Eliminate “Estimate” and “Bid” from Your Vocabulary

I really do not like the word “estimate”, or even worse bid. Estimate implies inexactness. It may be higher, it may be lower. A project consultation, energy audit or design analysis implies much more detail and precision. Bid implies that you are competing for the project.

Instead of offering a “free estimate” offer an in-home consultation. Explain that this is much more than a bid or free estimate. They receive a detailed evaluation of their project that includes:

    • Detailed discussion of project goals and ideas. What are the three most important concerns or objectives for this project?
    • Evaluation of home. Is site suitable for the proposed project? Evaluate feasibility, design considerations.
    • Exact material lists and job proposal. (optional: plans or designs)
    • Offer exact written quote for project, including scheduling, materials, products, etc.

If you are an HVAC contractor, or sell replacement windows, offer a “Energy Audit”, instead of a “Free Estimate”. You can show the homeowner all the energy wasting areas in their home, including the uninsulated window openings, door cracks, etc. Many of these areas are small, simple and inexpensive to fix.

You can roll your job into a whole home insulating theme for close to the same cost. Here are some things that you can include into your consultation, thus eliminating the word “estimate.”

    • Look at air conditioning unit and furnace. How old are they? Efficient? How often do they change their air filter? What type do they use?
    • Look at bathrooms. How long do they typically shower? Standard showerhead uses 6 gallons of water per minute (60 gallons for a 10 minute shower). Low flow showerhead uses 2 gallons of water per minute. A 10-minute shower with a standard showerhead costs about 68 cents. With a low flow showerhead your 10-minute shower costs only 23 cents, a savings of 45 cents per shower. Multiply that savings by 1460 showers (a years worth of daily showers for a family of four) and you may save as much as $657 a year.

There are hundreds of ways to create your own consultation and project evaluation. All I ask, is stop using the term “estimates” or “bids”….. This way the homeowner can go out and get “three estimates”, but they will only get one consultation from you….


Aaron O’Hanlon is the CEO and Co-Founder of Footbridge Media, a digital marketing agency, specializing in the contracting industry. It is his mission to create awareness of marketing online to the home improvement industry and to educate, inform and assist contractors in taking over their own online presence.

  • Joe

    Aaron, working on idea that I would like your opinion. Setting up web site where owner measures his own windows, takes pictures and we give estimate online. If within budget send team out to confirm measurements, styles etc. and take deposit.

    Worked with a couple of window companies that wanted to to stay as long as possible and don’t tell me you didn’t walk away with an order. I hated that and I think the homeowner hated it even more…

    Now they can get estimate without home visit and presentation. Your thoughts.? Thanks,