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Do you charge for shooting grades on potential customer ?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Haulin' Grass, Dec 5, 2008.

  1. Haulin' Grass

    Haulin' Grass LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 55

    In my ad it's says free estimate but I don't consider shooting grades part of estimate. Am I off base on this. I'm certainly not going to spend and hour or so shooting grades and setting stakes not to get the bid. I'm also thinking of just bidding the job and put the time for that in the bid. Most of the time I just do some quick shots with a lock level to get close on walls and such but this is a little more involved.
  2. shovelracer

    shovelracer LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,008

    "Free estimate" means 2 things first free and most importantly estimate. Lots of guys make a living underestimating and then pulling out the change order the second they show up. Not a good idea, but it happens. Try free consultation instead.If you can give an estimate without any additional work then do it. If you are there shooting grades for an hour than they should be paying you.I did have one crazy lady call me once and ask for her free consultation. She flat out told me she didn't want my services, but she needed advice because the town kept fining her for not mowing her lawn. Her argument was that she liked all the "pretty flowers" that grew and didnt feel that the town should tell her what she should do. I gave her her free consultation over the phone. Mow the lawn or pay the fines, any additional information was going to cost $85 per hour. Never heard back.
  3. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    Give him an estimate of $x per cubic yard of fill or whatever the material is to be. Then tell him you will charge to figure out how many yards there will be.
  4. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    99% of the ads I see say "free estimate"; I don't think those two words have to be on any of your advertising, since at this point most homeowners assume all estimates are free. In my mind, better to decide what you're giving away and what you're billing for while pre-screening them in the initial call.
  5. steve5966

    steve5966 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 210

    If the customer wants a ball park number, i'll give them one. If they want an estimate, i'm going to tell them what their project will cost.
    My time is figured into labor recovery, every job we do is paying for my time to work on bids.
  6. qualitylandscaping

    qualitylandscaping LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,581

    Each prospective job gets 30mins to 1hr of my time for free. Thats my investment into the relationship.

    If they tell me what they want, and have an architects specifications. I will give them a quote free of charge.

    If I have to start from scratch, take all kinds of measurements, go back to show them different stone blends and colors; they are billed at $45/hr for any and all additional consultation and design time.

    Anything above $300 will be credited back if we sign the job.
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,854

    Heck no. Why do you ask? Did you give a bid and someone expected you to spend an hour shooting grades or something? Did you hear of another contractor doing this?

    Like the others said, your goal is just to give the customer a fairly quick estimate. If you've been doing this for at least a little while you should be able to get a pretty accurate estimate of what your labor and materials would be without doing too much. Sometimes I'll get out the level. But I can usually get a pretty good idea of what needs to be done without even bringing it out of the truck.

    Around here, retaining wall work is done by so many contractors so cheaply that I don't even bother spending too much time on those bids. SOOOO many guys do it for way cheaper than we do. And most of those guys have no clue what they are doing. I spend most of my time showing the customer photos of walls gone bad, explaining why they should spend more money on us, explaining our warranty, and references. But even then, most people still chose the cheapos. So I don't spend too much time on those kinds of bids. The ones we do land always look awesome and we get referrals from them. But I know I am only going to land a small percentage so I try to get in and out quickly while still figuring out a pretty accurate estimate.

    If they call me back and show interest, THEN I'll spend some more time making sure I can do it for the estimated cost.
  8. Superior L & L

    Superior L & L LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 567

    Thought you got out landscaping cos you can make more money mowing lawns
  9. ford550

    ford550 LawnSite Member
    from PA
    Messages: 221

    We don't give free estimates. Everyones time is worth something and that is the problem with this industry. Nothing in life is free and it is not "part" of the business. We pre-qualify on the phone, we then let them know that there is a charge for a design and estimate. At that time we either move ahead with an appointment or not. Our initial consultation is free, but anything after that is not free. The only time we move ahead with a design and estimate is when we have that fee in hand. We also don't roll that fee back if they go with us. That was still our time and giving it back just said you worked for free.

    Shooting grades is very time consuming and very expensive (laser's, etc.) Why would you do it for free? Our time is worth money and more importantly our education and experience are worth money. Let them go find someone else. More than likely you will be getting a call to fix it a couple years down the road. We do get them all the time.
  10. Chrysalis

    Chrysalis LawnSite Member
    Messages: 155

    LOL Hilarious!!! Those darn old fogies. You've gotta love them :)

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