As anyone who has ever estimated a lawn care job knows, creating an estimate is not as easy as it may initially appear. It is part art form and part science that takes time and practice to get a handle on. If you feel your estimation process is not giving you profitable numbers, you are not alone. This discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum really sheds light on a tricky but important part of the lawn care business.
One lawn care business owner asked “I am trying to improve my lawn care estimating and was wondering if there was a base per square foot charge I should be going by. There are times when potential lawn care customers want a quote right on the spot and I find it difficult to just blurt out a number. Most of my lawn care estimates are either under and over bid and it frustrates me. I feel like I must be doing something wrong. I think the big reason is I can’t figure out how long a mowing will take.”
A second lawn care business owner responded “When I first got started, I hired a guy that had been in the business for years to show me the ropes. He told me to charge $1 per minute. That figure has always stuck in my head, although that figure does not always work. I have since learned that you always need a minimum set price just to show up, regardless of the size of the property. Then from there, you add on to the minimum price, depending on the estimated amount of time you feel the job will take. The only time I may lower my minimum fee is if I get two lawns next to each other.
The key to success in estimating lawn mowing is to first figure out how much you need to make per hour to pay yourself and cover your overhead expenses. Keep in mind you also need to make the company money to cover the costs of things like repairs and new equipment. Your lawn mowing price should be based on the time it will take you to perform the job and the equipment you will need to perform it.
To mow a 2 acre open field may take the same amount of time as a .75 acre home site with a bunch of trees to string trim around and side walk to edge. Corner lots with sidewalk on two sides cost even more. If the property has flower beds, they will also need to be edged and that will take longer and cost more. As the old saying goes, time is money. The more efficiently you can work the more money you can make.
If you have a few lawn care customers already, you should measure and keep track of your average lawn size. Then keep track of how long it takes you to mow that sized lawn.
When you get a new lawn care customer, measure the size of the new lawn and set up a ratio between the new lawn and your standard lawn. That should give you a good estimate of time.
For example, if you know it takes you 20 minutes to mow a 2,000 sqft lawn and a new lawn is 3,000 sqft in size, you can make this ration to find the amount of time for the new lawn.
(20 min / 2,000 sqft) = (X min / 3,000 sqft) or
X¬† = (20 / 2,000) * 3,000
X = 30 min
Now multiply that 30 min by your hourly rate and you will know how much to charge. Remember this system is still pretty basic but at the very least it will help you get your bids more standardized. After you get this process down, you can then work more on figuring out how much to charge based on the sqft size of the property.
To find a ballpark range of what the going hourly rate for lawn care is in your area, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk with some local established lawn care guys. They should be more than happy to help you get your bid prices to where they need to be. No one likes seeing others underbid jobs because it lowers the local average price consumers are willing to pay for mowing in their area.