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Old 04-22-2013, 03:33 AM
tjlawntreeservices tjlawntreeservices is offline
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Location: Maurertown, Northern Virginia
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New Guy, Need Serious Advice...

Hi, new here but have been lurking for a while, very obvious there are a lot of very knowledgeable people with lots of experience. I apologize in advance if this gets a little long but need some advice. For the last several years I have been doing odd-jobs(helping farmers, fence building, light landscaping, string trimming, brush clearing, tree removal etc.), with a cousin. For the most part we worked for people we knew or were referred to by someone we knew, and would use the homeowners tools and just provide the labor. Towards the end of last year we basically formed a business and have since purchased a fair amount of equipment(in addition to what we already had), including an older Giant Vac walk behind brush mower, 2 chainsaws, 2 echo trimmers, a small chipper, a trailer, and a few other things. We do not have a mower yet as we can't see there being any money left to be made in this area. Basically we had been charging approximately $10 per hour per person for the 2 of us, looking back now we were mainly losing money, but that is all anyone ever wanted to pay, generally they complained even with that. Now that we're advertising, have insurance and our own equipment we obviously have to charge more. We do have a good amount of experience doing this type of work(brush clearing, tree removal, large trimming jobs, fence building, etc) and can get very close estimating the amount of hours something will take and have tried to get away from charging by the hour, but most people think we're nuts if we don't want to do something almost free. One of our customers last year we did a lot of brush clearing and trimming for wanted us to come back and trim their yard(older couple, husband mows but can't use a trimmer much, 10ac yard, lots of fence, several steep backs, and he won't mow anywhere near trees and leaves huge patches to trim for no reason), we talked to them this evening and told nicely that we would be glad to trim again this year but we would have to charge $50 an hour for 2 guys and trimmers(generally took 2 of us 6-7 hours total), needless to say she wasn't happy and is going to find someone else. When we bid other jobs we try to come out making at least $15hr, but usually people aren't even interested at the quoted prices. We'd like to be at about $60 hour trimming, $65-$75 hour clearing brush, removing trees, and mowing brush, using chainsaws, trimmer with brush blades, and wb brush mower etc, and have been bidding accordingly. Are our prices that out of line that we won't ever be making any money or what??? This is seriously confusing me and I can't seem to find a straight answer, everyone tells us we need to be charging more than $10hr but nobody ever wants to pay more and practically laughs at us...what gives???Am I Really Crazy??? I'm very sorry for the life story, and would greatly appreciate the opinion of anybody that actually managed to read all this. Thanks
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Old 04-22-2013, 07:30 AM
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jrs.landscaping jrs.landscaping is offline
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If someone told me it was going to cost $600 to just trim my lawn, I think I'd be less than thrilled as well.
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Old 04-22-2013, 07:38 AM
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wildstarblazer wildstarblazer is offline
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They are not taking you seriously. Maybe your not coming off as pro and more like the neighborhood kids. Don't tell how much your charging an hour. Think how long it will take in you head and add the hours plus rate and tell them, $350 to do the job. Yes , okay , no okay, let me know if you change your mind.
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Old 04-22-2013, 07:55 AM
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LandFakers LandFakers is offline
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Sounds like a cheap market. Keep advertising. No need to take work you won't make money on
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Old 04-22-2013, 08:35 AM
tjlawntreeservices tjlawntreeservices is offline
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Thanks for the feedback, It would be around 300-350 just to trim their yard at that hourly rate, and from that perspective that does sound excessive, what should it be for 2 guys running 2 trimmers 6 hours straight?(only stopping o refuel and restring, we move fast, there is just an extreme amount that he will not mow for no apparent reason) As for being viewed as the neighborhood kids, unfortunately your most likely right in this case(though we are both in our mid 20's), it has gotten better since we've started to get away from the people that know us and the fact that we used to work for $10hr. As for disclosing an hourly rate, we have stopped working by the hour for the most part, and no longer disclose our rates, but we still try to look at jobs and figure the hours needed x hourly rate + expenses such as debris hauling or delivery, then give a set price. We've been quoting a few fence jobs lately and we seem to do well at it, we like to aim at around $15-$20hr per person + expenses. What I can't get a feel for is whether we are even in the ballpark as far as prices or are we wandering around in the weeds on the other side of the fence? I've got people telling me we aren't charging near enough at 50-75$ and others that are appalled that we're charging over $10hr. Keep in mind the prices I'm going by are for 2 guys, NOT $50-$75 x 2.
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Old 04-22-2013, 08:44 AM
tjlawntreeservices tjlawntreeservices is offline
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Location: Maurertown, Northern Virginia
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I've started to think the same about this area being cheap, an example- instead of people paying to have a small pine tree or some brush removed, they post an add on craigslist for free firewood, you just have to haul off the debris and clean the yard. Things like this are becoming very popular around here, though we do live in a nice area, the house in the example from the first post is in a nice subdivision with houses ranging from $400k-$600k(that particular house is towards the top of this range)
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Old 04-22-2013, 08:45 AM
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exmarkking exmarkking is offline
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There's a problem somewhere. They aren't taking you serious, you don't look professional, bad market...something? Is there anyway to speed the job up? Like use a mower instead if a trimmer? It's hard to answer because I have no clue what it looks like or anything but never tell someone your hourly rate as mentioned above. Just give them a set price. Also I don't think you can build a good business just doing odds and end jobs and not specialize in something. Are you a dense company? Landscape company? You need to establish who you are and what you do. You need a professional looking rig, and tools. Uniforms. Different forms and estimating sheets to present to customers. Business cards. They must be seeing you a some neighborhood kid that's looking for college money.
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Old 04-22-2013, 08:52 AM
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CreativeLawncareSolutions CreativeLawncareSolutions is offline
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$50 an hour is fairly standard for landscaping jobs like hedge trimming, clean ups, etc. Your price was fine if that's actually what that job would have required (6 hours straight).
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Old 04-22-2013, 09:22 AM
tjlawntreeservices tjlawntreeservices is offline
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We always try to dress nice when giving bids, we usually take my cousins truck, a very nice 09 2500 Cummins, and we do have what I believe are professional looking business cards. The customers I used in the first post may have been a bad example, I did tell her very nicely I understood if she no longer wanted us to do the trimming, and gave her an hourly price(I know I shouldn't have but they are nearby, so not much travel time/fuel cost and they are used to us charging by the hour) and a fixed price. I wasn't really surprised that she was going to find someone else, they were looking for a mowing company last year to do it when they found us but nobody even wanted to stop and give them a bid for only trimming on such a large property. About 90% is trimmer only PERIOD, we did use a push mower for as much as we could but it wasn't much. I am just having a hard time processing how much we should be charging, right now all the equipment is paid for, and we could get away with charging $30hr but what happens when we need to replace a trimmer or other piece of equipment, and we've got to work for a month just to break even on it?
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Old 04-22-2013, 09:32 AM
tjlawntreeservices tjlawntreeservices is offline
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6 hours is a conservative amount, it generally took us at least that depending on how tall they let it get. They have around 2500 ft of american wire fence sitting straight on the ground so both sides need done and it ate A LOT of string, there were about 8-10 very steep ravines and banks about 50 x 200ft, around 5 places approximately 20 x 250 ft where we cleared brush and small trees that all need done, a large house, around 15-20 rock ledges, a barn, a large house, long paved driveway, around 40-50 trees, etc and they were adding on even larger areas they just didn't "feel like" mowing. This has just got me thinking as to whether or not we really should still be charging $20hr to run 2 trimmers and just eat all the costs? I
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