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How Painting Contractors Unknowingly Undercut Their Profits

As a painting contractor, you may never plan to become a low baller - the one who always undercuts the competition to offer the lowest prices. But you may still find yourself in that position, struggling to make money, and wondering why. In this article, we'll explore the two main reasons why you may be an accidental low baller and how to avoid this trap. By understanding the underlying issues and taking action to correct them, you can ensure your business remains profitable and competitive.

No Estimating Process

The first indicator that you're an accidental low baller is the lack of an estimating process. Without a proper process in place, you may miss crucial aspects of a project that you end up paying for out-of-pocket, without charging your clients. This double whammy can hurt your business and put you at a disadvantage in the market.

A proper estimating process allows you to remain consistent with your pricing and identify areas where you need to improve. By accounting for all factors, including drive time, staging, parking fees, and other hidden costs, you can avoid becoming an accidental low baller. To help with this, consider using a spreadsheet or other estimating tool to ensure you don't miss any critical expenses.

Lack of Job Costing

The second reason you may be an accidental low baller is not conducting regular job costing for your projects. Job costing is the "scoreboard" of your business – it reveals the truth about how well you're doing and whether you're actually making a profit. Many contractors make the mistake of waiting until the end of the year to determine their profitability, often finding that they made money on paper, but have no cash in the bank.

By job costing each project, you can quickly identify areas where you need to improve and adjust your estimates accordingly. To do this, tally up your actual expenses, including labor, materials, and other costs, and compare them to your initial estimate. This will help you determine your gross profit and whether you need to make adjustments to your pricing or processes.


Being an accidental low baller can harm your painting business and lead to lower profits. To avoid this, take the time to establish a clear, repeatable estimating process that accounts for all costs associated with a project. Additionally, make sure to regularly job cost your projects to identify areas where you need to improve and adjust your pricing accordingly.

By implementing these strategies, you can protect your business from falling into the low baller trap, ensuring you remain profitable, competitive, and successful in the painting industry.

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