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Old 05-08-2007, 04:14 AM   #16
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if I may jump in

I thought you might like to hear from someone who has both the perspective of a homeowner who has been through something similar and someone who is also self-employed.

No other way to say this than you have to take this last experience as a learning experience. I'm afraid there are a lot of those when you first start working for yourself and as much as they stink, they do have value. Also never forget word of mouth as pissing someone off can be a big hit to recover from as they surely tell everyone they know. It's just generally not worth that.

On the other side, last year while getting my house ready to sell the realtor sent over his handyman to see about laying the laminate floor I had for the kitchen. I had already called to get installer price and time frames and would have been fine with paying their costs but the timing was a week later than we'd hoped. Anyway, in walks much recommened handyman who tells me he charges $30/hr and given less than 100 sq. ft of floor, half day tops. He can also fit it in pretty quick given he gets most of his work from the realtor, so as a favour...

Now in my mind (which may or may not be as others think but it is how I think) I calculate 6 hrs to be safe @ $30/hr is $180, so lets say $200 is max for the job. Pro rate is $2.50/sq ft so $250 and I say go ahead thinking I'll actually get it done sooner and cheaper too, so bonus.

Well after 3 hours he's only laid 2 pieces of laminate and I'm concerned. No problem he tells me, it was all the initial prep. Fine, he's the expert I cool my jets. At 10 hours he still had only done about 30% so we had to have a chat. He confesses he has never done this type of flooring before so I said we had better renegotiate as he had already exceeded his estimate by double.

You see to me, whether it's me doing a job for someone or them for me, I expect the estimate to hold unless there is some very good reason for a change. IMO, it's always the responsibility of the person doing the quote to know what things cost and how long things take, not the customer's (even if they are very educated or experienced in that area). This guy seriously underestimated given his lack of experience, but still seemed to think I should pay the $30/hr. From my point of view I don't think so as I could have paid someone with no skills min wage and had the same result. Now this is where I had to slap myself as the way I usualy handle this type of thing (as supplier or customer) is to say "okay, $30/hr up to $200 with the $200 being the max for completion no matter how long it takes but if finished before I pay the lesser amount." This also works from a supplier end as you can quote a 'job' price and if you finish earlier, you make more per hour. I forgot that step with this floor.

To me people get to charge more for their existing skills as I do when I do a job (and sometimes I do end up making next to nothing because I want the job to learn the new skills and have them for my portfolio. It's a trade off between something that will take me longer as I'm learning or not.) I don't expect someone who is good at plumbing to also be good at flooring so why would I pay their plumbing rate? I could have had the pros do the job, indeed in half a day, and for less than he thought I should pay him just for this first day. So before he left that day I set a 'job' price which was higher than the pro price by $50 and he did return to finish (since he did see we basically had a contract to do a job and it was his problem if he quoted wrong). It ended up taking him 4.5 whole days to do that floor and I still had to finish the trim etc. I bent a bit as I could have insisted he said half day, $30/hr, $120 but I know what it's like but there was sure no way I was paying for 45 hrs. So much for that bright idea, the pros could have been there by then so we didn't end up saving any time or money at all.

I'm sure he wasn't too happy either but he probably learned the same lesson you are, and that is taking on something you aren't familiar with can be a waste of time if you need to make money to live. You also sometimes end up making no money just to honour your agreements and that is worth good will and recommendations.

From my perspective, no way I was paying more. Had a realistic quote based on the true number of hours been given I would not have hired him. Had he been up front about his lack of experience with this flooring I would not have hired him. So under those conditions I do not take kindly to being asked to pay more. I suspect your customer felt somewhat the same when it came to the door as an experienced person might have figured out there was a problem prior to even starting so he would have been able to budget whether to go ahead or not vs getting asked for more half way through the job.

Take your lumps and get a tattoo on the back of your hand if you need to that says "trust your gut". Sometimes the temptation to please doesn't work out in your favour. I think it took me a few burns to learn that one and now I don't hesitate to run if something isn't right when I do a quote and I don't care how badly I might need the work. It just never pays to go against your gut.

Also, get your expectations in order. This probably won't be the last time you slap yourself on the forehead but hopefully it will be the last time for taking on something you really had no business quoting on. It really does take a lot of jobs and experience to avoid some of the pit falls that come with working for yourself. It's just part of the learning curve.


Last edited by Dusty; 05-08-2007 at 04:20 AM.
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Old 05-08-2007, 04:40 PM   #17
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I like the plan of not expecting profit for those jobs which are new and exotic to the handyperson.

I am now in the beginning phase of giving a painting estimate and would not be surprised if I do not wind up getting it. Client knows I'm pretty new to this. Has an end of month deadline and may be looking for a bargain.

I know that what I used to think was enough (material wise) is not enough. The more you learn how to paint the bigger the material list will get.

I have never really done an estimate and will struggle through this one. I do not even know the prices of many of these items. I believe that I will have to go pre-shopping just to get prices. I have not been beating on any doors to get additional business so there should be plenty of time left to complete estimate.
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Old 05-08-2007, 06:03 PM   #18
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so the moral of the story... don't trust a handyman your realtor recommends ... I'd imagine some realtors have selling the home in mind, and not always the quality of work for the future buyer...

caveat emptor! and always ask for references heh.
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Old 05-09-2007, 07:03 PM   #19
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send it all:

Oh. Thought you were kidding. Thank you.
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Old 05-09-2007, 08:03 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by send_it_all View Post
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.
Good advice - so often not taken into consideration....


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