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For small projects making an estimate isn’t a problem. Especially when you can look at the property on Google maps, and give them a rough idea over the phone. It might only cost you 10 minutes if you understand your job costing figures.

You can even offer special introductory rates for smaller jobs. That will allow you to know precisely the time it would take to finish the job. But what happens when you need to provide an estimate on larger projects? How should you handle that?

Free bids for large projects cost you more time. It could take you three trips to the site, time measuring, designing, and working with the client on their specific needs. Before you know it, you have dozens of man-hours into just estimating the project!! Those are hours that you could be using to get profitable work done. If you value your time at $70 per man-hour, you just gave away $350 to a client that may not even choose you to do the work.

Another way to estimate is by using a cost-plus approach. First, make sure that the client is ready to make a purchase. Do they have the finances for the scope of the proposed project? Are they in a position to make the final decision on the project?  

Combining A Lawn Care Estimate With Contracts

After you qualify the client, then you can sign a contract to help them with engineering and designing the project. If you’re new to using lawn maintenance contracts, there are many resources online that you can reference, including entire templates already pre-made. Several counties and states have regulations on what these contracts can cover, so be sure to check in your local area before designing one.

The cost would probably be under $1000 but would give them a full materials takeoff, design, and costs. It would be good enough for them to take to another contractor to complete. It would compensate you for the time that you will invest in researching product, understanding the client’s needs, and coming up with a solution that meets the needs and budget.

At this point, what you are selling to the client is your expertise to value engineer the project. You can give them advice on decks vs. patios, types of pools, product costs, terracing retaining walls, etc. helping them come out with a project that matches their budget and gives them what they want the most. If a client is trying to get shade in a hot backyard, you know the benefits and cons of different shade options. You have the expertise to give them the best experience for their budget. That’s worth something.