How to estimate lawn mowing & leaf removal jobs?

thatcompostguyJanuary 11, 2008

I love collecting leaves in the fall to compost. I collected about 1000 bags this year and close to 1300 last year. I've mounted a vacuum head on a horse trailer to collect unbagged leaves that people rake into piles in places where they don't have to be bagged.

I've been thinking I could make money from this in my spare time if I collected the leaves for people instead of waiting on them to bag their leaves. Then I'd have clean leaves without so much trash in them. I'd probably focus on larger yards where I could use a mower and a vacuum/shredder/collector and make it worth my while to haul them back home.

So how would someone go about estimating a job? Size, time, arbitrary guesstimate? I know it has to be enough to cover my basic expenses if I used a mower, but not so much that it wouldn't be attractive to potential customers.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Find out how much plumbers and electricians make in your neighborhood. Figure something close to that as your hourly rate. Then you have to figure out how much time it will take to do the jobs. Pace off a few yards and see what the square footage is. Then mow the yards and see how long it take to mow them. Multiply the hours by the rate per hour and that will be your estimate.

After making a few estimates you should be able to do it from the curb without pacing them off.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2008 at 10:51PM
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I do agree with Mr. Hall basic idea, I am not sure you can compare to what electricians and plumbers charge because there are skilled labor trades. With that said you cannot even compare electricians to a plumber rate, as plumbers make quite a bit more than electricians in my experience.

However I do run, or at least majority own a landscaping biz my Son operates, and it is based on square footage vs. time formula. That rate or bid is subject to negotiation and local competition.

The problem I think you might run into is most people who pay to have there lawns maintained do so on a yearly basis rather than a one-time shot in the Fall.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 3:42PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

There are many ways to price services. In general, I think it's best to set a price equal to or below your competition. The exception to this is if you offer a clearly superior service. In this case, you can command a higher price.

If no competition exists, consider whether the service can be profitable. If it can be profitable (revenues cover your expenses plus a reasonable wage) and no competition exists, price your service as high as the market will bare.

Since you have been providing some of the service at no cost, one option is to ask your current customers what they are willing to pay for full service. You can explain that higher fuel cost (or whatever) is forcing you to consider changing your business model and as a result, you may no longer be able to offer free leaf removal.


    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 4:24PM
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Right now I just ride around and pick up what everybody has already bagged. No business or agreement. I'm just thinking about fall/winter for people with larger yards that wouldn't want to do so much bagging on their own and who obviously don't have a service. Save them some time and bags. Collect some leaves. Etc.

Plumber/electrician got $1 per sq ft here at my small house when I built 2 years ago. Electric was $1 per for rough-in and $1 per for finish.

That helps. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 9:52PM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

you really will jsut have to charge based on what each job entails. for example, one 9000 sq ft lot may yield 3 bags of leaves, while the one just down from it may yield 20. you cannot charge both houses the same. another house down the street may be 3 times the lot size, but only a small area has leaves. for example, i have 4 acres, but probably only 1500 sq ft even get any leave on them due to the types of trees i have. i would not pay more than 30.00 for someone to rake them up and haul them off(if i wanted them removed anyway). my parents have a house on a 12000 sq ft lot and they pay a guy $150.00 every year to haul off about 20-25 HUGE bags of leaves. if not, then the leaves are between 4 and 6 inches deep on their entire property.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 3:42PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

DUDE! Offer to fix your parent's leaf problem for $125. Then take your mower and mulch mow the leaves until they are invisible organic dust in the grass. Throwing away leaves is a tragedy.

When plumbers estimate new construction with a price per square foot, they know the cost of the pipe and how long it will take them to run the pipes. They get paid by the job and their earnings per hour comes out of that.

There is a website for lawn care professionals. They might be able to give you some more ideas. From what I remember the big lawn care companies do charge what plumbers and electricians charge on a per hour basis. If they bid a job at $50 per week, they will probably take 30 minutes to do it. Rates will vary from area to area. Of course competition makes a difference, too.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 8:40PM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

i would, but most of their leaves are in the back yard and there is no way to get anything i own other than a push mower back there. they have a 3 ft gate and i have a 48" deck! my little push mower is teh 120.00 Kmart special, i use it just to cut around the beds at home.

funny thing was my stepdad fired the lawn guy, said he was tired of paying someone to cut the grass for them. yet he STILL called the guy to come rake up and haul off his leaves. the lawn guy has a Christmas tree farm and he mulches everything up when he gets it home and uses it for farm. so he gets paid to take nutrients to his trees that he in turn gets to sell for a huge amount! he charged them 90.00 to cut the grass every 10 days, more often during the spring/fall growth spurts. the first month of cutting it themselves paid for a NICE mower.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 10:26AM
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