Working for a realty agency and bidding on their lawn care jobs.

Here is a situation that not every new lawn care business owner will run into. However, the lesson learned in this story can be applied to everyone. The importance of communication and holding firm to your price of performing a job, is the cornerstone to running a successful company. As we will see from this discussion on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, you need to solve pricing problems sooner than later. If there is a miscommunication, it needs to be addressed before a small problem becomes a big one.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I have worked for a relator for a little under 5 years as kind of a handy-man/yard care guy. I currently earn $12 an hour working for him. This is a side job to my day job. I recently started a lawn care business and asked the relator if he could possibly help me with getting some jobs doing yard care and whatnot for properties that are for sale.

He talked to the property management side of the realty office he works for, they handle the renting of houses and apartments, and told them a rate that I did not establish with them. I have and was planning on submitting bids on the properties, not perform the work based on an hourly rate. Due to the nature of the work, it doesn’t take long to mow a yard and he quoted my work at $15 an hour.

Mowing lawns for a realtor.

Mowing lawns for a realtor.

Currently, that is what the realty office thinks I will work for. How do I go about setting it straight that I operate on per job basis rather than an hourly scale? When I met with the rental lady, she said, ‘You’re definitely the cheapest we have on the books!’ That made me groan.

I would like to work for this group, but it leaves me in a bind as someone else has obligated my work and time at a certain rate. So my question is, would it be better to work at the $15/hour for the first few jobs and if they are satisfied, talk about doing lawns on a per bid basis or should I flat out tell them that the relator doesn’t speak for my rates, and I would prefer to bid on each job they have to offer?”

A second lawn care business owner said “if it were me, I’d first speak to the fellow that you deal with and ask where he came up with that figure as you have lawn care equipment that costs money to operate whereas the handyman jobs did not require this equipment.

If you want to go per hour, state a minimum per lawn you do and a per hour charge, or suggest you can quote per lawn. There are far higher costs mowing multiple properties vs an odd job where you may be at the same location for a day or more.”

A third added “you need to speak with whoever is in charge and straighten it out before you do any work. It’s often next to impossible to raise your rates much at a time and not piss off the customer. Explain that the realtor didn’t know what your rates were and leave it at that. I would also like to add, that when I do handyman type work I typically charge $40.00 plus per hour, but I work hard, fast, and do a great job. Doing this work at $12.00 isn’t worth your time.

I have this one customer whom I have been mowing her lawn for 2 years now. She’s 2 miles from my house and her lawn takes me 20 minutes when it’s all said and done, which includes mowing, trimming, and blowing. When I bid the job, I was trying to be nice and since she’s only 2 miles from my house and 2 blocks away from a big account I have, I decided to charge her only $20.00 bucks, which is way cheap. I probably make $5.00 off the house which I don’t care because I have other big money making houses around her neighborhood.

So fast forwards a season and it’s the start of this year. Before I even started mowing, I told her I was going to raise her mowing price to $25.00 because of other costs and I explained to her what those were in a nice letter. Wow did she flip out!

In general with all the work I do that requires the use of our machines, whether it’s mowers or skid steers, I budget $15-$20 per working hour for their fuel and maintenance. Not to mention all the other cost of doing business, $15 would barely support my mower.

I try to ’stack up to the other guys’ not so much by price but by value of work performed and by exceeding their expectations. Often times it’s easy to find something that the previous guys overlooked or just disregarded. I have found paying attention to those few additional things can often get you the work at even a higher price. When the customer knows you’ll give their property the attention they feel it should be getting for the money they paid they will value your services more.

To me, this is far better business approach than being the cheap guy that finally realizes they bid too cheap and takes on the attitude that you get what you pay for and starts skipping on services they believe will go unnoticed.

It’s easy to find someone cheaper than the other guys and if price alone is the issue, you may just be replaced by some guy who is looking to replace his $15 per hour job. Go for being priced the same and competitively while offering a little something extra. We’ve been invited back to do work that was as much as 35% higher than the guy that won the initial bid.”

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