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Old 05-05-2007, 02:34 PM   #1
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Whats right and wrong?


I work during my own time as a handyman. I do not advertise to do things that I'm not very familiar with.

A client had me over to hang curtain rods. No problem just a little picky. Client invited me to do more stuff. Paint a three sided partition and install a wood screen door on inside of door frame.

Wood screen door:
I started off by stating that I did not have much experience and that I would have to figure things out as I went through the install.

1) Client stated that a wood screen door needed to be functional, primed, top coated and hung to a tolerance which would assist in keeping mesquitos outside.

2) Client asked how much for all done. I reluctantly stated: $100.00 for labor and the cost of materials. (Knowing that anymore would kill potential to get job).

3) I believed that just the cutting of the wood screen door, priming, painting and hanging it was worth the $100.00 labor charge alone as this wound up being more than five hours work anyway.

4) During install of door I found that the door was warped from middle to top on the not hinge side in such a way that I could not install the jam straight...if I did the mesquitos would be able to get in. I pointed this out and the client wanted me to make the jam match the warped door. I did.

5) I did not initially realize that client would want a jam as client never intially pointed out such specific needs. So I added cost (labor and material) of jam to charge.

Client felt like I was being un-reasonable..."I have to eat the cost when I'm wrong in business so why can't you do the same?"

"I thought you were the door expert."

"I would not have asked you to do this if I had known how in-experienced you are"

"Did you even measure the door?" "The gaps are too wide!"

I measured them to death. I worked with an 1/8" tolerance by taking a quarter inch off of the inside frame measurements. This leaves 1/8" gaps in between. Lesser tolerances would have guaranteed a need to trim door during install.

All of this critique sprang about as soon as I stated that I would be charging (in addition to the $100.00) $50.00 plus materials bought (Door handle/spring assembly and jam). My position is that at this price level it is rediculous to make up a proposal for this sort of job when you know right off the bat that the person really does not want to spend much more than a hundred anyway. This person has been talking about a tight budget through-out each project and, rest assured I NEVER at any point told anyone that I was an EXPERT!

People go to Craigslist and get people like me who are not professionals BECAUSE we do not charge rates that the pro's do and they always arrive at point of saying, "I thought that you were the expert."

Do they really expect to pay for a novice and get "expert" results or have I been smoking too much of my own product?

I REALLY WANTED TO TELL THIS PERSON THAT I WAS DONE WORKING FOR THEM AS I HAVE RARELY EXPERIENCED THIS NONSENCE BEFORE.

I think that I need to learn when to give very high estimates and I also need to refuse to give on the spot estimates...Very bad ideas.

Would like your inputs. Thanks.

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Old 05-05-2007, 04:17 PM   #2
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A hammer between the eyes.

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Old 05-05-2007, 04:28 PM   #3
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Welcome to the world of working for yourself......

There are headaches every now and then.

Basically, Your inexperience did you in (Skill-level and business level). All I can say is the next time you run into a difficult repair or a service job, and you are not sure how to do it, or whether you can make it right... Don't do the job.

If you do find yourself in a 'jamb' like that again, so to speak. Some people have just not charged anything at all because they know they got themselves in over their heads. (many years ago, that happened to us, and that is what we did)

Hiring yourself out to work on people's homes is a serious responsibilty.

You have an obligation to do things properly.....above being concerned with making a buck.

Sometimes we get some VERY difficult issues, unique installations, or odd repairs that arise. If I feel that it is best for the hands of a specialized expert, I will most definitely find one to do it.

Example: I can tile, but I had a large remodeling job. The Master Bathroom included really detailed 2x2 glass tiling and borders to be done. My first concern was not about how much I could make, it was about making sure the job was done right and the client was happy.
So, I brought in an actual tile installer (Contractor that installs tile fulltime, for a living)

Again, when you hire yourself out, in ANY capacity, to work on people's property or homes, you bare a heavy responsibilty to do it right, or not..... to even attempt to do it ..... at all.

In regards to working for people who don't want to pay much, but expect a 1st rate expert job.....Professional Contractors ALWAYS laugh ..... and walk away..... (you now know why)

Last edited by AtlanticWBConst.; 05-05-2007 at 04:45 PM.
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Old 05-05-2007, 05:15 PM   #4
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The time to tell the customer that there will be an extra charge is before you do the extra work. This customer should feel lucky that someone came to their home and put effort into something for $150. I understand that you took on a job that you didnt have experience at, but if you have done any carpentery in the past that require measuring something to fit together with something else....you kind of did have experience. Just because you haven't hung a wooden screen door 500 times, and you needed to take your time and make sure you didnt F it up, doesnt mean you arent qualified to do the job. I would suggest that in the future you:

A) Dont tell the customer you are inexperienced at something you are going to do.

B) As soon as you discover that doing the job the way the customer specifies, or that the materials they supplied are defective, and is going to run outside of the scope of work you intended to do, you tell the customer that it will be more work/money. Dont wait till you've done the work and spring it on them. They have every right to not pay you when you do that. The flip side if you supplied the materials, then it is your responsibility. That is part of the risk of being in business for yourself, and the reason that you should figure these possibilities into your pricing. If 1 job out of 5 is going to have a problem like this, you should raise your price 20%. That is the reason licensed and insured contractors can charge upwards of $100 per hour. Its not that they are SOOOOO much more skilled. Its because they/we take on a lot of risk by doing jobs that require that they predict the future.
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Old 05-06-2007, 09:09 AM   #5
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Quote:
People go to Craigslist and get people like me who are not professionals BECAUSE we do not charge rates that the pro's do and they always arrive at point of saying, "I thought that you were the expert.

Would like your inputs. Thanks."
Customers go to Dreg's List because they are cheap and want it done cheap. (think about it. Since when is Dreg's list the premier method of finding quality vendors? )

Vendors reply to customers who post on Dreg's List because they aren't capable of generating quality customers on their own.

It's a match made in heaven, poor customers are finding poor vendors, the results are pretty much guaranteed right from the start.

In other words :

Customers should not be taken by surprise when they don't get quality results.

Vendors shouldn't be taken by surprise when they don't get quality customers.

If you want to look at it another way -

consider that to deliver an average to above average product you have to charge average to above average fees to cover the materials and labor that are required to do so. Starting off with customers who are looking for cheap fees simply creates an imbalance right off the start, its a lose/lose scenario right from the get go.
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Old 05-06-2007, 10:35 AM   #6
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Handyman 88:

"A hammer between the eyes." Could you expand on the meaning of your answer?


Atlantic WBConst.:

Inexperience (Skill lacks and Business practice lacks) did me in on this one. I AGREE.

This is clearly one I should have left to the more seasoned pro. I knew that too much was being expected for far too little. Never felt the real can-do attitude for it and knew that my estimate abilities are not where they need to be for this. Definately should have added a real fudge factor.

I knew the client would not hire me if I gave a more appropriately bloated price. MOST IMPORTANTLY I did not ask enough questions and did not make sure that we were both on the same wavelength in ref to expectations of finished job.

I will wind up knocking two hours off of remaining work for the other project to make an adjustment which I believe is more than fair.

I did suggest that a more seasoned pro be hired to correct warp in door rather than moving jamb to match it as I knew he would have the knowledge and tools already in place but, client authorized this improper jam re-adjustment despite my advice.


Send it all:

YES. I did screw up by not telling of additional price before work.

1) By not knowing full expectations and resultant overhead. Hence: Low estimate.

2) By not telling of intent to charge more after I felt that I'd met the expectations of the door installed.

I made the mistake of assuming that we agreed when the door had been cut to size, sanded, primed, top coated, and installed that my obligations up to $100.00 plus materials had been met.

It does not pay to low ball estimates to get the Fing job.


Mike Finley:

The worst from Dreg's is not as often as one might think. Most of my clients are happy with my work and wind up giving me more money than I charge (80% of them do this). I just need to reject more often or high ball the estimates for the tricky/less desirable projects.

One of my clients assisted (very impressively) with a plasma mount install and offered to assist me on some of my jobs. I am going to see where his skill level is at on painting and work with him on a paint job if I get it.

You ARE correct. My skills do not allow me to advertise for higher quality jobs. One of my corrective answers has been reading through a painting tips book. I have already improved on my painting techniques by doing so. Bought it a week ago.

"Client should not have been surprised." Right. That is why client was reminded about how I charge 1/3rd to 1/4th of the price that the "expert" does because THEY are the "experts". I also reminded client that I never claimed to be an expert and that one does not go to Craigslist and find an "expert" at the $20.00 per hour rate plus material.
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Old 05-06-2007, 11:31 AM   #7
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Yes, firmly grip a claw hammer, aim at the homeowner, and target right between his eyes.
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Old 05-06-2007, 11:58 AM   #8
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Handyman 88:

In life I have known an individual who is elderly who will go into a McDonalds ask for the senior discount on a medium size soda cup "for water" and go right over and get Coke.

This gentleman also detailed how he once went into a place just about ready to close and talked his way into some free hot dogs by reasoning with the clerk that they were going to be thrown out anyways.

Is he Rich? Cheap? or an Opportunist?

I would hate to think that that is the mindset of the person I'm working with on this beeitch of a project.

I really need to overhual the way I'm doing business and will do so.

Thanks for your support.
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Old 05-06-2007, 12:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s View Post
I really need to overhual the way I'm doing business and will do so.
Eric,

You have a good attitude.

FWIW - We have all been there when starting out in business. What we all learn over time, and the changes we decide to impliment.....come partly thru trial and error.

Good Luck on everything....
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Old 05-06-2007, 04:11 PM   #10
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A humbling experience
Sorry about that, but it won't be the last
It's how we learn

In that vein, please don't think I'm ragging on you, but I'd like to point out some things that may seem harsh
I am totally not trying to dis you, just trying to help you learn
You seem to have the right attitude so I think you can take it

Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
Inexperience (Skill lacks and Business practice lacks) did me in on this one. I AGREE.
Actually, inexperience didn't do you in
Your willingness to accept a job you weren't completely familiar with did you in

I'm not trying to be a douche, it's just that to help you progress, it helps to be very specific about these things
Then you can set up proper mechanisms for dealing with them

Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
I knew the client would not hire me if I gave a more appropriately bloated price.
I would say a higher price would not be "bloated", but severely justified as indicated by your experience with this project
Yes, I'm being picky, but someone who could do this job like nothing deserves just compensation
And, as you have found out, it's not a 10 minute job

Most professional handyman models I know of don't succeed until they get out of the "Those pros over charge, I'm a handy man, I can do it for less and still make money" mind-set and marketing sales pitches (and if you are talking to customers, you are marketing and selling)

And further more, what you are talking about is "Closing With Price"

It's an easy way out for people that are not confident with, don't have any, or are not comfortable with, their sales skills and/or presentation
They can "close" the sale by having the lowest price...the customer can't resist that right?
No need for a sales pitch, I'm The Cheapest!

Yes, I know you are a technician, not a salesman
But ALL companies have salesman, and if you are the only employee of yours, then, for a few minutes or hours each week, YOU are the salesman
Just like you are the marketing dept., the receptionist, the estimator, the billing dept.
It all you man

Most successful handyman business models I know of do not sell by saying they are the lowest price
They are successful by providing great service that is, ultimately, affordable because it works out well for all involved

Here's the deal eric:
Those customers that purchase services based on what is the least expensive are not good customers
In fact, they are the worst type of customers
They will drop you like a hot potato the second someone more desperate comes along and says "I'll do it cheaper"
And there is always someone more desperate, more hungry, more addicted, or farther away from home w/o a bed, than you...always

Better to figure out what you need to charge, then find the appropriate customers
It might sound weird, and you'll have all the Price To Closers say you can't do it that way, but yes, you can


Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
I did suggest that a more seasoned pro be hired to correct warp in door rather than moving jamb to match it as I knew he would have the knowledge and tools already in place but, client authorized this improper jam re-adjustment despite my advice.
You did it though, didn't you
Authorized is not "forced"
It's your project and your liability
Remember that, and it's not a crime to (nicely) remind the customers that
This is another reason for not taking on a job you are not completely familiar with
Confidence in how to do it right
Some people smell lack of confidence, and think they know everything, and will try to dictate to you how to do a job

Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
I also reminded client that I never claimed to be an expert and that one does not go to Craigslist and find an "expert" at the $20.00 per hour rate plus material.
Yeah, well, that's not going to fly...
As much as I agree with that 100%, you just can't use that as an excuse
Take ownership and responsibility and move on...and read on

Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
It does not pay to low ball estimates to get the Fing job.
Never

It might get "work"
But you go broke with much less effort just sitting on the couch watching TV

Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
The worst from Dreg's is not as often as one might think. Most of my clients are happy with my work and wind up giving me more money than I charge (80% of them do this). I just need to reject more often or high ball the estimates for the tricky/less desirable projects.
Then you are not charging enough
I'm serious
If nobody says you are too expensive, you are not charging enough
Somebody always thinks you are too expensive
(Mostly they are wrong, but they have a different perspective)
If 80% of your customers are giving you more than the bill, it 's not just because they are happy, or they like you (though I'm sure most are/do), it's because they feel they are ripping you off

Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
That is why client was reminded about how I charge 1/3rd to 1/4th of the price that the "expert" does because THEY are the "experts".
OK, stop doing that

They are Experts and should be respected as such
If you are charging 1/3 to 1/4 of what they charge, you are getting work, not building a business

Stop thinking like that

Listen, when a pro bills out a customer at $45 an hour, they are not 'bloating" a price because they can, or want to, or are expensive
It really is pretty accurate

Look, when you are an employee, and you get paid say...17 buck an hour selling widgets
How much does it cost the owner of the widget company to keep you on?

Some people say 17 buck an hour, some remember taxes, unemployment, workers comp, and say 23-25 bucks
Well there's more

Fist off there's the parking lot you pull into, and the building you walk into
Those thing aren't free (and even if you use your garage-it's still a building you need for work)

Now, there's the rent/lease..ok...there's the desk, the phone, the phone line
The paper to write the orders, the pens. The retail sales, bookkeeping and accounting software to keep it all in order.
The stockroom to store the parts, the stock guys to pack the parts, the shipping guys to ship them
The advertising to make the phone ring in the first place
The paper that this paycheck collectors paycheck is written on every week
It's not free

Then there's med. ins., sick days, vacation days, coffee breaks, days when the employee sits there just waiting for the phone to ring...but it doesn't...

And no business will last long without profit
It's not a dirty word, it's a necessity
Just try and get a loan from a bank or venture capitalist loan/grant w/o profit in your business plan

The point is, it cost the owner waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than $25 to pay an employee $17

Guess what?
You're the owner
You need to pay those things
You need to pay the receptionist (you), the salesman (you) the estimator (you), the bookkeeper (you), the assistant to go to the hardware store (you), the technician (you)...and the owner is going to want his cut (oh yeah, that's you)

But paycheck collectors often don't think about that
They think "I'd like to pay a fair wage for someone to paint my fence...$17 an hour would be fair"

Even for a one-man band, he still has those expenses
Maybe the numbers aren't as high as the Widget Owner, but they are there nonetheless
If you filled in actual numbers for one-man ops, to collect a wage of $17 an hour as a technician doing the work, it would easily work out to twice that ($34...most likely much more) to be billed out to the customer so the 'tech" can get $17

So I have no idea what you are charging
But it's painfully obvious you are not charging nearly enough for what you do well
That is also part of what "did you in" up at the top there

Charge what you need to to build a business, not get some work
Stop thinking of pros as overpriced "experts"
Study business models of similar business
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Old 05-06-2007, 05:48 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s View Post
The worst from Dreg's is not as often as one might think. Most of my clients are happy with my work and wind up giving me more money than I charge (80% of them do this). I just need to reject more often or high ball the estimates for the tricky/less desirable projects.
You can rationalize it all you want, come up with a dozen reasons why, bottom line dregs use Dreg's List, looking for cheap, cheap, cheap laborers.

Someday if you keep at this you will have overhead and expenses, things like advertising, general liability insurance, workmen's compensation insurance, tool repairs... on and on... and you'll be pricing jobs like those "expensive pros do" or better yet "legitimate businesses" do at much higher rates than you do now and you'll notice you won't be landing jobs off of Dreg's list like you used to, but somebody else will. The cycle won't ever stop, if you get good and legit you will move on to better customers and somebody else will service the guys on Dreg's list with a laundry list of 3 days worth of back breaking work who want to spend $300 cash.

"High balling" isn't a viable, long term business method by the way.

Good luck with it all, hopefully you end up where you want.
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Old 05-06-2007, 08:11 PM   #12
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Slickshift:

I had copied all from this thread and apparently have more printing to do. Most of what I am taking (and previously realized) from your reply is that if I have the jitters that something will not work then I should not take it. Along with: It is not evil to charge what you need to to operate with profit (the profit you expect as reward for running operation).

Doors really are meant for the more seasoned pro. So I will appropriately recoil from this type of job for the time being.

I have been thinking about a paint estimate which occurs tomorrow. I have been telling people that the price is: $25.00 per hour plus materials. Have given thought to doing this or trying out a total bid instead. This time I am not going to make the instant estimate mistake like the recent one. I am going to take more time to evaluate this job, ask questions, and sell my abilities and work style instead. I will finish by stating that I will give an estimate by week's end or sooner.

As an example I realized today that if I purchase more supplies to do certain tasks with better or more professional results that the job charge automatically becomes higher. This as you point out is not a bloating of anything. It is the client consuming services provided and materials.

I do not think that this $25.00hr plus materials will fly...everyone wants the total answer stead of an open ended one.


Mike Finley:

Agree. I mean highball the ones that I know are not for me. Maybe I should just say no to those?

Also agree that a need is in place for self to charge appropriately.


Reality good through today:

I am a very small operation. Usually I am not thinking enough about profit so much as I'm thinking about making four or five hundred extra per month to pay the bills. I'm always just trying to get work instead of thinking things out and knowing that I have enough questions answered before doing work. Obviously I am not being thorough enough about seeing the job done before I'm just impatiently starting it. This is what has to change.
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Old 05-06-2007, 11:00 PM   #13
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Nobody who is representing themselves to be a professional, or even skilled enough at a task to come into someones home and getting paid to perform said task, should be working for $25 per hour. This is not a living wage for someone who has any overhaed whatsoever. So go ahead and give youself a $15 per hour raise starting tomorrow.

You should really try to stop working by the hour if you can. When you go to look at a potential job, you shouldn't need to spit out a number on the spot. Even for fairly simple jobs, I tell customers that I need to go back to the office, (home) and get some prices for materials and put together an estimate. Figure out how long the job will take you..(worst case scenario. including set-up and clean up.) then add a little time to that, because if you are like me, you are always optimistic about this..lol, and multiply that by your hourly rate....then add a profit. (the smaller the job, the higher the percentage for profit). If you get a small job that you estimate will take you 5-6 hours....round it up to a full day. You wont have enough time left in the day to start another job.

Just please do the world and your customers a favor and be as professional as possible.
A) Do the best job you can

B) Dont take jobs that are over your head. Dont be afraid to tell the customer that a job is outside your area of expertise. They will appreciate your honesty.

C) Dont do jobs that require a permit without getting a permit.

If it is at all possible, you should be supplying the materials for your jobs. You should figure out what your material cost is...sales tax included, and then add a mark up of at leat 20-25% for even your most expensive items, and 500-600% for things under a dollar. You will probably see a noticeable increase in your income...LOL
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Old 05-07-2007, 07:45 PM   #14
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Send It All:

LOL..."if under a dollar mark it UP by 500-600%

OK. I will charge that ($40.hr) starting with next job. May see about squeezing it into estimate. Can't charge that for this one if she goes with time and material as I already stated $25.00hr plus material or estimate. She went with estimate.

I will get away from this hourly rate stuff for paint jobs but, will keep it for other stuff as it still seems appropriate for them.

This one is around 500sq' of area times two (2 coats). Plus Molding.

I will start a new thread (small job questions) with questions that I have about this job.
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:17 PM   #15
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Do a search for a thread with the words "sliding scale mark up". Even google it. It will probably take you to the contractor talk site. There is nothing wrong with charging $3 for something you have to take the time to go get...even if it only cost you .50 cents....its not that laughable....We're trying to help you make a living, not telling jokes.

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