Do You Charge for Estimates?

money1As a service provider, much of my time is spent meeting with potential customers. Whether over the phone or in person I have the opportunity to ask questions about their needs so that I can assess the project and offer an estimate for the cost and benefits of working together.

I don’t charge for this. Do you?

A great majority of the time after our meeting, if the proposal meets their needs and their budget, we proceed. However, sometimes the project doesn’t happen.  I suppose I am out the time and money spent on driving to the meeting, having the meeting and writing the proposal; however, I look at it as an investment in my business. 

Today, while taking my car in for an estimate of repairs, I noticed a sign that read:

One free estimate per car

$5 for each additional estimate

To be honest, I had to keep myself from laughing outloud. $5? Really? I will admit that I have seen companies that charge a fee for the estimate or consultation but then deduct that fee from the entire project should you decide to work together. But five dollars to look at the body of my car for less than five minutes?

Perhaps the dollar amount is small enough that people don’t hesitate, but when you consider that most auto body repair jobs end up costing several hundred dollars – if not more, just what is the company gaining by charging $5.  A better question might be – what are they loosing?

The purpose of an estimate or initial consultation is to uncover the needs but also to share your expertise. There is so much competition that consumers have an overwhelming number of choices. Why place a road block, even a $5 road block between you and the opportunity to have a new customer?



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4 thoughts on “Do You Charge for Estimates?

  1. We’re in the home improvement business and as an industry, no one ever charges for quotes. We’d get laughed out of the room. I think a free quote is not only a necessity, but also to use as an opportunity to show the potential customer how professional you are and how you go about your work.

  2. I am constantly amazed at how difficult some companies make it to give them money. At Journyx (my company) we will do just about everything we can to make the customer comfortable with our product by giving live demos, extensive time with tech professionals, and any training we can because we know that they won’t buy unless they are sure of their purchase. That $5 might be enough to buy a cheap lunch, but you’re turning away profits and giving them to the numerous companies who aren’t as near-sighted.

  3. Long term is always the goal. You will have lots of “one and done” customers but the ones who come back again and again are the ones you want to get. Free estimates, quotes, analysis’, or recommendations are the foot in the door. When you offer a free service, a consumer knows it takes a little work, but they can immediately feel subconsciously obligated to continue with you since you already have time invested. Not always the case but the time it takes to do an estimate will pay for itself 10-fold with a lifetime customer that came with that estimate.

  4. I was glad to find your article. I had a strange experience happen to me today. I (thank goodness not by phone) contacted a man via email through his website asking if he provided free estimates in my area to have our kitchen and bath grout redone. This guy had developed a very impressive tool which he had a video of on his site and I even offered that we had seen the video and that is why we were interested. He actually writes this back:

    “No I do not, nor have I ever done free estimates..been my experience if someone asks for something for free, they will not pay to have the work done anyway..Thank god my clients in Santa Barbara know you get what you pay for..and if you get free estimates from someone that “claims” to do what I can then why look any further? I work all over the state and still have not found or even heard of another person that can or has done what I have done with tile and grout! Today it is all about Internet,,if you have a digital camera you can take a few pictures of the scope of work that needs to be done and I can email you back with a price..or better yet I could call you if you send your phone # I will attach my tool site and you could buy the tool yourself and do a better job with the right tool for the job, than some of these so called grout removal companies..!”

    Uh…REALLY?? I could not help it. I wrote him back and said he should know his tone was arrogant and rude and I had no intention of doing business with him and that I was a recovering cancer patient with two jobs drowning in medical bills which is why I had to budget carefully and no I did not have the time or energy to do the job myself with his tool. That he was full of himself (you should see his linkedin page) Not to mention I never meant to offend him with the word cheap, that I had a business and would never respond to a customer that way, and all he had to do was say he charged for the estimates. I wished him good luck with impressing his clients in Santa Barbara. He wrote back later in big caps, because obviously it hit a nerve:

    “Get over it!! do not waste your time and write me…When I hear FREE, I see CHEAP!”

    By the way, his name is Michael Taylor, his business is in Santa Barbara, and the tool, which after some research he introduced at the Las Vegas Hardware Show, is called Regrout.

    Why on earth would anyone behave like this who had a business? And oh, I moved on right after I wrote him back, forgot about it until his response which outraged my husband.

    Just what is the world coming to? I just do not get it. So much for wanting my business.

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