When you call to get a quote on any renovation in your home, do you ever wonder what is behind your "total cost" estimate? If you said to yourself "no", your lying, or you yourself are a self employed contractor. The average homeowner really has no idea what is truly behind an estimate that is provided to them. There are numerous factors that can change the outlook of your renovation.
It all begins with the initial phone call. To be brutally honest, we judge you as much as you judge us. So much is to be said about the saying "first impressions are lasting impressions". It does become an important factor when putting your quote together. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying we are going to charge you more because of the initial phone conversation, as we obviously don't know yet the circumstances in which you are contacting us, but it does help the process move more smoothly when I feel great about the initial contact..
Next, the first site visit. All contractors have different strategies behind their initial site visits, and not one certain strategy works for everyone. For me personally, I like to schedule my appointments over the weekends. I hear it all the time, the same two questions - don't you work on weekends? and, why would you want to fill your weekends with work? To put it simply, it has been working for me for the last three years, so why change it? It works well with my personal life as I like to be home during the week to see my son go to bed. To me, I either sacrifice all of my week nights with my family, or I spend Saturday and Sunday mornings driving around gathering my information and have the afternoons and evenings to spend with my family. You don't have to agree or disagree, but that's what I do. I also find in these situations, it's easier to get both decision makers in a household together at home on a weekend and the entire situation of meeting a stranger for the first time and asking them for money seems a little more laid back on weekends.
During my initial site visit, I listen to what the homeowner's have on their needs and wants list, offer my opinion and some options, take my measurements, leave a couple product books and be on my way to the next one appointment. I will never give a price, or my favourite, a "ballpark" on site. I don't ever want to be wrong, over quote, or miss something and have to ask for more money, so I take my information home to make sure the quote covers everything so there shouldn't be any surprises. Obviously, unforeseen issues do arise and those cannot be avoided.
Which brings me to the quote itself. I always get asked, what's your square foot price? And to be honest, I don't have a square foot price for anything. Every quote is broken down to specific items which helps me be as accurate as possible. Why you ask? Because no two jobs are ever the same. Here is where all those factors we gather over our initial phone conversation and site visit come to life. How long was the drive? Is there somewhere to drop a disposal bin on site? Is there room to store materials on the road, driveway, boulevard? Am I going to need a permit? Is the access to the area going to accommodate my machines? All of these variables affect your estimate before I even calculate one number of material. To be honest, the material and labour calculations are the easy part. It's the unforeseen that, we as contractors, have to foresee in order to provide an accurate estimate.
Once we are ready to present the quote to the customer, you have to be ready for the age old question, "why is it so much?" Without going into specific labour cost breakdowns, you have to be ready to justify why your charging what you do. Sell yourself. Assure the homeowner that hiring you will be worth every penny. A lot of companies struggle in this situation, including myself. I am not a big self promoter, I never have been. I like to let my work speak for itself but sometimes I have to brag a little. It is uncomfortable but its part of the job. As a landscape professional, homeowners have to understand most of us only rely on working between the months of April through November and that we need to find a way to make what someone does in 52 weeks in a 36 week period. This can make it seem like our rates are outrageous but in reality, we have bills 52 weeks of the year as do most people.
Once the quote is presented and I have left them with all the information needed, hopefully they are ready to sign on the dotted line! Often times, it leads to a few more back and forth correspondences to hash out some details before many homeowners are ready to sign. The best part about all of this, WE HAVEN'T BEEN PAID A DIME YET! Contractors go on hundreds of sales calls every year where they won't ever see a penny for the time they put in to get that potential customer a quote. Crazy right? It does tend to work itself out if you've priced your labour rate out correctly so that you are compensated for those wasted hours when you actually are working, but to think of all the hours self employed contractors put in and never get paid for should be baffling to the everyday homeowner.
I didn't write this blog in hopes that homeowners would feel sorry for me, my hopes are that this will bring some insight to the homeowners that just don't understand what they are paying for. Time is money, and I hope the next time you call to get a quote on a potential project, you understand a little more regarding where the numbers come from.