First or One Time Mow

OakNut

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Pittsburgh PA
I had a neighbor call last season. Against my better judgement (never work for neighbors/friends/family), I took her on.

$35 a week. "OK, sounds great", she says.
The first cut was easy - she had been mowing it herself, so it wasn't overgrown at all.
She gives me $40 and I say "Let me go get you some change."
She tells me to keep it - she's thrilled that she didn't have to mow it.
She continues to pay $40 each week through the end of the season.

This season, I contact her and confirm that she still wants me to keep her on my schedule. "YES!"
First cut - she says "What was I paying last season? $55???"
LOL! "No", I say. "I told you $35 and you were paying me $40."
She hands me a fifty dollar bill. "Keep it - the grass was high." (it really wasn't)
The next week - another fifty dollar bill.
The next week - "This is too much", I say. "I quoted you $35!"
"No, you take it - I'm just so happy that I don't have to do it and never have to worry about someone not showing up!"

$50... Job takes 20 minutes at a casual pace with my 30" mower.
Mulching - not bagging. Very little trimming needed. The grass is just a weed/grass mix and really doesn't grow much - most people would want it cut every other week.

Just thought I would make you feel even worse. :)
 

OakNut

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Pittsburgh PA
OK, to follow that up, I've been there - done that.
Do all sorts of extra work on the hope that it will turn into a regular gig only to hear, "Thanks, it looks GREAT, but..."

I pretty much stopped doing it.

Most people don't care about the height of the grass when they get a quote from you. They don't care about the work it causes you, or the wear on your equipment - they just want it cut - and they think that it should cost the same no matter what the height, or infrequency of visits.
"How much to cut the grass? That's all they care about.

As soon as you go more than ten dollars over what they think it should cost, they think you're ripping them off.
$35 cut that hasn't been cut in 2 months and they think it should cost $35.
Nevermind the fact that they WOULD have paid at least $245 if they had been getting it cut weekly - you tell them $100 and they think you trying to take advantage of them.

Quote a fair price. If they don't accept it, let someone else do it.

And unless you are well off to begin with, and don't NEED the money, don't do "charity" work. I used to do all sorts of "little old lady lawns" for way less than I should have.
It may get you into heaven, but it won't pay the bills.
Quote a fair price. If they don't accept it, let someone else do it.
 

Jeff@diyokc

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Owasso, Oklahoma
OK, to follow that up, I've been there - done that.
Do all sorts of extra work on the hope that it will turn into a regular gig only to hear, "Thanks, it looks GREAT, but..."

I pretty much stopped doing it.

Most people don't care about the height of the grass when they get a quote from you. They don't care about the work it causes you, or the wear on your equipment - they just want it cut - and they think that it should cost the same no matter what the height, or infrequency of visits.
"How much to cut the grass? That's all they care about.

As soon as you go more than ten dollars over what they think it should cost, they think you're ripping them off.
$35 cut that hasn't been cut in 2 months and they think it should cost $35.
Nevermind the fact that they WOULD have paid at least $245 if they had been getting it cut weekly - you tell them $100 and they think you trying to take advantage of them.

Quote a fair price. If they don't accept it, let someone else do it.

And unless you are well off to begin with, and don't NEED the money, don't do "charity" work. I used to do all sorts of "little old lady lawns" for way less than I should have.
It may get you into heaven, but it won't pay the bills.
Quote a fair price. If they don't accept it, let someone else do it.
An excellent post @OakNut and captures what I have encountered over the years! It’s a good synopsis for any new guy/gal starting out.
Over the years of reading/contributing to the forums, these type of scenarios come up with a “ what would you bid” and then the astonishment of “ $250, they won’t pay that”. Well you mess up a spindle, that will be an expensive lesson on why you don’t do these. You captured it in the one paragraph, they simply don’t care that it looks that way.
I couldn’t agree more, let someone else do it, rarely have I seen them ever want to do it on a regular basis.
 

fitph

LawnSite Senior Member
Back when I used to mow (in the 90s) I quoted a lady 100 to mow her over grown lawn if it was a one time cut but told her it would be 25 if I did it weekly. She said she would have it done every week. Job took 2 of us 2 plus hours but looked great when finished. Mowed it again the next week took about 20 minutes. She came home and was livid, said she didn't want weekly mowing even though she had agreed to it before the first cut. I billed her $125 and she about went off the deep end. I explained again what I had told her before I cut it the first time. She wanted to just pay 25 for the first cut and not the second at all. I had to threaten a lien to get paid. That was the last time I ever cut an overgrown lawn at the regular rate just to get the customer.
 
OP
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Brad B

LawnSite Member
Location
DFW, Texas
Update for you folks.

Several estimates and some jobs later I'm getting my target hourly rate. All the jobs I don't get I'm okay with... I wonder if city code enforcement has been out the last few weeks because I've gotten more urgent and frantic people that then go silent when I mention the first time charge is based upon lawn conditions.

I ended up talking to the neighbor the next week and he accepted an estimate I had for shrub trimming and weekly service. Last week I met his son who told me that they're moving him into a retirement home and selling the house. He prepaid me for four weeks and is going to let me know if they need more. Alas, onto the next one.
 

jonniesmooth

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Fergus Falls, MN
Update for you folks.

Several estimates and some jobs later I'm getting my target hourly rate. All the jobs I don't get I'm okay with... I wonder if city code enforcement has been out the last few weeks because I've gotten more urgent and frantic people that then go silent when I mention the first time charge is based upon lawn conditions.

I ended up talking to the neighbor the next week and he accepted an estimate I had for shrub trimming and weekly service. Last week I met his son who told me that they're moving him into a retirement home and selling the house. He prepaid me for four weeks and is going to let me know if they need more. Alas, onto the next one.
If you have people calling because city code enforcement is on their case.
Then here is how you should approach it.

I have done code enforcement mowing for over 10 years.
Here's how it works in my town.
1) someone complains about your lawn. Or, Code Enforcement is actually looking for overgrown lawns. They could train the entire public works dept to keep track of overgrown places they happen to see.
2) code enforcement verifies the lawn is out of standard
3) they send a letter to the property owner
And give them X days to comply
4) when the time is up they send the contractor to do the work
I got 1 hour minimum for each tool used
Mower,trimmer,blower.

Here's what you need to know:
What's the cities administrative fee for processing the paperwork?
In my town, it was $100

So if I charged $139
The bill was $239

I'm saving you $100 right off the top.

Make them pay cash, before you drop your gate on your trailer.
 

Joana Williams

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
New York
Update for you folks.

Several estimates and some jobs later I'm getting my target hourly rate. All the jobs I don't get I'm okay with... I wonder if city code enforcement has been out the last few weeks because I've gotten more urgent and frantic people that then go silent when I mention the first time charge is based upon lawn conditions.

I ended up talking to the neighbor the next week and he accepted an estimate I had for shrub trimming and weekly service. Last week I met his son who told me that they're moving him into a retirement home and selling the house. He prepaid me for four weeks and is going to let me know if they need more. Alas, onto the next one.


Just a little fun quote for you;

"The customers emergency is not your priority"

Happy Mowing! :)
 

Freaky Fido

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
Northeast USA
I just took care of a neighbor who lives diagonally across the alley. I would have charged $40 but said since he's right there I let him know I'd knock $5 off for service and I'd come over weekly. I saw his yard and I know he usually mows weekly but noticed he skipped last week along the back where I can see coming down the alley, he's just too old for it, so I changed clothes and brought over the mower. Then he opened his back gate! Oof! 10+ inches of "I fertilized the beginning of May" thick bermuda. Okay... he's struggling. When he knocked on my door I saw the panic and I legit thought he looked like he was going to pass out. His mower was stuck in the middle as he had tried to do a diagonal stripe... I still do it for $35 thinking whatever, it's my nice act of the week for a neighbor, and ended up double cutting both his front and back. Spent a ton of time edging very lush overhang. He'll be a regular client going forward... it's cool.. he's a neighbor... I thought I was going to have to call 911 for him... Total time working: 2 hours and 34 minutes!

Last week very similar, took care of a property for $40 with the plan for bi-weekly. I suggested they have me out this week too because I cut it on the highest setting and only a single pass because I was running such narrow strips and the girlfriend wanted me to, but there was some disagreement with the boyfriend who was on the phone. "Keep us on your schedule" as she rolled her eyes at him. Total time working: 1 hour 40 minutes.

After I finished the job for my neighbor I show him his back yard and say that I'll be over next week and he was very happy with the job but then says, "now that it's caught up I'm going to try to maintain it" and that he'd let me know if he needs help again. I died inside a little. I'm already eagerly awaiting a knock in two months asking me to come over for another $35 and having to explain that I can't do it again... For the bi-weekly this week I text for confirmation and I'm ghosted.

Haven't been in business long, but I think I'm good with my weekly service price for various yards. Right now I'm converting a little over 1 yard into a client for every 2 new yards I do. Some of this is my fault in cutting yards which I know right off the bat aren't going to become a client; I'm new and money is money. I'm not making what I want to make on an hourly basis for any of those first time or one time jobs.

My struggle is figuring out what should I charge when it's been a awhile since it was mowed or the customer only wants a one time mow. I could say 2 or even 3 times my normal weekly rate, but how do you communicate that to a customer when you're using Google maps to map square footage for weekly service estimates instead of driving to a home?

It seems tough to me to say, "For your first service it will cost between $80-$120 based upon the growth of your lawn and every week after that $40" and expect to get any work.
All great until you hit the metal stake for the dog chain, a property monument or a pickaxe. Definitely up the price on overgrown lawns. I walk them over and string trim first including the really tall stuff. I never give prices without an inspection.
 

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