Some of you have been visiting our website for years. Between our website, books and classes you’ve discovered how to properly charge for your work, sell your services, work with clients in a positive relationship and protect your business. You know that what you do has value. You respect your time and your knowledge, and expect others to respect it as well.Free Estimates in Construction

If that’s you, you might not need this article. If you’re not sure, please keep reading. Should you charge for your time creating an estimate?

If you’ve spent hours or even days doing drawings for and/or estimating a project only to be told that your price is too high, or that “we want to think about it”, you know you wasted valuable time. You probably kicked yourself as you walked out the door, and wished you could kick them as well.

Too many contractors are afraid to ask to be paid for their time developing an estimate because they’re concerned the potential client will get upset and not want to work with them. They know that other contractors promote “free estimates”, so this must be the industry practice. I’ve got a secret for you: it’s also industry practice for many contractors to be broke and not able to pay their bills. You don’t want to always follow industry practice.

Think about this. The construction industry lost a number of businesses and workers during 2008-2010. They left this business for whatever reason and only a few have returned. There are also fewer young people getting into this industry; many just aren’t interested in learning the trade. There are fewer of us to do the work.

So, if there are fewer contractors, doesn’t it make sense that the home and building owners are having a harder time finding someone to do their jobs? If that’s the case, those who are doing the work are getting stretched thinner and thinner trying to cover their clients’ wishes and demands, especially for “free bids”. If you’ve developed and continually work on a good reputation, you should be able to charge for the service of preparing a firm price quotation to your perspective customers. You’re providing a service and should be paid for it.

Many of your potential clients understand that they need to pay for the services received. If they don’t understand it up front, they’ll understand after you explain why you work by design agreement only. If you don’t know how to prepare or present a design agreement, it’s covered in our book, Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide.

Present yourself as a professional who deserves to be paid for the services you provide. You’ll waste less time, and you’ll also be amazed to watch your sale-to-leads ratio improve. The best part is that you’ll see an improvement in your profitability as well.

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ben Chapman
May 3, 2020 12:55 pm

Hi There, I run a small construction company in London UK. We generally undertake house refurbishments, extensions and conversions etc… We also take on small jobs too to keep the work flowing… I like most builders have to use subcontractors from time to time and whenever I get a quote back its always a half arsed attempt sometimes lucky to come back on letterheaded attachment and not a sorry attempt of an email and a few figures.. Therefore I’ve always thought well if that’s how they treat us then thats how most builders must treat clients/homeowners etc.. So that being… Read more »

Shawn McCadden
Shawn McCadden
March 25, 2016 7:39 am

Good article Micheal. More contractors need to hear this. I love your line John: “after 20 years of owning my company i am finally being compensated correctly (rather i am charging correctly) for what i do”. Sums it up very well!

John Rogers
John Rogers
March 23, 2016 5:17 am

6 years ago or so i was in the “free” camp, after learning from folks like you i made a transition to design build and charge for developing drawings and writing contracts. At first i was hesitant about how to “sell” our service but i continued to work on my elevator speech and crafting what we deliver to the client. The first couple of years we wasted some time on some design contracts that didnt convert to construction but we continued to work on things and for 2 years now we have been somewhere around 90% of the design contracts… Read more »

Bob Benhardt
Bob Benhardt
March 23, 2016 1:03 pm
Reply to  John Rogers

Very similar back stories between us. I have developed a presentation folder that I leave with the home owner after our initial meeting that has helped narrow down the tire kickers pretty quickly

Keith Borge
Keith Borge
March 24, 2016 9:02 am
Reply to  John Rogers

John great points. Thank you Michael and Devon for continuing to drive this point home. I need to change the way we approach this so that we can get compensated for all the time I spend on estimating and budgeting. We don’t provide design services, but our budgets are comprehensive and extremely detailed in their presentation and I spend more time than I care to admit, essentially “giving” this information to prospective clients that don’t pay us a dime. We are professional, honest, hardworking, highly skilled craftsmen and we deserve to be compensated for what we produce. Thanks for the… Read more »

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