Do you get a signed Estimate for service work?

Location
Ny
Ever since I started using the iPad for estimating and invoicing service work, I have had all my customers sign the estimate before getting out the tools. I do it both when the work is done right then and there or when it's scheduled for later. If they need time to think about it and I leave, then they call me back and ask me to do the work, I will either have them sign it when I come back to do the work (before starting) or if it's a big job like a service upgrade I will stop by their house to have them sign it and give me a deposit before I start doing the administrative stuff (pull permit, do application for power company, load calc, etc.).

This seems like a good method that could cover my butt and IMO seems like a professional thing to do. I've never had a customer back out of an agreed upon job, but this would help me recover some of my costs if I were to lose money in a situation like that. I also think it would help for when customers try to get more work done then they paid for.


(Complaining) Sometimes customers just don't understand what's going on, no matter how slowly you try to explain it. They call you for a service upgrade (they have a 60 year old 60A service on a 3,000sqft house), but after you are done they call you back because the bathroom receptacle circuit (which is also powering half of the house) is still tripping. And they blame you even though they never mentioned that problem before. (/Complaining)
 

growler

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,GA
(Complaining) Sometimes customers just don't understand what's going on, no matter how slowly you try to explain it. They call you for a service upgrade (they have a 60 year old 60A service on a 3,000sqft house), but after you are done they call you back because the bathroom receptacle circuit (which is also powering half of the house) is still tripping. And they blame you even though they never mentioned that problem before. (/Complaining)
Sooner or later that happens to everyone. Many people just assume that if they get a service up-grade that it will solve all the other problems they are having. But I think some really do understand and are just trying to get over, not much chance of that if the check has already cleared.
 
Location
Ny
Sooner or later that happens to everyone. Many people just assume that if they get a service up-grade that it will solve all the other problems they are having. But I think some really do understand and are just trying to get over, not much chance of that if the check has already cleared.
The worst part is when you upgrade a service or panel and then the customer starts having circuits trip.

You come back to find out that the circuit that powers half of their house trips when they use the hair drier, toaster, coffee maker, and curling iron at the same time. They say "It's never happened before! Something you did caused this!" Then you try to explain that upgrading the panel IS causing it because the new breaker is tripping the way it's supposed to when the circuit is overloaded. The 50 year old breakers in the old panel weren't working correctly and allowed too much current to flow through the circuit, which was dangerous.
 

Rewire

Senior Member
One of the first things I do is look at what I am upgrading from. If I have a six circuit fuse panel and a customer wanting a 200 amp heavy up then I am going to offer them options of additional circuits. This is an easy upsell as most customers see the value of doing it while we have the panel out.
 

chris1971

Senior Member
Location
Usa
One of the first things I do is look at what I am upgrading from. If I have a six circuit fuse panel and a customer wanting a 200 amp heavy up then I am going to offer them options of additional circuits. This is an easy upsell as most customers see the value of doing it while we have the panel out.
Great way to upsell when doing a service upgrade. Nice to give the customer options.
 

ceb58

Senior Member
Location
Raeford, NC
The thing to do is ask them " why do you think you need the upgrade, what's happening through out the house" while taking notes. This will tell the story. If you cant upsell more circuits and you do the service up grade and they call back with tripping breakers because half of the house is on one circuit you have the problem that was there before documented.
 

goldstar

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
The thing to do is ask them " why do you think you need the upgrade, what's happening through out the house" while taking notes. This will tell the story. If you cant upsell more circuits and you do the service up grade and they call back with tripping breakers because half of the house is on one circuit you have the problem that was there before documented.
This is the approach I always use. My first question is always "why do you want to upgrade your electrical service?" If they tell me that their hair dryer keeps tripping the breaker I explain that the problem will still exist when they get a new breaker panel. I often use the analogy that if you had varicose veins but went into the hospital for a heart transplant, when you come out of the hospital you'll still have those varicose veins. Solving one problem doesn't necessarily solve the other (as mjf pointed out).
 
Back to the OP's "signed estimate" question

Back to the OP's "signed estimate" question

Honestly, (probably bad business practice), a majority of the time I don't get a signed estimate or contract.

I guess my excuse is that I don't advertise and almost all of my work is referals and word of mouth.

Over the years I've found it important to spend a few extra minutes investigating the prospective job and explaining clearly what is covered by my verbal estimate.

I've also found I've gotten somewhat proficient at giving the customer "fair warning" about some "extras" that may or may not be run into once the job begins to unfold. If they know in advance that if I open up XXXX and find YYYYY the cost will go from AAAA to BBBB.

I don't seem to end up with customer relation or payment problems. (and it even makes me look like I know what I'm talking about when I find YYYYY like I said was more than likely).:p

Then again, sometimes my spidey-sense starts to act up and I write up the paperwork.
 

goldstar

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Honestly, (probably bad business practice), a majority of the time I don't get a signed estimate or contract.

I guess my excuse is that I don't advertise and almost all of my work is referals and word of mouth
Over the years I've found it important to spend a few extra minutes investigating the prospective job and explaining clearly what is covered by my verbal estimate.
It doesn't really matter when you're talking about small money. If you get up into larger $$ you better get a signed contract

I don't seem to end up with customer relation or payment problems. (and it even makes me look like I know what I'm talking about when I find YYYYY like I said was more than likely).:p

Then again, sometimes my spidey-sense starts to act up and I write up the paperwork.
The saying "Never say never" comes to mind. I'm thankful that to date, I haven't been beaten for more than a few hundred $$. I consider myself lucky.

Anytime I make up an estimate it's just that - an estimate and I make sure the price is in my favor. I try to make it known and include any possible contingincies that could become extras but there's always the unknown. When I do work where I can provide an absolute accurate price I send out a proposal/contract (signed by me). In that proposal are the details of the work I'm doing along with a payment schedule. The customer signs the contract and sends me a deposit. The signiture represents the agreement between both parties and the deposit represents the consideration for the contract. If the customer decides not to pay me at the completion of work I have a signed contract and a deposited check that indicates they agreed to pay me the amount indicated and had already made a payment toward the work. I now have a valid document in the event I have to go to court to get the remainder of my $$.

None of that amounts to a hill of beans if your customer declares bankruptcy of if you burn their house down while doing your work :)
 
It doesn't really matter when you're talking about small money. If you get up into larger $$ you better get a signed contract

Yes, I do, and was going to edit and add something along those lines but I got lazy.

The saying "Never say never" comes to mind. I'm thankful that to date, I haven't been beaten for more than a few hundred $$. I consider myself lucky.

I rapped my knuckles on my skull and said "knock on wood", (as I always do), when I typed that.:)

Anytime I make up an estimate it's just that - an estimate and I make sure the price is in my favor. I try to make it known and include any possible contingincies that could become extras but there's always the unknown. When I do work where I can provide an absolute accurate price I send out a proposal/contract (signed by me). In that proposal are the details of the work I'm doing along with a payment schedule. The customer signs the contract and sends me a deposit. The signiture represents the agreement between both parties and the deposit represents the consideration for the contract. If the customer decides not to pay me at the completion of work I have a signed contract and a deposited check that indicates they agreed to pay me the amount indicated and had already made a payment toward the work. I now have a valid document in the event I have to go to court to get the remainder of my $$.

None of that amounts to a hill of beans if your customer declares bankruptcy of if you burn their house down while doing your work :)
Let's enter into a gentlemans agreement that we will avoid these two unwanted scenarios:p
 

ElectricianJeff

Senior Member
Honestly, (probably bad business practice), a majority of the time I don't get a signed estimate or contract.

I guess my excuse is that I don't advertise and almost all of my work is referals and word of mouth.

Over the years I've found it important to spend a few extra minutes investigating the prospective job and explaining clearly what is covered by my verbal estimate.

I've also found I've gotten somewhat proficient at giving the customer "fair warning" about some "extras" that may or may not be run into once the job begins to unfold. If they know in advance that if I open up XXXX and find YYYYY the cost will go from AAAA to BBBB.

I don't seem to end up with customer relation or payment problems. (and it even makes me look like I know what I'm talking about when I find YYYYY like I said was more than likely).:p

Then again, sometimes my spidey-sense starts to act up and I write up the paperwork.
I do it exactly as you do but when my spidey-sense starts up, out comes the paperwork and a big deposit is required. Problem solved.
 

Buck Parrish

Senior Member
Location
NC & IN
One of the first things I do is look at what I am upgrading from. If I have a six circuit fuse panel and a customer wanting a 200 amp heavy up then I am going to offer them options of additional circuits. This is an easy upsell as most customers see the value of doing it while we have the panel out.
PHP:

That to is what I do. Doing alot of service upgrades in a college town. I will often run circuits to what I call problem areas. If it's a rental part of my sell is. They'll have little to no service request about the electrical. Each bath gets it's own 20 amp circuit. Often times the fridge. Or I'll add one in the kitchen. The water heater circuit is ussually in 12, I change that to 10.
If I'm moving a panel sometimes it's easier to run a new circuit to the range or dryer instead of splicing.
 
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