Estimating can be a real headache for landscape contractors.
It’s tedious, time-consuming, and challenging to get right—especially with manual tools. That’s why many lawn care businesses are turning to landscape estimating software to improve their processes.
What is landscape estimating software?
Landscape estimating software allows you to evaluate potential projects, prepare bids, and send polished proposals. The best programs enable you to produce reliable, consistent, and accurate estimates in record time. And the better your estimates, the better your margins.
Plus, with an end-to-end business management platform like Aspire, you can easily move from the estimating stage to the purchasing stage when a job is won. In a few clicks, all materials from the estimate are automatically carried over to the built-in purchasing assistant.
Takeoff software isn’t just a fancy Excel spreadsheet for materials. When it’s well designed, its functionality should serve as a hub to streamline the process of creating accurate estimates.
For landscape businesses accustomed to creating takeoffs by hand, digital tools can completely transform their workflows, saving countless hours previously spent with a pencil and Google Earth printout.
Use landscape takeoff software to improve pricing structures
Whether you’re bidding on new maintenance contracts or design/build projects, accurate estimates are critical to the health of your landscaping company.
Estimates are (by definition) rough guesses, but they should always be educated guesses.
Too many lawn care and landscape businesses fail because they don’t fully understand their job costs. They may find themselves winning lots of bids but still struggling to pay the bills or turn a profit. Or they may lose out on lucrative contracts because they bid themselves out of the competition.
To avoid these pitfalls, landscape business owners can prioritize accurate estimates and keep an eye on real-time job costs (using a system like Aspire) once a bid is won.
5 ways to use landscape estimating software
Takeoff software can help improve your estimating process and boost profits. Here are five ways to ensure you get the highest return on investment for the platform you choose:
- Use templates and kits
- Stay consistent
- Record as many details as possible
- Review past jobs
- Establish markups
Use templates and kits
To get the most out of your landscape estimating software, take the time to set up templates.
The specific features available to you may vary depending on the software you use, but in Aspire, you can have unlimited templates and kits to use for any kind of job. Kits combine your company’s unique production factors with material costs in a single line on the estimate, so all you have to do is alter takeoffs and everything else is adjusted automatically.
For example, if you know you need to install three 5-gallon Red Twig Dogwoods for a particular property, you can simply add the Red Twig Dogwood kit to your estimate, assign the quantity, and watch the totals for material costs, labor costs, and markup populate across the rest of the estimate.
Inconsistency is one of the biggest mistakes landscape businesses make when it comes to estimating.
Without templates (or at least clear instructions), estimators will naturally create slightly different, subjective bids. This can be avoided with software if you put structures in place to maintain consistent numbers across all proposals created by your company.
In Aspire, you can even set up rules that cause all estimates above a certain amount to be sent to a manager for approval before they’re received by a prospective client.
Record as many details as possible
Estimates are often seen as tedious because they involve lots of details, but each of those details is important—and mistakes or oversights can add up quickly.
Using on-screen takeoffs drastically speeds up the estimating process, but software can only use the information it’s given.
Make sure any team members involved in building the estimate or handling the takeoffs are as thorough as possible, paying close attention to project plans, making detailed material lists, and filling out all relevant fields while striving for the highest degree of accuracy possible.
Review past jobs
Once you’ve been using landscape management software for a while, you’ll be able to access past job history to see how your original estimates stack up to your actual job costs.
Aspire’s job-costing features allow you to track all progress on a job through work tickets available in real-time. This enables users to monitor performance and quickly see when a job is in danger of going over budget, allowing business owners unprecedented access to their data and control over their operations—and empowering them to make informed, proactive decisions.
By reviewing job-costing data from past projects, contractors can hone their estimate-building process, tweaking numbers as needed to accommodate changes in anything from labor to equipment.
Finally, make sure to take advantage of your estimating software’s ability to set markups for labor, materials, subcontractors, and any other direct costs that should be included in your estimates to ensure profitability.
As we’ve already mentioned, consistency is key to increasing profit margins, so ensure you use the correct markups for every project you bid. With Aspire, you can also create custom margins and markups by branch, division, or service type.
The right estimating solution allows you to spend less time on the tedious parts of project management and more time on the things that improve your bottom line. And with a software solution like Aspire, you don't just get better estimating tools—you get a fully functional business management system whose key features include everything from scheduling and purchasing to CRM, reporting, job costing, and invoicing.
Interested in more estimating resources? Download our free toolkit below for help addressing common estimating challenges, tips for pricing work profitably, instructions for creating accurate estimates, and an overview of how software helps the estimating process.