Fall Clean-up

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Kingskid, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. Kingskid

    Kingskid LawnSite Member
    Posts: 4

    What exactly is a fall clean-up and how do you price? Where do you dispose of what is cleaned up? What equipment is required? Do you do one fall clean-up per customer or multiple clean-ups?
     
  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    The work isn't bad BUT yes they are a problem when people treat it as such. I use a 10hp billygoat pushblower and rake + tarp. I can do the worst yards in 4 hours, most take 1-2 at $45/hour, roughly. So between 60 - 175 dollars, without hauling, 2 cleanups usually does it (and you won't believe the negative response rate until you've experienced it).

    The problem with leaves is EVERYBODY calls you for leaves: ppls who will NOT call you for ANY thing the entire rest of the year *WILL* call you for leaves. Leaves are HARD to estimate, use flexible pricing because some take HALF as long, some TWICE as long - So if estimate calls for 4 hours but takes HALF as long - make out by 2 hours. But if TWICE as long, OUT by FOUR hours.

    The ONLY good thing is leaves are a SELLER's market: Femand is SO high you can afford 9 out of 10 ppls saying NO. Most long-term LCO's don't even do leaves, there are a few who will, but most don't. I do NOT advertise leaves unless I am desperate and then I ONLY advertise during fall and no other time. I learned to have saved money no later than end of september, but really, the sooner the better: This year I *JUST* got it saved with the last deposit - I like having 5 thousand dollars IN the bank before winter.

    - Only creme-de-la-creme customers who have BEEN my grass-customers the ENTIRE YEAR are guaranteed service. Late bloomers call around late september or October for me to 'cut the grass on a regular basis' can feel free to kiss my arse but there is a trick when I'm feeling funny.
    - REGULAR customers get leaves done for $40/hour. ppls who been a pita all year are crossed off the schedule at this time. Yes, I'll carry a pita through the season, but no guarantees to leaves - I never say I do leaves, it's an un-advertised special, and SPECIAL it is.
    - First-time or One-time customers get leaves done for $50/hour BUT regular customers take priority meaning I do regulars first, no matter what... If I got time to do the rest, fine, if not, oh well.

    For the funny late bloomers who SWEAR they will be my grass customers ALL next year and oh yes, please can I get an estimate on the leaves:
    - I take 5 dollars off the regular grass-cutting fee (a $35 yard becomes $30).
    - I ADD 50 dollars to the leaf cleanup fee (a $100 job becomes $150).
    Now they DID say they were going to be my grass customer next year... Yes, I heard it loud and clear: So, pay the extra 50 now and next year by the 10th cut they break even AND every cut after that, gain 5 dollars. With an average of 20 cuts/year, they come out 50 dollars ahead. Funny, not ONCE in 4 years has a late bloomer ever said YES to the above.

    So all of the above accomplishes the following:
    - It shuts the comedy up for some time. I do like to give out a slew of estimates. They get the shock of their life (I get less than 2% return calls) BUT it also keeps my phone quiet well past spring and into summer which gets rid of all the window-shoppers and the low-ballers when business is booming.

    What to do, how to do them, what to do WITH them?
    Leaves start falling as early as september but it's not until Halloween (31.oct) that they fall nice and thick. The pre-cum leaves don't bother me, I use the mower while I'm still cutting their grass, until things get thick.
    Now... IF they have a wooded area, I blow them into the woods. This is a LOT cheaper than hauling because it's a LOT less work.

    If they do NOT have anyplace to put the leaves OR they insist leaves be hauled THEN I haul them in my 6x12 landscaping trailer: Load them with rake + tarp, 5 or 6 loads I put in loosely with the gate down, then I close the gate and load them over the side (regular 2-foot sides). Once 'full,' I step IN the trailer and stomp them down to compress them (HARD work), then load 3-4 more tarps, then more stomping, and so on, until the pile of leaves is about as high as the top of the gate - Then I use the same tarp + rope to tie it all down (another 15-20 minutes) and take it down the road SLOWLY. I have a 1-acre property where I dump them into 1 big pile BUT this pile has to be dealt with SO the leaves decompose OR you can wait a full year and this does the same. Don't forget, unloading takes time also, at LEAST 15-20 minutes and as much as 40 minutes, so I average 30 mins for estimating. Thus hauling costs 60 / trailer load and it takes anywhere from 1 to 4 loads, on average (you should see their face when it's a 4-loader + clean-up labor the estimate is like 400 dollars and hopefully 1 visit takes care of it, lol).

    hope is help,
    sorry if is ramble
     
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Now I will say this:

    In MY first year, I did leaves for something more like $20 / hour and was lucky to get $30 /hour out of someone - no respect for this job, but leaves do help keep the grass-customer for next year and is WORTH doing even if it means losing money, especially for your creme-de-la-creme's.

    Also with 50+ grass-customers and a 2000-dollar ad in the Yellow pages, I can afford to be picky. Really, I only need 2 thousand dollars from leaves (thou 4 is better), so a dozen or so leaf jobs is 1000 dollars, I usually do 1 or 2 yards/day in the time for leaves (it's only 8-10 weeks), then it rains a few times and after it's all said and done, I may do 60 yards (most taking 2 cleanups), so 60 x 65 = 4,000 dollars, add to this a few more grass-cuts from those yards that grow until xmas and then I am done until March.

    Couple more things:
    I get a RUSH of calls the day before thanksgiving and also the 24th of December from ppls who think I can run out to their house in the next hour or so to take care of things (most these calls are from strangers / new faces).
    Percentage-wise, fall is the HIGHEST scam time of the year... Not so much ppl not paying (that is no different than any other time) but ppls trying to get over on me is unreal - Nowadays when I think someone is trying to pull a fast one, I like raising the price another 20 percent or so and don't mind doubling it... After all, I can always come down in price AFTER I do the work but we ALL know we can't go up.

    I take time off dec.24 - 1.jan and start working again 2.jan to finish off those jobs I did not get done by xmas. I accept NO new jobs AFTER Xmas, if they did not call me prior to xmas, then leaves are not important to them. Usually I am done by mid-january and beyond this timeframe I don't DO leaves no more, forget someone calls me in March or April talk about leaves (some are so cute they call me to get an estimate for something like grass-cutting and when I get there, the whole yard is covered in leaves - I keep right on driving because they were not being upfront and honest).
     
  4. mcwlandscaping

    mcwlandscaping LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,164

    Fall cleanups are the worst. After school it is a race to fill the trailer before dark and then come home. Then the next day we (my dad and i, he helps durring the fall) have to dump the trailer at the dump, race to the next clean up, fill before dark, then come home. I hate it. But like the above said, it is nessecary and helps get and keep customers for the next year.
     
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Here's some more hints:

    For regular grass-customers, I'm not afraid to spend an extra 15-20 minutes/yard in the fall with the backpack blower to blow off some of the worst while I'm grass-cutting. For this reason I estimated the yard in the spring AND so I break even in the spring, make out in the summer (cauz it's hot and there is less trim + blow-down + weed-control) AND take a beating in the fall while cutting BUT:
    Over time this evens out while it helps prepare the eventual leaf clean-up: Taking care of a percent of the leaves before it gets so bad that I *can't* include it anymore makes things a LOT easier once it does get bad - this again affects the price and is the reason why leaves really aren't THAT expensive and also again why I ONLY do them for ppls who been my grass customers the entire YEAR (otherwise the cost does NOT even itself out for me, no matter what anyone says).
     

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