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Contract or not to contract....

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by BillF, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. BillF

    BillF LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    I'm hoping to get my new business off the ground this spring. I've read thousands of post on this website, most very helpful and answering a ton of questions I've had along the way. There is one thing I'd like to ask more opinions on, even after reading the hundreds of posts about it, I am just left more confused.

    For residential cuts, do you use contracts? Are they monthly, seasonal (Ohio, so from April to November?) or yearly? I doubt I'll offer snow removal for the first year, I want to start small, and work my way up.

    I know some people said they don't bother with contracts with residential mowing, some said they require it regardless of who they are cutting for. Some said they use an agreement vs a contract. What exactly do you mean by an agreement? From the examples given, it seems to say the same thing, parties can terminate the agreement with a 10 day written notice, party A agrees to do this, party B agrees to do that.....the parties sign it.....this sounds like a contract to me but just with less formal terminology.

    If you have a contract or "agreement", I can see where monthly billing using Quick Books or the like would be beneficial. But if you don't have an agreement, then do you collect from the customer immediately after cutting? Do you leave the bill in their door if they aren't home? Or do you still send them a bill monthly or as you cut?

    Thanks, I appreciate any clarification you can give.

  2. SchnabelLawnCare

    SchnabelLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 709

    An agreement is a contract, but it makes the client feels more comfortable with the less formal wording. I can imagine that as a client a "contract" would make me think twice about signing or agreeing than just a friendly "agreement."

    So yes, they are essentially the same thing.
  3. SchnabelLawnCare

    SchnabelLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 709

    As for whether or not to use an agreement/contract and how often to bill, that is solely up to use. I personally vary it depending on the client and whether or not they prefer one monthly bill or bill as they go.
  4. levi1569

    levi1569 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    The way that I do it is I bill monthly. When I do an estimate I feel out the customer and decide if I am going to use a "contract" or not. Some of my customers automatically send out a check for that minths services. Others wait for a bill and some even prepay for the month. For the most part my customers don't have contract except for the weird ones that I didn't trust at the estimate. All my commercial accounts have contracts. Just the way I do it but it is completly up to you.
  5. 93Chevy

    93Chevy LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 40,027

    Depends. I have "gentlemen agreements" with my customers. They know I'm not going to screw them, and I know that they won't screw me.

    If I were to come across somebody I didn't trust, I'd have a contract. I also do signed estimates for my installation jobs. That way, the client knows how much it's going to cost for the services I will provided.

    And I never write "paid in full." What if something happens that's not my fault and I have to come back? I'm not paying for it.

    But then again, I am an extremely good judge of character.
  6. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,220

    for the most part with residental we dont use contracts.
    it scares some people. you can yue your better judgememt and look all around, get the custoemr talking, they always say too much.

    Key words I look for are. " rather prhases" the last guy just hasn't showned up, I cant reach him. "there's a reason he disapeared"

    the landlord wasnt it done this way or that... NEVER TAKE A RENTAL PROPTERY.

    just use your best judgement and you will do fine
  7. BillF

    BillF LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    Thanks for the advice everyone, it's much appreciated. I guess I don't mind the idea of not using a contract for residential if I didn't have to. I also can see why it would be a good idea to have one handy incase you get that "vibe" you might get screwed.

    My concern would be monthly billing with no contract, if you just cut for the customer 4 times that month and you billed them let's say $160.00, what's to stop them from just not paying. If they refuse to pay, do you just cut your losses and move on?

    I'm thinking it would beneficial to have an "agreement" if they want to be billed every month for 7 or 8 months of service. But if they want to pay each month in advance or they are willing to pay every week after you're done, then it wouldn't be necessary. I do like the agreement vs a contract idea because it does sound less intimidating.

    One other question, how common are the customers that you would collect from each time you service? Or that call you on an as needed basis?

    Thanks again, a wealth of information on this site.


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