How to Quote a Painting Job (and Ensure a Profit)

Careful quoting wins jobs, sets clear expectations, and drives profit.

You answer the phone and there’s a prospective client on the line. Looks like all those flyers, web ads, or just good word of mouth have served your painting business well. But wait, before congratulations are in order, you have to win the work. And that’s where quoting comes in.

Good quoting ensures that you not only get the job, but that you make money doing it. Customers will often ask for an estimate over the phone to make sure what you’re offering is in ‘in the ballpark’ of what they are willing to pay. Human nature being what it is, they’re often looking for the cheapest quote.

That’s fine. If you have a good sense of the job, you can offer give a ballpark estimate. But a face to face on-site visit is essential to provide an accurate quote. It also give you a chance to sell what sets you apart: your service.

Do a site visit before quoting

Every job is different and a square foot quote won’t take into account things like the condition of the walls. Some things you have to see for yourself. If the walls are in rough condition then that will increase the amount of prep time. In some cases prepping the walls can take as much time as the painting itself.

If the job takes you longer and you bring in workers paid by the hour, you’d better factor that into your quote, too. Does the customer want just the walls painted, or also ceilings, doors and trim? Will they supply their own paint, or will you be sourcing? Do they want a certain brand of paint and are the colors custom-mixed; will they be supplied? Costs of materials vary greatly and paint can run anywhere from $25-80/gallon. To make sure your quote is in line with what your customer expects, measure everything and ask about specific materials.

Do you eyeball the job or tape measure? It really depends on how accurate you need the quote to be. Some more experienced painters are confident in knowing how much time a room will take just by looking at it. But for others not confident in ‘guesstimating’ the laser measure (an amazing tool that automatically and accurately measures lengths, widths, and heights in milliseconds in place of you spending time measuring with a traditional tape measure) is your best friend.


Every job is different and a square foot quote won't take into account things like the condition of the walls.


Mistakes can cost you

One contractor shared his experience on the Paint Talk forum of making a critical miscalculation when quoting on a job for painting a great room. This may make you wish you paid more attention in math class:

The room he was quoting was 24 x 24 feet, 18 feet high to the peak, and 8 feet at the wall. When putting together the quote, he made the mistake of simply multiplying length by width to get 576 square feet. He forgot about the height! The actual square footage of this ceiling was 768 square feet; off by 192 square feet. That’s a lot of unbudgeted paint and unpaid work.

Price in your profit

Once you’ve itemized the cost of materials and included your markup, you then need to put a price on your time. You know how much you want to make per month, so you should price the project accordingly. Take a look at the overall quote to make sure it’s reasonable and in line with client expectations.

It’s a good idea to have detailed line item quotes for specific tasks, that way they can be removed if the price quoted needs to be reduced (It’s all part of the negotiation). Also, be sure you not only cover the costs of the specific job, but the ongoing costs of running your business (trucks, fuel, accounting, advertising, etc.) If you don’t factor these things into each job, the costs will eat into your profit and put your business at-risk.

Create clear expectations for payment timing

Draw up a contract and specify whether you require a deposit upfront before commencing work and be sure to establish a clear schedule for payments so the customer won’t be surprised when you come looking for an instalment. It should all be in the contract, for example: 20% is payable as a deposit before the project begins, and the balance upon completion.

Be sure to remind the the client when a payment point is approaching. Providing an ePayment option, such as Jobber Payments, is popular because it’s convenient. With Jobber Payments your customer can pay you online, making it easy to complete the cycle from quoting, to invoicing, to payment, all in one place.

Close the loop with good CRM

Building quotes and taking care of your customers doesn’t need to be time consuming. Jobber will help streamline the process of creating customized, professional looking quotes and invoices. As a bonus, once that customer is entered into your database, their information can be used to nurture your future relationship.

Is a client looking to repaint their kitchen again? If you’re tracking clients in a digital CRM you can see how much you quoted them and what paint you used for the original work three years ago in just a few clicks.

This is all part of the customer relationship management process: how a business organizes their contacts to provide better customer service and help generate new business. Jobber’s CRM allows you to capture client contact information and send quotes, even reminding you when it’s time to follow up. This will make it easier for you to convert these ongoing relationships into more jobs.

Graham’s Jobber success story

Graham Audenart, founder of Painters Enterprise found he was spending more time shuffling paper than doing what makes him money: painting. Now using Jobber, Graham can schedule, organize, and track all his jobs easily.

Jobber’s all-in-one solution has helped Graham get his quotation process down to a science and take Painters Enterprise to new heights. You can quote us on that.

Want to learn more about how Jobber can help you streamline your painting business? Check out the Painters Enterprise case study.

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