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Founded in 2008. The Landscape Juice Network (LJN) is the largest and fastest growing professional landscaping and horticultural association in the United Kingdom.

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For the researching visitor there's a wealth of landscaping ideas, garden design ideas, lawn advice tips and advice about garden maintenance.

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  • Right, where to begin. I have been in business for 28 years and a gardener since 1985. These are a few things I have learnt over the years, sometimes the hard way.

    1. Never quote hourly rates to clients or work on an hourly rate basis. This might seem counter intuitive having been an employee. The hourly rate is something inside your own head and used to work out how much to charge per task.
    2. Always therefore quote for the job/task as a whole e.g. to mow the lawn will be £40, to cut the privet hedge will be £100, etc. Then as each job gets quicker and you become more efficient, you still get the same price for the task, even though it now takes you half as long than at first.
    3. Don’t under quote just to get work. Grass cutting should be as close to £1 per minute as you can manage. Hedge cutting should be £30 to £35 per hour or a bit more if you can manage it [again in your own head].
    4. Don’t buy cheap gear from Screwfix. Buy the good pro stuff.
    5. Go and talk to prospective clients face to face, e.g. Parish Council Clerks, members of PCC’s [parochial church councils], Country estates and local businesses. Look for neglected grass on trading estates and churchyards and then introduce yourself to the relevant people involved.
    6. Don’t continue to work for very difficult clients. Don’t put up with consistently late payments. Move on.
    7. Use ride on machines at every opportunity, even on small domestic lawns. They are much faster and you can work sitting down. You can take on much larger work where hand mowing would not feasible.
    8. Always work to a very high standard. A good reputation will keep the work you have and the new work flowing in.

    That’s plenty for now.

    • All good points from Vic.  However, I think we would all be divided re No. 3.  If you are a start-up, how do you know the 'going rate' for your area? There is plenty of advice on here re charge rates and they will vary enormously, depending on area, local competition etc.  I see nothing wrong in going in for 'one-offs' at a lowish rate if you are building a business and don't have a full order book. You will gain more by being out there, gaining experience, showing your work than not, surely it's better banking a hundred quid at the end of a day than nothing at all. Good luck Chris.

      • Chris is already a pro gardener, so he doesn't need to gain experience of the actual job.
        There is a thread on here from 2013 [six years ago] where the general consensus was that hedge cutting should be £35 per hour. Why aim low? Offer a premium service and charge slightly more. The hourly rates also don't include travel, loading back at base, trips for fuel, invoicing and banking. So these have to be covered also.
        I think that there must be gardeners out there who are seriously under selling themselves, some obviously will be the ‘cowboys’. This then wrongly educates the public that gardening is a cheap commodity, which hurts all of us.
        £1 per minute for grass cutting as an aim is not that hard to hit. Certainly 60 pence per minute would be an absolute benchmark minimum. That is £36 per hour. That’s not all that much when taking expenses into account. My John Deere use one gallon per hour, so that’s over £5.50 per hour to start with. The machine is a £6k outlay, my Stiga is a £7k machine. They won’t last forever and these costs also have to be covered. What about servicing, new belts, blades and oils.
        We could work in a shop for someone else and get £10 per hour. The hourly rate is not income, it is turnover and they are two very different things.

        • Sorry mate but we will have to differ on this.  Chris may be a pro gardener, but he is a start-up and may need to get a foot on the ladder and he certainly won't get there by starting high. I don't like it either, but turnover will bring profit.

          I have been through 3 recessions and have had to lower prices when necessary and have come through each time to build again - whereas many others remain stubborn and fail.  2019 is our 43rd year of trading.

          • You’re right Chris. We will have to differ.

            I gave a guide or an ideal to aim for as regards pricing, which you have taken issue with, but you don’t say what your figures are. I would be really interested in what your pricing advice would be. What would you actually recommend as a reasonable hourly rate for mowing? Give us a figure.

            I have been trading for 28 years [I don’t know how many recessions that covers] and have genuinely never had to lower my prices. I have never come across this idea before you mentioned it. In fact the opposite is true. In recent years I have been very keen to increase my prices yearly in line with inflation. If someone wants to do it cheaper they are welcome to it. If I am charging a fair and reasonable rate for a job, why would I then do it for less than that? I have never, never lost a job due to the client getting someone cheaper to do it. I did once lose a Council contract due to corrupt councillors giving the job to their friend who was far more expensive than me [I know this due to a freedom of information request].

            What we are also overlooking is our relationship with our clients and how good a service we provide. We usually get what we pay for, which is why most of us buy Stihl [or similar high end] gear rather than Screwfix own brand. So it is with our clients. They get a highly professional service that they can rely on. There is so much work out there to be had that it is possible to choose the right clients. The ones who appreciate what a professional brings to the table and are willing to pay for this. Some clients have been with me for 28 years. The ones only interested in saving a pound are best avoided in any case.

            My problem isn’t trying to hang on to customers and so having to lower prices to keep them. My problem is that I have too much work. I am working six or seven days a week at present.

            The original question was about starting out. When I started out I did under sell myself. I worked for some clients far too cheaply but this was never appreciated by them. In fact, because they were getting the work done cheaply, they undervalued both myself and the work, so the relationship never lasted. The client relationships that have lasted for many years are the ones that are on a proper commercial footing where the prices reflect this.

            Last year I won a three year contract where the previous contractor was charging £6k per year and I am charging nearly £8k. I was taken on because I was recommended as someone who would raise standards. I have.

             

  • PRO

    Make sure you have the means to provide yourself with a Winter income either from your own savings , resources or with guaranteed earnings . 

     

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, I will take this all on board, thanks again. 

    • All great points, the one that worries me most is the winter factor, this is the one stumbling block that has stopped me from going alone years ago, how do you guys manage? 

      • PRO

        Diversify/be flexible in what services you offer.

        Do not wait until later in the year, start talking to ALL customers now about work, ideas, wants, needs that can be pushed out/scheduled during late autumn / winter.

        Otherwise, you’ll likely get sucked into doing all sorts of tasks now to try to keep busy, rather that think logically when’s best for you/client. 

         

        • PRO

          Gary is spot on (  last sentence ) try not to get sucked into doing every job now , spread your workload .  Think Winter even when the sun is beaming down , spring /summer tend to take care of themselves . 

          There are plenty of  jobs that can be done in the garden during Winter but you have to suggest and sell the benefits to existing customers or diversify and add services that will be in demand that you can carry out confidently .  

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