Estimates are funny. The name implies an educated guess, but anyone who’s spent time in the landscaping industry knows, our customers expect so much more. Our estimates need to be accurate. We need to provide a materials list and timelines. We need to schedule accordingly. Plan for things that might not go according to plan. It’s a difficult job that can sometimes feel like juggling chainsaws because if we miss something, overlook something, or encounter a problem we didn’t account for, our estimates can get blown to bits, and suddenly we understand why public speaking is the biggest fear in America.
Bringing back bad memories?
Despite the high-stakes nature of job estimates, they don’t just have to be accurate. If only it were that simple. They also have to be fast.
If you’re bidding the same job as your competitor, and they’ve already walked your potential customer through a long, detailed landscaping plan, do you think that customer wants to hear it again? Our customers are busy. They have jobs, kids, and spouses to think about.
In business, they call it First-Mover Advantage, and it’s something to take into account if you want to win more jobs and do more business.
It’s a balancing act, managing speed, and accuracy in your estimates. Sometimes it feels like you can’t focus on one without sacrificing the other.
Do it right, and you’ve proven to your customer you’re an expert in the field, a landscaper who can be trusted, who does what they say they’re going to do. Do it wrong- well- can you hear the chainsaws?
Old school landscapers used to whip up estimates on lined paper with a pencil they kept tucked behind their ear. And while we’ve got nothing but respect for the industry knowledge and expertise it takes to make estimates like that, thankfully, today’s landscapers have found a better way.
The Landscape Estimating Process
Developing a tried, tested process is crucial if you want to provide speedy, accurate project estimates. Every job we do might be different, but if our approach stays more or less the same, we’ll be able to deliver better, more accurate estimates.
A well-defined process should take every aspect of a job into account. That includes materials, labor, machine rental, and plant costs, to name a few. There’s also hardscaping requirements, irrigation plans, travel time, and preparing for the unexpected.
If it sounds like a lot to keep track of, that’s because it is. That’s why sophisticated project managers opt away from the graphite and choose more technical solutions.
Used together, these solutions can make estimating complicated jobs a cinch, removing the guesswork and replacing it with a plug-and-play system that does the calculations for you. That allows you to focus on the customer, and deliver the accurate estimate they expect in a fraction of the time.
So what kind of tools do you need to develop your own process?
1. A Device
No matter what your process looks like, smooth takeoff software, or an old-school spreadsheet/calculator combo, you need a device.
When it comes to choosing which tech is best for your landscaping company, it can feel like your options are limitless. That’s why it’s a great idea to take some time to really understand and develop your process, that way you’ll know exactly what kind of device you’ll need.
Ahh spreadsheets, we know ‘em, we love ‘em. Okay, maybe love is a strong word, but if you need a large amount of information at a glance, nothing beats a spreadsheet.
Spreadsheets allow you to keep material lists, labor costs, entire project costs organized with only a few equations and a little bit of maintenance.
However tricky they might seem to set up, spreadsheets can make a big difference to your bottom line. And hey, if you’re looking for a head start, we pre-built a handy project estimating template, which you can download for free on our website.
3. Proposal Template
Look, there’s a reason grocery stores sell cake mix in a box. There’s a time and a place to make things from scratch, and your job proposal ain’t it.
You should familiarize yourself with templates, so you can be sure you’re bidding each part of the job correctly, without missing anything. Bonus points if you’re able to automate this process, letting technology do the heavy lifting so you can speed the process up.
Many takeoff softwares complete this task for you, but you could also build your own integrations using Google Docs.
4. Landscape & Irrigation Takeoff Software
Maybe you think we’re biased, but honestly, nothing makes the job estimating process faster or more accurate than landscape takeoff software.
Takeoff software can automate a lot of the processes you used to have to do longhand. Area calculations? Automatic. Material costs? Automatic. With a few clicks, you can design a garden bed or an irrigation system or an outdoor grilling area hardscape.
Takeoff software is designed to make bidding easier. It automates much of the process while giving its users a phenomenal visual aid they can use when speaking to a client.
Find the Right Balance
Your bidding process should find a way to blend speed and accuracy. Those who do it well present themselves to their customers as professionals, experts in their field. This will lead to more jobs and a better bottom line.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, don’t forget about our free template, and consider investing in landscape takeoff software. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.