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pricing question??

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by gogetter, Apr 27, 2001.

  1. gogetter

    gogetter Banned
    Posts: 3,256

    Here's my situation, tell me what you think.

    I just started this "lawn maintenance" biz this season. I stress the words lawn maintenance because I feel that Landscape is far more advanced.

    Anyway, I got a call from a guy that wants pachysandra planted and mulched around in an area approx. 3,000 to 3,500 sq.ft.
    The ground is recently placed top soil that needs to be somewhat smoothed out and raked through to remove rocks and debris first.
    He's buying all materials ahead of time and just wants me to do the labor. I didn't even know what pachysandra was before this! He's buying flats of these things and they need to be placed every 6" apart (over the whole area), then mulch placed around these tiny plants.
    He knows I'm new and haven't done this before so he thought rather then give him a one lump price, maybe it would be better to just charge him an hourly rate for the labor.
    So based on what I believe to be the national average hourly rate for lawn maintenace work, I told him $35 an hour. If I had to guess, I'd say MAYBE 5 to 6 days work by myself.
    He thought this was VERY high and asked me to think about it and see if I could come up with a better price.
    On one hand it does seem high for just manual labor, but then again I can cut 2 lawns around here in 1 hour at $25 per lawn. That's $50 an hour! (sure substract gas, equipment wear and tear, etc. but still!).
    Also, it's a 30-40 minute drive each way to this place!
    What do you guys think? When you're going to get a steady weeks worth of work with no machines used, no loading and unloading or driving from stop to stop, do you price it all that differently? I can't seem to justify pricing it less.

    P.S. Sorry so long! Whew!
  2. Fine Lines Lawn

    Fine Lines Lawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 447

    Your hourly rate seems fair. You could poosibly go down a little if your expenses aren't too high, and you're short on work, but what you quoted isn't out of line. I always charge hourly for that kind of work, as well. It may not take you as long as you anticipated though, so your customer may save some money in that reguard. Good luck.
  3. LoneStarLawn

    LoneStarLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,415

    Don't price on "national" but by your area...cost of living and other factors come into play when bidding..so $35 might be too low or too high depening on your area..but it seems fair to me, but hourly rates that we have seem high to customers...that is why they don't know our hourly rates, but I understand your situation.
  4. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Senior Moderator
    Posts: 6,074

    Quote: He knows I'm new

    Exactly! And he feels that you will work for less than say a more experienced company because maybe you need the work.

    $35.00/hr is NOT too much to charge him. Just because you won't be using machines doesn't mean your price should be different. We spent 1 hour and 25 minutes including drive time and dump time doing a job today (no machines involved except a shovel) and we charged $95.40. Bill for your time. I understand that you will be there a lot longer than just a few hours. You said days. But so what? You got to make the same amount of money or more as if you would be cutting grass for those same amount of hours.

    But the bottom line is, only you can make the decision. You also have to factor in how bad you need the work. If you don't take this job, will you still have jobs to fill your schedule?
  5. gogetter

    gogetter Banned
    Posts: 3,256

    Hey guys, thanks for the replies. You've just confirmed what I pretty much already knew was right.
    The guy is aquaintance of father-in-law. That's how he knew I was new and inexperienced.
    Although I could use the money, I don't really want to drive the 40 minutes each way into the next state (I'm in PA, he's in NJ). At least not for less then the rate I gave him.
    So, I guess if he chooses not to pay that, then I'll just work harder to get local 1/2 hour lawns for $25 a pop!
    If he agrees to it, then I'll take it.
    Thanks again all, and feel free to keep them coming. Can never have too much input.
  6. Bama

    Bama LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    Sometimes a job like this can end up costing you more than you make. For example, you said that you are new to the lawn maintenance business, well could your time be better used marketing for local maintenace accounts that are going to pay you every week for the entire cutting season? (And if you intend on growing a large business, might pay you weekly for the next 5 years.?) I know that when I first started, I was hungry and didn't want to turn down any business but with experience, I've learned that just because I can make money on a particular job, that doesn't mean that I need to take it.
    Now, as your business grows, you will find that you can take jobs like this and make them profitable. This is where I've found the joy of having employees. I would bid the job at say $20-$25/hr labor and put my $9/hr employee on it. You might not have that option yet, but just wanted to give you another way of looking at it.
    I consistently make $50.00-$60.00/hr cutting grass, but no one will pay me that much to do manual labor. So I stick to cutting grass. I know that big landscapers can make that per hour, but I don't know many solo landscapers that can do it day in and day out, because it is so labor intensive and they are constantly having to find new business.
    So anyway, good luck with your business, I just wanted to encourage you that your train of thought is right on track. Opt for building the $50.00/hr business and you'll be a lot more profitable in the long run and then you will have more options on the jobs you can take.
    Hope this helps,

  7. TJLC

    TJLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,308

    I think it depends on what your market will bear. If I do a landscape job I charge the same as I would make per hr, cutting grass. It's hard work so why would I take less than I could get to cut grass? I wouldn't. Good luck.
  8. MJ

    MJ LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 312

    Anyone patronizing me by telling me to "go think about it" has the wrong idea. Apparently he thinks he's doing you a big favor and you should be grateful for driving 40 miles each way. I'd have to come back and say "I thought about it and realized I forgot to figure in driving time - $35/hr each way for an additional $70/day. Thank you for bring that to my attention." You should know what you have to make to pay overhead and make a living.


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