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How to price a job as a contractor: plus a free quote template

Carpenter working on project

Giving a customer a quote isn’t just about your prices – it’s an introduction to the way your business works. An opportunity to set clear expectations with your customers, a good quote should help things run smoothly throughout the job.

But quoting your customers a price that doesn’t take into account things like VAT, your overheads, and competitor rates could do damage to your business’s reputation.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you should consider when pricing up a job, as well as a free quote template that can help you get started.

Why price quotes are crucial for your business

It doesn’t matter what trade you’re in, how to quote for a job is a fundamental part of running your business.

Potential customers these days are likely to be time-poor and markets tend to be demand-driven. They want to know right away how much their dream extension or emergency plumbing work is going to cost.

Ideally, you’ll be able to take an enquiry and then price a job within a day or two, and if it’s a bigger job, try to visit the customer and discuss an initial project outline.

They’ll still want an estimate and a follow-up pricing quote, but running through a project in person establishes trust and allows you to see what shape the project will take and its potential risk factors.

Below are the basics you need to plan for when working out how to quote a price for a job.

Get your free quote template

Download your free quote template that you can edit yourself.

Pricing up jobs – know what you’re up against when bidding for work

From market conditions and materials prices to your local competitor rates, it pays to understand what can affect your costs.

Market conditions

First, you need to look at the economy in general, and whether there are widespread issues that could affect your customers’ budgets and appetite. For example, the rising cost of living in the past few years could lead to customers getting more price quotes than usual as they’ll be looking for the best possible deals.

Second, it’s important to understand whether there’s anything impacting your specific trade or market that could drive your prices up or down, such as:

  • tax
  • import duties
  • materials shortages
  • employment law
  • regulation changes

Check that your website and marketing materials are up to date, with any new prices added – there’s nothing worse for a customer than reading a guide price, only to see it shoot up when you quote the price of the contract.

Price of resources

Make sure you’re up to speed with the latest on the materials, parts, and labour you’re working with. Doing a full inventory every few months is a good idea, so that you know where the peaks and dips in costs may lie further down the line.

Rising inflation and cost of living have impacted the price of resources, availability of labour, and reliability of supply chains over the last few years.

Competitor rates

While you may be aware of who your competitors are and what they do, do you know what they’re charging customers, and whether this is above or under what you’re offering?

People may have a rough outline of costs on their website or printed materials, but that really just gives you a guideline.

You might not want to ask people outright what they’re charging, but check in with friends and family on the quotes they’re getting.

Check online review sites and social media for discussions about price. Build a relationship with your suppliers and ask about any trends they’re seeing, or drop-offs in orders.

Assess the location

There are three crucial things to think about when considering the premises or site for the job:

  • access
  • proximity
  • conditions

For example, if you’re working out how to price a decorating job and the customer is a couple of streets away from you, easily accessible through a ground floor front door and conditions aren’t a problem, you won’t need to factor much into your costs.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at how to price a job in construction and the site is an hour’s drive away, down a narrow rough track, and the conditions are challenging, you may need to reflect these things in your costs.

Itemise the materials you need

The key part of most cost plans and quotes rests on your resources. What do you need to get the job done? This isn’t just about paint, sand, tools, and stock. It’s also about your staff – do you need to take on an extra pair of hands? Bear in mind that if you do need to employ someone, you’ll need to factor in their pay and things like employers’ liability insurance.

As soon as you’re confident about the brief or job from your customer, draw up a full list of everything you’re going to need to complete it, and the cost to you.

Use this to create your quote, marking up and down where sensible and remembering to add on a percentage cost for waste and your service (see below for a basic cost structure example when working out how to quote for a job).

Experience is key

There’s nothing like working out how to price up a job for the first time.

Learning as much as possible from each project is what will give you the most accurate, attractive, and profitable quotes in the business.

So note learnings as you go and learn what to watch for, which suppliers to trust, and where to draw your boundaries – it’s better to say no to a job than take on a project that turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth.

How to price a job as a contractor: example of a quote

This basic cost structure is designed to help you work out your first draft. You’ll need to add to it and take specific advice from an accountant though, depending on your trade and market.

Hourly rate x hours estimate

+ cost of materials (with waste/service percentage) + % for overheads (business insurance, transport costs, etc)


£12.07/hour x 28 hours

+ £150 in materials

  • £15 waste/service percentage (10% of materials cost)
  • £40 overheads

£542.96 = total cost

Sense-checked quote = £540.00

Once you’re happy, build in a margin for things to go wrong, and provide a schedule for your customer so that they know the plan for the project and when they can expect certain milestones to be completed.

Five tips for pricing a painting job

Here are some things to consider when pricing up a painting project:

  1. Clarify with the customer any areas that don’t need painting (such as doors and windows)
  2. Expect your customer to change their mind. Even if they’ve seen a sample
  3. Talk to your customer about paint brand and quality when pricing a painting and decorating job
  4. Who will be removing the furniture? Remember to factor this in or out
  5. Agree up-front who will be buying the paint, as this will affect your costs

For more information, check out our article on how to become a painter and decorator in the UK.

Five tips for pricing a plastering job

When you’re quoting for a plastering job, try to consider:

  1. All the elements that don’t need plastering
  2. Whether you need to remove any existing plastering?
  3. The site’s access points before quoting
  4. Estimated costs for sheeting up and cleaning
  5. The cost of all furniture being removed before you start

Five tips for pricing a building job

As a builder there’s lots of things to think about when pricing up a job. These five things should help cover all the bases:

  1. Arrange a ‘walk-through’ of the site before you provide any quote or estimate for a building job
  2. Ask for any mock-ups or drawings that the client has already
  3. Get a clear picture of any subcontractors you’re going to need
  4. Try to deliver the quote in person and walk through each aspect with your customer
  5. Make sure you’re on top of any issues surrounding supply chains and materials

Five tips for pricing a renovation job

When undertaking a renovation job, try to take these things into account:

  1. Allow for delays and, if in doubt, extend your timings estimate
  2. Get damage limitation plans in place to protect the rest of the property
  3. Investigate all travel, parking, and access issues ahead of quoting
  4. Ask whether the property will be occupied throughout the project, and whether daily clean-ups will be needed
  5. Let your customer know about any extra costs you anticipate as early as possible

Five tips for pricing a plumbing job

These are great places to start when quoting for a plumbing job:

  1. Arrange to see the site and get to know the project before you provide a plumbing quote
  2. Charge a bit more for emergency call-outs, or if you haven’t seen the property before
  3. Be clear that the job may take longer, depending on what you find
  4. Factor in all access issues and clean-up time
  5. Itemise your materials costs and explain these to your customer

Five tips for pricing an electrical job

Here are some things to think about when pricing up an electrical job:

  1. Are any other contractors working on the site? Factor in delay time for these
  2. Be clear about the hours you’ll be working, and explain them to your customer
  3. Run through your quote in person with the customer, answering any questions and putting them at ease
  4. Pay attention to the detail in your quote, from screws and grommets to finish options
  5. Keep a list of everything you use in a job, add to it over time, and use it as a draft checklist for future projects

Check out our guide to becoming a self-employed electrician, plus information on insurance for electricians and electrical contractors.

What are your top tips for pricing a job as a contractor? Let us know in the comments below.

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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