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"Free-Loaders" - Tips for avoiding them

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by mdvaden, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    For some reason "free loaders" came to mind to day while driving home. If anyone has tips to share about how to steer clear of getting sucked-dry by free-loaders, please share to your heart's content.

    One form I encounter is people trying to get free information under the cloak of an estimate. Now yesterday -and it was not an estimate, but just putting out brochures - a lady whose friend took limbs of her tree, asked me "which limbs would you take off?"

    I told her that I figure out a lot of that once I'm into the tree: to dodge giving free advice. (basically still the truth though).

    Another kind, and it's not really their fault, are garden clubs and some master gardener groups regarding seminars.

    If they can return referrals worth it's weight in advertising savings, that's different. These days, if I do a free lecture, some kind of benefit is expected: either clear mention in a newsletter or something similar.

    At least the master gardeners already have a system where people pay back their training by volunteering time. So they should adapt easily to a trade-off of one thing free in exchange for a later pay-back.
  2. loom-gen

    loom-gen LawnSite Member
    Posts: 150

    Free loaders. where? I need one for my tractor. Also need a three pt finish mower. No really. If I give advice, it usually includes an affordable quote for the job and a pitch telling them why they shouldn't do it themselves. I almost always get the job.
  3. txgrassguy

    txgrassguy LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,083

    In the course of a sales pitch I will offer specific information.
    Since the majority of my work is large residential and commercial installs/maintenance, a certain amount of information is necessary to close the deal.
    However, those that bug me for specific written details or plans as a result of a request of estimate are informed a non refundable deposit is required to receive the info if my company is not awarded the contract. If awarded, a negotiated amount is applied to the estimate cost.
  4. Kortas

    Kortas LawnSite Member
    from Arizona
    Posts: 40

    txgrassguy: How do they respond to that? I would think many would just take their business elsewhere. I guess it's a pretty good idea though as I also figure people asking are just that "freeloaders".

    Do they ever pay it?
  5. txgrassguy

    txgrassguy LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,083

    Kortas, when I am questioned on this policy I simply reply that the customer(s) have to pay for an Architect, Engineer, Interior Design for those professions to issue a set of written specifications. Since I too am a professional, a Turfgrass Agronomist, heavily licensed and insured, if these customer(s) want a written specification/layout, they have to pay for my time as well.
    What I have found out is those prospective clients whom are serious about the work and themselves, they pay. No questions asked as they realize that quality costs and I too as a professional have cost overhead.
    Those customer(s) that complain in an attempt to diminish my profession I do not want as clients.
    What takes a bit of patience is to develop the client base in the particular market climate one has targeted their business to provide service.
    Initially, when I started my own company seven years ago I did get "taken" by repeated requests to issue written plans/specifications which the prospective customer then used to price shop. I finally got, not only smart enough but secure enough in my business practices, to the point where I could firmly implement this policy.
    What has since happened is the price shoppers/"free loaders" have learned to stay away, and my existing client base has spoken well about my company and services to others like them.
    The result is a good word of mouth advertising that has generated some interesting and profitable jobs for my company.
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Simple, don't let them run you, or your business.

    In time you develop a system, it seems to be a little bit further down the road.
  7. Kortas

    Kortas LawnSite Member
    from Arizona
    Posts: 40

    It all makes perfectly good sense. I don't do install now but will be soon.

    When I do, I'll put it right on my proposal that this fee is extra and list the terms for what is given back if the job is earned by me. That way the conversation doesn't have to come up, they'll already have it and understand if it does.
  8. S.I.

    S.I. LawnSite Senior Member
    from west
    Posts: 323

    I get these people all the time. "Can you give me an estimate for a sprinkler? Can I have a detailed layout of what you are going to do? Oh, uh, nevermind now that I see how it will be laid out, I will do it myself."

    That only happened once, now if they want detailed info they pay for it.
    A $75 charge for my design of their system and an estimated cost of materials (use list prices for this of course), will usually put them in the palm of my hand. ($75 fee is credited when I do the installation) This however does not stop people from trying to get a free design plan.
  9. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    There is one aspect that I wouldn't call free-loading, but maybe a "drain"


    This lady who live 8 miles out in the country, calls 3 companies for estimate on pruning work that's worth no more than $200 if it was in town.

    So the drive out and talking for each estimator should tally $150 worth of time burned-up by all companies combined.

    So far, I only know one solution, and it's worked - and maybe because I'm small and do my own work...

    But I promise that I'll do the work: most experienced person in the company, and I bid to what I think will be about $20 under the other estimates or near matching.

    To date, it's worked. If it fails, I can pass, or charge estimate time. But this must be a tricky one for some folks. Good thing its not the ordinary situation.
  10. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,220

    It was always anazing to me, That when we pull up t odo a clean up, the neabors come out and start doing little odds and ends too.

    once I cought this lady trimming her tree and putting the limbs on my trailer. she even went as far as trying to put her Kitchen trash on it. When I seen this I stoped her and ask her what she was doing. she stated that I will be going to the dump anyway.
    I informed her that I have to pay to dump. she said it's not that much to dump....
    after I told her how much my truck cost and trailer and help. I then gave her a price of 25.00 to take that trash off.

    She couldn't belive me..

    as I her.

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