Go to the job site
You can only tell so much from a picture. For one thing, you won’t be able to accurately measure the job. For exterior jobs, you need to see what obstacles, landscaping features, or elevation issues might slow you down. It’s the same when bidding interior commercial space. You need to see the working conditions. Is there a bunch of furniture you’ll have to move or work around? Without visiting the sight, you won’t be able to determine the state of the current paint and surfaces, or give an accurate price for the prep work.
Take the time to actually measure everything that is going to be painted, including wall square footage and ceiling height. Then compare that with current production rates while factoring in all the variables that you have identified on site. No matter how much you trust your eye, make sure you don’t give a rough estimate. It may lead you to overbid or underbid.
Clarify the scope of the project
Make sure you know exactly what your potential client is wanting, and be sure to point out anything that the client may not know they will be needing. Does the client want you to simply paint the walls without any major prep work? Inspect the wall to make sure it’s in good enough condition for that. If the paint is peeling and flaking, you’re going to need to include prep work in your bid. Make that clear, and explain why it’s important to the integrity of the paint job.
Some clients may have a preference or bias towards a certain paint manufacturer in an effort to save money. Decide if you are okay with that or not. If they want you to use a product that won’t do the job effectively, make sure you communicate that with the client, and try to negotiate the use of a better product. It’s usually better to walk away from a project than use material you suspect will result in callbacks down the road. Callbacks kill!
You’re a business owner speaking to another business person. It’s important you look the part. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but you do need to be clean and professional when you go to make a bid for a job.
Be prepared with a clear proposal that shows exactly how you’re breaking the project down. Most commercial painting contractors use estimating software nowadays to help them accurately calculate the numbers. Many building owners are comfortable with software generated estimates and often times expect it.
To assist me with proposals I created One Step Estimating that takes your handwritten notes while on site and transcribes them into a professional looking proposal using production rates built into Microsoft Excel and Word.
Remember that getting your foot in the door of one business will open up many more opportunities down the road. Take the time to do it right.
About the Author
Josh Abramson is the chief solutionist of ALLBRiGHT 1-800-PAINTING, a residential and commercial painting company serving the Greater Los Angeles Area.