What to bring on an estimate? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-02-2008, 09:53 AM Thread Starter
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What to bring on an estimate?

I'm new to the business end of woodworking and could use some ideas on what I should take with me when estimating projects for potential clients. Most of the work I'll be looking at is built-ins, cabinets, bathroom vanities and medicine cabinets, bars, shelving and such. So, could those of you in the business end of woodworking please give me some ideas - what sort of samples you carry with you, do you carry a gazillion brochures, hardware samples, etc? There is only so much I can lug around and obviously 50 different styles of cabinet doors is out of the question. What do you bring with you when estimating a project?

Your insight is greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-02-2008, 11:04 AM
 
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Tape measure, clipboard, and calculator, business cards........all obvious, but easily neglected. If the job involves laminate, the laminate sample chain, I have printed brochures showing the various types of doors, including edge and panel profiles I make. A digital camera is helpful, also.
The main problem is that some clients have to see a sample full size in person to comprehend "the look". There is NO WAY to carry everything you might be asked to look at without driving around in a loaded moving van! Take a few photos of your work, or your web address, but have finished products, with various profiles, trim, finishes, materials, etc. at your shop or showroom for people to come look at.
Sometimes you'll get lucky &the clients will have discussed what they want and actually have magazines or color brochures of "the look" they want.
I have nearly 50% of my clients ask to meet with me at Lowe's, Home Depot, or Furniture Row, to show me what they want & if I can build it for them, using real wood!
Try to keep in mind that some clients don't really know what they want, other than a new kitchen, bathroom, office, entertainment center, etc., and will turn to you for ideas. I try to keep my input limited to what is feasible, practical, and within their budget.........if you give too much input as to overall design or choice of layout, the finished product might "not be exactly what we had in mind"......so I use the phrase, "that's a matter of personal preference or taste" frequently, and even request the clients go to a paint & finish supplier to pick out the stain & finish for "the look".
Sorry to ramble on, but that answer wasn't as simple as my first line response........good luck & have fun with the new endeavor.
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-02-2008, 01:23 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodman51jfk View Post
...Sorry to ramble on...
Are you kidding? That is exactly the kind of feedback I need.

I didn't even think about the laminate swatches, and actually have to get me one of those. I know it's going to take a while to get my "estimating kit" together, but what you wrote gives me a good idea of what I need. Thanks!

Speaking of good ideas, does anybody carry wood samples, with a small variety of finishes? It seems with about a dozen woods one primarilly work with, and a few finishes on each one, a basic sample case could be put together that is easy to take with on estimates. Oak, walnut, cherry, mahogany, birch, maple, etc.. with glossy and satin poly, shellac and hand rubed oil on each. Does this seem very practical?
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-02-2008, 07:52 PM
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Hey all, just wanted to note that Ted W is me. I couldn't remember my BlockHead username and wondered if I might possibly have registered earlier with Ted W, which I use a lot. And guess what? I did!

Anyway, just thought I should clarify that was me asking about the estimating package.
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-02-2008, 09:55 PM
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estimates

Hi Ted,

Well, I have a bit different approach to an estimate. When I get a call from someone interested in work, I get some basic idea of what they want and what their time frame is over the phone. Sometimes, I can immediately tell them I can't do it, especially the ones who've already torn their kitchen out and are ready to put cabinets in next week. But if they're within reason, time-wise, and it's something I do, I can set up an appointment, but in the meantime, I ask them to check out my web-site and see the kind of work I generally do. The truth is, some people get sold immediately when they see the photos. Others decide it's not for them. Why waste my time and theirs? And often as not, they'll see a style that is similar to what they have in mind. It's a place to start. Before I had the web-site, I brought my portfolio.

But going out on-site for estimate purposes, I try to give them 1 hour of my time. It's free, after all. So I see their space, get a feel for what they want, take some measurements. That's all. I do not give immediate estimates. Every time I have, I have neglected to consider all the factors involved and I screw it up. (screwing myself in the process). I go home, examine my notes and measurements, and figure up a ball park estimate. I send them this in writing. This eliminates 1/3 of the people from the picture, because at least that many have absolutely no idea how much it costs to have custom work done. They get sticker shock. Why waste more of my time on that?

If they don't have a coronary about the cost, then we can talk turkey. That's when I go on the clock, and I will go the whole nine yards of working with them to get design details down, showing wood samples, finish samples, etc. But never just out on a cold estimate. I used to. But too often, I didn't get hired, and wasted 2 or 3 hours with someone going the whole 9 yards right off the bat. And for what? Unless you can charge people for your estimate time, you don't owe them that. I have determined that if a person makes it through the first cut(i.e. the phone inquiry) then it's always worth an hour. It pans out into a job often enough.

Now, all of this applies to cold calls. If it's someone who I've done work for in the past, then I approach it as a real job, because they know my work, they know the costs involved, and they're not just engaging in idle fantasies on my dime.

Well, there's my estimate approach. Maybe there's 2 cents worth in there for you to use, maybe not. Good luck.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-02-2008, 10:36 PM
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Great suggestions. I like to bring a digital camera so that when I get home I can pull up the pics and visualize the proposed design better. Not to mention pick out the outlet or register in the wall that I overlooked.

I agree not to spend too much time conversing about their dream project that they've already said they "probably" can't afford.

Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.
-Albert Einstein :http://armandj.com
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-02-2008, 10:38 PM
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Mark - I just visited your website...have only one thing to say -
WOW

Larry

" have you hugged your pet today"
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-03-2008, 09:19 AM
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Ted - Over time I've greatly reduced what I physically bring to the first meeting. Someone mentioned just the basics - tape measure, calculator, etc.

My background prior to woodworking was in sales...corporate sales, but the principles are still applicable. The first meeting with the customer should be aimed toward establishing a comfortable working relationship with them. In almost all cases you're going to know far more about wood and woodworking than they are, and in my opinion it's a mistake to overwhelm them with choices or an elaborate dog and pony show.

Get to know THEM, not the project so much. Remember that they're buying YOU as much as they're buying a product. People have a natural aversion to "salesmen" who come across as having a canned approach....I'm betting you feel this when dealing with the average salesperson. Be yourself, be comfortable, and relatively low key.

Keep your eyes open for general design features of the house, color choices, etc. Once you've got a feel for what's going on, come back with specifics on the second meeting.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-03-2008, 01:50 PM
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well now..

Let's see... Start with suitcase A and then dolly 3.. No seriously, I usually go to the first sit down with a limited thing.. One of the things that I do carry everywhere is my "project managers portfolio"... I got it from my great Home Depot Pro Rep.. It is a great looking zip type carryall that comes with a metal clipboard inside, notepad, design pad... A calculator that is also a scale and ruler, a spot for business cards and the ability to carry a bunch of file folders and other literature... I have found that sometimes bringing too much to the first time really overwhelms the customer... Sit down, talk to them, feel them out, and get their thoughts and feelings... If you want, you can bring other stuff, but leave it in the vehicle unless you want to show them samples or they request to see something...

You might also consider carrying a book of project pictures or a laptop and make a presentation with it... I downloaded door styles into a presentation and it does work great in addition to the hard copy of things...

You would be surprised by sitting down and feeling customers out how it sometimes works wonders to advance your chance.. If they mention that they found something that they like at a store, then go for a ride with them... You would be surprised how effective that is...

Over the years, I have found that selling oneself is a HUGE first step in sealing the deal.. Good luck and drop me a note if you have any other questions... One thing most pro desk guys won't know what I am talking about...
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-03-2008, 02:59 PM
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We have been putting together packets with before and after pics, links for materials, ect. we put them on a cd then bring a laptop. when done, leave the disk so the customer can look at it again for ideas.

and of course a tape measure, note book, scale to make quick sketches, digital camers. i take lots of pics. wouldnt be unlikely for me to take 30 pics of a kitchen
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post #11 of 11 Old 02-04-2008, 08:48 AM
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Hey everybody,

I just want to say thanks for all this excellent input. I really appreciate it.

I went on my second estimate yesterday, since starting advertising my business on Craigs List about a week ago and, of course, I wasn't prepared. I mean, I'm still waiting for my business cards! I ordered them from VistaPrint.com and they should be here in about another week.

The first job I looked at is finishing what another woodworker couldn't finish due to a family emergency. His work was decent but not really up to my standards (yep, I'm picky ), so I'm not really pushing hard to land that one. And besides, I'm not short of work by any means.

The one I looked at today, however, is one that I'm really hoping to land. It's a simple project, to make a built-in desk in a small nook, with a couple of file drawers and a pencil drawer, to integrate a slab of granite which is too small, so build a border around it, and a couple of simple drawers above the desk. Not only is this one right up my alley, but also the wife works at the Merchandise Mart here in Chicago, so she's in touch with a lot of designers and architects.

My showing up with just a pad of paper and tape measure (and my charming personality ) may or may not have been enough to land me the job. I'm going to put together some drawings and email to them, then follow up with a call later and see how it goes.

I gotta say you guys provided a lot of great advice for both what to carry with me and also how to conduct my first estimate for a potential new client. One of my favorites is the most recent, to bring a CD with samples and options, which I can leave with the customer for later viewing. That one is simply brilliant.

I know it will take me a while to get my package together, but thanks to the feedback here, I think I'm on the right track.
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