Does anybody else service ponds?

Discussion in 'Garden Pond Talk' started by NOVA Merd, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. NOVA Merd

    NOVA Merd

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    So as the title states I am interested if anybody else services ponds?

    I am going to consult my first client today at her house! I just happend to talk to her at my school and found out this teacher had a pond and she said it was very "muddy". I asked about equipment and she said she didn't have any filters and I said that's probably the problem. Or if the pond is truely "muddy" then you could have a problem with the linner. She asked me if i'd be interested in servicing it and I said hell yes.

    I think alot of people when they get ponds don't realize how much work it is and how much knowledge they need to know about fish and more importantly bio filtration and then there pond gets dirty and murky and they stop trying.

    It's just interesting that I may start into a pond service because of the need in my area, better for me though :). Plus it's fun.
     
    NOVA Merd, Apr 24, 2013
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  2. NOVA Merd

    capewind

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    First off, welcome.

    My husband takes care of ponds professionally and I wish you luck with your first client. He fell into as it was one of his hobbies and too few QUALIFIED people in the area.

    I cant tell from the few posts that you made what your pond experience level is, but do want to caution you that you can run into every issue under the sun working on other people's ponds. IF you have not being working on your own ponds for YEARS, I would highly recommend that you are HONEST with your clients about your level of experience, and charge accordingly.

    Often, hubby comes across pond folks who need a bit of help, while doing other aspects of his job, and 90% of the time, will tell clients how to solve their own issues, FREE OF CHARGE. Of course if they do not want to do the work themselves, he does charges them for his labor.
     
    capewind, Apr 24, 2013
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  3. NOVA Merd

    HTH Howard

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    I do not service ponds for money but I have helped out a good number of people.

    You are also going to run into people that want it fixed coupled with unreasonable conditions. Sometimes you just have to walk away.
     
    HTH, Apr 24, 2013
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  4. NOVA Merd

    NOVA Merd

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    Yea I understand capewind. As far as experience i've been working with fish as a hobby for five years and within this last year i've been working with ponds and expecially koi. While doing a science project for my school is where i gained most of my interest and knowledge in koi and ponds. I also have taken up a interest in ponds and aquaculture in general. The fact is this women dosen't know much of anything about what makes a pond function and I do. She knows all of this because she is a teacher at my school which is how I met her.

    Because she is my first cleint what I think i'm going to do is charge for materials either way (probably what is costs for filter material to either build or buy) and if i'm sucessful in what she wants then cost for labor as well.

    I'm going to see her tonight and take mesurments of the pond and equipment and what not and come up with a action plan. I'm so excited to possibly be getting payed for something that I love. I've also got a friends dad who is interested in me constructing a pond for him. This should be fun because the natural slope and nice landscaping in his backk yard should make for some awesome fancy water features.
     
    NOVA Merd, Apr 24, 2013
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  5. NOVA Merd

    Waterbug

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    I used to 10-12 years ago. I only did it part time because I like ponds and I was testing some equipment so I needed lots of different kinds of ponds.

    The beauty of becoming a pond professional is the only requirement is that you call yourself a "pond professional". Owners looking to hire someone never know much about ponds at all and more importantly don't want to know anything about ponds. So you can do and say anything at all and be fine at least for a couple of years for each pond. Filling in ponds is a good business too you shouldn't overlook. I found more people wanting to remove ponds than hire to build or maintain. There are some clever ways to re-purpose a pond.

    My niche was to guarantee clear water in 7 days, without draining and replacing. Just vacuuming and filtering. They didn't have to pay a dime if not clear in 7 days. I charged a lot, $0.25 to 0.50/gal for two reasons. One, the Bay Area market would support that fee. Two, because I didn't want a ton of customers. I wanted people who could and would to pay for results. Many people will call you out for an estimate and then say no because they really don't want to spend any money at all. That's fun at first but gets old and boring really fast.

    By the time people contacted me they were so sick and tired of "pond professionals" telling them crap and making their pond worst that a guarantee was almost like a bet. They were pretty sure I couldn't do it. Very few "pond professionals" give any kind of guarantee at all because they'd lose their butt.

    Once the pond was clear in like 3 days they'd be over the moon happy and happy to pay on the spot. And then the door was wide open to serious and expensive fixes that would enable them to have clear water going forward because there was some trust now. People with money will pay for results. They really love their pond but want it clear and clean. But most of the market is cheap, cheap, cheap.

    Good luck.
     
    Waterbug, Apr 24, 2013
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  6. NOVA Merd

    studiovette GS PETE

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    In my short experience I'm noticing that most pond professionals do not want to get involved in a pond they didn't build. As mentioned above so many things can go wrong and unless you know exactly what was done its gonna be hard to remedy. They either will not get involved or tell you it has to be redone! Good luck on your new venture. It's awesome getting paid to do something you love.
     
    studiovette, Apr 25, 2013
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  7. NOVA Merd

    DrCase Moderator Moderator

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    My son and I clean a regular. Customers pond each year
    we charge are reg plumbing rate, just like we do if we go to change light bulbs or hang pictures
     
    DrCase, Apr 25, 2013
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  8. NOVA Merd

    NOVA Merd

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    Wow it's great to hear from everybody.

    I went to her house today. It's about fifteen feet by seven in the middle and one step from one foot to about 2.5. The pond is EXTREMLY dirty. In the middle it just looks black. They have algae growing on the liner about the length of a grass blade. The pond has been like that for six years. They are pretty much about to fill it in. They have a disgraceful system going. The pond is huge and only have a small pump that is rated for about 500 gallons per hour hooked up to a waterfall box with plastic media inside of it. That's all they have for filtering...it's pretty bad. No wonder it's so dirty. So i didn't want to do it but they insisted on emptying it and having me clean all the organic debree and then i'd have to cycle it back up. I have to try to do what I can with there filter and if not recomend some wort of bio filter.

    My teacher has a connection to a wholesale pond retailer and maybe I could get some stuff cheaper. MAYBE, it'd be a plus. But anyway I'm pretty sure I can work with it i'm thinking it'll be a day to max four day job and I think i'm going to charge something like 150 if it's two days and 45 every additional day. I'm thinking a day will be about five hours...

    They NEED a new pump something at least twice the size of there tank and i'm thinking if there not open to it i'll do what i can with the clearning and filter but I'm not going to guarentee anything.

    From my experience I'm going to expect that once the organic leafy debree and algae has been removed and a new more powerful pump and filter system have been installed the pond should clear up.

    What do you all think?
     
    NOVA Merd, Apr 25, 2013
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  9. NOVA Merd

    fishin4cars True friends just call me Larkin Moderator

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    I've been in and out of almost every niche there is when it comes to fish keeping, From Pond maintaince and installation, catfish and tilapia farming, owning a pet-store, I've dealt with freshwater fish, saltwater fish, natural fish, and cold water fish. Plants galore, built ponds both natural and water garden, pondless waterfalls, to working with research teams with the Army Corp. of engineers. . The list goes on and on. trying to profit from this hobby is most certainly one of the most challenging of all the types of Hobby stores and businesses I've been involved with. Personally I get far more reward helping others from the heart and love of the hobby and making what comes to me. I get the chance to meet friends that I've kept in touch with for years and years. Many have paid me for the work but quite often I trade out. Fish keepers always seem to have things to offer of similar interest. Just recently I helped a coupe install a skimmer and filter fall on a pre-existing pond, I traded off the work for a sign I had spotted I wanted to put out in the front of the property here. They made me a personal sign and they got a lot easier pond to keep and maintain. Then today I had to go install a liner for a fellow that had been in a serious car accident and wanted to get his new pond up and running. But couldn't spread out his liner before the rain was coming in. . He had pulled up a 300 gallon preform pond and a nice small pump and UV light. What a great trade off for two hours work. I now have a pond to set-up for my own use or sell to someone looking for a cheap set-up and get them started in pond keeping and can still make a decent profit for the effort I put in it. To me this is the reward I aim for, a happy pond keeper that trust you for who you are. I make no guarantee, but I don't walk away from my friendships either. . For the sake of the animals and the love I have of the hobby I hope to help a fish keeper keep their pet for many years of enjoyment. I'll never make enough profit out of the hobby to cover what I personally have spent in the years I've enjoyed, But I can honestly say that I have been rewarded with many friends that enjoy the hobby just as much as I do.
     
    fishin4cars, Apr 25, 2013
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  10. NOVA Merd

    capewind

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    Hard to say what a pond will or will not do without seeing it ... $150 sounds like a lot to me to pay someone for 5 hours labor, who doesnt sound overly confident, but hey, if they are willing to pay it, go for it.
     
    capewind, Apr 25, 2013
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  11. NOVA Merd

    NOVA Merd

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    Wow that's pretty interesting. I'm actually very interested in aquaculture and it's a path I want to follow down as a possibly career. I've been reading alot this year on aquaculture. I love the subject so much. That's pretty cool though i'd love to make enough money to be sustainable further down the road.

    And I meant 150 for the whole job....i'm pretty sure it'll only take two days maybe three but no more than four.
    But a reason i put this topic up is to get opinions. This is my first job. Maybe i haven't had as much experience as some of you others on this forum but compared to alot of people I meet...actually most they think i'm some sort of expert. Everybody at my school calls me the pond guy. And everyone who knows me knows how much i love playing with filters and pump systems. So i think this will be a experience to lead to more to come.
     
    NOVA Merd, Apr 25, 2013
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  12. NOVA Merd

    Waterbug

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    As long as people are willing to pay you to teach yourself on their pond I say go for it.

    15'x7' is a small pond imo.

    Have you looked through the yellow pages, penny savers, Craig's LIst and bulletin boards at local pet shops to see what your competition is? How much they charge? How they do a cleaning? 90% of running a business is running a business. Most of it is the same whether it's keeping ponds or remodeling bathrooms. Knowing your market, marketing, business plans, cash flow, customer relations, bidding are required skills to even have a chance at success.

    In many areas most pond businesses are Aquascape certified contractors. You can check their web site to see who is working in your area. Draining and cleaning a pond is a standard Aquascape method, and the depth of this pond is an Aquascape type depth. But no rocks in the bottom?

    My guess is the owners called some listed businesses and got a price of $400-500 and figured they could get someone cheaper. And they were correct.

    I assume you already have your trash pump, power washer, wet shop vac, waste hoses, garden hose, GFI extension cords, etc?

    Generator is nice too because often a home only has a single GFI circuit outside which sometimes has to be reset from inside the house. If it trips and they're not home you're screwed.

    You have a tank ready to house the fish? Net for catching the fish? Air pump? Net to cover the tank? You've discussed with the owner the danger this all is to the fish? You've agreed in writing who's responsible if the fish die? Some people really love their fish. Some people don't even know they have fish.

    You have a test kit to test the new water? You know what the different parameters mean and how to adjust? Will dechlorinator be needed?

    You've already discussed with the customer where you can pump the waste water? And where you can put all the smelly muck?

    Maybe you could post a video of how the job goes. Future customers will like to see you working on a job.
    Why do you say the pump is too small?
    You think a bio filter makes water clear? Have you already tested the water to see if a bio filter is actually needed?
    So you're charging by the hour, not fix bid? Customer is OK with an open ended contact of $45 per day? Sweet.

    You're only going to work 5 hours a day? Sweet.

    After you've cleaned a few ponds you'll find that a 15'x7' shallow pond should only take a single person about 4 hours. You've heard the expression "time is money"? It is. Of that 4 hours it'll take an hour to unload set up, pack up and clean up. If you have to do that multiple days it's money out of your pocket, unless you can find people willing to pay you for that. Most customers are smarter than that and prefer a fix bid.

    Spreading the job out as long as possible increases your risks. Fish die, dog comes a long at night and decides to dig a hole in the liner. Had that happen to me once while I was at lunch. Guess who gets to pay for that? After that I fenced the pond if I was going to be off site.
    How course not. Smart.
    Doesn't really matter if it does or not. It will be very clear when you refill. That's enough to get paid. If it turns green in a week that's a separate job.
    I think you're about to learn a lot. Hope you can post video, pictures and how it goes.
     
    Waterbug, Apr 25, 2013
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  13. NOVA Merd

    capewind

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    Excellent post Water Bug ... you hit on a lot of my own thoughts. I think it will be a good learning experience, I just hope the client is aware.
     
    capewind, Apr 25, 2013
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  14. NOVA Merd

    Mmathis TurtleMommy

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    As a BUSINESS?? Well, first of all, I don't consider myself qualified. Advice? Maybe. Assistance? Maybe. There's just too much knowledge involved, and I would NOT feel comfortable unless I had that knowledge. But most important is EXPERIENCE, and I sure don't have that. But learning every day :)

    That being said, I would certainly offer to help someone, as this has turned into SUCH an enjoyable hobby. And it's a lot of fun when I can expose other people to something fun and new. I'll try to follow your progress -- SO PLEASE CONTINUE TO POST AND UPDATE!!
     
    Mmathis, Apr 25, 2013
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  15. NOVA Merd

    NOVA Merd

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    Waterbug, your post was slightly hubling. Everything I said is sertiantly just off the top of my head of what I know of now from this year about ponds and prior experience with indoor aquariums. I sertaintly have alot of learning to do and that is no doubt. I will get into this job as a learning experience and hopefully make some money in the process. This client knows that and they don't care too much about the comets in there pond.

    I've been shopping around for them and i'm thinking a pump around 2,000 gallons at least should do it for them and to make a mechanical filter from materials at home depot and redoo there bio filter i'm not expecting anything more than 200 bucks in materials. As far as labor goes i've heard alot of people say different things. My dad sertaintly thinks it will take me way longer than I thought that's why i said four days max. At first I was thinking a FULL days work from morning till whenever I get done would be enough. Plus not know exactly everything about what's in this pond (build up of organic debree) I will just have to see when it's emptied.

    The waste water will simply go into the yard and we allready have a pressure washer, net, test kits, extentsion cords etc. I have what i'm pretty sure will get the job done. I will document this as my first experience and put this up on here. I am truly hoping this goes well and

    So honestly there is still alot of things I don't know and I will figure out quickly how long it will take me once i'm in there.

    As far as a quote like I said i'm thinking 200 no more than 225 or so in parts plus however long it takes me. Now just out of curiousity from everything ya'll know about my experience as of right now, what do you think would be a good amount to charge for labor. I allready looked around and there isn't anybody in my area doing pond servicing...
     
    NOVA Merd, Apr 25, 2013
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  16. NOVA Merd

    capewind

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    Of course you need to get reimbursed for parts, that is a given, and you SHOULD make something for your efforts. In the general construction trades here, companies charge $45-60 hr for PROFESSIONAL services (licensed and insured). We start UNSKILLED laborers at $10-15 per hour, depending on their skill level. If they cant pick things up quickly, we move on, if they do well, raises come quickly.

    If you were ONLY going to clean the pond, I would say a flat rate would be fair. A pond as you described should only take half to three quarters of a day to drain, scrub and refill ... with a flat rate, if it takes you longer due to your lack of experience, you can eat your time financially, and call it a learning experience, and honestly, I think the experience is more important for you right now. A GOOD REFERENCE is worth more than a days pay.

    The problem I am having with this project is you are venturing into redesigning their system, which DOES take more experience than I think you have. You are not YET qualified to make any guarantees, and feel that if the client is paying for new parts, they should get something designed to their needs.

    Through the warmer months, we throw some of the local kids (18-22 yr old age group) some work so they have extra money when they are between jobs or just trying to make some extra money around their other jobs. Due to the fact that they are just unskliied labor, we only pay them $10 hr cash. Personally, I think you should be into this price range.

    IF you can post lots of pictures, the group members can help you give the clients what they need.
     
    capewind, Apr 25, 2013
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  17. NOVA Merd

    NOVA Merd

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    Okay thank you very much you guys are very helpful. Maybe i should break it up into two days just to have some imput from you guys? I mean I don't want to rely completly on others but you guys are much more knowledgeable than I am at this point. I do beleive I can construct a homemade mechanical filter for them in general though...
     
    NOVA Merd, Apr 25, 2013
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  18. NOVA Merd

    Waterbug

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    Not answering the question. The question is WHY do you think a new pump and filters are needed.

    I can go into any pond forum and read thousands of posts that say "you need a bigger pump", "you need more filters". That's free advice and worth every penny. It's very poor advice.

    Pumps and filters are added for a reason. When charging people they're paying you for your labor and/or knowledge.
    Your Dad has clean a lot of ponds? Everyone has an opinion on everything. The trick is separating the bad from the really bad.
    Exactly. You will know when it's done. The more ponds you clean the better you will be able to bid.
    Wasn't the question. Question is does the owner know and agree where the waste is going? Get it in writing. Get everything in writing. It provides you with very little actual protection but can calm down a crazy customer. You can show a mistake was just a misunderstanding.

    How much waste are we talking about? Trick question. The answer is you don't know. Will the pile of waste sink and have flies and bugs? Will it be so thick that it kills plants? What the customer will do is agreed to dumping in the yard for a cheap price. Then call you in a week and complain until you come out and remove it. People don't do this on purpose, with the intention of cheating you. It's just the way the world works. No one ever makes a mistake. They'll say "yeah, I agreed you could dump it in the yard, but I didn't know it would be that bad." And they'd be right. An experience knows how much and what kind of waste can go where. How reduce smell and risk. But having it in the contract "may cause smells and may kill plants" is a good idea. Customers almost never read contracts anyways. That way you can charge something for the additional clean up if needed.
    Smart.
    A good amount to charge for anything is exactly whatever the market will bear. We operate in a capitalist economy, not purely, but close enough. The quicker you figure that out and understand what that means the better your chance. The concept of "fair" is something to reserve for cleaning your Grandmother's pond.

    I learned this from a mason. We were driving to a job and I ask how much we were going to charge. I had done some work and I bid based on materials and labor. He needed help so I was going to be his helper but wanted to learn how we bid. He didn't mention materials or labor at all, but I assume he kind of already had that idea in his head. Instead he starts talking about the customer, where he lives, where he works, we had a lot of work at the time and all masons were busy...he goes on and on about all these things that didn't seem related to the job. And it wasn't related to the job. However it was directly related to how much he charged and how well we did.

    Profit is always in fix bids. Labor plus is just working for someone.

    When times are tough you have to have tight bids. The customer has to be willing to pay the price. There are factors. But prices can vary.

    You'll be fine. Hit it hard. Work fast, work smart. A drain and clean is pretty easy but you will get much faster the more you do.
     
    Waterbug, Apr 25, 2013
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  19. NOVA Merd

    Waterbug

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    As far as the fish go... This will sound harsh, it's a harsh world. I knew pond cleaners who didn't save the fish at all. Maybe they'd put some into a bucket and if they lived they lived. Most went out with the muck.

    Catching fish in a mucky pond is time consuming and therefore expensive.

    20 feeder goldfish for $1 is way cheaper. They could charge less which is what their customers wanted, cheap. The owners hadn't seen their fish in months, have no idea how many fish or size. They could care less.

    Koi are a different matter.
     
    Waterbug, Apr 25, 2013
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  20. NOVA Merd

    capewind

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    BTW, just so that you are aware ... I just did a QUICK Google search on the words "Northern Virginia Pond Cleaning" and STOPPED COUNTING after SIXTEEN websites views of companies in your area, by the start of page TWO.

    In fairness, I did a search on MY area, my exact search words were "Cape Cod Pond Cleaning" and found ONE on page two, which happens to be a nursery that opened up a few years ago, almost an hour away. Glad I just told my new internet advertising rep to start pushing ponds more.

    Anyways ... my point in looking is besides the side jobs you can pick up, maybe you should check out some of these companies to see if they would hire you part time to help you learn ... obviously not telling them that you want to be their future competion:)
     
    capewind, Apr 25, 2013
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