Advice on starting, and how to price jobs.

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Killavolt, Mar 20, 2019.

  1. OP

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    ok, I'm definitely going to have to read through that carefully, and I will.

    I arrived at that number because of the sheer number of people in my area offering lawn cutting services at stupid low prices to make a buck here and there. so if I go out trying to get business residentially in some areas at $40-$50/hr I'm not sure I'd see much business, and I'm also not sure I'm ready for the higher end areas of my city in terms of lawn care just yet.

    I am currently working, sort of, it's a really long and complicated story, but I'm self employed as it is. I'm trying to see if I can manage to get a trailer, I could have one for ~$130/month which might be affordable as it is. The trailer would be kind of key because the house my equipment is stored at is going to be old in june and I live in an apartment with nowhere to store 100sq ft of equipment. If I can't manage a trailer some how then I'll be out of business before I can get anywhere.
    the trailer I have now is just small and open so I wouldn't be able to keep my stuff in it.

    I admittedly have a lot to learn about business, and I'm sort of working with someone who knows a few things about business which I hope works out.

    My truck, insured commercially, such as it is, with my current 0 star driving record (don't ask) is only $175/month, non commercially insured it would cost me $258/month.
    The larger the vehicle is, the safer it is, thus cheaper insurance....that's how it works here. my car was $520/month with my record, I took it off the road for my gas.... that's where those savings are going to go lol.
  2. Jeff@diyokc

    Jeff@diyokc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 179

    Rockbridge lawn care is one of the folks I’ve followed over the last few years and is spot on in his advice! You cannot go forward thinking I will work for less than the prices you have found! It’s kind of a dual edge sword, you need cash flow and will be compelled to get work! The problem is you now have become the low cost provider, and as such will not move very far forward! The volume you may get is offset by the time it will take! You have some issues you have alluded to, you just have to work around them!

    I would encourage you to not worry what others are charging, and as stated by others work to make money! Jeff
  3. Carolina Cuttin' Company

    Carolina Cuttin' Company LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    DON'T GET A LOAN! If you can manage to scrape by without, and grow with your profits, do! That's what I've done and I've seen crazy growth. Look for good deals on equipment, be willing to start small, and only take jobs your equipment will allow for. Take tree jobs and farm them out at a profit. Consider small mulch jobs, they make for some quick money until you're ready to just focus on lawn care, at least in my area.

    Take jobs anywhere within reason. Then look for other jobs in the area and fill out those areas. You can't afford to be too picky now, and you have to start somewhere.

    In SC, the market rate is $40-$60/man hour. When I started in September, I decided to start my rate at $50/hr. This was mid-range, which is where I expected to be in terms of services and quality. That way, because I knew my costs at the time were a good bit lower, I could get my feet under me until I knew what to budget for. Also, it gives my customers the rate that they can expect in 5 yrs. I felt like I was way overcharging. I certainly would never pay that much to get my yard done. Customers seem to be fine with my price.

    One example: I recently gave a youngish middle-aged, middle-class lady an estimate on her yard that came in at $45 a cut. She snatched it up and seemed perfectly happy with it. A while later, it I found out that she had been paying her last guy $35 a go. Never once did she ask me for a lower price. I wanted to do her a favor so I looked back at my math and saw where I had charged for work that wouldn't happen every time, so I lowered my price to $40 a cut. That made her happy even thought she was still paying me more than her last guy.

    Another example: I gave an older middle-class guy (low-end middle-class: he still worked as a painter) an eye-ball estimate at $40 a cut. I did his yard for the first time and lowered my price to $35 a cut. He told me he would keep paying me $40 a cut for now.

    Moral: If your price is in the market range, there will be a group of people who will take it.

    >If you are in it for the money: If you can't cover your costs within the market rate, either give it a shot anyway or find another job.
    >If you're rich and doing it as a hobby: Charge whatever it takes to get the jobs you want.
    >You aren't rich. I really hate to say "Find another job." so give it a shot at a rate that you can afford as long as it won't harm you too bad if you fail. It's your call.

    I had an opportunity to operate at $0 startup cost and I had a $7,000 buffer in my personal account. It wasn't the same situation as you are in. Be financially wise, and listen to the big names on the forum. The guys who have been in the game for years.
    Cam15 likes this.
  4. OP

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    I had a huge reply here, and I think I didn't hit post....eff..

    I chose that rate due to the amount of competition around here from people trying to make a buck on the side offering cutting services at $20 per lawn.
    I don't really feel confident that my skills are at a level yet where I could be advertising in the higher end areas of my city... I have no idea how to do lawn striping and I especially don't know how to do it on non-standard shaped yards (anything other than square)
    So I think if I go around advertising my prices as $40-$50/hr I might not get much business, or I would only be able to get business from the rich end of my city but they may not be happy with my work.
    one of my issues is an old riding mower, it really needs some maintenance.

    I'm already self employed currently, but that's failing and something i'd rather not talk about as it doesn't relate here. I'll just say I'm working in the cannabis industry right now and working my way out of it.

    My equipment is being stored at a house that will no longer be available as of june so if I can't manage to get a trailer somehow I won't have anywhere to put my equipment and will be out of business before I even really start.

    I've had the landscaping business for almost 2 years but I ran into legal trouble shortly after registering it and wasn't able to drive my truck until yesterday.

    I have a literal **** ton to learn about business, I know that, and I'm not scared to admit it, but I need to get my foot in the door somehow.

    As for my truck, commercial insurance is way cheaper.
    My car, with my 0 star driving record was costing $520/month to insure.
    My truck, if I insured it non-commercially, would be costing me about ~$300/month, and insured commercially is costing me $175/month. huge savings. The bigger the vehicle it is, the safer it is, and the cheaper it is to insure. They don't care about how much damage it does to something else, that's why those "something elses" are more expensive to insure. Smaller vehicle, higher rate.

    I thank you for your in depth reply, there's a lot of information to chew over there.
  5. OP

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    one thing I would like some real in depth advice on, is how do I go about figuring out my costs. I mean I know what my monthly living expenses are for the most part (some things vary) but as far as equipment cost and stuff I'm not sure how to figure this out.
    I don't exactly know what my fuel costs are going to be for my truck because I just got it on the road yesterday and it's going to need some work before I can really start using it I think.
    I'm also currently pretty broke and struggling so that's going to be hard to fix what I need on the truck, and currently my "paydays" are sparse and random.

    I also don't know how I figure out what the market rate for lawn cutting services would be in my area.
  6. OP

    Killavolt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    I'm working on figuring out what all of my basic monthly expenses are, and so far it is in fact looking like I would need to generate a minimum of $2500 monthly just to live.

    My current employment will be ending soon and I think I'll end up working temp jobs through an agency and trying to cut as many lawns as possible because the house being sold will have a closing date of quite a ways away. in the meantime I'm looking at financing a trailer until the sale goes through.

    I will have a little help from a room mate but I'm looking at this as if I were completely on my own.

    There are a few variable expenses that I'm not sure how I should account for, one of them being gas, that will vary. there is also my Rogers bill which will be decreasing shortly, and hopefully even more if I can move my phones to a cheaper provider.

    Before I can even attempt this though I'm going to have to make some repairs to my truck which I will hopefully have the money for within the next week if all goes well.

    So how would I go about figuring out my equipment costs when I've barely used much of my equipment and don't really have an idea of what it costs?
  7. Steve

    Steve LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from NE FL
    Messages: 1,692

    think I cut part of the quote off, but NEVER let a potential customer tell you how much he will pay you. You tell him how much he will pay you. I made that mistake the beginning of my 2nd year. I didn't know any better and he says "I paid my last guy $105 a month and check was auto draft on the 1st each month. So now I was doing a $140/month yard for $105/month. What should have been a $40 cut was now a $30 cut. He then cut me in Oct, says my work schedule was conflicting lawn schedule for him. So now my $30 cut became a $26 cut.

    You won't get anywhere with that. Sure it's intimidating but its not that hard to mow grass and keep hedges trimmed and tight. Bidding low because you lack confidence won't get you anywhere. When you are out and about, watch others, look at properties, watch Youtube. Worst case scenario you get fired and told why and you just learned from your mistake.
    ChrisHolmes, Cam15 and Jeff@diyokc like this.
  8. Charles

    Charles Moderator, Friend, Angel
    Messages: 11,810

    Let me get this straight. You lowered your price when the customer was happy with the your current price? You lowered it just because the previous lawnguy charged 35. 35 is 20 year old pricing! You her closer to 2019 pricing. Keep doing favors like that and you will regret it in the long run. You don't get rich mowing lawns. Lucky if you get all that much above the poverty level solo. That is if you stay business like and keep your prices close to $50 per hour. Some big yards won't pay that much per hour. You need to try and max out what a customer is willing to pay on each job. You are telling him to be financially wise. Then you give him an example of you cutting your rate for no good reason. Like I said, legit lawn care businesses do not net all that much. I just went through 2 years of repairing and/or replacing most everything I own. You will have bad years like that, if you stay in business long enough. You will also get old!
    Cam15, NormP and LPSiowa like this.
  9. Carolina Cuttin' Company

    Carolina Cuttin' Company LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    Thank you for the advice. It was a small yard. What I was trying to say was that I looked back at my estimate and realized that I charged higher than my own rate. I do see what you're saying about if she took it, I should have kept it, though.
    Charles and Doc8406 like this.
  10. Charles

    Charles Moderator, Friend, Angel
    Messages: 11,810

    Yea I understand but 45 is not really that much to haul equipment to somebodies home. That is just lawn care. Not based on many if any other type business models. Nothing to feel guilty about. Some properties will make a good profit. Use those to help pay for the so so profit cheap skate lawns or the elderly on their last leg lawns. I know some of my customers don't mind taking advantage of me. Think we are making a killing. Don't deserve that for just cutting grass. Some really pay well. You had a good one. Some reason the 35 guy just didn't make it. Maybe he wasn't making enough money. Maybe he didn't do a good job. But he is gone. 35 didn't help him keep the job
    Jeff@diyokc likes this.

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