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Help needed dealing with pricing decorating work

Right i went to do a price on a job, this was a bungalow, one of these places on the outside it wasn’t much but on the inside it was really something.

My sons behind me , I use him as a listening ear, we walk in kitchen, I could see the guy was a good builder, the customer wanted a price, I didn’t want to overcharge, or under charge so i said i would prefer to do an hourly rate, and being honest i didn’t know how long the job would take, covering all kitchen units.

Extra lack of experience showed Ii think, but I was honest with him, and said I am just starting out,and don’t do this everyday. He had looked at my website, so he could see I had done a thing or two, he must have gathered i was keen, I turned up on time, I felt nervous when I saw the kitchen. This guy was very experienced, if it had been a older person i would have done a lot better, my son gave me 7/10, but i felt a bit amateurish, not being able to give a price. I think he would have picked up on this, but i was honest he could see that.

If i get the job nice, if not we will press on. As for my son maybe taking him would have looked amateurish, but he’s my listening ear, if I cant hear words, as for approaching customers, I feel OK any tips would be put to the test.

As for the pricing,time this is a problem how can you know how long a job takes when you have never done something of that size before?

My son suggested we should stick to our own style houses, which we both painted, know the layouts, also being known in an area may get good word out quicker in the community.

Maybe this job was a lesson, sheeting up expensive units, doing posh kitchens should be left. Maybe not work on such high expectations, maybe just stick to jobs like bedrooms, living rooms, Exteriors of park homes,may suit us better.

One thing is for sure we will keep pressing on till we get what we want, any tips appreciated. :frowning: :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

Owner phoned us we got the job.

Hi Jason

thanks for sharing that job visit. Nothing amateurish having your son with you, read it out to my wife and she just said, how cool! Hearing difficulties doesn’t stop you being fully on top of the quality of the work being done, and if having your son on hand means your clients get the right answers from you, whats wrong with that.

You are right about pricing, it is tricky, and it is a matter of developing a database of how long tasks take YOU and deciding what you are worth. And then a profit on top so you can invest and stay in business. When you know your capabilities and costs, then you have to sell the benefits and value of what you can do.

As to what sort of jobs to take on, everyone does their first one of everything and are not necessarily that happy about doing it! This is really where you build on what you already know, and if you don’t know, work with someone who does. Aim at the end of your long learning curve to specialise and excel in an aspect of decorating.

I think we have seen enough of you and your questions to get a good idea that you want to do things right, and in truth, you know more about gras a lacquer than a LOT of pro decs, so keep plugging away and building your knowledge.

How to avoid costly mistakes? Note down everything - make a checklist of what you do -eg take a 2m 4 panel door. In a notepad make a grid with every action: remove ironmongery, mask, clean down, sand, prime, fill, sand, second coat, fine surface fill, de-nib, caulk, topcoat de-nib, topcoat, remove tape, replace ironmongery… and keep it with you and keep notes on every similar door you do for a while, and then build the grid up for new doors in that style, previously badly glossed doors, stained doors… It takes seconds to keep track

And when you are snagging at the end of each stage, check for bittiness, dings to fill, sags etc so you are on track with quality.

Overall, be fair, but firm. Written estimates protect both sides. You may be surprised how much and how little your competing decorators are charging when they price up against you. You have to keep your business alive and profitable, so don’t worry about the motivation of others!

Make sure you turn up every day same time, put in a good days work, leave room clean, don’t double book, finish one job, start another.

I would say, take handles off wherever possible!

Well done, you got the job you did it right

Thanks Andy as the Chinese say when the student is ready the teacher will appear,you have been a good one,on this kitchen,a few questions,where do you buy your plastic roll from,is kipmasker any good what the best?As for ceilings,the spotlights all around the ceiling,what low tack tape would you recommend,as for painting,ceiling think i will use small pro,dooze rollers,dose that make sense,on a large area,found them hassle free or go for a bigger roller,as for coving any good recommended brush,and for walls,my Wooster tray and large wooster roller,as for walking in and out i will put some sheets in hall,for taping units a very low tack tape.

The last time I did a ceiling with spots in them I took them all out and it was easier and quicker than taping them all which I have done on previous jobs. Also I was doing a bit of taping and filling repairs so it was a lot easier from that point if view as well.
I hoovered Inside the hole that the spot was set into so as not to get any dust/fluff etc on roller. Then when finished carefully set lights back into place and the job’s a good un!
On a ceiling like that I used a 14" pro dooz roller.

Well done Jason!

I still struggle with pricing. Have got a little better at it, but still I’m always paranoid of either putting in too much and not getting it, or too little and making a rod for my own back.

One thing I have learned - you never can really tell which customers will take you on and which won’t.

Hourly rate is a good shout.

I don’t suppose anyone has a contract, or paragraph in their quote letter, that covers you if you underestimate how long a job will take??

I think if a trade’s person asked me to sign a contract with something like that in I would go elsewhere. That simply gives him an option to work slow and get paid more. Not saying that’s what we would all do but you need to see it from the customer’s view point. Customer has a budget so wants a figure to work with. It’s up to us to work out how long we think it will take and price accordingly. Then if we over run it’s our lookout and the customer doesn’t pay extra.

That wording of David’s would be a bit out there, but there are jobs where “unforeseens” are accounted for under Provisional sums. So it is not unheard of to have a floating price for certain preparation elements of a job. Im not big on that either, but the cost to a client of a fixed price based on a guess, is usually a very high fixed price.

when redecorating older properties, as long as you make client aware before work starts, of specific areas that are impossible to forecast, you might want to consider provisional sums to remove some of the downside of guess work.

Remove guesswork and avoid a whole world of hurt!

Believe it or not, it is not in a client’s interest to have a tradesman losing money hands over fist on their job! I was working for a decorator who priced to redecorate a very rambly Cotswold mansion and didn’t think to check ceilings and walls for distemper. The extra unaccounted for decorating work on every single room created a tsunami of trouble and by the end of the job it wasn’t a nice place to be working and doing decorative finishes shut away was the best place to be. Ideally he should have not missed such an obvious factor, but if he had spotted it, many decs would not think it unreasonable to say to the client, “it should be x hours per room, based on metre squared, but this is an estimate. It may be more, may be less.”

As I say, I would deliver an all inclusive price not based on a random guess, (i.e. either refer to a past job, or do a trial area on hourly rate and extrapolate from there.)

Where a dec doesn’t go that precautionary route, and offers a guesstimate, a homeowner might want the chance to benefit from work finishing ahead of a “guess”.

Do decorators spin work out? Unintentionally, all the time with inefficiencies and lack of planning! Intentionally, I don’t see the point of spinning out horrible work like stripping distemper.

I get what you are saying Andy. When I quote it is to give a fixed price for a schedule of work but the agreement will always include negotiable additionql costs for work falling outside what is listed and my schedules give a clear scope of what is included. Most customers are happy with that - if we end up making no money then we wont be there next time they want a quote.

Well i have another job to price,this ones a difficult one,its,stripping wallpaper,in hall,then paint ,customer thinks it will need plastering,and paint bedroom,gloss doors,the trouble i only really work part time,my 13 year old son helped me decorate our house,can emulsion,gloss,without runs,also works for me in school holidays,very able,and my intentions is to give him a taste off the action.As for pricing i will pay him out off my rate,he,s there to clean brushes,keep area tidy,emulsion,and give him some work experience,even now owns his own decorating overhauls,and blue slippers for walking in peoples homes,as for approaching the customer,about if its OK to bring him on board,i think this will be a case off test the water,anyone who looks at my website will see were,serious,and anyone who no,s me will no he,s been well trained.As
for charging him out i have no intentions not at least until we no how long jobs take,then i will work on estimates.As for insurance i will let them no he comes with me,just want to put opportunity in his hands.

Great news on the work coming in Darlic, well done that man & boy.

Ive been taking my lad on jobs since he was 10 and nobody has ever disapproved, I started to take him to price up jobs with me when he was 14 to get him into the swing from the start, hes 22 now and has no problem going out to do estimates alone.

Some sound advice from Andy on the estimating. Darlic, have you ever heard the saying: measure twice, cut once? This same principle applies when doing estimates. Take your time and get into a habit of listing anything you think appropriate, even ask the client if they mind you taking pictures as this can be a good reminder of whats on the job, once your back at home working out the nitty gritties.

Anyone who turns up, unarmed without pen, paper and a tape measure can only offer a guesstimate and will show through as a cowboy! Never offer a price at the time of estimating, no matter how persistent they may seem. Go away and work things out properly. Be confident and knowledgeable as possible but not cocky!

To save time initially when pricing I suggest you explain the main points in your estimate and then say "On acceptance of my estimate, I will provide you with a full written, detailed specification, together with my standard terms and conditions"include any other relevant paperwork also.

Also remember this: A quotation is a binding agreement.

An estimate is exactly that, with a disclaimer written in for "unforeseen circumstances, which will be brought to the attention of the client immediately. Its a good idea to make up and print off a handful of additional works sheets, once you and the client have agreed a plan of action and a price/day rate, hourly rate for the additional works, you can then both sign to agree. This IMO is a very important part of your service because the last thing a client wants is a nasty big surprise at the end of the job and the last thing you want is a client refusing to pay! Not just the extras but potentially the whole invoice. Being clear and concise about the work involved not only shows how professional you are, it build confidence with a client as the trust you.

Just be careful with your lad and health and safety, I’m not trying to be patronising or give you a parenting lesson but HSE would come down on you like a ton of bricks, if anything ever jepordised his safety.NO Working from Height, NO Electrical Equipment and watch your COSHH.

Press on!

Russ, that is good advice, but I really want to ask (and it may be a stupid question so bear with) do you think underpricing a job - say you think it’ll be 10 days but actually it takes 12 - counts as “unforeseen circumstances”?

I know it sounds daft, but it also kind of isn’t. Do you take it on the chin or go back and ask for more money if a job takes longer than you thought?

Sorry to hijack thread Jason…

Can I also suggest you contact Lee at Boothby Taylor, he will make sure you are fully up on the insurance requirements for having your son at work. They advise us and have saved a lot of money and aggravation in the process. More here

Thanks Andy that’s the company i went with as recommended on here,my daughter phoned them to make sure,they said as long as he dosent work more than 50 days a year,that’s fine.

I agree with you Green, always prefer customer to have a fixed price. Just that I’ve gone over on my current job by a few days (could anyone tell??). Painting outside woodwork, fascias with noggins on them included, just has taken way longer than I expected.

Luckily, customers are very nice and being reasonable about it. They have also added a few bits here and there, but said to me yesterday that the work was awkward and I’d earned the extra money. Had it been new plasterwork, however, they would expect a price to be more accurate! Which is fair enough.

But if they weren’t being reasonable, I’d be sweating it by now having lost a couple of days’ money.

Two things I’ve learned about decorating: pricing is the hardest part, and everything takes longer than you think.

I still love that shed floor though…

Jason good luck with your next quote. On the subject of pricing, I always do paper stripping at day rate. I explain why to my customers, and I’ve not had one yet say it’s unreasonable.

I reckon the hardest part of decorating is going fast but not rushing.

The hardest part of decorating is working methodically, efficiently and maintaining concentration! Sticking your tongue out in the direction to which way your painting can be a big help in maintaining the above!

David: Unfortunately that is classic under estimating, there always the danger of: It looks like 12 days but I’ll do it in 10 because I want the job! You have to allow for any discrepancies such as this but then run the risk of not getting the work. Again you really class this as unforeseen, but more mis-calculated.

Unforeseen would be, lets say your prepping facias and soffits, they look in pretty decent nick from the ground and your not going to get your ladder out at the time of estimating and have a poke about with your screwdriver, but then once you start the job, you discover the fascias are rotten to the core! STOP!! You now need to bring this to the clients attention (your estimate was to carry out general prep as required, on the assumption that the substrate is in reasonable condition). This now falls in to an unforeseen circumstance, you may want to now have a good old poke about and identify if there is any more areas that require the same attention but its the customers shout based on the advice you give them. Do they replace or repair?

Same principles apply to whatever substrate your working on: Your stripping wallpaper and you’ve done the tapping test but then as your stripping (on day/hour rate) some of the plaster falls off! Are you going to carry on and finish the stripping, to see if any more comes off? Yes, most likely! Your clients out at work, so you nipp off down to wickes and buy a bag of multi finish and spend the rest of the day geting all the plaster patching done before the client gets home from work.
ENTER THE CLIENT: Hi Mrs Patchett, just to let you know I’ve had an unforeseen circumstance in that some of the plaster fell off whilst I was stripping so Ive patched it all up for you, its took me all day and cost me 25.00 in materials so that’s £175.00 I will have to add on your final bill, (what a good decorator I am) is that OK?
Mrs Patchett says: well no actually it isn’t, I’ve got a friend who is a plasterer and he would have done it for me cheaper than that, I’m really sorry but you should have informed me first before you went ahead and did it, therefore I’m not prepared to pay you.
YOU: But…!!

Always bring it to the attention of the client first!