Daily rate freelance

dspacio

Active Member
Location
Narragansett Bay
When I consider how many "peer professionals" who worked toward basic, decent responsibility office type jobs may bring in $90k/ year with benefits or something, no need to regularly buy and maintain gear, cover insurance, business stuff, etc.
it appears that I should be in the ballpark to gross $125/k .. if we were at an even footing; even while accepting the massively elevated risk encountered as a climber. For some reason our economy values tech and marketing more than basic work like home repair, upkeep and agriculture.

that's $2500 /week . When considering rain-outs, seasonal slow-downs, etc. it would make sense if get to a place of charging $800 / day. I think of all the "off-clock" time I spend organizing stuff, splicing or repairing things, sharpening chains, it all makes sense. This conversation helps keep that in mind. $100/hour is earned by certain trades who are respected as "trained and licensed". I am not fully there, no ISA yet or anything. This is all growing my perspective though.
Thanks again for the thoughts.
 

Stumpsprouts

Well-Known Member
Location
Asheville
When I consider how many "peer professionals" who worked toward basic, decent responsibility office type jobs may bring in $90k/ year with benefits or something, no need to regularly buy and maintain gear, cover insurance, business stuff, etc.
it appears that I should be in the ballpark to gross $125/k .. if we were at an even footing; even while accepting the massively elevated risk encountered as a climber. For some reason our economy values tech and marketing more than basic work like home repair, upkeep and agriculture.

that's $2500 /week . When considering rain-outs, seasonal slow-downs, etc. it would make sense if get to a place of charging $800 / day. I think of all the "off-clock" time I spend organizing stuff, splicing or repairing things, sharpening chains, it all makes sense. This conversation helps keep that in mind. $100/hour is earned by certain trades who are respected as "trained and licensed". I am not fully there, no ISA yet or anything. This is all growing my perspective though.
Thanks again for the thoughts.
You’re not wrong! It does make you scratch your head. If I didn’t hate AC so much I could be pulling in twice as much. Wtf!
 

texasmossball

Member
Location
central texas
$100/hour is earned by certain trades who are respected as "trained and licensed".
Dspacio makes a very important point. Plumbers in the Austin, TX area are easily over $125/ hr (mine is $165). I think car dealers around here are all around $150/hr for repairs. Why should a service in which the workers routinely risk life and limb be paid so much less than others in which there is little or no risk to the worker?

The local cost of living and market valuation of our service is everything in this discussion. By valuation I mean how much value consumers in a given area put on tree work. If you're in an area (like Austin) where that is high, even crappy tree hacks can do quite well (unfortunately).

I feel very confident saying that most of the tree work I see done here is in the "make my trees look pretty" category, NOT hazard mitigation, storm cleanup, dead tree removal, etc. But even if you're in an area which treats tree care more like most plumbing and electrical work, i.e. essential, tree workers should be paid more than them. An improperly plumbed house could have very bad consequences and someone would certainly pay a lot to make sure that doesn't happen, but the plumber is not likely to die in the process. As an industry we should be selling this fact.

I find that contract climbers are usually called in for the toughest, riskiest jobs. Some other posters in this thread alluded to that, and some CC's I've known have told me that is the case for them. Even if they really love the challenge, I wonder why folks would do it if they didn't have to, unless they are getting paid way more for the higher risk and the travel, but I don't know how many are.

Carry insurance, use it as a selling tool with potential clients, do what you say you'll do, keep honing your craft and charge what your skill level is worth. If you're among the best, you can and will command the top price in your area.
 

Fivepoints

Well-Known Member
While its nice to look at other trades, they really don't have any bearing on the tree work market. In the car dealer example, they have usually at least several million in location and equipment. It's not unusual for them to be carrying a huge insurance policy that makes most of our tree policies look lile peanuts. There overhead is way higher than a contract climber.

Contract climbing is very location dependant. Our market will not support a contract climber at $100 an hour. There's a lot of 2 to 3 man crews around $100 to 150 per crew hour. Our market isn't very good. Lots of hacks and a bunch without insurance. Probably 1/4 of our local tree services don't have general liability. There's 4 that have workmans comp. Last i looked, there was 112 tree services listed in the phone book. Lots of illegal dumping and putting it at the street for the city to pick up. At least the cost of living is low here. $150k will buy a nice 1800 sq ft house on a half acre lot in a decent area.
 

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
Dspacio makes a very important point. Plumbers in the Austin, TX area are easily over $125/ hr (mine is $165). I think car dealers around here are all around $150/hr for repairs. Why should a service in which the workers routinely risk life and limb be paid so much less than others in which there is little or no risk to the worker?

The local cost of living and market valuation of our service is everything in this discussion. By valuation I mean how much value consumers in a given area put on tree work. If you're in an area (like Austin) where that is high, even crappy tree hacks can do quite well (unfortunately).

I feel very confident saying that most of the tree work I see done here is in the "make my trees look pretty" category, NOT hazard mitigation, storm cleanup, dead tree removal, etc. But even if you're in an area which treats tree care more like most plumbing and electrical work, i.e. essential, tree workers should be paid more than them. An improperly plumbed house could have very bad consequences and someone would certainly pay a lot to make sure that doesn't happen, but the plumber is not likely to die in the process. As an industry we should be selling this fact.

I find that contract climbers are usually called in for the toughest, riskiest jobs. Some other posters in this thread alluded to that, and some CC's I've known have told me that is the case for them. Even if they really love the challenge, I wonder why folks would do it if they didn't have to, unless they are getting paid way more for the higher risk and the travel, but I don't know how many are.

Carry insurance, use it as a selling tool with potential clients, do what you say you'll do, keep honing your craft and charge what your skill level is worth. If you're among the best, you can and will command the top price in your area.
I full heartily agree with you. Though while most tree work can be to make the tree look pretty it can actually mitigate hazard from storm events or the like. Conversely improper tree care can set the stage for future failure.
To use a auto mechanic as an example doing routine brake work can mitigate care accidents, but if its a shoddy shade tree mechanic for 50-90 per hour and they did a shit job it can cause an accident.
 

Crimsonking

Well-Known Member
Question for the other cc’s here. If you’ve raised your rates, how did you go about it with your regulars? I have 4 companies that I work with regularly. I’m considering raising my rates (I’ve been told by one of them that they thought I should be higher already) because the demand is crazy, the talent pool low, and I want to take more time to focus on other revenue streams. Upping by $100 a day will almost make up for one less day in the field, from 4 to 3. The money I’m already making on the side covers the gap and then some.

Just concerned about how to do it and maintain a good relationship with my regulars. Probably just having the conversation will do the trick, but any advice is appreciated.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
Question for the other cc’s here. If you’ve raised your rates, how did you go about it with your regulars? I have 4 companies that I work with regularly. I’m considering raising my rates (I’ve been told by one of them that they thought I should be higher already) because the demand is crazy, the talent pool low, and I want to take more time to focus on other revenue streams. Upping by $100 a day will almost make up for one less day in the field, from 4 to 3. The money I’m already making on the side covers the gap and then some.

Just concerned about how to do it and maintain a good relationship with my regulars. Probably just having the conversation will do the trick, but any advice is appreciated.
Coming from the other end, my thought is to talk to them. Tell them you’re wanting to raise your rates, explain your reasons, and ask if they can deal with it. Put a reasonable date on it too; not next Tuesday, make it two months from now, or whatever your backlog is plus a few weeks, so your contractors can plan accordingly.

If they’re good regulars and you’re a good climber, they’ll go for it, at least most of them. If one or two won’t/can’t afford it, perhaps keep your rates the same for that company for a while.
 

Crimsonking

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the feedback. The other motivation is related to that last point. Usually when I’m on site we’re able to double production. Or we’re doing something they would never do without my services. Turning two days into one makes the business more than double profit since it reduces payroll and equipment/fuel expenses. It also frees up a day to make more money.

As I’ve been thinking on that I’ve felt that it shouldn’t hurt for me to get just a small portion of that extra, since I’m largely responsible for it.

Note- I’m not claiming to be the best out there. I know a couple of the best, and I’m definitely not in their league. What I described is what it is. Doubling production is usually achieved by having me get stuff down on one part of the property while another part of the team works a different area. There is one fledgling company where skill comes into play, but mostly it’s about workflow. All that to say I don’t want to sound like a cocky tree guy.
 
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dspacio

Active Member
Location
Narragansett Bay
Turning two days into one makes the business more than double profit since it reduces payroll and equipment/fuel expenses. It also frees up a day to make more money.
When I consider the bunches of little things that go into a workday, 3/4 of the time I end up being a mini-foreman, dictating workflow to some extent. Understanding how to budget the time of the day to accomplish everything on the docket. I absorb a good amount of the ultimate responsibility as a self-directed worker.
Often I am teaching knots, practicing letting it run with green groundfolk.. where the net benefits to their crew truthfully may last beyond the day I am there. Ideally we all learn together.

@Reach that's a great point about making the request and giving it a super fair lead time. With that approach there's really no controversy.

Another thing that I've been reflecting on, is that there are a batch of climbers out there who know how to get up there and make cuts; I hear of some wild things happening sometimes. Then there are the true and aspiring arborists who study plant form, pruning, assess trees health and strong vs. weak compartmentalizing, adjust pruning intensity based on tree age, species and condition, can spot signs of internal hidden disease within branches, and so on and so on.

I don't think every guy I am presenting myself to understands the difference. I hear of some climbers who run up, drop huge pieces, hopefully don't hurt anything or anyone. From ground guys I hear "he is a really good climber" because it looks like he moves around fast. Then when I hear more stories, there is usually some property damage, he's on drugs, and I am just guessing that he isn't studying pruning guides after happy hour. It's just different characters in our world.
Pruning large mature trees is one of the most advanced forms of work I approach, and I do so after over a decade of study, work and practice. Yet I doubt I make more than a fast climber who can drop stuff.

Tree care like we do was not even a job 100 years ago. It's not surprising that we are still educating people about it. It's good if we can convey how sending up an arborist climber every few years for a few hundred bucks is a preferable choice than doing nothing until it's time for a hazardous $2000 removal. We are speaking business, and money talks.
I hope, generally, that things will swing towards quality work upfront rather than the ethos of 'lowest bid every time'. As climbers we can articulate this to the companies too.
 

Z'sTrees

Well-Known Member
Location
NW NC
It's good to get some perspective on going rates around the country.

I don't sub very often but when it's just me and some tools in a pickup I shoot for around 400-500 per day. Anytime I'm bringing any equipment, I just turn it into an hourly rate that includes anything over an hour round trip of drive time
I've also subbed our whole crew (chipper, trucks, mini, etc) and just knock a little bit off my normal $75 per man hr if I don't have to go look at it or deal with anyone but the company we're subbing for.
 

RyanCafferky

Well-Known Member
This has been an interesting conversation to follow. I’ve wanted to chime in for a while but this is a subject that I am a bit hesitant to discuss in a public forum. What I charge has changed considerably since I first started contracting. I think I am billing at the upper end of the spectrum and that is where I want to be. We live in a capitalist society where everything is priced on supply and demand. Why should individuals be shy about pricing themselves any different? I am in high demand so my prices have continued to go up and will continue to go up until the market will no longer support those rates. Many companies will not use me because of my pricing and that is fine with me. The companies that use me most are incredibly happy with the service that they receive and their business is booming.

My feeling is that if a tree service is bidding their work at $100+ per man hour in my area (which most are) that they do not need to profit off of me and my labor by paying me less than their billing rate. Their profit on those jobs comes from the fact that their overall labor costs are considerably lower because they use me. If a tree service sends their typical 3 man crew to do a job, they will often take all day to do that job. Instead, they send me and 2-3 guys, and we move through that job efficiently by lunch time, and go do another job. Or on large jobs, having me there is often the difference between finishing in one day or having it stretch into 2-3 days. In our market, there is such a huge backlog of work to be done that in some cases people are waiting a month or more for an estimate to be done and then getting on another long waiting list to actually have the work done. Having a good contract climber to crank through that backlog is valuable and should be priced as such.

If I start thinking about the really hard trees, that is when then I start thinking that we are undercharging for our services. Often I am brought in because the cranes and the buckets can’t do something and the tree service employees can’t do it efficiently or won’t do it because it is too scary. I think contract climbers should submit high hourly rates for higher risk work.

As far as raising rates goes, those conversations can be a bit awkward. But once again, we have to value ourselves whether we are contractors or employees. Being able to articulate your hourly or day rate based on either the contractors rate is helpful but not necessary. You are the only person that can determine what your time and energy is worth. At that point it is someone else and the market that get to decide whether that is something that can be sustained.

Don’t get me started on my idea for a floating price point where people bid for my contract climbing days… Capitalism at its finest.
 

owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
While its nice to look at other trades, they really don't have any bearing on the tree work market. In the car dealer example, they have usually at least several million in location and equipment. It's not unusual for them to be carrying a huge insurance policy that makes most of our tree policies look lile peanuts. There overhead is way higher than a contract climber.

Contract climbing is very location dependant. Our market will not support a contract climber at $100 an hour. There's a lot of 2 to 3 man crews around $100 to 150 per crew hour. Our market isn't very good. Lots of hacks and a bunch without insurance. Probably 1/4 of our local tree services don't have general liability. There's 4 that have workmans comp. Last i looked, there was 112 tree services listed in the phone book. Lots of illegal dumping and putting it at the street for the city to pick up. At least the cost of living is low here. $150k will buy a nice 1800 sq ft house on a half acre lot in a decent area.
I agree. Even in my market, which is good. $100 an hour is not feasible. There may be exceptions like a really big dangerous involved removal but on the whole $400 a day is for a good climber with all equipment. Also anything at that level I will just do myself. I realize not all business owners can do that which is a whole other discussion. Too many owners that cant or never done the work are hostage to subs charging these really high prices. I have sub contracted for decades and run a tree service so I see both sides. People may think they are worth $800+ a day but I cant see that being the norm. I am interested hearing more from subs here as time goes on.
 

Stumpsprouts

Well-Known Member
Location
Asheville
I am also hesitant to get into nitty gritty as well in this public setting.

There’s a low ceiling for what a company will charge for ccs in this area, and many excellent climbers, so the supply/demand doesn’t work so well in our favor.

I contract with folks but also bid my own jobs, if I do my estimate right I make 3 or 4 times what I would make as a cc in a day. I also get hired out with my small rig (9” Carlton and dump chip truck) for 2x my usual day rate. But that rate will certainly increase once I get more established.
 

owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
This has been an interesting conversation to follow. I’ve wanted to chime in for a while but this is a subject that I am a bit hesitant to discuss in a public forum. What I charge has changed considerably since I first started contracting. I think I am billing at the upper end of the spectrum and that is where I want to be. We live in a capitalist society where everything is priced on supply and demand. Why should individuals be shy about pricing themselves any different? I am in high demand so my prices have continued to go up and will continue to go up until the market will no longer support those rates. Many companies will not use me because of my pricing and that is fine with me. The companies that use me most are incredibly happy with the service that they receive and their business is booming.

My feeling is that if a tree service is bidding their work at $100+ per man hour in my area (which most are) that they do not need to profit off of me and my labor by paying me less than their billing rate. Their profit on those jobs comes from the fact that their overall labor costs are considerably lower because they use me. If a tree service sends their typical 3 man crew to do a job, they will often take all day to do that job. Instead, they send me and 2-3 guys, and we move through that job efficiently by lunch time, and go do another job. Or on large jobs, having me there is often the difference between finishing in one day or having it stretch into 2-3 days. In our market, there is such a huge backlog of work to be done that in some cases people are waiting a month or more for an estimate to be done and then getting on another long waiting list to actually have the work done. Having a good contract climber to crank through that backlog is valuable and should be priced as such.

If I start thinking about the really hard trees, that is when then I start thinking that we are undercharging for our services. Often I am brought in because the cranes and the buckets can’t do something and the tree service employees can’t do it efficiently or won’t do it because it is too scary. I think contract climbers should submit high hourly rates for higher risk work.

As far as raising rates goes, those conversations can be a bit awkward. But once again, we have to value ourselves whether we are contractors or employees. Being able to articulate your hourly or day rate based on either the contractors rate is helpful but not necessary. You are the only person that can determine what your time and energy is worth. At that point it is someone else and the market that get to decide whether that is something that can be sustained.

Don’t get me started on my idea for a floating price point where people bid for my contract climbing days… Capitalism at its finest.
I agree that high risk jobs should be priced higher. This issue here is IMO the majority of tree work for a expeienced climber in majority of the senerios is low risk, skilled yes.What other trades make is irrelevent. Hard work and managable risk is part of climbing and it seems that some believe they should be paid extra for what is inherently part of the job. Like saying I show up on time therefore i should be paid more. Mechanics get paid within a certain range, they dont tack on more because they get their hands dirty. Doing a job in 1 day versus 2-3 is a pretty strong statement. That indicates to me the job was estimated totally wrong or their climbers are totally incompetent. I will take you at your word that you are as good as you say, again that kind of production is an exception because if that is the norm these companies seem a bit incompetent at estimating . The suggestion here that $100 per hour is any kind of norm is a bit out of touch. I know there are many super legit climbers on this site that can command that kind of money, I will include you in that list. However when I hear 1 year climbers talking about this kind of money its time to put the landing gear down. IMO at 1-5 years you should be focused on increasing skill not how much you should make. Maybe I am jaded and a fool because I spent many years climbing before I believed I was good enough to ask for this kind of money.
 

owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
I am also hesitant to get into nitty gritty as well in this public setting.

There’s a low ceiling for what a company will charge for ccs in this area, and many excellent climbers, so the supply/demand doesn’t work so well in our favor.

I contract with folks but also bid my own jobs, if I do my estimate right I make 3 or 4 times what I would make as a cc in a day. I also get hired out with my small rig (9” Carlton and dump chip truck) for 2x my usual day rate. But that rate will certainly increase once I get more established.
This is my point. Your job, your risk everything is on you. The phone work, customer relations, equipmnet cost etc. Thats why you make that money.
 

owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
This has been an interesting conversation to follow. I’ve wanted to chime in for a while but this is a subject that I am a bit hesitant to discuss in a public forum. What I charge has changed considerably since I first started contracting. I think I am billing at the upper end of the spectrum and that is where I want to be. We live in a capitalist society where everything is priced on supply and demand. Why should individuals be shy about pricing themselves any different? I am in high demand so my prices have continued to go up and will continue to go up until the market will no longer support those rates. Many companies will not use me because of my pricing and that is fine with me. The companies that use me most are incredibly happy with the service that they receive and their business is booming.

My feeling is that if a tree service is bidding their work at $100+ per man hour in my area (which most are) that they do not need to profit off of me and my labor by paying me less than their billing rate. Their profit on those jobs comes from the fact that their overall labor costs are considerably lower because they use me. If a tree service sends their typical 3 man crew to do a job, they will often take all day to do that job. Instead, they send me and 2-3 guys, and we move through that job efficiently by lunch time, and go do another job. Or on large jobs, having me there is often the difference between finishing in one day or having it stretch into 2-3 days. In our market, there is such a huge backlog of work to be done that in some cases people are waiting a month or more for an estimate to be done and then getting on another long waiting list to actually have the work done. Having a good contract climber to crank through that backlog is valuable and should be priced as such.

If I start thinking about the really hard trees, that is when then I start thinking that we are undercharging for our services. Often I am brought in because the cranes and the buckets can’t do something and the tree service employees can’t do it efficiently or won’t do it because it is too scary. I think contract climbers should submit high hourly rates for higher risk work.

As far as raising rates goes, those conversations can be a bit awkward. But once again, we have to value ourselves whether we are contractors or employees. Being able to articulate your hourly or day rate based on either the contractors rate is helpful but not necessary. You are the only person that can determine what your time and energy is worth. At that point it is someone else and the market that get to decide whether that is something that can be sustained.

Don’t get me started on my idea for a floating price point where people bid for my contract climbing days… Capitalism at its finest.
Ryan I have another question. Say a company bids a job for 2-3days. Lets say their goal is $2500 a day, which I think is close to normal. Thats 5k-7.5k Then the job gets done in 1 day. If they do this consistantly do you feel they are over charging? Me personally if I bid a job for 3 days and did it in 1 day I would feel like I overcharged. Again a job bid for 1 day done in a half day means bad estimating skills or knowingly over charging. Whats also awkward is the contractor trying to explain to the customer why they were done in 1 day when it was bid for multible days.
 

RyanCafferky

Well-Known Member
Ryan I have another question. Say a company bids a job for 2-3days. Lets say their goal is $2500 a day, which I think is close to normal. Thats 5k-7.5k Then the job gets done in 1 day. If they do this consistantly do you feel they are over charging? Me personally if I bid a job for 3 days and did it in 1 day I would feel like I overcharged. Again a job bid for 1 day done in a half day means bad estimating skills or knowingly over charging. Whats also awkward is the contractor trying to explain to the customer why they were done in 1 day when it was bid for multible days.
If a job is bid and the client accepts the bid (often after getting other quotes) then it is within the right of the company hired to bill that full amount regardless of how quickly the work is completed. But in the interest of retaining a client long term or perhaps getting more referrals from that client, most companies I work with will add up the man hours worked on a job, see what the hourly rate comes out at and reduce the final bill if there are significantly lower man hours.
 
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