Longevity

Sgfinco

Member
I recently went on my own as a full time contract climber and love it but my biggest hang up is longevity. I've climb with modern techniques, don't work very hard physically when I climb anymore and have the skill set to handle whatever is thrown at me. I'm 25 now so I figure 10 to 15 good years of production climbing but then what? I can always go full tree service, I enjoy bidding work, talking to clients about the right way to care for their trees but I'm not a mechanic, finding places to dispose of material is a hassle and employees will always be a struggle in our industry.

Ive been considering diversifying my skill set to include industrial rope access, will be attaining my ctsp this year and would love to move into a training focused role eventually.

I've worked for bigger companies, I've trained crew leaders, climbers and lift operators, but I get incredibly bored climbing one real tree per month. Being a full time salesman seems awful. $25 an hour isn't enough to buy a house and live comfortably.

What's the solution for someone like me? Ride the contractor wave as long as possible and see where it goes? Suck it up and be another asshole with a chipper and chip truck saying I'm the best? Or suck it up, take a job and just get by, everyone I contract for wants to offer me a job but the wages aren't there. If I'm just taking a job I might as well be a plumber and make a decent living for an entire career.
 

colb

Well-Known Member
Sam, first of all, your pruning work is top of the line. You can command almost any price point, anywhere in the world. I'm mainly a one man show. I've diversified from just climbing because I will not be able to climb forever and I can extend my career by climbing 1-4 days per week. Diversifying has led me to understand holistic tree care better, which I then transfer to my clients. I had a job a few weeks ago where I managed the ground and ran a machine on turf for a crane removal, then did a reduction prune/deadwood in a full height live oak, then braced and cabled the live oak, then deadwooded a black cherry. I'm able to monetize tree risk assessments. I'm mulching several of the trees I prune. I'm excavating root crowns. I'm working in a 45 acre natural area with herbicides to help get it structurally ready for regular managed burns. I'm consulting for my local city on a road renovation. I just planted my first niwaki pines. There's a point at which I just felt that climbing, while incredibly fun, is not everything, and I don't want to be a one trick pony late in my career. You'll figure out what is best for you. Just thinking about it here shows that you're on the right track. You actually could be a plumber and a tree guy...
 

Sgfinco

Member
@colb being a one trick pony is my biggest fear, especially with the rise of automation that's going to affect the way every one of us works. I've been working with a guy who's whole business is PHC from chemical treatments to airspade work to soil amendments, I'm hoping to learn a lot from him. Thank you for the kind words about my pruning. The way I see it each cut I make is my signature on that tree for the rest of it's existence. It'd be awesome to be a contract climber for everything but the amount of travel to sustain that would be tough. It's a bit sad that in our industry to have longevity you either need to be on your own or work for a huge company and be a salesman or "management" well see what the future brings though, climbing has certainly gotten easier on the body in the last 20 years so being productive for a whole career might be a possibility.
 

CanadianStan

Well-Known Member
I recently went on my own as a full time contract climber and love it but my biggest hang up is longevity. I've climb with modern techniques, don't work very hard physically when I climb anymore and have the skill set to handle whatever is thrown at me. I'm 25 now so I figure 10 to 15 good years of production climbing but then what? I can always go full tree service, I enjoy bidding work, talking to clients about the right way to care for their trees but I'm not a mechanic, finding places to dispose of material is a hassle and employees will always be a struggle in our industry.

Ive been considering diversifying my skill set to include industrial rope access, will be attaining my ctsp this year and would love to move into a training focused role eventually.

I've worked for bigger companies, I've trained crew leaders, climbers and lift operators, but I get incredibly bored climbing one real tree per month. Being a full time salesman seems awful. $25 an hour isn't enough to buy a house and live comfortably.

What's the solution for someone like me? Ride the contractor wave as long as possible and see where it goes? Suck it up and be another asshole with a chipper and chip truck saying I'm the best? Or suck it up, take a job and just get by, everyone I contract for wants to offer me a job but the wages aren't there. If I'm just taking a job I might as well be a plumber and make a decent living for an entire career.
What other aspects of arboricultural interest you? Consulting, tree risk assessment, PHC, municipal urban forest programs, academic research, biological canopy studies, silviculture, nurseries?

Im in the same boat as you with regards to contract climbing ... 24, fairly competent climber, although I enjoy pushing myself as a « production » climber and often choose to work hard

I’ve opted to contract climb 3 days per week and work 2 days a week in an office for a well-established consulting company in my area. I made this choice to expand my areas of knowledge and competence, but also to give my body a break. As you know contract climbing can be even harder than a regular full time arborist position as you don’t get the bucket truck or stump grinding days ... just 40 hours per week of crushing nasty removals and difficult prunes

The other reason I chose to expand into consulting is that a lot of my hobbies have a reasonably high likelihood of causing me injury ... and if I break myself I can’t climb. This gives me a backup option if anything were to happen
 

colb

Well-Known Member
@colb being a one trick pony is my biggest fear, especially with the rise of automation that's going to affect the way every one of us works.
So, an interesting conversation that has not happened yet on the Buzz is how exactly will automation affect pruning. I know you do a lot of removals, but you do a lot of pruning compared to most guys. What's the mechanism, if one exists, for automation in pruning? A skinny mech? Grapple saw drone? Or is there long term security in pruning?

I've been working with a guy who's whole business is PHC from chemical treatments to airspade work to soil amendments, I'm hoping to learn a lot from him. Thank you for the kind words about my pruning. The way I see it each cut I make is my signature on that tree for the rest of it's existence.
(y)

It'd be awesome to be a contract climber for everything but the amount of travel to sustain that would be tough. It's a bit sad that in our industry to have longevity you either need to be on your own or work for a huge company and be a salesman or "management" well see what the future brings though, climbing has certainly gotten easier on the body in the last 20 years so being productive for a whole career might be a possibility.
 

Sgfinco

Member
What other aspects of arboricultural interest you? Consulting, tree risk assessment, PHC, municipal urban forest programs, academic research, biological canopy studies, silviculture, nurseries?

Im in the same boat as you with regards to contract climbing ... 24, fairly competent climber, although I enjoy pushing myself as a « production » climber and often choose to work hard

I’ve opted to contract climb 3 days per week and work 2 days a week in an office for a well-established consulting company in my area. I made this choice to expand my areas of knowledge and competence, but also to give my body a break. As you know contract climbing can be even harder than a regular full time arborist position as you don’t get the bucket truck or stump grinding days ... just 40 hours per week of crushing nasty removals and difficult prunes

The other reason I chose to expand into consulting is that a lot of my hobbies have a reasonably high likelihood of causing me injury ... and if I break myself I can’t climb. This gives me a backup option if anything were to happen
That's the issue, spraying chemicals is boring as sin, root work seems interesting, telling people what should be done and sending them out to try to find a decent person to do the actual.work doesn't tickle my fancy. Always hated school so academia is a hard pass. Pruning large trees to co exist with people is my passion in tree work, big removals are fun but my main interest is solely in aerial work. That's what has me thinking hard about training new people in safety, productivity, and with contracting you get to see so many set ups and learning what's efficient, selling consultations to tree services on how to maximize efficiency.
 

Sgfinco

Member
So, an interesting conversation that has not happened yet on the Buzz is how exactly will automation affect pruning. I know you do a lot of removals, but you do a lot of pruning compared to most guys. What's the mechanism, if one exists, for automation in pruning? A skinny mech? Grapple saw drone? Or is there long term security in pruning?



(y)
Drones were science fiction 12 years ago to the general public, now there are professional drone racers. Treemeks were unheard of 7 years ago now they're everywhere. Some small, spiderlike drone could climb around and make cuts, a fleet could set rigging, drone with little grapples to fly stuff out of tight access zones. Hell laser pointer that make tree parts vaporizer into nothing! In 10 years our economy is going to be unrecognizable.
 

CanadianStan

Well-Known Member
That's the issue, spraying chemicals is boring as sin, root work seems interesting, telling people what should be done and sending them out to try to find a decent person to do the actual.work doesn't tickle my fancy. Always hated school so academia is a hard pass. Pruning large trees to co exist with people is my passion in tree work, big removals are fun but my main interest is solely in aerial work. That's what has me thinking hard about training new people in safety, productivity, and with contracting you get to see so many set ups and learning what's efficient, selling consultations to tree services on how to maximize efficiency.
So becoming a tree business consultant sounds like a fun side gig.
Train the owners on how to optimize their business for their intended direction and then train their staff on how to climb more productively, more safely, more easily
 

Sgfinco

Member
@Sgfinco don't you have to diversify anyway, with your winters? What else are you doing already?
I went self employed in January and was booked out all winter, if it was above 0° F I was working.

Everyone here thinks tree guys have to plow snow. I'd rather break my own toes.
 

Sgfinco

Member
Who hires you as a sub?
I've got 3 main companies that book a lot of my time and I pepper in a bunch of other companies. I understand what your getting at, just a short way of saying the market is flooded, and there's no real need for more competition. I've never met a tree guy without an ego and I'm certainly no different, I'd just be another asshole with a truck and chipper being more competition.
 

colb

Well-Known Member
Drones were science fiction 12 years ago to the general public, now there are professional drone racers. Treemeks were unheard of 7 years ago now they're everywhere. Some small, spiderlike drone could climb around and make cuts, a fleet could set rigging, drone with little grapples to fly stuff out of tight access zones. Hell laser pointer that make tree parts vaporizer into nothing! In 10 years our economy is going to be unrecognizable.
Wow, a laser drone... Milwaukee tools just came out with a battery-powered 1/4" laser cutter for metal fab. It's a bigun, but that could potentially be light weight... Don't need a big battery. I think a big obstacle is twig recognition. Seems like sensors and spatial processing speed/capacity need to be improved quite a bit before a drone can navigate a canopy.
 

colb

Well-Known Member
I went self employed in January and was booked out all winter, if it was above 0° F I was working.

Everyone here thinks tree guys have to plow snow. I'd rather break my own toes.
Good god, man. You're an Energizer bunny. I let things get above 50 before I'll head out, lol. Not all the time, but I do re-arrange my schedule for "cold" north Florida weather.
 

Leroy

Well-Known Member
Similar, more in regards to safety, what equipment set ups work, how important routing is, building a culture where people strive to be great.

That is a good idea in theory but realistically I think you'd have a hard time finding clients and staying busy in that. A lot of people doing the same or similar from tree stuff rent a trainer to tcia. Might be tough going.

You mentioned mechanical work as a turn off to self employ, I get that. But if you're only pruning you don't need much. Our business is pruning only besides a few small removals here and there. We haul brush so really our only machine is the truck plus a few small chainsaws.

When I subbed I worked for a guy who was probably 60 and was fit as fiddle. He has a similar setup to ours and I still see him out climbing.

Trading on your body is risky no matter what, it could be over any minute. For some it can be a psychological burden, I know it is for me. Not sure what will work best for you but you've got some time to figure it out.
 

Sgfinco

Member
Wow, a laser drone... Milwaukee tools just came out with a battery-powered 1/4" laser cutter for metal fab. It's a bigun, but that could potentially be light weight... Don't need a big battery. I think a big obstacle is twig recognition. Seems like sensors and spatial processing speed/capacity need to be improved quite a bit before a drone can navigate a canopy.
But think about how quick that stuff improves! It's a bit scary. I prefer 35-60 degrees for working! And cold is way easier to deal with than hot, you can always put more clothes on and work harder, you take too much off and you've got a recipe for some giblet rash and an indecent exposure ticket!
 

Sgfinco

Member
That is a good idea in theory but realistically I think you'd have a hard time finding clients and staying busy in that. A lot of people doing the same or similar from tree stuff rent a trainer to tcia. Might be tough going.

You mentioned mechanical work as a turn off to self employ, I get that. But if you're only pruning you don't need much. Our business is pruning only besides a few small removals here and there. We haul brush so really our only machine is the truck plus a few small chainsaws.

When I subbed I worked for a guy who was probably 60 and was fit as fiddle. He has a similar setup to ours and I still see him out climbing.

Trading on your body is risky no matter what, it could be over any minute. For some it can be a psychological burden, I know it is for me. Not sure what will work best for you but you've got some time to figure it out.
Agreed, if I could find one job like that per month that'd be excellent. I do love contract climbing and I'm doing a bicycle based tree service on my own as well, targeting high end pruning and an eco friendly client base.
 
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