Daily rate freelance

I have been watching this thread with interest as well and very much appreciate the discussion. I think @RyanCafferky is pretty spot on with his assessment. Sure $800 sounds like a lot for a day but you can bet that the top guys/girls in the large metro areas of our country are getting that pretty easily. My current market doesn’t allow that but that’s because I live in rural PA. Everything costs so much more in those urban areas and tree work is no exception. I’ve participated in jobs scaling out 17 grand for one large crew and large crane in a day. And that’s just the residential side. Can’t even get me started with the type of $ thrown around on the utility side-I once did 33 grand with just a three man felling crew and a couple saws and I’m not a superhero-just a normal tree guy. And that’s just on the cutting side of the industry. But that’s another semi-taboo subject that is rarely openly discussed on this site for obvious reasons. All I’m saying is if you are a smart hungry person in this trade and are willing to evolve your work, there is real money to be made like 175k+
-Colin
 
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owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
Ryan I do agree with your last post. I am clear on how contracting works. Your selling point was doing 2-3 days work in 1 day. If in the end the company only bills for the 1 day doesnt that kind of kill the whole 2-3 day into 1 concept. I get the idea of getting more work done, but that doesnt always equate to making more money.
 
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owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
I have been watching this thread with interest as well and very much appreciate the discussion. I think @RyanCafferky is pretty spot on with his assessment. Sure $800 sounds like a lot for a day but you can bet that the top guys/girls in the large metro areas of our country are getting that pretty easily. My current market doesn’t allow that but that’s because I live in rural PA. Everything costs so much more in those urban areas and tree work is no exception. I’ve participated in jobs scaling out 17 grand for one large crew and large crane in a day. And that’s just the residential side. Can’t even get me started with the type of $ thrown around on the utility side-I once did 33 grand with just a three man felling crew and a couple saws and I’m not a superhero-just a normal tree guy. And that’s just on the cutting side of the industry. But that’s another semi-taboo subject that is rarely openly discussed on this site for obvious reasons. All I’m saying is if you are a smart hungry person in this trade and are willing to evolve your work, there is real money to be made like 175k+
-Colin
So I am in the Denver metro area, never heard of a $800 a day climber. How many $800 a day climbers do you know personally, not internet stars. Companies around here balk at $400 a day, I know I have done alot of subbing here and I wont bother with blathering creditials. Saying you can do 2-3 days work in 1 day is spot on? 33k for how many days of work? So dont get me wrong here not saying some guys cant get $800, some can but you guys are making it sound like this is the new norm. Question to all you business owners out there, how many of you are paying subs $800 a day?
 
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Serf Life

Well-Known Member
Location
Maine Island
Crew around here is using $80/hr baseline for cc’s. Don’t know much more past that. The way some folks quote, $800/day cc would be a drop in the bucket and one less workers comp w2 hungover employee. Not my style of economics but damn prevalent.
 
@owScott I didn’t mean to make it sound like $800 is the new norm, and I am not currently or have ever been a 800 a day guy. To be clear I was just the pawn who cut the trees for the company (utility contractor) that billed 33 g’s for one day, though at the time I was being paid very well... and this was in Cali not Denver, at the end of the first wave of cutting on the bark beetle projects. Sorry, should’ve clarified. And while the times have changed out there in regards to beetle vs fire, the money has stayed the same for the people who have stuck it out. I don’t think the Denver market really supports $800 day in and day out for anybody just contracting. I think @RyanCafferky is an extreme case as he previously stated. The dude has tip toed up some sketchball trees most contractors (myself included) would balk at and he is at the upper echelon of our industry in terms of experience, skill, training etc. and has led expeditions in Africa climbing and guiding biologists up the largest planted recorded Eucs (correct me if I’m wrong Ryan) He also lives in one of the most thriving areas where big $ meets big trees. So to answer your question how many climbers command $800 regularly? Not many but it is attainable.
Cheers,
Colin
 
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Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
Question to all you business owners out there, how many of you are paying subs $800 a day?
Do cranes count? Around here, most climbers bill in the $400/hour range. We have one national competitor who bills $600, nobody in this area can afford $800/day for a contract climber. The market just won’t support it, a good three man climber based crew with chipper, loader, and two trucks only bills $1700-1900 in this area!
 

SomethingWitty

Arkansawyer
Location
LR
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.
I don't want to sound like a cocky tree guy either, but I think I might come across that way.
So I am in the Denver metro area, never heard of a $800 a day climber. How many $800 a day climbers do you know personally, not internet stars. Companies around here balk at $400 a day, I know I have done alot of subbing here and I wont bother with blathering creditials. Saying you can do 2-3 days work in 1 day is spot on? 33k for how many days of work? So dont get me wrong here not saying some guys cant get $800, some can but you guys are making it sound like this is the new norm. Question to all you business owners out there, how many of you are paying subs $800 a day?
I appreciate how this discussion has moved forward.

There is definitely a difference between a capable climber and an elite contract climbers. I have worked with a good number of guys who contract, and I can say for sure that there are some who really produce twice as much as others.
I personally know nobody who demands $800/day. I know a couple at $400-$500/day that I can smoke without breaking a sweat and they seem to be rolling along just fine. Surely it must scale to some extent. Are there not enough really good climbers with reasonable prices to let the pretty good ones see where the bar is? Are the elite ones making more than they deserve? Is there a way to put an easy number on absolute certainty that everything is going to go smoothly on a pretty intense tree?

Someone mentioned being pushed into a teaching/site leading role frequently. I have found that to be the case at a couple of companies that I go make sawdust for. It hurts my production substantially, but it frees up the owner to do whatever they would rather be doing for the day. How much is the owner's time worth? How much is the fresh perspective being presented to your two-year groundie (who doesn't study after work) worth?

I don't contract full time. I've done it off and on for about 7 years, and recently decided that I'm going to do enough of it to get a truck specifically optimized for it. I am seriously enjoying the discussion here and trying to ask good questions.
I don't think I'm the best at what I do, but I am realizing that I am good enough to run with the guys who are.
 

Stumpsprouts

Well-Known Member
Location
Asheville
Do cranes count? Around here, most climbers bill in the $400/hour range. We have one national competitor who bills $600, nobody in this area can afford $800/day for a contract climber. The market just won’t support it, a good three man climber based crew with chipper, loader, and two trucks only bills $1700-1900 in this area!
I’m thinking you meant to say $400 a day and $800 a day.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
I’m thinking you meant to say $400 a day and $800 a day.
Oops! Yes, that should have been $400/day. I’ve been working too many hours lately, we are running about half staffed, so I’m probably half asleep full time. My posts should be edited for content and clarity because what I say and what I mean may well be quite different!
 

owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
@owScott I didn’t mean to make it sound like $800 is the new norm, and I am not currently or have ever been a 800 a day guy. To be clear I was just the pawn who cut the trees for the company (utility contractor) that billed 33 g’s for one day, though at the time I was being paid very well... and this was in Cali not Denver, at the end of the first wave of cutting on the bark beetle projects. Sorry, should’ve clarified. And while the times have changed out there in regards to beetle vs fire, the money has stayed the same for the people who have stuck it out. I don’t think the Denver market really supports $800 day in and day out for anybody just contracting. I think @RyanCafferky is an extreme case as he previously stated. The dude has tip toed up some sketchball trees most contractors (myself included) would balk at and he is at the upper echelon of our industry in terms of experience, skill, training etc. and has led expeditions in Africa climbing and guiding biologists up the largest planted recorded Eucs (correct me if I’m wrong Ryan) He also lives in one of the most thriving areas where big $ meets big trees. So to answer your question how many climbers command $800 regularly? Not many but it is attainable.
Cheers,
Colin
Yes I agree. There are some guys out there like Ryan that can get that kind of money in certain markets for certain jobs. Its just not close to any norm. That was my only real point. I am originally from Nor Cal where I climbed for 20+ years so I have a good understanding of the style of work. Denver is my new home. Thanks for the conversation.
 
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owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
Do cranes count? Around here, most climbers bill in the $400/hour range. We have one national competitor who bills $600, nobody in this area can afford $800/day for a contract climber. The market just won’t support it, a good three man climber based crew with chipper, loader, and two trucks only bills $1700-1900 in this area!
Thanks for your input. I dont think you are that far off from the average.
 
So I am in the Denver metro area, never heard of a $800 a day climber. How many $800 a day climbers do you know personally, not internet stars. Companies around here balk at $400 a day, I know I have done alot of subbing here and I wont bother with blathering creditials. Saying you can do 2-3 days work in 1 day is spot on? 33k for how many days of work? So dont get me wrong here not saying some guys cant get $800, some can but you guys are making it sound like this is the new norm. Question to all you business owners out there, how many of you are paying subs $800 a day?
$400 a day is on the stale end for Denver proper. Most high end guys I know there are bringing $500 to $600 pretty easily. That being said, for how much Denver has exploded in the past 15 years the Rocky Mountain region is a little behind the times wage-wise compared to both coasts of our country.
 

dspacio

Active Member
Location
Narragansett Bay
I am not really imagining these higher values to instantly become a normal rate. yet assessing that we are in the same ballpark of other urgent response contractors who do command that. I know it's sort of oblique to work in comparisons. But when I am responding to a call because there is a snapped half a tree suspended over a driveway sitting on its stem, that is every bit as urgent as the plumbing leak, requires expert assessment and execution, etc. I end up taking care of it at my regular contracting day rate, but here I am assessing my own reality check about, "what is the real value in this kind of work?" (I get it down safely in under 3 hours, who else does that? (except you guys of course)) We have also mentioned the "what the market will bear" aspect, and I do live in an area with higher cost of living and wealthier clientele. I think that over the years I have left a lot of money on the table, so I am just aiming to get some good goals for this year.

I have considered having a different rate for hazard and removal. I have always just accepted it as part of the mix of work. But ultimately, I will happily spend a day pruning for half the rate than I will negotiating these snapped off hung up trees with poor tie-in-points!! I am just not sure how to negotiate that, where to draw the line in a clear way. For now I take it on as practice and expanding my skill. The novelty wears off fast though!

a friend says, regarding billing, "in business everyone needs to win so we can all do it again." ultimately solid steady relationships and regular work are the value I am asking for from companies. Indeed, it's only ourselves who can fully assess how this all plays out for our life, our area, our skills.
 

owScott

Well-Known Member
Location
Lafayette
$400 a day is on the stale end for Denver proper. Most high end guys I know there are bringing $500 to $600 pretty easily. That being said, for how much Denver has exploded in the past 15 years the Rocky Mountain region is a little behind the times wage-wise compared to both coasts of our country.
The front range has one of the fastest growing, strongest economies in the country. You may be some what correct about being a bit behind wage wise because there is alot of competition for work which requires companies to keep their bids reasonable. That confirms my point. That being said if you are inclined PM me the info to these guys. I occasionally use subs and know several companies who ask me if I know anyone. I have personally subbed at that $500-$600 rate here. but that was usually for difficult removal senerios. I think $500-$600 is reasonable for a good cc $800 would be a rare senerio. I would consider paying that $500-$600 rate if the guy was actually any good. The majority of the guys I have meet at the $300-$400 range talk it up, and are slow as hell. The few guys I know that are $600 worthy pretty much do their own thing these days and dont really sub anymore.
 
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RyanCafferky

Well-Known Member
Do cranes count? Around here, most climbers bill in the $400/hour range. We have one national competitor who bills $600, nobody in this area can afford $800/day for a contract climber. The market just won’t support it, a good three man climber based crew with chipper, loader, and two trucks only bills $1700-1900 in this area!
And that is my point exactly. Free market economics determine contract climber rates. Will the market support a higher rate? If the box is checked yes and your relationships with those you are charging not only survive but thrive, then yes, make your money like they are making theirs. A rising tide raises all ships. I am an independent ship that rides the tide with those I work with and for. When things are slow I am negotiable and I am the first person who sits at home. It certainly isn’t the employees. We haven’t been slow since the start of the pandemic when everyone just stopped. Since then everyone has been super slammed.

What is kind of ironic is that I am a bit of a socialist. In an ideal world I would work for a cooperative where profits were split among employees based on hours worked. But until I either get the courage to start it myself or someone else starts it and I get on board, I am going to freely embrace capitalism.
 

dspacio

Active Member
Location
Narragansett Bay
In an ideal world I would work for a cooperative where profits were split among employees based on hours worked. But until I either get the courage to start it myself or someone else starts it and I get on board, I am going to freely embrace capitalism.
We formed a worker-cooperative to run a local food store, was open for 5 years. It's an ideal blend between personal responsibility and teamwork mentality. I described cooperatives to fellow tree-workers in trucks for years, I don't think any of them really understood it. It's a mental stretch for those entrenched in being employed.

I could see a cooperative where jobs are posted on a job board, and climbers /buckets / special machines etc could make their offers. One guy may be cheaper because it's super local for him. some guys like taking on certain kinda jobs, some may offer lower rates if they really need the shot, some may highball. Then someone can review their offers and put the team together.

I worked with a group developing a job board online software that could handle this kind of listing and correspondance, calendars etc. It's just adapting business software that exists, really. Haven't checked the project status in a while. I had to step away after the latest lyme round. A cooperative could be a great way for independent climbers and companies to handle working together.
 

southsoundtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Olympia, WA
And that is my point exactly. Free market economics determine contract climber rates. Will the market support a higher rate? If the box is checked yes and your relationships with those you are charging not only survive but thrive, then yes, make your money like they are making theirs. A rising tide raises all ships. I am an independent ship that rides the tide with those I work with and for. When things are slow I am negotiable and I am the first person who sits at home. It certainly isn’t the employees. We haven’t been slow since the start of the pandemic when everyone just stopped. Since then everyone has been super slammed.

What is kind of ironic is that I am a bit of a socialist. In an ideal world I would work for a cooperative where profits were split among employees based on hours worked. But until I either get the courage to start it myself or someone else starts it and I get on board, I am going to freely embrace capitalism.
Is compensation per hour meant to be equal?

Different people being different things.

To me, that's telling top performers not to work as hard, and lesser performers/ producers that they are worth as much as everyone else because they also showed up and are also working, so no reason to sweat it.
 

dspacio

Active Member
Location
Narragansett Bay
Is compensation per hour meant to be equal?

Different people being different things.

To me, that's telling top performers not to work as hard, and lesser performers/ producers that they are worth as much as everyone else because they also showed up and are also working, so no reason to sweat it.
in terms of a worker-cooperative, the thing that would be shared is the profit, not the gross take for a job. cooperatives operate like normal business, yet ownership is shared among workers who have bought in somehow, through time and/or money.

folks may be getting their respective hourly rates for the work, someone may be getting a finders fee, some goes back into equipment and the business. Every month or quarter or year, folks can get a portion of overall profit (after reinvesting in the business) based on hours they worked, or some kind of unit of interest, to create a proportion to divide that profit.

In current conditions, the only incentive a worker has to get the job done fast is so they can go home on time. in terms of their dollars, they should stretch the job out. earning a unit for every hour or day they put in, gets them into a share of the business profits, just a bit. I feel this would also help get workers in the know of whether the crew has been generating profit or just breaking even.

the variations are endless, I feel this meets an essential gap between the extremes of superstar entrepreneur business-owner and the aloof driftless worker. what about the trustworthy standby workers who show up day after day for years at a time? It would be great for them to also build equity through time and reliability, and to do well when the business is flowing.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
in terms of a worker-cooperative, the thing that would be shared is the profit, not the gross take for a job. cooperatives operate like normal business, yet ownership is shared among workers who have bought in somehow, through time and/or money.

folks may be getting their respective hourly rates for the work, someone may be getting a finders fee, some goes back into equipment and the business. Every month or quarter or year, folks can get a portion of overall profit (after reinvesting in the business) based on hours they worked, or some kind of unit of interest, to create a proportion to divide that profit.

In current conditions, the only incentive a worker has to get the job done fast is so they can go home on time. in terms of their dollars, they should stretch the job out. earning a unit for every hour or day they put in, gets them into a share of the business profits, just a bit. I feel this would also help get workers in the know of whether the crew has been generating profit or just breaking even.

the variations are endless, I feel this meets an essential gap between the extremes of superstar entrepreneur business-owner and the aloof driftless worker. what about the trustworthy standby workers who show up day after day for years at a time? It would be great for them to also build equity through time and reliability, and to do well when the business is flowing.
We share our profits with the crew monthly, using a “pay for performance“ model. At the end of each month, the profits are divided up into various categories, some going to pay off debts, some going into the equipment fund, a portion goes to the owner of the company, and a substantial portion is divided up among the crewmembers. The crew each get an equal share, but their share can be increased or decreased slightly based on their individual performance that month. Someone who is really a rockstar will get a fair amount more than someone who only works an average level. Someone who has a tendency to show up late, or slack off, will get a smaller cut.

The way I see it, and the way I explain it to all of our new hires, is that this company really belongs to the employees, as the owner my job is simply to manage things for them, to give them the best possible working conditions and payments. The crew is the one who do the work that brings in the income, so in my opinion they should share in the reward.
 

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