As a Contractor, providing a Free Estimate is a must; It’s the expected standard. There are those who charge for estimating, but usually they are in a position to simply turn away work anyway. Not all of us are in this position.
For most of us, you get a lead, meet with the customer, talk over the project and gather the details you need, head back to the office, put together the estimate, and send it off to the customer. If you know your business, this entire process, including driving to and from the appointment, can be completed in a matter of hours - my personal average was about 4 hours per estimate. If I saw 5 people in a week, that usually resulted in one closed job - so a 20% closing rate.
So, this process becomes a routine. We don’t really think about it too much. But there are “levels” to this. Not all “Free Estimates” are equal, just as not all projects are the same. In my view, there are 3 levels of providing a Free Estimate:
Level One: “Everyone Gets An Estimate”
Most Contractors just starting out, fall into this category. I’ve jokingly referred to it as being the “Oprah” of contractors - everyone gets a free estimate!
In other words, there is little to no qualification of leads being done. You’re so hungry for more work, that you’re willing to look at just about anything if it means the possibility of getting a signed contract.
At this level, you may not discriminate between someone requesting a minor repair, and a major project. You may ideally want to focus on larger kitchen and Bathroom projects, but if someone wants to do a minor facelift, you’re not going to turn them away.
If you look at your time invested versus the return, this is absolutely the worst position to be in. If it takes you 4 hours to provide an estimate, and you need to see 5 qualified potential customers to close one job, but 4 of those five 5 potential customers are not well qualified - kicking tires - then you’ve just wasted 16 hours (4x4 hours per estimate) for absolutely nothing. So, what ends up happening is that you need to see 10 people to find out that only 5 of them were qualified and maybe you get one closed job.
At that level, if 9 out of the 10 projects you estimate, at an average of 4 hours per estimate, don’t result in a closed job, then you just spent 36 hours giving out free estimates for absolutely no return.
After doing this for a while, most people get into a position of being more selective, and that bring us to level 2
Level Two: Selective Estimating
After who knows how long of giving out free estimates to anyone that asks for it, you build up a business and realize that it just makes sense to qualify your leads before spending 4 hours estimating. This can be done in innumerable ways, but is usually accomplished by simply talking to the potential customer before agreeing to meet with them.
If the customer fits your criteria, only then do you commit to providing a free estimate. In this situation, when you head out to see a customer, you’re fairly certain that it could result in a closed deal. At best practices, if you provided 5 estimates to qualified potential customers, you may get one closed job. You try not to waste time on tire kickers, and because of this are able to spend more time and attention on the customers you are currently working with.
Most established Contractors fall into this category. Maybe you provide estimates yourself as the business owner, or perhaps you have a dedicated estimator. Either way, at this point business is pretty good.
You’re still sending 4 estimates out of 5 that don’t result in a signed contract. But hey, that’s the industry. That’s what it takes to get the one closed job, so we just go on doing it. There are ways to improve your process at this level. For instance, I used to have a system where I could provide someone an estimate in their home, on the first appointment. It was a simple form that I filled out. As I had all the numbers pre calculated, I could just check the boxes, add up the totals, and hand the person an estimate.
This was a game changer. It used to take me 4 hours to provide an estimate, but with this method, I could give someone the exact same product without having to drive back to the office, put the estimate together, send it off and wait for a response. By doing this, I was able to tell almost immediately whether or not the customer was interested in moving forward. And if they were interested, I was able to discuss further steps right then and there.
When I started doing it this way, my closing rate went from 20% to 50%. So now, instead of closing 2 jobs if I saw 10 people I was closing 5.
Although even at a 50% closing rate, that meant the other 50% of the time, I was wasting my time. But hey, that’s the industry right?
I couldn’t get the 5 jobs closed unless I saw all 10 potential customers. Knowing that 100% of the leads were well qualified, now it just became a matter of price and customer choice in selecting a contractor.
But what if I could provide a Free Estimate, without ever having to set foot in the customer's home?
What if I only ever heard from a potential customer, when they already have an estimate, have already reviewed my company, and have decided they want to work with me?
That would be the best possible situation I could imagine. And that brings us to the third level of providing a Free Estimate.
Level Three: Fully Automated Estimating
I created a program that can give someone a Free Estimate for their kitchen or bathroom remodeling project, online in under 20 minutes. It sounds crazy, but the reality is, we have had the technology to do this for about a decade but for some reason, no one else has put together a system like mine.
My system uses an online form to gather the needed information, then generates an accurate estimate and sends it to the customer, without any human intervention. All it needs is the length and width of the space, and about 15 questions about the project answered.
The estimate they receive is exactly as accurate as if I had done it myself in person. And as the numbers are based on pre-set calculations, I can be sure that so long as the scope of work is adequately defined, the estimate is accurate.
But instead of trying to sell my program to contractors, or even worse sell leads, I created a system that is mutually beneficial to both Contractors and Homeowners.
Here’s how it works:
We promote our online system to people searching for contractors online. Anyone can fill out the form and receive a Free Estimate. Along with their estimate, they get our recommendation for the top 5 local contractors in their area, based on zip code.
Each contractor is represented equally. They each have a dedicated page, with information about them and their business. The customer is shown 5 contractors, and given the option to choose to work with one of them. The pricing in our estimate is based on what the contractors we recommend are charging. So each contractor is confident that they can provide the service estimated, at the price quoted.
If, and only if they decide to, the customer can request to get on the Contractor’s schedule, directly through our online system. When the Contractor makes the first contract with the customer, the customer already has an estimate, has already reviewed their company, and has decided they want to work with them. Now it’s just a matter of the Contractor deciding if they want to work with the customer.
Each Contractor's process is slightly different, but basically at that point, the contractor would meet with the customer, verify the details of the estimate, and if everything looks good, send them a contract.
Here’s the craziest part about all this:
WE DO NOT CHARGE THE CONTRACTOR A PENNY FOR ANY OF THIS
If we recommend you, it’s only because you have a proven record of providing an excellent level of service. We don’t sell leads, we don’t charge anything to be recommended, and we don’t charge anything for customers to reach out to you.
We only make money if you actually close a job through our system. Only then do we take a small percentage of the remodeling service charge.
There is no pressure to close any jobs. You pick and choose who you want to work with, just as the customer chooses you. There is also absolutely no obligation to work with us exclusively. Our system works in addition to whatever you’re already doing.
There are literally no downsides to this… which is why it’s so difficult to explain to people.
Contractors are so unbelievably inundated with calls about people trying to sell them something. Whether it’s leads, marketing, your Google Listing, or whatever other new scam they’ve thought of, if you’re in this business, your phone is probably ringing all day with people trying to take advantage of the good service you provide.
I know this because I’m a Contractor too and I want to change this messed up system we are all forced to operate within. With my program, the customer gets exactly what they want: an accurate estimate, and a choice to select a vetted and qualified Contractor. And the Contractor gets exactly what they want: a qualified customer, asking to get on their schedule.
It’s truly a win win.
And no one pays a penny, unless a job is closed.
Currently, there is no other company doing anything even close to this. It’s a brand new idea, but one that I believe will be the industry standard in the not too distant future.
- Yeager Bezuidenhout
If you think you would be a good fit, and would like to apply to become one of our recommended contractors, please email firstname.lastname@example.org