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My First 3 Months

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plucka
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My First 3 Months
#1

Hi all, today marks 3 months since I did my very first job so I thought I would share my experience as a guide to anyone else starting out.

 

The first two months I was still working another job full-time so doing mowing jobs before and after work and so only been full time in the business for a month or so.

 

At this point I've managed to gain 35 regular clients and do a total of 145 jobs, most on fortnightly schedule however with summer over and the lack of rain in Brisbane I'm starting to see clients postpone jobs lately :( .  My business plan goal is to have about 60-70 regulars, so I'm fairly happy that I'm already half of that.  With summer over client growth will slow but I hope to reach my goal by the end of the year, ie after 1 year in business.

 

Location: I'm lucky enough to live in an inner Brisbane suburb which is fairly affluent area with larger yards and an older demographic.  There are approx 10,000 properties within a 5km radius so for efficiency I limit myself to this small area.  I see LOTS of competition but what I am finding is people appreciate that I am local rather than have someone driving miles to reach them.

 

Pricing:  Best way I worked this out was to get 3 quotes (not beer bobs) for my own yard to understand the local going rates.  All 3 quotes were the same so I got a clear idea that in my area $70/hr is rate I can charge and I've had no trouble getting this.  I get about 80-90% of jobs I quote based on this.  I stick to this rate for all work, apart from hedging which I increase to around $90-$100/hr.   

 

What I have learned is DO NOT undersell yourself to try and compete with beer money bobs.  You will never earn enough and burn yourself out trying to earn a living.  Most clients are willing to pay a good rate IF you provide a quality job and most importantly are reliable and they know you will be around for the long term.    If a don't win a quote or someone says I'm too expensive I don't care at all as I would rather gain long term well paying customers any day over slogging it out over cheapies- I happily leave such jobs to the beer bobs which I know will not be around in 6 months time.

 

Marketing:  

- Flyers, have delivered about 5000 flyers to the immediate area, slow going at about 5 hours per 1000 delivered (bicycle) but they have been effective.  At least half of all my calls are from the flyers.  Design a quality glossy flyer on thick card stock over a cheap looking/home printed job.  I used vista print and at about 4c a flyer is cheap.  I also used them for some banners to put on my trailer.

-Gumtree: Probably only had 10 calls so far from the ad but is free so worth it.

-Local Paper: Started a 2 line ad in the local rag, only had a couple of calls so far from it but at only $70 or so for 4 weeks it's already paid for itself, probably only worthwhile doing in spring/summer.

-Webpage:  Pretty much essential for any business to have a web presence so the webpage and google searches is where I get the 2nd most calls from and long term will probably be number 1.

-Yellow Pages online: Free and got a few calls so worth it.

-Facebook:  Havn't put much effort into it and no success from it.

 

Equipment:  When starting I didn't rush out and buy every tool under the sun.  I find I really only need 4 things:   mower, line trimmer, blower, hedge trimmer  Obviously as well as the basics like rakes, ladder, fuel can, shears etc.

 

Mower: Starting off using my old reliable Masport but recently bought a HRX217.  I wish I had bought this from day one.  The self propel really saves me on those big jobs/days, mulching is superb and the increased size has cut my mowing time by at least 25% over my old mower.  Only problem with it's size and weight it's quicker to use my old mower for small/tight yards with a lot of manuervering.

 

Line Trimmer:  I'm big fan of battery gear and I got an Ego straight shaft at the Masters closing down sale with 3 batteries.  It's been faultless and as cuts through anything I've thrown at it.  Light, quiet, zero maintenance, reliable and no fumes- I would never go back to petrol powered. I can do 3-4 typical lawns on one battery charge so with 3 batteries it has covered 99% of my needs.  Only got caught out once slashing a entire empty block, needed 6 charges.

 

Blower: Already had a Ryobi 36v battery blower, it does the job but will probably go with Ego 56v when it needs replacing

 

Hedge Trimmer:  Existing ryobi 18v pole trimmer.  Cheap but has been surprisingly effective, battery lasts a decent time and trims hedges fine.  When I go to replace will look at something better though with a longer cutting head as I do quite a lot of hedging in my area.

 

Chainsaw:  Ego 56v, again half price from Masters sale, as good as any petrol saw I've had.

 

Clothing:  I wanted to avoid the fluro shirt look so wear king gee workcool shirts and shorts, all cotton and breath well.  Just got some Merrel Moab waterproof hiking shoes, very happy with them.

 

Vehicle:  This was tough one for me as I tossed up between ute, ute and trailer, van, existing sedan and trailer.  I went with the last option and don't really regret it so far.  I bought a 2nd hand 6x4 trailer that used to be one of those mobile dog washing trailers-high enclosed sides and roof that opens up.  It can carry all my gear plus a few large chaff bags of clippings, which for 90% of my work is fine.  With no gear it can carry a decent amount of garden waste although I don't do many garden cleanup jobs.   I like the idea of my gear secured and out of the weather so I think I will end up getting a van like a hyundai iLoad that will do for 90% of my jobs and for the other 10% cleanups bring the trailer as required.

 

Accounting: I use Wave, online free software, it does what I need and is free whats not to like.

 

Lastly my best tip for those starting out:  Read this forum, read every post.  You will learn an incredible amount from it.

 

 

 

 

 


Posted 06 March 2017 - 09:20 AM

ROBBO
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My First 3 Months
#2

Thanks for a great post with some very helpful info 


Posted 06 March 2017 - 02:10 PM

Lucky
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My First 3 Months
#3

35 regs in 3 months!..Nice job Plucka

 

Good wright up to!


Posted 06 March 2017 - 03:29 PM

Terga
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My First 3 Months
#4

Yeh good one, thanks for sharing 8))
Posted 07 April 2017 - 10:14 PM

drewebb
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My First 3 Months
#5

Blimey it,d take me 3 months just to write that much  :)  Good write up.


Posted 08 April 2017 - 04:32 PM

Grae
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My First 3 Months
#6

Fantastic post Plucka. I am sure everyone appreciates the effort.

 

Slow season approaching… get a book and make notes about things that could do with attention in each of your garden proud clients yards. You should be able to do some tidying, dead growth removal, lawn depression filling, rose pruning over June~August, mulching, fix the things that annoyed you each visit etc. you will be surprised at how much work they would like done while you have your slow season. Talk to them. Gate latches, gates that hit the ground instead of fully open… the list is endless.

I'll bet half your slow season will vanish and they will love you.


Posted 08 April 2017 - 05:11 PM

crocster
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My First 3 Months
#7

Great post thankyou Plucka - I'm interested in a website - have an IT background but fairly out of date now - do you mind giving us a bit of background? - who hosts it? did you set it up yourself or pay someone? - I've had a little to do with Wordpress - enough to be dangerous anyway.

Cheers


Posted 08 April 2017 - 05:43 PM

wombat
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My First 3 Months
#8

I get 3, 4, 5 calls a week from people telling me I need a website.

My usual response it to tell them to go and have a good nights sleep.

Got a feeling in this day and age maybe I should have a website.

Been mowing for over 23 years and not to keen on a lot of change.

Comments please.


Posted 10 April 2017 - 11:31 PM

plucka
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My First 3 Months
#9

Great post thankyou Plucka - I'm interested in a website - have an IT background but fairly out of date now - do you mind giving us a bit of background? - who hosts it? did you set it up yourself or pay someone? - I've had a little to do with Wordpress - enough to be dangerous anyway.

Cheers

Hi Crocster.

For my website I use wix.com  It costs about $100 a year including domain name.  There are some cheaper ones about but wix was really impressive with the ease and power of creating a proffesional looking site.  It's all drag and drop, no computer experience needed.  


Posted 11 April 2017 - 06:41 AM

plucka
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My First 3 Months
#10

I get 3, 4, 5 calls a week from people telling me I need a website.

My usual response it to tell them to go and have a good nights sleep.

Got a feeling in this day and age maybe I should have a website.

Been mowing for over 23 years and not to keen on a lot of change.

Comments please.

If you're running a business it's a no brainer to have a web site.  Without one you are losing customers.  Even if they find your number elsewhere having a website allows you to really sell your services in detail.  With everyone on the net now, having no web presence only hurts you when most of the competition is there.   With the low cost and ease of creation there's really no reason not to.


Posted 11 April 2017 - 06:46 AM

plucka
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My First 3 Months
#11

Fantastic post Plucka. I am sure everyone appreciates the effort.

 

Slow season approaching… get a book and make notes about things that could do with attention in each of your garden proud clients yards. You should be able to do some tidying, dead growth removal, lawn depression filling, rose pruning over June~August, mulching, fix the things that annoyed you each visit etc. you will be surprised at how much work they would like done while you have your slow season. Talk to them. Gate latches, gates that hit the ground instead of fully open… the list is endless.

I'll bet half your slow season will vanish and they will love you.

Thanks Grae and some great tips there about winter work.  I have a bit of landscaping experience so have lined up a few small jobs already for winter but I like your idea of being pro active and looking for potential work.

 

Been flat out last 2 or 3 weeks working full days after the rains we had in Brisbane, which was sorely needed after the dry spell we had to start the year.  Up to about 40 regulars now.


Posted 11 April 2017 - 06:51 AM

crocster
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My First 3 Months
#12

Hi Crocster.

For my website I use wix.com  It costs about $100 a year including domain name.  There are some cheaper ones about but wix was really impressive with the ease and power of creating a proffesional looking site.  It's all drag and drop, no computer experience needed.  

Cheers Plucka,

 

I'll check them out - something to do on those long cold Bisbane winter nights :)


Posted 11 April 2017 - 07:09 AM

martin89
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My First 3 Months
#13

i think websites are a must for most businesses particularly as there so cheap. think of all the good clients you could be missing out on


Posted 12 April 2017 - 03:21 PM

SPUDwa
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My First 3 Months
#14

gday plucka

plucka its something I'm looking into doing the website stuff , did you perform this yourself or had professionally done


Posted 19 June 2017 - 10:23 PM

plucka
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My First 3 Months
#15

gday plucka

plucka its something I'm looking into doing the website stuff , did you perform this yourself or had professionally done

I did it myself using wix.com.  It's all very simple drag and drop stuff.


Posted 20 June 2017 - 09:46 PM

Macka
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My First 3 Months
#16

 


What I have learned is DO NOT undersell yourself to try and compete with beer money bobs.  You will never earn enough and burn yourself out trying to earn a living. 

 

Great work Plucka goodluck, did you work out what the average mows per year are in your area ?
 
PS: you can earn a high rate and still burn yourself out, it takes a few years with a full roster before you no what your body can handle.   Knowing what your monthly break even costs are is the key, it allows you to stop taking on work streach the roster out and still pay all the bills and yourself.  earning a high rate can be a trap and can cause issues because the money is so good you do more than you should.    I have gone to only mowing, my body handles that with ease.   Hedging/gardening is a art and you need to be do it everyday to be work hardened for it, or you will do damage   Amazing money but isn't worth the damage it does to the body.

Posted 20 June 2017 - 10:19 PM

Chris
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My First 3 Months
#17

Wombat - I had a website for years and traffic was very low. I just stuck to my Facebook page and it does a better job than a website. Client interaction is better, it's easier for them to contact you and for you to reply, likes give you credibility, you can have reviews, it shows up in google searches etc. Every benefit a website gave me Facebook does it better. And it's free. 

 

Plucka - good work! I agree about your pricing, $75 an hour is minimum for me with a minimum charge of $35 (soon to be $40). It still baffles me how many are out there charging a rate that wouldn't allow them to hire an employee to do their job. I've recently had competitors ring me up saying they want me to take on some of there clients as they have had to go and get a job. I asked how much roughly an hour they get from their customers and they say $30. I say 'no wonder you had to go and get a job.'

Sounds like you have a very good business mind and your progress so far is something to be proud of!  


Posted 21 June 2017 - 06:26 AM

plucka
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My First 3 Months
#18

 

 

 

Great work Plucka goodluck, did you work out what the average mows per year are in your area ?
 
PS: you can earn a high rate and still burn yourself out, it takes a few years with a full roster before you no what your body can handle.   Knowing what your monthly break even costs are is the key, it allows you to stop taking on work streach the roster out and still pay all the bills and yourself.  earning a high rate can be a trap and can cause issues because the money is so good you do more than you should.    I have gone to only mowing, my body handles that with ease.   Hedging/gardening is a art and you need to be do it everyday to be work hardened for it, or you will do damage   Amazing money but isn't worth the damage it does to the body.

 

I finding mows per year is varying a lot between customers.  I have some in winter that still want fortnightly and others only monthly or even longer.  I think though in Brisbane most will/should be on fortnightly from October to March, 3 weeks Sep and May and monthly for winter.  That works out at 18 mows a year.

 

Totally agree on your burnout comments.   I won't be on full roster until at least the summer but I had quite a few "full" days earlier in the year and I could see how burnout could happen quite easily.  I've got no intentions to work myself to death just to chase that extra $100 a day, I rather save my body and more than happy to work no more than 7 hours a day in the busy season.  The only issue with that is though in winter I'd only be working 3-4 hours a day, will have to find a balance.

 

Yep agree on the hedging as well, those big hedges take a lot of you and once I get a full roster my ideal would be just to do mowing of regulars as like you said it's not too hard on the body.  No one off jobs, no big hedges, no painful jobs or clients.  That will be goal but know it will take a few years.


Posted 21 June 2017 - 07:25 AM

plucka
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My First 3 Months
#19

Wombat - I had a website for years and traffic was very low. I just stuck to my Facebook page and it does a better job than a website. Client interaction is better, it's easier for them to contact you and for you to reply, likes give you credibility, you can have reviews, it shows up in google searches etc. Every benefit a website gave me Facebook does it better. And it's free. 

 

Plucka - good work! I agree about your pricing, $75 an hour is minimum for me with a minimum charge of $35 (soon to be $40). It still baffles me how many are out there charging a rate that wouldn't allow them to hire an employee to do their job. I've recently had competitors ring me up saying they want me to take on some of there clients as they have had to go and get a job. I asked how much roughly an hour they get from their customers and they say $30. I say 'no wonder you had to go and get a job.'

Sounds like you have a very good business mind and your progress so far is something to be proud of!  

Thanks Chris, yes the $30/hr beer bobs are everywhere.  What I hear from customers though that have used them is they are unreliable and usually "disappear" after a while.  Most customers value reliability very highly and so are happy to pay for that and is where we want to be.  

 

I have a facebook page as well but find it doesn't get much traffic, mainly because I can't be arsed updating it constantly and making posts.  The beauty of a website is once it's setup it's set and forget and once it's appearing on the first page of google searches it brings a fair few customers.  For $100 a year or so it pays for itself many times over and is minimal work to setup and next to nothing to maintain.

 

I can see the value of facebook as being more personal and interacting with customers etc but it requires constant checking and posting, something I just cant be bothered much with.

 

Anyway as a 6 month update I'm up to 47 regular customers now with a cut value around $58k annually.  One off jobs on top of that.  I think I can increase that to 70 by end of summer and have a full roster.  Autumn ended up being very good, even better than summer as I picked up more customers and work increased.  The mowing work has really dropped off though in the last 6 weeks or so but I've been lucky as I've picked up 5 or 6 landscaping jobs during that time (off to some turf laying today) so May and June have been good months as well.   Not much lined up for though past that so I think next 3 months will be slim pickings.


Posted 21 June 2017 - 07:42 AM

crocster
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My First 3 Months
#20

Hi Plucka,

 

The winter/summer balance is a toughie - I was just thinking this week how great working outdoors is in winter - one shirt lasts the whole day, the only jobs I'm not mulching are ones with a lot of dead leaves around that will show up as cruft on the finished job - and so $60 lawns are taking about 35 mins - but the grass DON'T GROW

 

One solution that worked for me in the past was 6 and 8 pack small unit blocks - I used to be based in the western suburbs and there were hundreds of them, particularly round the uni - the Body Corporates wanted someone on a fixed interval year round - I'd do a bit of gardening in winter if the lawns didn't need cutting - just keeping the grounds presentable - fixed price per visit.

 

Looking after swimming pools was another year round earner and easy money - I didn't have a ticket then but I think one of the big pool shops now does a Cert III kind of qual nowadays

 

Lastly, after I was established I would "load up" in autumn - take on more jobs as the growth slowed to see me through winter and then put prices up or drop the less desirables as summer started.

 

Good luck with it anyway

 

PS - I'm very happy with the 3-4 hour days now tho :)


Posted 21 June 2017 - 08:01 AM




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