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Creating an Estimate with Electrical Contracting Software

by Chris Lee | April 2nd, 2018

How do you create an estimate using an electrical contracting software package? It's a question we get regularly when a prospective customer contacts our company. They are concerned that the process will be difficult to learn and much different than their existing process. Fortunately, it's a much easier process than you might think, and it won't take long before you know the ropes and are finishing your estimates in half the time while streamlining your company's back-office tasks and accounting processes. Here's a quick look at how the entire process works:

Creating an Estimate with Electrical Contracting Software

As with all projects, the very first thing you should consider is whether you should create an estimate at all. Not all projects are a good fit for your company's level of experience and knowledge. But in the past, “a good fit” may be a factor as simple as residential, commercial, new construction or retrofit. How do you determine which projects hit the sweet spot where you're maximizing your company's profits? When your electrical contracting software includes on-board analytics, that's one tool that helps you determine whether a multi-story apartment complex or a single-family residence of 3,000-5,000 square feet is more profitable for your company. This allows you to focus on bringing in projects that meet those factors.

Next, you'll take a look at the plans. Much like traditional takeoffs, you'll be looking at blueprints, but with electrical contracting software, you can simply import the plan file into your software and begin looking them over. As with traditional plans, you can create notes for specific questions you have or assemblies that will take some care to install properly in the field. Unlike sticky notes on a paper plan, the notes layer you create won't get lost or blow off in the breeze. It's also easy to add tasks and questions to the plans and assign them to specific team members, who will have that information show up on their calendar with a deadline for their response.

What if your customer is looking for a design-build solution? High-quality electrical contracting software includes a number of design options, allowing you to create the design right on the screen at the same time as you work on the takeoff. It should have plenty of options and be able to quickly and easily insert the appropriate AIA symbols into the design, which can then be exported for the customer to review prior to beginning work, to make sure everyone is happy with the design.

Now it's time to start the takeoff. As with notes and questions, you can post tasks for other members of your team directly on the plans and assign them with deadlines to make sure everything comes together at the end of the process. Good-quality electrical contracting software will typically have your takeoff list and the plans on the same page, making it easier to transfer your count or measurements to the takeoff list without losing your place in the process. You also have the option of creating custom assemblies, so every time you add an outlet assembly, the system will include a gang box and outlet plate with the outlet, saving you time on commonly-used combinations.

What about pricing? Instead of having to look up every price online and send bid on materials requests to every supplier, a solid electrical contracting software package has that capability already available. The prices are pulled from a central database that is automatically updated by the software developer. For items that are not in the database, you can have the system automatically send out bid on materials requests to your suppliers via email.

Concerned about mistakes? It's a common worry. Not that long ago, if a price was entered incorrectly or a formula changed, it could turn your project from one that is profitable to one that costs you money. With the pricing database and the formulas protected in good electrical contracting software, you only need to include the count, which drastically reduces your chance of errors on your estimate. A very few estimating packages include the option to check your estimate against national averages, helping you catch any serious errors or omissions you may have made in the process. What's more, because many of today's software packages can work hand-in-hand with common accounting packages such as Quickbooks, you can transfer your bid into your accounting system to avoid errors and customer issues because of mistakes in your accounting department.

Once you're fairly certain that your estimate is correct and is ready to go, you have multiple options you can use to create a written estimate for your client. You can customize your quote's appearance and directly export it as a PDF to print or email to your customer, or you can export it into Microsoft Office Word or Excel to make further changes before submitting it to your customer.

But what happens after the estimate? You'll want to look for software that helps streamline your back-office and accounting tasks, and a few programs include the capability to automatically send marketing messages after the job is complete, allowing you to stay in touch with the customer and keep your company fresh in their mind for any future electrical contracting needs. This also provides you with the opportunity to deliver superior customer service through surveys, newsletters and similar content.

If you're wondering which electrical contacting software provides you with so many options without having to invest a lot up front, Esticom is the answer. Our software allows you to quickly import or design the project, perform your takeoff, determine costs, automate back-office tasks and quickly improve your company's profitability. Our cloud-based system lets you access your files from anywhere on any device, making it easy to keep up with project progress and changes whether you're across town or around the world. If you're ready to get started, our free electrical estimating software trial is ready for you right now.

Chris Lee
Chris Lee has an extensive background in preconstruction management as a former specialty contractor and business owner. As the Chief Estimator at Esticom, he’s helped thousands of specialty contractors digitize their preconstruction process to increase revenue and profitability while decreasing unnecessary overhead.

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