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Charging for estimates

2717 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  ranteso

I got a call to go look at building some custom case-work. I am thinking about charging to do an estimate. I haven't charged for an estimate before, but I get calls for these somewhat frequently, and it always takes alot of time to prepare. I usually end up drawing everything out, making cut lists, and doing a take-off to get an accurate price. Most of the time, I end up doing this for free, or have to work in changes, etc.

This time I am thinking about charging $250 to do the proposal. That will get design in sketch-up, proposal, and up to 3 finish samples. Does this seem reasonable?
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Sounds good to me. If they're hesitant tell them they get it back if they hire you.

On another note, when you did these drawings and didn't just hand them over to the HO did you??
Thanks, I plan on rolling that into the price of the project if it gets accepted.

Owner only gets to see an elevation drawing to make sure we are on the same page design-wise. Everything stays with me.
I agree with not giving them the info. If they pay for the estimate maybe. I have done estimates on renos where they were looking for ideas as to how to do the job as well as an estimate. I drew up sketches of my ideas and showed the customer. I never got the job, but they built it just like I had drawn it. Probably his brother in law built it. Seems hard to get money for an estimate, but it is a lot of work to do for nothing. After many years in the business, I can be a bit picky on who I work for. If someone is looking to get five prices from different contractors, I pass. I am not the cheapest guy in town and I lose out to the lower quality guys. If the customer is willing to pay a bit more for quality, they don't squabble over every nickel and dime. Give them a list of your references and recent jobs so they know that you are a competent contractor and justify the cost of the estimate, hopefully with some confidence that you are the one they will hire if a price agreement can be met.
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Depending on how long you've been in the trades, you should have some idea of what a built-in will cost. This is called an estimate.
That's what I share with potential customers on the initial meeting beforeI spending hours and hours of non billable time.
This will weed out a lot of tire kickers.
Have an open discussion at the first meeting about their budget. Ask them what they have in mind to spend.
and guess what? They already know.....
If they sound reasonable, then take it to the next step and propose a cost for design, drawings and a proposal.

I think I would be willing to hand the info over to them if they paid upfront for it. I too am getting picky about who I work for. The last casework bid I put together was for a person who wanted 6 floor to ceiling units in 3 separate rooms. I priced it out for him and he came back asking me to itemize it, and price it for each room separately. I didn't even bother after that.

This person came from a referral from a pretty regular client. She said she googled me and looked at my facebook, as well as the staircase I built for the client she knows. So she has already seen a qood portion of my work.

I already have a rough price in mind from what she said over the phone. That seems like a smart way to go about it. I have had a hard time in the past getting an idea of budget from people though.

The only hang up on the price for me right now is the finish. She wants a durable white finish, so I am thinking a post-cat lacquer. Which I really dont have much experience with.
Well, the meeting went well. She had a basic design already in mind, pulled up some images on pinterest to show me. Talked about budget and got a check signed for the design/propasal.
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No Bidding!

Let's stop bidding and start getting hired to be a paid consultant! I stopped bidding 15 years ago. I will visit a home and meet with a prospect at no charge and offer a few design ideas and talk about budget range. From there, if they are interested in my company and expertise they will hire me to do a project evaluation. The 3 components of this evaluation include, design, job scoping and cost analysis. This is a service that I provide for a fee. If we are hired for the project, the fee will be deducted from total sale. I am no longer worrying if they are going to call me back...I have been paid for my time. If you get the opportunity to provide this service, you will have the opportunity...because you were provide very professional, detailed documents that will have you as a front runner always! Our closing ratio is amazing with this service in play! Be a professional consultant...not a bidder! Yes you will get some to balk at this and these people will typically never hire you anyway. Do a great job letting them know the benefit of this process...we want to educate them, minimize their risk and most importantly have them understand exactly what they are purchasing! They can get a half ass bid for free or invest a small amount to understand everything about the project through great consulting on your part. It's a no brainier for them as they understand the danger of hiring of a bid.
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charging for estimates will rarely fly in this industry. Not that you can't get money for an estimate, but you'll lose more jobs by stating up front that you charge for estimates.

That's the industries fault, all the neanderthal contractors run around advertising FREE ESTIMATES and consumers are conditioned that contractors provide FREE ESTIMATES.

Contractors as a whole are un-professional and are viewed as such. That's why contractors, trades people who are Professional and take their trade seriously have two strikes against them because of that same paint brush, that stigma that is associated with their profession.

I've never charged for an estimate, nor have I ever charged for a proposal. Actually I have, when I provided proposals for a homeowners involved in insurance work, but overall it's not my business model to charge for them.

All my work is referral work from past clients, 2 designers and other trade relationships I am close with. So basically my potential customers are pre-qualified. But that doesn't mean they are "in the bag" so to speak.

I'll meet, spend an hour or so with the prospect and talk money. That will always be the subject I'm interested in during our first meeting. Sure I'll talk design, appliances, fixtures etc.. but money is at the top of the list. I look at their eyes, their facial expressions as I throw out numbers and get a feel if they are realistic in what they want and what they are willing to spend. Ask them directly what their expectation of costs are. If I'm very confident they are realistic, and we have a good rapport, I'll go the next step, otherwise my verbal will be all they get.

There's no right or wrong, it's what works for your business model. You are always going to have un-billable hours throughout the year, it's how you approach them and make up for those hours that count$
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