really give you guys that only do hardscapes credit you guys really have to waist alot of your time for people that want all this beautiful work done but yet they know that they are dreaming....

BCF
05-19-2006, 06:14 PM
Try and do some sort of qualifing first. I have the same problem with PVC fences. Everybody wants them, but after I meet them, measure and price I do not hear back from them, for most don't realize it costs abot double a wood fence. So I give them a rough per foot price over the phone, and if they are ok with that I proceed. Hope it helps.

Squizzy246B
05-19-2006, 06:17 PM
Yep, welcome to hardscaping...and if you win 50% of the quotes you are doing well. If you are winning more than that you are probably too cheap and if you want to lose money big time then under quote a big hardscaping job. It does take a lot of work but it does get easier with experience. We learn something on every job that helps us with our next quote.

Good Luck

scagwildcat
05-19-2006, 06:42 PM
im lucky to have someone to guide me thus far. but i figured that atleast in this line of work, one would think that the clients know that by calling for a retaining wall is going to cost them...i spoke with my mentor about it, and his response was just like what i was thinking since i became self employed, he said, did you spend all that money on equipment, trucks, insurance, lic, advertising just do do someone a favor? heck-no. people dont understand whats involved in the work.. they just think that this is how much this company wants to provide me this service, but they dont look at the costs, equipment needed and every thing else.. its like when my truck leaves the shop in the AM. truck, trailer and equipment is prob, 70 to 80k but tell them you need to get $35 to mow their lawn and they look at you funny lol.

richallseasons
05-19-2006, 07:25 PM
Hey Paul, don't get discouraged-I have a stack of jobs that I don't get and yes I put a lot of time and energy into giving quotes only to lose in the end.If I get 3 out of 10 bids awarded to me then I am doing real good and yes those 7 took some work but thats what its all about.I find that next time a person wants a bid on something you have bid on in the past that it gets easier and faster and soon it takes very little effort to get the numbers together.Yes at first when its new it is a bit overwhelming, but when you grab your first big job that all goes away.Keep growing,I would like to have these chats ten years from now with you.:)

scagwildcat
05-19-2006, 07:42 PM
thanks RICH. hows things going with you?

scagwildcat
05-19-2006, 07:50 PM
hey RICH, do you know were DUNNING SAND & GRAVEL is? i heard they have good prices on pavers.

cedarcroft
05-19-2006, 08:08 PM
I am all new to this too but I have had a good amount of success in getting jobs from my customers so far. A great salesman I know told me that underpromising and over delivering is the key to success in sales and business. applying that to hardscaping I have had success telling customers that I can give them a ballpark number and giving them something ridiculously high and then saying that I will price it out with a few different mason yards and get them exact numbers. then I hand them a reasonable estimate that is much lower than the HUGE ballpark number and they are excited to get it done. This does two things:1) scares off shoppers 2)makes the customer think you pulled strings and really worked to get them a great price.
you should work to get them a good price, but you need to pay the bills also.

Mike33
05-19-2006, 09:53 PM
First of all never under estimate weather some one has the money or not, how do you really know? Please visit my website www.bobcatservice33.com you will see a wall job i did that if you looked at the home you would of drve off with out even talking to the guy. I did 4 walls on this site in 02 for around 26k and guess the house isnt worth that and it still looks the same " no grass'. But bidding is elements of business you have to bid to be able to build.
Mike

mbella
05-19-2006, 10:10 PM
First of all never under estimate weather some one has the money or not, how do you really know? Please visit my website www.bobcatservice33.com you will see a wall job i did that if you looked at the home you would of drve off with out even talking to the guy. I did 4 walls on this site in 02 for around 26k and guess the house isnt worth that and it still looks the same " no grass'. But bidding is elements of business you have to bid to be able to build.
Mike

Great point Mike. It's something I learned early on. However, an easier way that nobody mentioned, TALK ABOUT THE BUDGET AT THE FIRST MEETING.

Don't guess, don't say, "Let me shop at a few different places." Speak with the potential customer about a budget. If a homeowner is serious about moving beyond the "kick the tires" phase of a project, they should have a budget number and if they don't, give them one at the first meeting. It may be a rough number, but they should have some idea before you wast your time or theirs.

With experience, within a few minutes of speaking with a homeowner on site, you should be able to determine within, say $5,000.00, an approximate price for the project.

When you're starting out, it's rough, but like I said, with experience, it gets easier.

Squizzy246B
05-20-2006, 10:19 AM
Don't guess, don't say, "Let me shop at a few different places." Speak with the potential customer about a budget. If a homeowner is serious about moving beyond the "kick the tires" phase of a project, they should have a budget number and if they don't, give them one at the first meeting. It may be a rough number, but they should have some idea before you wast your time or theirs.


I know that works in some cases, well it has for me, but I often find that many people will have a very fluid budget...if they have one at all. I don't like to talk them into a budget parameter if they have no idea. I also find that the people that have the most are often the ones who cry poor and try and talk down a price. (Thats why they are rich I suppose). They will tell you what their budget is and expect you to do the whole lot for that budget...like they can try and squeeze you...as if its up to you to conform. If I don't know the budget I can do my quote and they can like it or lump it.

A guy this morning in a million$$ plus house was saying to me "we don't want to spend much on this" and "It wont cost too much will it" etc etc. He will get my price fair and square in the quote...I'm not going to try and work to his budget or guess whatever his idea "too much" is. A really well written quote, professionally presented will explain the cost...even if it is 3 times what they "think" the job is worth. Many homeowners have a totally unrealistic expectation of what a job will cost.

mbella
05-20-2006, 11:04 AM
Squizzy, I guess my point wasn't necessarily to lock in a hard budget number, but to at least make sure the potential customer has an idea what they are asking for, with regard to price, at the first meeting. I have my customers with whom it is apparent price isn't an issue, but as a general practice, I talk numbers from the beginning.

If I meet with somebody and they are describing a patio that I WAG to cost roughly x amount of dollars then I make sure they understand that from the beginning. It has saved me a lot of time.

With all the options available such as lighting, bullnose, columns, sitting walls, custom borders, etc., another thing I do is present a price for a basic install and go from there. It's been another time saver for me.

As far as "guessing" that's my point, take the guess work out of each estimate, communicate with the potential customer.

cedarcroft
05-20-2006, 02:15 PM
I agree w/ the budget thing but by throwing a big number out you can often get them to disclose how much they really have to spend. so if you say " wow, this is a good amount of work here, I will need to talk to my supply yard, but I gotta figure you are talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 100K to get it done" when the customer regains his breath he might say " holy sh!t, I figured it would be a 40 thousand dolar job at most!!!!!" you say: " well lets not put the cart before the horse, let me price out the materials and get you an exact number."
Now, when you come back to him with a reasnable price of around 65k he is relieved and goes for it. :)
obviously its not that simple, but you have established a high and low price and you can work from there.
***disclaimer***
I have never done a job of that caliber, but conceptually its the same as a $3000 job.

mbella
05-20-2006, 03:39 PM
Cedarcroft, if that works for you, great. However, what if you are bidding a $30,000 job and you lead the customer to believe it is a $40,000 job. He craps his pants and says, "wow, that's a lot." You come back and say, "good news, it's only gonna be $30,000." He replies," damn, I only have $15,000." You just wasted a lot of your time and his.

Again, I understand that is something that works for you, but it's not something I would intentionally do.

cedarcroft
05-20-2006, 04:52 PM
I do agree with you about establishing a budget, but our methods of establishing that are different. For some reason (personal problem!) I don't like asking for a hard budget number straight out. I have a hard time doing that. I just prefer to give a high range to the customer, make sure that they can handle that and then come back with an exact estimate. the thing I make sure to do is, when I give a range make sure the first number is realistic for me. Because when you say that something is "about 12-15 per sq foot" the customer only hears $12 a sq foot. Then they think you are ripping them off if you charge $14.

Mike33
05-20-2006, 08:34 PM
i have pretty fair luck at bidding, but you have the few who is cheap. I charge everyone the same price structure and dont use my eraser thinking i have to do this to get this job because i dont think this guy can afford it. You never know his rich aunt might of said "get er done "
Mike

mbella
05-20-2006, 09:22 PM
I do agree with you about establishing a budget, but our methods of establishing that are different. For some reason (personal problem!) I don't like asking for a hard budget number straight out. I have a hard time doing that. I just prefer to give a high range to the customer, make sure that they can handle that and then come back with an exact estimate. the thing I make sure to do is, when I give a range make sure the first number is realistic for me. Because when you say that something is "about 12-15 per sq foot" the customer only hears $12 a sq foot. Then they think you are ripping them off if you charge $14.

You don't have to look for a hard budget number. Like I said, I make sure we are at least in the same state.

kootoomootoo
05-20-2006, 09:36 PM
eg.............per phone call wants 2 patios...multi levels, trees, shrubs, beds lawn etc etc. Patio across the back of the house AND steps down to another patio by retention pond. Only a 30-40 foot drop...straight down.

Get out there...... BUDGET $5000- $6000.

TRUE.

Brianslawn
05-21-2006, 02:43 AM
run a credit check on the person, charge for your consultaition services and measuring. if they want an estimate, tell them to fax or email a copy of the plans from a designer to you. make sure to include measurments and a quantities list. or else give them an estimate over phone (+ or - $5,000) its an estimate, right? not an agreed upon price for a contract. if they cant do that, then charge them a design fee.

or better yet, tell them youll do the consult, measuring, design, and install for free cause youre a desperate lawnboy.

scagwildcat
05-21-2006, 11:56 AM
all of you bring great points, i dont really look at what they drive or what size home they have, but when ive been asked for a ball park price, i tell them that ball park means ball park! it might be a little high, im atleast honest with them, but lets say some one askes for a 10 x 15 patio, and a 30 ft walk with
flower beds edged in cobble stone... off the top of my head without pricing material / excavation i tell them it could run from 10k to 15k maybe less maybe more cant tell you unless you pickout pavers, what plants you want, and bla bla bla.... their responce. we thought it would be around 3k to 4k ..
even with mowing, i tried the whole how much do you want to spent thing, often to hear as close to nothing as possible !!! to that i respond hahahahah
good luck!!! that job i talked about eairler, just the excavation alone was for 14,500.00. the whole job was for (ball park) 60 to 80k they wanted the whole job done for the price of the dig work !!! pls note that in that price included, all base material, and top dress gravel drive + top soil. i thougth that was fair. he figured that whole job (his part of it) with downtime 9 days..

kris
05-21-2006, 12:25 PM
I agree with Mike ..get a budget out of them. While on the phone last week I Plugged a few numbers into the puter for a guy that wanted a wall ..told him roughly 5k plus any site issues IE access etc, could get up to 10k ..he was okay with that so ill try to see him this week.

We are too busy to do designs-only right now so if they are serious they are forking out 900 plus for a design that is partly refundable when signing the installation contract.
Quick consultations with a quick sketch, not to scale, are 200 but again we are too busy to do those right now also. Scares off the tire kickers right away.

Get lots of the I dont need a design .IE soil and sod ... if we have time I will bid those, but nothing under 4k.

mbella
05-21-2006, 08:46 PM
run a credit check on the person, charge for your consultaition services and measuring. if they want an estimate, tell them to fax or email a copy of the plans from a designer to you. make sure to include measurments and a quantities list. or else give them an estimate over phone (+ or - $5,000) its an estimate, right? not an agreed upon price for a contract. if they cant do that, then charge them a design fee.

or better yet, tell them youll do the consult, measuring, design, and install for free cause youre a desperate lawnboy.

Great advice Brian. In my area, you would be one of the contractors that's out of work at the moment. I would guess the same would be true for those in Bentonville as well. Who are you trying to fool?

You try way too hard.

mbella
05-21-2006, 08:49 PM
eg.............per phone call wants 2 patios...multi levels, trees, shrubs, beds lawn etc etc. Patio across the back of the house AND steps down to another patio by retention pond. Only a 30-40 foot drop...straight down.

Get out there...... BUDGET $5000- $6000.

TRUE.

And if you didn't ask or somehow ascertain the budget at the first meeting, you would have wasted a lot of your valuable (well, not in Kootoo's case, but for most) time. Because we all know that project can't be done for that price.

kootoomootoo
05-21-2006, 09:24 PM
And if you didn't ask or somehow ascertain the budget at the first meeting, you would have wasted a lot of your valuable (well, not in Kootoo's case, but for most) time. Because we all know that project can't be done for that price.


Yeah I said if we cut back on a few shrubs i can do it for $5000.;)

Ramairfreak98ss
06-09-2006, 11:56 AM
I know what your saying, i postd a while back about "asking" customers what theyre price range was right off the bat, so that if they say 2k, im not picking out 6k worth of supplies.

This was happening to me a lot this season doing landscaping jobs. I priced out, and spent A LOT of time, on quotes for a couple companies and residential customers.

One was 28k for a lot of trees, pool enclosed garden install etc, months after they went with another company for what looks like 5k worth of work and not nearly what we spoke about.

Another company went from 12k worth to 19k work for a large garden reinstallation and then put it on hold because they dont want to spend that much. I gave them two quotes, the main work for 12k or all out for 19k... they havnt done anything after i measured out everything, had my horticulturist spec out all plants/trees and their locations and a cad layout of the back of the building.. nada so far, 4 months after they WANTED it done.

Another customer is having his brother do a patio install, said he wanted a lot of work done, didnt balk at the price of multiple tree installs on a 1+ acre new development lawn for 21k, hasnt done anything in months now.

I had a "mosque" call for a quote, everything from large tree removal, to "junk" cleanup, has woods next to the place, needed a LOT of leaf cleanup, many yards of top soil, gardening, plant install, grade and reseed area and add stone to extend parking lot. Priced at 14k and now its more than their "budget" to spend, they havnt had me to anything yet.? talk about wasted hours in quote and driving out to price things out and meet with customers several times to make $0... im going to charge in the future.

Ramairfreak98ss
06-09-2006, 01:23 PM
eg.............per phone call wants 2 patios...multi levels, trees, shrubs, beds lawn etc etc. Patio across the back of the house AND steps down to another patio by retention pond. Only a 30-40 foot drop...straight down.

Get out there...... BUDGET $5000- $6000.

TRUE.

wow, add in another zero lol

Ramairfreak98ss
06-09-2006, 01:24 PM
run a credit check on the person, charge for your consultaition services and measuring. if they want an estimate, tell them to fax or email a copy of the plans from a designer to you. make sure to include measurments and a quantities list. or else give them an estimate over phone (+ or - $5,000) its an estimate, right? not an agreed upon price for a contract. if they cant do that, then charge them a design fee.

or better yet, tell them youll do the consult, measuring, design, and install for free cause youre a desperate lawnboy.

Ill be switching to this, when they start asking me to dedicate many hours of work for "them" and they have nothing but an idea, theyll be charged for the services, its not free.

nkour
06-10-2006, 12:53 AM
qualifying questions help weed out the tire kickers and people who don't have money. How many bids are you thinking about getting? What is important to you when choosing a contractor? What do you think a project like you described should cost? are three we use with good success.