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New Client, BIG job, what do I $$

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by LawnCosmetics, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. LawnCosmetics

    LawnCosmetics LawnSite Member
    Posts: 31

    Here's the deal...

    The Client: Elderly couple, that knows a lot of people (he's a realtor) and they want me to be "The Gardener/Maintenance Person" from here on out. Very nice people.

    The property: Very large farm/homestead with about 1 acre of flower beds, fences w/ Silver Lace vines, split rails with grape vines, 16 raised flower beds ranging in size from 3 x 5 to 12 x 6, and another 5-6 areas of landscaping.

    The Projects:

    1. They would like the grape vines tied up where needed and maintained throughout the year.

    2. All flower beds and landscaped areas cleaned out (weeds are very bad) and most all the plants to be saved. Bulbs will need to be separated/transplanted and some Phlox transplanted due to over crowding.

    3. 12 Tomato plants planted and maintained.

    4. Transplant Horse Radish & Rhubarb plants to a bed that will need to be built.

    5. Plants more Ivy and establish new beds/landscape areas.

    And numerous other jobs that he has yet to show me.

    The client has stated that he will order any plants from our local nursery and pay for them directly - I just pick them up. (1/4 mile from my house) Which is cool because he doesn't support the chain retail centers - it's a one owner nursery that I support as well.

    Mowing is done by the client. But he will definitely be able to provide more work for me through references. After meeting with him initially, it turns out that he has known my boyfriend's folks forever and is a well known person in the area with a lot of connections.

    What in the heck do I charge???!!! Like the flower beds - they need a lot of back breaking work to get them looking nice, but after that, just some things will need planted and maintained. Do I charge by flower bed, by the hour, by the sq. ft. or by the project??? I started tonight and I got 3 beds done in 3 1/2 hours....

    I have clients that I just mow & trim for and that's just a flat $35 (ish) an hour depending on the lot, etc... but I'm not sure if I should cut this guy a break because he's going to be using me for all year maintenance and possibly getting me more work...? Do I charge a larger sum for the initial clean up and then drop the pricing for weekly maintenance after the hard crap is done? But even the weekly maintenance will be a daunting task at times. I'm loving the job, just don't know what to charge to be fair...

    :confused: Any help or advice would be great! (sorry this was so long..)
  2. LouisianaLawnboy

    LouisianaLawnboy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,199

    1. Figure for yourself about 60.00 an hr($ varies from area to area, but 60.00 is about the lowest).

    2. Bid it even higher, because it's going to take you longer :D

    Or you could just say your new and that you charge 60.00 an hr and you think it will take this long, but it could take longer.
  3. StoneFaced

    StoneFaced LawnSite Member
    Posts: 201

    For now forget about what he could get you and who he knows...If I had a dollar for every...Never mind. Focus on what works for you, and charge a fair rate based on what is in front of you now. The rest is icing on the cake, should it actually happen. I don't want to take any wind out of your sails, but I smell a cheapskate. Why is he supplying the plants and not you? I generally run from those scenarios. That's like telling an artist, "I'll supply the paints and canvas, if you supply the labor." I guess it really boils down to where you want to be in this business. How you contract yourself now, is what you can generally expect in the future. He will tell his friends about the great prices he can get on plants, and the the discounted labor to install, design and maintain it. If that works for you, than go for it. Just don't give any breaks for what could potentially happen, remember he's a con, ahem...I mean a salesman also.
  4. P.Services

    P.Services LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,322

    Thank you for writing exactly what I was thinking!! I Would tell that guy to f off and walk away, you will be glad you did. Ok maybe don't tell him that but just say you are far to busy to service him at this time. Run now
    Posted via Mobile Device
  5. AzLawnMan

    AzLawnMan LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 409

    First things first, I dont charge by the hour, I charge by the job. First, you have the grape-vines, if he buys are you putting a warranty on them if something dies? Is the grower? Buy all the plants, and tell him there is no way for you to warranty them otherwise. If they do die you and the grower may get into a fight about who is responsible. So buy the plants and charge depending how much you get them for. I buy 1 gallon plants for $1.25 and charge anywhere between $6.95-$9.95, 5 gallon plants I get for $5.95 and I charge $22. and so forth. Then I put the warranty on them. If he says he can get them cheaper then fine, but you cannot warranty them for any reason. 2nd, flower beds, how much weeding? Set a price, I dont know what they look like so come up with a fair price. How much to transplant the bulbs, $1 a piece, $2 dollars? Are you gonna warranty those as well? If so you need to charge in case they die and you gotta replace. I dont offer a warranty for any type of transplant, period. Building the beds, you gonna do it, or sub it out? If your gonna sub it out, then you need to make money as well, mark up whatever the sub wants. I am usually 25%. If your gonna do it, Come up with a price for building those as well. Price out your materials and then mark up those materials, charge for labor, and delivery of those materials. What about irrigation? How are all these new plants and bulbs getting water? If they are gonna water by hand then any warranty is off the table! I only warranty stuff that is on an automatic timer, nothing that is hand watered. Dont bid things by the hour. I sit down and take everything a step at a time. I call all my plant and tree vendors and see who is giving me the best deal, then I mark it up. Put everything, plant by plant and step by step on your invoice. When I do a big job, I break down 1 gallon plants, 5 gallons and so on. I show a seperate charge for multch, misc. repairs and of course delivery! I usually charge anywhere between $45-$90 for delivery. Listen, we are in this business to make money. Dont nickle and dime, but explain were your numbers came from and what you are gonna do for the money. Also, the tomato plants, are they gonna be serviced regularly? You need to charge a "trip charge" plus labor and materials. If everytime you go out to service the plants are you including fertilizer? Weeding? all things you need to think about. I know I just threw a ton of info at you, but learn from someone who has gone through these "mistakes" if you will, and I can tell you before I learned to bid jobs like this, I lost and gave away alot of money!! If you want a sample of what one of my invoices looks like for a job like this, PM me and I will email one to you. Good luck
  6. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    The closest you will get by bidding is to do your estimate then double it. I am not joking a bit. Bidding takes a long time to become accurate at. I have built my business on clients just like the one you are talking about.

    My rule of thumb for the last 10 years was if its under 1,000 per month I can bid it and do OK , if it was over that I do it T&M because a storm on a property that large can ruin your month. The only way it is fair to both of you is to do it T&M.

    I am now to the point I don't mind giving a firm bid on the large homes but I budget additional time during our Monsoon season when we typically have a lot of wind and storms. The last two I did were 2300 and 1900 per month for residences. They both preferred fixed bids to T&M with a not to exceed limit, fine by me.

    I think this is the best niche in out industry, good luck but don't count on much in the way of referrals. My advice, as soon as you have a solid footing on this property is start training someone so you are not dependent on your labor alone
  7. LawnCosmetics

    LawnCosmetics LawnSite Member
    Posts: 31

    Guys - thank you so much for the advice and input so far. Would you suggest billing weekly or by the project?
  8. AzLawnMan

    AzLawnMan LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 409

    If you can get him to pay weekly or even after every project, then great. Most of my jobs I bill monthly for regular service and small incidentals. But if we do something out of the ordinary then they will recieve the bill as soon as we are done. So however you can get him to pay i guess would be your answer, just as long as he pays. Azgardner is right about marking your bid up, I have talked to other guys who own companies and their mark up is anywhere between 10-25%. Not me! I am doing a job now and materials alone are costing me around $2,500 and I am charging them $7k. That's more than 150% mark up. Be firm with your prices and never lower them. I tell them to get bids, chances are I will be more expensive, but I will also be around in 10 years and my work speakes for itself. Take his advice and double your bid untill you get used to bidding jobs like this.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  9. MileHigh

    MileHigh LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,466

    Figure out how much it takes to run your business, and what the going market rates are..then formulate a price.

    You say that it took 3.5 hours to do 3 beds. So that would ruffly be 18.5 hours.

    Let's say your shooting for 50/hr for this customer..that would end up being $925 for just the bed cleaning. So now, if you go get some decent help...say two guys at $15 an hour, you'll get the beds done in around 6 hours (for all 16 beds) and pull in about $120/hr or $720 after paying the helpers.

    Next just figure out how much the material is going to cost...either double or triple it, and figure how long to install the stuff and that should give you an idea.

    When they see the price they might jump a bit, so you might want to be able to present the job nicely with a detailed summary of what is going to take place on the job.
  10. Lot's of great advice. I can't really comment much as I don't have properties like this YET, but one thing I would add. I have had potential customers give me the "I know a lot of people," "I will get you more business," etc. Don't cut them a break until you start working for them and find out what kind of customers they really are. Not to say they won't be good, but don't start off by giving breaks and discounts.

    AZ, what does T&M stand for??

    BTW, you are very pretty:)

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