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18 August 2022

5 ways to improve your estimating skills

Business Advice | 4 minute read
Toby Mortaro

Author: Toby Mortaro

Toby is a keen gamer and loves relaxing with a book, watching some anime or going for a run. He started writing video game reviews and articles as a hobby and soon realized it was something he had to pursue. Toby’s simPRO journey began in support building internal relationships as well as those with our customers. After a couple of years and fancying a creative challenge, he jumped ship to the marketing team.

Every captain needs a crew to help steer their ship and avoid treacherous waters. For the trade and construction industry, an integral part of the crew is the estimator. Estimators help businesses by providing an accurate depiction of the costs and the time it will take to complete jobs and projects. However, even though estimating is a critical function, it can often be incorporated into other roles in smaller businesses. This means all staff need to know how to estimate accurately. After all, pricing is one key area of the business that’ll help you grow. So what exactly does it mean to have good estimating skills?

What are Estimating Skills?

A magnifying glass looking over various graph linesEstimating is all about data, planning and thinking ahead. You need to have a critical eye for detail and be able to prepare cost estimates. There are even certain skills that if you possess, should give you a helping hand with your estimating. These skills include:

  • Being organised. Being detail-oriented and taking an organised approach toward work makes a world of difference when estimating. It can even mean the difference between profit or a loss on a job. If you’ve planned ahead and know what to expect, to some degree, you can account for all the financial details ahead of time.
  • Possessing architectural knowledge. Having in-depth knowledge of construction and architecture is beneficial as well as understanding engineering drawings, materials and floor plans. Large trade jobs have a lot of moving parts, so understanding these basic areas will give you a head start on planning and tackling the work.
  • Having ethics. No one wants to work with a business that isn't ethical. Ensuring that sub-contractors are paid the correct rate and the estimate is reflective of the job requirements is key. Estimating considers cost of time, equipment, inventory, labour and many other things.
  • Enjoying research. Taking time to conduct industry research into different areas of estimating, success rates of others and looking how to achieve better results for your business. This will help you gain an understanding of where the industry may be headed and give you a foot up against any competition!

Estimating Best Practices

Ensuring that your business is estimating correctly is not always an easy task. Getting it wrong can drastically impact your profits. The following five tips will help improve your team’s estimating skills and, in turn, support business success.

1. Look to the past

Do you have past project and job data you can refer to? If not, help your future self. Track your current projects and take the guesswork out of estimating. It’s easy to say, “oh, this task will only take three hours,” without thinking a little deeper. But in the long run this doesn’t help your estimating process as it’s not necessarily as accurate as it could be. Take the time to record your projects and make a database of specific, regular tasks that you can refer to in the future.

2. Contingencies are a must

Red and white target with various arrows directed towards the centre and throughYou’ve planned a camping trip for the weekend, you’ve packed all of your belongings but you’ve forgotten one vital piece of equipment; a tent! What do you do? It’s scenarios such as this one that you need to prepare for within your business–always expect the unexpected. Think ahead, anticipate risks to the project and ensure that you can meet any challenges that arise by outlining contingencies that safeguard against unforeseen circumstances.

3. Use detailed descriptions

Ensure that every project is broken down into as much detail as possible. This will organise tasks and improve estimating overall. Consider things such as delivery, time frame for the completion of a project, who’s responsible for leading a project and any relevant resource and materials required. Providing this detail will ensure the accuracy of the estimate and the success of the project.

4. Check everything

A check list with tick boxes on the left hand side, three of the boxes have a tick and one has a red crossThink your estimate includes all deliverables and tasks? Check again. It’s easy to forget activities such as client feedback and changes, which can take up valuable time. Everything that should be included within the project must be visible. The last thing you need is an awkward scenario with a customer because a specific project hasn’t been updated. It makes your business look unprofessional and could put a spanner in the works for any future projects.

5. Look to new technologies

With the right job management software, you can take complete control of the entire estimating process. See labour types, rates and supplier catalogues in one system while quickly generating an estimate based on true material costs. Being able to collate all of the information in one piece of software will speed up the estimating process so you can get to work faster.


If you’re looking to prepare cost estimates for construction projects or trade jobs, follow these five tips to give you an accurate understanding of the whole picture. When a job or project is priced correctly, it can deliver instant improvements to your bottom line – but getting it wrong can be a very expensive mistake.

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