How to Estimate a Painting Job: Work Smarter with Estimating Tools for Your Next Paint Job

June 2, 2023
Time to Read: 
12 minutes

Efficient estimating is more important than many painting contractors realize. An estimate represents your first interaction with a new customer, and first impressions are always crucial. Whether you’re expanding an existing painting business or just starting one, it’s worth nailing the estimating process from the get-go. 

If you’re trying to figure out how to estimate with technological solutions, you’re on the right track. Unfortunately, most of these tech solutions are built for office workers and major corporations – not tradespeople. This is why choosing the right estimating tool is critical in the modern era. Rest assured that these specialized, field service tools do exist if you know where to look. 

But how exactly do you create a painting estimate? What should you include in each estimate? How can you use software and technology to ensure positive first impressions and plenty of follow-up work? Let’s find out:

The complete guide to creating a painting estimate

Estimating shouldn’t be an afterthought. Follow a clear, precise process, and you can ensure consistency and high levels of customer satisfaction. Here are the steps you need to take when creating a painting estimate:

  1. Review

The first step is simple: Define the problem you need to solve. Hopefully, the customer will have communicated their problem clearly – but this isn’t always the case. You may need to get in touch with your new client and ask for more details. If you receive a vague message like “I need my house painted,” you’ll need more clarification before you can proceed. For example, do they want the interior of their home painted or the exterior? Is it just one room, or is it the entire house? These questions will help you narrow down the scope of the project and make more accurate calculations. 

This early stage represents a solid opportunity to show off your customer service skills. Touch base and discuss the project with your potential customer – but don’t waste their time with small talk. Get right to the point and show them that you mean business. To make communication more streamlined and efficient, consider texting them through your digital estimating platform. 

During this stage, you can also ask your customer how much detail they need in their estimates. Perhaps they don’t really care about your operating costs or labor hours. Maybe they just want a quote as quickly as possible. If this is the case, you can cut straight to the point and give them what they need to approve the paint job. If they do require a more detailed estimate, you can get straight to work and come back with plenty of information. 

  1. Personalize

Once you have defined the customer’s problem, it’s time to offer a solution – and the best solution is a personalized one. Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, go the extra mile and take your customer’s unique needs into consideration. Remember, you’re probably competing against other painting companies for this job. You need to stand out with an estimate that caters to the client’s specific circumstances.

This is one of the many reasons effective communication is so important during these early stages. When you speak with the client, take careful note of any special requests or concerns. Include solutions to these specific problems in your estimate if possible. It is your opportunity to go above and beyond for a customer, whether they want multiple colors and a pattern or a paint job finished by a specific date. 

  1. Choose a streamlined estimating tool

If you haven’t already upgraded your estimating process with reliable, streamlined software, now’s the time. Consider an option like VIIZR, which is specifically geared toward trade companies. Unlike most estimating tools, VIIZR is designed for small-to-medium trades contractors instead of office workers in Silicon Valley. VIIZR also offers many mobile-friendly features that never slow you down – even if you’re organizing your business from the back of your parked work truck. 

But what are the advantages of digital estimates? First of all, a tool like VIIZR provides you with an instant notification as soon as you receive a new job request. This lets you respond quickly to new opportunities – before customers walk away. Even better, you can send clean, professional and convenient estimates in PDF format to your new customers. Clients can review estimates easily without any need for face-to-face interaction. After this positive first impression, you’ll get the green light in mere moments instead of days. 

  1. Consider your timeline

Effective estimates have clear, accurate timelines. Customers want to know how much paint jobs will cost, but they also want to know how long they will take. Calculating your timeline also gives you the chance to think about how many hours the paint job will take, and how much it will cost you in terms of hourly wages. If you’re just starting out, you might struggle to provide accurate timelines. 

As a general rule, it’s better to overestimate completion time rather than provide an overly-optimistic end date. With this approach, your customers will be pleasantly surprised when you complete the job early. Setting early end dates may help you win over more customers in the short term, but clients could react negatively to delays – causing poor word-of-mouth marketing and low review scores. 

Managing expectations is a key part of this process, and this may take some practice. You only know how fast your painting team can be with a few dozen finished jobs under your belt. With a digital estimating tool like VIIZR, you can review past jobs and accurately predict how long similar jobs will take. 

For example, if a customer wants their living room painted, you can search VIIZR’s database for past estimates and invoices that match the surface square footage of the new job. Find out how many hours it took you to complete your previous job, and you’ll have an accurate answer. This isn’t always easy when you’re rummaging through filing cabinets for past documents – but VIIZR puts this information right at your fingertips. 

Another solid strategy is to outline possible reasons for delays. For example, you might warn your clients that rainy weather could push back the competition date for exterior paint jobs. This helps reduce miscommunications and disputes.

  1. Choose your team

Your next step will be to choose your team. While the customer doesn’t need to know exactly who you’re hiring, it’s worth considering which employees to assign. Some employees might earn higher wages than others – and this could affect your bottom line. Do yourself a favor and use VIIZR’s Tech Scheduling tool to assign individual team members with an easy drag-and-drop tool. Now you’re ready to make your calculations and provide the most accurate estimates based on specific wages and timelines. 

  1. Provide as much information as possible

The best estimates are filled with information. By providing your leads with more data, you give them greater transparency and confidence. Instead of leaving them with more questions than answers, you can address all of their concerns with a quick, convenient estimate. And with tools like VIIZR, creating these detailed estimates takes just a few clicks. But what kind of information should you include in your paint estimate? Take a look:

  • Contact information: Be sure to include your paint company’s contact information for easy communication in the future. This gives your customers a chance to get in touch to voice concerns and ask questions. 
  • Explanation of services: Also known as the “project scope,” this is a general description of what needs to be done. Be as detailed as possible. During this early stage, you can correct miscommunications – but it might be difficult if you’re halfway through a paint project. 
  • Relevant dates: A typical painting estimate contains a number of dates. The date of issue tells the customer when the estimate was prepared and sent. The project start date tells them when their paint job is scheduled to begin. The projected completion date tells your new client when to expect a finished painting job. 
  • Estimate number: An estimate number is simply a numerical label attached to your quote. This helps you track and save your estimates efficiently – especially if you’re using a digital storage solution like VIIZR. 
  • Exclusions: You might have included details about what the project includes – but what about things that are not included in your painting job? Make it clear what your limitations are to manage expectations and avoid disputes in the future. For example, you might state that you’re not going to clean the walls before the painting job and that the customer is expected to do this themselves. 
  • Payment terms: Do you prefer a specific method of payment? Is it a company policy not to accept certain payment methods, such as Bitcoin or Paypal? Make this clear from the beginning and make your invoicing process easier once you finish your painting job. With VIIZR, customers can pay right in the app with Stripe.
  • Branding: Never waste an opportunity to show off your marketing skills. The best estimating tools – such as VIIZR – allow you to include your branding in each estimate. This sends a clear message of professionalism while keeping things neat and consistent. 
  • Your workers: You might also want to include a detailed list of the painters who will be handling the job. This gives your customers a sense of what to expect, who to expect and how many people will be arriving at the job site. 
  • Upsells: Most estimating tools don’t allow for integrated upsells. One exception is VIIZR, and this digital tool lets you rake in more cash per painting job with each estimate. With added upsells and cross-sells, each estimate becomes an opportunity to earn more profit. Give your clients the option to upgrade their services without pushy sales calls. 
  • Taxes and fees: For even more transparency, be sure to add any taxes and fees that will be included in the overall cost. This helps cut down on unexpected surprises when invoices are due. 
  • Material costs: Customers appreciate seeing how much you’re spending on supplies. This helps them understand how you reached your final quote, and it reduces payment disputes. When they see that you’re spending money on high-quality paints, it also inspires greater confidence in the final product. 
  • Labor costs: On that same note, it also makes sense to include your labor costs. Let your customers know how much you’re paying your workers for even more transparency. Many customers appreciate hiring painting companies that pay their employees a fair wage, so this added information could help you get the green light. 

If you’re still writing your estimates by hand, including all of this information can be quite time-consuming – especially with dozens of painting projects per week. Fortunately, tools like VIIZR streamline this process and let you include all of this information with just a few taps. 

  1. Consider terms and conditions

During this initial phase, it makes sense to consider your legal obligations. Adding terms and conditions to your estimates is a smart move, especially when you consider the litigious nature of the average American consumer. For more advice, consider speaking with a business lawyer. These professionals can help you include the right legal language to protect your business and your team. 

  1. Calculate costs

Once you’ve gathered all of this information together, it’s time to calculate your total variable costs. This is one of the most important steps for any painting business, as it affects your bottom line. The estimating process is more important than simply providing your customers with information. It also forces you to review the scope of each project, consider your operating costs and find out how much you’re spending on each project. Consider everything that goes into the painting project – including insurance, fuel, supplies, labor costs, taxes and so on. Without proper calculations, you may end up sending a quote that causes you to lose money. 

  1. Check out your competition

If you’re just starting out and you’re not sure how to set your prices, consider checking out your competition. There’s nothing wrong with doing a little detective work. Why not ask for a quote from your competitors? Or you could simply ask around and find out what they’re charging. This helps you remain competitive while still taking home profits. 

  1. Calculate pricing

Now that you have a clear idea of your competition and your total operating costs, it’s time to set a total price for your painting job. So what should your profit margin be? How much money should you aim to take home on each painting job? Ultimately, this is a question that every painting contractor needs to answer for themselves. That being said, painting contractors typically earn anywhere from 10% to 50% profit at the end of each year. The key is to find a balance. Set prices low enough to keep you in high demand, but high enough to make your hard work worth it.  

  1. Send your estimate

When you estimate a painting job, it should be easy – but it can also be deceptively difficult. If you’re still writing out your estimates by hand, you’ll need to personally deliver them. In contrast, a digital management tool like VIIZR lets you send out your estimates in PDF form with a single click – letting you shift your attention back to painting jobs in progress without wasting any time. This is yet another reason to upgrade your estimating system. 

  1. Be prepared for back-and-forth

Don’t be surprised if your new customer returns with questions and requests. Remember, the customer is always right (at least in theory). This is your chance to show off your customer service skills, so make an effort to offer personalized solutions that cater to the customer’s unique needs. You may need to negotiate on a final quote – or you can simply stress that your prices are firm. You can reduce these disputes and time-consuming conversations by making your estimates as clear and as detailed as possible. Lay out a straightforward plan that states exactly what your painters are going to accomplish – and how. 

  1. Finalize and save your estimates

Once you and your new painting customer have agreed upon the scope and the price of the job, it’s time to finalize the estimate and get to work. Remember to keep a copy of your estimate for later reference. Solid record-keeping is always a smart move – especially when you consider that the IRS may contact you years from now and demand extensive financial documents. 

You can also use your saved estimates to quickly create invoices for the same jobs. This is especially easy if you use an estimating tool like VIIZR. This digital management solution lets you convert estimates into invoices with just a few clicks – cutting down on needless paperwork and saving you hours each month. 

Things to keep in mind when creating your next painting estimate

Here are some additional considerations to keep in mind when you estimate paint jobs:

  • Calculate how much time you can save with digital tools like VIIZR
  • Use templates to make each paint estimate easier
  • Consider subcontractor proposals
  • Create estimating formulas to calculate costs and target profit
  • Consider visiting the job site before finalizing your estimate
  • Consider what might go wrong and create a “plan B”
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of creating estimates quickly

What should I include in my paint job estimate?

The basic components of a painting estimate include:

  • Contact information
  • Costs
  • Dates
  • Project scope
  • Payment terms

How to calculate material costs

As a painting company, your main material cost is your paint. It makes sense to be as accurate as possible when you calculate how much paint you will actually need. Ask the customer to tell you exactly how many surface square feet they need painted. While you should buy a little extra paint just to be safe, don’t go overboard with paint cans. You can always run to the store for one more can of paint – but you don’t want to be stuck with dozens of cans of paint that you’ll never use again. 

Remember, customers have very specific paint color preferences – and you’ll rarely have a chance to use leftover paint for future projects. Even a slight miscalculation can seriously eat into your profit margins. 

How to calculate marketing costs

Many paint companies forget to factor in their marketing costs when they calculate total profit margins. A useful value in this calculation is your “Cost Per Lead” or CPL. To calculate this marketing cost value, simply divide your total amount spent on marketing by the number of leads you have generated. Most small trades businesses should aim to spend anywhere from 2% to 5% on their marketing budget. 

How important is estimating my next paint service?

An estimate is more important than many paint companies realize. This represents your first interaction with a new customer – and first impressions are everything. A handwritten paint estimate may send the wrong message – but a clean, professional PDF estimate shows off your professionalism. Speed is also essential, as customers expect fast turnarounds when they request a paint estimate. VIIZR helps you nail both speed and quality, ensuring better conversions and more satisfied paint customers. 

Does an effective estimate help me get more greenlit painting jobs?

An effective paint estimate can help you capture more leads, ensuring more greenlit paint projects. Customers simply walk away if you keep them waiting too long, and they appreciate the transparency and detail of an effective paint estimate. By using a digital estimate tool like VIIZR, you can limit disputes by providing a wealth of information in each paint quote. Even one extra job per week can represent a serious boost in profit at the end of the year. 

What if the final cost of my painting job is higher than my estimate?

It’s worth pointing out that a paint estimate is not a contract. Remember, the word “estimate” means “educated guess.” You’re not promising your paint customers that the job will cost a certain amount, you’re simply giving them an idea of what it might cost when you take into account all of the relevant factors. 

If your paint project goes over the estimate cost for whatever reason, you are fully justified in sending a final invoice that is higher than the initial quote. But as you might have guessed, customers aren’t happy when this happens – and this is why it’s so important to use an accurate job estimate tool like VIIZR to ensure fewer awkward moments at the end of each job. It’s also important to let a customer know right away if an estimated expense like materials or labor time for a tricky part of the house is coming in higher than expected.

How to lower costs to make each painting service more profitable

When you plan out your next job, you can use the cost estimating process to consider how much you’re spending. Here are some strategies to lower your operating costs in order to make each job more profitable:

  • Look for bargain deals on paint
  • Invest in high-quality equipment that stands the test of time
  • Reduce waste
  • Hire more productive workers
  • Invest in software like VIIZR that help you lower fuel costs and wasted time

Make estimating easier with VIIZR

If you’re ready to upgrade your paint estimation process, consider streamlining your business with VIIZR. Thanks to integrated upsells and fast estimate creation, this software helps you rake in maximum profits per job. Try a 14-day free trial today

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