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ImperialLandscaping
05-02-2011, 06:16 PM
This is the first summer I will be starting my landscaping business and I am having a bit of trouble deciding on how to price my grass cutting service. All the yards I will be cutting will be residential. Does anyone have any suggestions to help me decide on a price to charge. Also how would I place a bid for a job over the entire summer. All suggestions help! Thanks!

DavesLL
05-02-2011, 06:38 PM
Assuming others chime in, you're going to hear a lot of answers. For someone just starting out, I don't think the 'typical' answer that seems to usually go along the lines of "I don't drop my gate for less than $X" is really very useful; at least for a new guy just starting. I'd say you're going to have know both your own costs (trip cost, on-site cost in terms of fuel, maintenance and equipment wear, etc...) *and* what your market will bear.

After all, it's fine and well to have very solid business reasons for why you can't mow a 1/5th or 1/4th acre property for less than $60 or $40 or whatever ... but that doesn't really do a lot for you when most of your market won't actually go for that price. It's also fine and well to say you won't mow any property that won't sign up for weekly service ... but again if your customers aren't interested in paying for weekly service that doesn't do a lot for you.

I just got started in my area six weeks ago, and every customer I've landed is not interested in paying for either weekly cuts or a premium price of $50+ for their property. I have two that keep changing when I come to cut based on their own cash flow (ex: one I've cut twice already, and the last cut was 20Apr, and she doesn't want it cut again until 9May; two others have had me cut twice a month but have had to delay payment as much as a week). I think you have to be flexible regarding your customers when you're trying to build a customer base; pushing for this or that may not be the best path.

However, I can note that I've had several customers already give me other work I've done for them, and several others have mentioned things they're looking to have done. I've also picked up four referrals from existing customers who liked my service and price. So for me, the cuts have been a way to get a relationship established that's starting to lead to additional income. I'm also keeping my eye on fall in four months, as I've already done several yard cleanups that paid very well, and am looking forward to hitting up all my existing accounts for that service when leaves start falling again.

Finally, I'm starting my 'second wave' of advertising in the next ring out from my immediate local area that has modified prices (plus trip fees to cover the five to fifteen mile distances); I'm reasoning I already have accounts that are sustaining a cash flow, so I can afford to grow slower with any new accounts I can pick up over the next few weeks.

Good luck!
ps: assuming you can wade through the threads and the clutter in some posts, I think you'll find a LOT of useful information in these forums. I know I have.

Aaronnc
05-02-2011, 07:08 PM
A dollar a minute. 30 minute lawn? =$30 10 minute lawn? =$10 Hour lawn= $60. Its a good general rule of thumb just starting out. Or you can charge per square yard. I personally charge .65 a square yard. But I've seen them priced anywhere from .30 to 1.00 per square yard depending on (local) economy, competition, price of gas, your equipment, terrain, degree of difficulty, etc,etc,etc..........

DocClark
05-02-2011, 07:40 PM
Dave seems like a very intelligent man! My strongest belief if "Doing something leads to something, and doing nothing leads to nothing!" Please understand that I'm not telling you to go lowball, or work for free but if you know what it takes to run your biz then your good. I know that with all my expenses including fuel, payroll, taxes, GL and commercial auto insurance, licenses etc that I need $28 an hour. Now if I were to go price a 30 minute job at $14 I would be flamed on here. But since I know what I have to make per hour or per job, I can move the price around to get the work so I can get my foot in the door to do more work including the neighbors or even more stuff for them. I also will take one time jobs...why not?? You can usually charge a little extra and if I don't have a full schedule then why not? It's money...people have a hard time pursuing work such as door hangers, door to door, walking into businesses but if you want to make a go at it then you have too do this stuff. Most people don't have the testicular fortitude to be mean to you for pursuing work, usually the worst that happens is they say No and walk away. Who cares?? Now go do something!

ImperialLandscaping
05-02-2011, 07:44 PM
@DavesLL thanks a lot for the info. I agree though there is A LOT of info on this site, just from browsing it for an hour I've learned a lot. Another question I have is when you bid for a job for the summer would you add on the price of gas used to mow the law?

ImperialLandscaping
05-02-2011, 07:47 PM
@DocClark I agree 100% with what you're saying. I think I'll just have to do a few jobs and then go from there to figure out exactly what to charge to price it reasonably and to be able to make enough money to where it is worth my time for doing the work. Thank you for the advice!

Darryl G
05-02-2011, 07:54 PM
I price lawns based on how much money I feel I need to make per hour to be profitable and how ling I think it will take. Going into my 10th season I've gotten pretty good at estimating them, but I still mess one up from time to time. What I used to do at first, once I got some lawns, was to compare new ones I looked at mentally to those I was already doing and knew how long they took. I have even told potentially customers that I wasn't sure, so I would cut it the first time for free and could then give them a firm price (assuming the lawn isn't overgrown). I don't do that anymore but I did back when I was just starting out.

If you're using a 21 inch mower, any mistakes can make a huge difference! And keep in mind that mowing around obstacles takes time. A 1/4 acre small heavily landsaped lawn can easily take longer than 1/2 acre lawn that is open mowing. And don't forget to budget for trimming and blowing.

WLC26
05-02-2011, 09:08 PM
Can you really make any money at 28 bucks an hour? I usually figure on 80 an hour, and sometimes that gets rough. If i cant do a 25 dollar lawn in 15 mins, I will let it pass. Depends on how busy you are though.

When i first started, I would take just about anything. Now I am quite busy so for me to take a 25 dollar lawn and it take 30 mins, is pretty much a waste, as I can get one somewhere else that takes 15 mins. Its better to be making some money instead of nothing, but when you get busy, you have to really think about how to make as much profit as possible.


Dave seems like a very intelligent man! My strongest belief if "Doing something leads to something, and doing nothing leads to nothing!" Please understand that I'm not telling you to go lowball, or work for free but if you know what it takes to run your biz then your good. I know that with all my expenses including fuel, payroll, taxes, GL and commercial auto insurance, licenses etc that I need $28 an hour. Now if I were to go price a 30 minute job at $14 I would be flamed on here. But since I know what I have to make per hour or per job, I can move the price around to get the work so I can get my foot in the door to do more work including the neighbors or even more stuff for them. I also will take one time jobs...why not?? You can usually charge a little extra and if I don't have a full schedule then why not? It's money...people have a hard time pursuing work such as door hangers, door to door, walking into businesses but if you want to make a go at it then you have too do this stuff. Most people don't have the testicular fortitude to be mean to you for pursuing work, usually the worst that happens is they say No and walk away. Who cares?? Now go do something!

DocClark
05-02-2011, 09:29 PM
WLC26 Great question..No I can not make money at $28 an hour. I know that with all my expenses and payroll it takes $20 an hour to break even and that includes paying myself. Of course the name of the game is for a sole proprietor to pay themself what they are worth AND to put money in the biz account. So to answer your question anything over $28 an hour goes in the bank account for a rainy day. I usually shoot for $50 per hour but I know that I can go down to a certain point and NOT lose money. But at $28 an hour I can still pay myself if it's a solo job AND pay all my expenses but quite frankly I don't think I have ever had to go that low! Thankfully

yardguy28
05-02-2011, 09:40 PM
since your just starting out knowing your cost of doing business is near impossible. the forumla thing like one stated charging a dollar per min. and knowing how long a long will take is difficult as well since your just starting out. the square foot thing is a pain the @ss.

i just called around and got estimates on my own lawn and took an average of that. i adjusted my numbers for larger properties and smaller ones.

i'm on my 5th profitable year in business and i'm just now starting to examine my cost of doing business and what not. up until this season i never knew my cost of doing business.

i've always priced mowing jobs my looking at them. same with mulch jobs. other services are done by the hour but i've learned how long certain services will take.

i usually just price a lawn off of what i want for it based off of hour hard or easy it will be to service. i don't pay much attention to the time thing.

DavesLL
05-02-2011, 10:32 PM
Another question I have is when you bid for a job for the summer would you add on the price of gas used to mow the law?

My prices are set to cover my costs and generate a profit; this includes the fuel. Not hard to figure out; note the tank size of your mower, fill it, mow property, eyeball what's left in the tank. Multiply by the price you paid for fuel, and you've got your fuel cost for that property. If you don't already have an idea, after you've run a piece of equipment for 10-20 hours, I'd say you *should* have a decent idea of fuel and oil usage for an hour's use.

Keep in mind you've got some fairly predictable costs, other than fuel and oil, for operating your equipment. Things like air filters and spark plugs usually have replacement intervals specified by the equipment manufacturer; so every 20 or whatever hours, Toro or whoever says you should put a new widget in. That widget has a cost, and you can easily spend a minute or two with a calculator to figure out how much that maintenance item costs you per hour of using the mower. If you're not a small engine mechanic and are paying someone to do the widget replacing, back to the calculator to figure what the guy charges you for widget replacing as an additional cost per hour.

When the phrase 'know your costs' is thrown around, this is the kind of thing it means to an LCO. If you take a job that will have you spending an hour running a tractor or a blower, what did that hours' use of the equipment cost you? If you don't know, it's harder to set good prices to cover the cost. Sure you can fudge it by pricing higher just to avoid some math, but if a customer balks at your number, there goes that job. If a customer balks at your correctly set number, either your price isn't competitive, your costs are too high, or that customer wasn't a good customer for you. I've quickly learned, and have seen mentioned repeatedly in threads here; there is no such thing as "any customer is a good one".

Aaronnc
05-02-2011, 11:02 PM
since your just starting out knowing your cost of doing business is near impossible. the formula thing like one stated charging a dollar per min. and knowing how long a long will take is difficult as well since your just starting out. the square foot thing is a pain the @ss.

i just called around and got estimates on my own lawn and took an average of that. i adjusted my numbers for larger properties and smaller ones.

i'm on my 5th profitable year in business and i'm just now starting to examine my cost of doing business and what not. up until this season i never knew my cost of doing business.

i've always priced mowing jobs my looking at them. same with mulch jobs. other services are done by the hour but i've learned how long certain services will take.

i usually just price a lawn off of what i want for it based off of hour hard or easy it will be to service. i don't pay much attention to the time thing.

You'll never be more than a two bit lawn jockey if you don't pay attention to your time. You might as well change your landscaping business to a landscaping hobby. Regardless of how many years you've been profitable. If you get up to servicing 8-10 accounts a day, you better cool believe that you have to know how long each client will take. But I do agree, just starting out, you kind of have to wing it the best way you know how as you learn. There's estimating software out there you might be able to check out, or even strike up a friendship/network with a established LCO and ride along or work part-time to learn the ropes. The old cliche "time is money" is truer than ever. Learn to manage your time and do the very best job you can, the quickest you can.

PPS.inc
05-03-2011, 12:41 AM
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PPS.inc
05-03-2011, 01:01 AM
Shoot for $100.00. Pull up, cut 5, 1acre lawns for $40.00. $200.00 in less than 2 hrs in spring growth. Do good wrk n ppl will wait for your services. Lowest u work is $35.00 per man hr. With no tractors. Just bought a bad boy, cuts perfect, and I saved atleast $2500.00. I feel good about life. Boraborabora fella is a joke. Hes pry running gravs...... Ill sleep till fall n watch for a few more months of this site. I know all the common posters, what ppl will say b4 I read it. My fav is the fella from indy with a profile pic of a rolling hill with a house in the far back round. Perfect stripes....... Do what u say ur gonna do, when u say u gonna do it, and ull never starve. I have a 4 year degree in business education, so I know how to wrk ppl. Business is good. Picked up 3 lawns in 2 hrs today. All next to current customers. I am glad fuel us up... I charge a surplus on top on being the most pricey.... Lowballers n midballers will have issues.
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PPS.inc
05-03-2011, 01:07 AM
oh, and 35 lawns a day. 2 guys... 4 days a week now.... Baby loves her new Mastercraft.... Matches the truck.....
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Hell on Blades
05-04-2011, 04:36 AM
A wise uncle told me along time ago, "Estimate the best you can. Most of the time you'll make some money. Sometimes you'll lose a little and sometimes you'll make a killing. Do your best not to lose your ash!!!"

vencops
05-04-2011, 05:53 AM
Almost 100% of these estimating questions are actually just simple math questions....and have nothing to do with anything technical.

Hourly rate desired X time required to complete task = Estimate.

Any estimate that doesn't include time is (IMO) useless.

Darryl G
05-04-2011, 09:05 AM
Almost 100% of these estimating questions are actually just simple math questions....and have nothing to do with anything technical.

Hourly rate desired X time required to complete task = Estimate.

Any estimate that doesn't include time is (IMO) useless.

Agreed but I often adjust for the difficulty and wear and tear factors. So if it's a dusty/dirty or lumpy/bumpy lawn or has gnarly slopes I will charge more. Some would call it the PITA factor. Similarly if I'm doing a landscaping job that is all hard labor and I know that I'll only be able to put in 6 hours before I'm totally exhausted, I'll charge what my full day rate would be.

Runner
05-04-2011, 09:14 AM
You can take the dollar a minute concept and throw it out the window. It's just a generic easy answer that is easy to write. Not only does it not make sense, but it will just end up wasting more of your time until you realize it doesn't work and have to reconfigure it the RIGHT way. Do a search under my name, and use the word "costs" AND "end".

yardguy28
05-05-2011, 07:52 PM
You'll never be more than a two bit lawn jockey if you don't pay attention to your time. You might as well change your landscaping business to a landscaping hobby. Regardless of how many years you've been profitable. If you get up to servicing 8-10 accounts a day, you better cool believe that you have to know how long each client will take. But I do agree, just starting out, you kind of have to wing it the best way you know how as you learn. There's estimating software out there you might be able to check out, or even strike up a friendship/network with a established LCO and ride along or work part-time to learn the ropes. The old cliche "time is money" is truer than ever. Learn to manage your time and do the very best job you can, the quickest you can.

well considering i already service 8 to 10 clients a day, sometimes a few more and i don't know to the second numbers on how long each client takes, i'd say i'm an exception to your rule.......:dancing:

Aaronnc
05-05-2011, 11:10 PM
well considering i already service 8 to 10 clients a day, sometimes a few more and i don't know to the second numbers on how long each client takes, i'd say i'm an exception to your rule.......:dancing:

Yeah, OK. 8-10 accounts a day but yet you don't know how long it takes you, and you don't pay attention to your time? I'm pretty darn sure not too many folks on this site is gonna buy that one. What are you gonna try and sell us on next? That you run 87 octane through a diesel? Or maybe it's more like you have 1 or 2 accounts a day?

gebby
05-05-2011, 11:35 PM
Well do what you think is best for you. Your first year or two will be your learning years. Study and understand all of YOUR numbers. I stumbled on to this sight about 2 years ago. I think I know less now than I did 2 years ago. : ). What you will get from this sight is some good ideas. Many things you would not have even thought of untill you lived it. I was lucky, I had very few people to turn to to give me advise. Yes I attended the school of hard nocks and it was one of the best things that happened to me. Again do whats best for your operation. Residential is hard because folks just don't understand and think you will work for free. You will hear NO quite often so, in turn you also have to have the word NO in your vocabulary. It's OK not to take a job if they want to nickle and dime you. If you are in this for the long haul be sure to buy only heavy duty tools that won't break down every other day. Buy the best that you can afford. GOOD LUCK to you !!