Bidding in Field Services

Bidding 101

Whether you’re giving a price for your services or an itemized list of supplies and labor, in nearly any services industry, bidding is a major part of your daily operation(s). This is especially true in the preservation industry. You are the specialist on site and the eyes for the investor.   So, if estimates are such a big part of your job, and one of the most profitable parts, shouldn’t it be one of the best things you do? Bidding is selling your services, no matter if your bid is higher or lower, it’s what and how you’re making the sale.

Make your Pricing Reasonable.

One of my favorite sayings to potential clients, “If I purchased a pair of scissors would you let me cut your hair for ½ the price? “of course, not!   See the licensed cosmetologist is always going to win this bid.  They’re selling a service they’re confident in, licensed for, and add value.  If you’re taking the "I can get a pair of scissors approach", despite having the lowest bid, you will rarely succeed in bidding.  Sure, if you try to bid a reasonable amount, you are going to miss out on some projects to lower bidders, but don’t sweat it, some people want the guy with a pair of scissors at ½ price, and they are simply not my clients.

So now that a month of grass season has passed, let’s take an example of a property with high grass; or grass that is "over the allowable".   You pull up to the property and the grass is 4 feet high, what do you do?   You may be thinking in your mind, ok I can cut this down a little with my weed eater, then take the lawnmower over it a few times and get it done.  You may also be thinking how much could I bid?  So, you write up a simple bid that may look like this:  "Grass is 4’ high and it’s going to be a lot of work to cut.  I need 150 bucks.". This not the sort of bid you want to submit.   Here’s an example of how you may want to write it.

Here’s an example of how you want to write your estimates:

1. Provide a reason why this is Urgent.

Urgent matter to prevent possible code violations at the property,  per Sec. 40.02. of the City of Port Saint Lucie code of ordinances. The city council finds that conditions exist within the City of Port St. Lucie, which violate public rights, subvert public order, decency, or morals, or cause inconvenience or damage to the public generally. Specifically, the accumulation of underbrush, weeds, rubbish, trash, and grass on improved property; the existence of unsafe dwellings and other structures on improved property; and the creation of pools, ponds, other bodies of water, or conditions which endanger the public health, welfare, property value, or safety of the community, has become an ever increasing menace in the city and constitutes a nuisance. It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to create a nuisance, or suffer or permit a nuisance to exist, upon property, which is under his, her, or its care, custody or control.

The city acting at the direction of the city council shall have the authority to and shall take steps to ensure the abatement of public nuisances in the most aggressive manner provided by the Port St. Lucie City Code or state law. The abatement of such nuisances protects the public health, safety, and welfare, enhances the value of the property, involves the furnishing of vital municipal services, and specifically benefits the property on which the nuisance is abated. The cost of any abatement, including administrative fees and costs, shall constitute a special assessment upon the benefited property.

(Ord. No. 07-146, § 3, 10-22-07)

2. Explain your solution, with estimates.

Immediate recommendations to cure potential violation:  Property is found with high grass over 4’ high along with approximately 50 Saplings/Small Trees, poisonous vines and unknown debris.

  • Special equipment required to complete work: both hand and bush hog.
    • $400: Standard bush hog services for equipment rental and or use.
    • $240: Prior to use of bush hog hand work must be performed to remove large saplings and/or debris to not damage equipment, approximately 10 man hours required, 1 supervisors and 4 laborers.
    • $150: Once trimming is completed there will be an estimated accumulation of 3 CYDs of vegetation including poisonous vines and other debris to be removed and properly disposed of.
    • All raking of miscellaneous vegetation and grass clippings included.
    • Total for all services 790.00.

Once the estimate is approved we will immediately start services to avoid this code violation and/or additional fines. 

The above example gives urgency to your bid and detailed information to show you have done this before.   The party approving your bid will feel confident with your proposal and trust your input more than they would if a simple one sentence estimate was provided.

Of course, there are always exceptions and limitations. For example,  you may submit this to your client, yet they may not propose it to their client.  Your client may say that you have to do the work for a certain amount, like the Cost Estimator amount, rather than your bid amount. However, knowing the work order requirements, your client, how they operate, and what their general requirements can help you get your bids beyond the general Cost Estimator amount.

This, of course, will require some time and effort, so have this information ready to go quickly.  You can find most municipal codes at  Save this information into your estimate software or in a document where you can quickly copy and paste.  For things, you bid repeatedly, have those line items, their information, saved and ready to go. For instance, use estimate templates in Excel. is another great tool that is very inexpensive and allows you to save this information and complete a professional estimate on a professional letterhead with your company’s logo, contact etc. You could even create this estimate from your smartphone in a couple minutes and email it.

Pandadoc is another great software that will allow you to create templates, but it may be a bit pricey.

There are so many things to bid on in this industry and different ways to go about it, don’t be scared to bid.  I hear some people say, they feel like they’re wasting their time bidding and not bidding for this or that.   Spend the time to get organized and a system in place and it doesn’t take much time.  You will not win all bids, but one things for certain, you will never win a bid you didn’t submit.


Gene ONeil

President and Founder of FWIWE. Dedicated to the mortgage field services since 2005.