Where's my confidence hiding??

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by ecoYota, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. ecoYota

    ecoYota LawnSite Member
    Posts: 13

    Hola GreenPeople!

    I’ve been doing yard maintenance for almost 3 years now & I still lack confidence in pricing properly, please help?!

    I’ve pretty much been charging $20p/hr to one time customers & $15 to customers I’ve had from the beginning. I live in the Southwest and a lot of what I do pertains to Xeriscapes (drought tolerant landscapes, using native & non watering loving plants). But I also do big weed jobs, & prefer planting. Last year I picked up a few mowing accounts, however, I cannot stand smelling the gas lawn mower & smelling like gas the rest of the day. I have a lot of elderly, widowed women clients whom I know have a lot of “disposable income” & are willing to pay well, but I feel like I always short change myself.

    This happens because the only way I’ve known how to estimate a job is to just guess how long it will take, multiply that by $15 or $20 & add a bit for the fuel (my truck & equipment). Also, if they pay by check, I add the gross receipts sales tax.

    A few of my customers have told me that I need to charge more so in the fall I started charging $25p/hr, which I feel is too much. I’m a 29 year old female & I think I have a subconscious fear that people expect me to charge less because: A.) I’m female & perhaps it will take me longer, B.) I work solo so perhaps it will take me longer, & C.) If they wanted to pay more they’d hire a Landscape crew w/about 5 guys who can get it done fast!

    I’ve struggled to make good money in the past 3 years & have had to pick up a super early a.m. paper route that’s 7 days a week, to help pay the bills!!! UGH!!!

    In the fall I bought a Stihl BR 550 Backpack blower that’s been my hero! I purposely got the 550 because it’s quieter & has lower emissions than any other blower out there right now. It’s fantastic & has saved me bunches of time. I know we can make good $ together, I just haven’t figured out how yet.

    I’d really love to just get some small commercial jobs, but they seem difficult to get. It kills me to see these crews on properties, who don’t even have to mow, they just trim a little, blow the debris in the street, leave & probably get paid well??!! That’s crazy to me! I’m so meticulous & conscious that pretty much everything I blow I pick up & haul off. I have 2 trucks, a small 4 cyl, ‘82 diesel Toyota long bed, & a huge, smelly ‘97 F250 diesel Stroker that I’m trying to sell, it’s too expensive to drive!

    So, I’ve written a novel & now finally 2 specific questions for you:
    1. What’s the best way to estimate by the job, not the hour, & not feel like I’m hustling people & trying to break their bank?? I can’t get passed the hump of knowing how to charge what I’m worth. Also, I really want to hire someone but Geez, I can’t imagine charging enough to be able to pay them!

    2. Should I break down & buy a new, non smelly, cleaner running lawn mower & pick up more mow jobs?? I’m told this is where the cash is at?!

    I see unhealthy plants, trees, shrubs, lawns, soil, all the time that I wish I could just knock on the door and say,
    “Hi, I see your yard is struggling, here’s what needs to be done to keep your property healthy & beautiful, this is what it would cost for me to do it, please let me know if you’re interested.”

    Thanks for your help guys, & I’m sorry to have hurt your eyes with all these words!!
    Npeace,
    Gardener Girl Feeling Lost yet staying positive =)
     
  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    You need money in the bank, absolutely nothing says "walk away" louder than that.
    So, start saving, ahhh yes and just when you thought this might be easy but hey so did I.

    Then it goes like this:
    1. Huh? Oh yeah, that work, ok, that costs X dollars, thank you!
    2. No, your equipment is gtg for now.

    3. Let them call you!
    Their yard struggling is not your problem, it's their problem.
    But if you don't do it this way you put yourself at their mercy.
     
  3. GSPHUNTER

    GSPHUNTER LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 310

    First, I would quit worrying how you and your equipment smells at the end of the day. It really doesn't matter if it is making you money. I would like to brush hog all day every day instead of running around doing residential mowing, but I don't have the accounts yet and mowing makes me money.

    $15/hr to $20/hr is unreal. You'll never be able to pay insurance, fuel, equipment, and yourself with that rate. I know labor rates are regionalized, but that won't cut it anywhere. Don't worry about what people think about your bid, worry about making money.

    Honestly, you could probably get on one of those 5 person crews and make more than what you're making now. Then you wouldn't have to buy equip. and pay bills.
     
  4. ecoYota

    ecoYota LawnSite Member
    Posts: 13

    You guys rock!
    Thank you so much for the speedy replies, I have inspiration goose bumps right now =)

    $ in the bank is my goal definitely!! And yeah, I'd much prefer them calling me. It's great to know my equipment is gtg, & I guess I can put up with the smelliness for a bit longer =)

    LOL to the hog comment!! I've thought about getting on one of those crews, but the idea that the guy back @ the office is getting paid muchos more than us slavers piled in one truck driving 'round town all day is unappealing. Plus, I'm an entrepenuer & a woman....Nothing worse than a bunch of dudes drooling @ me as I'm bent over diggin a hole, or as i'm giving a good blow job with my Stihl!!!

    Nah, I know I can do this, & you guys have kick started me again already...Thanks so much again!

    P.S. - GSP Hunter, I have a fantabulous German Shorthaired Too.....What an amazing creature =)
     
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Me either, I wear fresh clothes and shower daily, I'm sure you do too but that's all we can do... Try changing the air filters on all your equipment when you get a chance, that might help a little, also use those pre-cleaners on the larger engines and keep them clean.

    This method is gtg, I still do it like that.
    Try 30 an hour, you've been doing this long enough, you have the experience.
    Try sometime, once you have the figure, double it... <- ESPECIALLY if you find yourself coming down.
    Monitor your own thoughts, hard to do but just be aware of your mind and those silly tricks it plays on you.
    When you find yourself bending over backwards, try doubling the price, just for the fun of it, see what happens.
    The first time or two can be tough, might have to just kind of blurt it out, but it gets easier.
    Don't worry about it so much if you don't get the job.
    Who cares, at $30 an hour you don't need all of them.

    a) so? brains + experience makes up for a lot, more than muscle + brawn.
    b & c) 1 hour for 5 guys vs. 5 hours for 1 = all the same money.
    d) If it takes you longer maybe it's because they're getting a better service, that's worth money.

    The br550 DEMANDS $30 an hour, I am not kidding you.
    Do charge that, then save your money and when you can get yourself a br600, sell the 550 and start charging $40 an hour, that what I get with the 600 (yeah it's a lot stronger, but the 550 is gtg).
    Way I see things, I didn't buy a better piece of equipment so I could work for LESS!
    Meaning, I bought it so I could get paid MORE!
    > Ok the total for the job should be about the same, but the HOURLY rate is more.
    Now might be a time to start thinking about charging for the AMOUNT of work (vs. the hourly method).

    ehhh don't fool with it, those guys are mostly getting paid 6.50-7 an hour, they're not making it look easy it's they don't care!
    They're someone else's employees, they're just going through the motions here, make it look good uh huh, I mean I'm not trying to talk down on multi-crew ops it's just commercial props are lowest bidder, then you need crews to deal with the nonsense, and it's mostly not for solo ops.
     
  6. hackitdown

    hackitdown LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,515

    1. You need to find out what the market will bear in terms of pricing. If you quote a job based only $20/hr, you are not being fair to yourself. Talk to people, and call around and determine what the work is worth. If the average fee for "task X" is $50, set your price at $45 if you feel you need to charge less. Right now I bet you are charging $20 for that same task.

    How much less than average do you aspire to be? (that is what you call a "loaded question")

    2. Get a mower if you want to mow lawns. They all smell, use gas, and are loud. I mow lawns...it is easy money. But only because I charge more than most competitors.

    3. That never works. People with crappy yards either don't have the money to spend on a pro, or just don't care, and never will. Ninety percent of my calls come from people that have killer yards, and need to maintain them.
     
  7. GSPHUNTER

    GSPHUNTER LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 310

    Yes they are!:)
     
  8. BurkartLandscape

    BurkartLandscape LawnSite Member
    Posts: 38

    charge them more I charge 35 an hour
     
  9. barefeetny

    barefeetny LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 533

    its hard to see our own shortcomings... its even harder to tell other people what they are. i congratulate you for taking a good step

    I don't mean this to be sexist but in a way you can probably Sell better then all of us in the male species. I have had doors slammed on me before i even got out my pitch... i doubt anyones going to do that to you

    Bidding is a tough aspect.... we all blow it on occasion... don't let anyone tell you diffrent... look at the job and menatalty figure out how long its going to take you...

    don't think price.... think time... i have nickeled and dimed myself out of so much work.....thinking price

    One of the best freestanding rock wall builders i have ever had to pleasure of working with was a woman... Was i stronger and faster then her... yes, but she possessed two talents that i did not have at the time... paitence and an eye for design....At the time She got paid 4 times as much as me to do 1/4 the work...

    This buisness needs more female owners and workers....Once again not to be sexist, but it think if you gave a woman and a man the same problem they will come up with very diffrent solutions... I watch my wifes funny lttle yard projects with distain untill all of a sudden its done and i relalize her way might have been better then mine....

    Good luck and welcome to lawnsite

    Nate
     
  10. Patriot Services

    Patriot Services LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,254

    Please tell me you are not quoting prices to your customers on $$ per hour basis. Like Topsites sez, that ABC job is XYZ dollars. telling a customer a per hour price makes you sound like an employee. Next few bids go high and negotiate down, you might be surprised. Always have an arsenal of comebacks for the balkers. Gas costs, materials cost, pick up and delivery costs, disposal costs. Remember the customer does not want to do this work themselves, make it sound unpleasent. Good luck lady!:usflag::usflag::usflag:
     
    ericg likes this.

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