How to Make a Time & Materials Estimate Template

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Templates make job estimating easier and more complete while avoiding customer misunderstandings.
Templates make job estimating easier and more complete while avoiding customer misunderstandings. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

An accurate estimate for your materials and labor lessens the risk of fights over your bill and improves the likelihood you will be paid in full and on time. An estimate template standardizes your process, and helps to eliminate instances when you forget to add in an important charge. Your customers also depend on the accuracy of your estimates for their own budgeting, and when they are happy with your bill, they recommend your company to their friends.

The Basic Information Section

To make your time and materials estimation template as useful as possible, include all information that might be needed. Take a look at your old invoices to identify what standard materials you use on a job and what types of unusual materials you might encounter in your projects. All templates should include your logo and contact information. Include a prominently-placed title like "Job Estimate" at the top followed by the date the estimate was made, project due date and how many days it can be considered as an accurate estimate, particularly if you work in an industry that is commodity-dependent like construction. Next list the job name or number and a place for your customer's contact information, as well as any specific notes on the project or the customer's availability. This is the top section of your template.

Labor Costs and Time Section

Place the labor costs section either next under the basic information section or under the materials section. If you have standard types of labor that will be involved, list them all to avoid accidentally forgetting to include that work in your estimate. Next to the list of labor types, insert a column for estimated hours, a column for per-hour price and a column for total labor costs.

The Materials Section

If your business uses a limited number of standard materials, try to list them all in the materials section with several lines left for miscellaneous materials. This keeps you from forgetting a critical part when estimating materials usage and costs. Next to the name of the item leave some space for notes on specifications. On your list of all standard and miscellaneous materials, add columns to the right for number of units, unit price and total price. Try to leave an area for project notes that might be helpful to you in planning and buying for the project, and your notes on the estimate serve as a record of special customer requests.

Notes and Summary Section

The most important part of your template is the summary, which should be clear and easy for the customer to understand. Include a final total for labor, materials and any additional costs such as delivery and finance charges. Total everything and then add any applicable tax to arrive at your total estimate. Clearly mark the total estimate amount so there is no customer confusion. These totals will occupy the right half of the bottom section, so leave some blank space for more notes on the project and any negotiated terms or restrictions. Protect yourself from customer problems or lawsuits by making full notes on the stipulations for the project.

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