I've been doing woodworking for customers for a few years but still have trouble figuring estimates. Would like help/information for making this an easier task.
I guess my first question would be, how meticulous are you about keeping track of the time you spend on the jobs you do? Because before you can improve your estimating accuracy, you need to know how long it takes you to do things.
If you're confident (a) about the hourly rate you charge (which should be a total of the hourly rate you want to make, plus an overhead factor); (b) about the material cost you're passing along (with about a 15 to 20 percent wastage factor tacked on to your cost); and are (c) then marking up the total of these two with a reasonable profit margin, and still having trouble making money, then closer analysis of time spent not only on jobs as a whole but on individual tasks within jobs may be your problem.
For example, how long does it take you to fabricate a drawer box, from start to finish? Or to cut up the basic parts of a kitchen? Let's say there's 12 sheets on the job; knowing how long the cutting-up process takes lets you derive a per-sheet average that you can apply to the next job you price. Of course, you must also track that one, (and the one after that, and after that, and on and on) to further hone and refine the numbers you use in your estimating. Do this with every task on every job, and you'll soon have a pool of information you can draw on, applying the appropriate task info to upcoming estimates.
This should also extend to hours in the office, doing drawings, telephone work, going to appointments, etc. Learn how much time you spend on the jobs you do from first contact with a client to stowing your tools after delivery/installation, and you'll see the accuracy of your estimates -- and your bottom line -- improve dramatically.
Anthony G. Noel, forum moderator
It is hard at first to take the time to keep track, but if it you do it consistently it becomes a habit. Make up a form with the categories you want to keep track of; it's easier to fill a form than to just put down what you think is needed at the time, plus it's organized and easier to compare with other jobs.
Don't just use the "productive hours," put down ALL the time it takes. If you were paying someone to do the job, how many hours would you pay them for?
Anthony said a mouthful. Ditto his post!
Using such a detailed set of records, we can look at the number of parts, number of drawers, type of cabinet, etc., and get a good idea of how other projects will compare to past performance.
A Planning & Estimating
A1 Project Meetings
A2 Field Measurements
A3 Shop Drawings
A4 Cut lists and optimizations
B Material Procurement
B1 Quotes to and from suppliers
B2 Calls tracking down project supplies
B3 Material runs for special items
C Cabinet Construction
C1 Cabinet Cutting
(Includes cutting sheet stock, dadoes for cabinet backs, trimming cabinet backs, nailers, partitions and shelves.)
C2 Cabinet Banding
(Includes milling, sawing and sanding stock, as well as glueing, clamping, trimming and lip planing all edgebanded parts.)
C3 Cabinet Boring
(Includes line boring for shelves, boring for drawer glides and hinges, boring for assembly.)
C4 Cabinet Face Frames
(Includes grooving case stock, milling and cutting face frames. Assembly and attaching face frames.)
C5 Cabinet Assembly
(Includes actual box assembly and clamping. De-clamping, stacking and shuffling are also included.)
C6 Cabinet Sanding
(Includes all pre-sanding and sanding after assembly.)
C7 Toe Kicks
(Includes construction of rough and finished toe kicks.)
C8 Final Assembly
(Includes final assembly of finished parts; installing cabinet backs and nailers, hinge plates, cabinet hanging systems, doors, drawer installation into cabinet; any final assembly before shipping goes here.)
D1 Door Construction
(Includes all layout, rough mill and milling of frames and panels; machine sand, and assembly of doors.)
D2 Door Installation
(Includes all hinge boring and fitting of doors.)