Quoting for a job should be easy, right? It’s simply a cost of materials plus time. So how do you get a realistic handle on those two components, asks Timeguard MD, Andy Douglas?
If your estimate for a particular job brings you within the expectations of your customers then it’s good news all round. The pinch comes, however, if you find you have to start shaving the price to be competitive: do you stick to your guns, fit cheaper kit with the associated risk of having to come back and do the job again, or just work for less?
Alternatively, the other option is that you can work smarter by investing in quality goods that are also quicker and easier to install.
Time is money
The professional tradesmen that we at Timeguard focus on can’t afford the risk of being associated with failing products. Nor can you afford the time it takes to put the job right if a poor quality product lets you down. It’s only common sense to resist the lure of rock-bottom pricing, but it’s all too easy to waver when you go to the wholesalers to price up the goods for a job that’s not going to make you a big profit anyway. Remember, though, that every penny shaved off the price will likely have been paid for in terms of quality and specification.
There are some key things that we recommend you look out for when considering the price-only route, such as how many years the manufacturer has been prepared to guarantee the goods for and that they’re tested and rated to last. For example, PIR switches that haven’t actually been tested for use with LED lighting’s high inrush currents may soon let you down.
Looking inside the box – especially if there’s no information on the outside – will show you how easy and quick wiring anything from a PIR to a porch light up is going to be. Think of every minute wasted on a fiddly terminal block as a minute that you’re working for the manufacturers’ shareholders and not yourself.
“The world will soon know if you’ve installed duff products, whether the job was fitting a fused spur for £50 or rewiring a family home for £5,000.”
Reputation and product choice
“Word of mouth”, good or bad, spreads faster than ever these days. It’s taken on new dimensions with sites like Check-a-Trade and Trusted Traders as well as local internet forums. The world will soon know if you’ve installed duff products, whether the job was fitting a fused spur for £50 or rewiring a family home for £5,000.
Fit kit that performs well and you’ll benefit from good reviews and endorsements. Make sure the customer understands your choices and recommendations and explain why you’ve chosen a particular solution (which might not be the cheapest) and why you think it’s best for their property. If you’ve got favourites, keep samples on the van so you can show people.
Of course, brand names and guarantees go a long way to gaining customer confidence, but take time to explain what additional features – like the built-in timer on our single-gang fused spurs – actually mean to them in practice and why they provide extra value. They won’t take you any longer to install, but they can certainly earn you more mark up.
Pricing your precious time
So how long should a job take and what is your time worth? You’ve probably got a good idea based on past experience, but I’d suggest that you look again at some of your more routine jobs.
Our focus on the installer market has included a determination to design products that are easy, and quick, to install. Refinements like bigger wiring blocks, replaceable cable knock outs, glands shaped for the UK’s oval cables, and putting all the wiring in an outdoor light’s back box so that the heavier floodlight can be clipped on in seconds, all give you time. Squeezing extra functionality like timing and RCD protection into standard back boxes, so you only have to make simple wire-for-wire replacements, has also been a great leap forward.
Of course, there are other variables when it comes to timing a job, but I’ll leave you with this price list seen on a workshop wall recently:
First hour/call out = £50
Per hour thereafter = £30/hr
If you watch = £60/hr
If you offer advice = £75/hr
If you help = £85/hr
If you or your mate had a go first = £95/hr
If you or your mate had a go first and didn’t tell us = £125/hr
If you saw it on the internet and think it looks easy = £150/hr