Estimating and invoicing snow plow customers.

Do you have trouble coming up with a way to estimate and invoice your snow plow customers? If you do, you’re not alone. Plenty of new businesses get stuck on this but thankfully I got to talk with a snow plow business owner who shared some great advice on how to estimate and bill your snow plow customers. He also shared with us a FREE snow plow invoice card template he uses to bill his clients in his post on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

Estimating and invoicing snow plow customers

Estimating and invoicing snow plow customers

I asked him “what advice do you have when trying to come up with a way to charge for snow plowing? I think a lot of members get stuck on this.”

He repsonded “I tell ya I used your snow plow estimate calculator to find out my hardest bids then I would add about 10-15% to all of my accounts. For example I have a customer who has a 500 foot drive way, on top of a windy hill. I quoted them yesterday for per push rate of $55, and clean-up rate of $15. I got the job, and I also added a snow blowing rate in with the job. I do this because my winters are hard and I might need to use a skid steer and blower! So far I tend to find most of my 20 customers want per push rates, which is fine with me. I won’t have to pay them back at Spring time if I don’t get to go out 15 times. The other 5 customers wanted seasonal quotes so what I do and it seems to work for me is take 15 storms and my usual per push rate, and multiply that by 3. This way I don’t get screwed and if we don’t get the full 15 storms which is unlikely. I can refund them or discount their lawn accounts. In the event we get more than expected. The customer goes automatically to per push rate with a written notice!

ex. of written notice:

I.e. Just a reminder per your contract for snow removal. You were quoted 15 storm clean ups, we are now on 15. The date is 12-20-2009 and the winter is not over. You will now be billed per push rate as stated in you contract.

Thank you
John’s Landscape

When you get started I find that it is helpful to find someone in your state who has done this and ask them for their pricing. I used to work for a landscaper in my area and over time I figured out what his prices were, just by telling him on the radio that a non-customer asked to be plowed out and how much to charge. He would always reply that if the drive is bigger (wider) than two blades width, and longer than the truck, charge $25, if it was a tricky drive way to do (meaning long and narrow, or windy) add about $20 more. So that’s how I learned to charge. He would always no matter what, charge a minimum of $20-$25 bucks just to drop the snow plow!”

A lot of guys reading this are starting from the absolute beginning with this. Could you tell us what ‘per push’ means?

Also say it snows 1 ft throughout the day, how many times would you go back to a person’s house to plow it again? Is there any standard you work with to say every X amount of inches I will be back to plow again?

If you are at a house multiple times in a day, how do you bill them? Do you leave an invoice each time or do you bill at the end of the month?

He answered “well with my ‘per push’ rate I include one trip up and one back, So you make two passes in a drive that you have to back up in. I have one for instance say I make a pass to open the drive way underneath the mail box, and one behind the cars parked in it. That I count one push. Then if it stopped snowing an hour after I left and the town plows were still out. I would go back and clean the end of the driveway out again. If they moved the cars I would open the drive up more. I count it as a second time. Any snow that comes after 4pm say, the customer has to call me to go back out. If they do it’s a third time for me. I usually only go twice, depending on a storm.

With getting a foot of snow throughout the day, I start my mornings at 3 am, if it were to snow till 5pm with a foot total, I would plow once in the morning when I make my runs. Then at about 4pm go out to do it again. I wouldn’t go back a third time unless called. I would just wait till the next morning!

And the way I invoice for per push is, I have business cards made up with a date,time, and frequency area on them so I can leave them in a mail box to tell the customer how many times i was there.”

Here is an example of the cards you can download as a template in the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum Post.

Snow plow invoice card

Snow plow invoice card

“Some of my customers want to know when i was there and all that jazz so i came up with a Mini invoice i call them. I use business card stock from office max and make my own. The one on the right I use for the customers that get billed monthly. It’s just away to let them know how many times I plowed or mowed.”

How many customers do you feel a one man snow plow operation could service?

“I have so far this season 22 snow plowing customers. It’s good for a beginner, but I would like to be at about 40 or so. I generally get more once the snow flies! Then if I can’t handle them all I have a friend that I can give some to. He will work for an hourly rate at the site and usually does about 15 or so! I also do a lot for a guy I do side work for. He has a lot more driveways and when one of his trucks breaks down, he calls me when he needs help so its a win win situation.”

Your friend has a snow plow on his truck? It sounds like it is really important to network with others in your area that have snow plows so if you get swamped, you can call others for help.

What % do you suggest paying your friend when you need him to help you?

Also, would you have him place the invoice cards in the mailbox or would you handle that still so he wouldn’t know how much you are charging?

Do you have to pay him that day or will he wait till you get paid?

“It is a great idea to get in touch with “friends” I’m not saying competition. Friends who just so happen to have a plow or tractor and blower. I will pay my buddy any where from 15-20 % depending on the drive way. I will always handle the invoices at a later time in the day. Right now I have a agreement that he signed that states, he has to be ready 24/7 during a set date till set stop date. He will be paid at the end of the month, as most of the time so do I. I will sometimes be able to give him $40 or so bucks for gas for the day. But I like to keep a tight schedule so that we can move on. If for some reason he is late getting out and I get a call from customers, I will deduct from his monthly pay. Which so far I haven’t had to do.”

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