Running a garden maintenance and hard landscaping business, I’m forever pricing up jobs which is surprisingly very easy to do considering I made so many costly mistakes when starting my new business.
The very first thing that you will need to figure out is how much money you will need / are happy to earn per day and dividing that by 8 hours (typical day) to work out your hourly rate. If for example, you are hoping to achieve £120.00 per day providing gardening services then your hourly rate will be £15.00.
There are essentially 2 types of pricing up which include providing an hourly rate (estimate) or providing a customer with a fixed quote. This is where I made so many costly mistakes when first starting my gardening business many years ago!
When I first started my gardening business, I was hungry for new customers and thought that I could look at a job and just know how long it would take. My theory was, why would I provide someone with an hourly rate, effectively saying to a customer “Yes I can cut all of the hedges back, my hourly rate is £15.00 but how long is a piece of string?” For all the customer knew, it could have taken an hour or 5 days, and would have no idea what it will cost them. Being young and naive, I gave fixed quotes to everyone, meaning that my price ups went like this “Yes I can cut all of your hedges back, I can do it all in a day. It will cost you £120.00”.
The reality was that lots of my price ups were wrong. I was booking lots of work in for all days of the week, but when a 1 day job was taking 2 days, two bad things would happen! Firstly I would lose a hole days wage, and secondly I would have no choice but to let the customer down who I had booked in for the second day, since I hadn’t yet finished the first gardening job. Let’s just say that my gardening business didn’t have the best start to life, but these lessons have allowed me to grow it into the company that it is today, and allows me to share my mistakes with you.
My point is, if your just starting your gardening business then I would recommend to work on an hourly rate when giving quotes, and giving an estimate on how long you think it will take. For example, you could price up a gardening job by saying “Yes customer, I can cut all of your hedges back. My hourly rate is £15.00 and I’ll try my best to get it done in a day. Please be aware however, that on some occasions it could run into the second day”. Trust me when I say that this is how most gardeners run their business and the customer will more than understand.
If you are only offering garden maintenance with weekly, monthly or fortnightly visits, then try hard to to ask your customer “How many hours would you like to book?”. This way there is no exact amount of work expected to be done, instead your customer can increase or decrease the hours depending on how their garden is looking.
What else do I need to include when giving quotes for my gardening business?
Just as important as an hourly rate, you need to give a price for removing garden waste, if this is a service that you offer. If you are running a garden maintenance business only and in the UK, meaning that you will be removing only green waste then you will need a lower tier waste carrier license, which is free to obtain in the UK. You can complete a quick application here. If you are offering waste removal for hard landscaping which means that you will be removing rubble, hardcore etc., then you will need an ‘upper tier’ license costing £154.00 when you register (at the time of this post), which will need renewing every 3 years at a cost of £105.00.
For my gardening business, I only offer waste removal for green waste as the hardcore has always been unreliable when giving a price. I do however recommend other companies that can give them a price for when I’m finished. As a business, you will need to take your waste to a private facility which will charge you either by the van load, or by the weight of the waste in your van. Baring in mind that you will need to spend money on fuel and take time out of your day to dispose of the waste, you will want to profit from this in addition to your hourly rate.
If I am doing a small to medium grass cut and I need to remove the grass clippings then I will charge a small £5.00 fee for this. On larger jobs, I will charge £25.00 per bundle/ton bag which will profit me £5.00 – £10.00 per bag.
The last thing to remember when pricing up and giving quotes, more specifically for garden maintenance is the time travelling between jobs if for example, you have more than one customer in a single day. I will often find myself cutting up to 8 customer’s grass in the long summer days. Lets say that you have 5 jobs to complete in a day, with each job taking 1 hour to complete and a travelling time of 30 minutes between each job, this means that you would have worked a total of 7.5 hours but you would have only charged an hourly fee for 5 of those hours and spent fuel in between.
If charging £15.00 per hour, you would have only made £75.00 over the 7.5 hours, instead of the £120.00 you were hoping for. For this reason, I explain to customers when providing a quote that the first hour is ‘time and a half’ for garden maintenance jobs to cover fuel and travel. This means that the first hour would be £22.50, followed by an hourly rate of £15.00. If we go by these numbers, you would have earned an extra £7.50 per 30 minute drive, bringing an additional £37.50, or £112.50 including your hourly rate for the day.
In reality, once you have built your customers and have a large garden maintenance portfolio, with a bit of managing your rounds you should only be travelling 10 minutes between jobs.
To give you an idea on how exactly I price up my gardening jobs, running my garden maintenance and hard landscaping business in Hertfordshire, just outside North London, I provide my customers with an hourly rate of £20.00. If they are small jobs (1 – 4 hours) then I explain that the first hour is £30.00 (time and a half). If however the job is going to take all day then I reduce the day rate from £160.00 (£20.00 over 8 hours) to £140.00. I charge £5.00 to remove the grass trimmings from a small to medium sized garden and £25.00 per large ton/bundle bag that I take away. I never give a fixed quote on the ton bags, but explain how many I estimate it to be. I let the customer know that if it is a lot more bags than expected then they can leave the extra ones in their garden, and call me to come and collect them when they have the cash flow for it. I also explain to the customer that they are welcome to take the bags to their local dump, as it is free for them to do so if taking it in their car. Most customers however have me take the waste away.
I really hope that the above information helps you when it comes to pricing up jobs for your gardening business, I wouldn’t want you making the same mistakes that I did. I will be posting more quoting posts in the near future, more specifically for hard landscaping so please follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to get updates as and when I post. As always, if you have any questions then just pop a comment in the box below and I will try to respond as quickly as possible!