by Nick Gromicko

If you’re getting too many requests for estimates that aren’t converting into sales, it might be that your estimates (in and of themselves) have value to the prospects, or that your prospects aren’t really serious about having the work performed.  These issues can be resolved by charging for estimates.

Other contractors’ clients often take advantage of offers for free estimates to check on the prices of the contractor they actually intend to use.

Especially when times are tough, estimating for the people who will probably hire you can also eat up a lot of time.

Some contractors are hesitant about charging for estimates, and some consumers are equally hesitant about paying for them.  The following true story can be added to your webpage or any communication that discusses your fee schedule for estimates.

That’s a lot of money for only a few hours’ work!

The legendary artist Pablo Picasso was dining at a restaurant in New York City one evening.  A fan approached his table and introduced herself, and gushed at how thrilled she was to meet the great master and how much she loved his work.

Encouraged by his polite response, the fan begged, “Oh, Mr. Picasso, would you draw me a sketch?”

Picasso grabbed some paper and a pen, and promptly sketched an image of the waiters passing by with their dessert trays.

As the woman reached for the sketch, Picasso stopped her and said, “Madame, that will be $10,000.”

Shocked, she replied, “But that only took you five minutes!”

“No, Madame,” he answered. “It took me 50 years.”

Picasso priced his service according to its value, not the cost of its manufacture.  He did not price his sketch based on the cost of the paper plus the cost of the ink plus some hourly wage… and nor should a contractor.

Charging for estimates is a way of screening prospects for their seriousness.  You can easily offer to credit the cost of the estimate into the cost of the project for prospects who become clients.

The success of charging for estimates will vary with the area, the client, the type of job, the local market, and the economic climate.  You may have to spend some money to make some money.

When You Don’t Get the Job

You may not want to, but find out why.  This is a link in your chain that obviously has to be strengthened.  It’s critical for you to do an autopsy on your unsuccessful proposals so that, as far as it is within your control, you’ll succeed next time.

The following is a sample letter to use when you don’t get hired.  Mail it with a business-size pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope to make it easy for your customer to send you their essential feedback.

Dear [Prospect],

Thank you for the opportunity to consult with you about your [Service Offered] project.  Would you please take a moment and tell us why you did not choose our company?  Was our proposal lacking in some way?  Was price the issue?  Perhaps you decided not to proceed with the project.  Regardless of the reason, it would help us improve our service to know why.

I’ve enclosed a postage-paid envelope to make it easy for you to return your comments to us.  Please indicate whether I may call you in the future.

Thank you in advance for your time. 


[Your Name]
[Your Company Name]
[Your Phone Number]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Website Address]

When You Do Get the Job

Discuss with your new client the details and schedule that you’ll be allowed access to their property to perform your work.  Create a project schedule and adjust it accordingly so that you can keep your client’s expectations for completion reasonable.

TIP: Read this article on Marketing on the Job.

File for permits and take care of obtaining any additional insurance, bonding, and other details for yourself, your crew, and the job (such as renting a materials bin or Dumpster). Make backup copies of any required paperwork (or use protective plastic sleeves for originals) so that you are legal on the job and aren’t held hostage by any stoppages because you weren’t prepared for surprise inspections by third parties.

Prepare yourself and your crew.  If you’re taking on extra help, make sure you acquaint them with your company’s mission statement, as well as your other rules for conduct and safety on the job.

Inventory the tools and equipment that you’re planning to take to the jobsite so that you can re-inventory them at the end of the workday and after the project is completed.

TIP: GPS tracking technology can help keep track of equipment, employees, and even document miles driven.

Join our discussion on how contractors can charge for estimates.


Contractor Marketing