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View Full Version : Possible to accurately have per shrub prune price?


grassmasterswilson
09-20-2012, 10:01 PM
I'm looking into doing a pruning program for my customers. I've always charged per hour to cover any labor charges.

Can you accurately prune on a per plant basis? Maybe $5-7 per bush under 5 feet. Higher for taller plants and an extra charge for first time pruning of overgrown shrubs.

Just curious if those who do lots of pruning have found an easy way to estimate besides per hour.
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Smallaxe
09-21-2012, 06:51 AM
The biggest part of the job is the cleanup... if there's a lot of loose wood chips under the shrubs,,, you had better figure out how much its gonna cost you to keep that looking nice... especially if its an evergreen with tiny pieces everywhere... :)

RSK Property Maintenance
09-23-2012, 12:54 AM
it sure is, but my pricing might not work in your area, small shrubs like up to 2' high are 10-15 dollars, medium shrubs up to 5' are 20-50 dollars, and tall shrubs like burning bush have been let go and are 8-10ft tall or higher are 55-100 dollars depending on if the customer is already one of my lawn customers, and has me do other work or if they are a new customer, lawn customers get a slight discount, and new customers who have over 25 shrubs get a discount as well. Either way it works out for me. i just did a small shrub pruning job friday, I was cutting the lawn and i had my guys pruning, 175 dollar job, and 40 dollar lawn, everything was done and cleaned up in about 25 mins. the lawn took longer to due because i was cutting myself vs. two mowers and a trimmer, but the pruning more then made up for the 5 min difference. with this pricing system, the 2' shrubs take no longer then 5 mins to prune to perfection, and sometimes i even charge 20 dollars for them if they are wider like more mature boxwoods or something.

grassmasterswilson
09-24-2012, 06:51 AM
Thanks. Pruning is a very small part of my business, and I have always done it per request of the customer. Since I offer mowing, applications, mulch, etc it just seems to be the next step in going to full service(which is what I would like to do).

I've always billed it out per hour and told the customer a price range. I would like to try and include some type of pruning program into my monthly customers and trying to figure out the safest way to estimate without getting burned.

Darryl G
09-26-2012, 12:47 PM
I also estimate and bill my pruning jobs per hour. I know some people do it, but I can't see myself pruning on a fixed per shrub basis...maybe as a range. Shrubs that are out of shape and/or have a lot of dead in them take a LOT longer than those that have been maintained, size being equal.

Florida Gardener
09-26-2012, 01:53 PM
I also estimate and bill my pruning jobs per hour. I know some people do it, but I can't see myself pruning on a fixed per shrub basis...maybe as a range. Shrubs that are out of shape and/or have a lot of dead in them take a LOT longer than those that have been maintained, size being equal.
Yup, great point about dead stuff and shrubs that have been neglected for a while.
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32vld
09-26-2012, 03:33 PM
Per hour. You can have two hedges 50' long 3' tall. One hedge is trimmed three times a year. Always very little gets cut off for the last cut of the season. May not even need to do a clean if any.

The other 50' hedge has not been trimmer in since last September.

Can't go by size.

Then what if the past pruning has mishapen the shrubs then extra work is time is needed.

Hedge prunning is best to ask an LCO how long it takes them to do job your customer wants done. Then multiply that time by your hourly rate to price out the job.

With experience you will be able to judge the time needed. Remember because you don't have the best suited eqiupment and the job takes longer you can't expect the customer to pay you for the extra time it takes you.

That would be like trying to charge someone 10 hrs to do their lawn with your 20" mower that another LCO can do in 1 hr with their 60" ZTR.

grassmasterswilson
09-27-2012, 10:55 AM
I'm trying to develop a good year round pruning program. What are you guys doing? 2 full prunes and a couple "as needed" visits?
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Kelly's Landscaping
09-28-2012, 02:43 PM
I can guesstimate smaller and mid size bushes rather easily. It's the big stuff is very difficult to estimate, a 4-5 foot shrub may take 3-5 mins but a 20 footer can take several hours to get it right. Now I do some where I do not know the actual heights but when your standing 10 feet on a ladder reaching so your arms at the 17 foot level with an 11 foot set of trimmers in your hand and struggling to hit the top its a good guess the bush is 28-30 ft tall. Iv done hedge jobs where the hedge is so wide you can not reach the center from either side with 11 foot trimmers. So I know a little about the big stuff I do 50-60 trimming jobs a year and have for the past 23 years. Id recommend charging by the hour creates fewer head aches.

Start with smaller shrubs and hedges and work your way up as you become more skilled and confident.

lukemelo216
09-30-2012, 01:12 PM
This is a very tough to try and come up with. Differnt variety of shrubs require very differnt pruning methods. I know a majority (not all but a majority) of the people on this site and a large percentage of the lawn mowers out there just get the hedge trimmers and hack all the shrubs into globes. But all the plants really require differbt pruning.

We prune shrubs to have a natural shape that us clean so the continue to flower. Shrubs get prubed once per year and the timing is dependent on the variety of the shrub. After that we will prune as needed to take down suckers, shoots, dead branches etc. Formal hedges such as juniper yew boxwood we will trim two times per year and prune as needed. With our meathid you really cant put a price on a per shrub except for maybe hedges hut we estimate our hours and price accordingly.
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Darryl G
09-30-2012, 04:06 PM
This is a very tough to try and come up with. Differnt variety of shrubs require very differnt pruning methods. I know a majority (not all but a majority) of the people on this site and a large percentage of the lawn mowers out there just get the hedge trimmers and hack all the shrubs into globes. But all the plants really require differbt pruning.

We prune shrubs to have a natural shape that us clean so the continue to flower. Shrubs get prubed once per year and the timing is dependent on the variety of the shrub. After that we will prune as needed to take down suckers, shoots, dead branches etc. Formal hedges such as juniper yew boxwood we will trim two times per year and prune as needed. With our meathid you really cant put a price on a per shrub except for maybe hedges hut we estimate our hours and price accordingly.
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Good post! One question though. Do you find that you have to educate your customers about the proper way to trim shrubs, rather than just shearing them with clippers?

Most of the shrubs I tend to have always been sheared so that's what I stick with most of the time. But for those where I have an opportunity to prune them as they should be, I find that customers are so used to the sheared hedge-like look and them being either square or round, that they don't like the way they look pruned properly, such as bottom raised up a bit, thinned out, natural shape and left with some texture. Do you find that to be the case too? And if so, how do you handle it?

lukemelo216
09-30-2012, 04:54 PM
Not really. We do high end residential where people just want you to handle the work. As i said we dont go out and get a bunch of business thats just pruning. When we talk to our customers though we instruct them how we prune and show pictures of our pruning.

We have run into customers where people just hacked the bushes down and ee go in and fix them. It takes time but you can. You have to go in and thin the bush out from the inside and within a year or two it fills out.
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grassmasterswilson
09-30-2012, 05:11 PM
Good info guys. I'm trying to add a pruning program to become more full service. I already offer mowing, apps, and mulch. The obvious next step is to add pruning and possibly shrub insect treatments an fertilization.

The hard part I feel I would have is describing what I would do. I'm sure I'll get the old man who expects everything to be freshly pruned all year long. I was originally trying to figure out a way to word it like 1-2 full pruninga a year and the. "As needed" in between to take care of dead and suckers.

I'm not confident in how to estimate this. Since I haven't be asked to do a lot I usually give a hourly estimate with some room for error. Not sure how to handle the as needed jobs or how often I would need to trim.

I may start off with 2 pruninga a year. One after spring blooms and 1 after fall blooms. I could trim evergreens on both visits. That way the customer and I both know hat to expect. Then as I become more familiar I can estimate with more confidence.

Then again prunin. Isn't one of my favorite things to do so I may be better off not doing it or subbing it out to a local landscaping company.
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Darryl G
09-30-2012, 05:14 PM
Yeah, maybe spending some time up front and showing pictures would help :) I tend to find out after the fact that they don't like it and then have to do the explaining at that point.

I had a call over the summer from a potential customer that had their shrubs pruned last year by another landscaper. I didn't see them at that point but from what I could see they were done picture perfect, but the customer hated them to the point they wanted them all ripped out. Had I done it, it would have looked much the same. I actually referred that one to my 18 year old son, since they had a lot of other stuff they wanted done that was more suitable for a kid...just someone to help with the stuff they couldn't manage themselves including some indoor work.

lukemelo216
09-30-2012, 07:59 PM
Maintaining a landscape (properly) is a skill and not just anyone can do it. Our guys get yearly training to ensure that they are always up to date in the industry.

I would suggeat trying to learn how to do it and certainly not sub it out. If you get another landscaper into the account whats going to prevent the owner from going directly to them for everything.

Show them and if its not worth it walk away. You cant be afraid to walk away from a job. Weve bid $100000+ projects that wece decided to walk from because they will be more hassle than good or they dont fit it with our way of doing business etc
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Darryl G
09-30-2012, 08:14 PM
Not sure if I confused you or you were just talking about subs in general rather than in response to my post.

Last year they had another landscaper trim their shrubs. This year they called me. I had no prior involvement with them. I decided that the work they wanted done and the price they were willing to pay was more suitable for my son, who worked with me for a couple of summers, so had some experience. So I just referred it to him. I didn't need him this summer, deciding instead to train his brother. Besides he could make more money working on his own than with me.

I do sub and sometimes refer work to a Master Gardener whom I've known for 20 years or so. She's good for the lighter labor and the tedious stuff I don't want to mess with....mostly flower beds.

lukemelo216
09-30-2012, 09:10 PM
I was referring to the post above you by grassmasterwilson.

jequigle
09-30-2012, 09:41 PM
This may be off topic of pricing but I live in a large development and the company that maintains it trims the hedges and blows it into the yard and than drops the deck to like 1.5" and mulches the trimmings so they don't have to haul off any clippings.. I feel that its not the proper way to do it..

I charge by the hour for any hedge trim job and not by the bush.

lukemelo216
09-30-2012, 09:58 PM
That is certainly not the correct way of doing things. Prune, clean up with blowers and rakes and then turn over the mulch a little and it will be good.

I have never ever been a fan of charging by the hour on anything. To me when you do that its like your telling the customer your are not 100% confident in your knowledge and abilities to complete the job. Review the job, determine your hourly rate accurately, and then determine how long it should take and give a price. IF you under estimate well thats unfortunate, but its part of business and you learn from it.

BrunoT
10-02-2012, 05:00 PM
The problem with any "per shrub" price, other than as a rule of thumb, is that shrubs vary in a lot of ways beyond size.

How much growth is on them?

How well shaped are they already?

Are you leaving tiny cuttings on the ground or hauling off huge amounts?

Is this shrub in a formal landscape setting or sitting beside a rental home?

What obstructions are around them? Is there potential for damage? Are they in tight spots or on slopes where footing is difficult and it's more tiring?

How "clean" does the customer want the mulch or lawn? Would they rather have a lower price or a pristine look?

Can you rake/blow cuttings into lawn and mulch up or bag them?

Do you have gates and fences to deal with when moving cuttings?

Does your idea of "trimmed" match that of the customer? Do you touch them up only to find the customer expected them cut way back for the price of a touch-up? I've had shrub jobs that filled a truck and trailer, and others that didn't even require much pickup at all.

Experience will help. Since my customers know and trust me and I work fast, I just charge $60/hr and nobody has ever had a problem. It could be harder to do that with new customers.

One tip would be to charge a flat fee per month on a service agreement to keep them in shape. That way you might be able to beat an hourly rate and give them a set price. Over time, even if you did more work than expected at first, once they were in good shape you'd know exactly how long they take to do at appropriate intervals.

Florida Gardener
10-02-2012, 05:22 PM
The problem with any "per shrub" price, other than as a rule of thumb, is that shrubs vary in a lot of ways beyond size.

How much growth is on them?

How well shaped are they already?

Are you leaving tiny cuttings on the ground or hauling off huge amounts?

Is this shrub in a formal landscape setting or sitting beside a rental home?

What obstructions are around them? Is there potential for damage? Are they in tight spots or on slopes where footing is difficult and it's more tiring?

How "clean" does the customer want the mulch or lawn? Would they rather have a lower price or a pristine look?

Can you rake/blow cuttings into lawn and mulch up or bag them?

Do you have gates and fences to deal with when moving cuttings?

Does your idea of "trimmed" match that of the customer? Do you touch them up only to find the customer expected them cut way back for the price of a touch-up? I've had shrub jobs that filled a truck and trailer, and others that didn't even require much pickup at all.

Experience will help. Since my customers know and trust me and I work fast, I just charge $60/hr and nobody has ever had a problem. It could be harder to do that with new customers.

One tip would be to charge a flat fee per month on a service agreement to keep them in shape. That way you might be able to beat an hourly rate and give them a set price. Over time, even if you did more work than expected at first, once they were in good shape you'd know exactly how long they take to do at appropriate intervals.
Great post! Only thing I charge per whatever is on palms that are routinely cleaned 2x/year. BUT, some palms are harder or take longer to prune, so they cost more. If they are messy, completely different story.
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RSK Property Maintenance
10-03-2012, 05:00 PM
per shrub pricing can absolutely work, i agree there is no one price fits all and its more of a range per shrub but, a small shrub that will only take 3 mins to prune, and clean up the clippings can be done for 10 dollars all day long....or even a burning bush that is sphere shaped and 6ft high and been trimmed every year, can be done for 20 dollars and easily trimmed and cleaned up in under 10 mins.

andyslawncare
11-20-2012, 10:14 PM
Wilson,

You need to go into it with the proper equip. Get 2 hand held pruners, hand pruners, lopers, pruning saw, and pole pruner. I do hourly charge for 1 timers, but for contacts, I estimate all pruning for the season and include it. When one of our trucks stops for maintenance, and there is time taken witin the mowing, the clippers are picked up. Its rare for a day with no pruning. Your loosing a lot of money by not being in charge of it. Customers always wait until things are horrible and harder. We do a HOA with about 60 homes and tons of landscaping--we prune something every service with a year total of around 100 man hours. Pruning like this helps to scout for weeds and problems with the plants. If the account pays nicely, we'll do a lot of extra stuff to make it look good all the time---its good for business.

andyslawncare
11-20-2012, 11:22 PM
pm if you want to chat via phone.