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Hedgemaster
11-21-2010, 05:25 PM
On Friday, I went to give an estimate for "trimming some hedges and pulling weeds". As usual, the job was not as simple as described.
New homeowner just moved into a house that had been vacant for quite some time. When I Googled the address for directions, the image shown suggested a neatly maintained front with several shrubs and hedges on a steep hill with steps leading from the sidewalk up to the house.
Well, I don't know when that photo was taken, but the only thing that I recognized when I arrived was the steps and sidewalk - the bushes had all grown into a solid "mass" and the hedges were about 7' high.
This was not a "trimming" job - it was going to require a lot of "butchering" in order to allow those shrubs to grow back in properly. Then he asked about having the weeds on the hillside pulled - they were everywhere.

I gave him an estimate of $135 to do the hedges/shrubs and $160 to add in the weed pulling - although not a thorough "every weed out by the root" job, but a "I'll get the worst of it out for you".

He texted me back a few hours later and said "If you can do just the $125 part for $100, the job is yours and you can start tomorrow."

Pfffffttt!!! I was already doing him a favor with the $135 quote.
The job would have probably priced out at $100 just to TRIM the stuff had it been properly maintained. I've screwed myself on a few other jobs like that, and I wasn't about to do it again.

I replied that I would have to pass on the job. (and that "it was $135/$160 btw")




Fast forward to today...

I did a job that I had previously given an estimate of between $145 and $175 for doing a massive cut-back of some completely overgrown forsythia bushes, trimming the tops of some small shrubs in front of the house, and tying up an arborvitae that had one trunk leaning against the house.
Not only did the homeowner come out and carry away 75% of the cuttings as I went, but I was offered a sandwich (which I declined), and a soft drink (which I accepted).
And THEN, when I gave her the total of $165 (knocking off a few bucks because she had already cut the small shrubs, and she sped things up by cleaning up as I went), SHE GAVE ME A CHECK FOR $200.00!
I promptly told her the total was only $165 and she said, "I know - I heard you". She was just so happy to have the job done, and to have it done by someone she felt she could trust.


People are like night and day. One wants me to bust my a$$ for peanuts, and the other saw a good job and gave more than was asked of her.

People are funny.

mark123
11-21-2010, 07:07 PM
Yep, I have one long time customer that cancels during fall every year and then asks me to pick up the leaves for free in the spring. Then I get an out of town call for a local property. It was a $75 job and he sent me $100 and then asked if he could pay in advance for all of next year. Uh, yeah, if you insist you can pay now. :D

Night and day. :D

picframer
11-21-2010, 07:16 PM
Glad you are standing your ground, if we all did this industry would not be in the mess it is.

Congradulations on the tip, take all the food the clients will give you........we do!

fieroboi
11-21-2010, 07:55 PM
Congradulations on the tip, take all the food the clients will give you........we do!

I totally agree, I have a few clients that consistently give me food .... I especially love the ones that offers cookies and well lets say they are pails not just a small bag of them. MMMMmmmmm, love those clients!


Lloyd
Blue's YardFX
Camrose, ALberta

Hedgemaster
11-21-2010, 11:55 PM
Glad you are standing your ground, if we all did this industry would not be in the mess it is.

Congradulations on the tip, take all the food the clients will give you........we do!

Yeah, I mean, I'm hurting for money BAD right now, and need all the work I can get, but then what? He gives my name to other people and says "He did ALL THIS for only $100!" Now there will be five more cheap bastards calling me wasting my time.
No thanks.


As for the food, a lady on my street gave me 2 jars of homemade raspberry jam with my payment. Woo-hoo! Loves me some raspberry jam!!!
:)

Another lady I do odd jobs for brings me out apples - all sliced up in a little dish with several orange slices and some blueberries. Awesome.

picframer
11-22-2010, 04:35 AM
Yeah, I mean, I'm hurting for money BAD right now, and need all the work I can get, but then what? He gives my name to other people and says "He did ALL THIS for only $100!" Now there will be five more cheap bastards calling me wasting my time.


You and thousands of others are in the same boat in many industries and I don't believe there is an easy fix even though it needs correction in the trades and service industries. What I have seen happening over the years and it's a slippery slope, small to med sized companies give in a little to get the job, many have no idea what their costs are they are simply focused on getting a little cash. The only way I found around this was to set the bar too high on the equipment side for the little guys and stay under the radar of the big guys, it worked and within a short time I found my niche market and went after it.

Your comment on the pricing/referrals is so true. Do a job on the cheap but quality work and the phone will not stop ringing from people expecting the same, raise your prices and holy smokes, these new prospects will sometimes just rip you, "You did my neighbour for $xxx.xx, why are you trying to gouge me $xxx.xx"

I get to talk to a lot of trades when we are doing new home landscaping, framing of homes around here is brutal and I see corners being cut, a few small framing crews have told me they are lucky to make $500.00 profit per home unless they go underground, which is another sore spot for me.

The general public has no idea how much they hurt the economy by paying cash and doing things under the table, personally I won't do it however we have been very fortunate to always have more work than we can handle, only because if the target market and having the gear to be able to do almost anything a homeowner wanted outside. This has come at a pretty steep price tag for me personally however I didn't have much of a choice if I wanted to make money.

Steve
11-22-2010, 06:10 AM
I gave him an estimate of $135 to do the hedges/shrubs and $160 to add in the weed pulling - although not a thorough "every weed out by the root" job, but a "I'll get the worst of it out for you".

He texted me back a few hours later and said "If you can do just the $125 part for $100, the job is yours and you can start tomorrow."

How long did you estimate these different jobs to take?

when I gave her the total of $165 (knocking off a few bucks because she had already cut the small shrubs, and she sped things up by cleaning up as I went), SHE GAVE ME A CHECK FOR $200.00!

When you find yourself in such situations, do you ever sit there wondering if you could raise your prices? It seems rough though because on one hand you have a customer trying to get you down to next to nothing and then another customer wants to pay you more.

How long did this 2nd job take? When you compare the bidding on both jobs, were they close in hourly fees?

Hedgemaster
11-22-2010, 09:53 PM
My replies in blue...

How long did you estimate these different jobs to take?

I estimated it would take me about 6 hours to do the hillside inclusive of cleaning up all the cuttings.

For the lady with the forsythia job, I estimated 5-6 hours.

When you find yourself in such situations, do you ever sit there wondering if you could raise your prices? It seems rough though because on one hand you have a customer trying to get you down to next to nothing and then another customer wants to pay you more.

Sure, but as I'm new to this, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to find out what I should be charging, I often err on the side of "less" when offering an estimate. Even the guy who wanted to give me $100 - I quoted him a lower price by maybe $20 than I would have otherwise because of where he got my number - sometimes it doesn't pay to be nice.

How long did this 2nd job take? When you compare the bidding on both jobs, were they close in hourly fees?

Funny you ask - this was one of the few jobs that fell in line with my initial time estimate. I said 5-6 hrs and it took me exactly 5. (although the homeowner did assist with removing the cuttings, and probably saved me 30 mins of work)

I quoted the first job at $135 and IF it had taken 6 hrs, that would have been $22.50/hr.

I quoted the second job as a maximum of $175.
Let's see... if I had charged her the $175 and IF it took the full 6 hrs estimated, that would have been $29.00/hr.
I ultimately charged her $165 for a 5 hr job which works out as $33.00/hr.

What she paid me was $200 for said 5 hr job which adds up to $40.00/hr.

Tools used:
Craftsman 3/4" hedge trimmers, Long handled loppers for the thick stuff, a hand saw for a few REALLY thick trunks, cordless Black and Decker pole trimmer (18" hedge trimer w/6' reach), a rake, a few burlap tarps, and about 10' of heavy, camo rope (to blend in) to tie up the tree that the snow had damaged last winter.
I didn't even need to take my trailer to haul debris, as it was placed in the woods near the house. :)

Jack Rabbit
11-22-2010, 10:24 PM
"take all the food the clients will give you"

One of my customers gave me three packages of frozen, ordered from somewhere, barbecue pork ribs.

mark123
11-23-2010, 03:46 AM
... One of my customers gave me three packages of frozen, ordered from somewhere, barbecue pork ribs.Eww.

I don't take food. I'm really particular about what I eat.

Steve
11-23-2010, 06:59 AM
Funny you ask - this was one of the few jobs that fell in line with my initial time estimate. I said 5-6 hrs and it took me exactly 5. (although the homeowner did assist with removing the cuttings, and probably saved me 30 mins of work)

Are you finding that you are able to be more accurate with your estimated time as you go?

Do certain jobs still give you more trouble than others when it comes to estimating the time it will take to complete them? If so, which do you find are the toughest and which are easier?

Hedgemaster
11-23-2010, 09:39 PM
Are you finding that you are able to be more accurate with your estimated time as you go?

Do certain jobs still give you more trouble than others when it comes to estimating the time it will take to complete them? If so, which do you find are the toughest and which are easier?


Honestly, I have not done enough estimating OR lawn work to have gained much insight on the whole process yet. As I set out on this "journey", I was also doing "handyman" work, and up until about a month ago, that was the brunt of what I had been doing, and now that "winter" is here, there isn't much hope of doing a lot of lawn work.

It's ALL tough for me estimate right now.

Steve
11-24-2010, 08:35 AM
Do you think there are steps that you can take to use your previous estimates to help you with your future ones?

Like for instance, keeping a notebook of property measurements and notes on how long such jobs took to complete and maybe a note that includes a lesson or two of what you learned from that job.

Then later when you are called to a new job and measure out the property, you can compare and contrast it to previous jobs by referring to your notes?

Or would this be a waste of time because it would be simply easier to keep that all in your head?

Hedgemaster
11-24-2010, 09:27 AM
Do you think there are steps that you can take to use your previous estimates to help you with your future ones?

Like for instance, keeping a notebook of property measurements and notes on how long such jobs took to complete and maybe a note that includes a lesson or two of what you learned from that job.

Then later when you are called to a new job and measure out the property, you can compare and contrast it to previous jobs by referring to your notes?

Or would this be a waste of time because it would be simply easier to keep that all in your head?

Yes, I keep a "journal" and TRY to keep accurate notes as to time it takes to do each part of every job. I also try to take before/after photos as a reference, and also as a potential marketing tool.

It DOES take some time to do all of that, but "keeping it all in my head" never seems to work out very well for me. ;)

Steve
11-25-2010, 07:31 AM
It's fascinating because over time you may find that you tend to underbid certain types of jobs consistently and once you realize you are doing that, it can be corrected.

Otherwise, you may not know until one day when you get your bank statement and start to freak out because you just don't know what happened to the money.