When to offer free estimates and when to charge a fee

Home Contractors: When to Offer Free Estimates And When to Charge

Estimates are the first step in completing a transaction between you and your prospective customer. The estimate initiates a formal relationship with your client, presents the first impression of your business, and sets up what the actual materials and labor will look like over a certain timeline.  While some home contractors offer these preliminary estimates without charge, others find the potential advantages to doing so are not worth the loss of payment for their time.  So when is the best time to offer free estimates for your customers, and when should you charge a fee?  Here's What to Consider Many factors fall under consideration when deciding whether to offer free estimates, particularly when it comes to home improvement. Often, the reasoning may be based on industry and regional standards. Overall, the type of work your company specializes in, the number of techs you have available, and even the location(s) of your business are all points to consider. While some work is generally straightforward with minimal anticipated surprises, other work may involve complete inspections, potential revisions, or research back at the office. Complex or more labor-intensive work generally requires more detail, more time, and more expertise. Other cost considerations may be case by case, including the distance of the job site from your location, the scope and duration of a particular project, and even your company philosophy.  Some companies want the estimate to be completely accurate from the beginning. In contrast, others want to leave it more open, in case the work takes more time than initially expected. When to Offer Free Estimates For many home improvement businesses, offering free estimates is a popular tool to get prospects in the door.  By extending free estimates to prospective clients, you'll potentially attract a larger number of new customers who might just be shopping around or who are more budget-concerned. There's no obligation on the customer to commit, so they automatically feel more comfortable beginning the process.  Offering a free estimate also allows you to sell in-person, talk about the project more in detail, and start a relationship with the client. Many customers have been Googling for months but have yet to hear real advice from an actual expert. Free estimates can act as the first step in earning a customer's trust to complete the job.  While this can be an excellent strategy for your business, here's how to decide if it works for your company.  Is the job straightforward, and does it make sense to offer an estimate for free? If a client comes to you with a clear problem that doesn't likely have any extra hidden complexities, you'll likely know the expected cost for the service based on similar services you've completed in the past.  Whether it's painting a room where you are given the dimensions and know the current condition of the walls, or installing a certain number of lighting fixtures, it may be simple for you to offer a free quote without needing to invest too much time. When Should Home Contractors Charge for Estimates On the other hand, if an estimate requires a comprehensive inspection and has the potential to be more time-consuming or difficult than what can be seen on the surface, it may be in your interest to charge for your estimate.  When you do decide that it's necessary to charge clients for estimates, you should do so on a sliding scale. An estimate for a single project in one room would be a lower rate than an estimate for a project that's throughout an entire home or office space.  Take your time to research what competitors are charging in your area for similar projects, and communicate with your clients about their expectations and budget for services needed, before giving any quotes.  Consultations requiring multiple revisions, diagnostics, or several steps in the planning process could also warrant the need to charge for an estimate.  In this case, however, you should specify with your customer that they're paying for the inspection and consultation, along with the additional planning required for the job – and not solely paying based on the number of estimates. Another reason to charge for an estimate is if there are multiple parties involved in the project. If the contracting job requires you to communicate and plan a timeline alongside subcontracting companies and specialty professionals like electricians or designers, the time involved in scheduling and coordinating should be taken into account when charging for the overall estimate.  Deciding What's Best for You Remember, the decision whether to charge for an estimate comes down to what makes the most sense for your business. While some believe that offering free estimates will attract more customers, others have found that charging for estimates ensures your customers are more serious about moving forward and are hiring you for the duration of the project.  Either way, always be upfront with your client about what cost they can expect and what service they're paying for when setting up any kind of inspection and estimate appointment.  Ready to Streamline your Estimate Process? Learn more about InvoiceASAP’s invoicing software. 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home repair business tips covid-19

Demand for Home Repair Increasing Amid COVID-19

Social distancing policies have dramatically changed our day-to-day routines and interactions. With people spending long periods of time at home – and looking for ways to entertain themselves around the house – many people have taken on projects at home. The combination of wanting to keep busy and finding yourself with lots of time on your hands has made DIY projects, home repair work, and other major clean-up efforts enticing. But not everyone can handle repairs themselves, and that's when it's time to call in the experts. Increase in Demand as People Stay Home Though many industries are seeing a major slowdown in sales at this time, home repair companies are expecting to see an increased demand for work. More people are spending extended periods of time at home, and that means a higher volume of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC needs for families. At the same time, there is also a new sense of urgency for home maintenance needs. For example, a drainage problem with your kitchen sink, or losing power to the refrigerator, is now a bit more complicated and stressful. People are eager to get repairs fixed quickly and looking to home repair companies who can get the job done safely. How to Safely Serve Customers While social distancing regulations are in place, there are concrete steps you can take as a home repair business to ensure the safety of your employees and your clients – and it starts before you even schedule an appointment with a customer. Your website, phone system, and social media pages should all provide new information about the steps you're taking to ensure safety during the coronavirus. As families look online for companies who can quickly complete their home repairs, they are going to be looking to see which businesses are prioritizing safety precautions and actively communicating with customers.  Read Our Full Guide for Managing Your Business During COVID-19 Customer Communication During COVID-19 Update your phone and email on your webpage and social media sites if your contact information has changed due to now working remotely. Also, remember to regularly check direct messenger chats for new customers who may reach out about a home repair need via social media. Before sending out technicians to a customer's home, be sure to communicate your safety measures so the customer can prepare and know what to expect when they arrive. Ask the customer about any current illness in the home to better protect your employees. Send a reminder to the customer on the day of the scheduled service using the client's preferred communication method and verify once again that no one is sick or showing any symptoms in the home.  Communicate any reminders to the tech about social distancing practices and remain accessible remotely during the appointment should your tech need to contact you. Finally, after the service is completed, reach out to your customers with any follow-up questions to gain valuable feedback on how to improve your services for future clients. Best Practices for In-Home Repairs, Invoicing via Email, & Collecting Payment Remotely Before entering the residence, properly put on a mask and gloves, and then gather additional sanitation supplies along with your equipment and tools. You'll also want to have sanitized and prepped any equipment and hand-held tools you bring into the home. Though customers may want to greet you and lead you to the area where you'll be working, you should avoid any handshakes and try to keep a distance of at least six feet. From that point, everyone in the residence should be staying in another room or area to minimize contact. If text messaging is a preferred communication method for your client, the technician should also use texting to ask the client any questions that arise while the repair is in progress. Keep in mind, if you're touching a phone screen without sanitizing your hands first, do not bring the phone up to your ear or touch it to your face. If you need to move to another area of the home or communicate face-to-face with the customer, do your best to maintain as much distance as possible. After you've completed your repair work, sanitize any surfaces and tools that you touched. If possible, an invoice should be sent digitally, and payment should also be collected with minimal or no contact. With the right guidelines in place and an extra effort made in regard to customer communication, home repair during COVID-19 can be successfully completed with everyone's safety in mind.      Learn More About Our Integrated Platform Now more than ever, businesses need the best tools and management software to help reduce costs and keep customers happy. Get improved estimating, invoicing and customer-payments software from InvoiceASAP. Streamlined technology means safer interactions and less-hassle for employees in the field and in office. Start today with a FREE account from InvoiceASAP.