Lessons learned from an underbid large shrub trimming job.

When trying to learn how to properly estimate hedge trimming jobs, it is quite useful to review what others have done. How they bid on different hedge trimming jobs. What they charged and how much time the job took. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum we hear some great insight on lessons learned after working on a large overgrown hedge trimming job. These lessons should help you improve your estimating in the future.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I got a call to perform a shrub rescue trimming job today.
The whole front hillside of the house looked like one, solid mass of, something. Weeds, flowers, trees, shrubs, all overgrown, and in need of some help.

I started out by looking at everything and realizing I hadn’t peeked inside these shrubs when I gave the quote. Son of a gun! Some of the stuff he wanted cut down by half had trunks and branches nearly as thick as my arm! Guess where my chain saw was? Back home I went. Lesson learned.

I underbid a shrub trimming job.When I finally got started, I realized that there were two small shrubs out front, so I started by giving them a bit of shaping as well as the face of the massive wall of shrub that lined the hillside. I figured I’d work in before cutting the height off.

I was using an articulating hedge trimmer attachment. I don’t know if it was a good idea, but I cut some thick stuff with that thing today. If you’re going to buy the hedge trimmer attachment, don’t waste your time/money with the one that doesn’t articulate. Being able to adjust the angle for different cuts is WELL worth the extra money this unit costs.

There were essentially 5 sections to this job. Two round shrubs near the road, a big juniper, a long row along the hill, and a big holly bush back near the house.

It was hot, and the terrain, while not horrible, was uneven, and difficult to work on due to the close proximity of the overgrown pine trees behind all the shrubs.

I underbid a shrub trimming job.
I thought it would take 3 hours. I quoted $85 and I ended up doing more than I had anticipated. About 3/4 of the way into it, the owner came out to see how it was going. ‘I’m going to give you a little more than the price you quoted me,’ he said. I explained that while not necessary, I appreciate the offer, as the job was more involved than it appeared when I stopped by for the estimate.

We chatted for a bit and I continued on with the task at hand. Before the final cleanup, I asked if everything was to his liking. He seemed pleased with everything and was happy to see things getting back to the way they should be.

I loaded up all the debris in the trailer and rather than leaving the grass and weeds standing around the freshly cut shrubs, I got out the string trimmer and cleaned up along the roadway. I just couldn’t see leaving a mess around freshly cut shrubs - even if that wasn’t what I was being paid to do.

Ultimately, I was given $125 for the job. A $40 tip isn’t too shabby. I was shocked when I saw the check. He said that he ‘wanted to make sure I was willing to come back’ to do some other work in the fall and spring. He saw the extra effort I put into the job and apparently appreciated it.

I think I’m going to send him a thank you card. It sucks to work hard on a job that you KNOW you’ve shorted yourself on and it’s really nice when a client recognizes a good job and throws in a little extra.

Learn from my mistakes! I underbid this hedge trimming job because of a lack of experience. I have a pretty good handle on how to charge for normal, straight hedges, but this was simply an overgrown mess that didn’t lend itself to a price per foot estimate.

If I had to do it again, I think I would have quoted $125-$135. I think that in the future any oddball, non-typical hedge job is going to start at $100 and go from there. I mean, really, what does a hundred dollars get you these days? If it’s a tricky job that the homeowner isn’t willing to do themselves, I doubt they will complain about paying $100 to get it done.

For this job, there were several things I did not factor in:

  • The hill.
  • The huge pine trees that were in my way.
  • The amount of debris that needed to be removed.
  • The thickness of some of the branches necessitating the use of a chain saw.
  • Dump fee and time/gas to take debris to dump

I estimated the job would take 3-4 hours, but really thought I could do it in 3 hours. It actually took 4 to 4.5 hours - I’m not certain, as I forgot to note my loaded up time in my book.

I’m betting that the customer had other quotes that were at least $125 or more and decided to give me something more in line with what he was expecting to pay.”

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