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View Full Version : My Leaf Cleanup Advice For The In-Experienced


BSDeality
10-26-2003, 01:13 PM
There's been a few; plus there will be more (i'm almost positive) posts about leaf cleanups. I just feel like tryin to be helpful/share my thoughts on this.

How much to charge?
totally dependent on your area for starters. around here most LCO's are working around $30-40/hr for basic blow and go leaving them onsite/in the woods. i try to get more though. why would i work for $50-75/hr all season mowing and then give them a discount on leaves?!

Either flat rate it (estimate your time) or charge via the hour. Personally i don't like using hourly rates, i find that many homeowners don't like to see a 20 year old "kid" (in their eyes) make $30-75/hr. What they don't realize is they've been paying that rate all season for my mowing.

How do i estimate time?
go out there and do a few! i just got a new blower this season (echo bp 750t) and i wasn't sure on how much it was going to speed things up. Now since i bought a nice expensive/productive blower i do not want to pass my improved time savings onto my customer by charging by the hour. Why should my increased productivity be passed on to them?

Example: this weekend i saw my neighbor struggling with a 30cc handheld blower. i walked over and asked him if i could help him out with his leaves, FOR FREE! he looked at me like i was crazy, but i explained that I saw it as an investment for my company. By improving my estimating skills i can potentially make a lot more money by charging by the job. I walked the property (1 acre), estimated i would be there 3 hours. I fired up the blower and got to work. 2 hours later i had finished it it. while he was still working in the front yard on the same pile. he had resorted to tarping it by now.


Until this season i didn't take leaf cleanup seriously, and i was mal-equiped with a Sears hand held blower and a generic 8hp push blower i got from home depot a few years ago. This year i bought an Echo BP 750T and i have cut my cleanup time down exponentially. With my new tool i can now justify charging a good rate, but i don't want to let the homeowner know how little time it will take me to do their lawn. Picture this the owner has 3/4 acre of lawn, leaves over most of it. they look out there and see themselves doing it and the job taking an entire day of tough labor using a rake and tarp or even a small gas/electric blower. I know i can do those leaves in 1.5hr or less. Now, ask yourself, what is their saturday worth? $25? $50? $100? $150? MORE?!

If you're charing via the hour, be ready for someone to be standing there with a stopwatch and stopping/starting it everytime you take a breather. However if you're charging by the job, you can sit down or you can hustle your --- off and move on to the next property.

rodfather
10-26-2003, 01:20 PM
Good advice...hopefully some will read it and use it too. I hate hearing about ridiculous cheap rates for leaf clean ups.

topcat
10-26-2003, 03:33 PM
I agree with stop the cheap rates. Did an estimate for an older couple last week. Yard full of trees, 3-4" inches of leaves on whole lawn and in the beds. I figured 4 hours of time myself at $45/hour to blow all leaves to curb using bp and wheeled blower and clean out beds. Guy laughed and said way over priced. I asked what he paid last year and he said 2-3 guys came in and spend 3-4 hours and charged him $75 - $100 total. I laughed to myself and told him no way can I pay for equipment and make any profit at those rates. Also, in today's weekly classified paper there is a guy with an ad stating rates as low as $15/lawn for leaf cleanup.

promower
10-26-2003, 04:25 PM
Good advice an I agree 100% charge by the job. Just finished today 4 hour job, $350. If I would have charged by the hour I would have only gotten $200.

paponte
10-26-2003, 04:40 PM
OK, you guys have been bugging me with this per job rate and not per hour rate. Maybe for a single man operation I can understand it, but not for a crew. Maybe I am wrong, but I see too many factors involved to bid a leaf cleanup down to the last minute. I don't know about you, but if I have 3 guys on a cleanup for an extra 1/2hr, were talking over a $60. difference.

I just don't see how you can be sure to make money. :confused:

rodfather
10-26-2003, 04:45 PM
Originally posted by paponte
OK, you guys have been bugging me with this per job rate and not per hour rate. Maybe for a single man operation I can understand it, but not for a crew. Maybe I am wrong, but I see too many factors involved to bid a leaf cleanup down to the last minute. I don't know about you, but if I have 3 guys on a cleanup for an extra 1/2hr, were talking over a $60. difference.

I just don't see how you can be sure to make money. :confused:


I agree Paul...leaf clean up by the man-hour is the ONLY way to charge to CYA (and I don't care if it's $25 or $125 per hour). Personally for us, it starts at $75 per man hour depending on what type of equipment we are using.

BSDeality
10-26-2003, 04:48 PM
paponte, i guess you're right, i wasn't thinking about a crew since i'm a PT'er myself. I'm getting pretty good at estimating my time with leaves (at least so far). I feel i know what i can do per hour. I generally include an extra 30min to 1 hour extra depending on how i feel about the job.

rodfather
10-26-2003, 04:50 PM
Originally posted by promower
Good advice an I agree 100% charge by the job. Just finished today 4 hour job, $350. If I would have charged by the hour I would have only gotten $200.


Then you don't have a lot of experience in estimating and/or your hourly rate is low. My guess is your hourly clean up rate ($50) is too low.

paponte
10-26-2003, 04:59 PM
That's the only reason why it was bugging me. Cleanups are different from account to account. What's including for the set price? I have some customers that just want the leaves removed. Others we do leaves, clean out the beds, turn over beds, remove all annuals, etc.

We also have customers that are picky as anything, and want everything removed down to the last acorn. These are the people getting banged for over $600. for a cleanup. They get what they want and understand that the more time we are there, the more it costs.

Not trying to change anyones way of doing business, just wanted to make sure we were comparing apples to apples. :cool:

promower
10-26-2003, 05:11 PM
I am a one man operation so It makes more sense for me to charge by the job, Although what happens if you have a crew out there and you arent there to supervise the job and the homeowner sees guys taking screwing around or taking to many small breaks. I would think that people paying by the hour could get pretty upset about this when they see a bill for 6 hours when they felt like the job could have been done 5. Ever run into this? I personally dont know if this has ever been a problem since I have never had an employee but I am curious if this situation has ever come up and it it did I feel would give you company name a bad image.

paponte
10-26-2003, 05:39 PM
Never ran into that problem. If I did, I would simply explain to the customer that we are in essence renting them our time, as well as about $30K in equipment.

It is the Foreman's responsibility to make sure the work gets done, and in a timely fashion. Any breaks or lunch would be off the clock. :cool:

Gene $immons
10-26-2003, 05:50 PM
I charge per man - per hour.

Solo guys might be better off charging by the job.

BSDeality
10-26-2003, 05:58 PM
yah, the general consus so far seems to be:
crew - by the hour
solo - by the job.

Shuter
10-26-2003, 06:39 PM
All my fall clean-ups are priced by the job, noy by the hour.

Shuter
10-26-2003, 06:41 PM
Sorry, ..... Not by the hour.

o-so-n-so
10-26-2003, 08:01 PM
I sell "by the hour" pricing. I give the customer the option of "by the hour" or "by the job" and explain that if I charge by the hour per man, The get exactly what they pay for. No more...No less.....and 3 experienced operators can knock out those leaves in no time.

I have never had any complaints and most people are very impressed with how much work can be done in 1 hour.

My leaf clean-up prices are $50.00 pmh.

I had a old lady that wanted leaf clean-up at the beginning of this season and I give her my little sales pitch about by the hour pricing. She thought it would take all day for us to clean up leaves and cut back some ground cover. 1 hour later we were done with everything. She was very pleased and I made decent wage.

By the hour you cover any unforeseen problems also.

JMO....

gogetter
10-26-2003, 08:23 PM
For those that charge by the hour, I assume you must have to give the customer some idea of how long it will take, right?

I can't see you telling a customer you charge $xx per man hour, and them not questioning whether it's going to take 1 hour or 6 hours.

Tommy D
10-26-2003, 08:36 PM
I do my bidding on everything using the per man hr formula, but when I submit my bid I just give the homeowner the final price for the job. when I have completed the job and give them the invoice it has the per man hr formula. Why I do it this way? because after they see the invoice, I now have an educated customer and it dosn't matter to them because they find out that $50.00 per man hr isn't a lot of $$ if you have a honest and experenced crew doing the work. :waving: p.s. I always get the job again next yr

Randy Scott
10-26-2003, 08:37 PM
Originally posted by gogetter
For those that charge by the hour, I assume you must have to give the customer some idea of how long it will take, right?

I can't see you telling a customer you charge $xx per man hour, and them not questioning whether it's going to take 1 hour or 6 hours.

This is exactly how I feel. I can't believe some of you have customers that don't question what something will cost. I know I would definately have to give my customers some idea of what the clean-up is going to cost. If you have to give them a ballpark price of $250 to $350 or similair, you might as well be a professional and give them an exact price. Certainly would make you look like you know what you are doing. I've only been doing this for three years and it just isn't that difficult to learn to estimate a job accurately. I would feel anything but professional telling them "I don't know exactly how long it will take us so I just will charge by the hour". For those of you that do, how do you keep any type of scheduling if you don't have an idea how long the crew will be there? How do you plan your weeks?

Lastly, I guess if it is working for you, don't change. I just know I couldn't do it in my area or in my eyes.

Moguy
10-27-2003, 12:28 PM
Great thread abd great advice. Thanks

lilred731
10-27-2003, 08:47 PM
I just want to thank you all for the information. I will start doing leaves next year.

paponte
10-27-2003, 09:00 PM
I would feel anything but professional telling them "I don't know exactly how long it will take us so I just will charge by the hour". For those of you that do, how do you keep any type of scheduling if you don't have an idea how long the crew will be there? How do you plan your weeks?

You guys are missing the point. If YOU and only YOU show up on the job, of course you can bid how long it would "approximately" take you. If you could bid a leaf cleanup down to the last minute, then you are d@mn good. I have been bidding cleanups for over 10 years now, and sometimes I go over my estimate.

We're talking about crews here. If I bid the job say 4 hours with two guys and we end up showing up with 4 guys and 2 trucks, I am not entitled to get more money per hour? Or when the customer comes out and says " I wanted every little tiny particle off my lawn", I can turn around and say ok well we've been her for 2 hours already, thats going to mean more time. If I were charging per job and tried to say well thats all your getting for that price, they are going to tell me to get lost that they are not paying.

We have no problems planning our days, or weeks either. Our steady customers' contracts clearly state x amount of money per man hour for cleanups. Any new cleanups we do, we give them an estimated time, but make them sign stating that it is a per hour rate. Can't lose per hour. Also you tell them "per man hour". Yes we do cleanups with 4 guys and have charged $240.00 per hour. It works. :cool:

Likestomow
10-27-2003, 09:19 PM
BSDeality --- am I understanding you correctly when you say you did a one acre property with a backpack blower, and spent two hours doing it?

GarPA
10-29-2003, 05:56 AM
Aren;t we missing an important consideration here when bidding by the job? That being, if you bid a flat cost, it means you have to go out to every customers property who called you so you can arrive at the total fee. Frankly I don have the time to go on wild goose chases to every customer who calls us, most of which are price shopping and lets face it...even if we are a high quality service provider, when it comes to leaves, we cant stand out any more than JOe Blow. In the past 2 days I've gotten 11 calls for leaf cleanup....going out to see all 11 is not possible...and the calls will only increase the next few weeiks. More power to you if you can go out and see each one....I just cant do it

gogetter
10-29-2003, 06:25 AM
So Gar, you just tell them right on the phone "it'll be $xx of dollars per man hour"?.
I would imagine the next question from them would be "well, about how long will it take you?".

No?

GarPA
10-29-2003, 06:34 AM
well Jon at that point I go errr ahhhh wellll...after they describe their property ( and of course the leaves and size of property are usually understated), I give them a wide guesstimate on the fee....based on the history of similar properties.

I;m not saying I never go out to see a property, but if I can't, or its in an area thats a little off my beaten path, I give them a SWAG....I'm sure I lose some this way but I also find I have very little down time driving around the county doing estimates that dont bear fruit...to be honest, if I get them doing it my way fine, if I dont, no big deal as leaves are my least favorite part of thiis business

gogetter
10-29-2003, 07:20 AM
Actually, if I was getting 11 calls in two days, I'd probably do it that way myself.

I just started running a small ad yesterday and I'll be happy if I get one call a day (and that's just what I got yesterday too).
It runs for 28 days, so we'll see.


Last year a woman kinda pushed me for a price and I told her I charge $40 per man hour. Her response was "geez! I don't even make that much at my job!".
I thought to myself, why would you, do you own the company?
I got the job btw.

Think I need to raise my rates a bit for leaf clean ups though. It's hard, physical, dirty work. And if I buy special equipment to make it easier, then it's a substancial investment for this one service.

GarPA
10-29-2003, 08:04 AM
one of the guys here recently mentioned that we also should bill our machine(s) out as a man hour....becuase if a guy is using tarps and rakes and you are using an $8000 machine, you need to account for it since it greatly lowers the time you spend on the property.
Jon I only advertise twice per year...early spring and early fall...and I;ve never gotten thismany replies for leaf and snow removal like I've had lately....I have no idea why except that the fly by nite guys cant/wont do leaves since they dont have the right equip....and snow is a whole other animal....I think people are paranoid since last winters heavy snows...I gave up long ago trying to predict responses to ads....it seems to be feast or famine....one thing I have learned for sure....you have to time your ads EXACTLY at the right time they are thinking about that particular service....and my ads dont mention ANYTHING about "reasonable rates" ...or free anything...rather they stress dependability, quality, and "professional service"..while I;m sure I scare off the price shoppers with the ad, that is actually my intention...I'd rather set the bar high b4 they ever pick up the phone to call me

TRex
10-29-2003, 08:15 AM
Same here I have not started leaf avertising yet, but my adds state quality and professional and I have batted a perfect score this summer. The wording that people use has eveything to do with the type of customer they want. Most people said that my ad was the only one and I get the same paper and there is at least 3 or 4 more in there just not very pofessionaly worded

NC Big Daddy
10-29-2003, 08:32 AM
you can charge enough money per hour!...I just got back from bidding a outside contract leaf job. Every other job I do I give a job price and that's it. This year on leaves my crews will be working by the hour. Every year the phone rings off the hook about leaf removal and every year I turn them down as I didn't really have time for them and it seemed I lost my azz on most every estimate. Here's how I'm going to try it this year.

3-man crew, 2 backpacks and a 12hp walk behind $150 hr with a min of 1hr. No removal all debris stay on site or blown to the street.
Vac-Truck is $150 per hour and $45 per load(yes I have a place to dump them I compost them). If I need more than 3 men it'll be $50 per man. Any feed back would be welcome.

GarPA
10-29-2003, 09:09 AM
maybe a dumb ? but why the leaf truck if you are only taking jobs where the laves stay on the property?

Henry
10-29-2003, 09:09 AM
So what do you flat rate guys do when the leaves are wet and heavy? Do you wait 'til everything dries up? It looks like we're gonna have a wet fall here.

GroundKprs
10-29-2003, 09:56 AM
EXPERIENCE and COMMUNICATON!!!!

Of course any new client will ask the cost of any job. First you determine what they mean by a cleanup - just the leaves in the lawn, or every leaf and bit of debris on the whole property. Then you give a "job" price that is arrived at by your experience and pricing structure. It would be very confusing to state that you would charge $xx for raking time, $xx for backpack blower time, $xx for wheel blower time, and $xxx for leaf loader time. BUT you need to use these times to figure your total cost.

Make the effort to log all these times in doing cleanups, and very soon you can give an estimate that will be close to your actual time. I once gave an estimate for a full season of maintenance, starting in June, that included mowing, cleanups, fert, and shrub work. All jobs were billed by my schedules of costs and time involved, and the total cost to client was 25¢ off of a $1300-1400 estimate. (Never get that close very often, LOL.)

You can tell client you are billing for times involved, and give a lower figure on bill than youir estimate if you overestimate. This is a great way to get a long term client - they know you are charging for just what you do, not trying to gouge them.

RoyalConLLC
10-29-2003, 12:20 PM
Hey guys here is a little something I have done for numerous customers in different markets. You give them A price not to exceed and then do the work on a by the hour/unit basis. This is commonly unit price not to exceed type job in oil field/ petro chem industry. You simply figure the max amount of time it will take you with all variables and base your max price on that. you then explain to the customer that it will most likley be consdierably less than that price. If you are right then the customer is happy and if you are wrong they were prepared for it. Example we bid a unit price not exceed job at a max of 400,000 it only eneded up costing the customer 300,000. This is just a thought and its success will depend on your ability as a salesman. But its a nice way to work by the hour and still cover your backside. But pay attention to detail when you give the max price. if you miss soemthing it can bite you just as hard as a flat rate job.

SuperShovel
10-29-2003, 12:38 PM
What do you guys do about the leaves that don't blow away? I haven't done much leaf clean up. I have a customer who pays me by the hour to come clean up leaves from the beds and from inside the bushes after the lawn guys blow everything around.

I'm considering putting out an ad for clean up this year. I have a decent stihl blower, is a blower enough equipment to do an effecient job?

GarPA
10-29-2003, 01:00 PM
If basically you're doing beds and around nooks and crannies around the house you'll do just fine with the equipment you have. Try to find one of those aluminum rakes that expand and contract....I have like 4 of them and I use them all year. Less than $10 and they last forever. You may need a tarp pr 2 to get them to the curb. Asumming your Stihl blower has some kick, dont let anyone tell you you cant do it. And since you charge by the hour, you wont screw yourself by bidding too low up front.

Warning: after about the third one you do you will say to yourself...."why helll did I vounteer to get into leaf work?...I must be nuts"

paponte
10-29-2003, 01:03 PM
Warning: after about the third one you do you will say to yourself...."why helll did I vounteer to get into leaf work?...I must be nuts"

LMAO!! Tell me about it. I ask myself the same question every year. :cool:

SuperShovel
10-29-2003, 01:04 PM
LOL, thanks for the advice Gar. I never heard of those rakes. They sound pretty handy for getting around the plants. Where do I get one?

GarPA
10-29-2003, 01:44 PM
well I've gotten them at my Agway store...also at a tool discount store.... try Home Depot...I dont think Lowes have them since I;m Lowes like 3 times a week. Also try a mom and pop hardware store...they make 2 kinds...one of them has a telescopic handle but stay away from that kind unless its all you can find...they tend to jam when you try to extend/contract the handle. Dollar for dollar, its the best 10 bucks you'll ever spend

stevoonj
11-11-2003, 07:01 PM
You know, every year I go through this. Because of all the rain in the Northeast-We have more leaves!!!!
And I know have Three High Output little wonders, and Three of the best Backpacks I've ever seen- 2 Redmax 70000& one Echo 6500. Echo has more power, by a little but the Redmax is more comfortable and will last longer. You decide!
As you buy more (And Better) Equipment, I think you have to adjust your price. My original estimates were based on 30.00 an hour per man. I just did a 90.00 Job for 30.00 because my equipment was better? No way! If that happends- Look at last years Bills & ADD to it. #1- cost of gas & Living increase. #2- More rain this year NATIONWIDE- trees were healthier, hence more leaves!
Good luck guy's lets make some $$$$$$! Steve