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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

As professionals in the painting trade, we know prep is the key to a finely crafted job. Here is my question:

I live in a basically bread and butter area where folks don't make a whole lot of money. Painting is not a top priority for sure, but of course, we all know you gotta paint once in awhile!

If you charge for intense prep work and can get that price--even with a careful explanation of what you will be doing, you will lose a substantial portion of the work to the slop artists.

If you cut your prep work down, the final job is not up to par. As an example: How many nail pops do you prep out before you simply just set every darn sheet rock screw or nail?

Perhaps I need to spend a mountain more of time on estimates to thoroughly inform myself about prep time for each specific job. Going around and just looking at the obvious just does not cut it.

I usually tell my prospective customers that we fix everything that needs fixing so your job looks great when we are done. To point out every imperfection, loose tape, etc not only denigrates the customers humble abode, it takes too long to do an estimate.

I really can't afford to lose out on screw ball low bids knowing the low ball painters won't touch a mud pain, five in one, sandpaper or vacumm, etc.. If the customer says they understand that only a certain amount of prep time is included, what do you do when the customer says: "You didn't fix this or that". I say, heck, we discussed that and you didn't pay for that type of work. This just does not cut it and gives a really lousy impression and finish job. Short of taking many, many pictures. what again, do you do?

When we walk out of a job, we want everything all wrapped up and leave a happy and satisfied customer. If we continue to give prices based on the best job we can do, we are gonna starve pretty soon!

Ideas and input are appreciated. Thanks.

JTP
 

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J, I feel your pain.

You may wish to walk the job with the client, room by room, and inquire what their concerns may be, specifically, in each room. Take notes.

Advise the potential client that your quote includes X amount of prep work, and will include remediation of those items mentioned.

If they won't walk the job with you, do it yourself, and present your notes with your quote so they can see where the money is going.

The only way you can beat competition, in the big picture, is through quality workmanship because a price war always puts someone out of business.
r
 

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The only way you can beat competition, in the big picture, is through quality workmanship because a price war always puts someone out of business.
r
Well said Tmrrptr!
There will always be slap and go guys out there, the trick is to outlast them.
Quality workmanship is key to my business. Doing a lot of repeat customers I sometimes have to remind myself with a new client to include the prep details in a more simplified, step by step manner. We know that if we prep it will look better and last longer, most customers need this explained to them.
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I think this should be a good lessen for the people who do take pride in their work... if you feel that all nail pops/prep work are reqiuered to make walls look their best then the customer needs to know why!!!! If they refuse to pay for your quality of work then so be it, let them hire the slap on guy...because if u are a true painter the only way to paint a room is the right way which requires prep work and @ THE END OF THE DAY CAN U HONESTLY SAY U COULD DO THE JOB JUST LIKE MR SLAP ON AND FEEL SATISFIEDW/ YOUR WORK???? There are way to many butchers out and you will never be able to compete w/ their pricing so why choose to lower your standards and try and compete w/ them... If u continue to do good work you will get the jobs u deserve!!!! KEEP PREPING THEM WALLS
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Replies to suggestions from JTP

I appreciate the thoughtful responses on this question. My main problem is the fact that people do need painting work done, but need to have it done for as little as possible. Now, you may consider this a universal no matter where you live, but in poorer areas, painting becomes more of a luxury item.

In good conscience, we cannot knowingly perform bad work. It just isn't in us to do a job in a shoddy manner. We wind up giving beer prices and doing champagne work. We should be getting 30 or 40 percent more for our work and believe if we don't work cheaper than we deserve, we simply won't be working.

It is understood that prep work is always the main ingredient to excellent finish work. How do we maintain our high standards, get work, and eat out once in awhile too?

JTP
 

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How do we maintain our high standards, get work, and eat out once in awhile too?
when you figure it out...let me know, 'cause I haven't yet

I really like how you said, " We wind up giving beer prices and doing champagne work", it describes most of my jobs. I'm a super honest guy and can't seem to cut corners. It's built into my blood to do a fantastic job every time-so I feel you big time on this one :yes:
 

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The simple answer is customers suck, in general. You have to give tiered pricing and get over the - 'I am too professional to do slop work' Heck I have done slop work for tenement apartments and made great money. And the way to combat homeowners - saying you didn't fix so and so - is to present them with a leaflet explaining exactly what you will do, and on the leaflet explain, that you will be tough on them if they start expecting higher quality work than was contracted for, and by all means you have to enforce this! 100% of my problems is that I don't enforce my 'rules' - the customer is not your friend! They are your customer, they contracted you for certain services at an agreed upon price - and that's it. I had this neigbor with clapboards that were a peeling mess - she asked If I was going to scrap them and prime - and I looked at her and said 'no' - my contract with her was to reprime only the new construction parts on her home - and I had already gone over 2k on my budget - and heck wasn't going to give her another 2k of work for free. Homeowners will always ask for free work, just remember this, it drove me nuts for years, now it doesn't - they can ask but they won't get. Some of you fear not being on good terms if you aren't 'compliant' - well let me tell you, the worst that will happen is you won't get repeat work - the best that will happen, is that you will get repeat work and referrals and get the same attitudes - where you good for, is doing free work. Sorry - been there, done that, my estimates are now so 'tight' to able to compete with this ridiculously stupidly cheap immigrant competition - there is no more breathing room left for more work for no pay!
 

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Well.....Here is my two cents worth. I live in the poorest county in Maryland and as a rule do no work there. I travel 30 minutes minimum to get the customers I want so I can do the kind of work I want.

Normally cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge every day (40 minutes from my home to the bridge), because I can charge $10.00 more per man hour (Not wages, per hour per man) and don't have to compete with immigrants, out of work farmers and people who will settle to just get by. Still have slop artists out there, but the higher income area is where we have built our business and they mainly understand the concept of quality is not the cheapest price.

I have and will walk on a job if they won't do it right. Tell them in a nice way that you cannot cut corners and sleep at night and if they want it done right give you a call.

Not trying to blow my horn, just want to give you an idea of what you may be able to do. If you are willing and have a higher income area that you can travel to. If not..hey face it...you might just have to slap it on and make a living.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Response to this thread from JTP:

Most craftsmen I know are just that. They don't cut corners in what they do. They take great pride in the work they do and it really doesn't boil down to just money. There are many times when you can route a piece of pine instead of oak. The skilled carpenter makes the pine look almost as good as the oak.

There is some really good suggestion relating to this thread. You bet, customers want as much as they can get for as little as possible. The could ya do this as long as you're here (and of course, they mean for no additional money) attitude has always been rampant. And you know, for a customer who offers a cup of coffee once and awhile, we'll do a bit extra if asked. For the straight out, "you're being paid for your work" and I don't have to be a human being customer, we do what we say in our signed estimate sheet and that's it. If they want more, they pay.

Presenting customers with a written explanation of the general principles and specifics of just what will be done is an excellent idea. The general guidelines draw out the routine things painters do to prep. The specifics, obviously, are detailed designations of just what you, the painter, is going to do. Good idea. I have mostly worked on a hand shake and pay me at the end of the job. And you know, for the most part, it has worked out ok. I really haven't been left hanging out there, but I know this is not the best way to cover yourself as far as getting paid. I am now asking for a deposit on all pre-schedule work--a 1/3 down to hold your place on our schedule.

The idea of traveling to a more well to do area has possibilities and, there are some areas where we could make what we are worth. It would be 45-1 hour away to travel. There is also way more competition with which to contend. We are chief cooks and bucket washers. We do all the work, no helpers. Can't afford the worker's compensation.

I am going to start taking more time with the free estimate deal and let people know much more specifically what we are going to do and what is not included. If the customers want a better job, he is going to have to pay for it. Other wise, we might just have to force ourselves to throw some left over paint from 1976 onto some walls and call it done.

JTP
 

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I live in a basically bread and butter area where folks don't make a whole lot of money. Painting is not a top priority for sure, but of course, we all know you gotta paint once in awhile!

If you charge for intense prep work and can get that price--even with a careful explanation of what you will be doing, you will lose a substantial portion of the work to the slop artists.

a) Well, we don't all live near a bunch of rich folks that fling money to tradesmen willy nilly
b) You will always lose "jobs" to someone willing to work cheaper due to ignorance or desperation...and there will alway be someone cheaper, more addicted, more illegal, more desperate...
Always

...you are not losing much, people who shop trades by price alone are not the best customers
In fact, they are the worst
They will drop you like a hot potato the second someone cheaper comes along
And there's always someone cheaper...more illegal, more addicted...more desperate...always

If you cut your prep work down, the final job is not up to par. As an example: How many nail pops do you prep out before you simply just set every darn sheet rock screw or nail?
You need to figure on doing the best you can, or are comfortable with, and charge accordingly

Perhaps I need to spend a mountain more of time on estimates to thoroughly inform myself about prep time for each specific job. Going around and just looking at the obvious just does not cut it.
Perhaps

I usually tell my prospective customers that we fix everything that needs fixing so your job looks great when we are done.
Then that's what you should do...and price accordingly

To point out every imperfection, loose tape, etc not only denigrates the customers humble abode, it takes too long to do an estimate.
Um...no
They it's not insulting...it's being specific about your contracted services
They know the place looks like ...less than perfect, or they wouldn't call you
Takes too long to estimate?
How long does it take to calm down a pissed off customer...and how much "free" (not budgeted) work to shut them up?
Take the time during the estimate...save time, money, and feelings later

I really can't afford to lose out on screw ball low bids knowing the low ball painters won't touch a mud pain, five in one, sandpaper or vacumm, etc..
Yes you can
You are not losing much if you can't get enough money to cover the job
You can go broke quicker with a lot less work by just sitting on the couch


If the customer says they understand that only a certain amount of prep time is included, what do you do when the customer says: "You didn't fix this or that". I say, heck, we discussed that and you didn't pay for that type of work. This just does not cut it and gives a really lousy impression and finish job. Short of taking many, many pictures. what again, do you do?

You need to figure on doing the best you can, or are comfortable with, and charge accordingly

When we walk out of a job, we want everything all wrapped up and leave a happy and satisfied customer. If we continue to give prices based on the best job we can do, we are gonna starve pretty soon!
I don't get it
You mean you'll "starve" because you'll have to charge more than the lowballers and will loose low-paying "jobs" to them?
You need to stop competing with them
Stop using "Price To Close"
Work on your sales technique...yeah if you are trying to get someone to sign a contract, you are a salesman...if even for an hour
Some people will only pay the lowest...like I said, they are not good customers
Leave them for Crackhead With A Brush part-Time Painting Co.
They deserve each other
You need to find the others
The ones that will pay what you need to charge
They are out there...they are everywhere
If there's not enough where you are, you need to go to where they are
 

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In this circumstance,I would give them two prices for my estimate.The customer can choose to pay for a quick prep or pay for a proper preparation.
 

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2 prices

In this circumstance,I would give them two prices for my estimate.The customer can choose to pay for a quick prep or pay for a proper preparation.
I try to adjust my presentation to the varying clients.
If we were to offer two prices, it would be inevitable the client would say they would want to be "somewhere in the middle!"

In the end, quality will be what sells..
Clients want the best quality for the lowest price!

It is experience and ability to complete a job efficiently, delivering best cost to the client that would hopefully promote your business.

Still, the problem remains, how so many clients will cut corners on the end of an otherwise decent project and use their out-of-work nephew or a lowball quickie painter to apply surface coating, which is what everyone sees first!
r
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
JTP Says Thanks to all who have responded

I want to say thank you to all who have taken the time to communicate and give imput on my question of How much prep work is too much prep work?

A varied number of responses has given me food for thought and consideration. I'm going to modify my sales approach to included a more thorough discussion of the prep work we do. Also going to point out, in more detail, what each job takes to insure a great looking and long lasting job.

Going to try and get better prices and maintain our quality workmanship standards. Thanks all.

JTP
 

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an odd-ball solution, but has seemed to work

After losing a few jobs to ridiculously low bids, I decided to try another route for pricing out a job. Instead of promising a low price and having to rush through jobs to get as high a value as possible, I started simply charging by the hour. I explain to the client that quality and craftsmanship are priority one, but I will work as efficiently as I possibly can, and the finished product will reflect that. Then, instead of estimating for materials and labor, I just keep all receipts from that job and add that price to the final labor cost. Of course, this method only works if you have a good reputation in your community for quality work and your client has full trust in your abilities. After completing a few jobs using this method of payment, I feel it's really the best way to go. Too often customers end up with a shabby job because of rushed work. I have painted so many interiors that didnt have a single caulked corner or gap. While this may be good because it ensures more work, it sometimes causes the customer to question whether or not it is really necessary. To me, and many others I'm sure, it is the details like this that set the "good enough" painters apart from the best painters. So, don't let your quality of work suffer because people would rather pay less. They will get what they pay for, and you will build a good reputation as a quality worker. That should keep the work rolling in.
 

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Hello,

As professionals in the painting trade, we know prep is the key to a finely crafted job. Here is my question:

I live in a basically bread and butter area where folks don't make a whole lot of money. Painting is not a top priority for sure, but of course, we all know you gotta paint once in awhile!

If you charge for intense prep work and can get that price--even with a careful explanation of what you will be doing, you will lose a substantial portion of the work to the slop artists.

If you cut your prep work down, the final job is not up to par. As an example: How many nail pops do you prep out before you simply just set every darn sheet rock screw or nail?

Perhaps I need to spend a mountain more of time on estimates to thoroughly inform myself about prep time for each specific job. Going around and just looking at the obvious just does not cut it.

I usually tell my prospective customers that we fix everything that needs fixing so your job looks great when we are done. To point out every imperfection, loose tape, etc not only denigrates the customers humble abode, it takes too long to do an estimate.

I really can't afford to lose out on screw ball low bids knowing the low ball painters won't touch a mud pain, five in one, sandpaper or vacumm, etc.. If the customer says they understand that only a certain amount of prep time is included, what do you do when the customer says: "You didn't fix this or that". I say, heck, we discussed that and you didn't pay for that type of work. This just does not cut it and gives a really lousy impression and finish job. Short of taking many, many pictures. what again, do you do?

When we walk out of a job, we want everything all wrapped up and leave a happy and satisfied customer. If we continue to give prices based on the best job we can do, we are gonna starve pretty soon!

Ideas and input are appreciated. Thanks.

JTP
Demographics play a part in what you can do. I'm only quoting because the reply button is quirky. Anyway, if you live in the poorest part of town, then you must adjust to that. It's the only way to survive. It's nice to want to do top notch work and get paid for it, but if it's not available, go with the flow. I shouldn't even say "survive", you can actually thrive if you have the experience to deal with the situation. Again, it's the conflict of quality vs business. Lots of lower quality business' make a ton of money. Adaptation is the key, if your ego can survive it. Of course, I'm willing to bet there's at least one higher income neighborhood in your area. You'll have to market to them and persevere to get that business. If it means doing high end work for less than the next guy, then that's what it takes to get your share of the market. It's the unpopular, bottom line answer.

No matter what the next guy says, you have to think and do for yourself. You gonna do without becuase the next guy calls you a cut throat? Grit your teeth and dig in yours heels. In your situation, it's you or them.
 

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Put yourself in the customers shoes. If you were having somebody lay floorcovering for an example. During the estimating process something could not be seen because it wasn't exposed and it came up after tear up. I know that guys in that business will call in the customer and say hey, we found this and can be taken care of or not. They almost always will say well it's gotta be done and how much more is it going to cost?

At this point you can renegotiate the final price. I've had a couple of situations similar to this in the last year, and in both cases collected the upcharge and still had a happy customer.

The main thing that I feel is if the customer senses that you are honest and a good tradesman they will want their job done right, and that you did nothing misleading. Stuff Happens.

Just my thoughts.
 

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I missed this thread in the past, but I'm glad it got bumped up. I think this is one of those issues that can make or break us.

There were some very good points made previously.

I try to sell as much prep as the customer is willing to pay for. This requires an open discussion with the customer when we first meet. I often present options on the level of prep-- then the customer can decide, and can't point the finger at me later.

I think the bottom line is open communications. Find out what the customer wants and is willing to pay for. Sometimes I'm surprised what a customer will pay. Many times I've pulled up to a house in a low income neighborhood and thought, "No way I'm getting this job." And much to my surprise I got it.

Providing a champagne job for a beer price is the quick road to bankruptcy. That doesn't mean we need to do crummy work. There are options. I can sell a 10 year exterior job or a 2 year exterior job. (I don't actually sell 2 year jobs.) But my point is we need to recognize our customer's needs and operate our business accordingly.

Having said that, I think we often sell our customers short. We make too many decisions for them, such as "they can't afford this." I used to do that, because I realized it's not my money or my house. I will present options, and let the customer decide.

Brian Phillips
 

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I m with Andy on this one I am currently on my 5th house with the same builder (who also builds T+M BELIEVE IT OR NOT) this is best for me as because I make a fair wage and can do quality work without the fear of running out of $. Im sure Im not the only one who has seen a truck load of bare wood pull on site for built-ins or etc or the carpenters who hack trim so bad it takes twice as long to prep. This way I control my own destiny, some might argue that you'll never make $ by not bidding but I make a good living and can do quality work and feel good about doing it!!!!
 
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