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Ambitious gardening project - advice

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Have a look at 'paving expert.com'

 

Loads of good advice and specs of how to do stuff in hard landscaping.

 

It is a fantastic resource for someone in your position.

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I am a good landscaper and I am also a full time wheelchair user. Compacted woodchip is a very good surface for wheelchairs. Slopes should be kept to 1:12 for an average wheelchair user. I do agree that you are a little cheep and with experience I am sure you will get this right. Leveling ground requires skill and a technique called cut and fill which means taking ground from the higher places and moving it into the lower ground. If you require plants to grow you need to ensure that there is sufficient top soil so this may need stripping off first and then level the subsoil otherwise just level. I would be happy to offer any more advice both as an experienced groundsman or as a wheelchair user.

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Thanks for the change in attitude guys - I know I've got to start charging more. I did another 8 hours today - 12 in total if you include 2 trips to the dealer, the first to sort my saw out; the second to have the chain resharpened, and buy 3 more semi chisels so I won't have to go out as often. I won't even disclose what I charged for this big tree and garden clearance job - but I've put in over 24 hours already and I can start to see how the costs are computed. From now on I'm charging £50 for a tree the size and spec of those I did. Had I done that here, with £40 for the gardening, and £40 for expenses, it would have been a much better result for me.

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Let me say I'm trying my best to get into this with little prior experience. I have had 8 customers so far. In that time I've become much stronger at pricing a job and making estimates. Each customer I have had has praised me on the quality and cost of my workmanship. I was told I did a great job on a front and back garden for which I earnt £25 - it took me nearly two hours of work, but I was proud of it and prouder that the customer was happy and could finally let their kids and dog out.

 

I did another job of removing 4 ferns and completely underestimated the pricing. Rather than be an asshole and demand more money half way through I stuck to the original bill as I thought it would be unfair on the customer - he then paid me double what I had asked (which I imagine was probably only a tenner short of the real market price). He also showed me where a "professional" tree surgeon had completed a similar job out his back - leaving a large, unmissable stump in the earth. My work completely removed almost 95% of the stump, with only a little bit visible, allowing the customer to regrass it.

 

In the work I've done I have had two repeat customers, one recommendation, and will have made just under £500 since I started advertising one month ago, the majority of which has been made in the past 8 days. Bear in mind I also work full time, earning 19K a year as an accounts clerk, and you will understand something of my work ethic and my committment to getting the job done. Also bear in mind that 6/7 weeks ago I could barely turn a machine tool on, couldn't fix strimmer wire, didn't understand about different oil strokes, had no trailer, no customers, little understanding of equipment and the efficiency of each tool.

 

I now have had my first business, repeat custom, 2 large jobs of tree work whose market value would be in the region of £500-600 (but for which I stupidly charged much less - but I will learn from this), a 5x3 trailer, 90% of equipment needed for this line of work, tools, overalls, and critically experience, both at doing the work and pricing the work.

 

Criticising me for the rate I'm asking for my job, in my view, is unfair - it's unrealistic, as I explained to my customer, for me to go in and complete the later work and think I can do it to a great standard. However, he is only offering me because he was hugely impressed at the other work I had done. To quote him he was amazed that so much could be done by one guy in so short a period of time (1 day). My price, which I have yet to put to him, is in reflection that this work will be, more than anything, experience-generative, rather than cash-generative. He knows this and is happy with that.

 

I started this thread to ask advice on how the best way is to approach this - not to get shot with a flame-thrower. You response demonstrates the moronic machoness that seems to exist in every manual trade.

 

Let me give you another example. A friend employs, or did employ, a commercial gardener to do his garden, as he has done for years. This gardener (no education, not well spoken) turns up in people's gardens, does a 45 minute job strimming and raking, and charges £25 a time. He doesn't cut hedges for this price, and he doesn't mow after strimming. Now who do you think is the better businessman, him or me? Him because he gets more money per job, or me because I do a substantively better job and will eventually take his customer base off him when people realise they're being taken for a ride? Even if I did 6 good jobs at £25 per job, averaging 1 hour to 2 hours per job, I would make over £150 a day (150% higher than my per day wage in an office), with more for tree jobs.

 

This isn't "undercutting" - it's hardwork, and it's the reason why the UK is full of foreigners - they understand it, where half our population would rather sit on their holes and watch Jeremy Kyle.

 

You said something's mad on this forum - it is - namely that people with no experience but aspiration to run a business get flamed, and then get flamed again when trying to get good, having established the basics of the business.

 

good post and good luck with your projects :thumbup1:

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In your hourly rate of £6.25 how much of that are you expecting to see in your pocket?

 

How much is your liability insurance and are you covered for tree work?

How much did your vehicle insurance go up when you told them you needed business cover?

How much have you spent on tools, trailers, etc to earn your first £500 and when will you hit break even?

Do you charge for consumables (chains, 2 stroke oils, landscaping hardware and fixings, etc)

Are you charging fuel or does that come out of the £6.25 as well?

Who pays for the 4 hours you spent going to the dealers?

You already earn £19k a year so for your landscaping work you will pay 20% tax and NI on the bit left after expenses, but you know that as an accountants clerk.

 

The reason people complain about you charging £6.25 an hour is to run an honest business it is impossible to charge that little. The instant cash from a little bit of weekend work is great but watch how you operate and who you may upset by poaching work form legitimate companies who operate with insurances, tax, NI, etc, etc. Do you really think the accountancy company owner charges your services out to a client at £6.25 an hour? Try 3 or 4 times that.

 

Everyone has to start somewhere and i wish you the best of luck but I would recommend doing less jobs at a proper price. You will make the same money in the end. Sit down and work out what it actually costs you to do the job legitimately or you could just end up being silly busy making no more than a pound an hour.

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You should still be able to get a digger in THROUGH the garage door. Micro-diggers are readily available to hire and can actually be manoeuvred through a house. BUT you do need to know how to use one effectively otherwise you'll waste time faffing about and they're not cheap to hire. For the small area you're working on, I personally wouldn't bother. A rotavator would be a better option so you can loosen the high areas and rake them to the low areas. Stihl do a good rotavator attachment for their equipment, which is only narrow but makes light work of this sort of job.

 

Remember, after levelling everything you need to make sure it's properly firmed down again, otherwise you end up with really soft ground and lots of sinkage.

 

a bobcat e10 can go through a 720mm gap

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In your hourly rate of £6.25 how much of that are you expecting to see in your pocket?

 

How much is your liability insurance and are you covered for tree work?

How much did your vehicle insurance go up when you told them you needed business cover?

How much have you spent on tools, trailers, etc to earn your first £500 and when will you hit break even?

Do you charge for consumables (chains, 2 stroke oils, landscaping hardware and fixings, etc)

Are you charging fuel or does that come out of the £6.25 as well?

Who pays for the 4 hours you spent going to the dealers?

You already earn £19k a year so for your landscaping work you will pay 20% tax and NI on the bit left after expenses, but you know that as an accountants clerk.

 

The reason people complain about you charging £6.25 an hour is to run an honest business it is impossible to charge that little. The instant cash from a little bit of weekend work is great but watch how you operate and who you may upset by poaching work form legitimate companies who operate with insurances, tax, NI, etc, etc. Do you really think the accountancy company owner charges your services out to a client at £6.25 an hour? Try 3 or 4 times that.

 

Everyone has to start somewhere and i wish you the best of luck but I would recommend doing less jobs at a proper price. You will make the same money in the end. Sit down and work out what it actually costs you to do the job legitimately or you could just end up being silly busy making no more than a pound an hour.

 

:congrats::congrats:

 

Sent from my Galaxy S2

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Finished job today - 28 hours on site, and earnt £300. Not so bad for my first major job. Learnt a vast amount about my saw and how quickly it blunts - about every 2nd or 3rd tree, very quickly in other words.

 

If I had to reprice I would have charged:

 

£50 per tree at 7 trees, giving £350

£40 general gardening, giving £40

£30 costs, petrol, giving £30

£25 costs, to sharpen 2 semi-chisels, giving £25

£12 costs, weedkiller, giving £12

 

Total = £446

 

This would have been more satisfactory - but the customer was delighted, and told me I'd more than earnt it. I even fixed up his side fence, and built up enough soil connecting to his path beside his house so the wheelchair user can get into the garden. Result - one knackered and soaked labourer and one happy customer, and a massive injection of experience.

 

My main taking from the job must be how to landscape properly - from working in other jobs I know all jobs are simple, but it just comes down to attention to detail and repetition to get good. I'll have to work out maybe three landscaping options then memorise and perfect these and resell them to the customer.

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