I know...another estimate newbie!! help I need reassurance!!

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by JeffW0011, Mar 16, 2007.

  1. JeffW0011

    JeffW0011 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 182

    Help guys....I am panicking!!!

    I am lucky enough I already have a small handful of clients. A few of these were like friends and acquaintances. I also had a buddy of mine with a big service, who is getting more and more into applications, toss me a few bones because they were a little off his beaten path and he is scaling down cutting. (I know he's not bum steering me with some bad accounts.) He told me what to charge in those instances. In 2 other cases I just asked the people (I know them) what they have been paying and it seemed about right where I would have been, but these were people who would not have dropped me if I gave them a bad estimate. In another instance the customer has not had previous service so did not have anything to gauge my estimate against, and I charged them what i thought was fair and would be profitable. This one was easy because they live in my neighborhood and have a very similar lot and i know what I have paid pros for vacation cuts and such in the past. Not that what is exactly right for one pro is exactly right for another....but it gave me a barometer and that added a confidence factor.

    I also bought Sean Adams materials (good stuff) and have read other books and countless posts and articles on giving estimates. Maybe I am just having jitters or lacking confidence in myself, but last night I got my first two real business calls on my dedicated line. It's a good thing my wife has a Xanax script or I would not have slept at all last night. Both from excitement and fear.

    One lady, a doctor no less, somehow came across my number, which is cool because I have really not started advertising yet. There was a kink in my logo and somethings got pushed back. I just got all my promo materials Wed, and am planning a major assault next week. At any rate, she wants an estimate by early next week on routine maintenance. I got another guy who picked up a business card I left laying on my table at Wendys. He wants an estimate on cuts and an estimate on a mulch job (gulp.. yikes.. mulch.. extra scary, much harder estimate for me then a cut, trim, blow) I am feeling extreme anxiety about these first two real estimates. I have been through the whole should I just be honest process, should I just show up and act like a seasoned veteran.... and about 10 other scenarios....I know the doctor told me she has had someone for years but he packed up his stuff and is taking his show down south and starting anew. Should I just ask what he was charging (ask to see an invoice) and explain to her I am a mature, professional, hard worker with top of the line equipment, but I am new to this and am getting my feet wet in the estimating process and don't want to risk losing her due to bad estimate, and at same time don't want to cheat myself?.... I am worried if my estimate is too high I lose her, if it's too low she thinks I'm a joker....what to do what to do.....I could try to get a veteran friend to go with me, but sooner or later I have to stand tall by myself and see what happens....should i just go with my gut and see what happens? I mean it's not just my gut. I got a plan..a formula something like VC+FC%+L=price. Where VC is the variable cost of that job(gas, %toEquip maint, other) and FCpercent is the amount that has to be charged to go toward my fixed costs of operating (phone bill, website, lawn ,mower payments, insurance etc.) and L is labor. On a standard cut,trim, blow... job my labor rate is $35/hr (is this about right) On other type jobs my labor rate me be more. My problems are I don't know what my VC costs are yet. I also am not acclamated enough yet to look at something and know how long it will take.

    Should I level with them? Should I get help? Should I apply my formula and my gut instincts as well as I can and just learn from mistakes. Give me some advice guys!!! Please...I know this issue is a dead horse to a lot of you...but to a lot of us newbies this is the issue.

    Thanks in advance for the help and support!!
  2. mirrorlandscapes

    mirrorlandscapes LawnSite Member
    Messages: 79

    JeffW0011, starting out is hard and you do learn SO much with time and experience. I think there is a balance to appear like you know what you're doing and being honest. Don't get me wrong, honesty is always the best policy, but don't be too hard on yourself and make them think you don't know how to add 2 + 2. :)

    $35/hr is about right, if you're working by yourself and you don't have a lot of overhead from advertising, insurance, equipment payments, employees etc. In my area in IL the going rate is $40 to $45/hr with a one man show. For my company to put a 3 man crew on someone's lawn we charge about $80/hr. But we can also get a normal size city lot done in about 10 min. When you quote, just remember overhead, your hourly rate that you want to make, and make an educated guess on how long it will take you to get there, be there, and leave. It does help to know how many square feet or acres you can mow and trim in an hour. Be competitive in your quote, but don't sell your self short. If you can't get the jobs for what you're willing to do them for, decide if you really want to do this or look for areas to cut costs.

    As for mulch, I personally love those jobs. Not a lot of overhead involved and it's fairly easy work. Definitely know your square footage when estimating material and find out the depth at which to lay the mulch (typically 2" is acceptable). Also it's usually cheaper to buy the mulch bulk from your landscape store, than it is to buy it bagged, but if you don't have a lot to mulch it's more efficient to bag it. They tell you on the bag how much coverage you get at what depth, and for bulk it's roughly 162 sq. ft to the cubic yard.

    Be careful about asking what other companys charge. Sometimes it's appropriate to do that, but most of the time clients will want to know that you will stand next to your price and be confident in that. (Doesn't help does it?) Integrity and honesty are vital to any business and people will respect that--practice them regularly and you will go far.

    Hope things go well for you!!
  3. Ecoscape01

    Ecoscape01 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 375

    I got another guy who picked up a business card I left laying on my table at Wendys. He wants an estimate on cuts and an estimate on a mulch job (gulp.. yikes.. mulch.. extra scary, much harder estimate for me

    OMG.....I wish I could spend my entire first season just doing mulch. It's gravy. Little overhead and the only wear is on my truck an my back...lol. I'm not really worried about estimating mulch cuz the guys at the supplier should be able to help if I run into problems but I was planning on using this site for my first time and seeing how close it is.....check it out...see what ya think - http://www2.yardiac.com/list_categories.asp?tgs=1703635:5548676&cart_id=4113560:672645348310&id=374
  4. Ecoscape01

    Ecoscape01 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 375

    I've never read an exact formula anywhere on this site until Mirror's and his is dead on with Yardiac.coms. 162 square feet @ 2 inches thick = 1 cubic yard of mulch exactly. Now I'm more confident in that site. Awesome! Thanks Mirror:)
  5. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,587

    one of the toughest parts of becoming successful at this is learning the bidding process...... go in there with confidence, and think what it is worth, then go higher because you are probably too low...see there reaction..... if its too high, next time on a similar property go a bit lower till you find what works... trial and error..

    you have to make some mistakes to learn how to do this, no big deal, not the end of your business, just get out there and try and stay as high on price as you can....
  6. fiveoboy01

    fiveoboy01 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,988

    Well if you're having this much trouble, here's what you should do:

    Go meet with the customers. Take measurements of everything. Get detailed, and write it all down. Property size, square footage of the beds for the mulch job, everything. Tell them you will deliver a written quote to them in a day or two. Don't just blurt out a price right on the spot, because you may regret it. In the "heat of the moment" you might miss something important.

    Then if you wish, you can come back here and give us the details, and someone can probably give you a rough estimate of the time involved and a ballpark range of what you should be charging.

    Good luck! I know what it's like to be nervous, I was very much so giving my first few estimates last year. Now it's easy and that nervousness is gone. The majority of the time, I still take my notes home and give the customer a quote the next day though.
  7. Ecoscape01

    Ecoscape01 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 375

    I've had WAYYY TOO MUCH COFFEE today:dizzy:
  8. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,587

    for more then just mowing especially, measure twice,go home and work it out first... good point...
  9. JeffW0011

    JeffW0011 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 182

    Thanks guys.....appreciate all the advice.....i have absolutely decided i am going to be a success in this biz..i am going to do it through sheer will....when i am, i am going to owe a lot of guys on here.....i'm still green, but i was greener then friggin Ireland in May when i first got here several weeks ago....i have learned a tremendous amount from this place and from you guys and from the sites y'all have directed me to.....sincere thanks to all you guys who have taken time to answer my posts, send me e-mails and in a few cases even call me....two or three years down the road i will be sitting here helping some guy with a dream just like me now...people helping people....very cool!! Thanks guys!!

    btw....the doctor was a easy estimate....i think i got a good shot...but she's just one person. i got that first one down...i'm feeling a lot more confident now!
  10. PatriotLandscape

    PatriotLandscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MA
    Messages: 1,209

    I tend to read the customer and the project.

    For maintenance I play small and they feel comfortable. I make them feel that I am the one doing the cutting.

    For construction if it is a well planned design then I sell myself big and eager and that the customers job is something we want to add to our portfolio.

    I worked for a guy that if I didn't know better we were the biggest landscape company in the state. In reality I was the only employee. But his house was the "shop" his extra bedroom was "the office" and I was "The Foreman"

    Project yourself different depending on the job. My company is not huge (six people in season) and I play each scenario as it comes to me.

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