Creating estimates is often a necessary part of the job as a contractor or construction company, and this process can take time. If you write out a custom list for each job you could spend hours of time researching the cost of materials, figuring out labor costs, and formatting your estimate so that it looks professional. Here is where being organized is a great benefit to your business. Hopefully, your phone is ringing off the hook, and if it is, that means you will have a lot of estimates to prepare. Here are four tips to take the pain out of estimating and speed the process:

Cheat sheets

Creating a list of common materials used for construction jobs, whether it be a kitchen, bathroom, or roofing project, can cut down on the time you do researching the current prices to figure out the cost of materials. Let’s say you have been contracted to do a bathroom remodel and you need an estimate. Your cheat sheet could list the average prices for a sink and vanity with a range to account for the quality of the materials. Retail prices for a basic vanity start at around $180 going up to $4,000 for a high-end dual sink setup. Your wholesale prices are going to be cheaper, but you can estimate your project by checking your list of common materials and going from there. Similarly, you will want a good idea of what labor costs are running and having this information at your fingertips will save you time.

Comparative analysis

Every job you bid is going to be unique. You cannot take someone else’s estimate and give it to your customer just because it seems similar, but you can compare them and make notes. Kitchen remodels can range greatly in price. Let’s use a $30,000 kitchen remodel as an example. $30,000 will give you a great kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and high-end cabinetry – depending on the size of the kitchen. Knowing the basics is going to come in handy for any contractor, but each job should have a customized estimate so you are going to have to do some research. Cut down on your time spent on the estimate by comparing others that are similar. If your customer wants a $30,000 kitchen then you can look at old estimates and know what kind of materials are likely or able to be used. Quality wood custom cabinets and granite or marble countertops are likely to be desired for a kitchen of this cost.

Templates

The best way to get a nice, professional estimate done in a timely manner is to use a template. You will not have the time to type out each and every one from scratch. This template can include the name of your business and contact information, a place for the customer’s name and contact information, and a formatted list of cost estimates including everything needed to finish the project. You can use a different template for each room or for larger projects use a template that includes the whole house, all in one easy-to-read format. Tables are extremely useful for importing information to your estimate because with programs like Adobe Acrobat you can do this in a PDF document that can be filled in exactly as you need. Your roofing template should include a place for the cost of shingles, cost of labor for the job, and any other materials that will be required such as nails or additional supplies that are needed to complete the new roof.

Electronic takeoffs

Using electronic takeoff software can also greatly help speed up the process of estimating projects. These programs use blueprints to determine some of the costs of building. By uploading your blueprints into the program you will be able to manually or electronically fill in some of the costs of the project. This software is a great place to begin and offers a free trial to get started. Take the headache out of your estimating by using the best technology out there. You will get the job done with speed and accuracy so your estimates are just right.

For the salesperson or company estimator that is new to the trade, there are always software programs that can help the process go smoothly. Your biggest goal with your estimates is to be accurate. You don’t want to overbid your project so it sounds too expensive, but you definitely don’t want to underbid because that will make for unhappy customers. Composing accurate and professional estimates can mean getting the business or not, so always proofread these documents and go with your gut instincts. If something sounds way too high or too low at first, always double check the figures. Once you get the hang of your estimates they will go quicker. If you know the price of a box of screws off the top of your head this can save time in the little details. Being thorough, not making mistakes, and presenting a polished estimate will make sure you are more likely to get the job and get repeat business and referrals.