Sense check on hedge cutting price

I put in a price recently for some hedge cutting but haven't heard back so I'm assuming I haven't got the work. If possible I'd appreciate a sense check on my pricing. I'll not say yet what I put in as I'd like to hear back first. This is my first full season and I've been struggling to get work in, but having read many discussions here I'm very wary of just dropping my prices in order to get work. I'm constantly trying to gauge local rates so I can be confident that I'm pitching in the right area.

I understand the need to keep an eye on my own internal costs etc. but I'm also aware that I might need to show some flexibility (within reason) to get some money coming in and to get myself on the radar. I know that there are regional differences in pricing (I'm in north east England) but hopefully I can still get an idea if I'm close to the mark in estimating costs and time to complete work.

The job is close to home and access to the property is easy with only a small part at the front of the house requiring working on the public pavement. Here is how it was specced to me.

At the front is a Beech hedge: 5m (L) x 2.5m (H) x 1m (D). That height is from ground level on the property side. On the street side the hedge starts at about 2m from ground as the street level is lower than the house and it has a slight gradient.
Trim both sides and top.

At the back, all on level ground, is:

Beech hedge: 20m x 2.5m x 1m but grown as standards so hedge starts about 1m from ground. Access to one side is on adjacent property with access agreed.
Trim both sides and top.

Leylandii hedge 10m x 3.5m x 1.5m.
Trim one side and top.

2 x Ligustrum 'cubes': 1.5m x 1.5m x 1.5m.
Trim all round.

Buxus hedges: 4 x open squares, each one: 1.5 (L) x 0.5(H) x 0.5 (D).
Trim all round.

All waste to be removed from site.

Access for vehicle, trailer etc. is no problem - only slight issue is the cutting on the street side at the front. I don't use a long reach cutter, but I have a reasonably long bar and a good platform ladder.

If anyone can give me an idea of how you would price it (separate for cutting and waste) and also the time to complete I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks for now.

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  • PRO

    How long is your piece of string ???? Mines is x, yours will y and everybody else will be every other letter of the alphabet.

    You need to make x, mines will be y and everybody else.......well, as above.

    Everybody prices different, works differently, faster, slower, cleans up quicker slower. Its an impossible question to answer Im afraid.

    But the basics apply to us all, and that is, what do I need to charge to make this job pay for my business.

    Asking this question will only make your situation worse because you will get a lot of variants on how to do it. You are the only one who can decide that. Also be prepared to win and lose work not just on price but how you sell your services, being the cheapest in town wont lead you to a healthy business. USP your business to the customer and worry about being the cheapest last. 

    • PRO

      Thanks Brian. I understand the string thing but thought I might be able to get some ball park figures to go by when measuring my own, as well as get some ideas about how long people think a job like that would take them. That would give me an idea if I'm fast, slow (more likely for the time being!), or average.

      I try to offer professionalism, attention to the customers' needs and a very good job done. Some of my tools set me apart - quiet, none polluting, battery powered. But many customers seem to be more interested in the price and quality of work more than anything. In fact price seems to be the outstanding factor up to now.

      I definitely don't want to be the cheapest, just the best or up there with the best. But for the time being I do need to get some money coming in to cover ongoing overheads. That's why I'm also considering a weekly maintenance job in a lovely big country garden to keep me going. It's a day a week, but it only offers about half what my day rate should be! If we can meet half way I think I'll take it for now until I can get more profitable days on the books.

      • PRO

        Ball park figures create even more uncertaintity in your pricing unfortunately. The mear mention of the term ballpark is enuff to be engulfed in every price under the sun. Ive been in this game running my business for nearly 15 years now and if ive learned anything at all, its this.... never ask other landscapers how much would you charge for this job ?. It muddies the waters for you to a degree that your head starts thumping. 

        Go through the job in your head breaking it down into tangeable parts and time scales and work from there to come to a price where you feel will win you the work. But remeber, people buy from people, work at connecting with the customer at the first point of contact and make them believe you and not price is the reason they want to engage you to do the work. Never get to a point where you are giving out signals that your not the best option for them and the work they want doing. Self employed people need to be great at whatever trade they are involved in to be succesfull, but they need to be great salesmen too. Create a USP for yourself and be confident in your pitch, most people go for the middle priced tradesman, rather than the cheapest if your sales pitch is refined and honest. Work that out and your diary will fill up nicely with the right kind of customers, the ones you actually want to work for. I undestand a new start ups wish to get the money coming in and thats very important but not if your bringing in £1000 per week and your costs to do the jobs are coming in at £1200 per week. Trust me I made they mistakes at the start too and its a very sore learner mistake and I always advise not going there. The old adage that some money is better than no money is so wrong in so many ways for the reason Ive just explained.

  • Hi Austin, in a similar position myself, ie first year. You say that you're struggling to get work in, is that due to lack of enquiries or are you quoting but not getting the work?
    If it's the latter then that would suggest that your prices are quite high but it might not be that your internal hourly/daily rates are high but maybe you're over estimating how long jobs may take? I know that I have made this mistake and also I've under estimated time scales which isn't ideal but at least I'll know better next time!
    The way I look at it is it's year 1 and all part of gaining knowledge and experience to improve as I go along. As for pricing your hedge trimming job-you're probably asking the wrong man..... ;-)
  • Does the customer want a quote or would they be happy for you to do it hourly?...if so i'd just do that and work out a price per load for waste removal..Keep it simple...

    Did you find out how much or little needs to be taken off the hedges as this will make a vast difference to the amount of work/clear up/removal needed. 

  • PRO

    I've spent several jobs working hourly in my first year (this week entering my second year of trading) and it doesnt hurt to spend time working out how fast you work, working out what you can charge in your area, find your pace etc. At the end of the day, make sure you're charging enough to cover your costs and you can improve your rates as you go on to get to a comfortable working wage.

  • PRO

    Thanks Michael - hourly isn't an option for them and I'd rather price the job anyway.

    It's not much coming off the hedges, mostly new spring growth.

  • PRO

    Some thing to consider when pricing hedges, usually larger hedges are better priced as a two man operation

    (Example) if it's a 2 man job for 1 day, i have found I win more quotes if I price it as such - that is my rate plus a labourer. If I price the jobs at my rate x 2 days I won't get the work as I will be more expensive than the local competition. 

  • PRO

    Thanks Paul. It's a bit of each I think - I'm not flooded with enquiries and haven't had a great hit rate on some of the bigger, potentially more profitable jobs.

    I see what you mean about estimating time to complete jobs - I'm fairly sure I've got my internal rates covered quite well, so it could be I'm overestimating on time and pushing up the price. Our hedge needs a good trim so I'll be timing myself to do a mint job on that sometime very soon :)

    Good luck with your business.

  • I'd add two things. Firstly, have confidence in your pricing and try not to fall in to losing money to get work. Sometimes a loss-leader is worthwhile if you know it leads to more work, but usually clients are not worth dealing with if price is their main priority: they'll be the ones to cause you more grief over payment, adding in extra work, you know the type! You know what you need to charge: if that's too much for the client then that's their loss.

    Secondly, I'm assuming you're a one-man business? If so, concentrate on what you do best, and carrying minimum tools. It's tempting to take on everything, but often you end up out of your comfort zone and under-estimating the work, or buying kit you hardly ever need.

    I can talk, I have a Henchman for one annual job! Point is I'd probably pass on your job above as it would take me too long, and I couldn't compete with a two or three man set-up with cheaper staff and probably a farm where they dump for free.

    The larger companies can't compete with me on smaller jobs, so it works out fine if you get to know your market and stick to it. I do know it's tough to turn down the chance to quote for everything when building a business up, and it's not easy even after 30 years to say "no" when you're self-employed. :-)

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