top of page

How to Salvage Underbid Painting Jobs

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Being a painting contractor is a fulfilling, yet challenging career. There are times when we get a painting job, sell it, and then realize that we may have underbid the job. What do you do when you find yourself in such a situation? This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to salvage underbid painting jobs without compromising your relationship with the client or the quality of your work.

Underbidding: A Common Mistake

Underbidding is a common mistake painting contractors make, and it can pose serious challenges. It typically happens when you underestimate the costs associated with a project and offer a price lower than what it should have been. This can be a huge setback for contractors and can significantly impact profitability.

What Not To Do When You Underbid

When you realize you've underbid a job, it's important to avoid certain actions that could potentially damage your professional reputation and relationship with your client.

Firstly, resist the temptation to approach the client and ask for more money. This can come off as unprofessional since it's your responsibility to accurately estimate the costs. Backtracking on a given price not only demonstrates poor planning but also impacts your credibility as a contractor.

Secondly, avoid expressing frustration or complaining about the situation. This negativity can seep into the project and affect the work atmosphere, causing further problems. Instead, use this situation as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Lastly, never compromise the quality of your work to offset the loss. Taking shortcuts in a bid to save money or time is not a sustainable solution and can harm your reputation in the long run.

How to Navigate an Underbid Situation

Now that we've discussed what not to do when you've underbid a job, let's explore the strategies you can employ to salvage the situation.

1. Pre-planning the Job: To mitigate losses from an underbid job, pre-planning is key. Create a daily plan outlining the tasks that need to be completed each day. Allocate resources efficiently, ensuring that materials are sourced and delivered in a timely manner. This will help to avoid last-minute trips to the store, saving time and money.

2. Communicate with Your Team: Transparency with your team is crucial in this situation. Discuss the problem openly, owning up to the mistake. Your team may even come up with ideas to reduce costs or improve efficiencies that you hadn't thought of. Maintaining a positive attitude and working together towards a common goal can turn a challenging situation around.

3. Implement Parkinson's Law: Parkinson's law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Therefore, assign specific time frames to each task. This will help keep the project on track and may even allow you to complete the work ahead of schedule.

4. Upselling: Upselling can be an effective way to offset the losses of an underbid project. Look for additional services you could offer to the client that weren't initially included in the scope of the project. However, this needs to be done in a respectful manner, keeping the client's needs at the forefront.

Maintaining a Positive Perspective

Realizing that you've underbid a job can be a harsh blow, but it doesn't have to spell disaster. With the right attitude and approach, it can become a valuable learning opportunity and even a chance to showcase your professionalism and dedication.

Every painting job, underbid or not, is an opportunity to provide an outstanding experience for the client. The amount of money lost on an underbid job can be viewed as a marketing expense. You're effectively investing in the future of your business by solidifying your reputation for quality work and customer service.

Why Proper Bidding Matters

The importance of accurate bidding cannot be overstated. This is a crucial aspect of your business operations and profitability. Bidding your work at a 50% gross profit or better allows some room for error and ensures that you are still in a profitable position even if you have underbid a project.

One key to successful bidding is consistently job costing your completed projects. This enables you to gain an understanding of your actual costs and helps you in providing more accurate bids in the future.


Underbidding is a common error in the painting industry, but it's one that you can overcome. By implementing proper pre-planning, maintaining open communication with your team, utilizing Parkinson's law, and considering upselling, you can help to salvage an underbid job. Remember, every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. Keep refining your bidding process and strive for accuracy to avoid falling into the underbidding trap again.

3,739 views0 comments


Recent posts
bottom of page