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Clean Lawn
09-10-2007, 05:31 PM
This is for the more experienced professionals if they don't mind giving advice once again but fall leaf clean-up is around the corner and I have heard some bad stories for first time business owners regarding pricing. Would you all mind posting suggestion on how your price lawns for fall leaf clean-up that the rest of us?
I know I would greatly appreciate any help given regarding it.
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tiedeman
09-10-2007, 06:10 PM
Its hard on telling you an exact way. I personally go with a per hour rate. But after a while you get used to the layout, your equipment, your process and then you can bid by the job.

The reason that I suggest against bidding by the job when you start out in the business because you can get burnt big time. Imagine that you bid a job that you would take 2 hours at $100. Well, once you start working you realize that there are over 2 years worth of leaves there that you have to clean up. So instead of a 2 hr job, it now takes you 5 hrs. That is a big loss

Clean Lawn
09-10-2007, 09:35 PM
Great thanks so much for the input. Bidding by the hours seems like the most logical right now. Just out of curiousity how long did it take you before you could step on to a property and bid on job and not by the hour?
Thanks again.

tiedeman
09-10-2007, 10:20 PM
Well, if it was returning customers from the previous year I knew what to bid. But with new customers I always bid high no matter what. I think that it probably took me around 5+ years before I finally figured out things. It also really depends on the weather, your equipment, the layout of the property, etc. Once you have a system in place you are pretty much in a good grove.

Make sure that you have you a minimum charge in place no matter what. Fall clean up should be your highest rated per hour service especially if you have to haul leaves away. I normally charge around $72-$84 per hour per person.

Make sure to be very thorough when doing your walk through on a new property though.

A perfect example of a guy getting burnt this past spring with a spring clean up because he was not thorough. I had a chance to bid on the job. But I walked the property, saw that there was over 3 years of leaves sitting there so I declined on bidding. It would have been nothing but a headache. So I called the competitor and asked him whether he would be interested and told him to look at the property and then to call the owner of the property. Well, from what he told me, he did a drive by and didn't even get out of the vechile to bid the job. He bid the job out at $250 thinking that it would take his three man crew two hours. Now keep in mind that he does have an extremely lower priced rates compared to me. Guess how long it took him....16 man hours instead of 6.

Now you understand where I am coming from. Be careful with what you bid and don't be afraid to turn properties down

StartALawnCareBusiness
09-11-2007, 12:19 AM
Hey Clean Lawn:

Tiedeman is right about looking at it from an hourly perspective. However, most customers will balk at hearing you're going to charge $50/hour to rake leaves. They would much rather hear a flat rate. Your flat rate, of course, is derived from an hourly rate. Tiedeman is also very correct that a 2 hour job can quickly turn into a 5 hour job. So, if your rate is $50/hour and you think it's a 5 hour job, tell the customer $250.

Until you gain experience, it's hard to tell how long a job will take. Try some experiments. Go into your own yard and mark off a 20' X 20' area. Then practice raking that area even if there aren't leaves there (yes, your neighbors might think you're crazy). Rake the imaginary leaves onto your tarp and then haul it away...or bag them. Time yourself for each task. This will give you a rough idea how long it will take you to rake and gather 400 sqft. of leaves. Then, you can apply that time estimate to a larger area by multiples. Same way for cleaning beds, etc.

Here are just a few questions to think about that can dramatically influence the amount of work for each job: Do the leaves need to be hauled away? Hauling will ad tons of work to a job unless you have an enclosed leaf trailer with a vacuum mulcher. Is there a mulch pile on the property where you can dump them? Do they need to be bagged? Do shrub beds need to be cleaned? Beds can easily account for 1/2 of your time to do them properly.

Hmmm...let's see...what else..Oh, yes: Tools of the trade of a leaf job:
Two people. An extra person can more than half your time. One person with a backpack blower and the other person with a rake working in unison will greatly speed up your work.
A large tarp. Rake the leaves onto the tarp then drag the tarp to the mulch pile.
A slender shrub rake...great for raking beds inbetween bushes.
Gloves. rakes wear quick blisters in your hands.

There's something else I like about Tiedeman's response. He said don't be afraid to turn jobs down. That is excellent advice. When you're new in business, you want all the work you can get. But then you end up working for much less than you are worth if you take every job that comes your way. Bid right and if the customer won't pay walk away and bid on the next yard.

That's all I can think of right now off the top of my head.

You are asking good questions. Take a minute to visit this website: www.StartALawnCareBusiness.com (http://www.StartALawnCareBusiness.com) The package offered there is my material. I think you'll get a lot out of it. There's even a section dedicated to this very subject of leaf raking. Hey, it even includes a story of the time I accidently caught a pile of leaves on fire in a customer's yard. LOL.

Best of luck:

Keith

Clean Lawn
09-11-2007, 08:17 PM
Thanks Keith and tiedeman ya'll have been extremely helpful with this difficult area of lawn service and I appreciate all the help you have given.