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Has anyone tried working hourly?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by A1 Grass, Oct 1, 2003.

  1. A1 Grass

    A1 Grass LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 330

    I was wondering if anyone has experience with working for just "hourly" instead of by the bid?

    I currently bid by the job, but I was wondering if maybe just doing everything by the hour would be worth a try? Here's what I mean:

    Hand Labor - $xx.xx pmh
    With power equip - $xx.xx pmh

    I'd like to hear any success/failure experiences if possible.

    LAWNS AND MOWER LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,129

    Mowing, NEVER!!! Everything else, yes I charge by the hour. Grunt labor has a rate. Start up a weedeater, chain saw, hedge trimmer etc.... that hourly rate goes up.
  3. A1 Grass

    A1 Grass LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 330

    Yeah, that's what I'm thinking. My idea was sort of like "menu pricing". Mowing is by the bid, everything else is by the hour (plus supplies, etc) and I give them a rough time estimate. I figure that way I never have to "eat it" and neither do they. I just wondered how customers react to that approach.
  4. PaulJ

    PaulJ LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,776

    I use an hourly price to come up with my bid price for the job. I try to estimate how long a job will take , lengthen that a bit and then use that to base the price on. I even do this with mowing only the time is what I think the average time per mowing for the season will be. This is where it gets tricky.

    I have thought about going to straight hourly pricing. even for mowing. with the varying growth through the seasons and some people wanting only tow week mowing. and some watering all the time.
    give them the price per hour and the minimum and an estimate of how long it should take. but if it takes longer it will cost more. If it takes less time it will cost less.
    For mowing I would charge just for the time of each cut. If they had the fertilizer poured-on and/or soaked it down or ant me to "wait a week" then I will get paid for the extra long time it will take to mow next time. I don't know if anyone would go for it but I have been kicking the idea around.
    We should start looking at how other professions price things.
  5. HighGrass

    HighGrass LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Z5 MA
    Posts: 1,237

    I work by myself so when i bid a job (usually residential) I find out what needs to be done figure some numbers on paper and then give them the bottom line. I always add a little cushion (20%) I don't like to work by the hour because I really don't like to look up and see them staring out the window and then looking at the watch. "what is he doing now". I know...I sound like a hermit but I figure hey, you asked me to do a job, hre's what it costs now let me get to work!:blob2:
  6. I do have to price some small things as "time & materials."

    Nothing that needs power equipment though. I really don't want customers to know what I charge to run my equipment.

    To make the labor rate appear as reasonable I don't load my overhead into the labor rate. And I treat it as such. Maybe hire some occasional help or do it myself when I have nothing better to do.
    For that reason I don't like hourly bids and I don't actively pursue them. I don't want to become a source of cheap labor for my customers. I want to be a service provider. Then if I figure a faster/better way to provide that service it's to my benefit.

    But sometimes it's a necessary evil. I have one customer who is downwind from a 3,000 car parking lot. Every spring the trash load is tremendous. Now I'm not going to estimate this year's trash load and give them a firm bid. I'd have a quarter of the value of the job in making the bid. And they might decide to do it themselves making it a loss. Plus it may be a month for them to react to a bid.
    So it's time and materials (a roll of trash bags) "The trash has to go, it's time to mow."

  7. crawdad

    crawdad LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,939

    I got a call last night, a man had seen one of my roadside signs. He said, "I don't have a lawn for you to mow, just some weedeating. What's your hourly rate?" I told him that I price by the job, not the hour. He said "I'm not interested" and hung up.
    I figure he was looking for someone for 8 bucks an hour or so, to bust their butt on a steep hill.
  8. KenH

    KenH LawnSite Bronze Member
    from CT
    Posts: 1,622

    I never charge by the hour....how would you ever get ahead??? I have it in my mind what I need to get and hour and charge accordingly, but I will never tell the customer I get $5 per hour so well see how long it takes me for the job....
  9. scott's turf

    scott's turf LawnSite Senior Member
    from NH
    Posts: 949

    I only bid hourly on open ended jobs, which I define as jobs that I can not be descriptive enough on the contract to prove that the job was completely done. In years past I have had problems with customers saying they thought the job wasn't complete. You know the type that keep trying to push the limit. This year we had a huge clean out job from a house that hadn't been taking care of in over 10 years. I gave the guy an hourly rate and put my guys to work. Told the home owner to feel free and tack on what ever else he wanted done. Sure I didn't make a killing on the job but I also didn't have to spend time quoting the job.
  10. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Posts: 10,178

    ill tell ya where the hourly rate bit me in the a**. we did a trimming job in spring(shrubs had not been trimmed the previous fall) it was our first time there, and the trimmers also feel a bit heavier in spring than they do in sept. the job took like 5 hrs. well, the client called back in late summer, there was the same amount of growth, she wanted them trimmed again. this time, it only took 3.5 hrs! reason: we were now familiar with the shrubbery because we did them before, and also, not to sound stupid, but we were much stronger as we had been handling the trimming equipment all season, instead of being fresh off a winter layoff. my advice is, if u charge an hourly rate the first time, after that, that total figure becomes the price of the job for future reference.

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