Lots of people now work as independent contractors. Whether they contract out their labor and expertise on a part-time or full-time basis, it can be a great way to capitalize on their skills and abilities. In order to be a successful independent contractor, a person must understand how to figure his or her fair cost to a client, know how to ensure he or she gets paid enough to make a profit and know how to write up a contract with a reasonable and binding bid.

Find out exactly what your client's expectations are. Ascertain what the job is and what date the client would like it completed. If this is a job you can do, then try to figure out about how many hours it will take you to complete.

Think about all of the materials you will need to perform the job. For example, if you are mowing a client's lawn, you need to know whether the client has a working lawn mower or whether you must provide your own. If you provide your own, you should charge the client for any and all gasoline that you put in your lawn mower to mow his or her lawn.

Any materials you purchase that you use in completing the job should be charged to the client, for example, the gasoline for your mower, curtain rods if you are installing curtain rods, or bricks and mortar if you are building a brick wall. If you purchase a hammer, you will keep that and use it in other jobs, so do not charge your client for the cost of the hammer.

Decide on the hourly rate you will charge for your labor. Multiply this by the number of hours you expect to work on a particular project. Include hours spent shopping for materials for completing the job. For example, when you purchase the gasoline for your lawn mower to mow a client's yard, charge the client for the time you spend getting the gasoline.

Add your labor costs to the costs of materials needed to complete the job. This amount of money is your bid.

Write or type clearly the figures above as two original copies. For example, let's say you value your time at $16 per hour for mowing lawns. You use your own gas-powered mower. You and your client have discussed that you will mow once per week. You expect it will take you 2 hours to mow and 1/2 hour to get gas. The gas to mow the lawn costs $10. So, 2 hours = $32, plus another 1/2 hour = $40, plus $10 for gas = $50 grand total to mow the lawn. If you do this every week, you will charge your customer $50 per week.

Spell out the above clearly in your contract, and at the bottom include that your bid is $50 per week for lawn-mowing services.

If your client accepts your terms, each of you should sign and date both copies of the contract, and you each keep one original copy.


A bid is an agreement. It is the amount of money you will charge for your contractor services. Once the contract is signed, the bid cannot be changed without further negotiation.


Remember that a bid and an estimate are different. An estimate is a guess; a bid is a contract. Do not confuse the two.