Help me figure out how much to charge for an afternoon of yardwork

A little background: I am a professional elder care/personal assistant. I have done everything from helping a client put on a new roof, to editing and co-authoring a client’s book for publication.

Recently I painted heat-resistant paint on a section of roof for one client. Now he has told me his brother needs some yard work, and has recommended me to do it.

So the issue is, most of the people I assist are of moderate income, and I charge them $20 an hour. I’m an efficient and hard worker, and no one ends up owing me an exorbitant amount.

However, this gentleman lives up in the hills, where people can be pretty much guaranteed to be far more affluent. I’ve decided that what I will do is be straightforward with him. I will ask him if it’s fair to say that he is fairly comfortable, and when he does I will quote him a price somewhat higher than what I charged his brother. But how much should that be? I expect it will be a long afternoon of pulling massive weeds and so forth, fairly taxing physical labor.

What do you think?

I wouldn’t ask him about his financial situation. I’d quote him a fee you think is fair and which would satisfy you. If it’s higher than you charge his brother and he asks you about that, you can tell him you give a discount to low income people.

I wouldn’t ask about finances, either. If it’s a bigger commute than normal, quote your regular hourly and add a $50 transportation fee.

I hope you are not going up there with just a pair of gloves and some hand tools. From what you describe, you are going to need gas powered equipment to get rid of those tall weeds and undergrowth. If the person hiring you doesn’t have this kind of equipment, you are going to have to rent it and pass the cost to the person hiring you. Without the right equipment for the job, you are going to tax yourself far more than you know. Painting and roofing are one thing, but heavy duty landscaping is another and you should charge accordingly.

I don’t think any hired yardman pulls weeds anymore. They will spot spray with weed killer if requested.

Usually they crank up the mower and string trimmer to cut everything.

String trimmers are great for knocking down weeds in areas a mower can’t reach. You can’t mow over rocks, stumps, big holes etc.

I think the guy is excepting to pay the same as his brother , I am sure the your client told his brother he knew someone that would do the job for a good price . So you should be prepared for some disappointment from both brother . If the guy does ask why he has to pay more than his brother tell him that you only give your clients a discount rate. Good luck !

If you really need to make some more money charge the guy $25 an hour and pay a day laborer $15 an hour to do the work. But if you don’t need the money then you should just say thank you and decline. Getting involved in this could end up costing you a client and having his crank brother harassing you.

I agree that this could cost the OP a client and doing work for elderly clients family could get messy. The brother could say the OP broke or stolen something from him .

I am sure you were recommended for your quality of work. The guy’s brother is probably unaware of your previous wages. Plus you have some extra transportation costs.

As for me, my English students that show up in fine cars pay more. Because they have it. And I could use the cash.

Whereas a poor student walking, or on a beat up bicycle might provide me with a home cooked meal.

Tell him you can’t quote him w/o seeing what he wants done, then take a trip out and see what’s expected before setting a rate or a date. Then you can adjust that rate if you think you’ll need to rent equipment, reschedule other work, etc.

I’m going to move this to IMHO for you, I think it fits in a little better there.

The hotness and hospitality of the client’s wife may be a factor, if the various documentaries I’ve seen on the subject are any guide.

Maybe we should extend the OP’s pricing policy to various other services?

Need your car fixed? Teeth repaired? A haircut? Assess the customer’s income, and set your prices accordingly.

Or maybe have a set price independent of what you think the customer can afford, and lower (or even eliminate) it for those who are in financial difficulties.


I run a small gardening business, and that is the correct approach. Never commit to anything site unseen. Nothing worse than turning up to do the actual job when you don’t have all the necessary equipment. Maybe the weeds are small enough that you don’t need to use a line trimmer - just get down and pull them out (which is more effective than using a line trimmer anyway because an l.t. doesn’t remove a weed’s roots). If there’s too many weeds to pull, then use your hoe. Be careful giving quotes that can get passed on to others - a number of complications/misunderstandings can arise out of this. Even if a client might be way wealthier than another one, he/she might still take umbrage to you charging them more than another client. You can’t tell them “well - you earn more, so I’m charging you more”. You explain to them what it is about the job, itself, that’s making you charge them more than others. Some of my stingiest clients are the more well-off ones.
Also, if you’re not super desperate for the cash, don’t even bother if they’re trying to haggle you too much over fees.

Yard work is expensive and this guy sees a good deal in the offing. We got estimates for our small property: pulling weeds, cleaning up, putting down new bark chips, etc. and it came to about $2500 for 2-3 days work.

This. After your initial inspection. The $50 will help cover the time you took to do the inspection.

Price discrimination is totally a thing throughout the economy! Including at my dentist’s office :D. Granted, we’re more used to seeing it done via discounts theoretically available to all comers than explicitly via higher prices for the affluent.

I’m going to echo the opinion that the OP should visit and assess the site before quoting a rate. And also the opinion that there is nothing unnatural about charging a higher rate for different work, so phrase it that way instead of in terms of income/ability to pay.

Mowing a lawn might be 25 to 50 bucks but for someone to show up with helpers and their own equipment and clear my lawn out of a years worth of leaves and underbrush I would expect to pay 300 to 500 for that level of work and for it to take a day or possibly a bit more. Dealing with older person’s yard, where in many cases a huge amount of work needs to be done and it requires a fair amount of equipment is a whole different kettle of fish. The amount of work that you’re expected to do could be so widely variable you really need to scope it out.

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Three people for two days at $500 is only $10/hour for wages and overhead. If you can find help that cheap, my hat’s off to you.

That was for a day and part of morning of the next day with one guy for 85% of the time and his helper for the rest. Plus I’m pretty sure his first “day” wasn’t 9-5 but was afternoon to around 5. I think With the 50 dollar tip I paid him 50-60 an hour if computed out.