Just opened a small cabinet shop and wanted to ask you "bigger shop" guys how you estimate. This happened to me two weeks ago and burnt me up. A couple stopped by for an estimate for kitchen cab, laundry room, walk-in closet, and 3 more rooms. They handed me the house plans and I got to work. Well, call me a novice, but wasn't quite sure, so I went ahead and hand sketched all cabinets (6 rooms worth) just to find out they took my sketches to another shop and got a cheaper bid.
When you do a first estimate, do you just give them an overhead view sketch and a rough estimate, then after securing the contact do you finish drawings or software prints? Which is first, the chicken or the egg? Don't have the cash to buy software, and not smart enough to figure out e-cabinets.
From contributor G:
I show them the renderings, but the only thing I'll give them is the quote, which only outlines specs, and provides a lump-sum price. It doesn't make any difference whether they gave me a thick sheaf of spec pages and a 20-pound roll of drawings, or I walked through a couple of bare rooms and was told to do a design from scratch. They don't get my work unless I've been paid.
In house building, you can get paid to do a proposal if you are a design-build person, but software like 20-20, and places like the kitchen desk at Lowe's, have made it so that folks quoting kitchen cab jobs punch out those proposal drawings for free. Not me.
You can't keep them from shopping your price, but you can stop them from using your drawings for the basis of an RFQ. Just don't let them have the drawings. Take all the time necessary at quote time (and it must be eye-to-eye) to explain design, features, specs, all the reasons why, and so forth, but when they go, all they get is the price, the terms, and a gracious good-night. No drawings. Period.
Try the e-Cabs learning guide or look into renting KCDW or another program that takes less time to learn. You could buy Visio. If you are a Mac user try NeoOffice (free).
I only give 3-D shots of the rooms. No cabinet dimensions at all. If they want drawings, do like contributor R said and charge them the rate you settle on.
Another thing that will come up eventually is itemizing your bids. My advice to you is, don't. One bottom line and that's it. If somebody wants it itemized out, be prepared for them to pick your bid apart. It's nobody's business how much you're making. It costs what it costs.
For instance, say it's an average face frame kitchen with X number flat paneled doors and drawers, natural finish, lazy susan or two, and whatever. I'll give them an estimate that details this sort of stuff and then a price range, like $10,000-12,500, subject to change.
At one time I would do a rendering and elevation for every bid I went on. No more - it's a waste of time. I especially was losing time and money on people wanting insurance estimates. They seem to deliberately call custom shops, turn the bids over to the insurance and then go to Home Depot.
If it's a customer that has been referred or that I personally know, then I'm a bit more lax on this, I'll admit. But for the average tire-kicker that got my number from the phone book or wherever, no commitment, no drawings.
I have had customers bring me someone else's drawings. I won't bid from them myself, mainly because I don't really trust the things, especially the ones from the Depot and Lowe's.