Landscaping / what's a decent wage?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mdvaden, Jan 11, 2004.

  1. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    We are located in Portland, Oregon, area.

    This spring, I plan to move from a single-handed specialist to step one of hiring an employee for the first time.

    To date, I've been fine with temps, having them dig my holes and move materials. But I'm ready to get an employee to assit me, but it will need to be a part time position.

    The temp service runs about $14 per hour, with $7 of that going directly to the employee. The $14 also covers workmans comp.

    I'm taking a wild guess that $14 per hour would provide about $10 directly to an employee, with the rest going to withholdings.

    My main question:

    What is a fair wage to offer to someone to do landscape work?

    It will be part time and seasonal, maybe a hort student or someone with experience. I need someone that can plant and and do various things even if I need to leave the site for a few hours, maybe even oversee a temp worker spreading mulch or moving debris.

    This is not lawn maintenance - it will be involvement with landscape improvements and pruning related work.

    It won't be highly skilled, but I'm not looking to train someone from ground zero either.

    Its been years since I was an employee - what is a proper or expected wage in the field?
  2. NCSULandscaper

    NCSULandscaper Banned
    Posts: 1,557

    If i just need some help for a few hours i just pay $10 per hour cash. If i need help for a few days i will pay $12 per hour and take out the necessary taxes. Since i am in a totally different region of the country, cost of living and taxes may differ greatly. But i always like for an employee to make 10 per hour after taxes because this is hard work and they should be compensated for it.
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    Well, over the last 8 years I've probably had over 50 people work for our company. And from that I've gleaned some information as to what many of them were making before at other landscaping companies. So I've got some insight as to what the going rate is around here.

    For basic laborers who are unskilled and maybe aren't even good with english, the prevailing wags is about $8 per hour. By unskilled, I don't mean they don't have any experience. The applicants I usually get at that rate usually DO have experience - just not highly skilled experience. That is, they've done maintenance but not contruction. Or they've helped with construction but couldn't really do it if left by themselves, etc.

    For guys who know have a decent amount of experience and can even do certain jobs on their own completely (or with very little direction or supervision) the prevailing wage around here is around $9-$10 per hour. That's to start. Once they've been with a company a while it's not uincommon to see them make $11 or $12 per hour.

    My foreman, who is born and raised american, super hard worker, great with people, knows irrigation and construction better than most licensed contractors do, and has been with us for 4 years - he makes $14.50 / hr. plus health insurance benefits. And he's told me that he's shopped around to other companies a little over the years and he has lots of friends at various other companies (7 Dees, Teufel) who basically do what he does and he told me that none of those guys make as much as he does. And none of the companies he's spoken with were willing to pay him more than I do, regardless of his experience. So I'd say that wage is close tops for the industry here.

    By the way, your best place to find said employee is going to be either the newspaper or the employment office. Both have turned out good applicants for me in the past. And although the emp. dept. doesn't create quite as MANY applicants as the newspaper does, it has the benefit of being totally FREE.

    Hope that helps ya Mario. Like I should be giving advice to you. LOL. :D
  4. brentsawyer

    brentsawyer LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 663

    If I were you and going through the hiring process in your position, I would not list the job as X dollars per hour. I would instead list my add as either good pay or negotiable. Once you go through your original interviews and find your candidates and figure out what they were making before or expect to make, you should hit a # fairly easily and fairly. As far as getting previous job pay, just have a section for them to list in their app. but definitely have an app, this will help you keep all applicants in order and also weed out some due to education or maybe even criminal history b/c you will have some since you are dealing w/ the general public and a basic non-skilled job. Had one guy come in for an interview reaking of weed and this was just before I had it with this type and decided that I was better off back by myself.
  5. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    Thanks Jim...sure I'll take the advice. Besides, I've been more of a tradesman than an employer.

    Never felt bad about the near minimum wage to the temps in the past. Different person on almost every job, with explanations at every turn. Worth every dollar though. I'll bet half those guys practically live on the street, but most of them know the skill of working, using a hammer, a shovel - I'll give them that. Every now and then, there's a real gem, like a Les Schwab employee laid off during a shop remodel, or a lesser chef from the Benson in Portland in a temporary lay-off.

    I'll consider both the paper ads, and the employment office. Also, I'm considering posting in the college to access the landscape students, and am trying to see if there is a network for the local master gardeners.

    Anyone tried those last two avenues?

    Brentsawyer... that idea about leaving the wage blank is interesting. I probably will include a wage though, because with the position not offering benefits and being seasonal part-time, I may need to put something in writing as a lure if I'm after semi-skilled help that speaks English and is willing to work hard.
  6. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,366

    We atart at $10hr, and will pay up to $15. based on experience.:cool:
  7. brentsawyer

    brentsawyer LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 663

    Don't know if it was the labor pool last summer but I had two adds in the local paper, never put a $ per hour figure, just put good or excellant pay or something to that extent and averaged about 5-7 calls a day everyday the add was listed and I think I even had a line that said hard workers need only apply and clean drivers license a must. Really tried to weed out the dope heads but I don't think it stopped them. LOL
  8. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    speaking of dope heads - you should have seen the thread on an arborist site about qualifications and reliability of people that smoke weed - stemmed from drug testing.

    Boy, do those weed boys try to defend themselves - do as good or better job of course.

    A different aspect of this thread about wage - what can you boys and girls share about payroll service?

    I had considered Paychecks (Paychex? whatever). It's $70 a month for one to five employess and they handle all the calculations, drawing of funds, issuing checks, quarterlys, etc.. Not workmans comp though, unless extra is paid.

    It sounded decent, but someone local, a user of this forum, mentioned they switched to another outfit for quite a bit less.

    My main concern, is access to my business account. I still need to find out if I can cap the limit that could be drawn out by such a company if there was an accident or mistake.

    And, is there a benefit to a larger company? I forgot if they reserve the withheld taxes, or if they tell me, and I withhold it in an account.

    Any successes? Any disasters? Any good questions to ask?
  9. brentsawyer

    brentsawyer LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 663

    My experience with Paychex was about two steps away from being called theft on there part. All I have to say is that I was fed the same line about $60/month or so and well it never went below $100. What they don't tell you is that there is a ton of setup fees and every pay period they like to send out the paystubs via. courier service which they charge a nice $8 or so to add they will charge around $6 per pay check issued, ie. non-direct deposit. To add they couldn't have been a bigger pain on my part. Never did get set up for internet access so I didn't have to answer an extra phone call during the week and mostly I miss calls since I'm on the mower and had to call them back through Louisville. If I didn't return their call that day for some reason before close and I wanted payday to be on the same day, they charged my other arm and leg for depositing the money the same pay day as scheduled. Honestly, I think banks as low as they can be have alot to learn about this company as far as taking customers for a ride.
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    Mario, I think I was the one who you remembered switching away from Paychex. Although, I didn't ever have any bad experiences with them, it's just we have a good family friend who is the president of the local PrimePay and he finally just got me to switch over. I've been paying 50% of what I used to pay Paychex. Don't worry about them charging too much. In 5 years, with either company, I've never seen that happen. And if it did with Primepay, you're safe. My friend will take good care of you. Just let me know when you want his number. Just calling anyone at PrimePay won't get you as much of a discount. You'll want to call my friend.

    As for pot heads, two things. First, let me get you a copy of my employment application. It addresses it very well. Second, you need to do drug testing. I know an outfit on Pacific Hwy in Tigard that will do a thorough drug test for around $35 or so. It's well worth it.

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