Start Charging For Estimates And Stop Wasting Time Driving Around Town

Charging For Estimates

So you’re ready to start charging for estimates and stop running tirelessly across town…

While it is true that contacts lead to contracts, just because you have been contacted does not mean you have been contracted.

A contractor begins work once they have been contracted, not contacted.

Contacted ≠ Contracted

contacted does not equal contracted

Once you are contracted, you become the contractor.

You are under no obligation to offer anything for free, including estimates.

This article will break down the necessary steps for you to start charging for estimates and a better system for slaying time vampires.

A time vampire is someone who sucks up all your time and energy but never turns into a client.

Bonus Material: VBM FRAMEWORK

  1. The Problem With Free Estimates
  2. Why You Should Charge For Estimates
  3. The Benefits Of Charging For Estimates
  4. How To Start Charging For Estimates
  5. How Much Should You Charge For Estimates
  6. What Clients Will Say When They Find Out About The Estimate Fee
  7. What If You Don’t Want To Charge For Estimates
  8. Next Steps To Start Charging For Estimates

1 – The Problem with Free Estimates

Sadly, homeowners believe that just because someone needs their services, they should automatically get a free estimate without any questions asked.

The challenge is when someone comes in with no budget or nothing planned out. It can be a lot of work when you don’t know how much time/effort we’ll need to put into it or if there is even a contract at the end.

Assessing a project’s potential scope upfront will not only save time from driving around town looking at jobs that don’t measure up, but it can also help you avoid wasting time quoting out projects which may never happen.

Time is money, so only spend your time on customers with a high likelihood of success. Charging for estimates means less wasted hours on people who are not serious about working with you.

2 – Why You Should Charge for Estimates

People who demand free estimates will often choose the cheapest or one of the most affordable contractors. If you deliver a premium service, then offering potential clients a free estimate sends the wrong message. After all, if you don’t value your time and expertise, why should they?

Expert/Professional vs. Order Taker

When it comes to being an expert, dentists, doctors and lawyers are three professions that set themselves apart from others.

If you had a toothache and needed to see a dentist, would they come to your house for free to give you an exam? Better yet, do you think you can get 3 of them to come over, and then you can choose the one with the best price?

It’s not just the fancy title next to the name that allows them to charge more; they also have a standard process they put everyone through. They tell you what it will be like working together; you don’t tell them. They are the expert, after all.

3 – The Benefits Of Charging For Estimates

It is challenging to educate people who have created personal expectations about what a particular term means.

You need to meet them where they are in the buying process, which in their mind is, “I need a free estimate.”

Give them what they want, so you sell them what they need.

The goal is to build trust in a short period. Potential clients need to trust you aren’t going to run off with their money. It also demonstrates to the client that you are serious about your time, business, and level of service you’re providing.

Charging for estimates allows you to give more attention to each of your clients.

Have a repeatable, reliable, and predictable intake process you can put clients through.

4 – How To Start Charging For Estimates

You might be wondering how to start charging for estimates. Here is a basic outline of what you will need to do. The bottom line is you need a process.

Make a list of all the required steps, from initial contact to the final invoice.

  1. Clear Vision & Concept
    • In your ideal world, how do you envision this working?
    • How do you expect this to work for both you and the end-user?
    • What does that experience look like for you and them?
    • What information do you need to be collected from them to begin the conversation?
  2. Process To Make it Work
    • Document and detail the process.
    • What needs to happen at every step?
    • Who is involved, and at what steps?
    • What tools are you using now?
    • What tools/software/resources/specialists do you need?
  3. Technology
    • Capturing intake questions in a digital format through online forms allows you and the client to record. You don’t have to keep all of this in your head or write it all down. You can refer back to this if needed.
    • You make them do the initial work and supply you with all the necessary details of their project, including photos.
    • Use an online calendar booking system so potential clients can book appointments for estimates.
      • You are already busy. Why do you want to spend it following up with people or trying to coordinate days to meet?

Time is your most valuable and limited resource. Another way to get more time back is to leverage technology and automation, as it helps put everyone in a repeatable and predictable process.

If someone does not want to follow your process, you probably won’t enjoy a working relationship with them.

You’ve already saved yourself time.


5 – How Much Should You Charge For Estimates

How much you can charge is a direct reflection of the value the client perceives.

You will have difficulty charging for estimates if you cannot convey the value of what you are offering.

At a minimum, you should offer free ballpark estimates over the phone.

Have a standard set of intake questions you can ask people. And be sure to let them know that this is not an accurate estimate, price, proposal, quote, or contract.

When it comes to site visits, offer to credit the fee towards their project if they decide to move forward with you.

Best Handyman Boston offers two estimates; onsite and online.

Best Handyman Boston Online Estimate Form

The client can get a free estimate if they fill out the online form.

Best Handyman Boston will charge $175 for an onsite estimate with the catch that it can be applied back towards the project fee if you decide to move forward with their services.

At least you’ve covered some of your time and expenses.

HomeAdvisor even published a post saying contractors offer free estimates or charge $50 to $1,000.

How much do contractors charge for estimate?

People are willing to pay for it if they understand the value of what they are getting.

6 – What Clients Will Say When They Find Out About The Fee

Without a doubt, you will experience pushback when you move to a paid model.

You need to make sure you have your ducks in a row so you can clearly articulate and explain the value of why they should be paying you for the estimate.

You will hear things like,

  • “My friend just had three people come over to do their kitchen, and they didn’t charge them.”
  • “It’s 2021. Why would I pay you when I can find other people who will come for free?”
  • “How do I know you are not just going to rip me off?”
  • “This sounds like a scam.”
  • “I’m not going to pay that.”

Ultimately they are a list of excuses people give for not paying the upfront fee because they do not understand the value they are receiving.

You need to prepare how to handle those objections.

The best way to handle pushback is to tell the client, “This is our process,” and say it with confidence.

You can’t say that if you don’t have one.

7 – What If You Don’t Want To Charge For Estimates

If you aren’t ready to charge for estimates or don’t want to, there are still ways you can do a better job of filtering the time vampires out.

Offer free consultations over the phone or in-person if needed.

Direct them to the website to fill out the online form.

Put marketing material together that you can send to them that breaks down different ballpark pricing ideas or things they should consider before a further conversation with you.

No one is telling you that you NEED to charge for estimates, but it is a great filtering mechanism.

8 – Next Steps To Start Charging For Estimates

These are the most common things holding people back from charging for estimates.

  1. Organization
    • You need to have your stuff put together.
    • Repeatable processes can only happen when you eliminate as many variables as possible.
    • Think about McDonald’s. We could both walk in there and master the place within a week.
  2. Marketing
    • Marketing is how you will explain and convey the value of what you are delivering.
    • You cannot position this without having anything to back it up.
    • What is your offer?
    • Why are you charging for estimates?
    • Why is paying you for an estimate better than getting free quotes?
    • What is the value I get?
    • When the offer is clear, the value is.
    • The perceived value that is derived is directly proportional to your offer.
  3. Online Estimates vs. InPerson Estimates
    • Have a filtering mechanism using an intake form or a more standardized intake process. Make it repeatable.
    • Try to get as much information as you can upfront so you can have the most accurate understanding of their current situation.
    • If you can have an idea of the budget and scope of work before you ever leave your house, you’ll save everyone a lot of time and frustration.
    • Most homeowners have false expectations around budget and pricing.
    • Even if you aren’t charging for estimates, at least make the homeowner spend more time getting you the information you need.
    • Offer free online estimates and gave them ballpark pricing.
    • If the client wants you to go there physically, charge them a fee for that. You can even credit back to them if they decide to move forward with you, but at least the homeowner has some skin in the game.

Worst case scenario, you go back to giving free estimates and doing everything the same as you are now.

Those who find value in your estimate are those who will find value in your business.

How do you get them to understand the value of your business?

Check out the VBM Framework.

The VBM Framework will help you get your house in order so you can start charging for estimates and eliminating time vampires.


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