How to Estimate and Quote a Painting Job: Tips from an Industry Pro
Pricing, estimating, and quoting can make or break a painting business. The way you quote projects dictates your ability to win jobs, set clear expectations, and drive profit. Quoting a job properly isn’t just about your cash flow, though. You also have to meet customer expectations, which are subject to what they read online and learn from others through word of mouth and referrals.
We are going to walk you through how to quote a painting job with tips and tricks provided by a painting industry expert, Graham Audenart. Graham has been in the painting industry for nearly 20 years and has had countless residential and commercial clients.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
- How to estimate a painting job, step by step
- How much to charge for painting services
- Best estimate practices for looking professional
Whether you’re just starting a painting business, or you’re a seasoned veteran who wants to learn some more trade secrets, read on as Graham walks us through it all.
How to estimate painting jobs
Every home service business owner has their own formula to estimate the cost of a job. Here’s a basic workflow:
- Visit the client’s space for a consultation and measurements
- Estimate how much time it will take you to complete the job
- Multiply the time by the cost of labor
- Add your materials, overhead costs, and your desired profit margin
- Use software to total the estimate and send your client a copy of the quote
Estimating a painting job is no easy task. You may think that you can charge your client for the amount of paint you bought, and how much money you want to make at the end of the day, but it’s not that simple.
When it comes to job costing, having previous experience is extremely important. If you’re new to the painting industry, then consider working with a few experts before taking on your own estimates.
Here’s a plan of attack to help to write better, and more accurate quotes:
1. Visit the client’s space
Some professionals do all their quotes over the phone––and you can too. But, you have an advantage if you visit your client in their space.
Meeting the client
For one thing, if you skip this step, you don’t get the chance to meet the client and develop a relationship with them. Meeting your client is very important for client referrals, business growth, and customer service.
“Every customer is worth a good amount of time, I always try to influence my team to spend as much time with the customer time as they can,” Graham explains. “There is so much value in meeting the client and being face to face.”
Every customer is worth a good amount of time, I always try to influence my team to spend as much time with the customer as they can. There is so much value in meeting the client and being face to face.
Inspecting the condition of the space
In addition, you don’t get to see the condition of the space. Not knowing what their walls look like will make gauging the timeline and effort of the project more difficult, and possibly less accurate.
Price project more accurately
If you visit the space, you can get a better idea of what you should actually charge your client at the end of the day. “This week one of our painters is doing a residential house, and there turned out to be a lot of prep work in comparison to what we anticipated,” Graham explains.
Without inspecting the space, his team could have run the risk of miscalculating the quote, which can be a huge cost sink. Since everything varies from client to client, it’s best to visit in person.
Plus, you have the added advantage of calculating the area of the project, rather than relying on your clients’ math, which can lead to calculation errors.
2. Estimate how much time it will take you to complete the job
The time you estimate for the job is one of the most important parts of your estimate process.
It heavily relies on your experience, so there is no calculation or number that Graham can suggest on this front. It’s strictly based on how quickly you can move, how long a similar project has taken you to complete in the past, and how many painters you are working with to complete the job.
“This is where your experience in the trade is so important. You already know how long something is going to take you to do. For example: it could take you four hours to paint a bedroom.”
If you’re just starting off, Graham recommends looking at what you have to do and estimating the time it would take for it.
For example, a bedroom and living room might take you eight hours to complete if you think you can usually paint a whole room in four hours. Count up the number of rooms and add the time estimates together, room by room.
The amount of time you project it will take you to complete the job is a critical step before you start factoring in the cost of the project.
Pro tip: if you’re just starting out and not sure about how long a project will take, it’s a good idea to keep track of the time it takes you to complete the job using time tracking software or a stopwatch. From there, average your labor hours over time before you can figure out exactly what speed you work at.
3. Multiply the time by the cost of labor
Think about how much money per hour you want to make. This is the cost of your labor. This comes before factoring in the cost of supplies and materials.
“Ask yourself how much money you want to make,” Graham says.
For example, you might just want to make $30 an hour. So, if you have a full 8-hour day, you would be making $240 to paint a living room and a bedroom before the cost of materials.
It’s important to note that even if you can do a job in less time than the average painter, you can still factor in the cost of your labor based on your skill level and expertise.
What might take an expert one hour but could take a new painter two hours. These jobs theoretically could be priced out the same, but the expert makes more money if they take another job on that day with the time left over.
Pricing the cost of your labor using an hourly strategy is a huge incentive to work quickly so you can complete more jobs in a day (so long as you can provide an excellent product!).
4. Add your materials and overhead costs
You’re going to have to calculate how much paint you need for each project. You can figure this out with experience, or a simple paint calculator. Add the paint costs as a line item on your quote.
The cost of your supplies, like plaster, rollers, ladders, and brushes, can be taken into account as overhead costs, and aren’t usually added to quotes.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how much to charge clients for your supplies, you can either add them as individual line items on the quote, or calculate the Cost of Goods Sold.
Don’t forget other important things that come up as your business matures, such as:
- Mileage, distance, and gas
- Phone and data bill
- Office space rent
- Employee benefits
Pro tip: some professional tack on an additional 15%-20% on top of their estimate to account for overhead costs.
Wrap things up with the cost of sales or services tax, do the math, and there’s your quote!
5. Use software that tags your line items and pricing to speed things up
Finish up your estimate strategy by logging the prices for each service you offer into your management and estimating software for painting contractors.
That way, when you go to quote your next client, all you have to do is search for your service or a room type by tag name, and create your quote easily and quickly.
Graham uses a combination of a pricing sheet along with painting business software to manage his estimate process.
“Our products and services are listed in Jobber. There are the basic tags, like ‘bedroom.’ With our iPad, we start walking around with client, they say they want a bedroom painted, and we hit ‘bedroom,’ which has a full description of what we would be doing (like two coats of paint instead of one coat), and it has our base price in there.”
“We add on other tags if we have to do extra things like ceilings, then we type in the total square footage. When it’s done, we’ll review the quote, decide whether or not it’s accurate, and double check.”
Graham creates the quote using Jobber, which he can email or text to his client, and convert the quote directly to an invoice later down the line.
Want to try an easier way to quote using saved tags and line items?
Try Jobber for free today and see for yourself!
How much to charge for painting jobs
There is no set price for a paint job. However, you can charge a minimum cost for going out to a job before you take on a project. This helps you ensure that the project makes financial sense to take on.
Pricing all depends on how much experience, time, and labor is required for the specific job. The best thing to do is create your own pricing spreadsheet for your services.
You must keep your prices up to date in your quoting and invoicing software. This helps you account for inflation, effort, and profit.
Painting estimate and quoting best practices
Work with clients who are a good fit
A good quote is effective, but if you’re offering it to a customer who isn’t a good fit, then your quote isn’t going to take your business very far.
Audenart says that if a customer immediately starts to try to lower your price, you may run into other problems while working with them. This costs you time and energy (not to mention frustration).
“If they ask for a deal right off the bat and say, ‘Could you knock it down another thousand dollars?’ These clients are the pickiest people ever. Those will be the most difficult jobs you’ll get.”
Avoid giving your client a messy quote
Nothing looks more unprofessional than handing your client a sloppy handwritten quote, or a quote on the back of your business card.
It shows them that you don’t invest in your image or your business, which might translate to sloppy service.
Before you meet with a client, make sure that you have a painting quote template ready at least. If you have to hand write the quote, make sure it’s neat––although we would advise against this route.
Quoting software is your best bet for looking professional while standing out from the competition.
Plus, a good quoting software will help you keep track of client information and accounts while automating all the follow-up necessary to keep strong leads warm.
What’s he including in the quote? What’s he painting? You have no idea! Is he painting the living room? The bedroom? Does that include tax? Does it include paint? Nothing was written down but a number!
Include as much information as possible
Audenart recalls one time he met a client that had already received a quote from someone else. When he asked to see the quote, the client handed him a business card with a price written on the back in pen.
This looked unprofessional to Graham. It also left so many unanswered questions that could have helped the client.
“What’s he including in the quote? What’s he painting? You have no idea! Is he painting the living room? The bedroom? Does that include tax? Does it include paint? Nothing was written down but a number,” said Audenart.
Providing your client with a detailed quote shows them the level of service you’re providing that’s included in the price. It’s one of the best ways to win over clients, and keep everyone on the same page.
Stay organized and always follow-up
Detailed quotes, a good price point, and impressive customer service are only half the battle. If you want to have a record-breaking year, you need to be organized and always follow-up on your quotes.
Following up after a quote helps you build relationships and trust. It shows your leads that you really care, and not just moving on to your next job.
If you’re too busy to follow-up after every quote, try to follow-up with the best leads who you think are the best fit for your business and seem like the most promising sale.
If you have time to do it manually, check out our guide on how to follow-up after a quote.
Otherwise, make this essential step a lot easier for yourself by investing in automated quote follow-up software.