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IVPropertyMaintenance
01-27-2012, 11:12 AM
Last year was my first year in the yard care business. It was awesome to see how quickly I could go from not having a single client to getting my name thrown around left and right until I was busier than I could imagine. Now that winter is in full effect, things have definitely slowed down but I have high hopes for spring time.

My problem is this, I found that most of the people in the area I service are either low income, elderly, or they have property but have the equipment to maintain it themselves. The people who maintain their own property are not my biggest struggle. I saw last year that people I thought I wouldn't get work out of had jobs that they would rather not do, so they called me. It's the ones that are on a TIGHT budget that get to me.

I am the type of person that would try to help someone out no matter what, so then add in me trying to take care of a customer and you've got low profits... The thing I am contending with is out of work people who are driving around with a lawn mower and a weed eater and charging $10/hr to do the same services I offer. (I have to say that I give them props for not just sitting on their butts collecting unemployment, but common guys...)

I do have more equipment than most of them and can tackle jobs that they can't. I literally told a potential customer who happened to be a widowed elderly woman that I would do a basic maintenance on her yard for $15 (I was only charging $15/hr last year because of competition) which included mowing, edging and blowing walks and drive. It would probably take about 45 minutes but I have a one hour minimum charge. I thought at $15 I was doing her a favor and still not losing money. However, she said this was too high and that she had someone do it for half. needless to say, she will not be my customer until she changes her mind...

So what the heck do I do??????? I mean don't get me wrong, I get the occasional "wow, that is an awesome deal" every once in a while but most of the time asking for money is like pulling teeth. The thing they need to understand is that by paying some guy $10/hr to mow your yard typically means you will have some new guy there every year who has to learn everything about you as a customer as well as your property. Most those guys don't stick around very long (Meth is HUGE out here and most of them make enough to get their fix and you'll never see them again) or they can pay a little more and have a reliable company take care of them year after year.

I guess it's just one of those things that my business will hopefully outgrow. I just don't want to get caught in low balling as I don't want to spend the rest of my life being able to pay the bills with little money to get me through the winter. So how do i convince my customers that it is worth paying more for a company who will stick with them?

The two main guys doing yard care in my area both do the work themselves with no employees. They charge $20/hr and $25/hr. I will be charing $20/hr this year as I feel much more knowledgeable and experienced as opposed to last year. Not having many customers makes me want to take EVERY job but would I be better off refusing the jobs that I will break even on or make a tiny profit or are they worth it to make a customer happy and encourage referrals? I guess you wouldn't want the customer telling everyone how dirt cheap you did their yard though...

I don't know guys, a little friendly advice would go far. I guess I'm just getting discouraged with it being winter and me spending to much time sitting and not enough time making money. Thanks for anyone's response!

TiedemanLLC
01-27-2012, 11:32 AM
Wow, I thought I had it bad with prices in my area, $20 to $25 is an hour is extremely low. The low guys in our area is around $50.

You first really need to figure out what your costs are, and what your break even is. Then what you want your profit margin to be.

There are many different ways you can sell your service though and get that extra buck.

1) you support the local community
2) you have insurance, while the others don't. So if they get hurt on the clients property the client could have to foot the bill
3) Whether you have any certification or training in your field
4) You are reliable, and not going to be here on year and gone the next

Those are just four that I named off my head. I know if I took some time I could come up with lots more. I would personally start out with the insurance first. Perhaps have a type of information sheet or flyer to give to potential clients telling them "You're liable if someone gets hurt on your property, and they don't have insurance" Something along those lines.

shadrach
01-27-2012, 12:20 PM
$35-$75 an hour (depending on equipment) here. I try to be between $50 & $75 depending on what type of work I am doing. Do not try to compete on price - someone is always willing to do it cheaper. Offer higher end or niche services other guys are not offering. Emphasize the quality, reliability & knowledge of the work that you do. Market to the people that you think can afford your services.
Don't be afraid to drop low profit or PITA customers.

Steve
01-27-2012, 04:21 PM
It was awesome to see how quickly I could go from not having a single client to getting my name thrown around left and right until I was busier than I could imagine.

Can you describe the type of customer that was keeping you so busy? Can you target them for your spring services? I would figure if you could be busy last year, you should be able to repeat that again this year.

Are there different socio-economic areas in your town? Are there richer areas and poorer areas? Can you target more of the well off areas where the customers aren't too concerned with price and want a quality job?

Poorer customers are always going to want as cheap as they can get service and you most likely won't change their mind but you can change who you market too and who your ideal customer is.

CHEESE2009
01-27-2012, 05:12 PM
You are following in my footsteps my friend!


If there was one thing I had learned, it's that people will lie in order to get a better deal than you had already offered them. It's sickening how true it is.

In a nutshell, what you are dealing with, are clients who attempt to size you up to see what they can get away with. They will do whatever it takes to use you by playing 'dumb'. They totally understand the reason behind your pricing, but they will refuse to let you know that.

You are right when you say it's usually the elderly, or those with low income.
(or even those of a certain religion I dare not say).

When this happened to me during the early stage of my business, I would continue being the nice guy and try to please them. Now I take offence, considering how much trouble these type of people have caused me.

It took me awhile to build up the attitude I have today. I went from;

"Alright. I will knock off a few dollars"
This starts a downward spiral of the client requesting all sorts of favors and discounts, very tricky to get out of.

to

"No way. Personally, working for any less than what I offered doesn't interest me"
Sure they can get a taste of my nasty attitude, but sometimes they learn to respect me more, weird I know. I believe it has something to do with being more dominant than your client, give them the impression that you don't NEED them, and it's their loss if they decide not to hire you.

You will sleep better at night knowing you didn't screw yourself over, I know how it feels to go home knowing I just let someone use me.

One final note: Your generosity will kill you. It opens up Pandora's box.

*****************************

As for pricing, it's more of a headache. My area has so much competition the price went from $27.50 to $17.50 per visit. No company charges more than that down here, whoever does will NOT get any business. It's very difficult.

A lot of my competition are all meth heads too, strange... I'm starting to think you are me from the past, I'm pretty sure I wrote word for word what you have written! LOL

******************************

I have turned into a pretty bad guy when it comes caring about my clients. I get treated pretty poorly by many, so in return I eventually 'cracked'. I have no problem letting the client know that I think they are stupid, by using sarcasm. It helps.

I went as far as to tell a client, "I can see that you are speaking out of your *** right now".

Answering their phone calls if I know I did my job, aint gonna happen. I don't respect them enough, business or not - it's working for me!

******************************

Picking up business is difficult in our shared situation. I would suggest taking whoever will go for your price, but don't give them any chances like I had done.

I don't give chances anymore and they end up begging me to take them back in the end once I drop them, and I still keep all of the clients they had gotten me. If they ask, I just say, "I couldn't trust him, he was giving me a hard time", end of story.


I hope this was helpful. My advice isn't perfect, I tend to move from extreme to extreme. Just thought I'd share my experiences with you.


ONE last thing. You are not alone. In the beginning all my clients were against me, and they nearly convinced me that I'm not 'fair'. The truth is, if a client pays me, he/she will receive proper service. Apparently to clients, being unfair is not letting them take a year to pay me for work I have done. ;)

IVPropertyMaintenance
01-27-2012, 05:19 PM
Most of my customers have been elderly. I began working for a customer who lives in a local senior community. As neighbors passed by, seeing what a great job I was doing in her yard, they would often stop to talk for a moment. This is where my natural salesman instinct kicked in I would typically get a job out of them just by taking a moment to answer a few short questions. Once I did a job for them, they became my customers for life. Most of them were blown away by the quality and customer service I provided. More neighbors starting seeing, and more starting calling. Everyone seems to have been burned by someone in the past and like to hear about someone who takes care of their customers. I really took pride in the fact that I was able to help them and make a living at the same time.

I wasn't making a ton by charging only $15/hr but I was able to establish a lasting relationship with my customers. I can count on the fact that come spring time, when everything starts growing again, I will be the person they call. The problem is that with having to purchase and repair equipment, paying for gas to drive around, insurance, signage, ect., it got to be that i was working my tale off and not able to put anything away for a rainy day (or rainy couple of months).

I have had time to think about it and I truly feel that it will pay off. The thing is, most of the seniors I work for have family in town. I started noticing towards the end of the season that I was getting a lot of calls from people who got my number from one of the customers at the senior community. Whether they were family or just someone a little old lady customer talked to at the hairdressers, I started to notice that these people loved to talk about me. I started hearing the things they said and realized that I basically had half a senior community of "proud grandparents" out their talking me up.

This lead me to the idea that I would up my price but keep the $15/hr for seniors. This shows that we care and are willing to help members of our community. I guess the best bet is to try to sell bids instead of hours. This last year taught me a lot as far as how long a job takes and being able to judge the overall scope of work.

My next concern is simply going to be trying to keep up. At my busiest I was crazy last year. There will be no way I will be able start back all the accounts from last year and still take on more without hiring someone. I always wondered why the other two main guys in town never hired anyone. It seems like you would have to turn down business. Who would want to do that?...:confused:

IVPropertyMaintenance
01-27-2012, 05:37 PM
Thanks Cheese, that was definitely some helpful information. Funny stuff man. I guess I'm just stuck in that fear that I won't find other customers. If I charge this guy to much and he says no, I may not make anything that day instead.

Kinda a tough one. I think I'll take your advice as far as growing a pair for sure. That's one thing i've never accepted is a lack of respect. I literally give respect to anyone I meet, until they do something to change my mind. I try to deal with the "customer is always right" philosophy. I just need to make sure that when it comes to price, I have the final say. If they don't agree on the price, they're not your customer (which means they're wrong)...

Anyways, thanks to everyone who commented. I appreciate any help in the matter. I am 26 and am feeling a little behind. Some of you probably started in high school. Here's to many more years to come!

JeffK26
01-27-2012, 09:47 PM
There is NOTHING wrong with someone trying to get a better price on your services. We all have tried to get a cheaper price on a car or a service. We shop around for cheaper food....there is not ONE single person that does not want a deal.

Offer quality, and do not look at a customer that is trying to haggle as a cheapskate. They're just trying to save a buck just like everyone else in the world. YOUR job is a salesman, explain why you are worth the extra money, explain what you do to make sure the money they spend for you is worth it. Explain that the 5 extra bucks goes to insurance, licensing or simply to the extra 10 mins you spend to make sure things are right.

Hedgemaster
01-27-2012, 10:32 PM
Keep in mind that there are only so many hours in a day and if you spend all of your time doing good work at "discount" rates, you will not profit.
Good work takes time and you shouldn't shortchange yourself.

Last year was my first full season at this and I gave a lot of people good prices because I didn't know any better. This season I will be trying to fill any open slots with jobs that pay more that those I already have from last season.

SECTLANDSCAPING
01-27-2012, 11:27 PM
at those prices you cant afford something to break. I rather keep my equipment running then barely get by working it. I would set prices and stick to them. Youll lose some but make up for it with profit from others.

Only give a discount if the customer is on the same street as one you service. You can even sell it like that. Tell the person youll knock $5 off if a neighbor signs up.

Steve
01-30-2012, 01:34 PM
If there was one thing I had learned, it's that people will lie in order to get a better deal than you had already offered them. It's sickening how true it is.

Scott,

What kind of lies do you find people use to try and get better prices? And what's your view on how to counter them?

IVPropertyMaintenance
01-30-2012, 02:14 PM
What kind of lies do you find people use to try and get better prices? And what's your view on how to counter them?

Steve,

I know you were directing this towards Scott but i can give you a quick example of one case I am sure of happened to me. I was mowing a yard in a senior community and noticed there was a truck with someone in it who looked like they had something they would like to talk with me about. I finished my pass and shut the lawn mower down to talk with them. After introducing ourselves the gentleman told me that he and his wife were on very fixed incomes and could not afford much but needed their lawn mowed on a regular basis. I told them I could do a basic mowing for $15 (this being an extremely low bid because I figured they would not be able to afford much). He said he would talk it over with her and get back to me. Sure enough, they decided it was something they could afford.

A few weeks later I attended a local charity fund raiser in town. I saw a lot of my customers, including the new couple who "couldn't afford much". When they got to the live auctions, I was surprised to see how many times they were bidding on things that were very materialistic. They ended up spending a couple hundred dollars on stuff they probably didn't need. Meanwhile, i find myself charging pennies for something they DO need. I realized very quickly that i had been deceived.

How I fixed this was very simple. Now that I knew there was no need to do any favors for them, I tried looking for new ways to improve my sales. I would do a BASIC mowing. Leaving many things that would normally be taken care of if I was getting enough compensation. I began to point out things that were needing to be addressed in the yard such as overgrown hedges, leaves accumulating in planters, bare spots on the lawn, ect. and found that these were things they wanted done. I informed them that at the bare bones price they were paying, I would simply be losing money to do those extra tasks. I ended up up-selling them to a maintenance package and they ended up paying the going rate that all my other customers were paying.

Obviously the couple knew that by going in and playing the empathy card would achieve results. They knew what they were doing and how to do it. Once I learned what I was doing, it was easy to show them the value of what they would get for just a little more per visit.

I don't necessarily think they were trying to take advantage of me, but I certainly ended up letting them. I learned a good lesson that no one tells you their top dollar that they are willing to pay. Our job as professionals is to tell them the value they are receiving for the price. If your price is too high for them, all that means is that they are not looking for the level of quality you are providing. I have definitely chosen to never let my quality drop to fit someone's budget.

CHEESE2009
01-30-2012, 07:27 PM
Scott,

What kind of lies do you find people use to try and get better prices? And what's your view on how to counter them?

Scott: You owe me $75.00...

Client: Ok, no problem. I will have it next week.

*next week*

Scott: I'm here for the $75.00 you owe me.

Client: Wasn't it $50.00? Are you certain? My entire world is now destroyed. I think I'm going to have a heart attack, quick... give me a discount before I die. If not, please tell my wife and children I love them, and that IT'S YOUR FAULT that I became ill. All of this could have been avoided, but you are a horrible, evil person and this is exactly what you wanted, isn't it? You want me to die!

Scott: No. I told it it was $75.00.

Client: IMPOSSIBLE, there's no way. The stars and the solar system do not add up, the wind direction is all wrong!

^ pretty much how it is.

Steve
02-01-2012, 12:28 AM
Those were two great stories. WOW!

It is fascinating how all these angles are used.

Here you are doing things with your business out of the goodness of your heart and you later find there was some lying going on. Such situations can cause business owners to not want to help in such a way.

The Cleaning Doctor
02-01-2012, 05:55 PM
I hope this was helpful. My advice isn't perfect, I tend to move from extreme to extreme.

Cheese you get the understatement of the year award! We can just cancel the rest of the year now.

You know, I am doing some work that is very cheap for what it is, but now I am looking at that same service pulling in 10k per month NET before taxes. This is after paying others to do all the work for me except for the steps that involve money.

I see that you quickly found out that the $15 per hour looks closer to 7-10 when you get through paying all the taxes. Rule of thumb that I use is 50% if I am paying someone $10 per hour, I figure that they will cost me $15 by the time I cover all other costs such as payroll/bookkeeper and taxes etc. Then by the time you figure in all your gas and equipment costs, you are making less than minimum wage.

sunsetlandscaping
04-20-2012, 07:44 PM
Wow, I thought I had it bad with prices in my area, $20 to $25 is an hour is extremely low. The low guys in our area is around $50.



Hell, I would be lucky to get $20/hour where I'm at. I live in northern Michigan and most people have cottages around the lakes up here that live down state. I think I come out most of the time making around 15-18 bucks an hour.

Hedgemaster
04-20-2012, 08:19 PM
Location. Location. Location.


I turned down a job yesterday. The front was two steep, dangerous hills, and then you had to lift the mower up over a 3 foot stone wall to the next level to do the back yard.

I'll pass. I did tell her that if I were to take it, I would probably be looking at $45 to cut it due to all the "obstacles".
"Yeah, I figured it would be about $50", she said. "You're the first person to even come over to look - I called four others before finding you".

She said that she's from Florida and down there people FIGHT to mow your lawn and she can't even find someone to LOOK at it here.




I'm done doing "charity work". If it isn't within the range I'm willing to work for, I will pass on it and take something else that's less work and pays more money.

sunsetlandscaping
04-21-2012, 04:45 AM
Yeah, "charity work" is no fun, but when your starting out, its hard (atleast for me) to turn down any work, especially in this day and time.

masterblaster
01-17-2014, 05:01 PM
After reading this I found some great stories of it's ok to say "no" to a customer.

CDLAWNCARE
01-19-2014, 03:16 PM
Hell, I would be lucky to get $20/hour where I'm at. I live in northern Michigan and most people have cottages around the lakes up here that live down state. I think I come out most of the time making around 15-18 bucks an hour.

Don't let them fool you. I don't know where you are in Northern Mi. but I am in the upper peninsula and I don't do anything for less than $25 an hour and that is at the bottom for manual labor stuff. Price goes up depending what equipment your using. Mowing rates are based on $45 an hour but I usually quote a price so there is a chance we can make more. Just remember if they can afford a second home, camp, or cottage they can afford to have someone take care of it.
Most importantly, to all you guys that think you should start out cheap. Don't cut yourself too short, its a lot harder to raise prices if you come in as the cheap guy. Do good work and you will always be rewarded with more. Remember equipment doesn't last forever and you shouldn't have to borrow money every time you need to replace something.
Also remember if your not charging enough that you couldn't pay someone else to do the job and turn a profit, your not making any money either..

Steve
01-20-2014, 08:12 PM
Also remember if your not charging enough that you couldn't pay someone else to do the job and turn a profit, your not making any money either..

For the newer guys that are still trying to figure this out, at what point did you come to this conclusion with your pricing or did you do this right from the start?

CDLAWNCARE
01-22-2014, 05:08 AM
For the newer guys that are still trying to figure this out, at what point did you come to this conclusion with your pricing or did you do this right from the start?

Like many others starting out I thought $10-15/hr was enough for manual labor. It pays my wages right? Wrong. I noticed the problem when I started hiring. Now your paying for workman's comp, travel time between jobs, and safety equipment, extra time for training, ect. One of my old bosses once told me that you should be generating at least double what your paying your employees to make it worth while. After all what's the point of hiring if your not going to make any money from them? Remember if the company is not making money you won't have a job long.

acrajchel
01-29-2014, 09:24 AM
When I am talking to a potential client and they say "Well i got a guy that does it for $20" and I am asking $35, the first thing I do is ask if this guy has signs on his truck. The answer will always be no. Then I tell the customer they don't have signs because they are an illegal business that doesn't pay taxes or carry insurance. I explain to them that these business are quick to disappear if any problems occur (damage property or injury). I have actually found that a lot of people will actually tell me they had a guy 2 or 3 years ago damage something and then disappear. I explain to them that if something does happen, I will be there to make it right. I get these accounts about %25 of the time. But for 10 minutes of conversation it is worth it.

Also as far as the people that are low income, you could offer a value package to them (just mow and trim), but i would require payment upfront. For people that are on a fixed budget (elderly) don't sell your services, sell yourself. You would be surprised how many elderly people will hire you just because you talked to them for 20 minutes about sports, weather, or whatever. They want to know that you are not just spitting out a 10 second scripted sales line and moving on, but know that you actually care. I sold cars for a while, and every time an elderly person would come in, I would show them a car and then quickly change the subject to something personal (look for team logos, military logos, or even injuries) They always bought the car. I sold a car to one guy by talking about his scar on his arm for 20 minutes.

Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
01-29-2014, 10:43 AM
Just to throw in my two cents....

It will get better as you gain confidence and your list of quality regular customers grows...Starting out in this business is the most stressful time that you will probably ever go through and it's totally up to you how long it lasts...The more aggressive you are in establishing yourself and your business will determine your success or failure...

I no longer worry about the other guy ! When I see others running around the area with the push mower sticking out of the trunk :eek: I just shake my head and grin....

The PITA customers will always call these guys to save a buck..Trust me! you don't want those customers...

When I joined this group I read up on all the advice that was given and used what worked for me..Everyone has a different situation depending on where they are from, What works for CHEESE !:D won't work for everyone !...

If one statement sticks in my mind from this forum ( I don't even remember who posted it ) and I will never forget it...While you are mowing for a customer and you are thinking to yourself, ( I am not getting paid enough to do this ) then you need to raise your price !

It takes time...You are not going to be the biggest or the best right out of the gate, you need to learn as you go and try not to make the same mistake twice..You will make mistakes !!

As far as what to charge ? You have to figure out your cost and then decide how much goes into your pocket..Nobody here can tell you how much that would be, you and only you can determine what you need to charge..You will learn how to do that over time...

To wrap this up...Be confident....Be proud of the service you give....Live & Learn !!

Steve
01-29-2014, 06:58 PM
It takes time...You are not going to be the biggest or the best right out of the gate, you need to learn as you go and try not to make the same mistake twice..You will make mistakes !!

How long do you feel that process took to where you started to feel comfortable with your business and felt you were charging a good rate?

Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
01-30-2014, 06:08 AM
Personally , I felt pretty good about pricing after the first year but to be honest...Every now and then I find myself thinking that I could have charged more for a job....Never to old too learn ;)

Steve
01-30-2014, 03:30 PM
Every now and then I find myself thinking that I could have charged more for a job

Do you find certain jobs are tougher to estimate than others? If so, which are the worst to easiest?

Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
01-31-2014, 07:13 AM
For me I would say mowing is the easiest to estimate, I don't measure anymore....I can look over an area and set a price for it....


I would say that a total labor job without materials is the hardest to estimate, I'm talking about brush removal/cleanups such as overgrown lots, etc...You can't see what's hidden all the time and it bites you in the a@! once in awhile...I learned to cushion these kind of jobs to help with that...

Steve
01-31-2014, 02:07 PM
I learned to cushion these kind of jobs to help with that.

For such jobs, what kind of % increase cushion do you recommend?