We get lots of questions concerning the possibility of using a sub-compact tractor like a Deere 1-series, or a Kubota BX to do custom project work for others. Usually, folks are saying that they aren’t really interested in doing this full-time, rather they want to “make some money on the side” in order to make the payments on their new toy.
In this article, we will investigate some questions which you should work through before you decide to go with this approach.
Will you make enough money to make it worthwhile?
Many projects (like tilling) are viewed as relatively simply jobs by most folks. They reason that they can buy a tiller for ~$500 or rent one for $50 or so to till their garden. They won’t be willing or able to pay a huge amount to have their garden tilled.
More broadly, the “rental equipment” market has a huge influence on the pricing. Most folks that we help are DIY type folks. They are evaluating our services against renting the equipment themselves.
Also, loading/unloading and transport take lots of time. Adding all of this together contributes to a relatively low hourly rate for your work.
Do You Have Sufficient Experience?
Using your tractor on personal projects around your property can be incredibly fun and rewarding. You can go at your own pace, learning as you go without severe time or financial commitments to finishing the project.
Working for hire is different. The client expects that you already know what you are doing. They expect that you will make the correct (optimal) decision for each situation you encounter.
They expect the project to be done right, and to be done efficiently.
Christy and I both grew up on farms, doing the type of work we do now on a daily basis during all of those growing up years. I can’t say how long it would take to gain that same experience starting from scratch, nor can we readily share all of that experience with you via YouTube. Much of it must be learned by making mistakes, or trial and error. There just isn’t much room for error on a customer’s site.
It is important for you, and for the rest of the tractor community for you to have the appropriate experience before considering doing work for hire.
Do you have the right equipment for the job?
I’ve often commented that a sub-compact tractor is a wonderful compromise. It will do MANY different things well. That is a tremendous advantage for the property owner. You can buy one piece of equipment and handle many different types of projects. However, when doing work for hire, the sub-compact tractor might not be as fast, or as optimal for the job as some other piece of equipment. A good example of this is the backhoe. A Mini-excavator is a much better digger than a sub-compact backhoe. No worries for home projects, but when doing work for hire, are you really being fair to the client by making them pay high rates for less than optimal equipment?
More directly, do you have a trailer? Do you have a suitable tow vehicle? If you don’t need these for your own projects, this additional cost will make it even harder for you to make a profit on your work.
Are you prepared for the business aspects?
There are several more questions which I will ask, but not answer in this article. You will need to think about them for yourself.
- Are you appropriately insured?
- How will you handle a situation where a customer is unsatisfied?
- Do you really have the time to do the work, especially on the customer’s schedule?
- Will you be able to keep this going, or is this simply a way to justify the expense of a tractor to the finance committee?
Like lots of other scenarios, at first this seems like ‘easy money’. It seems like the perfect answer, providing a way for you to get your long desired new toy. However, the old saying “there is no such thing as a free lunch” definitely applies here.
Enjoy the video associated with this article:
Interesting points, Tim. One question, have you set a distance you are willing to travel for jobs?
I do not have a set distance. Many variables. The main one is “how much work do I have lined up right now”. We are fairly picky about our jobs. We don’t take everything that comes along.
Outstanding article Tim !! Very well written .. I was a Teamster heavy equipment operator all my life (no retired) so there’s not a piece of equipment I can’t operate or job I can’t figure out how to do..however because of many of the points you pointed out , I do gardens for ppl ( the older folks) in my neighborhood for free.. snow removal and bottom plowing and tilling.. because for the reasons stated and knowing that every move the machine makes it has to be purposefully done and by that standard its is hard to calculate wear and tear fuel etc.. and still make a profit . So I just do it for the fun of it..figured it will pay off when it’s my time to meet the good lord .. and have my good deeds for others when it is the time to be measured … so that’s my ramblings of a old man .. enjoyed your artical and video as always thank you !!!
Great write up. Takes into account a lot of the aspects of doing such a thing. It would be pretty easy to get yourself in trouble doing this. Thanks for the information as always.
Reply doesn’t seem to work
I must have messed up last time, Tim I was wondering if you charge per job, or by the hour ? And could you share by giving an example of how much you charge ? Thanks in advance
Chris, I manually approve these comments, so this is why you might not see your replies immediately. I don’t discuss our pricing, as I am not confident in our approach.
WOW! Well said Tim! The reality is far more complicated than the fantasy.
Love your videos! I have a Kubota L3400 with several attachments, including a backhoe. I dug around a basement wall for a friend so he could install some drain tile. Way too big of a job for my equipment! Got it done, but a bigger hoe would have taken 1/2 the time. A good learning experience, you need to know the limitations of your machine!
Yea, I turned down a job digging right by a basement wall for that same situation. I just didn’t see how Johnny would be able to get the spoils far enough from the trench to make it work. This is one task that a mini-ex would work MUCH better. Thanks for your comment!
I am so disappointed to see a commercial on your channel to IMPEACH are president, please tell me you don’t agree with this commercial
Really???? I do not agree with this advertisement. I would say that the ads are generated based on each individual’s viewing history and habits. I have no (or very little) control over the pre-roll ads. The only control I have is to reject gambling ads, etc…which I have done.
Doing driveways all I see on sights like this the job does not look vary bad to get like it should I jest got started doing driveways this spring and they are vary bad because they have not been touched for years. I use the bucket and rear blade and it takes me about hour at each one can you show more how to do bad driveways with pot holes and wash boards and washouts that you vary much.
I don’t get asked to do driveways much. Only once I think so far. That was the parking lot where I spread rock with the loader and rear blade.
Not sure why, but I think because most folks in area have paved driveways.
This comment is for your search on new equipment. Have you and the cfo considered the mini track loaders from companies like bobcat, toro, ditch witch, etc? Amazing versatility with them.
We have considered from a distance, but never seriously enough to visit a dealer.
[…] 81. Tractor work […]
Tim I own a sprinkler company and I am considering a 1025R for both my property and for some business work. My main question is do you think the 1025r will lift a 900 pound Hydroseeder on and off of the trailer with a pair of pallet forks?
Cliff, sorry to say that it will not lift 900 lbs very high. Maybe 2-3 ft. I have a recent video ‘Will a 1025r lift 1300lb’ which illustrates the lift capacity.
Be aware that the load must be very close to tractor to achieve much lift at all.
2’ is about all I need. JD dealer brought one by to my house with forks but I have no ballets. How much rear ballast do you think I’d need.
Heavy hitch offset with 4x70lb and 4x42lb works great!
Tim, we purchased a 1025r for our business based largely on the information we have gathered from your site and videos. 175 hrs on the meter and I can honestly say it has been one of the best most versatile additions we’ve made. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad it is working out for you!
Love your videos – played a part in my purchase of a GC1710, dump trailer & a few attachments! everything you discussed about a side gig need be considered. had half acre of major landscape makeover and bids north of 15k so purchased new two years ago with intent to do the job and sell the equipment. funny thing, as i worked my project, which was on city lots, folks stop and ask about hiring, so i got license and insurance and before i knew it was hired out most weekends and a bunch of nights (also have a day job) that first summer. all word of mouth and maybe too much – sure slowed down my project! anyway 510 hours on meter with zero issues and an awesome portfolio of interesting jobs and people, it’s paid for itself and my project 🙂 so, i’m keeping it and working select jobs for repeat and referred customers – next season is getting booked!
How do you advertise or put it out there about doing work with my machine
I notice your tiller runs forward. I have a 5′ tiller that I pull behind an old Ford tractor, which runs either direction, but I find it does a much better job breaking up the soil running in reverse. Just curious your opinion on the matter. Also, do you think the 1025r would pull a 5′ tiller?
Some folks use 5’ tillers behind 1025r’s, but I would not want to do it..sometimes I can barely pull the 4’!
Great videos. Live in Australia and have recently purchased a 1025r tlb and mower
My wife and daughter love the new tractor. I’m struggling to get time to use the new toy with work commitments. But excited to get to those projects around the farm.
In Australia the loader must be self-levelling to comply with local requirements. So mine is locally made painted in JD green.
Haven’t used the mower deck yet as it’s too muddy at present. I’ve figured that the loader and backhoe need to be removed to get rid of their considerable weight before mowing.
Keep up the good work.
Great article Tim! I love watching all your videos though I have never commented on them. I have thought about buying a tractor with the optional mindset of doing side jobs to help defer some of the cost and pay it off faster. My biggest issue in deciding to a tractor is making sure I pick the correct equipment for my property and usage. I have a ztr mower which has made mowing my property much faster but I have a challenging road-side ditch that is impossible to mow with the ztr and really need to find an option that would handle that challenge plus some of the other projects around my property that a ztr will never be able to perform. I have thought that a johnny or a vinny would be a great option for my property but I am not sure that either can handle the specific road-side ditch mowing that I was kind able to do with a 30″ wide deck on a riding mower, even though it was always a rush/risk to mow with a fear of it turning over or getting stuck. Would love to hear your thoughts or even have you come up to my property in north-west central Indiana.
Do you have any experience with the Dual Receiver model HH1G? It seems like a nice idea to have the flexability of a “gooseneck” style receiver up top for various things (hitch ball, tool rack, etc), however I see it’s only available with 1 suitcase bracket, not two.
I have a Kubota B2601 and I am trying to decide between this HH1G model or getting the dual bracket HH1DB. Do you think with my tractor I would be better off with the two weight brackets or would the flexibility of gooseneck receiver and 1 suitcase bracket be a better option?
Thanks for your help, your videos and effort to help others are a true blessing. Take care~