How much can a teenager charge for yard work?
October 4, 2009 3:48 PM   Subscribe

What would be a fair price to ask? Per hour? Square foot? Give me some input.

I'm starting a little business where I do people's yard work. I'm only 16 years old and don't have "professional" experience with yard work; I just do it around the house. How much should I charge? What specifically would I be expected to do?
posted by bobertdude to Work & Money (8 answers total)
You charge by the job and hope works out. Try to find out the going rate in the area. Typically, for normal suburban lots it's around $30 for mowing and edging. Charge $50 if the lawn hasn't been mowed for a long time. What you want is repeat business, so try to work out a contract that you'll mow a customer's lawn every two weeks for X amount of times. That might not be feasible this late in the season, but at least you can get some business now and some prospects lined up for next spring.

As far as what's expected, mowing, edging, weedwhacking where the mower can't go, and blowing off the driveway/sideway/patio are standard. Don't miss spots, don't leave mowed grass on concrete areas. Ask if they would like it bagged for their compost heap. Also, watch the professional crews and try to model their practice, but do it a bit more conscientiously (avoid chopping flowerbed plants, etc).

Good luck!
posted by Burhanistan at 4:02 PM on October 4, 2009

The going rate in my neighborhood is about $30 - $35 per yard. This pays for mowing, edging, weed-eating. It does not include weeding, beds, mulching, etc. I've not heard of residential lawn service in my area that is done by hour or by square foot. Usually, the decide the price based on the neighborhood (because homes in a subdivision have about the same size yards), and then up it a little if your home is on a corner lot or cul-de-sac (because those have larger-than-normal yards). I have an "average" sized yard for a suburban area... of course this means nothing to you, unless you live in Houston. Look up a few residential lawn services in your city, and call to ask their rates for your home address to see what rates are for your area.

Also, here they usually don't bag the grass. Instead, they have the mulching lawnmowers that shred up the grass and spit it back out on the lawn.

They advertise by placing a seemingly endless supply of flyers on people's doors. Annoying, but handy when you are looking for someone. Our neighborhood also has a community newsletter of sorts, and teens can advertise their services in it for free. That's the first place I looked when I needed lawn service, but there were only babysitters -- no lawn people! So, if you can do something similar, take advantage of it because there will be people like me who would like to hire a teenager if possible.

Payments are usually made by check, either paid in advance, or at the end of each month, or each time the lawn is mowed; it varies depending on what the lawn person wants. Checks are mailed to the person or left in an agreed-upon area (like, in a ziploc back under the front door mat, or in a ziploc taped to the back door, or whatever). Providing excellent service really only means showing up on the scheduled day, and not cutting through cable lines or taking out part of the fence. Other than that, it's pretty much all good. If you do accidentally screw something up, it's not a big deal but a note left on the door is the polite thing to do.
posted by Houstonian at 4:42 PM on October 4, 2009

I also thought, you might want to offer other related services, if you don't get much traction on the lawn mowing this late in the year. For example, cleaning gutters and raking leaves in the fall, doing whatever swimming pools need done to them if people have their own pools, putting up Christmas lights in the winter, mulching beds and planting flowers in the spring, and so on.

In my area, because of the weather, lawns must be mowed once a week in the summer -- by "summer" I mean approximately April through October. But in the non-summer months, it still needs mowing twice a month, or at least once a month. Your area might be different, but if it is similar, you still have opportunity year-round.
posted by Houstonian at 4:57 PM on October 4, 2009

I used to do this back in the day and my price was "give me whatever you feel I deserve once I'm done". Boy, did I make a lot of money that summer. I guess people didn't want to end up looking like cheapskates.
posted by 913 at 5:38 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

holy crap. awesome answer. thanks!
posted by bobertdude at 5:43 PM on October 4, 2009

I used to do this back in the day and my price was "give me whatever you feel I deserve once I'm done".

That sounds great, but honestly the crews of professionsal landscapers are going to charge a fixed price and will undercut you and get it done in a quarter of the time.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:30 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might want to pick up a copy of Better than a Lemonade Stand from the library - I had this book as a kid and it has tons of great business ideas for kids. Obviously you know what you want to do, but this might give you some hints and tips.

And good for you for being a self-starter!
posted by radioamy at 7:30 PM on October 4, 2009

I used to do this back in the day and my price was "give me whatever you feel I deserve once I'm done". Boy, did I make a lot of money that summer. I guess people didn't want to end up looking like cheapskates.
Actually, I did this for a summer too (I helped people clean out attics and garages as well), and I usually made $40-$80 per job. You could try it out first and then start charging a fixed price if people are screwing you over.
posted by !Jim at 11:33 PM on October 4, 2009

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