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"Buy Quality, Cry Once"
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Hey guys, as I've stated before I've been painting for a tad over 20 years, and done side jobs during that time. I've just recently started out on my own. I've done several jobs, have several lined up, and several to bid on.

On most, if not all of the side jobs I used to do when working for someone else I would just take a quick look at the job figure about how long it would take and give them a price...not too much thought to it at all. Now that I'm doing this on my own I've tried to come up with some formulas, I can't afford the estimate software right now that's in the future.

I have been on a couple jobs (interior) where the people looked at me like I was out of my mind when they saw my proposal, outrageous they said...ok, no problem, leave them with a contractor comparsion form (thanks to a certain member of this forum), then I'm off. Some folks look at the proposal and can't believe I'm giving them such a good price.

Now I'm well aware that differant prices for contractors in differant parts of the country, and there are many variables. I am at this time working by myself, my overhead is fairly low. And I know I'm giving decent prices for the quality work I do as I'm trying to build a customer base and a name for myself.

This is an example of what I'm speaking of. I go to a home last week...folks want a bedroom painted. I call this a "simple" job, walls and trim two coats..very little prep needed. I measure my walls Lx2 Wx2 Hx4 Once I have that number for this type job I charge $1.25 Ok this bedroom was 260 cubit ft...I say cubit but it really isnt as I didnt figure the floor in, but any way using the above formula I arrived at $325.00 labor. Matierials were going to run about $75.00 Total cost for this bedroom $400.00.(I can do this job in two 8-10 hour days). The home owners hit the roof, said that was just too high :evil: ...this has happened a few times.

Second scenario..same size room same type job..the folks were thrilled with the price :Thumbs: . This happens most of the time. It's a bit confusing I KNOW I can't charge less, but can I get more...not sure since I've never really bid jobs like this before.

Can some of you seasoned contractors..or even not so seasoned tell me how you charge..if you don't feel comfortable telling me prices just gimme a formula or something..throw me a bone ;)

By the way I live in Winston Salem NC
 

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Deck Designer/Builder
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Don,

Although our businesses are different in the services we provide, I believe the same principles for pricing can be applied. You should always figure out your material and overhead costs and then add what you believe your time to be worth for the quality of work you provide.

A lot of time, customers fail to consider that it costs you time and money to pick-up materials, get to and from their premises for example. I'm sorry I can't help you with a formula since what we do is quite different. However, I can offer a few bits of advice that I have learned in the start-up phase of putting together my business.

In the beginning, I used to price things too low - I didn't want to have people think I was "ripping them off" and I didn't add enough into my costs for overhead. I started out just calculating materials costs and then adding "what I thought was fair" to the price per sq. foot.

A couple of things to remember:

1. There will always be customers that think your price is "too high". Of note, these are usually the type of people that will do things like stand over your shoulder, ask you what you are doing and why, try to chit-chat with you, etc. - these are the customers you will learn to avoid over time.

2. Just for fun, ask the people who think your price is "too high" how much it would cost them if they went out bought the paint, ladder, drop cloths, brushes, rollers, tape, sanding block, sandpaper, poles etc., etc. and then did it themselves? You may be surprised in the reaction you get when you explain how much it costs you to run a business.

3. If you trust in the quality of your work and succeed in delivering that quality work for your customers then they will be glad they spent the money and refer you to friends and family.

4. Never be afraid to walk away from a job. I realize that it's a hard thing to do and being in that position is something that it can take awhile to work up to but if you spend time taking jobs that don't pay you what you're worth then you will never really get ahead.

Hope this helped a bit...
 

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First of all - maybe it's because I live in the northeast - but I rarely come across easy prep jobs. When I take my power sander with 220 grit to doors, invariably paint come off down to bare wood around the door knob area - and I run into disaster along the trim as well. Most homeowners just do not do a good job when they paint - so by the time a professional comes - you have 'ghetto' paint on the trim, i.e. 15+ coats never sanded. So that being said - let's assume your job is minimal prep. What does minimal prep mean to you? Do you pole sand the walls down with fine grit? Or do you paint right on the old surface?

So what are the dimensions of this room? Are you removing the area that windows and doorways occupy when you come up with your square footage?
A room that is 8'x8' has 256 sq. feet of wall space not deducting for windows or doors. Is this how small the room is? A 13'x13' room has 585 sq. feet of wall and ceiling area not deducting for windows and doors. A real simple two coat job with minimal prep would be easy to get at $1.00/sq. foot or $585 for the room - and this is if nothing goes wrong, and includes ceilings. And if I look at like I need $40/hr including labor + materials + profits then this gives me about 15 hrs to finish the job. Which is reasonable. So if you think you need between 16-20 hrs. you are only charging between $20 - $25 per hour
for paint, sundries, labor, profit, insurance, etc. That seems really low. I am up here in the northeast where maybe the cost of living is more expensive. But a good seasoned painter is worth $20-$25/hr. to his employer. Where is your room for profits and materials? According to your calculations you estimate that your labor is between $16 and $20 per hr. That's the minimum you should get paid working for someone else. You are working for yourself now - that means you deserve profits. Your customers aren't your boss, they are your customers - you don't work for them, you work for yourself providing a service for customers. If anyone told me my price was too high
if I was only charging them $16-$20 per hour plus materials - I would laugh in their face and walk away and not even think about them for another millisecond - those are the people that you lose money on. If you take those jobs - from the super cheap A-holes - trust me, nothing will go right on the jobs, and you will never make them happy. And you will probably end up owing them money some way or the other. They are the ones that go around your work with magnifying glasses demanding A++++ work, when they are barely paying you to exist.

Just think it through like this - how much is a quality worker worth to an employer? Basically someone who is so good and efficient he could either be a foreman or start his own company like yourself. So maybe in North Carolina - the best of the best only get $16/hr. - I doubt it. But say they do.
Then you come up with production rates - there are lots of guys here that helped me in this area. So now you need a rate as a company you charge - double your worker's rate is still not a high priced outfit - this is a minimum to run a painting company, so it's very reasonable. And you also have your production rates, so let's re-examine.

You estimate anywhere between 16 and 20 hours to do a job, your best worker - yourself - is worth $16.00/hr. So as a competitive small painting outfit you charge double that per hour to cover all your costs and profits.
So that ends up being $32/hr multiplied by the hours or....$512 - $640.

So that lady that hit the roof at your figure of $400 - she is a total joke - walk away from that *****.

-PlainPainter

P.S. there are tons of 'cheapos' out there, if the economy is bad, then you do what you have to do. But otherwise look for better customers. Not to mention even in bad economies - it's only people with money that can afford to pay for painting anyways - and they can still afford to pay good money.
It's just our fellow brethren compete against each other in hard times - and the rich make out with cheap labor.
 

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"Buy Quality, Cry Once"
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Discussion Starter #4
Do you pole sand the walls down with fine grit?
Light spackle, and pole sand.

So what are the dimensions of this room? Are you removing the area that windows and doorways occupy when you come up with your square footage?
Width 10'x2(walls)=100 Length 12'x2(walls) Height 10'x4(walls)=260x1.25=$325 plus matierials. I dont deduct unless the opening is 5' or more.
But a good seasoned painter is worth $20-$25/hr. to his employer.
Here a top painter gets $12.00 hrly if he's lucky.

Both of these replies were very good and helped alot. And I take your point on the cheapos..for instance I went to a prestigious neighbor hood last month this was on the 20th of Dec. She asked me if I could get the dining room done by the 24th, I told her yes I can do that. The walls were in need of quite a bit of prep, new carpet had just been installed, and 2 large mullioned windows. I gave her a price of $1354.00, she said ok, I just want the job done right, I finished the job on the 23rd she was delighted, and wrote me a check right then. I think that when you are first starting out you feel the need to do whatever it takes to secure a job.....but I'm not giving my services away.
 

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Of course, it would be great to always deal with customers like the one in the prestigious neighbourhood - I'm sure Teetor can give you lots of stories because his client base seems to be of that type. I didn't intend to imply that you should expect to always have clients in the high end districts but gearing your advertising and building upon word-of-mouth in those areas will go a long way towards only dealing with those customers. Also, don't be fooled, there are still penny-pinchers in prestigious neighbourhoods! Your "good" customer most likely expected to pay a premium by asking for a job on short notice right before Christmas time - so that helped.

There is one thing I always try to do with customers that I have been contracted by, is once I have the job and the work is started, I ask if they got other quotes and if so, I ask them if they don't mind telling me what price they were quoted. I let them know that I would never go back on my quote but that I am just interested in knowing what others out there are quoting. If you find out you are way below the market rate it will help with the next quote you provide.

Make no mistake, I've taken my share of "low profit" jobs too. For me, because the majority of my work is outdoors, a lot can depend on the time of year etc. I took a job right before snow fall that had the fences I did return very little profit because one of the 3 customers wanted a deck too. The two neighbours that just got a fence were a complete pain in the a$$. The customer with the deck was great - he had his own business and understood overhead, etc. - he never once questioned my price. The two others whined about giving me the 30% deposit (they actually questioned whether or not I would show up to do the work!!!). If it wasn't for the deck job and the fact I needed the job, I'd have walked out the door when my integrity was questioned.

Being confident during the selling process and promoting your skills and expertise will help you to support your pricing. Promote your expertise, etc. by pointing out that your workmanship is second to none and that you don't skimp on materials, etc. "like some other contractors that give really low bids" - a little education never hurts. Letting people know that the difference between using low end products and using quality products translates directly to the final cost. I like to have names and numbers of previous customers, that have approved being references, on hand to help convince those skeptical customers too.
 

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Width 10'x2(walls)=100 Length 12'x2(walls) Height 10'x4(walls)=260x1.25=$325 plus matierials. I dont deduct unless the opening is 5' or more.

Don??? I think that you are missing something here-
10x 2 Walls ='s 200 not 100
12 x 2 walls ='s 240
10 feet high??
440 sq ft of wall space.
440 x's your $1.25 =$550
I think you should reconsider how you are coming up with your total numbers- unless I just don't understand your math
BTW that is for painting the walls only- what about the trim?? You have to consider all Linear feet of base, doors, windows...and on and on.
Let me know if you work in the Chapel Hill area. My parents live there and are looking for a painter for both inside and out-
 

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I can't make head or tails of your arithmetic. What do you do? If I add 10 and 12 that is 22. Multiply that by the height then you have 220. Then you have a figure of 4*10 = 40, so I suppose 220+40 = 260. Ok Don, I am going to teach you a little math. Imagine rooms were cardboard boxes, in which you could unfold it out and make one long wall from the previous four walls.
What you want is the total length multiplied by the height. So for a 10X12 room you have two walls that are 10 feet long, and two walls that are 12 feet long. Or (2 x 10) + (2 x 12) = 20 + 24 = 44 {total length of stretched out wall. Now you mutliply this number by the height of the wall to get the total area which is 440 sq.feet. Ok? now add in the area of the ceiling if you want (10 x 12) = 120 sq. feet.

Is $12/hr. all a top painter makes in North Carolina? Is this a salary you would be happy with? If so - then I guess as a business, your rate should be about $24/hr. If you think this job will take anywhere between 16 - 20 hours, which sounds reasonable. And I am assuming your are using sq. ft pricing as a way to price everything including trim. Then you should be charging between $384 - $480 depending whether you are quoting for 16 or 20 hours. This works out to be $0.87/sq.ft to $1.09/sq. ft. This is assuming you aren't doing her ceilings. or between $0.69/sq.ft to $0.85/sq.ft to double coat her ceilings as well. These aren't actually bad prices per sq.ft even where I live, are you a slow painter? Can you itemize all the different steps you do, and be exact to how long it will take you, and I mean tarping cleaning brushes too. Will it really take 20 hours to double coat a 10x12 room? I would think I could fill in nail holes, prime her walls and woodwork and two topcoats in 20 hours. Am I far off base?

-PlainPainter
 

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Without getting into the measurements/formulas whatnot, I offer that you stated in a post above
I am at this time working by myself, my overhead is fairly low.
and it think you might be under estimating your overhead. Its easy to nickel and dime your business to death with misc. items that aren't being billed to anybody but yourself. You need to take a day and sit down and review everything that involves money that is even remotedly tied to your business. Insur., license, office supplies, advert., cards, truck, gas, tools, internet, on and on and on. You need to figure out what you need to make to stay in business. Only you can determine that, and you need to price accordingly. If not, you will go broke, or at least be living from check to check, and show $0 profit. I know, I've been there, and it sucks. Rarely does going by your competition's rates get you far. Stats prove more painting businesses open up and shut down than any other contracting business, so you can't rely on what Joe Stationwagon is charging.
I arrived at $325.00 labor. Matierials were going to run about $75.00 Total cost for this bedroom $400.00.(I can do this job in two 8-10 hour days).
I'm not sure if this is a real bid, or just hypothetical, but it seems pretty low. I know prices tend to be effected by region, but its still low. I've worked all over the country, many times with fellow hangers from other areas. Just got home tonight from a job in Nashvile, with hangers from Tenn, Louisiana, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and we are always chatting about business/prices/trends etc. One thing I hear in common is the necessity to keep solid books, and don't price yourself out of business. At the above prices, after materials, raking in $162.50 a day isn't enough for a decent standard of living for most who work for themselves. After taking out any overhead at all, its like making $15 an hour or less. In that case, I would go back to work for someone and let them deal with alll the headaches that come with contracting.

Please don't think I'm trying to be mean or disrespectful, its just the plain truth. Anybody that has been in business successfully for any amount of time will agree that knowing your numbers is business 101. It's hard work, but if you persevere, it can be done. If not, Jimmy the Greek is laying 50 to 1 odds you won't be posting on this forum in a year or two.
 

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Please don't think I'm trying to be mean or disrespectful, its just the plain truth. Anybody that has been in business successfully for any amount of time will agree that knowing your numbers is business 101. It's hard work, but if you persevere, it can be done. If not, Jimmy the Greek is laying 50 to 1 odds you won't be posting on this forum in a year or two.[/QUOTE]


Man!....I've tryed to beat that into people Prowall. I've been in business many years, even opened a restaurant for 8 months, and find that it's remarkable how some people can't even begin to see that its all in the numbers.

Bob
 

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"Buy Quality, Cry Once"
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Discussion Starter #10
Man, what great responces, I really appreciate it. First let me say this...I am almost fair to a fault, that is one of my big drawbacks. But after pondering these post for a while I figure it this way. I am an A++ painter, I take great pride in my work, that's something that can't be said of all painters in this area.
Insur., license, office supplies, advert., cards, truck, gas, tools, internet, on and on and on. You need to figure out what you need to make to stay in business. Only you can determine that, and you need to price accordingly.
I intend to do this one day this week.
Ok..so what is fair? When I go to price a job I know what my cost of doing business is, so as I am writeing a proposal I am figureing what is fair to me. At this point I am not concerned with what is fair to the customer.

If that customer considers my bid fair and accepts the bid. I am now onto what is fair to the customer, I will do what I say I will do and I will do a top quality job...that is fair to the customer. At this point it's a win/win and that's fair.

Please don't think I'm trying to be mean or disrespectful, its just the plain truth. Anybody that has been in business successfully for any amount of time will agree that knowing your numbers is business 101.
On the contrary, although I've been painting for 20 years I know little on the business side, and this constructive critism is helpful.

Don??? I think that you are missing something here-
Probably, math was never my strong suit

are you a slow painter? Can you itemize all the different steps you do, and be exact to how long it will take you, and I mean tarping cleaning brushes too. Will it really take 20 hours to double coat a 10x12 room? I would think I could fill in nail holes, prime her walls and woodwork and two topcoats in 20 hours. Am I far off base?
Yes I'm very good at determining time need for a project. I've figured between 16-20 easily on this.

what about the trim?? You have to consider all Linear feet of base, doors, windows...and on and on.
How does one figure linear feet? I usually just figure the trim into the price per sq.

Let me know if you work in the Chapel Hill area.
Chapel Hill is about an hours drive from here, I have done jobs a little further than that.premierpainting where are you located? If you would pass my website onto them I have alot of info there.www.shimmerz.biz

First of all - maybe it's because I live in the northeast - but I rarely come across easy prep jobs. When I take my power sander with 220 grit to doors, invariably paint come off down to bare wood around the door knob area
I hand sand all my trim. This house is one year old, they just want a color change.

If you trust in the quality of your work and succeed in delivering that quality work for your customers then they will be glad they spent the money and refer you to friends and family.
Yes that's the one constant with me, I know my work is first class, I'm somewhat of a perfectionist. And I have gotton several referrals from them.

Thanks guys on the heads up on figureing sq ft. I was figureing that way...just in a backassward way :eek:

See folks I just started doing this on my own after getting laid off after five years at a plant here, like I said I have 20 years experiance in painting but the trade pays squat around here so I took this great job, now its gone, I invested alot of money into starting my own business and I want to succeed...I will. I greatly appreciate everyones time in posting to this thread. Thanks :Thumbs:
 

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All the best of luck to you Don!

By the way, I know your post isn't about this but I took a glance at your website and the word "experience" is spelled incorrectly in your banner. I just thought I'd let you know - sorry, but I'm a stickler for spelling.
 

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Checked out your site and I too, am a stickler for spelling- the word "alot" is two words and also noone is, well, I don't know. I think you might be scaring people by saying you have worked on one hundred million dollar homes also (you have 500,000- to 100,000,000)
Just my anal side coming through
I like to see your effort in putting together a good solid business.
By the way, I live in NJ and my parents house is in the Govenor's Club in Chapel Hill. I sent them your site to check out. They are always painting something.
Good luck
 

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"Buy Quality, Cry Once"
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Discussion Starter #14
premierpainting said:
Checked out your site and I too, am a stickler for spelling- the word "alot" is two words and also noone is, well, I don't know. I think you might be scaring people by saying you have worked on one hundred million dollar homes also (you have 500,000- to 100,000,000)
Just my anal side coming through
I like to see your effort in putting together a good solid business.
By the way, I live in NJ and my parents house is in the Govenor's Club in Chapel Hill. I sent them your site to check out. They are always painting something.
Good luck
Yikes $100,000,000 homes...yeah...um I painted the White House, yeah thats the ticket :rolleyes: Thanks for the heads up, off to do some proof reading ;)
 

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I skimmed through your site quickly and probably missed some stuff, but you need attention to the following sentences:

Painting and decorating is always something I have enjoyed very much, and took a lot of pride in, however when you're working for someone else it isn't the greatest paying gig around, therefore the next paragraph.

Preparation if the most crucial aspect of any project, and you can rest assured your home will be prepared properly.

(Sorry these aren't really itemized or in order.)

completely (compleatly)
rock-solid guarantee
top-quality
customers' property
my home's painting needs
schedule (scheadule)
communities (community's)
price-wise

Also, I've found that telling a customer, or potential customer, that you've worked on homes worth more than theirs, for people with more money than them, etc., can be a turnoff. I'd take out the dollar figures entirely and simply make it clear that you are experienced on every scale and will be happy to serve any potential client.
 
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