Central New Jersey: “I gave an estimate last week in a higher end area for lawn cutting and dethatching/overseeding. I gave the estimate, and when I gave my price for the dethatching/overseeding, the customer says, “Oh, OK, great! We’re going to go ahead with that.” I incorrectly took it to mean to begin with the service, although I was waiting for prices from my supplier so I could also give them an estimate on redoing the front landscape.

“So, I had another job in the area and combined it with this one yesterday and left the bill. I get a frantic call from the customer that they never agreed to that. We don’t have a contract, etc. I just said that it was my mistake and I would eat the charges if necessary (hoping that I wouldn’t).

“Now, I have over 35 weekly residential customers and not one has asked for a contract and I never pushed the issue. On recent estimates I found that customers are shying away from contracts so they aren’t stuck paying for un-needed service when the grass dries up. Only once did I have a deadbeat, and I only lost $80. That’s probably better odds than guys that require contracts. So, make sure to ask your customers about contracts and make everything as clear as possible to both sides.”

Neenah, Wis.: “My first year, I had paper estimate sheets. I split it in half and the bottom said ‘For Office Use Only.’ I put the price on that and the top also had the price. I made them sign the bottom part for my records. Wasn’t a contract, more of a promise to pay. I never had problems until I started doing snow. Now, all contracts. It isn’t that hard to do them, and people are willing to sign them.”

Central New Jersey: “Yeah, I probably won’t change my ways. I feel I get more customers by not requiring one, but it was a wake-up call. You bet my estimate will include that extra cost. I guess if I don’t get the job, I’ll send them a nice e-mail asking to get paid (they obviously were going to have it done anyway).”

Austin, Texas: “Maybe someone could explain this better than me, but I don’t see how you can be mowing for people without some type of signed agreement. Notice I didn’t say contract. If you don’t, then I think they can more easily cancel you, for one thing. Or, if you get into a payment issue where you say ‘I mowed,’ and they say ‘you didn’t,’ what then? Get them to at least send an e-mail back to you.”

Central New Jersey: “They knew the price and liked my price for the dethatching/overseeding. They expressed concern that the lawn price was higher than past contractors, and they were awaiting my price for the landscaping. On the phone she said that she didn’t know why I would start without a contract, so that was the issue.”

St. Louis, Mo.: “Getting it in ink on paper is always a good thing, but what is more important is that you have a solid understanding with the customers (and the agreement or contract can do that).

“Even if you do have it on paper, if there is a misunderstanding, then the paper alone is not enough. I use agreements on paper sometimes, and sometimes just a handshake. I have had a few misunderstandings in both cases, but rarely.”

Elmer, N.J.: “I use them for everything, but on anything other than mowing I always get 50 percent upfront before starting anything over $250. Most agree, but if they don’t, I’m sorry, but that’s my policy and I have no exceptions. I did two overseed jobs yesterday, and I hadn’t gotten the deposits yet, so when I got there, I made sure I had half before starting. Customers will understand if you go about it the proper way. Give receipts for deposits and an estimated start time.”

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the lawn care and landscape forum at www.lawnsite.com. Visit them, and join in the discussions.