Writing Bids!

Writing Bids!

When I first started my painting company over twenty years ago, I was driven to become financially successful. I knew if I wanted to make that happen, I would have to offer amazing customer service, an affordable paint job, and be able to give my customers the best paint job in the state of Idaho. Through trial, error, and years of hard work, I was able to get to a point where jobs were booked out for months, and we were turning down 10-20 referrals per week. Just because we didn’t have enough time in the day to get to them all! 

If you’ve checked out this blog post, then you know all of the best marketing tips and tricks that I used to help get my company out there as a potential option for people to choose. But once they’ve contacted the office - called in or sent an email inquiry, where do you go from there? Potential customers are often looking at 3-4 companies in the area to see a variety of estimates for the job. Essentially, they’re interviewing painters and contractors based on price, but also reliability and trustworthiness. 

This means that the time to work the hardest to sell them is during the bidding and estimating process. Now, an estimate is a document that is given to the customer that covers the projected services and cost for a project, while a bid package is a collection of information designed to sell you and your company as the ones for the customer to pick. I knew very early on that creating a bid package was going to extremely beneficial to the growth of my company. 

A professional-looking bid package is one of the best resources that you can have at your disposal. After all, when a customer is staring at 3-4 estimates and bid packages for the job, you want them to say, “If their work is any representation of this bid package, then they're hired!” 

My most in-depth bid packages have anywhere from 18-22 pages - even just to paint a single interior bedroom. Making sure that every potential question and answer the customer could have is somewhere within your bid package will boost the customer’s confidence in you and your company. Even if your estimate is higher than the competition, your bid package can still, and has for me in the past, won the job. From the quality of the bid package, customers will likely be able to tell why you’re estimating a higher price - you’ll follow through on the quality of the job that any customer desires. 

My bid package contains: an introduction page, information about the company, insurance qualifications, accomplishments and references, what we will/won’t do on the jobsite, services not included, the painting process/order of events, painting options (add-ons), color documents/information, warranty information, pictures of the painters who will be on the job, licenses, sometimes a company newsletter, and so much more! To make it even easier for you, we sell the exact same bid packages that won me thousands of jobs as templates in our store. Add your logo and customize to your company - we’ll take the pain out of the process for you. Interiors, exteriors, cabinets, fences, decks, we’ve got it all! We would use a website like QuickBooks to edit our bid packages and estimates - it’s easy to customize the document with your customer’s information and name so it feels personalized! 

The first phone call

When a prospective client first calls into the office about a job or wanting to get an estimate, one of the first things you should do is ask how they heard about your company. This will help focus your marketing skills and allow you to reward referrals. I would always give a gift card to our previous clients who sent us in referrals. 

Next, you’ll want to collect the basic information about the client. Their name, phone number, email address, house address, plus you’ll want to know what type of job they are enquiring about. Make sure that whoever is answering phones is cordial and friendly - make giving excellent customer service your priority. 

An early question you’ll want to ask is their desired timeline for the job, to see how it fits into your company’s workload. If the client wants their house painted within two weeks, and you are booked three months out, this is likely not a job that you are able to take on if the customer isn’t flexible about their timeline. 

You can also create a bid questionnaire or checklist to make sure that you’re receiving all the necessary information within that first phone call.

Paperless estimates

In the beginning, or when work was slow, I would show up to every potential jobsite to collect information for the estimate process. Interfacing with the customers face-to-face is your best chance to sell yourself, and to collect the best information you can. If possible, you should always make an effort to go out to the customer’s house and talk to them and review the jobsite. 

But, if this isn’t an option, there are online resources that can help you create an estimate without ever going out to their house. Google Earth, Zillow, and Realtor.com are three resources that are essential to this process. Nothing is private online anymore - and you can use this to efficiently find the information you need to conduct your jobs and write estimates. With Google Earth, most of the time you’re able to get a 360° view of the exterior of the house - super helpful for exterior repaint jobs. Depending on how current the image is, you’ll be able to tell the number of stories on the house, possibly gauge the amount of prepwork that will need to be done, plus you’ll be able to see if there are any sheds or fences on the property that you can inquire about painting too. 

With Zillow and Realtor.com, you’ll be able to find out the age of the home and the square footage, which are two of the most important things you need to be able to conduct an accurate estimate. If the home is newer or recently sold, there may be a  3D walkthrough of the interior of the home available - useful for interior paint jobs, and potentially even cabinet painting jobs. Knowing the age of a home, you’ll be able to better predict the amount of prep work needed, and if the home is old enough to be a home that could potentially have lead-based paint. Those jobs are a special case, and many painting companies don’t take on these types of jobs, due to the risks of lead exposure. 

Once you’ve been able to write the estimate and customize the bid package, you can send this off to the customer via email. Once again, I used to take the time to hand-deliver a professional folder with the estimate and bid package inside to the customers, but once work picked up, switching to entirely paperless estimates became a better use of everyone’s time. But, if you have the time, it is something that can be very important to securing the job. When we switched to paperless estimates, we lost a fair amount of bids based on the fact that we weren’t hand-delivering them and taking the time to further the connection with the customer, but at the same time, we were getting more jobs by referral, so it evened out. 

When sending out emails to customers, I always included two PDFs - one with the estimate, and the other with the bid package. Once that’s sent off, follow up with a phone call to make sure the customer received the email and it didn’t get put in the spam or junk folder. 

If the customer specifically requests to have a face-to-face conversation with you, or wants to do a color consultation, it’s important to get that schedule and make it happen as soon as possible. Ease the customer’s worries and make sure they understand what the process of the job will look like. If you take the time with the customer, it will help to build your working relationship with them and helps to show your professionalism. 

In summary, you can be more efficient by writing paperless estimates and using online resources to do so, but make time for and go out to see your customers when they need it. This will only help boost customer confidence, and increase the likelihood that they’ll refer you to their friends, family, and neighbors!

Make sure that your bidding and estimating process is fast and efficient so that you can get it done, get back to your customers quick, and keep on working. Our rule was that a customer would have their estimate within 24 hours of their initial call into the office, but we always tried to get to them within the first few hours. The sooner the better, or someone else will steal the job from you! 

Exterior painting

Your bidding process and prices can depend on supply and demand - are you booked out or desperately in need of jobs. In 2020, my base price was around $1.65 per square foot on the house, but of course, this massively depends on the individual scenarios. How many stories does the house have? How old is the home? How much prep work is going to be involved? Jobs can end up easier or harder than imagined during the bidding process - usually it will all equal out for you over time, though. 

When using Google Earth or similar websites during the estimate process, you might find information that requires you to call the customer back up. For example, if you’re seeing photos of a fence you can stain, or you can ask if they want their front door painted as well. Sometimes you might even be able to do a quick driveby of the home, but most times you’ll find what you need with the online resources mentioned. 

The bid package will usually contain add-ons for the customer to choose from - including the option for more colors on their home. Some people might want as many as five colors! There are a lot of add-ons that you can offer to your clients that will add value to their home. 

Some of these are: 

  • Bug Juice - an insecticide that will last for 5-7 years
  • OKON PaintBooster - a waterproofing agent
  • Repairs - stucco, siding, drywall, window screens
    • Make yourself a full-service painter! 
  • Paint Scentsations - scented paint additives
  • Cleaning - windows, gutters
  • Painting additional surfaces - fences, epoxy floors, concrete, etc. 


If you also paint cabinets, then you’ve got to have systems, processes, and numbers that all make sense so that you can get all the information you need and quickly give the customers the projected cost of a job. It’s good to start off with a fixed door and drawer price. Mine used to be $95 per drawer, and $115 per door. Face frames are included in those prices, and when large side panels are involved, they are usually counted as doors. Break those panels into average door sizes - for example, it might be the size of two average cabinet doors. 

With cabinets, there can be a variety of scenarios where the price will go up based on the type of cabinets and customer expectations. For example, cabinets with oak grain. If the customer wants to get rid of the grain, then I would $20 per door and drawer. Or if the cabinets need to be repaired, and knots in the wood need to be eliminated, then it’s a $10 add-on per door and drawer. 


The most fence jobs in my area were 4-6 feet cedar picket privacy fences that were 8 feet post-to-post, that I would charge $35 per panel to stain. For me, fences weren’t the type of job that I did to make a living off of - I usually offered it as a supplement service to customers where I was already painting their home. For smaller or larger fences, simply raise or lower the price per your discretion. A typical add-on for a fence would be a surcharge of $3 per panel if the customer insisted on using an oil-based product for the fence, which is not something I prefer doing, based on the risk of overspray. For iron or metal fences, you might charge extra for prep work and dealing with rust. 

Epoxy floors

Epoxy floors are usually just a base price of around $4.25 per square foot, and are a pretty simple job to bid. There are simple add-ons you might want to add for also applying epoxy on steps/stairs, cleaning oil contaminated floors, or for also having to epoxy raised footings. 

All of the prices listed throughout this blog post are an estimation of the prices that I used to use to create estimates for my customers. They are based on the prices and going rates in my area, and my labor and materials costs. Reference these numbers based on your area, and your company to create your rates. 

If you’re interested in learning more, then check out this playlist of our YouTube videos regarding the business of painting - marketing, bidding, and even information about starting your own company. 

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