The basis of this post is to provide a new job checklist for contractors that can be downloaded for use in our PDF section. Below we will discuss the general guidelines to follow when starting a new client-based project.

When you start a new job, there are many things you’ll want to make your client aware of. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the more you tell your client, the more faith they will have in you and your work.

Unfortunately, homeowners are very untrusting when it comes to hiring trades. This is due to the scamming and shoddy work put out by people in our industry who do a quick fix to earn a buck or the ones who jump into a trade with no experience, let’s be real, it happens more often than not. But it gives those passionate, meticulous, hard-working professionals a bad rap. By placing trust in our clients, we can correct that poor image.

You always want to assure your client that the job will get done and get done right. But assurances are just words; you need to be reliable, professional, confident in your skill and have up to date knowledge in your trade. Make sure you know what you are doing before you take someone’s money.

Below we are going to summarize general practices that contractors should take when starting a new project. Note that this list isn’t trade-specific, each trade will have their own protocol list, ours just summarizes client interactions and overall professionalism.

Initial Client Meeting
Things To Consider
  • Before you start any job, meet with the client, in person, to look at the project and adequately asses the situation.
  • Never give a verbal estimate. Let the client know that you will be getting back to them with a written quote within your specified timeline (usually 12-24 hours).
  • Get all the details — This means asking the client what their plans are for the space, if they have material preferences, if they require a specific install method, when they would like the job to start/when it needs to be completed by, etc…
  • Discuss your pay. Let your client know if you bill hourly or by the job, and how your payment breakdown will go.
  • Make sure you advise your client that specific requests may require a higher install price – E.G. If you are a tile setter and the tile is to be laid in a herringbone pattern it may cost more than installing the flooring vertically or horizontally. Additional time means additional labour.
  • Discuss everything that needs to be completed and write it out. Keeping records of everything is vital. 
  • Take measurements if required. Before you prepare a quote, you should know the size of the space and how much material you will need for the job (if you are supplying the material). 
  • Take pictures of the job site so you can reference them when preparing a quote.
Preparing A Quote
  • Go over all the details discussed with your client. Know exactly what work is getting done, the measurements, if you will be purchasing material, the estimated time it will take to complete the job, if you will be hiring help, etc…
  • Prepare an invoice for your client. This can be done manually if you are proficient with word document programs, or you can use QuickBooks, FreshBooks, etc… and do it all electronically. The invoice can be emailed to your client through these programs.
  • Issue the invoice to your client and request they sign off on it before you take any further steps, especially before you purchase material.
Pre-Planning Payment

Many contractors have different preferences for taking payment. For us at Trades Buy Sell, we pride ourselves on our work and our client interactions. So we ask for all materials to be paid for upfront. This ensures that should the client suddenly stop work; we are covered for the out of pocket material expense. If the client supplies the material, we generally ask that they pay us 25-50% at the end of our first day of work, and the remaining balance upon completion. We determine the percentage asked for upfront based on the length of time it will take to complete the job. Work it out to your preference, but we suggest adding it into the notes section of your invoice and having the client sign off on it.

Never leave payment planning to the late minute.

During The Job
  • Take pictures! Take them before you start, during the job, and of the finished product. This is ideal for two reasons: to showcase your amazing work and to cover your butt should anything go wrong. Just as there are questionable tradespeople, the same can be said for homeowners. Regardless, It’s a great comfort knowing you have a time stamped reference to fall back on.
  • Always keep the client up to speed. Let them know how the job is going and walk them through the progress.
  • Make sure the client is aware of the remaining balance they will pay upon completion. Also, let them know when nearing completion so they can have payment ready for you.
  • Generally, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, especially in trades. So, if something isn’t going as planned and you run into an unforeseen issue, let the client know immediately and make sure you advise them if the set back will end up costing more. Never leave this for last minute or as a surprise on your final invoice.
  • Keep your job site clean, especially if it’s a clients home. Cover surfaces you aren’t working with and always clean as you go.

** Pro Tip ** If you leave your tools at a site overnight, always take a picture of how you left them, make sure the area is locked up at night, and know who will have in/out privileges. We can’t tell you how many times other trades have walked away with our tools.

Once The Job Is Complete
  • Take pictures of your completed project!
  • Show the client everything that was done, answer any questions they may have, and explain anything that needs to be explained. You can never say too much. 
  • If there are any leftover materials, the owner paid for them, so make sure you let them know what’s extra. If they don’t have use for them, direct them to our site and they can put them up for sale. 😉
  • Settle the remaining payment with your client. 
  • Submit your completed invoice/receipt to the client if using an online accounting program.
  • Share your impressive work with your family, friends, social media, and us. We are happy to promote hard, ethical workers on our ‘Contractor Spotlight’ page.
  • Job done!

Hopefully this checklist will assist you with any project you may have. We know that it’s pretty straight forward and something contractors should already know, but unfortunately, a lot of workers aren’t always this thorough. And we’ve heard this directly from our past clients.

With any job, the goal should be to put out quality work and a positive working relationship with your coworkers (should you have any) and most importantly, your client. After all, word of mouth is everything in trades, and a bad review can lead to a lack of income.

If you would like to download a summarized PDF checklist for future jobs, visit our ‘PDF Documents’ page to download it at no cost. Simply subscribe to our mailing list to receive a login password.