How to bid plant install work.

Trying to offer a lot of different services in your early years of being an entrepreneur can be rough. Sure it’s great to be open to make as much money as you can, but the down side is you won’t know how to bid all the jobs that come your way. This is the case for a member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum who wrote asking about the best way to go about bidding on a larger landscape plant install job.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I got an plant install job coming up, (1 - 3 gal). I don’t have exact number of plants, but I do know it will be no less than 50. So with all that in mind, what is the easiest way to bid install work. By the hour or plant, or some other way? The customer will purchase all plants and will specify where they go, all I have to do is dig and plant.

I am a ‘Do It All’ lawn care guy, mainly because I need to make a living doing what I do and I will ‘Do It All’ if I have to. The down side to this as you see is a lot of times I find myself bidding on jobs I am not quite sure how to bid. To make ends meet, I also am working on the side for another landscaper who has asked me for an extra set of hands.

I would prefer to mow and go, but so far that’s not how I have been able to build my business and pay my bills. Something else that bugs the hell out if me is. These so called ‘professional’ crews running around in their 1 ton trucks and enclosed trailers looking down on me in my Ford Ranger and 10′ open trailer. I pay my taxes and I sure do pay my insurance agent and the county tax collector so I am able to make a living without being considered a ‘LOWBALLER’. Trust me my prices are not low! ( I have OVERHEAD $$$)

I lost my job last year in March with a large corporation and now I am and will make it on my own by doing what ‘I DO’ and enjoy. Every time I do a job that I have not done in the past I learn something and I hope that one day I can be that ‘Professional’ that people expect me to be. I don’t claim to be a landscaper, I do lawn care and what ever else I need to do to pay my bill.”

A second lawn care business owner said “keep is simple. I usually bid by the plant. I at least double my cost for the plant plus install. Then labor for any extra work that needs done.”

A third added “for me, the bid price would depend on the plant, common retail price, and your price. If a bougainvillea goes for $20 at the local big box store and I can get it for $5, I charge $20-25 installed. But the same size 3 gallon only a viburnum I would do for $11 installed. They have different retail prices. I like to make $2.50 per 1 gal, $5.00 per 3 gal, and $15.00 per 7 gal. On any plant that I can pad the price due to retail being higher than wholesale I do so. But then the grading, mulch, all that stuff is on top of that price. If I pay $100 for a tree, I need at least $200 for that plant. If I can get it cheaper, I still need at least $200.

I offer a 1 year warranty on all my plant installs but do not cover acts of God. I also don’t cover lack of water. Very rarely do plants die except for lack of water or too much. If I wasn’t hired to install a sprinkler then that’s on the customer. I’m not replacing a plant because you didn’t take care of them. Most clients are very understanding that they messed up. I tell all my clients to call me as soon as they see a problem. Then we figure out the problem. From time to time you have a plant that just has a problem and I have no problem replacing them as long as we have checked the site for other issues.

Being that once you start digging, you never know what is underground, any rocks we find or extra digging that is needed goes in under general labor with us. We charge per plant plus extra for labor like digging through rocks. I have many times just told the client I will charge by the hour because it is just to hard to give a good time estimate when you don’t know what you are digging into.”

A fourth shared “I charge by the plant yet it’s based on time when planting. I suggest you figure out how long you think it would take you to plant a 1 gal, 2 gal, 3 gal, etc. Then you can just multiply by the number of plants plus add 10% for unexpected things.

As an example: if it takes you 2 minutes to plant a 1 gallon sized plant and your hourly is $60 per hour, then charge the client $2 per 1 gal, $3 for 2 gal, and perhaps $4-5 for 3 gal. Of course you need to take into consideration where you will be planting. Is there mulch you have to work with or perhaps river rock and landscaping fabric to cut underneath it?

If you can’t figure this out and don’t know the number of plants, just let the client know your hourly rate and charge it that way. Customers sometimes get scared when they see a rate that’s twice as much as they make per hour, but let them know they can stop you at any time if they feel unsatisfied with your work.”

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The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
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