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Hedgemaster
07-24-2010, 11:43 PM
Hi all.

I'm new to the site as well as the "business". Count me as one of the many unemployed Americans who is doing what he needs to do to get by without losing his home.

I've been contemplating doing this for a living and many of the Google searches for answers to my "getting started" questions led me to this forum, so here I am.

In addition to lawn care, I'm offering "handyman" services. Perhaps if the lawn care portion picks up, I can cut (no pun intended) the handyman part out, but as things stand, I need to offer whatever I can to bring in money to pay the bills.

I'm 42 years old, a graphic designer, married, a homeowner for 16 years, own a full size 4x4 pick up, and have a good work ethic. Aside from my age, I'm guessing these are all "pluses", but I still have some reading to do in order to feel confident that this is something I can make work for me.
In just a few months I've gone from talking to people about doing work, to designing flyers, and business cards, to picking up a cargo carrier to add to the back of my truck, so I'm headed in the right direction anyway.

I look forward to learning, sharing, and perhaps one day giving advice to someone who is in the position I am right now. Time will tell.

Wish me luck! :)


ETA:
I hope there aren't any other active posters with this screen name. I couldn't find a members list to check first before creating a name. I chose it because my neighbors apparently think I'm like Rain Man or something when it comes to my "perfect" hedges. "Yeah, hedges... definitely level - gotta be straight - definitely."
;)

cleancutlawncare5382
07-25-2010, 07:21 AM
Welcome to the site. I too was looking for answers this past spring and found endless help from this forum. Great bunch of guys.

In just a few months I've gone from talking to people about doing work, to designing flyers, and business cards, to picking up a cargo carrier to add to the back of my truck, so I'm headed in the right direction anyway.

Have you landed any steady customers yet? What type of marketing have you tried?

The flyers have done well for me. What I've done is identify a neighborhood I would like to do work in and start knocking on doors. Also get the word out to your friends and neighbors your in business. Ask all your current customers for referrals.

mark123
07-25-2010, 08:03 AM
From which city are you western PA fellows? I may be the competition. :p

Hedgemaster
07-25-2010, 08:28 AM
Welcome to the site. I too was looking for answers this past spring and found endless help from this forum. Great bunch of guys.

In just a few months I've gone from talking to people about doing work, to designing flyers, and business cards, to picking up a cargo carrier to add to the back of my truck, so I'm headed in the right direction anyway.

Have you landed any steady customers yet? What type of marketing have you tried?

The flyers have done well for me. What I've done is identify a neighborhood I would like to do work in and start knocking on doors. Also get the word out to your friends and neighbors your in business. Ask all your current customers for referrals.

Thanks.

The only steady customers are a few I had from before I started with the flyers/cards, but those customers are now able to give something more than just my number to their friends. One recently sent out an email (pdf of my flyer) to her friends, and within one day, I had a call and a job.

I've gone door to door on a limited basis, but when my new cards come in, I'll do more of that. I've had them printed with a "$10 off any job over $75" offer (first time customers) on the reverse.

Hedgemaster
07-25-2010, 08:31 AM
From which city are you western PA fellows? I may be the competition. :p


It's a secret, but there's a clue in the thread title.

:D ;)







Note: I have no Idea why the "multi quote" doesn't work.

mark123
07-25-2010, 08:34 AM
It's a secret, but there's a clue in the thread title.

:D ;) Pittsburgh proper or one of the surrounding areas? ;) It seems that people around here call the entire area "pixberg". I'm about 50 miles north of the city.

What about cleancutlawncare5382?

Doug1
07-25-2010, 09:59 AM
Hi I am starting a landscape business in Guelph Ontario Canada:)

Hedgemaster
07-25-2010, 10:59 AM
Pittsburgh proper or one of the surrounding areas? ;) It seems that people around here call the entire area "pixberg". I'm about 50 miles north of the city.

What about cleancutlawncare5382?


Suburbs, eastern side of Pgh.

I know what you mean though. Just watch the news and they talk about a "local man who (fill in the blank)" and it ends up the guy is from Erie. HUH?

cleancutlawncare5382
07-25-2010, 11:02 AM
What about cleancutlawncare5382?

We might be neighbors, About 50 miles north myself

Steve
07-25-2010, 04:17 PM
I'm 42 years old, a graphic designer

Welcome to our forum! With your experience in graphic design, have you applied that to your new business in the form of business cards and truck graphics?

What kind of marketing are you planning on doing to further promote your business?

Chachi
07-25-2010, 09:03 PM
Welcome to the site. I am also in the Pittsburgh Area about 20 mins east. I am friends with a lot of the competition in the area and most you will find aren't jerks and will help you out a bit. I get yards all the time off a few that are too busy :)

mark123
07-25-2010, 09:32 PM
We might be neighbors, About 50 miles north myself
I'll send you a PM. :)
[edit - I see you've already sent one :) ** replying]
... I get yards all the time off a few that are too busy :)
Absolutely! This is how I started out. I was able to take jobs the bigger companies couldn't. We're all friends.

Hedgemaster
07-25-2010, 11:23 PM
Regarding the "friendly competition", that's good to know, because I could certainly use some pointers if nothing else.


I'm going to give an estimate on a hedge trimming job tomorrow.
I've "trimmed" hedges, and I'm told that the going rate is $1 per linear foot, but these hedges are 120 ft long, and 4-6 ft tall x 3 ft wide, and they want them cut down in height by "about half".
I'm not exactly sure how to price that, especially since there will be so much that needs to be hauled away.

This brings me to my next dilemma - I am not really equipped to haul that amount of debris. Short bed truck with a cap, and no trailer. (just a trailer hitch cargo carrier)
I'm thinking that I'll need to price it lower than if I were to haul it, and have them get someone else do the hauling.


Any tips on locations east of Pittsburgh to dispose of items like hedge/grass clippings?

Hedgemaster
07-25-2010, 11:40 PM
Welcome to our forum! With your experience in graphic design, have you applied that to your new business in the form of business cards and truck graphics?

What kind of marketing are you planning on doing to further promote your business?



Business cards with a "first time customer" offer, and flyers to hand out were my fist steps. I designed and laminated some signs that I attached to the cargo carrier as well as the back window of the truck cap as a temporary thing.

I'm starting to look into vinyl window graphic for the back window, and MAYBE add a bug shield with info to the front. I'm kind of particular about my vehicle, and I'd prefer a way of taking the signage off and on as desired, but "magnetic signs", make me cringe when I think about what the can do to your paint.

Craigslist advertising will come when I feel I'm better equipped to handle more types of jobs.

I had considered stopping at some local businesses that cater to women (remember, handyman as well as lawn care) to see about leaving my cards at the counter.

Eventually "real" advertising is a must. Working in advertising, I have seen many people try to advertise "on the cheap", and it rarely pays off the way they had hoped. At least I have an edge in that I can be my own ad agency and not have ads that look like my 12 year old nephew designed them.
;)

Steve
07-26-2010, 04:07 AM
I'm told that the going rate is $1 per linear foot
I think you are better off, early on, pricing jobs by the amount of time you feel they will take.

I'm thinking that I'll need to price it lower than if I were to haul it, and have them get someone else do the hauling.

Can you shred them with a rented shredder? Or maybe bag them or tie them up for the town to haul away from the curb?

Craigslist advertising will come when I feel I'm better equipped to handle more types of jobs.

Maybe you could advertise on there now and if you don't like the job, dont bid on it. You can always say your schedule is full. But it is always better to have more jobs to bid on than less.

I have seen many people try to advertise "on the cheap", and it rarely pays off the way they had hoped.

Do any stories stand out that the readers here need to be wary of and steer clear of?

Chachi
07-26-2010, 02:45 PM
Well as far as hedges go I bid by the amount of time it will take me to cut clean up and dispose. Depends one what your hourly rate is most around our area are 30$ a hour. And have a min. amount you will charge and stick to it. If you are familiar with Grandview Nursery in North Huntingdon they take grass clippings for around 6$ a pickup truck load and brush is a bit more expensive anywhere from 30$+ depending on the amount you take in. As far as advertisement for you if you have a local newspaper try that. Not a big one, just a local community paper. Some other helpful advise get a trailer and maybe get rid of the cap on your pickup. 5x10 trailer from Smouse in Mt pleasant is around 1300 out the door. I build a box on mine for clippings etc. Starting out I know it is hard to come up with a lot of cash just like that, however you will make it back quickly. Going back now I wish I would of purchased a enclosed trailer first then a open trailer, however I only had $$ for a open trailer at the time. Everything depends on what you have to spend really.

Hedgemaster
07-26-2010, 09:02 PM
Well as far as hedges go I bid by the amount of time it will take me to cut clean up and dispose. Depends one what your hourly rate is most around our area are 30$ a hour. And have a min. amount you will charge and stick to it. If you are familiar with Grandview Nursery in North Huntingdon they take grass clippings for around 6$ a pickup truck load and brush is a bit more expensive anywhere from 30$+ depending on the amount you take in. As far as advertisement for you if you have a local newspaper try that. Not a big one, just a local community paper. Some other helpful advise get a trailer and maybe get rid of the cap on your pickup. 5x10 trailer from Smouse in Mt pleasant is around 1300 out the door. I build a box on mine for clippings etc. Starting out I know it is hard to come up with a lot of cash just like that, however you will make it back quickly. Going back now I wish I would of purchased a enclosed trailer first then a open trailer, however I only had $$ for a open trailer at the time. Everything depends on what you have to spend really.

Thanks for the info, it's appreciated.

I looked at them today and they aren't as bad as I had imagined.
60'x6' tall along the street, but VERY thin. You can clearly see the cars going by through them.
70'x5'-6' tall along the driveway. Thicker than the other part, but still only 24-36" wide, and easily accessible from both sides.

I spoke to the owner and he sounded interested in the chipper idea for disposal, as he has a pile of small tree limbs that he had cut recently.
I suggested he could use the "mulch" in the back of the property near a wooded area.

I'm guessing 1.5 hrs to cut them in half. (I'd cut the ones by the street down to the ground to let them grow back thicker, but I think they just want them cut half way down)
2 hrs to feed it all into the chipper (blow it onto a large tarp)
1 hr clean up
Say a total of 5 hours... just a guess - this is my first "estimate".

If $30 is the going rate, I may charge $20/hr. They are people I'm acquainted with and new homeowners who don't have a lot of disposable income at the moment. If I price it too high, they may just decide to do it themselves. (as it really isn't a difficult job aside from disposal of the cuttings)

I'll have to price a towable chipper rental. Fortunately, there is a Home Depot within about 4 miles. (unless someone has a better/less costly suggestion)

I'll try to attach some pics of the hedges...



About the trailer - yes, I know I'll need one, but I simply can't afford it now. Gotta have money to make money it seems, but I'll get there one way or another. The cap is not likely going anywhere. It would make things easier for lawn care, but it's useful in other ways.
I'll throw in a pic of my "wheel-less trailer" too. (No laughing!) ;)

Steve
07-27-2010, 03:33 PM
If $30 is the going rate, I may charge $20/hr. They are people I'm acquainted with and new homeowners who don't have a lot of disposable income at the moment. If I price it too high, they may just decide to do it themselves. (as it really isn't a difficult job aside from disposal of the cuttings)

I'd say at least $30.

It's good to see you are making it work with what you have. You can always scale up and get more equipment, trailers etc.

Keep us posted on how this turns out.

Hedgemaster
07-27-2010, 06:59 PM
Just got a call for an estimate to pick up/deliver and dig/plant 15-20 4' junipers along a property line.

Another referral by the neighbor who e-mailed my flyer to friends along with a helpful "I HIGHLY recommend him" note. :)



Wonder how many I can get in that cargo carrier? :D


ETA:
That's gonna be a lotta diggin'...

Chachi
07-27-2010, 11:46 PM
Just got a call for an estimate to pick up/deliver and dig/plant 15-20 4' junipers along a property line.

Another referral by the neighbor who e-mailed my flyer to friends along with a helpful "I HIGHLY recommend him" note. :)



Wonder how many I can get in that cargo carrier? :D


ETA:
That's gonna be a lotta diggin'...

Nice. Did you do the hedge job yet? Another tip don't forget to figure in fuel as well. Whether you put it on your quote or not is up to you. I don't, but always figure it in on big jobs and usually just add it to my labor charge.

Hedgemaster
07-28-2010, 12:03 AM
Nice. Did you do the hedge job yet? Another tip don't forget to figure in fuel as well. Whether you put it on your quote or not is up to you. I don't, but always figure it in on big jobs and usually just add it to my labor charge.

No hedges yet - I was doing a handyman job that took the better part of the day and it was too late to get prices for "dumping" from anyone. I did get a rental price list from home depot, though I haven't had time to look at it.

Picked up a (don't laugh) Craftsman gas hedge trimmer tonight. It should handle that big hedge job with ease. Gonna use it in the morning on a massive "shrub" at a neighbor's house. Will get "real" tools when I can.

LawnMoore
07-28-2010, 03:53 AM
O wow man, a craftsman hedge trimmer to do a chainsaws work!?!?!?!?

I will be honest i have never trimmed hedges with a hedge trimmer, unless you count my Stihl 260 Magnum as a hedge trimmer, but honestly i havent trimmed any so to say shaping them, but i have trimmed them like your doing, cutting them and i use a sharp chainsaw.

Maybe a hedge trimmer can lop off 2 inch hedge stalks, i dont know cause i havent used one "yet" let me know how it works please.

Hedgemaster
07-28-2010, 07:49 AM
O wow man, a craftsman hedge trimmer to do a chainsaws work!?!?!?!?

I will be honest i have never trimmed hedges with a hedge trimmer, unless you count my Stihl 260 Magnum as a hedge trimmer, but honestly i havent trimmed any so to say shaping them, but i have trimmed them like your doing, cutting them and i use a sharp chainsaw.

Maybe a hedge trimmer can lop off 2 inch hedge stalks, i dont know cause i havent used one "yet" let me know how it works please.

It should be fine. (for this job anyway) Will cut 3/4". Those hedges aren't very thick at all and the ones along the street are so thin I could buzz them off with my cordless Black and Decker trimmer.

I priced an Echo trimmer that cuts up to 1", but at $300, it's going to have to wait. I can either sell this one later, or keep it as a backup when I get better equipment. If I had time to look, I would have picked up something used.

Chachi
07-28-2010, 09:43 AM
It should be fine. (for this job anyway) Will cut 3/4". Those hedges aren't very thick at all and the ones along the street are so thin I could buzz them off with my cordless Black and Decker trimmer.

I priced an Echo trimmer that cuts up to 1", but at $300, it's going to have to wait. I can either sell this one later, or keep it as a backup when I get better equipment. If I had time to look, I would have picked up something used.

I use a Echo gas powered trimmer the HC-150C and it is fantastic. And is probably the one you are looking at. I wouldn't knock craftsman. I've had a craftsman 16" chainsaw that is 10 years old and it still runs like a bat out of hell, except doing a huge tree job a few weekends ago my climber made a wrong cut and had to sacrifice the saw(only bent the bar). So I am going to retire it and go buy me a nice big Husky 455.

arthur712
07-30-2010, 05:31 PM
Welcome to the forum!

Hedgemaster
08-04-2010, 08:43 PM
Update:

Didn't get the hedge trimming job.

My highest quote was $250 (I had it broken down three ways - chipping/hauling away the debris)

Someone gave them a trimmer. :(

Chachi
08-05-2010, 09:10 AM
Update:

Didn't get the hedge trimming job.

My highest quote was $250 (I had it broken down three ways - chipping/hauling away the debris)

Someone gave them a trimmer. :(

I had a few jobs lost like that. I am starting now working on a newsletter and an ad for the fall so I can start to get people lined up ahead of time.

robgee05
08-05-2010, 02:44 PM
I use a Echo gas powered trimmer the HC-150C and it is fantastic. And is probably the one you are looking at. I wouldn't knock craftsman. I've had a craftsman 16" chainsaw that is 10 years old and it still runs like a bat out of hell, except doing a huge tree job a few weekends ago my climber made a wrong cut and had to sacrifice the saw(only bent the bar). So I am going to retire it and go buy me a nice big Husky 455.

My local dealer recommended a Tanaka Hedge trimmer over the Redmax which I tend to favor. We had it out on a few jobs it works well, it ought to at $300. Im in the market for a chainsaw now too. I don't do any larger jobs but I have a McCullough I have been using thats about 8 years old and still runs fine. Its only 14 inch, Im looking at the Redmax 18 inch, which I can pick up for $259. We bought a Huskavarna a few weeks ago and I really didn't care for the little plastic wheel you had to use to tighten the chain. I took it back. Whats funny is they own Redmax now, you would think they would just take all the Redmax designs and apply them to their equipment.

Chachi
08-05-2010, 03:18 PM
My local dealer recommended a Tanaka Hedge trimmer over the Redmax which I tend to favor. We had it out on a few jobs it works well, it ought to at $300. Im in the market for a chainsaw now too. I don't do any larger jobs but I have a McCullough I have been using thats about 8 years old and still runs fine. Its only 14 inch, Im looking at the Redmax 18 inch, which I can pick up for $259. We bought a Huskavarna a few weeks ago and I really didn't care for the little plastic wheel you had to use to tighten the chain. I took it back. Whats funny is they own Redmax now, you would think they would just take all the Redmax designs and apply them to their equipment.

Was it the husky/poulon line?

robgee05
08-07-2010, 05:16 PM
Was it the husky/poulon line?

It was box store crap, but not much less than the RedMax and smaller.

Chachi
08-07-2010, 07:36 PM
It was box store crap, but not much less than the RedMax and smaller.

That's why. Go with a Pro line husky you will never go with any other saw.