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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some additional considerations to keep in mind when you estimate paint jobs:
The basic components of a painting estimate include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.