Should you Charge for Estimates?

Charging for estimates is somewhat of a controversial subject. Many contractors don’t charge for these as they don’t want to put potential clients off. However, quotes and proposals that take up your time should be valued and charging clients will root out any potential clients who aren’t serious. Here are some tips to making sure you aren’t wasting your time on quotes.

Use the Right Language

An estimate is something you can give for free. This is very much a ballpark figure based on previous experience at the very beginning of negotiations with potential clients. Estimates are not firm numbers that clients can hold you to.

Once a client has accepted your estimate and wants to make a firm commitment, you can give a quote or proposal. These you would spend time on, from an inspection of the site to time spent researching material costs and scheduling, quotes should be something you charge for as part of the job.

Prequalify Potential Clients

A lead to sales ratio should be about 1 to 3. If you are converting fewer inquiries then work on your sales skills. Spend a little time asking questions to potential clients when they first approach you. That way you can determine if they are a good fit for your company and won’t waste time on people who aren’t ready to commit. For an example of 25 questions that can help with this process, see the blog here.

Streamline your Process

  • To streamline your estimate process, you can get a free template that allows you to cover all the bases here.
  • Create a master checklist that you use for every estimate so you don’t forget anything.
  • Calculate labor costs accurately. You can get a full tutorial on how to do so here.
  • Material supply and demand causes costs to fluctuate. Be sure to check material costs regularly so your quotes are accurate.
  • Check with trades you want to use on the job to ensure their prices are accurate.

Leave additional time for unforeseen issues. Scheduling delays, weather, material and labor shortages can really play havoc with projects. Leave enough time to account for any delays so you come in on time and under budget.

There are many options for creating estimates online that help to streamline the process and ensure your estimates are more accurate. These take some investment of time and money, but may be more efficient in the long run. For a review of available software, see the post here.

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