Should you bid a lawn care job lower to get other work?

Have you ever been called to submit a lawn care bid on a property where the property owner promised more work later if the initial bid was low? This temptation can be used as an inducement to gain a lower bid. Once that bid is secured, the property owner can then put out for bid other work to get the lowest possible bid on that, using the same technique. As we will see in this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, you have to be careful with the way you estimate your jobs and you need to bid them to be profitable regardless of any future unseen promises.

One lawn care business owner said “is it ever a good idea to bid a lawn care job maybe a little lower than you would normally on the maintenance work in hopes you may later get a major job from the customer?

This is what happened to me. I got a call to do an estimate for lawn care at one of the local malls. It’s a very large property and I came up with a monthly number that seemed outrageous to me. But I don’t know what they think is outrageous. The property manager mentioned completely ripping up all the landscaping and replacing it because they want to compete for tenants with the mall across the road from them. I was thinking about discounting the monthly maintenance figure I came up with to guarantee I can get this contract and reap the benefits later on with the new landscaping.

I don’t plan to go too cheap on the price so I came up with a number and then I took 15% off of that. I was still shocked at the size of that number. I feel like I even went cheap on the numbers when I was doing the original calculations.

So anyway, I submit my bid and then come to find I won the contract and am needed to start cleanups on Monday! The property manager said my quote was $6,000 a year above another landscaping company around here that is a big big company. She said this other company was basically begging for the work, and it turned her off as their response rate was slow. She said she went with me because I showed up 1 hour after she called my office. Compared to the other companies that responded, most didn’t get back to her for a week.

I met with her, got my proposal in before these competitors even took a look at the property. She also said I presented myself in a professional way in appearance and knowledge on everything she asked. I think it pays off to look your best and be on time!

Monday came and we did the first time mow at the mall. It took 3 people, 10 hours to perform. All I have is my 48″ ztr mower but now I am looking at getting a 72″ model to help out a little. There was an extreme amount of line trimming we did which I felt was underestimated in my bid. We are going to try to minimize the time spent doing that in the future by spraying some herbicide around certain areas that are not in view of customers.

I estimated it would take us 10 hours to mow the property and I was dead on with that. I was thinking more mowing might be needed but it ended up being some push mowing that was more than expected. I mowed for 4 hours straight, while 2 guys push mowed and edged etc. When I was done mowing I jumped on the line trimmer and got to work with that. We started at 6 am, ended around 5 pm, and took an hour lunch break.

We spent about 3 hours spraying herbicide on all the beds and around all the trees with mulch. We have a small tree and hanging limb to take down and bush trimming to go along with the first time clean up. So the amount of time is taking a little longer than expected.

I feel like I did a bunch of things right to win this bid. I just hope I can make my figures work throughout the year.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I will try to price jobs as cheap as possible in order to gain a good account. If you are going to charge a cheap price, you need to make sure you can afford it. You need to be accurate with your estimate of time it will take you to do the job and then add 15% to that time to cover unexpected overage. Set yourself an hourly rate on what your company should make.

Make sure you charge enough for it to be profitable and then consider adding something free or discounted. Or you can charge a decent price on the estimate and then put on the estimate ‘10% for first time commercial account’ or something of that nature.

If you are pricing a job lower than you would normally, you better know what kind of landscaping work they are going to need. If you end up doing the landscaping, you had better charge a price that can make up for any lost revenues you are incurring from the maintenance work.”

A third landscaper added “I once had a customer tell me they called 7 companies before they called me. I was the only one to ever show up out of all. Sometimes I am shocked in people’s lack of effort getting jobs. Returning phone calls promptly and showing up fast can make a huge difference in determining if you win a bid or not.

But getting to the point of bid pricing. Here you are, you just landed a mall lawn care maintenance contract and probably is the biggest account you have ever had, so congratulations for that.

However, you have to realize, there is no point in bidding a job unless you are going to be making money on it. Why take on jobs you are merely guessing at how much time it will take you?

It sounds like you are already blowing past your estimated time with all these extra jobs you are performing. Time is money and this job becomes less and less of a money maker as you spend more time there. So my suggestion is, don’t guess.

It might be better for you to take on smaller jobs that you can do and bid accurately than larger jobs you can’t.”

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