By Sylvia Jaumann
Imagine this nightmare scenario…
You've spent considerable time and energy putting together what you consider to be a fair proposal for a decorative painting job that you really want to land. You're finally sitting in front of your client revealing each intricate detail of the finish that you want to create on their walls. Your client seems excited and eager to get started. At last, you reveal the total estimated cost of the project. Your client is speechless and just gasps at you in wide-eyed astonishment muttering that this is a lot more than she'd hoped.
Are you left scratching your head wondering where you lost your client in your sales pitch? It's simple. You didn't get a feel for your client's budget during your initial consultation.
Most clients won't reveal their budget to you even if you ask them because they always want to get a lower price. So ultimately you need to know a couple different ways of discovering out how much money your client is willing to spend.
The first way is to come prepared with a sample price list of all the wall finishes you do. This is not a price list, per se, but a general list that breaks down the starting rate for a basic room that measures 12 x 12 feet with 8 foot ceilings.
So for instance, let's say you’re starting rate for a color wash finish on a basic room size of 12 x 12 x 8 is $500. You show your client this price on your list and tell them that this is your starting rate and that you still need to factor in windows, doors, actual measurements of the room. By doing this your client will have some indication of your prices when you do come up with your actual bid amount.
The second way to gauge your client's budget is by using your samples. After you've been decorative painting for awhile you'll have a good idea how long each finish takes you to accomplish from planning to completion. So if you take the total cost of the finish (including materials and labor costs) and divide by the square footage of the room you'll come up with an average cost per square foot. Take this amount and write it on the back of the sample of this finish in black marker.
As you're reviewing your samples with the client you can either casually point out the cost per square foot or let them see it as they're flipping the pieces over. You can guarantee they'll be sitting there doing some quick calculations in their head as they're looking at the square footage cost for each finish.
If you're worried about whether your bid is too high which is causing your client to now flinch at the price, there are a couple of things you can do to prepare yourself to bid fairly.
First, do your homework in regard to the going hourly or square footage rate in your area. Call around to some other faux finishers or decorative painters to find out what they're charging. When you're speaking to them pretend you're a buyer and ask for their basic rates. Now you're armed with comparative prices.
Should you bid high or low on a project? I've always gone by the rule that if there are a lot of obstacles that will be a nuisance such as high ceilings, lots of windows, children or pets that'll be running around, or if the client will be difficult to work with, that I can justifiably charge more for the contract.
Sometimes, when you're first starting out and you're really hungry for the job you may find yourself bidding low just to land the contract. On the other hand just make sure that you're not bidding so low that you're working for minimum wage.
Also, when contractor's bid low they skew the value of the work within the market unfairly for other decorative painters, which is unfair to the industry as a whole. Remember what they say: "if you get all your bids, you probably are not charging enough".
As you can see, there's a lot to consider when you price out a painting job. But with a little preparation you can win more painting contracts and prepare your client for your proposal.
Sylvia Jaumann has developed an A to Z guide to starting a decorative wall painting business called "How to Start Your Own Decorative Wall Painting Business" -- Proven tips, tricks and techniques from an expert
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