7 Habits of an Effective Electrical Estimator

7 Habits of an Effective Electrical Estimator


Growing your successful electrical contracting business means you need to win jobs consistently.   

While there’s no single way to guarantee you’ll win all the electrical jobs you bid, you can improve your electrical estimating process by practicing the following seven habits of effective estimators. And better process will improve your percentage of jobs won as well. 


1. Visualize the job. Begin your electrical estimate with a review of the drawings and an assessment of the work to be done.  


Develop a Macro view. Visualize the entire room, including the elements and fixtures in the ceiling and behind the walls, how it’s wired, where the lighting will be. Once you’ve taken the Macro view into account, think about the Micro view, including switches, components, and other parts that will be installed. 

Here are 4 ways to expand your ability to visualize the job before you bid:

  1. Have a look at the product catalogues from your favourite manufacturers of electrical components. 
  2. Search images of electrical components on the internet. 
  3. Use an electrical manufacturing catalogue to search illustrations of components.  
  4. View illustrated labor manuals like NECA, which shows labor units and illustrations.  


2. Highlight every electrical element in the job as you work through your bid. 


Reduce your risk of missing an important element in your estimate, such as a floor, a circuit, or any other key piece of the job. You can avoid costly mistakes by highlighting within the drawing. If it’s not highlighted, you didn’t count it. It’s that simple.  


3. Be Strategic. Analyze and adapt to bring the best estimator to the bid.


How should you identify a good electrical estimator?  

It may seem counterintuitive, but your best electrician is not necessarily your best estimator. And your estimator doesn’t need to be an electrician, although they do need to be able to visualize the details in the drawings. (See Habit number 1 above).  

  • Your estimator should be detail oriented, though not so detailed that they can’t work quickly. 
  • Use an electrical estimator who pays attention to details so that key plan elements aren’t left out of your bid.  


4. Clearly define your bidding criteria. Do your homework so you can bid on jobs you are more likely to win.  


Here are a few guidelines to follow to ensure that you bid on jobs that make sense for your company and that justify the effort:  

  • Make sure you know how many contractors are competing for the contract. It’s not a good idea to bid on jobs with more than five competitors, although you might make an exception to bid on a competitive job as a service to one of your regular customers.  
  • Don’t bid every job if there are lots of jobs available.  
  • Be realistic about the time it takes to complete a bid. If you rush, then you can make mistakes.  


5. Use different electrical markup strategies for different types of jobs. 


Assess the type of project and assign different mark ups for different types and sizes of jobs.  

  • Small, difficult jobs should have a higher mark up than a larger project.  

  • Look at your bidding history to determine where the market is.  

  • Keep your team busy, but not too busy. Make sure they have enough to do without overworking them.  

  • Keep your ego in check. Don’t take the job at someone else’s price.  


6. Use estimating software for faster, more accurate bids. 


Electrical estimating software is faster. You’ll be able to create at least twice as many estimates as you were able to do manually because of automation. For some types of bids, you could work 3 or 4 times as fast. 


Electrical estimating software is also more accurate. Using electrical estimating software reduces bid errors because software doesn’t make math mistakes. However, if you enter the wrong numbers, you’ll receive wrong results. (Remember habit number 2: highlight every electrical element as you count it.)  


Finally, electrical estimating software is versatile. It’s useful for all sizes and types of jobs, and you should use your estimating software for all of your bid work.  


7. Get training to become more proficient with your electrical estimating software. 


Teaching yourself new software may help you remember certain processes because you problem solve as you learn. However, for proficiency beyond basic operations, it might benefit your company to learn all the advanced features and shortcuts.  


Training helps you understand all the features and shortcuts in your estimating software. Ultimately, you’ll save time and prevent errors.  


Electrical estimating training is easy, efficient, and helps you learn the best methods and processes.  


Skilled estimators develop good habits so that they can reduce errors and turn in winning bids as much as possible. For a review of how to do an electrical estimate right, please read our Complete Guide to Electrical Estimating.