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Considering plowing on the side. Advice needed.

Discussion in 'Jeeps' started by hicks, Nov 15, 2015.

  1. hicks

    hicks Junior Member
    Messages: 2

    Hello, I'm new here and wasn't able to find a thread with exactly what I was looking for (unless I just couldn't find it) so I'm starting my own.

    I'm thinking of getting into snow plowing on the side. I normally work monday to friday, 7 - 5. I have a 2013 Jeep JK Rubicon but haven't purchased a plow yet.

    I'm wondering about how difficult it is to find business (residential or small commercial lots) in a town of about 7500 people? Does anybody have experience with this? Also, would the fact that I have a career where I can only work after 5:30pm during the week, or all day on weekends affect business too much? And also, what kind of plow would you recommend, and would I be able to turn a profit in the first season if I purchase a plow now? How much does your insurance cost for a business like this?

    Please let me know anything else you think I would need to know and thanks in advance!
     
  2. dieselss

    dieselss PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,993

    Have you ever plowed before?
     
  3. theplowmeister

    theplowmeister 2000 Club Member
    from MA
    Messages: 2,552

    Some people find customers that can sit at home waiting for there plower to show up because the plow guy is at work. I cant my customers have to get to work too, and home at night.
    who is going to leave there car in the street after work waiting for you to show up? If you work till 5:30 by the time you get to the last customer its going to 7-8-9 PM (depending on how many you have). Lets not forget after working till 10:00PM you might have to get up at 3 or 4 AM to plow before you go to work.

    If you want to pay for the plow and show a profit in one year your going to need (cost of plow + Insurance + gas+ repairs) / (number of snow events * the number of customers * the charge).

    this isnt going out back and picking money off the tree.
     
  4. jonniesmooth

    jonniesmooth Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    That's how I started, but my day job hours were 3-11 a.m and on snow days I was able to leave before 7. I would plow my commercials before going in at 3, clean them up after I left my job, and then start my resi's. I had 12 customers my first year,(plus a lot of pick up jobs), 1996-97 and we had 108" of snow. I was out 3-4 times/week.

    I had a snow blower and my first plow cost me $700.So I turned a profit my first month.
    But, what if I had spent $6k for a plow and we didn't have any snow?
    Pay cash for equipment and start small, and keep some retained earnings to cover repairs
    Trust me I know what it's like to not be able to cover the bills. Are you in a position that your day job can support your venture?
    Just some stuff to think about.
     
  5. maxwellp

    maxwellp PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,112

    Check Insurance cost for your area first- you may find it will have more money if you stay home. Buy a snow blower and just have a few driveways.
     
  6. MLG

    MLG Senior Member
    from WI
    Messages: 179

    Do you have flexibility in your daily schedule? Where I worked for years, it was pretty much 9-5, but we all set our own daily events and handled the projects that we were working on. So long as long as we got our work done (engineering and PM work), we could come in a little late, slip out for a while in the afternoon, take off early and so on and it wasn't a big deal. There was one guy who did exactly what you are thinking, but he bought a new 3/4 truck AND plow. On snowy days he would be able to go out during the day, or come in early and break out early and it wasn't a problem ....again, as long as he was getting his work done. The boss actually thought it was kind of neat and he appreciated that this guy was a go-getter and hard worker, so he gave him extra slack and let him slide when he needed to break out. This guy was also single at the time and no kids, so an around-the-clock schedule on really large snow events didn't affect anyone else but him. On years where we didn't get a whole lot of snow, he made money on contracts not needing to plow.

    But when you think about it, for most areas in the snow belt (minus you lake-affect guys), how many REALLY snowy, blowing days do we get? Maybe 10-12 a year on an average year where ya need to work extremely long hours ....usually spaced out a few days or weeks apart? So, it's usually not like this guy would be gone all the time. If ya didn't know this guy was plowing out lots and drives, I don't think it would have been very obvious to others. Plus this guy usually communicated what he was doing like: "I've got a few old ladies who can't shovel very well, that I help clear their driveways, and a couple families with long driveways and moms that need to pick up their kids." He was good at spinning the story to sound good. So, a lot of it has to do with the relationship you have with your boss and how it is communicated, and maybe you can find more flexibility. At some jobs there is NO flexibility and you may have to discuss with your customers how you plan to respond. So long as they know and can accept your schedule, you'll be fine.

    Years ago, I hired a guy to plow my drive for $xx dollars, presumably for one time to clean the end of the drive mostly. I wasn't able to plow as I was out of town. So, he shows up and plows every 2 hours and sends a bill for 5x the agreed upon amount! My wife went ballistic! The issue is making sure both parties are on the same page and have a clear understanding. I have a neighbor who only wants to have someone come once in a while when he calls. He doesn't mind paying a pretty penny, but 75% of the time he can use his ATV. If you can find a bunch of rural customers like this, it can be good fill in work and usually guys like this are fairly flexible when you get there cause they can at least open their driveways, but need someone to handle the bigger snows they can't. But then the issue is sometimes the snow gets built up and frozen mounds of snow by the time they call you, and it's harder for a Jeep type vehicle to push away large amounts of frozen down snow (I know cause I have a Cherokee w/plow). So you would want to talk about that too. Still, having a lot of part-timers can be good for those with a more rigid schedule. For homeowners or small commercials who expect you'll have their drives cleared before work begins and again at the end of the day, if you can't produce, you'll have trouble on your hands. So discuss a clear set of expectations, and allow other plowers to handle those you can't meet.

    The other thing too you could do is, on super heavy snow events, you can drive around with your plow truck and ask people on the spot if they would like to be plowed out? My brother and I used to go out after heavy storms and literally knock on people's doors (or if they had started shoveling was even better) and politely ask if they wanted (needed) their driveway plowed ...and set a fee that was commensurate with the size of driveway and difficulty. The vast majority of people were thrilled we stopped and asked and were more than happy to pay us rather than them spend the afternoon shoveling. Sometimes they would ask if we could do stop by and plow again after the storm was over, and my brother picked up a few contracts this way too. A few people who had alternate means of clearing their drives politely declined and we were no worse for the wear. It takes more guts to stop and ask people this, but since so few people do it, it's a good way to pick up some extra bucks. A lot of rural people with longer drives often don't have a good way of handling large storms, and you can usually tell if there has been any plowing activity going on in recent weeks to gauge if it's worth stopping and asking or not. Small drives are the worst unless you have a good way to back-drag snow, which plows are so-so at. On bigger storms we would easily make several hundred dollars in an afternoon above and beyond our regular customers. So there are other ways to earn money plowing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2015
  7. MLG

    MLG Senior Member
    from WI
    Messages: 179

    I've got a few used plows, and if you can find an entire set-up, with lights, electrical and vehicle mounts in decent condition for reasonable, go for it. Used plows can appear to be cheap at first blush but can take a lot of time to mount and repair ....and get set up the way you want them to be. I seem to always look back at some of my supposed 'good deal' used plows after I spent a couple weeks of spare time getting them where I wanted them to be -- usually way more time than what I planned going into them, that I probably would have been better off just spending the money and having a new (and better) plow in the first place. Going through that right now on a 6.6 plow I've been working on... A cheap used plow is very alluring. I know. Now, question is, why don't I listen to my own advice more????!
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2015
  8. hicks

    hicks Junior Member
    Messages: 2

    Thanks for the replies. These are all great answers, just what I was looking for. It gives me some questions to think about for sure. I have some previous equipment operating experience, dirt moving, but not plowing snow directly. I feel like I should be able to pick it up enough to get some driveways plowed.
    My job isn't the most flexible, so that may be an issue.

    Are those Snow-Way plows any good?
     
  9. Plowtoy

    Plowtoy Senior Member
    Messages: 929

    That's how Ive run my snowplowing business from the beginning. As we grew, I hired more subs. Ive learned that the additional stress of being "big" wasn't worth it to me, so im back to being a one man show (by choice). I kept most of my higher end clients and gave the rest away. Today, I have about 12 properties I take care of every snow event. Its enough for me to take care of my expenses and pay for all of my vacations for the year (we vacation a lot). I currently work 930 to 530 (days). When snow is predicted, I usually go to bed around 8pm, get up by 4, have my route done and back in bed for a quick nap by 730, up for work by 830 and work by 930. If it snows while at work (which it does often since we get a fair amount of lake effect), I will check on my clients after work and do it all over again if necessary.
    I think your on the right track. Call your insurance guy and get the correct coverage for what you are going to be doing, find a good used plow (and yes, most snow way plows are good, I have had 2 and been very happy with them). Most importantly, let your clients know what your plan is in your contracts (you have to have signed contracts). This way, they know what to expect and can decide ahead of time if they want to sign up with you.
    I think at this point in time, you may be a bit late for the game, but it doesn't hurt to try.
     
  10. EHoward19

    EHoward19 Junior Member
    from Boston
    Messages: 29

    Hicks where do you live? I started a plowing business from nothing, within the first year I was easily able to gain 15 customers by the end of the winter. 4 years later I have to many houses to deal with, and I am trying to weed out the bad ones. My advice for you would be to buy a used Fisher plow, either 6'9 or 7'6 sd or ld, one that isn't a a cheap plastic homeowners plow. A complete setup for a plow like that should be in the ballpark of $3000, After that I would install timbrens to deal with the sagging on the front end. Once you have the plow ready to go you should focus on gaining customers. I have found the best way to do this is to advertise on Craigslist, 1 it is free and 2 there are lots of people looking for snow plowing on there. Once you have a few ads posted you should have a few hits. After you have a couple of customers you should hand out business cards everywhere, and make sure your customers neighbors know your contact information as well. If you can plow more than 1 house on the same street you will be more efficient and make more money. Word of mouth is huge in the plowing business. I would also drive around after some storms when you have time and pick up customers then. Most of the time they will flag you down looking for help. The biggest thing I would emphasize to you is take it slow, make sure you don't hit anything. You don't want to overwhelm yourself in your first year of plowing. If you need help with the business aspect or equipment side please PM me. I would be more than happy to help. I also have some Jeep plow equipment I could sell you. I started with an 07 Sahara 4 door and now I have a 15 2 Door Sahara. Jeep are awesome in the snow, you just have to make sure you have the right equipment, and you plow with the storm.
     
  11. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 8,594

    ^ and are legit,
    You know having the proper insurance & paying taxes on all that easy money..