The Cheap Lawn Care Clients
Honestly, this is what it comes down to, many people out there would feel just fine having you work for them for free. For anyone with some dignity, this wouldn't sit well with them, but there are many people who think they are special enough to get free labor. At least they think they are special enough to pay next to nothing to do basically hard labor.
I'm into the fourth year of having a lawn care business, so I have dealt with my share of cheap customers. At times I have underbid myself to the point where a slave would have quit. Mostly customers are going to try to get you to work for them for as cheap as they can muster, so you have to watch out for yourself and know what you are worth.
Comparing myself to other businesses and the quality of work that I do, I'm actually as affordable as anyone. Yet, for some customers, that think I'm the neighbor boy next door who has no bills to pay, they think I'm way too expensive. Anymore, I just don't care about what they think. I have a set system of pricing I use and I stick to it, if they can't afford it, then I'm glad I skirted a cheapskate.
Don't cut yourself short and work for near nothing, just tell them what you would be happy working for and let it stand.
Tips For Cheap Customers
You have to watch out for these old ladies, they will say "I'm on a fixed income." Don't fall for it, even if it's mostly true, I mean if they can't afford $40-$50/month for some quality lawn care then why are they calling you? Let them talk ol Johnny boy next door into doing it for $5/hour. She'll end up getting a poor job done, and he'll be happy to make $10. Johnny won't show up when he says he will either.
See, setting your price is knowing that you are a quality worker who does a detailed job. They don't consider how long it takes to do the detailed part of the job, but we do, and the details are what takes the effort and time. I could just say make a mess and simply leave it all over the driveway and yard, then leave. The customer would be furious, although that is what they are asking for when offering me about the equivalent of $5/hr.
Don't fall for the old person who tells you it only takes an half an hour. I have done a bid many times where the cheap client tells me this line and I know for sure they are lying. This actually makes me laugh when they say this and it's a dead giveaway on the phone before the bid, that they are cheap and the job isn't worth doing. Every customer who has told me how little time it takes to mow their lawns have been people that wouldn't pay a decent price. I'm talking about lawns that would take 2 hours, and they are saying it would take 20-30 minutes.
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What They Don't Undertand
The nature of the business is that you have to travel to the clients house, unload your equipment, do the job, and then load up the equipment and travel to the next house. This costs money to travel around, also takes money to run the equipment, and it takes maintenance to keep up your equipment. The totality of the effort does take time and resources.
It's not an easy job in the heat, dealing with traffic on the streets, dealing with the customer, dealing with people's cars and stuff around the yard. Being a person who shows up on time, is honest and friendly, respectful of their property, safe around cars and traffic, does a good consistent job, and charges a reasonable amount -- is more than enough to charge them $20/hr for the work.
What cheap clients don't understand is that you aren't just sitting back with some flip flops drinking ice tea on a Saturday afternoon doing a little yard work. No, you are driving across some city in the heat dealing with traffic and pulling some trailer and a load of equipment. Then you are unloading heavy items, doing a difficult job in the heat, and then going on to do another few jobs that day.
They don't understand how much it costs to keep up your business, they don't understand how hard the work is when doing a proper weed eating job and clean-up, and they don't understand that it takes time and gas to travel to their place.
Set Your Price, Stick With It!
As I get more experience I avoid the cheap clients and am very grateful to do so. In the past I have worked for people who showed signs of cheapness, and in the end it never worked out. Before the final fall-out the job became unbearable and it seems they would get cheaper as it went.
Stay away from the cheap clients is my advice, set your price $5 higher than you think is a good deal and stick with it. It's very strange how people will react when you ask for $10 more a month than they think it should be done for. I mean $10 is nothing these days, but old people still think $10-$20 is good money. I mean when they were young they could rent a house for $75/month.
I won't do a job for anything less than $15 a mow, and that is 45 minutes worth of work from when I pull up to when I'm driving away. I'm getting to the point as well where I'm charging at the least $15/hr for extra labor as well. I used to work for $12, but this is not enough when it comes down to it. There isn't enough time in the week to work for $12/hr. If one person is not willing to pay the amount you want, then move on and get the clients that will.
As you work this business for awhile, you will have more options when you have a decent sized loyal customer base. At first you may have to work for less, but raise the prices and move on when you get established, otherwise you could find yourself working full time in the hot sun and making min.wage when it comes down to it.
That's my advice, hope it helps.
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