Everyone Should Charge for Estimates/Consultations

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Jake Wolf, Oct 10, 2006.

  1. Jake Wolf

    Jake Wolf LawnSite Member
    from NYC, NY
    Messages: 37

    It's one thing to quote someone over the phone a price to plant a few flats of annuals, but for everything else that takes face to face time and you are giving professional recommendations you should be charging for your time. But the other guys in town all give "free estimates" right? You can either sell the client on the fact that you have the experience and are taking the time to give them the best information rather than a fly by night operation desperate for work. You can even credit part of the consultation if you are hired. Either way you time will be coming out of someone's pocket. Why not the people's pockets who didn't hire you rather than your existing clients?

    TJLANDS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,668

    I wish you could charge for an estimate!
    How bout the people that call and the first thing they say is "are your estimates free". You know as soon as you would say no you would get a dial tone.:laugh:

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    Give them free estimates but tack on a gas surcharge :laugh:

    For the maintenance I do, I don't charge. To draw up install designs and such, I know some guys that charge but credit the fee if the customer signs up.

    I guess another way to view it is, you pay money to advertise, so don't get hung-up on 15 minutes of your time and 4 ounces of gasoline to drive there.
  4. Tim Wright

    Tim Wright LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,034

    For an estimate, no, not usually. To tell how, why and where, absolutey a consulting fee. Better yet, tell them nothing except proposal and price.

  5. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,140

    At the risk of suffering many insulting criticisms, I will tell you what I learned from one of the best business men I ever met.

    Of course when you are visiting the customer just to work out what you can do for them it is an estimate and the standard is estimates are free until they involve lots of preperation, design, or calculations. Providing estimates is overhead and part of our hourly rate.

    I was taught to give your best advice to your customers and give it for free! Even go ahead and tell them how to do it themselves if that is what they want to know. After they take a stab at a few things, they will get right back to you with Where did I go wrong? Tell them you should have had me do it, and from there we figure out how much it's gonna cost to get the results the customer wants, this is not a bad situation to be in. Or maybe they will get back to you with; From now on you do it and send me the bill! And that is the kind of customer I want. In either case you have become their expert in the field. If they do not respond to you as an expert you have not found a client, just a customer. It is easy to get customers, just pass out flyers, but if you want clientele you need to be the expert.

    Consultations for a fee are great if you have the expertise to provide it. There comes a time when expert opinions can be extremely valuable. Again the customer will know that they need your advice and will want more than the usual suggestions and advice. I enjoy this kind of work it often calls for a lot of research as I am new to it. I always know in advance mostly what the customer needs and I will obtain literature and photographs appropriate. I always end up following up a consultation with examples of landscape designs, or other information. Sometimes these have led to landscape projects mostly they involve things I do not do or the customer will do themselves.

    I do landscape designs that include from two to five consultations. The consultations are included in the design fee. Again there is always some research that I do not charge for.

    I love what I do and I enjoy working with people who enjoy their own lawn and garden, and I certainly do not mind the customers who tell me to just make sure the place looks great and e-mail me an invoice.
  6. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    My initial consultaion is at no charge. If we are going to be conducting the job and have to come up with plans/drawings/imaging, there is a fee that is charged. Some may say it's credited back if the job is planted, but let's face it it's already figured into the job. :)

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