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Unread 06-16-2003, 09:12 PM   #1
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Advice on charging friends for work...

I keep cutting my legs off on jobs that I do for people.

I have a full time job as a cop, and about 5 solid years of experience with tile (it paid my way through college.)

Problem I have is that I started doing small jobs for the people I work with for a song. I set 40 sq. bathrooms for $50, set a 200 sq. patio for $200, did a 200 sq kitchen + 75 sq bath/shower combo for about $600. I also just finished an awesome looking slate bathroom/shower stall w/seat, tub deck (roughly 250 ft total) AND 300 sq. kitchen/hall/laundry room for $850. The guy I charged $850 looked at me like I had 3 heads when I gave him that price.

With the amount of time and effort, and very good quality I put into these things, my prices are absurdly low. Problem is, I don't want to hammer these guys, but it's gotten to a point that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and looking for me to do their work. One guy who just retired even had the balls to ask me to do a 1000 sq ft job (basement over slab) for the price I charged the other guy ($850.)

I usually have the guys buy their own tile, nail their own plywood or rock (if applicable), and buy me lunch when I'm there. In return they get prices that are 1/8th as much as the current market, but I expect them to know that and maybe add an extra $50 or $100. Chances are, these guys won't be working in my house or my cars, or anything else because I can handle most of it myself. So paybacks to me in the way of assitance would be VERY rare.

If anyone has a suggestion as to how to raise my prices without having them look at me like I'm screwing them, it'd be much appreciated. I have a 250 ft straight ceramic kitchen, a 25 foot foyer, and a 20 foot backsplash to do tomorrow. I never told the guy a price, but I was thinking of charging him about $550 for the job.
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Unread 06-16-2003, 09:29 PM   #2
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275▐ straight lay .... at the least $ 825 another $ 200 for the backsplash

i once bartered with a lawyer.... it didn't really work out. i tiled his kitchen, bath, and foyer prolly close to $ 600 job for me

he did a closing for me, normal charge is $500, trubl is, i missed dinner twice, and busted my tail on my hands and knees, sweatin, to get the thing done for him, then he did closing for me, couple of calls , couple of letters, filed a paper.... done

not really fair.

i bartered with a sheetrock taper, i tiled a fireplace with nero marblw and polished the edges, and he taped my remodeled bedroom, that worked out , each had about 6 hours into it

i guess i'd show them what the job would go for using the goin rates in your area, and make them a deal based on that instead just a nominal figure that flew around the firing range.

hats off to you for your hard work / ambition

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care

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Unread 06-16-2003, 10:20 PM   #3
David Taylor
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I just have one suggestion to help you solve your current dilemma.

Imagine what a person's expression would be if they were to think that you're 'screwing them'. Now, look at yourself in the mirror. It's the same expression, isn't it?

You're the one being screwed because you're letting yourself be screwed. When people line up to have you do their work, it's because you're doing something right, whether it's quality work or low pricing. I won't believe that people are concerned only with your low price - the quality has to be there, too.

So, my suggestion is to raise your prices to at least 75% of what the current market bears. You make more money and the people you work for still get a good bargain. I've known policemen that have become tilesetters because they made more money doing something that was less stressful. I've never heard of a reciprocal story.

Without getting into statistics, there are far more police than trained tilesetters. Supply and demand should dictate your price here, my friend.

The other way to look at it is to compare your hourly rate as an officer and be above that rate when tilesetting. Hey, it's your leisure time!
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Last edited by David Taylor; 06-16-2003 at 10:30 PM.
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Unread 06-17-2003, 04:58 AM   #4
scott anthony
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With a name like Darth Vader I'm surprised you have any friends.

Work for friends is the worst. At least for me.
When you do it for a living there are no friends.
Your only friend is the one who wants to pay a fair price for good work.
If I can't make 25 an hour bottom dollar I stay home have a beer and watch golf.
That's so relaxing. Hey a bucket of chicken wings don't hurt either. Doesn't that sound better than laying tile for 8 bucks an hour? OHHH YAAAAA.
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Unread 06-17-2003, 05:53 AM   #5
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And what about working for inlaws?

I agree 100% with what the others are saying. Friends should probably get a reduced rate, but nowhere near as low as you are charging. It sounds to me like you are giving them a rate more suitable for family members/in-laws.

I just did an in-law job on Saturday. Brother-in law (coincidently also best friend since 6th grade) came to my store & selected a peice of Tennessee Sandstone for his outside bar/serving counter. This was a beautiful thick slab, 20" x 102" x 2 1/4". I scrambled on a typical busy as hell retail Saturday to get it unburied from the other 8 stones piled on top of it. (In case anyone here is not aware of this, The best stone is ALLWAYS on the bottom of the pile!
So anyway, I sold it to him for a couple bucks over my cost.
Then I brought it into the shop & mechanically polished it using the same diamonds we use to face polish granite. It came out just beautiful.
Sunday morning I was back at the shop loading the now dry & sealed stone (all 450 lbs of it) into my pickup (by myself, with a little help of a forklift & slings).
Delivered it to his house in the afternoon, of coarse bringing along the neccesary slings, rollers, & slab dollie needed to get it from the driveway into the back yard.
With the assistance of BIL, Nephew, and 2 neighbors, we got it in place without so much as a tiny chip, & no personal injuries.

My Payment?

6 beers, about a full rack of incredibly good ribs, misc side dishes, & dessert.
AND the satisfaction of knowing that he now has a one of a kind countertop.

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Unread 06-17-2003, 06:15 AM   #6
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My suggestion is going to go just a bit further.
Consider this, Are you doing enough tilework to justify turning this into a small part time buisiness??Think of the write offs!!!
Other than that, i agree with what everyone else is saying.They are wanting you to do the job because,you have been given good referances.Good work,cheap.Now you just need to turn that into Good work and less than the going rate.
When you turn it into a small buisiness venture, it helps to justify in peoples mind an additional cost.(insurance is about 600.00 a year)write offs can be tremendous.Now all of a sudden its not just something you do on occassion, its a part time Trade and you never give away your trade.
Scenario- Friend-" i need you to do 600 s/f of floor tile for me".
You -" have you gotten a price from anybody to do this work?"
Friend-"not really".
You- " Ask the place where you bought the tile what they will charge you for installation".
You-" Because the price i give you as a friend will be discounted off that rate.
Friend-"What kind of Discount?"
You-"well let me ask you this, do you Consider 250.00 a lot of money? because that will be the least i will discount 600 feet.I may be able to give you an even more substantial savings".

This type conversation will get your friend thinking in the right direction.When the shop comes in at 2400.00 to set the Job and you tell him you will save him500.00,you just doubled the Discount he was thinking.He's happy and your a Hero getting Paid what you should.

Thus is just a guideline.Kids, please dont try this at home, a proffessional laid out this scenario and it could be dangerous to the health of amateurs
TIP YOUR TILE MAN, His Retirement plan is not nearly as lucrative as yours and his waning years will be far more painful to boot.
He gives much so you can have a Beautiful Home!!
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Unread 06-17-2003, 06:43 AM   #7
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I do woodworking for a hobby. I've had folks suggest to me that I should sell my work. I always tell them that as soon as I get paid for something it becomes work, not a hobby. I usually turn down people with that answer, before they even ask. I will, on occasion, do a piece for friends as a gift, or at cost.
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Unread 06-17-2003, 07:58 AM   #8
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Thanks guys. I think Todd has the most solid example of the proper way to deal with pricing for friends, so I'll start there.

As for starting my own business, I only do 1-2 jobs a month (which is all I really have time for anyway), own my own tools, and do little work outside of those people that I know. You always get compliments from the guys- That looks awesome, You did a great job, etc- but nothing makes you feel better than to have a contractor ask you to do work for him because he liked your work. Wish I had the extra time/consistency that a contractor needs, but my other job comes first.

When starting your own small business, what exactly do you need? I live in NJ so I don't know if the rules here are different. The idea of sweet write-offs is always nice, and will add to the already insane write-offs I get from my normal job. Though adding car parts and gas mileage to the mix would be great.

I'd assume at the very least I need insurance, which was already said to be around $600. What's it called? What's it cover?

I'd need an actual invoice book as well, and a good accountant. Other than those things, do I have to register with the state or something? And what about actually doing work- do you need to buy permits, etc.? This would be a first business venture for me, so I don't even know where to get started.
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Unread 06-17-2003, 11:30 AM   #9
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Darth , Tile guy Todd's solution is surely in the best interest of yourself and your potential customer. An easy way of finding the appropriate steps to "open shop" might be to call some other tile contractors in NJ. Go outside of your local market so they are not threatened by new competition. If you ask nice, I'm sure they would be willing to spend a couple minutes with you to get you on your merry way.

bctile601, get real, if you think you got a bum deal b/c the lawyer's side of the bargain seemed easier, go to the book store and pick up a book on Law. Read it, master it, then read another thirty of them. Sometimes the "finished" product doesn't reflect the 'behind the scenes' prep work need to produce a product/service.
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Unread 06-17-2003, 04:03 PM   #10
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I have a slightly different view on this. Friends are friends but business is business. Immediate family gets the cut rate as far as Im concerned. If you dont do it like that it will undoubtedly steam roll like it has.
Jeff Leun

Scenic City Stone Works Inc
"Finishing What Nature Started"
6026 Dayton blvd B
Chattanooga Tn 37415
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Unread 06-17-2003, 05:42 PM   #11
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That's a great idea, Todd - I was just trying to establish the fact that Darth was pricing his work far too low.

I started to work in NJ late in 2001, along with Cape Cod. The two states are relatively similar in what you'll need to keep the bureaucrats happy and to cover your butt.

You'll need Contractor Liability insurance, which for me is $468 a year (under $2M invoicing) and Workman's Compensation ($422).

Even though you never can claim WCB as a sole proprietor, you still need it.

Most find it fruitful to go the route of "doing business as". For example, "Joe Wisecracker dba Joe's House of Tile". Your bank account will show this name and that's what you should get your insurance under.

As far as taxes, etc. - keep everything separate. Get a debit or credit card and only use it for your business. Your accountant, if you decide you want one, will thank you. There are a lot of good programs out there to help you bookkeep (Quicken, etc) in the meantime.

Get deposits in advance. To do this legally, you have to be bonded - and the most you can take a deposit for is 50%. Retail stores can take 100%.

Why take deposits? If there is a discrepancy with the customer about the final cost, you can always pull the trump card and say, "Well, you paid half up front. Now I expect the other half."

This is where good recordkeeping (not just money, but phone calls too) AND correspondence comes in. Eventually, you'll have the privilege of going to court with one of your customers, even if you do the best work in town. Some customers just won't pay.

If you appear organized and have your documents in a time line, you'll win most times. But what am I saying? You're a police officer - you already know this!

Good luck.
The best result of a quality installation is a good night's sleep.

www.tile-experts.com -- Get Schluter products, like DITRA and KERDI, plus live help!
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Unread 06-17-2003, 06:05 PM   #12
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We started off our business taking care of a couple of friends tile work and laminate floor. Gave one friend a really cheap price on tile and the other a cheap price for the laminate. Both have asked us back to do work at the going rate, because they know it's a business and were pleased with the work. Also both have given references for us to others and finally we're picking up some work. See "Professionals Hangout" 3 day weekend? with pictures post. That was one of the references and we just got another reference from that job.

Some people don't understand that tile work is hard work and hard on your body. I'm done doing cheap work. Folks will have to pay what it costs, unless momma needs some new shoes.
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