How I underbid a hedge removal job.

It doesn’t take the average start up lawn care business to figure out how much to charge to mow the average size lawn in their area. Once you start to branch out and begin to offer landscape services, properly estimating times and fees can become more difficult to do. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we hear from one business owner who took on a hedge removal job that took too long and he wasn’t prepared with the proper tools to do it.

One lawn care business owner wrote “over the past year, I have been seriously considering starting a lawn care business. I have been taking on jobs for neighbors and friends to get a good feel for the job and a good client referral list. This new job had me second guessing my pricing though and I want to share with you what I did to get your feedback.

Here is the job:

  • Removal of a 4 foot high shrub close to a gas main that I had to hand dig and use a hacksaw on roots.
  • Removal of a 6 foot high bush approx 4 feet wide.
  • Installation of 1 yard of mulch and 1 yard of soil.
  • Weeding and pruning of 5 fair size flowerbeds.
  • Mowing, trimming, and edging of lawn.
  • Yard cleanup.

Please keep in mind I did not have professional tools or help. I estimated it would be about $400 to complete.

The 4 foot shrub took about 2.5 hours to remove. The 7 foot bush took 3 hours to remove. Then 2 hours to cut it all up to be taken away by our brown bag pickup.

For the mulch the yard was delivered. In my area it costs $139.00 to have 1 cubic yard of dirt or mulch delivered. I was to just install the mulch after installing the yard of dirt. I did bust my ass with a wheelbarrow to do it and they both took about 2.5 hours to get it all to the beds, then an hour to even out 40 minutes cleanup. I know some guys can install a yard an hour but not me. I see no way I could have done it that fast. There were so many flowers, shrubs, and trees to get under.

  • Total pruning time was about 1 hour.
  • Weeding was about 2 hours.
  • Mow, trim, edge was about 1.5 hours. The rest was yard cleanup.

Being very new to pricing and the business my hourly rate has usually been $20 hour so as to give a good price, also because I have very little to no extra costs such as gas etc..

With only taking on jobs for neighbors and friends, also being new to all of this I have always just said pay me what you think is fair. Also before this one, the jobs have usually been straight forward ie. fall cleanup, retaining walls, gutters, and mostly one job at a time. This was my first job with multiple tasks, that use different skill sets. Also my neighbor (the customer) asked to hire me, right before she was going away. So I diagrammed out the job on paper and she approved. I did not consider until the second day, that if I charge my usual rate, this was going to cost a lot. I’m not making this mistake again.

I am positive she knows it was a lot of work, but I was still apprehensive when figuring out how much to charge. I decided to just break down all the jobs, show hours worked on each and just multiply that by $20 hour. I calculated 31.5 hours rounded down to $600. Then if she was not expecting that much, explain and reduce price if needed. I will not be doing it this way again.

With the right tools ie. chainsaw, or a digger, the tree and shrub I could have done in considerably less time. Also I could of had her get the gas lines marked, then there would have been no worry at all about cutting or bending a line. I cannot see anyway the mulch and dirt could have been quicker. Distance to backyard beds was roughly 135 feet, with a pool to navigate all around. There was also no way to just dump them into 4 of the 5 beds, as there were retaining walls and flowers all along the front. Using a blower was out of the question for the beds as dirt and old mulch would have ended up all over her lawn and pool cover.

Ultimately, the customer loved the job I did, and had no problem with the charge. I also got a case of beer. ”

A second lawn care business owner responded “it has taken you an awful long time to do that job. To long to be profitable. I would have bid that same job here in my state for around $450.00 and been done in a day. My advice to you is take on smaller jobs till you learn the ropes. Just charge your customer $100.00 per day and I think you will be fine. Also get a buddy to help you on jobs of that size and pay them fair… It’s funny how a helping hand makes you more money. TIME IS MONEY!!
Most of us learn as we go….Keep your head up.”

A third added “$400 is low. What I would charge is:

  • $85 per yard of mulch / topsoil if under 5 yards. If over 5, it drops to $75 a yard.
  • Cutting the shrubs/bushes would be at least $100 for both.
  • I would charge a disposal fee if I needed to take them off property to dispose of.
  • Mowing at 60 an hour.
  • Edging at 50 cents per linear ft.
  • Weeding at 25 an hour.
  • Pruning at 45 an hour.

This job would take 1 guy 2 days max unless the flowerbeds were bad. You should be able to spread a yard an hour. The bushes would take about 1-2 hours. We go down about 3 inches under the soil of the bushes and use chainsaws to cut the roots.”

A fourth shared “as a friend $600 is fair, as a business $1200 is. I’m going off your hours worked and not how long it would take me. I might have been able to do it in 15 hours, so $600 would work for that. At the same time I take your word for it. If you say it took that long, it was a hell of a job to undertake.”

Read more about Lawn Care Business Bidding Tips, Upsells, And Disasters To Avoid. Learn how to improve your bidding process with this book and be prepared before hand by knowing what you should be looking out for before a problem occurs.ā€¯

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success