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A Guide to Quoting and Winning a Job

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 26th September 2013

Quoting for work is an integral part of your job as an electrician, however it is an area which is often overlooked.  Providing a quotation is so much more than giving your customer a price and it's the small details that count, and that makes the difference between you winning the job or your competitor.

Getting the basics right

First impressions count.  Create the wrong impression at this point and your customer could lose confidence in you.  Remember these basic 'impression making' points.

If you have told the customer you will ring them at a set time, don't let them down.  Lack of returned calls to discuss quotations can lose you the work.

Turn up as arranged to look at the work.  Although your customer won't mind seeing you in your work clothes, you should always look act professional.

Take an interest in what your customer wants doing.  Maybe there is a better way of doing things or you could suggest extras to improve your customers comfort.  Customers tend to like someone who can offer ideas, particularly if they will save money or add value.

Always leave the job to think about your quotation – never quote a job on the spot, even if you feel under pressure by your customer.  Your quote should be written and clearly presented with the job details, and supplied by either post or email.  Remember impressions count, a headed quotation with your company logo looks far more professional.

Be realistic in when you can start the job.  If you cannot fit your customer in for a while, don't be afraid to say so.  Having to let your customer down will be a far greater inconvenience to them than having to wait for a few weeks.

Advice from the professionals

Having mastered the basics, what else can you do to give yourself the edge?

According to more experienced electricians, being clear is what counts.  Customer relations can break down simply by not being clear enough about what the job entails.  Remember your customer probably has no electrical knowledge, so baffling them with techno-babble is only going to confuse them!

Problems can also arise through mis-conception; so although we recommend being business like, it is equally as important to understand your customer.  Treat their home with respect and remember an older person might be more wary of you than a younger person.  Adapt your tone of voice and body language to that of your customer.

Many electricians know the importance of detailed job quotations. If you fully itemise your quotation stating what you will install, what materials will be used and from which manufacturer you will find that you will win more jobs from clients who don’t simply go for the cheapest quote.

Final Word

Price is quite clearly an important factor when winning any job, however you should be sure that you price the job realistically. If you have thought the quote through properly then the job should come in on budget which will ensure you have a happy customer. Most customers won’t simply go for the cheapest job these days. Trust is probably the most important factor for someone looking to employ a sparky. If you show that you know what you are doing by providing a clear and full quote chances are you will win the jobs you want to work on and leave the jobs where the margins are tight and the work less appealing to those who he take a quick glance at the job and pluck a number out of thin air.

 

Trade Skills 4U Launches Job Alerts

Posted by Joe Bennett on 24th September 2013

Trade Skills 4U Jobs

As Britain’s number one training company it won’t come as any surprise that we are regularly asked for skilled electricians for site work.

Recruitment services for employers can be very expensive and difficult to find the correct type of tradesmen required for the job. Although in the past we have not dealt directly with placement and recruitment we have and always will try to help our customers as much as possible after leaving us.

 

Therefore we will be posting any jobs that come our way on all our social media (Facebook)(Twitter) as soon as we receive them, to give you a real advantage to getting work and contracts.

All you need to do is like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter and you will receive all job alerts as and when they come through.

 

Categories: jobs-alert

Right you are qualified, what do you do next?

Posted by Joe Bennett on 16th September 2013

Gaining your electrical qualifications is an exciting time, but the shine can be taken off if you have no idea what you should be doing once qualified.

We have spoken to the more experienced guys who have given us some essential steps to take once qualified – these steps will not only give you experience in the trade but will also help to spread the word about your services.

• Things to think about before you finish your qualifications

There are many different routes into the industry whether it is domestic or commercial but the same logic always applies.

Many of our students will leave us to set up independently as sole traders, the difference between success and failure is your ability to think and act like a businessman and not an electrician.

You must realise that there are electricians out there that could be earning much higher salaries for much less stress if only they had a better business brain.

At the end of the day it is about exposure of your skills that will guarantee you regular work, if nobody sees or hears about you they will not be able to use you.

Just like any business you need to learn how to market yourself correctly. Here is a list of things we recommend you consider putting into place before finishing your qualifications:

Website- 90% of customers search for services on the web and having a professional website is a must!

Paid Search-use of even a limited budget can help you to rank above others on search engines.

Checkatrade.com - Consider using companies such as this to help you promote a healthy professional image.

Setting up your company?(Bank, Insurance, Company Name) –There can be a few teething problems when setting everything up, you as many well sort these out while you are studying instead of not being able to take on work because you are too tied up getting all this into place.

Business cards- Affordable and professional business cards are very important as people to tend to store them just in case the lights do go out one day. Vistaprint.co.uk is a good company to use.

Social Media- You cannot underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Facebook and Twitter, for example, they are great for marketing and networking and best of all they are free.

 Getting Experience

Without any experience, obtaining a paid position can be more difficult.  A select few of the students who have undertaken training with Trade Skills 4 U find that offering their skills freely to begin with has given them some onsite experience which has helped with networking and has led to employment. Another idea would be to start sourcing your own work and if you come across a job you do not feel confident enough to complete then call an experienced electrician and offer him a percentage of the job fee. The advantages to this are that you are still getting paid and also learning from a skilled electrician and the customer will use you again as they are using your company.

You may well find yourself with the offer of paid employment following a period of gaining experience. Many electricians find they need a helping hand on larger projects and paid temporary work is a good way of working towards a more permanent position.

• Do work for friends and family

If you have decided to set up your own business after gaining qualifications, you will be taking one of the most common routes our students take.  It can take a while to get your name 'out there' initially and it is always a good idea to have a portfolio of example work that you are able to show to your potential clients.

The best way of obtaining your initial work is to carry out work for family and friends – after all, these are the very people who want you to succeed in your new career more than anyone else.

• Get some tools

This is essential if you plan to run your own business and is a great advantage if you are looking for paid employment.  Having your own tools also gives you the added advantage of being familiar with their use.  Furthermore, you can ensure you are kitted out with the essentials.  Our recent post – definitive tools of the trade listed must have tools as recommended by electricians.  Having your own tools means you are serious about your work and its one less expense an employer has when they take you on and gives them another good reason why they should be employing you.

A word of warning, if you are going to work on site, you may want to invest in a lock for your tool box.  Tool theft is not uncommon on site so ensure you keep your tools as safe as possible.

Offer to work for other sparkies to get more experience

Sitting at home doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.  We cannot recommend highly enough the training and experience that counts.  This is why we have covered this again in our article.  Although working for free may seem a little unrewarding to begin with, you will get to where you want to be much quicker.

Impress an electrician enough by offering your services for free may well land you with a paid position far quicker.  Established electricians have good industry contacts and if you are willing to work hard and learn the trade, they will often know someone who is looking for a good electrician.

Conclusion

So there we have it, our top tips for success after qualification.

Remember gaining your qualifications is just the start of an exciting career as an electrician.  Your career will be filled with non-stop but highly rewarding learning.  No electrician out there will claim to know it all, but electricians that work hard (and play hard!) will reap the benefits.

Students looking to become self-employed may find it beneficial to go on some short business courses and carry out research about their local area and figure out the best marketing strategies for their clientele.

Remember you are a businessman first and an electrician second.

 

Categories: what now?

What Happens If a Customer Doesn't Pay!

Posted by Joe Bennett on 11th September 2013

 

Practically every person who is self-employed will at some point in their career come across a person or company who doesn't pay their bill.  Generally non-payers fall into one of the following categories:

• Will pay eventually (but it makes no difference to them whether they pay you now or next month)

• Have no intention of paying and will give you the run around

How to give yourself the best chance of being paid

Agreeing payment terms as a small business can be tricky.  On the one hand you will want to please your client rather than run the risk of losing them. Setting up a system to encourage your clients to pay on your terms can save weeks of waiting and constant worry.

Draw up a business agreement

The key piece of advice is to be business like with every client no matter how nice they seem to be or how much you need the work. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have an agreement in writing over how payment is going to be made before the work begins. If you find that a client refuses to sign any kind of agreement with you beforehand then this is a first warning sign that they may not have good intentions of paying for your work.

Your business agreement should list the customers’ requirements and ask the customer to confirm by indicating yes or no that these requirements have been met.  Ensure before work commences that the customer is clear what you will be doing by showing them these requirements and asking them to sign to confirm that this is what they'd like you to do.

It is always wise to invoice timely and accurately for your work so your customers know you take being paid seriously.

The step by step guide to obtaining payment

Here at Trade Skills 4 U we decided to do some digging to find out what the rules are with regard to late payments and what you can and cannot do when it comes to chasing money owed to you.

There is good news for making your plea for payment heard however. On March 16th 2013, the UK became one of the first EU countries to implement late payment legislation. It aims to make pursuing payment a simpler process right across the EU reducing the existing culture of paying late and making payment on time the norm.

All these methods are contained in the late payment legislation so you can be sure you are acting in a business-like manner using the most up to date methods available.

• Make sure you know when your payment is officially late

The law says that payment is late after 30 days for public authorities or 60 days for business transactions.

The days are counted from

- When the customer gets the invoice

OR

- You have completed the works agreed

In order to reduce the waiting time, it is better to agree a payment date on your agreement as discussed earlier in this post, as this will determine when your payment is late.

• Adding interest

If you have waited a reasonable time you may decide to claim interest. You must ensure you charge the correct rate. Currently this is 8% plus the Bank of England base rate for business to business transactions.  This is known as statutory interest.

When you have calculated statutory interest due on the amount you are owed, send your customer an updated invoice to reflect the new amount they now owe you.

Debt Recovery

This is a good way of claiming additional costs occurred by chasing the debt such as telephone call charges, postage costs and your own time etc.  The amount you are able to charge depends on how much your customer owes and is set by the payment legislation.

- Up to £999.99 – Fee of £40

- £1,000 - £9,999.99 – Fee of £70

- Over £10,000 – Fee of £100

• Small Claims Court

This is a last resort after trying the above methods.  You will have to pay a fee to bring your case to court and you may lose this fee and lose your case, however for claims below £10,000 this is the most cost effective option for taking legal action.  You may be able to claim court costs back if you win the case, however the judge will need to see proof of the efforts you have made to recover the money owed to you prior to court action.

- Your client must respond to your claim within 14 days of receiving it.

- If they do not respond then the court will order them to pay.

- If they pay or offer you an amount you are happy with, you need to inform the court that you are withdrawing your claim.

- The first step after winning the case is to find out how much your client can afford to pay.

The court will offer additional court orders for this such as:

- Sending bailiffs to collect payment

- Getting money deducted from wages

- Freezing assets or money in accounts

- Charging the persons land or property.

Conclusion

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice.  It is a simple guideline to ensure you are aware of the correct processes to follow to give you the best chance of being paid by a difficult client.  If you are in any doubt about any aspect of chasing money, you should seek advice from either the CAB or a solicitor.

Remember most customers are perfectly fine and pay on time every time.  The few which do not often pay when the threat of further action and charges loom.  This article exists to demonstrate a clear pathway which can be used to ensure even the worst clients have to pay eventually.

 

Categories: no pay, late payment, debt recovery, charging interest

Definitive Electrician Tools Of The Trade

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 5th September 2013

Tools are expensive so you need to be sure that the tools you buy are going to be useful and a sound investment.

Practically every advert out there does a great job of persuading us that the latest tool is a must have, however it is important that your electricians toolbox contains a great mix of all round tools without spending money on tools that seemed a good idea at the time but don't really get used.

We asked a selection of experienced electricians what their 'must have' tool is, and created a definitive list of tools that no electrician should be without.  We class ourselves as listaholics at Trade Skills 4 U, so what better way of bringing you the definitive tools of the trade than in the form of a list! (well, it suits us down to the ground anyhow!)

The 'Top 10' Definitive Tools of the Trade

1. A GS38 Compliant Tester

A tester is a tool kit essential.  Well known tester brands include Megger, Univolt and Metrel.  It is important that any tester you purchase is GS38 compliant. Megger come highly recommended by us here at Trade Skills 4 U as well as being a well known brand within the electrical industry.  Another important reason to have a tester here at the number one slot is that you should not touch anything electrical that your tester has not touched beforehand!

2. Screwdrivers

There is not much you can do without them.  However, having the right sized screwdrivers that are of a decent quality so that they last; as well as being capable of performing to a high standard and therefore enabling you to do the job well is an important consideration also.

 

3. A Big Hammer

A good all round tool to help with a whole multitude of tasks from chasing walls and socket boxes.  Also use it to knock in wall plugs when you have drilled the walls.  As an electrician you would not use the hammer on it's own, however it is a must have tool to use alongside other tools.

 

 

4. Snake light with mirror

Slightly more obscure is the use of a snake light with a mirror which is great if you are struggling to find a route for your cables and is especially useful in homes that have been extended and have different floor levels.  It is also useful for looking inside walls and tight spaces.

 

5. Correctly sized set of spanners

A set of spanners is much better to have in your toolbox than an adjustable spanner described by one electrician as 'a pain in the neck!'

 

 

6. Knipex Snips

Knipex snips are a brand of side cutters used to cut cable.  Knipex are the 'must have' brand if you are looking for quality and reliability.

 

 

7. Head torch

A head torch is definitely useful if you are working in dark areas as it keeps your hands free for using.....more definitive tools of the trade! :)

 

 

8. Toolbox

Don't forget you'll need a toolbox to keep all you tools in! Don't just opt for one though.  For second fixes, a light tool box – enough to carry sleeving and a few hand tools will do just fine.  Some electricians opt for a tool belt for carrying out second fix work.  For first fix work, you will need (probably more than 1) heavy duty toolbox which will be suitable to carry around your power tools.

9. Hole Saw Set

Hole saw sets are used to cut holes for conduit boxes.  Hole saws are a really useful essential for conduit and armoured glanding.  The common sizes for domestic electricians are the 20mm and 25mm hole saws.

 

10. Grey matter aka Brain!

We simply had to include this last one because of it's amusement factor – well it certainly tickled us here at Trade Skills 4 U!  One electrician we spoke to stated that the most useful tool is “the tool that holds the grey matter.  I think they call it the skull......” Putting the pun aside, the most useful tool of all is yourself – your own knowledge and selection of tools you use for the job is what counts most of all.

 

 

No doubt electricians will have come across electricians who use old screwdrivers as chisels, old bent chisels to chase walls etc.  We would always recommend using the right tool for the job and apply the correct working methods.  This will ensure your job is done well and in a professional manner.  There are those who adopt poor working practices thinking that it does no harm but actually it is not good workmanship nor good quality.  As one electrician states “don't use rubbish tools or rubbish working methods, it will always be a mistake”

Always use the right tool for the right job.

 

Categories: tools