View Full Version : can u charge by the hour?

11-02-2001, 10:14 AM
every fall i seem to get my butt kicked when leaf season comes. in addition to my regular customers, we also place an add for leaf cleanup and get many calls. it seems no matter what i charge, its never enough. its real hard for me to look at a property and figure out how long it will take and how much will be carted away. leaves are very decieving. do u think it would sell, if i gave my estimates based on an hourly rate, plus disposal fee? any one else do it like this? i was thinking something like $35 per man hour plus disposal. im just afraid if i present it to the customer this way, it wont sell. thanx

11-02-2001, 12:21 PM
sure you can but charge for the blower. In other words, 35.00per man per blower. total charge would be 70.00 per hr per man. Six men is 420.00 per hour. A good blower does the work of four men. Once people see how fast you move, you never have any problems. for the people that complain tell them that you will be glad to rake by hand for 35.00 per hr. The pacing element in the system is how fast will your leaf loader load the truck. Be aware that when you charge for disposal that it may require more wait time at the dump than what the tonnage fee is and you need to get a return on the dumptruck too. We charge $465.00 for a 22 cubic yard truck of leaves. it can weigh anywhere from 4300lbs to 16,000lbs depending on the leaves and moisture

Fine Lines Lawn
11-02-2001, 12:32 PM
I've always charged by man hour for leaves :)

11-02-2001, 12:36 PM
You're right. A lot of people are going to balk at that. Many people have no idea that we make that hourly rate, just for raking leaves. And then they get to thinking, "Heck, I could pay my nephew John $15 an hour to come over here and do this and he'd be more than happy with that." Furthermore, many people don't like hourly rates because they figure you'll either exaggerate your time spent or you'll go slower.

Here's what would happen if you began to quote hourly rates - you would not land as many jobs - period. Some LCOs are okay with that. But if you want the business here's what you do;

Look at a job and try your best to determine how many hours and truckloads it will be. Suppose you figure 4 hours and 2 truckloads to haul away. Suppose you want to make $75 for each truckload you dump. That's 4*35 + 2*75 = 290. So here's how you bid it to them, "Well, I'll tell ya. You got a lot of leaves here. And sometimes I get into a job and it can be very deceiving. So I like to play it safe now adays. I can't give you a firm price. But I can give you a firm price range. I am thinking it would take me about half a day or maybe a little more to do this. If that's the case it will be $290. But if I am here for the entire day or maybe even a few hours tomorow I'm gonna have to get $550."

Then you stop, and read their response. If they say, "Cool. sounds good!" then don't say anymore. But if they balk at the price or kind of act uncomfortable then you say, "Well, tell ya what. We could set a price cap on it if you're on a budget. You could say no more than "$400 or $300" and I'd make sure to do as much work as I could get in for that price." And then I'd just begin working on the most important areas first. Then at least you'd get most of it done.

This is the fairest way to bid a job like this. And even though you are still basically billing per hour, it doesn't come off as doing that. And people don't stop and think, "Well, $290 divided by 4 hours......". Instead of thinking of whether your hourly rate is exhorbatent or not, they are just thinking, 'how much can I afford?'

p.s. you can get away with charging a good hourly rate for work that involves more skill - e.g. sprinkler repair, planting, etc. The problem with the above is that many people don't consider leaf raking to be worth $35 an hour because there is no special skill involved. Forget the $400 blower you have, the truck, the gas, your time. They don't think about stuff like that. People just associate the skill with the wage and if they don't think it matches then they get leary sometimes. So the trick is to avoid them thinking of that at all costs.

11-02-2001, 01:26 PM
well, from what u guys tell me, it seems i can at least try. add went in today, i got one call, and i quoted it as $65 per hour, plus disposal. i also estimated the time to be about 2 hours. ill see how this one goes.

11-02-2001, 03:13 PM
I have some very expensive leaf removal equipment, to justify my $75.00 per a man hour charge. YES $75 per a man hour.

The clock starts when we start, the clock ends we all the leaves are curb side vaced

11-02-2001, 07:14 PM
Well for existing clients, ones I have had since the spring I will charge by the hour.

For one time cleanups.. I charge alot higher, along the lines of what Jim said giving them a range . It could be as low as $XXXX or could go up to about $ XXX and so on.. Sometimes I will put a cap if the cust requires is , like for landlords, etc who have certain budgets .. So in that case I ask them how much is alloted and try not to exceed that limit.. Almost always works for me ??

11-02-2001, 07:51 PM
Its always a dance and I seem to have some of my regular customers that get a better rate on the clean but I still try amd get 4X the weekly mow after all is done.

I don't get any less than 100.00 per yard at the curbside for jobs that aren't regular customers.

Its hard to average but I get between 60 and 75 per hour but I have made as much as 150 per hour on some jobs. I try and balance that with my regular customers who allow me to continue to work on a weekly basis. I would like to get a set pricing system but its harder than it seems.

My advice is to take care of your regular customers as well as yourself, first. Then when the add-on one timers come up you have to figure you are spending at least 2 hours on a property so bill accordingly and bid high. 2 hours for 2 people in the high demand leaf season = 80 or 90 per hour. Don't quote any less than 100 but you have to know your costs and the demand for your work.
More people want you to work then take the ones that will pay you the most for your time and equipment.

If they ***** and say how come you charge so much I say, I have 40k worth of equipment that allows me to do this work much more efficiently than the homeowner can. I am paying for this equipment and I deserve an adequate wage to use it. I am insured and I have 6 years of commercial experience to allow me to make their lawn look great in a short period of time. I will gladly stop and let someone try and outrake me and pay them if they beat me.
The complaints never come because everyone knows what a pain in the a$$ it is to hand rake leafs.

Good Luck

11-02-2001, 07:57 PM
Charging per man hour is really the only rational way to do it .. otherwise, you can really lose out by underbidding. (or over bidding for that matter ... you could be really low balled by someone else!) ... thus, by doing the aforementioned, you will/should be getting what you're worth ... at least if you're charging enough, that is. :)


You must really be the lawngodfather to charge 75 DOLLARS PER MAN HOUR!! We all bask in your glory. :)

btw- we charge 85 per man hour from house to curb left in a monaway, columized vein. If we transfer the material from the singular hullock to the truck via our trailer-mounted Billy Goat extraction device, 10 dollars more per man hr is charged + disposal fee.


11-02-2001, 09:21 PM
Each job we do, we use:

Lazer ZTR $9,000

Peco Vac $2,500 some times requires a new engine every other year

Truck $30,000

Trailer $1,000

Gas use more with sevral engines running

Curb side vac $9,000

Truck to haul leaves away $45,000

almost $100,000 to do each job plus labor and other expences, I think it's well justified when explained like that, and yes some times have to give the same explanation to clients.

Also It's a lot harder on the equipment and employees to do leaf jobs, with the added stress of staying in one spot for longer periods of time.

Strick9 I do see that your $10 per a man hour higher than I. I guess next year I will have to raise my hourly rate, I love to be known as the most expensive on leaf removal. For some odd reason my name sticks in their heads, then they call when the others don't show up.

BTW the way we do it, I don't think there is a faster way to do larger properties any other way any faster or more affecantly

11-02-2001, 11:06 PM
I think you can get away with an hourly charge. I always have charged by the hour when doing any kind of extra or one-time jobs.

Do mention the cost of your PROFESSIONAL equipment. People do not realize how much this stuff cost.

If you can't guess more or less a ballpark time figure 90% of the time, I must have an easier time. I always guestestimate always in my favor. I will put a high cap on my price


11-03-2001, 10:14 AM
Originally posted by LAWNGODFATHER
I have some very expensive leaf removal equipment, to justify my $75.00 per a man hour charge. YES $75 per a man hour.

The clock starts when we start, the clock ends we all the leaves are curb side vaced

What about travel time?..curious here.. How many other guys only charge when they start at the property and stop the clock when they are finished?

11-04-2001, 01:21 AM

You talk as if it is the exception to start your time when you get to the job site. I believe that is the rule, it would be kind of hard to try to explain to the cutomer that as you show up at their house with three other employees that they already owe you $100 or so because of the half-hour drive over!!!!
Travel time is built into your hourly wage that you charge. There is always an exception to the rule, say it's an hour drive to the jobsite, but that would be brought up at the beginning, not considered "a given". No business I know of starts the clock from when they leave their house, shop, etc. Although a lot do charge for a "service call" but again that is up front.

11-04-2001, 09:17 AM

That's exactly what we do... from the time we leave the shop till the time we get back..if there are multiple stops that day...they get charged one way. (give or take a bit)
Are you saying that all your travel costs for the year are built into your overhead costs? If so ...fine...as long as you recoup those costs somewhere.
We don't do many hourly jobs but if we do, then yes the customer knows this upfront.

11-04-2001, 07:16 PM

As I said, the "travel" is built into the man-hour rate, this is pretty much universal in the service industry. However if your clients are use to you charging them from the time you leave your shop, GREAT!!! I'm just saying that would be the exception, not the rule in the service industry.
How do you explain that to a client that the charge for cleaning up their leaves would already be at say $100 before you even show up, and after you've left you'll be adding another $100 onto the bill, even though your work is complete? Assuming you and three guys took a half an hour to get there?

11-04-2001, 07:54 PM

I do not believe this is the exception... let me use this example..

If you want 30 per hour... you go to the job.. takes 15min. travel each way ...job takes 1 hour... total 1.5 hours = $45.00

If I charged with no travel I would get $30.00 = $20 per hour

If I am quoting a landscape job ..I have a column for general conditons ..this includes cleanup, talking with the customer and travel each day... if this job is going to take 3 days ...3 guys 1hr general conditions per day(x 3) ...total 9hrs general conditions for this job ...9 hrs x your hourly rate( we'll keep it at $30 ) $270.00 for this example.... it is built in.

Like I said...if you have all your travel time figured for the year ahead of time ... then you could tack it on to your overhead and then yes, have it built in to your hourly rate.

Whatever works for ya!

11-04-2001, 10:42 PM
kris... again?

Sorry but I'll have to completely disagree with your assumptions on this matter.

It really doesn't matter to me that you charge this way, I was asking how you present it to your clients, say using my previous example, as a client I think that if it was presented that way to me I would without doubt call someone closer to save a hundred bucks. I mean to be told that I owe $200 and you haven't even gotten here yet, is, well, crazy.

That is probally the reason it isn't generally done that way, it makes much more sense to have your man-hour rate at a level that covers travel time, getting coffee, stopping for the bathroom, etc.

Rarely it is done the way you speak of in the service industry.

11-05-2001, 02:02 AM
Again this is a thing that is great about this forum, although I picked it up from other LCO's and Landscape Co's around here.

Different jobs and different methods of billing.

Each job and each season has a method of adding the hourly rate of employees to it.

Here are some examples of how I do it.

Mowing, built into the price as a charge per a mow.

Landscaping, depending on job size, the employee gets paid from either start at the job or start at the shop. Also same for customer, unless it's a set price, then the empl. gets paid from start on the job.

Leaves. Since this is the only time of year I pay overtime, the employees only get paid for the time working not the travel time. But most of the time it is less than 5 minutes to the next job. So then the customer billing time is the same as the employees.

Just a few examples, but I will tell you what, you want employees to work and not mess around, when they are not getting paid they sure seem to want to not take as many breaks or screw around, and you have to love sometimes having the customer as your side walk super.

11-05-2001, 07:09 AM

Thank you.

Be careful about posting your employee pay practices here. What you say about overtime and not paying between stops is illegal.

11-05-2001, 04:00 PM
well, ive got lots of replies on this from u guys, and thank you. now ill tell u how it is working out for me. i recieved 8 calls about leaves. i was able to contact 4 of them, 4 others i still need to get a hold of. the 4 i talked to, i quoted them the hourly rate, plus a disposal fee. 2 of them said great, put us on, the other 2 said they would get back to me. this saves me time and gas that i would have burned by driving over to do the estimate. i dont care how big these jobs are, because im getting paid by the hour. so far, i like it.

11-05-2001, 04:09 PM
Which hourly charge did you use?

11-05-2001, 07:14 PM
smburgess. diffrent laws diffrent places.

Also there are a great deal of legal loop holes.

However all of my employees sign an employment contract before they ever start to work for me.

Check your laws before ever doing this, my contract and employee hand book was written by a lawyer who specializes in labor law.

BTW I mow his lawn too.

Dan Stoms
11-05-2001, 07:46 PM
I have to agree with jimlewis.People don't need to start thinking about the hourly wage their paying. It's hard enough to get them to agree to more money than grass cutting now.All they can see is somebody that needs no more than minimum wage for raking leaves.:blob3:

11-05-2001, 08:59 PM

Please don't think I'm looking to pick a argument about this.

I am always looking to learn.

We rarely do hourly jobs ...In monthly mowing accounts travel time is worked into the bid... and as I explained, the same goes for landscaping.

You still have not explained to me how your travel time is built into your hourly rate... How did you come up with this figure?

11-05-2001, 10:29 PM

It is FEDERAL LAW that any hours over 40 must be paid at at least TIME AND A HALF.

Also, as an hourly paid employee, NO "agreement" or "contract"" can override that law by the way, even if the employee agrees in writing not to accept overtime pay, you are still breaking the law. (it took me about 2 minutes to find the law on Overtime on the internet using the Missouri Labor site.)

Also as far as "working off the clock" (not being paid between jobs) that too is illegal, no matter what your "employee contract", "employee handbook" or your lawyer told you.

As far as "loopholes" go, please give me just one :)

I'm not trying to pick a fight here, but your post was definitely misinformation. It's important in a forum such as this to get the RIGHT information out.

11-05-2001, 10:43 PM

Sorry, I'm finished with it. I will say most eveyone I know in the service industry has an man-hour charge based on a number of factors; labor rate of area, ongoing expenses (overhead), etc. I find it unsual that you would not now how to detemine your man-hour rate. Try doing a search on it and maybe someone else can explain it better.

11-06-2001, 01:33 AM
i quoted $65 per hr. plus disposal which will be around $30 on an average property. hope this works out at this price, remember this is the first time im charging an hourly rate.

11-06-2001, 08:18 AM
Originally posted by smburgess

Sorry, I'm finished with it.

Ok Steve ...me too.

I find it unsual that you would not now how to detemine your man-hour rate. Try doing a search on it and maybe someone else can explain it better.
Not true at all... I know very well how to determine the man-hour rate...I was asking you a direct question about the travel and how you allowed for this.

Have a great day.

11-06-2001, 03:14 PM

Seasonal employees are not required by law to be paid over time

The law you looked at is for RETAIL, not seasonal employment.


There is ONE loop hole. Do you want more?

Check you fact's. I know I did!!!!!!! That is why my hand book/contract is written the way it is. It is written because of the people who push the retail laws.

This is not a retail business, it is a service business. I supply labor as my service, not selling a product.

Also in MO I fall in the Nursery catagory.

Give me some time and I will scan and then attach the laws for this (sent to me by MO GOV) as an employer.

11-06-2001, 04:10 PM

I KNOW my facts, your workers in NO WAY can be classified as "seasonal" workers first of all (according the Federal Dept of Labor). It would be nice, we all could save a bunch of money.

I even called the Missouri "Division of Labor Standards" and the wage and hour division and asked about season workers in landscaping or lawn maintenance, they got a chuckle.

I've been in this business awhile, and I have checked my facts, you have not.

Again I want to stress to my peers reading these posts to check the employee laws and make the phone calls before digging a hole.

Anything over 40 hours is AT LEAST time and a half, and you do have to pay your employees between stops.
No where in the USA does a lawn maintenance or landscaping or nursery employee qualify as a seasonal worker.

11-06-2001, 07:17 PM
Definately charge by the hour, but don't let the customers know. ;)

What you charge will depend on what your competition is charging.

I was told by a prospective customer that a crew of three removed his leaves to the back side of the property:about 15000 sqft.
They worked about 2.5 to 3 hours; I don't know what they used (probably rakes for that amount of time) and charged $35.00!:eek: :eek:

I was a lot higher than that, but I got the job!

So what does this tell us?:D

11-06-2001, 10:14 PM
Originally posted by smburgess

I KNOW my facts, your workers in NO WAY can be classified as "seasonal" workers first of all (according the Federal Dept of Labor). It would be nice, we all could save a bunch of money.

I even called the Missouri "Division of Labor Standards" and the wage and hour division and asked about season workers in landscaping or lawn maintenance, they got a chuckle.

I've been in this business awhile, and I have checked my facts, you have not.

Again I want to stress to my peers reading these posts to check the employee laws and make the phone calls before digging a hole.

Anything over 40 hours is AT LEAST time and a half, and you do have to pay your employees between stops.
No where in the USA does a lawn maintenance or landscaping or nursery employee qualify as a seasonal worker.

Whatever, I know what is and what isn't. I have been doing this for a very long time and had one complaint to the board of labor. They said the same thing that is stated in my employee hand book/contract.

BTW what ever info you go is incorrect. This is seasonal employment. If you can find it or scan it in why don't you post it in the elaments of business forum for others to see to. If you want you can use MO laws.

11-06-2001, 10:44 PM

Here it is from the "small business handbook" from the Federal Dept of Labor.

So unless you are running a Amusement Park, you don't have seasonal workers, and the overtime thing is there also.

Thought you might be interested in having the facts, since you requested them.

I hope this is over now. :)


11-06-2001, 11:21 PM
I'm not going to stop posting in this thread since your going to keep arguing with me.

11-07-2001, 07:17 AM

I'm not arguing with you, I've just tried to correct your misunderstandings about some parts of employment law.

I don't know where your getting your information from but I know it's not the state of Missouri or the federal government.

The only reason I keep coming back is keep someone else here from "all of sudden" start thinking that your information is correct. I don't mean any disrespect to you, but your zeal for your incorrect statements may start someone thinking that you're right.

So instead of saying over and over you know what you are talking about without ANY proof other that someone told you, really do the research and post the applicable links here, for all to see and understand.

11-07-2001, 10:07 PM
Check your laws before ever doing this, my contract and employee hand book was written by a lawyer who specializes in labor law.

Did you not catch this part.

I can not disclose exaclty how I'm set up, but it can be done under certain circumstances. Therefor it's not incorrect or misleading info.

I did say check with your labor laws a while back.

Now back to the topic, yes you can charge by the hour.

11-07-2001, 10:45 PM
May not be considered seasonal but the govt. contractor near me lays em off every Oct. since cutting "season" is over.

When I started this biz everybody said, "Well that's just "seasonal" work ain't it?"

Funny how it's seasonal til the law takes a look at it.

By the way...............LGF might just be "amusing" enough to qualify for "amusement" help.

11-07-2001, 11:04 PM
Can an employer require their employees to work more than 8 hours a day or more than 40 hours per week? There are no Missouri laws which restrict the number of hours an employer can require an employee to work. If the employee refuses to work the requested hours, the employer can terminate the employee without violating any laws. If the employee is covered under the federal overtime law, (if the businesses' gross annual volume sales made or business done is more than five hundred thousand dollars), they are to be paid time and one half for any hours over 40 hours in a workweek. (See RSMo Chapter 290.505)

Just to show a little. Read inbetween the ().

Taken from I guess the same web site you have looked at.

11-08-2001, 07:05 AM
Missouri Overtime Law (section 290-505) Missouri said which ever law is "stricter" prevails. Missouri covers ALL workers. To my knowledge all states have this same type of law except Hawaii, but don't hold me to that.


LAWNGODFATHER... Your last post was right on the money- it was a "fact".

11-09-2001, 03:02 PM
well, this definitly wandered off the original topic. but, since we are on the subject of employment laws, i have a question. i work nights at a printing company. the owner is always looking to save money. he had a cleaning service for many years to come in and clean the bathrooms and offices. they raised their price, so this is what he did: we have an old mexican man working there in the shipping dept. , he makes $10 an hour. the owner asked this old man if he would like overtime, every night, cleaning the toilets and such. the old man said yes, the owner then said he would pay the old man $9 an hour for the overtime, and told him he wanted him to punch out his time card after the first 8 hrs, then punch in, on a new time card for the overtime. well, the old man came to me and asked if he should be getting time and a half for the additional hours, i said of course, its the law. the owner said this was ok, because he had the old man doing a different job, and he was not required to pay him overtime, this old guy worked 4 hours overtime, every single day, for a year and a half, for $9 an hour. is this legal?

11-09-2001, 03:26 PM
Legally I dont think that the owner can request an employee to log off and then log back in.

What has happened is in favor of the owner. If he were to stay on the clock he would be making $15/hr or $60 for the overtime. By him doing as he's been asked to he only makes an additional $36.

Im willing to bet that what has happened is the owner has been able to pocket damn near an extra $100 bucks in his own pockets weekly.

If you figure for arguments sake that an employee claiming zero will lose 24% of their check to taxes this would be the same thing as saying that for 8 hours a day he would net $7.60/hr or $60.80/day. Then if you tallied up his OT he would net $6.84 or $27.36/day totaling $88.16.

Considering he should have been netting aproximately $106.40/day it looks as if the bossman has linen his trousers by $20 daily. Im sure that he still writes off the price of the service by the other figures the Co provided the service for last year but pays the gentleman much less.

Tragic in my book.

11-09-2001, 03:57 PM
it doesnt matter if the guy punched 100 time cards. he works for the same company.

An employer did this to me twenty years ago when I was in high school, as I did maintenance after my regular work was done. Several years after leaving I receive a check in the mail for overtime not paid, several hundred bucks, apparently DOL did an audit and the co. had to cut checks to everyone they stiffed on OT.

11-09-2001, 06:44 PM
If it was 2 seprate companies yes.

Since I highly doubt it is, the answer would be no.

From what I have read though, he could go back and claim all the extra moneies owed to him. That is a differant case than the Lawn Care industry. Tell him to check Federal law on it.

11-10-2001, 07:02 AM

Doing a different job has nothing to do with it. If that could be used, I wouldn't have to pay overtime because a guy does so many various "jobs" for me ; blowing, cutting, mulching, weed control, see what I mean? He's just ripping the old man off, anything over 40 hours in a work week has to be at least time and a half.