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Having a hell of a time finding work right now.

fastline

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Aug 8, 2011
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1,103
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OK
Mostly curious on you newer guys how you advertise? What is odd is when I snuck in listings on FB until removed, I got business. I pay for a listing, I get nothing. I pay on CL, I get nothing.

All if my work is for individuals, not bigger companies for the most part.

I have to be doing something wrong because everyone else I know is covered up with work.
 

fastline

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Aug 8, 2011
Messages
1,103
Location
OK
Run 28T excavator and dozer. Mostly minor stuff like small ponds, land clearing, stumps, drainage stuff, and I also have extensive experience in septic/lagoon but my county wants the full rollout so I mostly mess with that stuff outside my county.

I think I am stuck in the middle as having larger job type equipment that I should be on bigger jobs. I don't have employees. It would be one thing if I was able to look at some jobs, but I just don't hear from people. I get a few of those "how much for a pond" types. I quickly throw any number I am thinking and they go away. Anything more than free ya know.

Really just curious how you guys are getting connected with potentials? Doesn't sound like many want to engage here. I get it. PM if you want. IDK if paying for listings somewhere is better or what. I think Craigslist is just dying. Not one time have I listed a service there and had even one reply. Not even one. Don't care what business.
 

Vetech63

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Aug 10, 2016
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Oklahoma
Thats because 90% of the work going on in Oklahoma is government subsidized jobs. They killed the oil industry which is what this state operates on. The economy sucks and no one wants to work, and I'm positive you have competitors that are doing work at cost or less just trying to survive.
 

fastline

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Aug 8, 2011
Messages
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Location
OK
Well everyone was busy of course during the heat, but as she cools off, those jobs are not happening.

How do you guys get the word out? Surely people don't just hang their sign and hope business walks in the door?
 

Tones

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Mar 15, 2009
Messages
3,049
Location
Ubique
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Ex land clearing contractor, part-time retired
The very best form of advertising is the quality of your work. Having owned and operated my business the first year I spent a lot of dollars on advertising and didn't get one job from it and yet I was hammered with work. Some of those customers still ring today wanting me to do work even though I have sold the gear. The one thing I was anal about was job quality. I never took on a cheap rough job, that's bad advertising. When the economy went bad in 08 I didn't lower my prices at all but parked up and waited for the turn around but others didn't and wore out their equipment and when the economy got better couldn't afford to replace it or fix it.
Hang in there things will turn around, when is the 64 dollar question .
 

Coaldust

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Joined
May 9, 2011
Messages
3,163
Location
North of the 60
Occupation
Cargo Tanks, ULSD, RUG, Methanol, LPG
The whole social media thing. I started an account for my biz on Parlor last December. Did a blog, pictures of jobs, kept it fresh and started getting followers. Which led to some calls and parts sales. Then Parler went sideways after 1/6.

Book of Faces, the Gram. IDK? I don’t like the politics of it. So, I haven’t. I see guys doing good with their brand with YouTube.

Maybe I’ll try OnlyFans.
 

CM1995

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Alabama
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Running what I brung and taking what I win
Tones said it well the best advertising is quality work.

There is no app or website that will compare to quality work, relationships with customers and time.

I think I am stuck in the middle as having larger job type equipment that I should be on bigger jobs. I don't have employees. It would be one thing if I was able to look at some jobs, but I just don't hear from people. I get a few of those "how much for a pond" types. I quickly throw any number I am thinking and they go away. Anything more than free ya know.

Well you are hearing from people but is sounds like you are not developing a system to competitively price the job out. Estimating jobs takes a lot of time especially for jobs your heavier equipment is suited for. Customers looking to spend that kind of money to make a couple acre pond want to feel comfortable with hiring you. Of course I don't know your local market or customer base just some advice worth what it costs.

It just takes time and a lot of hard work to build a customer base.
 

fastline

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Aug 8, 2011
Messages
1,103
Location
OK
I will say I have been in/around sales most of my life and given the opportunity, I can generally close a deal unless people are looking for "whore" work. I typically weed those people out on the phone as there is nothing I can do but take a loss just for the work. Won't do it!

I realize some say "quality of work" and I get that because in my other businesses, it certainly did spawn much more. But I don't have a lifetime in digging, though I have been on some of the biggest bridge jobs, setting RCP, drain boxes, major roads, etc.

I guess since I just got back from another quote I will say here is how this went. I initially told him not a good fit, I could tell he really needed help and didn't like that answer. We talked for 2hrs. He has a tricky job. I shot him a ballpark for 2days work. He would like me in there asap. Really not a lot of machine time, and I feel once I can talk with people, I can usually get something going. I probably did what most do which is walk away on this job, but he does need help. It is very cramped for my equipment but I just charge accordingly.
 

crane operator

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Mar 27, 2009
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8,153
Location
sw missouri
I'm going to start with a big generalization. You get work by being one of three things (Not original thoughts- Its a rip off of a common statement)

1. Better than other people at what you do
2. Faster than other people at what you do
3. Cheaper than other people at what you do

You get to decide where you want to be in those three. If you ain't good, you better be cheap.

Just guessing on your specifics: you have way to big of a excavator for moving in and out for the little quick jobs, and you don't have the reputation or manpower for the big work. In my area, you could stay a lot busier with a smaller excavator and a tracked skid loader doing landscaper work.

The number of jobs that want a one man, part time band, who "doesn't have a lifetime in digging" with a 28 ton excavator would be slim and none. The mobilization has to kill you for any short time "day" work.

Maybe you need a niche- just spitballing with the big excavator- maybe demo work? Most of that is bid, walk that big old pig in there and get to destroying things.

Sorry things aren't working out.
 

fastline

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OK
1. I have the big excavator because I need it for my own farm and work. obviously if I was just doing digs only, I would change tactic.

2. I typically end up being very good at anything I do, even if that means taking more time. So sort of better and maybe cheaper for some. I can tell you in my other business of many yrs, I already have a firm, inet verified reputation for doing things very right. Think NASA. I tend to do a lot of math and study things before a key is turned.

3. reputation and smaller guys should not be in the same sentence. No one cares about your reputation! They care about a number, and know zero about machine size and capacity. I literally compete with idiots with 20yo skidsteers! They try to charge by the hour. I never do and never will. If my work takes longer, that is on me.

4. I will entertain some demo, but I've never even been asked on much of that. I don't know how it pays but I have to consider wear on the machine. I bought one that came from demo work. They beat the crap out of it.
 

CM1995

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Running what I brung and taking what I win
3. reputation and smaller guys should not be in the same sentence. No one cares about your reputation! They care about a number, and know zero about machine size and capacity. I literally compete with idiots with 20yo skidsteers! They try to charge by the hour. I never do and never will. If my work takes longer, that is on me.

Well in my area reputation is everything and the way to achieve that reputation is quality work and developing relationships. This goes for residential/farm work and especially for commercial/industrial/institutional work. The larger the commercial jobs, the more reputation comes into play.

Best of luck.
 

Tones

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Ubique
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Ex land clearing contractor, part-time retired
A job I quote went like this. I arrived at the and the owner wasn't there so I had a wonder around looking at what had to done. I had almost finished when a car pulled up, the owner arrived whom I had never met. He gets out and we do the introductions then he says " I've been told you're an arrogant barstard, charge like a Mallie (wild) bull but do the best job. Can you do this job and when can you start?" I replied " how soon can you write a cheque "? We had an ongoing relationship for many years never fleeced him, keeped the quality and made a motza. There were alot of referrals from that job.
 

CM1995

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Running what I brung and taking what I win
Tones that reminds me of a story I've probably told here before but I'm going to tell it again as I have the grey hair license to do so - which also gives license to embellish just a touch but the moral of the story is the same.

One of our best customers we've built many chicken shacks for brought on another wealthy investor to develop a residential street of 30 or so 65' house lots. I give my price to grade the site, install the storm drains and install erosion control. Best Customer calls me and says New Partner wants to have a meeting to discuss pricing, me - sure.

So I get to the meeting at New Partners office with Best Customer. New Partner then gives me another quote that is much cheaper than mine and proceeds the normal "you know you're higher, blah, blah, blah". Doesn't take long to see that the other "bidder" priced a 48" pre-cast storm drain manhole 20' deep in a cul-de-sac at $3500. I then proceed to tell New Partner that his "bidder" cannot purchase that 48" manhole for $3500 much less install it.

The meeting changed toned after that however I wanted to go deeper in to "bidder" #2's pricing but I had made my point. The next day I talk to Best Customer where he apologizes for meeting the day before. All I told him was if we're going to have a pricing meeting at least come with realistic pricing from another bidder.

Fast forward a week or so and we are finishing up the installation of the 48" round 20' deep manhole in the cul-de-sac. It was dusty as hell as it hadn't rain for a while. Out of the blue here comes a black GMC Denali barreling down the street kicking up a huge of a cloud of dust. Out steps New Partner in his black suit and Italian Leather shoes then poofs across the dust like Neil Armstrong on the moon. New Partner walks up to me and says "You mad at me?", I look him dead in the eye and say "Should I be?".

New Partner doesn't say a word, shakes my hand and says "good work". Since that moment New Partner and I have become good friends and business associates. New Partner is old school - hand shake and a hand written check, something we don't see in today's society.

Know your ****, do quality work, build relationships, work like hell, don't back down when you're right and get lucky every once in a while - CM's recipe for success. Worth every penny you paid for it.:D
 

Raildudes dad

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Dec 29, 2007
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Grand Rapids MI
My gray hair story: I was managing a project for the county road department. I hadn't worked with the contractor's PM before. I found out later had asked a competitor what do you know about this guy (Me) . I had worked for the county about 30 years at that time. The competitor told him "He'll tell you exactly what he thinks, you might not like what he says but you will know exactly where you stand. He's usually right but he's always fair. He's a good guy to work for / with." Treat contractors fair and it gets you good bids. :)
 

suladas

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Canada
I've found since last spring work has just been odd. I ran google ads for about a month recently, $600 and not a single lead. 2 years ago I ran one for a few days and picked up 3 decent jobs for like $100 of advertising. That's the only advertising i've ever done, the vast majority of my work has always been repeat customers and referrals, but since last spring it's been a lot slower. There is a fair amount of work around, some of it is way too big for me, and there is still too much being done for not enough money.

I do a few niche jobs though that I don't think many guys do. Installing 2 manholes and 1 catch basin in a new concrete parking lot because an engineer screwed up. I know many small excavation guys won't touch manholes and it's too small of a job for the bigger guys to bother with. Not a easy or fun job, but it pays very well and I didn't have anyone bidding against me because I came highly recommended from an engineer I did a job for a few years ago.

I know I could be busier, I passed on a builder offering about 20 basements a year. I gave them a price 15% off my normal pricing for a 1 off customer, and was told I was still way more then they were paying. I make as much, or more then the sucker doing those basements by sitting at home. I'm not digging a basement, sewer, water, and backfill for $3500.

All my iron is paid for, I hope to do at least double next year what I will do this year or last, but if not i'm not sweating. The part I like that has improved since 2019 is profit for time invested.
 

DMiller

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Feb 21, 2010
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Hermann, Missouri
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Cheap "old" Geezer
Have to agree the 28t is a limited scope use machine, hard to set Septic Tanks and not destroy a lawn where a TLB works some easier also not so useful for laying field tile without a secondary backfill machine with a second seater, it is too use specific. Either expand the scope of the machines to use and possibly align other operators to use other machines on a call basis or just stick to what you've got and expect the slow business. Excavation business tend to have machines to do a wide range of work and Call Up employees should they get busy so can get it done efficiently.
 

suladas

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What i've found with septic tanks is even a mini is fine, i'm doing one an hour out of town and just going to use the 6 ton instead of the 210, it's just a holding tank so not much digging. For the extra hour or two it will take to dig beats the hassle of mobilizing the bigger machine, which also won't dig close to the house as well. If it's a concrete tank it's too heavy for me to haul with my 210, so got to get it delivered anyway, and many are going with poly tanks now.
 

CM1995

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Jan 21, 2007
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Alabama
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Running what I brung and taking what I win
Friend of mine has a very successful septic business with 2 - 305.5's and a 259D, he doesn't need anything else to install concrete 1,000 gal tanks and lines. Pre-caster delivers tanks with a trolley truck or knuckle boom crane for tight spaces.
 

KSSS

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Feb 27, 2005
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4,272
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Idaho
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excavation
I think there is a lot of good information in this entire thread. I would add, having a good website helps. It all has to somehow happen at once. You have to develop a solid reputation, but you have to have customers for that to happen. Websites that are well done, can help with that. Its an intro to potential customers that are looking for work. People look for different things, obviously the type of work you do, legitimacy in business and pictures help. They want to see what you have done, even if its not the exact work they are looking to have done. Once you get the site built, make sure it is optimized to show up in your area on a web search.

Some other points I would make. I think you need to find a niche, what that is depends on what is going on in your area and what your skill set is. I would say that my area is crazy, everyone is moving here from other States and it is busy, both residential and commercial. As busy as it is here, if I had what you had for equipment, doing what your trying to do, I would probably starve too. I think you need to find a direction that makes sense for the area you live in. Then promote it, and EXCEL at it. Once this is done, find builders and GC's and talk to them. This is really critical to long term success as has been mentioned. I will say this, before you show up at ACME construction peddling your work. You better competent at what you want to do, know what your talking about. That saying "you only have one chance to make a first impression" couldn't be more true in this line of work. Also important, is being someone that people like having around a jobsite your attitude and personality almost as important as how good you are. Emotional intelligence is critical. When your wrong..and you will be at times, admit it and make it right. I have lost a lot money keeping my word, but 27 years later I am still here. The test of a contractor isn't when things are going well, but what happens when there not. Contracting is really about navigating issues, you need to be successful at that skill as well.
 
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