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View Full Version : Pricing Spring Clean-ups


mattingly
01-20-2000, 08:36 AM
Please don't just answer saying &quot;well I just kinda look at it and guess the hours.&quot; This does me no good as a new comer. I need something relatively scientific to help me with my pricing list. Like you charge so much for bed cleanup and so much for lawn pick up and so much for pruning and add it all together. This could be based on sqft of beds(ie--certain amountper ?sqft of bed), or certain amount per # of shrubs/trees to be pruned etc. OH, and I know this varies with this and that but, I just want something tangible to start with so I can have a predetermined formula to work with.<br>thank,<br>By the way this forum has taken me from not knowing how to price a lawn job to having rough formulas for everything from mowing, mulching, fertilizing, etc. This is great! thank you all<p>----------<br>Integrated Landscape Solutions<br>Lexington, KY

gene gls
01-20-2000, 05:16 PM
Spring clean-ups mean different things to landscapers in different parts of the country.I'm in SW Massachusetts.To me its removing leaves, sticks,achrons and sand from plows.I usualy hand blow leaves from shrubs and planting beds,tarp it to the truck.If the lawn is bad I will power brush it.This will remove a lot of dead grass.If there are only small areas then I use my power broom (Shindowawa).When all the heavy material is tarped to the truck then I mow over the lawn with my Walker GHS unit for finial clean-up.I only quote a price if asked and then I try to go on the high side to be safe.I am chargeing $35.00 per hr this year,working by myself.There are no two lawns alike when doing spring clean-ups around here.

tgrebis
01-20-2000, 10:35 PM
Spring and Fall Cleanups<br>I used to run a lanscape company in highschool and now will be getting back into it. Estimating these are hard to do. You can try by the hour, for customers that know you, but most people won't go for it. Basically the only way to do it correctly is through experience. Larger lanscape companies include these chores in their monthly charges for cutting lawns. This makes sense because a cleanup you want to make money on will cost a couple hundred. Many a customer has balked at my estimates.<br>They generally don't realize how many hours it takes. If you spread it out over the season, it's easier for the customer. Just get everything in writing.

Charles
01-21-2000, 05:17 AM
I tell someone whos not a regular customer that I will work a couple of hours at a certain rate.Then we will see how far I have gotten at that point. If they balk at first. Whether it be beds, Chainsawing or leaves. Gutters and shrubs, grasscutting I can give them a job price on. If they don't agree to let me work the hourly rate like I suggested. Then I don't take the job. I rarely if ever have a problem with my regular customers on this subject.

HOMER
01-21-2000, 07:01 AM
I'm gonna tell it like it is Mattingly. After the last couple of days!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm fixing to raise it to the roof or forget about em'. You will reach a point where you don't have to do it (apparently I haven't learned this yet ) but when you do take on a yard that hasn't been cleaned up all winter it will kill you. If the customer doesn't care about taking care of it year round, hit them where it hurts or give it to somebody else. I spent 5.5 man hrs. in a small yard yesterday and lost my ass. I should know this by now but I guess I'm a slow learner. Pick and choose, turning one down will not break you, taking it on might! JUST SAY NO, yep thats my new motto!!!!!!!!!!!!

Retro67
01-21-2000, 07:38 AM
Homer-<p>Hope you find it if you decide to go back. Just imagine the cleanup the next guy will have if you don't find it. :-) Seriously, Homer is right. These cleanups aren't easy to estimate. Sometimes they are deceiving. Let me put it this way, $200 for a 1/2 acre with say, 3-4 large trees would be AVERAGE. It is so hard to say, though. Homer is correct. It is sometimes better to turn down work, or let them decide not to get it done if they don't want to pay the price. It's not an attitude thing, it's a &quot;I'm not gonna work for free thing.&quot; <p>I may be seeing a half empty glass. However, when I estimate a job will take me 3 hours and I normally charge $40 per hour, I expect it to take three hours. If it takes six hours, I don't look at it as though I made $20 per hour. I look at it like I made $40 per hour for three hours, then worked for free for three. May seem somewhat negative, but it motivates me not to let it happen again.<p>John

Charles
01-21-2000, 08:22 AM
If all of us turned down cleanup jobs that don't pay well. Then we would start getting the price that we deserve.

Retro67
01-21-2000, 08:59 AM
Charles<p>I understand where you are coming from. I think many times it is a case that our competition has MISTAKENLY bid low, followed through with their promise, as they should, but won't do it again because they lost. <p>We, then need to explain, Mr. Smith I'm sorry that I can't do it for $150, I believe maybe the person that did it before made a mistake in bidding (bla, bla,bla). Explain that these jobs almost always take longer than you would realistically think. I can always give Mr. Jones back part of the money if I have overcharged him at, say $200. It isn't likely Mr. Jones will offer to pay more if it takes longer. In the end, a good customer won't want you to lose out and not return. Otherwise, you might want to look for a customer to replace them with. <p>John

mattingly
01-21-2000, 09:29 AM
Charles hit on a good point here about getting what we deserve or more importantly getting what we can if we think it through correctly. I will post an example of this later today. It comes from an ALCA trade show in '99.<p>----------<br>Integrated Landscape Solutions<br>Lexington, KY

HOMER
01-21-2000, 09:39 AM
O.K. yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllll, get ready to laugh if you want to, yesterday the yard I spent 5.5 man hours in taught me a big lesson. I quoted these people a price of $75.00 ( now go ahead and laugh ) This is why I have a bad taste in my mouth right now. There are easier ways to make money. I could have devoted that time to my regular customers but no, I had to be the nice guy! Point is, being the nice guy might get you somewhere and it might not. I say we all make a pact right here, right now, if it's going to be a one time clean-up job with no hope of landing the customer as a full time contract we should charge $55.00 per hour. Look at it this way, it upsets your schedule, it is harder than a yard you maintain on a regular basis, you have to haul something off most of the time, and it is rougher on your equipment and your back than a regularly maintained property. If your truck tears up today and you can't fix it or don't have the time, take it to the Chevy/Ford/Dodge dealership and pay them $50-$55.00 per hour to fix it plus the parts. Or take it to shadetree mechanic Bubba and he'll charge you $40.00 per + parts and stretch it out because he doesn't have the proper equipment to do the job. my time, back, and equipment are just as da@##$$%^$ important to me as it is to them! There may be some room around my area for someone new because the bottom line is, take it or leave it, cause Homer said so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Charles
01-21-2000, 12:47 PM
I agree to that pact Homer. There's just no way to estimate leaf cleanup jobs. Sometimes you can be an hour or more off if you try it. Leaves drift like snow and can fool you. The yard may look shallow with them. Then you start blowing away from the house and under trees then all of a sudden you have a ton. Then sometimes those leaves underneath may be wet and compacted. Taking more time to blow. A lot of limbs maybe hid in the leaves that you have to pic up. There maybe big areas where you can't put a mower on. Like rocky areas you have to blow. Customer will try to add extras into the job. Because their idea of finished is different from yours. These are some of the reason I have always stuck to a hourly rate on leaves. And too you can end up stressed out like Homer if you bid low. Homer I believe this is a budlight night for you:)

slagerlawncare
01-21-2000, 02:48 PM
Charge a hourly rate...period.From the time you get there to the time you dump your leaves..etc...Hourly rate..if they don't like it,you don't want em' for a customer.Because in most cases you get burned. <p>----------<br>rick<br>slager

Eric ELM
01-21-2000, 05:45 PM
This is for Homer,<br>Scott, what you say is very true, but by the time I got to the ( now go ahead and laugh ) I was rolling on the floor laughing. It wasn't that you got burned that was funny, that was a bummer, but knowing you the way I do, it was down right funny the way you told it.<br>Back to the subject, Mattingly, if you find a formula that can be used on clean ups all over the USA, write a book. I'll buy it. I don't think you will find a formula where the customer and the contractor are both satisfied. Charging by the hour is the only way I'll do any extra work like that.<p>----------<br>&lt;a href=&quot;http://pages.prodigy.net/eric.erickson/index.html&quot;&gt;Eric@ELM&lt;/a&gt;<br>

mountain
01-21-2000, 05:52 PM
Don't forget those DAMN acorns & walnuts. and crawling around on your hands and knees picking leaves from under firethorns. Don't even get me started on those #@$$@ rose bushes. cleanups who needs them!!<p>but really always do them by the hour just ask homer , we've all been there

gene gls
01-21-2000, 05:54 PM
Father Time is the best teacher and experence is the name of the game.Education cost money no matter how you recive it. The road of hard knocks should incourage you to remember certian items pertaining to the jobs that took longer to learn so in the future when you see these situations while looking at a job to quote you will remember that you have to alow more time to complete the task.<p>Homer:Look at your 5.5 hr job as a learning experance.Your competitor on the property near by will more than likly think you are low balling him if he finds out what you charged.Don't feel bad,most of us are in your shoes at some point in time doing the same thing.I have been there-done that.

HOMER
01-21-2000, 10:19 PM
Luckily they won't find out. The tenants are moving, this was a rental house. They had to get it cleaned up before they could get their deposit back! Thats another point to ponder everybody thats reading, why not charge them a little more when they are renting. If you don't get it the rental company will keep a portion of the deposit anyway! Might as well be one of us getting the money huh.

TGCummings
10-20-2000, 02:16 AM
Bringing up an old thread (last posted on in January 2000!) because it's relevant to a job I'm quoting this coming week, and I'm hoping y'all can help me with it.

It's a big cleanup job that includes heavy beds of weeding, many unkempt shrubs and plants, and possibly some tree pruning if I decide I want to do it. This place has just really gotten out of shape.

These customers are high end residential, elderly, and I've been cutting their lawns for 4-5 years. Very nice people, always pay on time, and I've done some trimming for them in the past (albeit some years ago and for a flat rate of $20/hour :( ).

Now, after trying to take care it all themselves, they mention to me their inquiring about a gardener to keep everything in shape on a regular basis. Since I'm expanding in this direction, I tell them I can work up a quote.

Here's my quandry: After walking it off, I'm estimating the job will take more than 50 hours to complete, not including the tree work. This is twice what I figured in my head before walking it off (but I never mentioned that to the customer, don't worry!), and seemed, well, eye-popping to me. When I run the numbers, I come to an estimate of $2180.00 to get their place into shape. That figure makes me a little nervous, so I know it will give them sticker shock.

Now, what I need advice on is how to proceed. Should I break it down into categories of trimming, hauling, weeding, cultivation, etc. to make the numbers seem less all-encompassing? Should I call the customer and let her know where the numbers are leading us before we proceed in writing up a detailed estimate? Should I just pass?

It's an awful lot of work and I would have to spread it out over several weeks or bring in labor. I'm not adverse to doing either, nor am I afraid of hard work. In fact, this is just the sort of job I relish, since I can really strut my stuff in all areas of landscaping and even sell the customer on covering those weed beds with mulch once we get them in shape. They want their place to be as beautiful as any in the neighborhood, they have money, and they simply can't keep it up themselves. It could be, as they say, a money tree.

Have you ever bid a residential cleanup this high?

Any help you give would be appreciated. I definitely want to branch out to these areas of the business (and just completed and got paid for a similar, albeit smaller $420 cleanup job), but am faltering at the gate on this one.

Like I said, these numbers make me nervous. Advise me?

-TGC

Skookum
10-20-2000, 04:51 AM
There is a Formula for Bidding or Estimating on jobs like Spring Cleanup. Experience + Need = Job/money!

Many of us (Myself included)talk about not doing jobs for less, walking away etc... What no one has mentioned, is how hungery you are affecting that decision process. If you need the money/work, walking away to just go sit at home is not doing you any good. Starting out can be tough. Trying to make a living at this right out of the gate can be even tougher. You might want the work, you might need it!

Homer, $75.00 for 5.5 hours is way too low of course by many of our views. But, if you had nothing else to make money that day you made $13.63 an hour. You can not make that at McDonalds! Of course excluding all expenses.

I usually look at small such jobs from a point as what else I got going. If I am busy, I'll bid the hours high. If I am not busy and want the work, I will try to trim the hours closer, maybe even the hourly rate. Whatever I bid I always cover my expenses first. I work faster than most, so I usually come out on the high end anyway.

But, like most posts given so far, try to get a hourly rate since a job bid might be high sounding to a prospect and helps cover your time estimate. You might try giving a Minimum and Maximum amount of billable hours to cover yourself and allow the prospect to see a end price, which is why they do not want to pay you just straight time anyway.

TGCummings
10-20-2000, 10:51 AM
Hey Skook, thanks for the reply.

What you say about sitting at home compared to underbidding makes a lot of sense to me, and I've had to do it before. Now, however, I understand the importance of job-time and have made a resolution not to take a job well under rate just to have it. Sure, cash flow is low right now because I'm restructuring the business, but the reason I'm having to do that is because of accepting lower rates in the years gone by. Yeah, I might 'sit at home' for a couple days as opposed to trimming and hauling large amounts of debris, but there never seems to be time to work on the business, anyhow, so if I'm called to the field I want to make sure I have just compensation!

On the flip side of that, I'm not afraid of dropping a quote and finding out later on that I made well below my rate because I guaged the job wrong. That's a mistake I'm willing to make in order to learn from. The tricky part now is proposing on a job this big and, like I said, I'm a little leary of the numbers I came up with. They seem large.

However, to qualify myself, I severely underbid three of the last four jobs I did. I didn't propose them because they were jobs for customers who wanted them done at any price so I was able to charge my hourly rate in my head as I went along. Still, I estimated the jobs for myself ahead of time. The numbers seemed large then, too, and were well below what I eventually had to charge.

But, I do not want to do this any more because if I'm always working at $40/hour than that's all I will make. I want to get into the pattern of proposing jobs and signing contracts. That way, if I find better ways to do the job(s) I can increase revenue w/o lowering my price. I may screw up sometimes doing it this way, but I'll take my chances with it in order to learn.

Again, it comes back to this proposal again. Should I trust my initial walk-off, break the job down into sections, and propose it at the $2180 total figure I calculated? Should I retrace my steps?

Also, if anyone has a copy of a finished proposal they filled out from NEBS I'd love to see it. I'm going to be using these forms but I'd like to see a total breakdown of how a contractor would fill these out.

Again, I can't thank you all enough for your input. The improvement in my attitude & business over the last six months, since discovering LawnSite, is palpable. I get people walking up to me all the time now just to admire my operation & setup. I sing & dance my way through work days now, and have nearly doubled my average rate/job. Maybe I should start a thread to spell out the momumental changes you've contributed to... :)

Thanks again!

-TGC