View Full Version : curve ball with hourly quote

10-25-2003, 11:51 AM
My next door neighbor hired me to do a job. As a matter of fact I just finished it.

I moved a pile of dirt from the back yard and spread it all around the perimeter of the house. I originally quoted them $25 bucks an hour. They were a little reluctant but agreed.

Heres the curve ball.
I subcontracted a buddy of mine with his tractor/ bucket to move the dirt wile I used a wheel barrel as well. He also help me rake it out and did some roto-tilling.
I paid him $25 bucks an hour.

I plan on charging the neighbor $25 dollars a man hour. If it were just me, it would have taken double the time.

I'm wondering if I should have explained this to them before I started the job. I have a feeling I'm only going to get half the money I'm expecting.

Any inputs?

10-25-2003, 11:54 AM
it would have taken you 3 times the rate. i think your neighbor got a great deal.........

10-25-2003, 12:06 PM
If it were just you, it would've taken you alt longer than twice as long! Now, if it were TWO wheelbarows, ok, but with a tractor? They got a deal, and yes, explain that to them.

10-25-2003, 01:42 PM
Yep, should have told him first ( nobody likes surprises )...
The Few times I got caught in a situation where I exceeded my original quote, I offered to split the difference with the customer ( the rational being that SOMETHING is better then NOTHING- and upsetting a customer generally results in nothing). IF he's a reasonable person, he'll accept that...Good Luck!

Randy Scott
10-25-2003, 02:00 PM
You don't even know what the customer is going to say yet about the bill. I wouldn't get all in a frenzy over it yet.
Also, charging $25 an hour and then subbing someone while paying them $25 an hour isn't the best thing to do. You just let profitable man hours go out the window to someone else while you will net nothing from those times that he spent working for you. Lastly, any customer who thinks $25 an hour is expensive is someone you shouldn't have as a customer. If you are a legit company, I don't know what you can be making after expenses by only charging $25 an hour. The guy using his tractor/bucket must like working for pennies as well.

10-25-2003, 02:35 PM
You guys are right. I probably just made Penny's. But then again I dont know what the customer is going to say.

At first I was going to do it all my self. But then my buddy said he would give me a hand. Live and learn.

I mainly do lawns at a flat rate. I know what the going rate is for lawn mowing.But when it comes to anything else, I'm still learning.

10-25-2003, 05:30 PM
I would charge them per man hour, no matter how long it took. When I lived in RI, I don't remember too many poor people living in Newport. Next time I would charge alot more per hour, work smarter, not harder.

10-25-2003, 06:17 PM
You should have explained the rate better to the neighbor than you explained it to us. Working for friends (and family) can be a very dangerous game. Sometimes they only want a break on the price and don't care how you do the job.

10-25-2003, 06:49 PM
L M--I mow my neighbors yard but I aint movin' my neighbors dirt.

especially for an hourly rate.

but since you did, you must charge by the man hour because that is what he agreed to pay.

your mistake is not letting him know that you must charge for the tractor in addition.


10-25-2003, 07:33 PM
Next time I would charge a lot more per hour, work smarter, not harder.

Your right there. $25 an hour is way too low.

Iv haven't done much work like this before. To be honest with you , I didn't know how nice the job would come out. I didn't want to rip them off. I think the job came out awesome, so next time I wont think I'm stealing there money by charging more.

Newport definately is a high end town.

I still haven't billed her yet. I'm very much procrastinating.

Little Guy
10-25-2003, 07:42 PM
Charge your time plus his and his travel time to and from! It's how I would have charged.

Little Guy:blob2:

10-25-2003, 08:57 PM
You should of told him about the "per man hour for 2 people" rate first. You quoted just for yourself to move the soil then changed the rules. You should suck it up and learn from it. Maybe split the $25/hour with your mate. Even though it was cheaper for the owner to use your mate with the tractor or whatever, I think it will be a hard sell concidering that he thought the initial $25/hour was too much. Its unethical to move the goal posts halfway through the game, if you know what I mean!

10-25-2003, 10:49 PM
Mickhippy, you need to get a clue on this one! It makes no difference whether he did all the work himself or had 10 guys working with him. You charge your hourly rate PER MAN HOUR. PERIOD.

Re-read his first post, he quoted them $25 per hour. That's it, nothing about just for him.

Darryl G
10-25-2003, 11:08 PM
Sounds like they got a deal. I would charge $65 for tractor/loader and operator plus at least $35 or $40 for the man plus wheel barrow.

Rustic Goat
10-26-2003, 02:45 AM
Just keep in mind, they were reluctant in the first place. If you care about feelings between neighbors, you'll tread very carefully, and yes, you should have explained the details of the possible total amount of the bill before you ever started, in this instance anyway.
It's often quite difficult to be a neighbor and work for a neighbor.

10-26-2003, 05:02 AM
I wont beat you up on your low pricing since you've heard enough of that already...just a couple of points that may help you in the future:

1. when I read your first post, I took it to mean $25 per hour....NOT man-hour, tractor hour,etc. If I were the customer I wouldn't care if you had ten guys doing the work becuase you said "per hour" with no mention of equip to be used or how many grunts on the job..

2. landscape related work is hard work as you well know. WHat you make an hour for mowing is irrelevant. Its a whole different animal

3. I've learned this lesson too many times that the old saying of "dont work for friends, relatives, and neighbors" is dead right. ABout 75% of the time they think you should do work for them for peanuts. Avoid these when you can...but I realize sometimes you can't. When you are forced into one, stnad up straight, look them in the eye and explain to them that yours is a legit business and you cannot afford to do work at prices that will not sustain your business. If they walk away, thats a good thing....trust me.

10-26-2003, 10:13 AM
Per HOUR IS, WAS, and WILL ALWAYS be.........Per MAN HOUR.

This isn't a GREY area, its an INDUSTRY STANDARD.

Doesn't matter if you have 60 guys there for ONE minute or 1 guy for an hour, its STILL a "MAN HOUR".

I would explain to the neighbor/CUSTOMER that you paid $xx (whatever it was, and add a bit more) for the use of the tractor which SAVED you/him labor. Then tell him that you had X man hours into the project. Did he watch you work? (thats another story there, some contractors ADD money if you watch!) If he did, he already knows how many guys you had and the agreed upon hourly rate. I'm sure he can do the math.

So, to summarize.....

$xx for tractor


X man hours multiplied by $25/hr = ?

Add them up and collect your money.

You have to sell the part about how much time that TRACTOR saved you guys over wheelbarrowing or whatever.

10-26-2003, 12:05 PM
Even if you charge yourself per hour, his hours and a per man hour for the tractor, they are STILL getting a great deal, since we all know the tractor can do more than the work of two men, antway. I mean, obviously, he wasn't just using the tractor for transporting the dirt, but provavly used it for leveling too, right? Well, that's alot of work!

10-26-2003, 12:17 PM
sorry Runner but I beg to differ....let me shout a little...YES WE KNOW ITS AN INDUSTRY STANDARD BUT JOE BLOW CUSTOMER DOES NOT NECESSARILY UNDERSTAND THAT....how much more effort would it have been to say, "it will be $25 per MAN/hour for our services".Anything less and you're asking for a misunderstanding.

Tommy D
10-26-2003, 01:40 PM
if I understand you correctly you told the neighbor $25.00 pr hour not $25.00 pmh. You quoted incorrectly, learn from the error charge $25.00 accept the loss.

10-26-2003, 10:37 PM
Originally posted by gogetter
Mickhippy, you need to get a clue on this one! It makes no difference whether he did all the work himself or had 10 guys working with him. You charge your hourly rate PER MAN HOUR. PERIOD.

Re-read his first post, he quoted them $25 per hour. That's it, nothing about just for him.

Mate, I did read the post get the idea but did you? The owner was not happy with what he thought was $25/hour and now it will "seem" to him to be $50/h. He screwed up and thats that! All he had to say was Per Man Hour and that there would be 2 people plus a machine and all would be sweet. Even at $25/mh its a good deal and thats not my point. My point is that the owner should of been told this at the start.

10-26-2003, 11:05 PM
Even if you charged him $50 dollars an hour for two men and a tractor, Thats one heck of a deal! A resonable person would understand that. I would try to see if they will pay you the extra money that you want, but if they give you a real hard time then I propably would back off and and just eat the difference. Thats just me. Its a tough situation. Good Luck!

11-01-2003, 07:21 PM
Well I finally came to an agreement with the neighbor. I explained to them that my original price was $25 bucks an hour. But I didn't realize I was going to have another guy helping me. So I want to be fair. She agreed that he worked very hard and it wouldn't be fair not to pay him too. I told her that it would have taken twice as long, and in the end it would be the same price.

She was very happy with are work. I think she came to terms with the hourly rate when we finished. ( as low as it was)

1.The first day we worked for two hours.
2.The second day we worked for an hour
3.The third and final day I worked alone with the roto tiller for an hour.

We agreed on $150 for the price of the work done. I'm going to give my buddy $100. It was his tractor/ bucket and roto tiller

Let me tell ya, its a lot more work to move dirt and make beds then it is to mow grass. It seems to me that mowing grass is the way to go if you want to make a good profit.

The next time I do this kind of work, I'm going to charge a heck of a lot more.

Oh a good rule of thumb.......... Unless your doing a favor for someone.Don't work for neighbor's, Friend's and family. If you do, then don't expect much of a profit from it. Your just being a nice guy, and a good friend/neighbor....etc.

You know what they say about nice guys? They finish last, and go out of business.

Darryl G
11-01-2003, 07:32 PM
Wow, 3 days and 2 guys to do 7 hours worth of work! I guess you're part time. And for 4 hours work and running the job, you get $50. That sucks, but that's how you learn.

11-01-2003, 07:55 PM
I'm actually full time. I do lawns all day, and do the other stuff at night. The sun falls out of the sky early these days. Consequently it took me 3 nights to finish the job.

I learn every day. Some lessons are worth more then others I guess.

11-01-2003, 08:29 PM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by LawnMower

Let me tell ya, its a lot more work to move dirt and make beds then it is to mow grass. It seems to me that mowing grass is the way to go if you want to make a good profit.

Yea at $25 hr. You just did a $500 job for $150 and put way to many hrs in it even for $500

Expensive Lesson but we all been there!

11-02-2003, 12:38 AM
Originally posted by olderthandirt

Expensive Lesson but we all been there!

Well said dirt.

Here's hoping that this thread will prevent this from happening to anyone else.

Just a rule of thumb...Mowing wise, your ceiling is around $60-70/hr. Landscaping....well, there IS NO CEILING! Sky's the limit! As soon as you get that guilty gut feeling that you may be charging WAY too much for a job.....thats right where you want to be on EVERY job!

11-02-2003, 06:35 AM
Lawnmower...like Older said, we've all done it, and we'll most likely do it again...not intentioanally, but in error. And what TLS told you is right on. I always look at mistakes as a lesson learned and rarely do I do it again. (except for getting the Z stuck...hah)

We do more landscape work than mowing and I'm here to tell 'ya, on those says when I mow all day, its like a "play day" as its so much easier on the body than the land work.

Heres a tip that I learned a long time ago...keep a diary/Daytimer in your truck and not the start/stop times of every single job every single day and the exact work that was done on each job (include mowing too even it you know exactly how lon each property takes.) Then when winter comes, roll up all those numbers and summarize the results. Then you will have a clear picture going into the next year on where you need to raise your prices and/or get more effcient on a certain task based on what you want to make per hour