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Just got my electrical contracting license in San Diego, CA. Getting closer and closer to leaving my employer, but I know I struggle with bidding jobs accurately...Keep underbidding my sidejobs... How did y'all get comfortable with your pricing?
 

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Capra Aegagrus
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Pure and simple, if you're not making out on your side jobs, you're not ready to go on your own. You don't have nearly the overhead that you will when you do so.

As for being comfortable with quotes, the only real variable there is how long it's going to take you to perform the tasks. If you don't have a good handle on that (and it sounds like you don't), start keeping records. Not just the total time to do a job, but the time for each task as well.

It doesn't take too long to build a pretty good database. :thumbsup:
 

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I own stock in FotoMat!
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It's called benchmarking: Keeping track of how long a particular portion of the job takes.

How long does it take to lay out a 2,000 ft² house? How long to box it? How long to drill it out? Install the NM? Stuff n staple? Make-up? Install the service? Install devices? Hang a ceiling fan?

Your past experience should be a good yardstick to go by.
 

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Price

Don't make the usual mistake of bidding your jobs too low. I know you want the jobs but you will soon go under finishing jobs at cost plus a BIG MAC. Bid the jobs to make money and so be it if you don't get some jobs. Do you really want to work that cheap?

It takes experience to price out jobs and make money. Sometimes you still end up loosing money.
 

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Head Grunt
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It's called benchmarking: Keeping track of how long a particular portion of the job takes.

How long does it take to lay out a 2,000 ft² house? How long to box it? How long to drill it out? Install the NM? Stuff n staple? Make-up? Install the service? Install devices? Hang a ceiling fan?

Your past experience should be a good yardstick to go by.
X2, same goes for fishing wires and knowing how to get it done. Even then you need to figure in what your overhead will be before you start on your own. Expect delays, problems and over expenditures like broken devices, damages boxes or breakers. Always figure in for these little things on every job. I always put in a misc charge for staples, tape, screws, nails, etc. While these little things seem petty the cost adds up quickly. As 480 stated experience is a must here for knowing costs. I worked for my previous boss for 10yrs and did my own side work for at least 6yrs and to be honest i was still uncomfortable with knowing what to charge but you will catch on quick or go under.
 

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Maker of fine kindling
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I started on my own as a young guy with a wife that wasn't working and a baby in her arms. In other words, I had to make money on every job or it was a disaster.

And I lived through my share of those disasters. It didn't too long before I noticed that everything was taking nearly twice as long as my instincts told me they would. So I just doubled my estimated time. Still landed most of the small remodels I was doing at the time. All was well for the time being.

Then eventually my instincts were more accurate. Just like everyone has mentioned, I built my "database" with a track record of real life experience.

My guess is that your "estimating" just needs a similar multiplier till you get your time figured out. You can tell when it needs to be adjusted when you start losing some jobs you would normally get.

Another good indicator that you are to low is when the customer doesn't hesitate and asks "when can you start". :laughing: The right price usually hurts a little.
 

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Get comfortable with the idea that proper pricing will disqualify you from the great majority of jobs - 99 of 100 CraigsList leads, 3 out of 4 personal referrals, most inquiries from general contractors. Most homeowners and most general contractors care only about price, and can find someone who will work for peanuts.
 

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Get comfortable with the idea that proper pricing will disqualify you from the great majority of jobs - 99 of 100 CraigsList leads, 3 out of 4 personal referrals, most inquiries from general contractors. Most homeowners and most general contractors care only about price, and can find someone who will work for peanuts.
SFO..... brings up a very good point/ and an important "orientation" and probably most/very applicable to the invisible trades (non-finish----electrical /plumbing/HVAC).

In salesmen terms, the good salesmen are the guys that can get turned down 80-90% of the time, and not let it bother them.... they just keep pursueing the 20-10% that result in good/profitable sales.

Good luck....
 

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You have to get into the habit of keeping / opening a job file for every job -- 3 hrs or 3 days.

Write down what you do.

12/16 meet with customer review job prepare estimate 1.50 hrs
12/28 supply house pu materials .75 hrs
12/28 load job - rough in 7.00
12/29 complete rough in 11.00
POCO - obtain permit 1.50

**You can see from above 3.75 hrs away from job / 18.00 hrs at job.
To perform 1 hr of work it takes 1.20 hrs (which is low)

Add up all your time - regardless of fixed price or T%M.

Only then you can see what's occurring.

Too many days I can put in 8 hrs but only 5 on the job.

You'll see 15% of your time is pu materials if your doing small jobs ---- at least 20% of your time will be away from the job.

Attached is my log I use and fill out every day.

Run up a $1200 or $12000 bill and the cust asks how did you get to that number - you need to be able to explain without hesitation.
 

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Not sure about that. $60/hr adds up quick. Making money is relative I suppose..
Everything is relative.

It is usually much more profitable FOR ME to give a firm price on a project or service call than it is to work by the hour.

For the most part, people asking for an hourly rate are really looking for the lowest price. The lowest hourly rate in no way guarantees the lowest overall price. I have over 30 years in the trade, and my lead has been with me close to 9 years. I feel certain we can do things faster than a 4 year jman and a 1st year helper. I also feel certain that our hourly rates are higher.
 

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Not a great idea

Pricing by the hour will inevitably lead to problems with the owner. If you take 1 hr and 12 minutes then bill for 2 hrs trouble starts. Travel time, running for materials, the owner will just say your were there for less than 2 hrs so 1.2 hrs is all you get.

I know several guys that do just that. Some even count the screws you use and question material costs...who needs that.

Job pricing for total job allows you to work as fast as you want and avoid problems. And as TxElectrician said, you will make more $$$ than an hourly rate.
 

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I've been on my own for a year now. Pricing work is not an exact science. It's more of an art. I've done work waaaaaay too cheap and I've submitted bids that were extremely expensive. Just figure your material costs, figure your time multiplied by your hourly rate and go for it.

I like to put a little fluff on the material because I know I'm going to forget something. Hopefully nothing major but small things like straps and fittings are easy to miss. Also, don't forget your fuel costs. If I'm doing a job thats 50 miles each direction and there's two days worth of work, I add some for gas. Keep in mind I probably had to drive it a three times since I had to drive there to bid it also.

The hardest part for me has been finding enough work to keep me busy. I've tried google adwords, facebook ads, handing out flyers, etc. By far, craigslist has been the best producer although I'm starting to get more and more clicks from organic search.

There's no easy way to do this, just go out there and do it. But have a back up plan if everything goes to crap. I have kept my union card just in case.


Good luck. :thumbsup:
 
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