Build a Better Lawn Care Estimate Process
Follow these steps to put together an accurate lawn care estimate, and ensure an interested customer becomes an appointment on your calendar.
You’ve designed, printed, and strategically distributed a stack of lawn care flyers. You’ve put the time in to ensure you have more online reviews than your competition. Lo and behold, you have a few new potential customers looking to book your services.
You’ve won their attention, and now it’s time to win their business.
First things first, you need to send them a professional lawn care estimate, and once they confirm they like what they see there are a couple more steps to ensure you get their business booked in your calendar.
Building out an accurate lawn care estimate
Accuracy is important when it comes to putting together an estimate, otherwise you’re guestimating and your business’s bottom line won’t thank you. The factors you need to consider are:
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1. The size of the property and its condition
Talk to any lawn care business veteran and they’ll enforce the importance of getting the exact measurements of a lawn. As many lawn care jobs are recurring, it’s a little up front work that will ensure you’re profiting when you’re well into a contract.
There are two ways you can go about measuring a lawn.
You can use a rolling measure wheel to outline a property, or you can invest in an online property measuring system, such as Go iLawn (read green industry pro and CEO of Go iLawn’s parent company, Mike Rorie’s take on estimating).
You might find that your job volume is high enough that an online measuring system makes sense for your business, saving you the time of performing measurements in person. This solution also makes sense for businesses that serve multiple markets.
Take this time to also assess a lawn’s condition. Is there a lot of brush that you’ll need to clear before you can get to work? Will you have to factor in labour time for moving around lawn furniture or play sets? Is it a hilly area, which will take longer than a flat area of the same size?
If you see a lawn in person you can get a good idea of these details, and if you’re using an online measuring system be sure to ask a customer about these details.
2. Labor and materials
Once you’ve determined the exact size of a lawn you can determine approximately how much time it will take an employee to perform the work.
You’ll divide the square footage of the lawn by your equipment’s capabilities. Your mower, aerator, fertilizer spreader, etc. manufacturer should indicate productivity in terms of speed and width of the equipment. This will give you a rough idea of the amount of time it will take you or an employee to care for the lawn so that you can charge an amount that will cover employee wages and still leave you with a profit. Here is a helpful lawn mower productivity guide from Ferris Mowers to get you started.
Make sure you factor in extra time for tight spots and trimming and edging along fences, flowerbed, trees, and sidewalks where you might have to use a more precise piece of equipment. Also be sure to note any condition issues (brush, furniture, etc.) you identified that will require labour time.
Knowing the size of the lawn also allows you to determine how much material—fertilizer, weed killer, etc.—you’ll need to cover the area, and similar to equipment, most manufacturers provide use estimates, or you can look for general guidelines such as Lowe’s fertilizer calculator tool.
Online forums such as Lawnsite are also a great resource to ask other lawn care professionals about their estimating, equipment, and material tips and tricks.
As you round up manufacturer recommendations and track your own usage in the field, we recommend you create a central reference document to use for labour and material estimates. The more exact you can get with your labour and material costs, the better you’ll be at estimating.
3. Overhead costs
Considering every single cost involved in a job is the best way to ensure your company maintains a healthy profit. Leaving out small costs adds up over time.
Many of these details need to be considered as overhead. Overhead costs can include:
- ongoing equipment maintenance
- travel time
- fuel costs
- office/shop rent
Some of these considerations are job specific, but others are ongoing costs associated with running your business and if you don’t factor them into each job they’ll eat into what you’re considering your ‘profit.’
Determining the actual dollars and cents
So you know the three factors you need to consider to put together an accurate lawn care estimate—property size and condition, labor and materials, and overhead—but how much does your overhead actually cost? And how much do you charge in addition to these three factors to ensure a profit?
Profit is how much the business makes after you pay for labour and materials and overhead. Profit margins—the amount you mark up your hard costs—vary between regional areas and industries, so it’s best to check with industry trade associations for standards, and discuss your needs and business goals with your bookkeeper or accountant to determine a realistic profit margin for your business.
The costs of the job (once again, property size and condition, labour and materials, overhead) plus the profit, help you determine a price for your services, and it’s important that you take pains to be accurate.
“At times I have seen that small businesses will price from their gut based on a general ideal of wages, supplies and profit,” says Teresa Slack, certified professional bookkeeper with Financly.
Labour and materials are often straightforward to calculate, but it’s worth consulting your bookkeeper or accountant to get an accurate picture of your overhead and profit to determine pricing, especially if your business experiences seasonal surges as lawn care companies often do.
Check out How to Determine Pricing for Your Service Business to dive deeper into this topic and learn about the opportunity to charge more with a value-based pricing model.
Converting your estimate into a quote
Once a customer has accepted your estimate, the professional thing to do is send your customer a quote. Ideally you’ve collected your client’s contact information in a CRM, and emailing a quote is easy.
It should include the following components, with each of your estimate factors finding a place as line items.
1. Company name
Up the professionalism factor by also including your company logo on your quotes.
2. Contact information
For your customer to take action on the quote, they need to be able to contact you.
3. Include line items
List out each product and service you identified in your estimate with the associated price.
Keep your customer in the loop if a quote is only valid for a certain amount of time.
Here’s an example of a quote put together using Jobber.
Jobber’s quoting feature allows you to customize a quote template and send quotes while you’re on the go so that you can book clients for jobs faster.
Do your clients a favor and follow up
Once you send out a quote you have one more step: follow up on your quotes.
Getting leads that are interested in your services is the hard part. Once you’ve sent off a quote, following up is easy! Bonus: your busy clients will most likely appreciate your demonstration of customer service as their lawn continues to grow out of control.
Put together a process so you don’t forget to follow up on your quotes. The longer you wait to follow up with your client, the more cumbersome the process becomes. We recommend the following process:
1. If you send your customer a quote, make sure you’re collecting all their important contact information in a CRM so it’s easy for you to follow up with them.
2. Give yourself a reminder to follow up in 2-3 days. A simple email or quick phone call is all that is required.
3. We recommend following up 2 to 3 times with your client. Sometimes you won’t be able to get ahold of your client and they won’t get back to you—that’s okay. That’s the nature of business. But don’t delete the quote! Using quoting software like Jobber allows you to keep the quote on file. If the client does contact you at any time in the future, you have a full record of what you’ve quoted.
Get that job in your calendar
You’ve earned it! You put together a solid estimate that ensures your business sees a healthy profit, sent your client a professional quote, and followed up with them to truly win their business. Rinse, repeat, and keep on growing a healthy lawn care business.