If you are an arborist, you know that pricing tree work can prove to be a pretty advanced skill in itself. You need to make sure that you are striking the right balance between avoiding underpricing and overpricing.
You need to make sure that all of your expenses are paid, that you have a little money to invest in growing your business, and that you are making some money to keep in your pocket for bubble gum and a trip to the movies.
We know that 13 is sometimes considered an unlucky number, but we are flipping that on its head and presenting you with 13 ways to improve your luck when bidding for a job.
1. Factor In Location Specifications
Every job site is going to be different. How easy is access? Are there unique hazards that you have to work around?
Where are you going to discard fallen limbs and trees? If you can dump wood chips down a hill, you will want to charge less than if you anticipate needing to drive 30 minutes each way to the closest green land fill.
Factors Associated With Each Location:
- Proximity To Neighbors
- Ease Of Access To A Job Site
- Where You Will Be Discarding Waste
- Specific Requests From The Customer
2. Write An Invoice Before Starting A Job & Update The Customer Before Adding Expenses
One of the most important things in doing business is creating trust with a customer. Writing an invoice will hold you accountable, build that trust, and will also ensure that the customer has enough money to pay you.
The invoice should have an expiration date on it. This will establish an agreement that you will be showing up when you say you are showing up, the customer will make their property available, and that you will perform labor in a timely manner.
When providing an invoice, also give the customer a primer on any factors that will increase the price of the job. These may include customers showing up late, added hazards, and working under extreme weather conditions.
Any time that expenses are going to be added to an invoice, they should be approved by the customer ahead of time, with the exception of conscious decisions from the customer (e.g. customers showing up late, limiting access to the site, special requests).
3. Know How Many People Will Be Working On Your Crew
Obviously the price of a job that will require a larger crew should cost more than a job that requires fewer people.
With that in mind, you also need to consider what type of crew is reasonable. Make sure everyone is being paid fairly and that the customer is not being gouged.
For most jobs, a 2-3 person crew is sufficient and reasonable, with at least one person on the ground.
4. Travel Prices
How long will it take you to get to the job site and how much fuel is it going to cost you? What kind of wear and tear will it cause to your vehicle?
In some cases, your travel expenses may be radically different during different seasons, based on both fuel prices and weather factors. You can either charge a flat rate for travel all year or charge extra based on these factors. If you are charging extra, it may be good practice to let your customer know that this is a factor.
5. Factor In Specialty Skills
Your skills are worth money. Are you better at pruning than all of the other guys around town? Do you have a special knowledge of specific plant species? Are you able to get to do jobs extra quickly without compromising the quality of your work?
If you are charging the same price for your work that you were five years ago, you should consider increasing your prices.
Conversely, if you are just starting out your business, you should be charging more competitive prices while you build your client base, your reputation, and your skills.
6. The Price Of Your Gear And How Much The Job Will Wear Down On Tools
Your gear costs money and you need to replace it frequently. You should never be compromising safety by waiting to replace gear.
- Replacing Tools
- Replacing PPE Gear
- Jobs That Will Put Extra Wear And Tear On Tools
7. Risk Needs To Be A Factor
As an arborist, you will risk your life on the job every day. You will also be risking damages to equipment. Unfortunate accidents can lead to insurance claims from customers and their neighbors. All of these things need to be considered.
You should also be up front with customers about the types of dangers that Tree Workers face. This can help them understand the value of your work.
8. Don’t Be The Cheapest Guy Around. Don’t Be The Priciest Guy Around
Being the cheapest guy around is a red flag to many customers and also sets a precedent that you will work for less than you are worth.
Being the most expensive guy around means that customers will find someone who is going to work for much less than you do. Remember that your competitors may be cutthroat in their pricing.
9. Whenever Possible, Inspect A Tree Up Close, In Person
There simply is no substitute for looking at a tree in person, with the ability to pay close attention to detail.
It is also helpful to be able to look a customer in the eyes and win them over with your personality while negotiating a price. During this process, keep an open mind, without a set price in your mind. Also use this as an opportunity to ask the customer important questions about hazards and their expectations.
Things To Look Out For In An Inspection:
- Rot & Decay
- Weak Limbs
- Electrical Hazards
- Structural Damage
10. Be Polite, Be Honest, Be Assertive
Happy customers will be returning customers. If a customer trusts you, they will be a happy customer.
Never be rude to a customer, even if they are rude or unreasonable.
Avoid lying when you can.
Also be firm in your promises and your expectations of what you need from them.
11. Understand You Won’t Be Able To See Customers Everyday
When you are creating a budget for your business, know that in most cases you will have days without jobs available and you will have days where you need to perform equipment maintenance and repairs. You will have days where you need to focus on revising your budget and you will need to have meetings and provide training.
You need to factor all of these things into your goals for how much money you plan on making on the days that you do work on a site.
12. Offer A Few Different Prices
If you can, offer a customer different prices. Offer basic services, such as light pruning at low prices. Offer premium packages with more skilled and time consuming labor at higher prices. Emphasize to them that they are paying a good price for premium services.
This will give customers flexibility in their budget, but also may get them to think about spending a little extra money to make their property nicer.
13. If You Cannot See The Tree In Person, Up Close, Let The Customer Know That You Can Only Make A Rough Estimate On The Cost. This Is Not Negotiable.
Seriously, this is non-negotiable. You can not give a firm bid based on photos or even video. If a customer insists that you give them a firm number without seeing the trees and plants you are working on in person, insist that they need to work with someone else.
If you are not sure why, review Point 9 regarding inspections. You can get yourself into dangerous situations by agreeing to do jobs where you are unable to see hazards. You also can end up spending way more time on a job than you ever could have anticipated.
Check Out Time
We know that after reading this article, you still cannot know everything that you need to know about bidding, but if you follow all of this advice, you should be in a better place for building your business.
Remember to work hard, be honest, and work with self-respect. Your work is valuable and your customers need to know this as much as you do.