When you’re running a landscaping company it can sometimes be hard to find the time to manage operations as well as provide a fair estimate for client jobs. You can often be caught burning the midnight oil trying to draft custom estimates for your clients and feeling overwhelmed. Make the entire process easier and quicker by working smarter not harder, and following these tips for providing accurate estimates.
Whether it’s spending a few moments gauging exactly what the client wants or utilizing the help of specialized estimate software, these tips will help make the estimate process go smoother and your employees, clients, and your sleep schedule will thank you for it.
Make Sure You Know Exactly What Your Client Wants
It’s easy to walk into a meeting with a potential client and assume that this job is going to be exactly like all the other ones and provide a quick estimate based on a standard model. While this is a simple and easy way to do this, you might end up under-charging a client because you assumed that their needs were the same as other projects you’ve worked on.
A good rule of thumb is to walk into the client meeting with the mindset that this job is going to be a custom one – because it probably is. Listen to what kinds of hardscaping they want, judge the soil quality you’re working with, understand whether or not you’re going to have to clear trees or bushes before getting started, ask them what kinds of features they want, estimate material costs, and think about how the location of the project affects the transportation of all that. Once you’ve listened to everything that the client wants and taken into consideration how those aspects can impact on the cost of the job, then you can start to provide an accurate estimate.
Understand Whether This Job Requires City Permits Or Not
In lots of areas getting a permit from the city or country isn’t necessarily required to do a landscaping job, especially if it’s a small one. However, you should always check into local zoning by-laws and regulations to see whether the modifications you’re making to a property will infringe on those or not. The worst-case scenario is that if you don’t, then you or your client is stuck paying a fine and the project has to be canceled or reworked and everyone’s time and money is wasted.
The estimate will be affected by whatever permits you have to purchase or laws you have to work around. So it’s more financially beneficial to you to go around and check municipal websites and ask local contractors and landscapers about any permits that may be required before agreeing to a job.
It’s Not Just Materials – You Have To Tally Up Employee Costs Too
After figuring out what you need for the job and how much you need, it’s easy to forget that you need to factor in employee and overhead costs before providing an estimate. Otherwise you’ll end up charging your clients a price that looks good on paper, but in reality, you’ll be taking a loss.
First, you have to multiply the number of employees needed to complete the job and what their hourly wages are to calculate how much this job is going to cost you. Bear in mind that not every job will get done in the expected amount of time that you’ve allocated. Sometimes weather conditions unexpectedly cause delays, maybe there are permits that need to be worked out, and maybe the client needs to go out of town and doesn’t want your team working while they’re not there. If these are things that can potentially impact the number of hours your employees spend on a job, consider offering them a flat fee for the day or the job, so that way they won’t go into overtime. Take that number and work it into your estimate so you don’t end up short-changing yourself.
Consider Using An Estimate Software
If all of this is sounding like a headache to you that’s going to take up way too much of your time, consider going digital with your estimate process. This is also a great alternative for anyone who hates dealing with Excel or Microsoft Word spreadsheets and formatting and would rather pass the buck off to a software program that can do the filling out for them.
Software like those available through Arborgold is a clear alternative to creating accurate bids and estimates for your business that won’t eat away at your time and patience. Not only is this software seamlessly integrated into your estimate drafting process, but it also helps balance the needs of new and reoccurring clients. The last thing you want to do is lose a reoccurring client because you were too busy looking after new ones, so enlisting the help of simple estimation and bidding software is a genius way to see to both.
Ask Yourself If You Require A Subcontractor
Thanks to the Beatles we all know that we can get by with a little help from our friends, and the same thing goes with landscaping jobs! When talking over with your client what features and materials they want, be sure to ask yourself if this is a job that you need to outsource to a specialized subcontractor. Maybe your client wants a fountain and nobody on your team has the proper license or experience putting in a one, so hiring a subcontractor is a necessary step to take.
Make sure you come to an agreement with the subcontractor on how much they’re charging for the job before you finalize your estimate with your client. The last thing you want is to hire a specialist but forget to calculate their rates in your estimate and have to pay them out of pocket for your mistake.
These are just a few simple ways to start figuring out how to provide an accurate and fair estimate for a landscaping job. Taking them and other moving parts into consideration will ensure that nobody’s getting a bad deal and the client will get the exact product they asked for.