Charging for quotes – An interview with a decorator who does it

‘You can’t charge for quotes’

‘Someone else will always quote for free so you’ll never be able to do it’

‘Either everyone has to do it, or nobody can do it’

…these are a handful of the things people said when I floated the idea of decorators charging for quotes…

However…someone popped up telling me they actually do charge for quotes. And that his business is thriving.

Here is the interview I had with that man!

Name: Joe “Pappi” Hoile

Company name: JH Painting & Papering

Facebook : JH Painting & Papering

Instagram : @jhpaintingandpapering (Very funny on here. Definitely worth a follow!)

How and when did you start decorating? 

About 6 years ago! Newcomer really, which has felt like a lifetime. Basically needed to find a purpose in my life, and I kind of fell into it in between jobs. I was working 6-2 on my my main job, then 2:30 – late, decorating, and full on weekends. Got such a pipeline immediately that after just under a year, I decided I may as well do it full time. I had no idea about self employment 😂

How long ago did you start charging for quotes?

About late 2019, after being so constantly busy with being on the tools of a day, and then going home to countless messages and home visits to quote, and then only certain low percentage would actually even say thanks for your time…. So the light bulb clicked…

How much do you charge for quotes? And do you give the money back as a credit if you get the job?

So I charge a small fee of £20 to do a home visit. Nothing in the grand scheme compared to the time it takes for each one at each house, the fuel, the time to work out figures, and to write up and publish, then also the motions of going backward and forward with messages regarding the quote/work required. The charge must be paid prior to visit or I won’t show.

If they wish to proceed the fee comes off their total bill anyway. If they don’t, then they have paid a small charge for my time. Completely fair. And this ensures that if they do want to go ahead, that they have already got me on their banking system contacts, so no excuses after completing!

I do also offer a free quote over messaging and pictures etc, because some people don’t genuinely have a clue what to expect price wise, or it could be a standard priced job. This has also proved very accurate as well, and also the free option to save time visiting the home.

What made you decide to start charging for quotes?

Time is money, fuel costs money, publishing X amount a quotes a night was mentally burning me out and needed to weed out time wasters. I was busy enough as it was, built a good enough reputation that I had the reputation for being honest, reliable & value for money, and found a lot of my luxury free time wasted by a huge number constantly. 

What was the general reaction from the people around you when you said you were going to start charging for quotes? From other decorators / friends / family.

Basically got laughed at, or told I was going to lose a lot of work. Sometimes people worry the negative effect it may have for you, but only you know your business. You have to go against the grain, and as the reasoning was justified, and not a profiteering move, I knew in my own mind it was what I needed to do. You have to show you value yourself, and in turn clients will respect that. There’s no rule book.

At what point in your sales process do you tell customers you charge for quotes?

So a client would message me with an initial “hi can you quote…” and at that point I let them know I can visit the home for a small fee, or I can proceed free over pictures/messages, which is 95% accurate pricing.

How do customers typically react to this?

Some don’t reply… 😂. Which is actually good for me, because it shuts down a conversation which isn’t going anywhere. But alot will say no problem, what are your bank details. Or some will send over pics and requirements for the free service.

Do you ever make an exception and not charge?

Yea of course. I mean, I try zero tolerance. But for example, if its near a job I’m on coming up I’ll nip in, or if its a familiar return client then I just waive it as its convenient for me, and I know they’ll pretty much go with me anyway, so it’s not a gamble if its a waste of my time.

Do you think you lose a lot of work to other decorators because they offer free quotes?

Definitely. Absolutely definitely. But fortunately I put everything into my business all round to ensure I don’t go quiet enough to worry about what I lose. I know what I bring to the table, and I know they’ll get a guaranteed genuine reliable service from me. So it’s their loss and another clients gain in my head.

Did you see an improvement to the types of customers you were working for once you’d starting charging for quotes?

Yes and no. I mean I do a lot for return clients so I know what I’m getting. But the newer ones since, I can honestly say 99.9% are amazing. Because the foundation is laid, and they respect me as a business and respect my time. So it’s more weeded out the bad ones to bring the average standard of amazing client I have up.

Were there any other benefits to your business once you started charging?

Only the fact of me and my own mental and physical health being better due to less running around etc, and not wasting as much fuel.

Were there any negatives?

When I started charging, yea it shook a few previous clients up, and obviously enquiries thinking “oh he just can’t be bothered” or “he must not want the job”. People talk, and it puts a lot off even approaching me.

And when I said to other trades about it, they sort of thought I was mad!

Do you think all decorators should or could be charging for their quotes?

Not at all.

I believe on one hand, it should be a standard exercise for all, as time is money.

But also, there is ALOT of untrustworthy people operating out there, and will only become a matter of time before people would start abusing that power, and use it for pure profitable income, rather than any intention of a fair price with intention to do the work eventually.

I strongly believe, if you work hard enough on your reputation, and are honest and genuine business , then yes, it’s completely viable.

What advice would you give to other decorators who are nervous about charging for quotes?

Set the rules of your business, and justify why you do it. Same with anything. As long as you give reasoning, you can’t be any fairer, the clients will understand. If they don’t, then is that even the type of client you want? But I can’t stress enough, you don’t need to do it, but time is money.

You need to remember too, swing the ball in your court and be in control from the off. Many clients will try treat you like helping hands, be in control of the situation from the off. It will help you get respect for what you provide

Thank you again Joe for this brilliant insight.

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