Commercial painting generally commands lower prices than private residential painting. If you are a speedy and meticulous painter, however, commercial contracts can lead to ongoing steady work. It can be difficult to break into the commercial market, but understanding how to bid can greatly increase your odds for success.
Ensure our company is entirely legal. Most commercial clients will not work with painters who are not licensed, bonded (if required in your state) and insured. Call your local small-business development center to double-check that all of your documents are up-to-date. If you have employees, you must carry Workers Compensation insurance.
Present a professional appearance. When bidding on private residential paint jobs, you can often get away with coming straight from another job, covered in paint. When bidding commercial jobs, it is important to look like a business owner. Although you need not dress up, choose clean, pressed clothes. Drive a nice car (borrow one if you must). Show up on time with all necessary materials, including bid sheets and a pen, a tape measure, a calculator and a neatly fastened collection of paint chips (available at most paint stores).
Measure the space quickly but accurately. Some painters prefer to “eyeball” commercial locations, calculating rough measurements in their heads, but this can lead you to overbid or underbid. Instead, take at least basic measurements including ceiling height and wall square footage.
Discuss paint colors. Some commercial clients, including many rental managers, prefer to stick with basic off-white in any shade the painter likes. However, many commercial clients have very specific color preferences that may impact the number of coats the job requires. Present the paint chips and encourage the client to choose a specific shade.
Discuss the scope of the project. If the existing paint is in excellent shape, the client may prefer not to pay for prep work or primer. If the existing paint is peeling or flaking, insist that it must be prepped before work can begin. Additionally, you may be qualified to perform small handyman tasks such as replacing a broken outlet cover or patching a small hole in the drywall. Ask if the client wants you to include small repair jobs in the estimate.
Discuss the possibility of future work. Although few commercial clients are willing to hire an unknown painter on an ongoing basis, you should be able to determine whether other projects are available. Consider lowering your bid price slightly in exchange for future consideration.
Leave the room to prepare your bid. It is easy to make mistakes or leave things out, particularly when someone is watching over your shoulder. Add at least 10 percent to your estimate as a “slush fund” to cover small discrepancies.
Create a clear, easy to follow bid sheet that breaks down the charges by category. Review the bid sheet with the client and clarify any confusing points. Make any changes in writing. Both parties should initial the changes.
Respect your client's time. Arrive on time and spend only as long as you need to create an accurate bid.
Follow up by telephone or email if you have not heard from the potential client within three days.
Never promise anything you cannot deliver on time and on budget. Reputations develop quickly in the commercial world, and messing up one job could result in an inability to get future commercial jobs.
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