Hustle It!—Tree Trimming

How much do you think you could make trimming people’s trees?

Almost two year ago, I moved into our house in Irving, Texas.  Shortly before I bought the house, I found out that a big tree branch had broken off one of the huge trees in the yard and was resting on the roof.  My insurance agent told me that in this state, he couldn’t insure the house.  The branch had to be removed first.

At this time, I was still living in Virginia, trying to get things packed up for the move.  I didn’t know anyone in Dallas, so I had no idea who to call.  So my insurance agent recommended theguy who trims his trees.  He asked him to give me an estimate, and I found out that it would cost me a full $400 to have that branch cut up and hauled off the property.  Since I hadn’t lived in Texas before, and had never paid anyone to trim my trees, I had no idea if this was a good price or not.

I expected to be there in a couple days so I asked my agent to hold off for now until I could take a look at it and determine if it was something I could handle myself.  Fortunately for me, by the time I got to Texas, the owner of the house had already had the branch removed.

As I drove through my new neighborhood, I noticed something that was pretty new to me.  My neighborhood has been around for many years, so it’s full of big, mature trees.  It’s great.  But what I noticed is that almost every house in the neighborhood had their trees very neatly trimmed.  The trees looked healthy and had nice canopies that were well above the ground, while the lower branches had been trimmed off.  It looked very clean and very well kept.  That is, except my house.  My trees looked good and pretty healthy, but they hadn’t been trimmed up like most of the neighborhood.  It got me thinking about how much it must cost to do all that trimming.  If it was going to cost me $400 to get a branch removed, then how much would it cost to get all five of my big trees trimmed up.

After a few months passed and fall approached, I noticed something else.  Lots of people were having their trees trimmed up and then they were just piling all the branches along the road to be picked up.  This was new.  The city actually picks up tree branches as part of their trash service each week.  “No wonder people here can afford to trim their trees,” I thought “They don’t have to pay to have them hauled away.”

Around this same time, I started getting knocks on my door in the afternoon.  Each time, it was a couple guys, usually father and son, who were offering to trim my trees for me.  As one of them came on a Saturday while I was home, I decided to see what they would charge me for the work.  We walked around my yard and looked at my trees, and I told them what work I would want to have done, and he said to me, “I’ll do it all for $150.”

$150?  Really?

For $150 I could have all my trees trimmed up.  Now, I’m really cheap sometimes so I told him I’d get back to him later if I decided to not do it myself.  It’s been a year and a half and I still haven’t done it, so I’m really thinking about calling this guy back up to have him come trim up my trees.  But the point is, these guys were out making things happen.  They were out making money.  They weren’t the only ones trimming trees.  We’ve had at least five different crews come to our door and offer to trim our trees, cut our grass, trim our hedges, and so on.  But the point is, they’re out there finding work.

A few months ago we had a pretty big storm roll through the area.  Lots of people had branches break off their trees.  Some lost entire trees.  As soon as the storm was over, these guys were out.  They were finding work.  They recognized an opportunity.  These guys also recognize that in our area, they can keep cost down and reduce the amount of time it takes them to do the work, by letting the city haul away the branches.  This means that they don’t need big trucks and trailers.  All they need is the tree trimming equipment.  This keeps their cost low and let’s them get on from one job to another.  It also keeps the price low for the customer, which is why virtually every house in my neighborhood has neatly trimmed trees.

Work like tree trimming, landscaping, fence building, and house painting is contagious.  Have you ever noticed that when one house gets a nice, new coat of paint, or gets some landscaping work done, that the houses around them suddenly start having the same work done?  Nobody wants to have their house look old or dirty when the one next door looks fresh and clean.  So it spreads.

These guys saw that, and they took advantage of that opportunity.  With only a few tools, they set out to make a living for themselves.  Some of them have made a business out of it.  It’s their sole means of earning income.  But others are doing it on the side, as the opportunity presents itself.  Where the work is largely seasonal, there’s a lot of room for people to pick up extra work during the busy seasons.

What about you?  Is this something you could do?  Is it something you’d be willing to do?

The people who succeed in hustling are the ones who are willing to do the hustle.  It’s usually not glamorous.  It’s always hard work.  But it usually pays off if you keep up with.

So what do you think?  Are you ready to Hustle It!?



  1. (Insert Lord of the rings meme) “one does not simply become a tree professional.” All joking aside this is very dangerous work. People die every year in accidents including professionals. Millions of dollars worth of damage is done to property whether it be homes, cars, fences or outbuildings, from improperly trained individuals who happen to have a chainsaw and no experience.

    I have been a tree care professional for 20 years now and I have a relevant story about this. I recently had a friend start a landscaping business. He is always looking for ways to make an extra dollar so when he heard I was trying to hire additional workers he asked if I would consider sending some of my work over to him. He has Zero experience with tree removal and trimming… He was under the impression though that he could go out with a chainsaw and cut a tree at the base let it fall and that was as hard as it gets.

    So I start running scenarios by him: what if the tree is 7 Ft wide at the base and 150 ft tall? what if there is a house on either side of the tree? His answer “I am sure I can figure it out….” Needless to say I did not give him work.

    I think it is fine to offer some ornamental pruning or shaping of shrubs but even then you will need to educate yourself on proper practices lest you kill a plant and make someone very unhappy.

    If you are interested try seeing if anyone is hiring in your area and see if they will take you on and show you the ropes (no pun intended). After you have had some first hand training and experience you will be more qualified to handle your own jobs.

  2. Hi Ricky im just seeing your article which is entertaining.Im the owner of Quality Tree and Landscape in Arlington Tx.I have lots of customers in Irving Las Colinas and Irving as well as Arlington and Dfw area.
    In Arlington we have to bundle brush or haul it off if its more than 4 bundles.Most cities in the area do that.Dallas Ft Worth and a couple of others pick up brush once a month,but your area is unique and is the only city to pick up brush once a week which is why we live your area.
    In Arlington we average 4 jobs a day at around 300 a job in your area we average 8 jobs a day for around 150 -200 a job so you can see the reason it can be so much cheaper,and you alluded to about the hustling is very true with my company.Ive been a salesman or business owner for much of my adult life but had to learn through trial and error and research how to do trees.Ive always been hustling in business.I go to a neghborhood with post it notes or flyers and go door to door to all the homes that i can see that need work and get several together to lower cost and make it easier to maintain order and efficentcy.So i offer larger discounts and do several jobs.
    we would love to give you a free estimate which probably would be around 150 with rope and saddle climbers so they are safer and quicker and cheaper insure.If intersted we are
    Quality Tree and Landscape
    %Ray Williamson
    Arlington Texas

    1. Author

      Hi Ray,

      I’m glad to see you’re working hard and having success in the business. I’d definitely have you out for an estimate, except that I have since moved from the area. And my trees here in Idaho are still very small… Thanks for posting though! Keep up the hard work.

  3. $150 to climb 5 big trees and just to cut the lower limbs is not a bad price. I am tree trimmer in Columbus Ohio. As a rule my feet won’t leave the ground for less than $100. Doing that 5 times i would price that at around $250 to $300. Thats not including thinning out and dead wooding the canopy. But that’s clean up, taking debris, and raking. Not to have to take the brush is a game changer. That’s where all the overhead in tree work comes from. Fueling trucks and chippers. So i would keep the price a lot lower. $150 still sounds like a fair price for 2 guys.

  4. Oh wow, this is a really crazy story! I can’t believe they wanted to charge $150 for that! I personally just like to trim my own trees so I don’t have to worry about cost. I know not everyone can do that, but I still think paying that big price was excessive.

  5. I think it’s awesome that those people were looking as many opportunities as they could. Have you since called them and payed them to come do that service? I’m interested in getting my trees trimmed.

    1. Author

      I haven’t yet, but I may soon. I’ve seen them working in yards around the neighborhood and they’ve done great work. I love seeing people getting out and making something work to earn a living.

  6. Tree work is not something to take casually or get into without proper training. There is a right way and many wrong ways to prune a tree. Improper pruning can ruin a tree and actually cause it to be a hazard. Not to mention the importance of proper safety procedures that need to be learned. It is all too easy to be injured, or worse yet, cause another to be injured when people don’t know what they are doing.

    1. Author

      You’re absolutely right about tree trimming. And the same can be said for most things. You do need to make sure you know what you’re doing before getting into any new type of work. But the point here is that you can do it.
      People do it.
      For those who are willing to put forth the effort to learn and to get started, there is money to be made in lots of different places. I used tree trimming as an example because I see people around me taking advantage of that opportunity. While some people are complaining about not having enough income, these guys are going out and doing what it takes. I’ll bet most of them didn’t know all the ins and outs of tree trimming before they got started , but they learned, and now they do an excellent job in my neighborhood.
      There is money to be made for those who recognize a problem or an opportunity, and then go out and solve that problem for others. Figure out where there’s a need, and fill it. If there are things you need to learn to do that, then learn them. We have the internet. We have libraries. It can be done.

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