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Old 03-04-2011, 10:28 PM
Graveslawncare Graveslawncare is offline
LawnSite Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 472
I hear you DVS, I have been struggling with the same dilemma. Yes, I do free initial estimates, but after that, if I have to do further designing to come up with material numbers in order to give a price, I think I need to be compensated for that.

I'm on the fence how to implement it, I just know this spending hours on stuff that I don't land has got to stop.

I had one job last fall, an irrigation system. I had prequalified him, he seemed serious about getting a system put in. I went out to his house for the first meeting (45 min drive), and he wasn't there! At his own house! I went ahead and took measurements and left. Turns out, he is a prison guard and they had an incident and he was not able to leave work or call. Ok, fair enough, stuff happens. So I drive back out again for the face to face meeting. I now have about 5 hours in this job.

Of course the problem with irrigation is to give a good price, you have to know the materials cost for the system. Well you don't really know materials until you design it. So now add a couple more hours for the design. Finally finished, I call to give him his price. He says ok, I'll get back to you as soon as I receive my "2 other bids." He never called back. I called twice and left messages both times, still never heard a thing. I actually thought about sending him a $200 bill for my 2 trips down there and the design I did.

I have bid about $70k worth of work that I didn't land in the last 4 months or so. This is commercial maintenance accounts, landscape installs, patios and irrigation. If I could have all the hours back I spent on those bids, I could spend it on something else (like helping DVS paint his kitchen).

All this to say, there has got to be a way to say to the customer, "ok, this is as far as I go for free. My work starts when I put pencil to paper and it's going to cost you." Conversely though, I'm worried about how much work I will scare off using that approach. Good topic DVS, although I don't know if this will ever be solved
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