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View Full Version : How do the inexperienced make accurate estimates?


billc
03-07-2004, 08:25 PM
I'm just starting out, and need to know how to make accurate estimates, so I'm asking you vets to reach back into your memories and let me know how you started.

A landscaper I respect tells the homeowner he'll cut the property once for a certain rate/price. Then he'll give an estimate for the customer to consider.

Other landscapers say they give free estimates.

I'm leaning toward the first because it seems otherwise my estimates will be a shot in the dark until I gain experience.

Any ideas?

Shuter
03-07-2004, 08:31 PM
One of the best ways to learn, is from mistakes made. Don't sweat it too much if you make mistakes as you go, everyone does. If you are just starting out, it is wise to find out what prices your market area will bear. You don't always want to be the most expensive or the least expensive.

Example is: if a your market area is $30.00 per cut for mowing, there is no reason to bid $25.00 to get the job, when the customer would be ready to pay $30.00. Don't lose money by under cutting yourself.

alpine692003
03-07-2004, 08:57 PM
be like me and learn everything on the job training.

I bid everything

CNE
03-07-2004, 09:01 PM
Beware of asking other LCO's what their minimum is. I did and was told "we don't drop the gate for less than $35" which I think is fair for the area. I know some of them use it but there are others who I have since found out make exceptions to the rule. I wish everyone would stick together around here. So as a result, I have had to lower my minimum on a couple. About $25 is the absolute least I'll do. If it ain't worth that, let somebody else have it. Most of mine are larger jobs though. Going rate around here is about $45 per acre if it's wide open and very little trimming. I add for obstacles. Just try to decide what you want to make per hour (I try to make at least $40-45) and then guess at how long it will take you. Don't be afraid to use your first suggestion of a base price the first mow and adjust afterwards. As a matter of fact, I may do that myself. I costed myself some money last year by misjudging time. I just started last year. I quoted $50 on one yard and it took me 1 1/2 the first time I mowed it. I've gotten it down to about an hour.

tiedeman
03-07-2004, 09:08 PM
You will learn at what is an accurate estimate. It's trial and error. Everybody has to go through it.

Randy Scott
03-07-2004, 09:24 PM
Originally posted by tiedeman
You will learn at what is an accurate estimate. It's trial and error. Everybody has to go through it.

This is the only true way of learning. That's why when people on this site ask for prices, I'd like to kick umm in the nutsack. If business was that easy, nobody would have employees because everyone under the sun would own a business and there would be nobody to hire.

Just take your time when looking at places and in my learning curve, I found it always took less time than I originally thought. I usually bid high until I learned from doing more and more properties. Sometimes I'd look at two acre properties and think it would take 2 or 3 hours. Way high with todays equipment. Good luck and just be ready to take a few on the chin.

sildoc
03-07-2004, 10:35 PM
My average lot size is 10000 sqft. When I walk up I look at trimming (how much), Is the gate big enough to get my 36' in back yard? Do they take pride in their yard? What else is there? (weeding, hedges, trees, plantings) Mowing is the easy part to figure the time for, the trimming, edging, and blowing is the part that varies. I figure prices for spring time since that is when the most growth is taking place.
Find out what your local market can bare and then let them have it.
Dont worry if you are a little on the high side. The ones you get you will like to go and do, if you are low you will hate it.

brucec32
03-07-2004, 11:34 PM
Quaint as it may seem today, in years past people used to learn their trades by working for others in what was formally called an apprenticeship. Included in the information gained by actually having done the work before would be how long it takes to complete a job.

noiseyvoyzey
03-08-2004, 02:48 AM
Originally posted by brucec32
Quaint as it may seem today, in years past people used to learn their trades by working for others in what was formally called an apprenticeship. Included in the information gained by actually having done the work before would be how long it takes to complete a job.


Very well spoken

billc
03-08-2004, 10:13 AM
Originally posted by brucec32
Quaint as it may seem today, in years past people used to learn their trades by working for others in what was formally called an apprenticeship. Included in the information gained by actually having done the work before would be how long it takes to complete a job.
Actually, that's not quaint at all, it's great...and it's also not my situation. If it were, I agree I should already know how to do the estimates.

KathysLGC
03-08-2004, 11:13 AM
I under bid a job by $2000. It involved alot of grading and top soil plus lawn renovating. Took me about 5 weekends with help and a few days a week by myself. After everything i barley made anything off the job. It was my first attemt at bidding a job. After that my second bid was to spread 20 yards of Mulch. Not know how much 20 yards was i told the guy $200. Needless to say I stop mid way and told the guy i was new and under bid his job. I told him I could stop where i was and not charge him any thing ( I just wanted out) or he could pay me the $200 if he wanted to which I was hoping he would do. He ended up offering me a total of $600 to finish the job. I accepted and said I need to spend more time reading and doing searches so now as I'm going to be getting back into things next year here i am again reading but also adding a few mistakes i have made.

twins_lawn_care
03-08-2004, 12:02 PM
I think the key here, i very similar to my view on life. You should experience everything for yourself, hands on, because that is the only way to truly learn, and remember.
I bid a few jobs last year, that looking back, I knew why the people hired me, I was way too cheap. After a year of learning all of the equipment, insurance, taxes, and everything else, I now know what I need to be bidding.
Had I not experienced those errors, and not remembered how much work I was doing for so little money, it would not be engrained into my head so I will never make the same mistake again.
Same kind of thing happened to me when I rebuilt my first engine. Was all done, reassembled, and went to start it, and it would crank all day, but never run. I spent hours and hours, tkaing the distributor out, turning it 180 degrees, checking everything I could imagine. Then I ended up having a good friend, who is a race car driver (retired now) and he calls me 20 minutes later saying "you're cars ready"
I could not believe it when he called. I spent hours on end working on this thing. Turns out I tightened the rockers down so much they all stayed open. Kind of hard to build any compression with that! But to this day, I will never tighten another set of rockers down like that! If I had not experienced it though, the lesson learned would have been quickly forgotten.

Sorry for the tangent, but my point is go out there, and start learning. Experience by far is the best knowledge in my opnioin.

bobbygedd
03-08-2004, 01:03 PM
you won't give accurate estimates. truth is, you're gonna get your butt whooped more times than you think. if you're smart, and tough, you'll pull through. you need to know what your competition is charging. you need to know what it's costing you to do business. then you need to make it work. i assume you are a solo act? be prepared....you will wear many hats....you will be the salesman, the office clerk, the customer contact, the mechanic, the truck washer, oh yea, and the mule that pulls the plow also. good luck, pay attention to what these boys tell you, they aint no dummies

Lux Lawn
03-08-2004, 01:20 PM
If I remember correctly when I started I asked some friends of mine that where in the business the going rates for different size yards.Thats where I started and worked from there.Check to see if the yard is wide open how much trimming, fences and anything else to slow you down.Once you get different size lawns go off of that when you look at a yard.Say this yard is almost like Mr. Smiths yard but with more trimming and I get $$ for his so this needs to be a little bit more then his.Hope this helps good luck
Larry