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Transform your "ESTIMATES" to "CONSULTATIONS" and GET PAID for your time
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Often when scrolling Facebook groups for tile, you run into a post where someone is complaining about how they are sick and tired of wasting their time doing estimates for folks that ghost them, want to negotiate on their prices, or just end up going with someone cheaper.
I know this pain all too well. You have at least 30 minutes of drive time, 30 minutes of time in-home, and 30 minutes writing up the quote. There is an hour and half you didn’t get paid for and can’t get back. If your closing rate is 40% and you do five estimates a week, then you are not getting compensated for 4.5 hours of time a week. That’s over 200 hours a year or five regular working weeks.
What can you do to reclaim this time and put it where it is important: working on your business, enjoying time with your family, and getting some me time to enjoy a hobby or just relax? It starts with terminology.
I’m super big on how things are worded. The connotation behind a word will give us a feeling about something before we ever actually experience it. “Estimates” have been free for so long that there is no value in them and everyone is giving them away for free – or at least they appear to be free. Clients do not value an estimate or the time that goes into them because they are free.
A paid consultation helps weed out tire kickers.
From estimates to consultations The first thing is to start doing “consultations.” Professionals do consultations and they can be paid for them. A consultation involves getting on site, looking over the project, providing a detailed scope of work, figuring out the exact quantities of materials needed, and providing your professional insights from years of experience. All of this is worth a fee and that fee will help weed out tire kickers.
While I was still contracting, I instated a $100 consultation fee. It didn’t cover all of the time that it would take me to go and look over a project, but it was enough to see if the person was serious about me doing the project or not. I am making an investment of time in them and providing my professional experience, and they need to reciprocate by paying a small fee. For the fee, the potential client received a detailed scope, itemized breakdown of the materials required to complete the project and the cost. If they decided to move forward with the project the $100 was credited towards the required deposit to lock in their start date and buy their materials. A super simple way to reduce your time in the field running around.

“But, but, but, Kyle, no one will pay for an estimate.” I can hear it now. I know no one will pay for an estimate. As I stated previously, they are consultations and you need to line out what you are providing for the fee when you describe this process to your prospect.
To regain some time, and be compensated for your skills and expertise, offer a paid consultation vs. a free estimate.
“Ms. Jones, I would be happy to come out on Wednesday evening and take a look at your project. Our consultations run $100. That includes us coming out to take a look at your space, figure out the best way to tackle your project and provide you with a detailed scope of work. They come with a breakdown of all the materials required to complete your project and the amounts necessary. If you decide to move forward with us as your contractor, then we will credit the fee towards your deposit. What time would be good for you?” Now you have asked for the sale on the consultation and provided the value behind it.
If for some reason you get a rejection or pushback, that is no problem. This is where knowing your numbers becomes crucial. If the prospect just wants to know a number, then tell them you would be happy to provide them with a ball-parked estimate over the phone. Estimates are always free over the phone when I don’t have to leave a project or my home where I am spending time with my family.
“Ms. Jones, a 3x5 tub surround with a couple of shelves and a niche will run anywhere from $5,000-$7,500 on average, depending on your material selections and any unforeseen work such as having to do framing or change how the plumbing is done. I can always get you a more exact number by coming out and doing the consultation with you to figure out your exact finishes, and fine tune all the details.”
Distinguish your business: break from the pack! There is a benefit in running your business differently than others in your area. It separates you from the pack. You can explain this to the prospect to help them understand why you have the processes you do. People who align with your values will always be much easier to work with. This is a great test to see how much someone values your expertise and whether or not they believe you are the correct fit.
Clients place a higher value on paid services.
Another benefit of this method is that psychologically, when you get someone to give you a small amount of money, it becomes easier for them to give you a larger amount of money. They have already given you $100, so it will naturally be easier for them to move forward with you as opposed to someone else, because they are already used to giving you money.
You have honed your know-how with years of experience, education, training and self-betterment – know your value.
Lastly, there will always be the complaint that this doesn’t work in your area or that you tried it and it didn’t work. I will go back to the beginning of the article and refer to step one of using words that do not have a negative connotation. Anytime I see the discussions about charging and it not working, I always see that everyone is still offering an estimate in person. The people I see doing it successfully have found a way to change the name of the service and detail out the value that is provided during the service. Don’t count yourself out until you have tried multiple different ways. There is a pitch that will work for you.
Another benefit of paid consultations is that psychologically, when you get someone to give you a small amount of money, it becomes easier for them to give you a larger amount of money.
If no one wants to pay for your consultations, then perhaps you have targeted the wrong demographic of people and it’s time to find a new one that will value your services at the level you are offering them. Good luck out there, and don’t forget to choose your words carefully.
Kyle Hedin is the owner of Floor Academy and host of the Floor Academy Podcast. Through his company he offers lifestyle lifts to contractors via his business education with a focus on marketing and operations. There are even the occasional health and wellness and lifestyle tips dripped in to round out the messaging. To learn more visit www.flooracademypod.com or email Kyle at flooracademypodcast@gmail.com.