How to Stop Giving out Free Estimates

Best Practices
April 26, 2016
How to Stop Giving out Free Estimates

Hi, everyone! A big thank you to Wyatt Knight and all that came out last Thursday for this webinar. I know a lot of us were looking forward to this one, and I think we're walking away satisfied. If you did miss it, though, here are a few takeaways. As always, I will post the link below!


Charge for your estimates and avoid the price shoppers and tire kickers. Brand yourself as the expert and set yourself apart from the competition. Attract higher value clients.

Just like doctors and lawyers, we are professionals too. Why should we be estimating for free? We provide a service and value that should be paid for. It is a detailed process that can provide the client with very useful information.


This is where it all starts. If you want to stop competing with all the other contractors, you have got to market your business well. Successful marketing allows you to rise above the status quo. This is where your prospects get your message. They learn about you, gauge your legitimacy and decide if they could use your business. Different messages will attract different clients. Set yourself apart from the competition by telling people you are better. Build a brand that represents the quality work you do. Understand your target market and educate your prospects on who you are. The brand message you display will attract higher end clients if done properly.

The goal is to attract potential clients to your website. Here, they will find useful information, examples, educational content, testimonials and contact information. A quality website will impress a potential client and boost your legitimacy. Put yourself in their shoes, "Do I want my estimates done by this contractor?" It is all about building that brand and setting yourself above the competition. An informative website keeps potential clients interested as it is appealing to work with someone that knows what they are talking about. A quality website is also important because it is the means of converting a lead into an opportunity.


You have secured the opportunity once the potential client has called in. When this happens, you need to provide the same brand message that was on your website. Be friendly, caring and knowledgeable about what the potential client is looking for. Ask them a few questions. Think of this as the “ice breaker” phase. You want to warm them up to your brand, building trust. This is the best way to pre-qualify a potential client, weeding out the price checkers and tire kickers. Upon completion of the call, you will want to send a few follow-up emails. Understand the ideas, budget and design and agree to a fix priced proposal before the in-person meeting.

The in-person meeting is the best way to showcase your projects as well as close the deal. Show the potential client a few different ideas as well as some work you have done in the past. All of this is continuing to build on the trust that you are a step above other contractors. It is now that you want to establish a budget. Talking price is extremely important because it will determine the percentage and amount received for the estimate. Agreeing on a price allows you to draft a design agreement, ultimately retaining the client. Offering the client designs as well as estimates set you apart from the competition as they are receiving an all in one package.  

So What?

The main idea here is to justify an estimate that comes with a price tag. You want the client to feel that they are partnering with the most knowledgeable and most experienced contractor. Gaining such status all comes with building that brand and demonstrating that you are the expert.

We had a couple questions from the audience that I would like to share.

Customer Questions

How do I calculate what to charge for a design?

  • Industry standard is 4-8%
  • Based on a sliding scale. For example, a $100,000 job would be $8,000 in design fees.
  • Plans are required to get permits and are required to begin building. Who is going to get paid for those plans? It might as well be you.

What kind of things are included in the design agreement?

  • Depends on where the client is at, but provide them with a series of options. Each plan adds value to the design and should be priced accordingly.
  • This could include “Mechanical Plans” “Electrical Plans” “Plumbing Plans” “Floor Framing Plan”

What do I do about a client that thinks they don't need all of my services? Or has plans already?

  • Let the client know that your design, plans, and estimates are going to be much more detailed, and provide much more value. What you provide is unlike anything else they will find. If you can sell them on it, great, if not, remember, you do not estimate for free. You want to establish your brand as an industry expert, allowing a potential client to trust that they should be paying for your services.

Thanks again to everyone that came out to the webinar, and big thanks to Wyatt Knight. Stay tuned for the next one!

If you missed it, click here to watch

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Alex Krull
Alex Krull