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  • IVPropertyMaintenance
    started a topic Customers Restricting My Income?

    Customers Restricting My Income?

    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!

  • Steve
    replied
    I learned to cushion these kind of jobs to help with that.
    For such jobs, what kind of % increase cushion do you recommend?

    Leave a comment:


  • Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
    replied
    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...

    Leave a comment:


  • Steve
    replied
    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?

    Leave a comment:


  • Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
    replied
    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

    Leave a comment:


  • Steve
    replied
    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?

    Leave a comment:


  • Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
    replied
    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 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 ! 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 !!
    Last edited by Caskey Lawns & Landscapes; 01-29-2014, 11:45 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • acrajchel
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • CDLAWNCARE
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Steve
    replied
    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?

    Leave a comment:


  • CDLAWNCARE
    replied
    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..

    Leave a comment:


  • masterblaster
    replied
    After reading this I found some great stories of it's ok to say "no" to a customer.

    Leave a comment:


  • sunsetlandscaping
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Hedgemaster
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • sunsetlandscaping
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:

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