Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by WisconsinMower, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. WisconsinMower

    WisconsinMower LawnSite Member
    Messages: 13

    My plan is to mow mostly churches and commercial businesses. I am concerned that I will under charge. My plan is to charge per/1000 sq. ft. What is a good price that I can use for this?
  2. Tn Lawn Man

    Tn Lawn Man LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    With all of the threads and whining about lowballers.....nobody answers this person's thread?

    This is a great opportunity to educate someone to the correct way to price.
  3. plateau lawn care

    plateau lawn care LawnSite Member
    from georgia
    Messages: 195

    A better easier way would be to charge by the hour. Most churches can't afford to pay that much. 35 to 40 an hour in my area. Commercial just depends if you want to charge the same hourly rate or if you want to see if you can get more
  4. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Messages: 4,739

    No one I know "charges by the hour". I think that what you mean is, you know what you want to make per hour, and multiply it by how many hours the job will take, by your estimation, then use that figure as your price per-cut. I would never bill anyone per hour on a mowing job for many reasons. Customers don't need to know what you are making, and would never hire you since they don't know how long it will take you to do it and, honestly, it would sound like you don't know either. On some cleanups I have priced it hourly as there are too many variables, especially if i cannot get to the job the same day or if it rains alot before I get there. Customers are usually understanding then, most people and LCO's do not know how long it really takes to do a cleanup. But, anyone should be able to figure a price for mowing and not have to bill per hour.

    If you want some help, tell us what equipment you have to work with. Say you have a 48" walk behind with a sulky. You can mow maybe about 1 acre per hour including time to trim, etc. Say you want to make $45 per hour. So, your price is $45 per acre if it has trimming to be done. If you hit a yard that is 3 acres, and only one acre has trimming and the rest is open, then say you could do just the mowing in 2 hrs, then another half hour for trimming. That would be about $112.50, right? Sounds like a good price to me, around here anyway. A good investment for you, or anyone in this business, is a measuring wheel. Doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. I got one at a tool sale, it goes 1,000' (more than enough, just if you're on a large property make sure to notice if it flips over so you can count that) and it only cost $10 or so. Sure thats cheap, but it measures as well as a $100 one, and if i break it or lose it, I won't be too upset. Its worth it the first job you use it on if it saves you from underestimating the job and losing $20 each time you mow because it is larger than it looked... And another thing, do not ask a client how big their property is. They will round down, fudge it, or forget to include a certain part... Then you would base their price upon what they told you instead of measuring it, so now you are losing money on the job each time you are there... How would that be? Not very good!

    Now if you use a 60" ZTR, maybe you want to make $55 or 60 an hour. You can mow anywhere from 3-4 or even 5 acres an hour with that, depending on how open the lot is and if its flat or hilly, etc. So what do you do? Adjust your calculation. Say you still want to charge $45 an acre including trimmings, now you are making more money because it takes less time. DO NOT EVER charge less for the job just because you can do it quicker. This is why businesses fail in this industry. They think that they do not need to make more money just becuase their equipment is faster than it was. This is a common mistake many new (or experienced) LCO's make... This is the blade that will slice your own throat. If you buy a new $9,000 ZTR and cut your time by 30% on a given property, this does not mean you lower your price. You have to pay for that mower right? The only way to do that, is to keep charging the same so that you can make more per hour and take on more profitable jobs, so you can pay for that machine and let it make you more money than the old walk behind!!!

    Please be careful not to hurt yourself by charging too little. $100 per hour is a little steep to charge people with a commercial mower, but if you cannot get at least $35 an hour with a commercial mower then you may as well stay home on the couch, its cheaper trust me!
  5. captaingreen

    captaingreen LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 471

    Frankenscag nailed it, very sound advise.
  6. plateau lawn care

    plateau lawn care LawnSite Member
    from georgia
    Messages: 195

    Yes I guess I was thinking to fast I meant at least 35 a yard that would calculate to about $70 an hour sorry
  7. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    Frankenscag is giving good advice. I would like to add another reason to use a measuring wheel:

    It seems to impress customers as being "professional" to quickly walk the property taking a couple of measurements with the wheel before giving the price. I noticed when I started using the wheel for initial pricing, I had more customers accept the price I quoted, instead of this "Well, let me think about it. I'll call you if I want to hire you for the job." And I was not suddenly giving cheaper quotes with the use of the wheel, my pricing was a little higher than it had been.

    When I started using a wheel, it was because I was trying to pinpoint the variables that made me underprice some of my jobs. I log job times weekly, to the minute, and it is easy at the end of the season to get the average time for each job. When I see that I am getting $30 each for 2 jobs, but one averages 35 minutes and the second averages 45 minutes, there is an obvious need for some correction. (In this area $30 for 45 minutes is actually not bad, but of course $30 for 35 min. is MUCH better.)

    At the end of the 2001 season I took tons of measurements on every property I serviced, to try to pinpoint the extra time factors. Then I used the info to come up with a pricing structure other than just eyeballing the lawn, or simply measuring length times width.

    From that point for about a year, I took some extra measurements for each bid, and used the extra-time factors in figuring a price. The biggest extra-time items I discovered: need to unload/load a second mower to complete the job because the main mower would not fit into some small area, or thru a gate; extra edging along a street where the curb and walk are separated by a strip of grass; corner lots, because of extra edging time; excess fert. or irrigation (which I try to take control of if possible); excessive number of shrubs, trees, whatever to trim around; dog(s) in a fenced back yard, making it necessary to secure gate every time I go into/come out of fenced area. An additional factor that increases time more than any of the above-- a customer that has a need to come out and visit every time I service the lawn.

    Now I am better at eyeballing the lawn and taking the extras into account--but I usually still use the wheel, because as I said, it seems to make the customer more likely to accept the price quote. It doesn't take a lot of time because it is more for show, but the customer doesn't know that. Just roll the length, the width, sometimes a walk needing edging on both sides, same for a curving drive, sometimes length and width of house plus large landscape (non-turf) area. Of course, writing down some figures on a pocket pad, and doing a fast calculation on the pocket calculator is part of the show. If it takes more than 2 or 3 minutes, shorten the routine.

    I hope some of this is helpful.

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