Electrical, Guides, Business Tips

How to Bid Electrical Jobs: Step-by-Step Guide to Increase Profit

January 29th, 2024
18 Min Read

Gone are the days of scribbling electrical estimates on carbon paper or building them on spreadsheets. Nowadays, to be competitive, commercial and residential electrical contracting businesses need to train their project managers and subcontractors to use electrical estimating software to streamline the bidding process and close more deals. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through the seven essential steps of bidding for an electrical job: 

  1. Review the specifications

  2. Analyze the drawings

  3. Perform a quantity takeoff

  4. Calculate labor costs

  5. Factor in overhead costs and profit

  6. Create your electrical estimate

  7. Double check and submit your proposal

We also discuss the challenges of traditional estimating and how electrical bidding software like ServiceTitan can help electrical contractors create consistent and accurate flat-rate electrical estimates to maximize profit.

Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our electrical contractor software can help you successfully bid for electrical jobs and grow your business. 

The Challenges of Traditional Estimates

Many small electrical businesses use pen and paper or perhaps an Excel spreadsheet to bid for electrical jobs. This can be problematic, especially if your business is more than a couple of trucks or if you’re trying to grow your business beyond that size.

We’ve found that the common issues with traditional methods to estimate electrical work fall into four areas:


To do their job effectively and profitably, electricians need to manage and track many different tasks, including:

  • Current repairs, estimates and installations

  • Following up on past estimates (these might date back several weeks or even months)

  • Electrical parts on backorder

  • Appointments that need rescheduling (perhaps requiring new techs)

And with most jobs, electricians are dealing with equipment and electrical wiring that’s partially hidden in walls and ceilings, complicating the estimating process.

Even the most organized electrician will struggle to keep track of all these elements manually, and with multiple customers to juggle — each with their own hardware, equipment and timelines — mistakes can be made when noting key job information. In addition, storing paperwork in a truck alongside greasy tools and leftover snacks is not the best environment for important documents. 

This haphazard system means that the details of estimates — what price they quoted, what material costs and labor costs were included, or the scope of work — can get lost or misremembered.


In addition, errors such as pairing up cell phone photos with the wrong property, or failing to mention a critical detail when relaying information to a CSR over the phone, are easy to make, but the consequences are severe, resulting in:

  • Underestimating: When a tech fails to account for all the components of a job cost — labor hours, parts, equipment — the business (electrical contractor or general contractor) can lose money on that job. If this is repeated, the company can end up with significant profitability issues.

  • Overestimating: Conversely, bidding too much for electrical jobs can take you out of the running altogether. By exceeding the customer’s budget, your business can appear greedy, dishonest, or both. Consistently losing out on jobs due to inaccurate estimates ultimately leads to lost revenue. 


Delivering an estimate drawn up in the truck in the disorganized way we just described also appears messy and unprofessional, especially if the customer compares this type of estimate with the slick digital proposals received from competitors.


Creating bidding documents manually can also be time-consuming, and if there’s a delay between your site visit and producing your estimate, this also could mean you get outbid by a competitor. 

If your business can streamline the pricing and bidding process and create an accurate, clear estimate on the same day of their site visit, you’ll have an advantage over slower competitors.

How to Bid for Electrical Jobs in 7 Steps

From our experience working with hundreds of electrical companies, here are the seven steps involved in the bidding process (Note: these steps are more relevant to commercial projects, but most apply to residential electrical work too):

Step 1: Review the Specifications 

If the type of work you’re building an estimate for is commercial, such as a construction project, you’ll usually receive a RFP (request for product) containing detailed specifications of the electrical job. 

Ensure you study the specifications carefully and ask questions if anything requires clarification before you start working on your bid. 

Step 2: Analyze the Drawings

Go through all drawings with a fine-tooth comb, including blueprints and architectural drawings (such as elevations) if these are available. These, in addition to the specifications, should give you a detailed overview of the scope of work involved, which will influence your labor costs, material costs and the equipment necessary to carry out the work. 

Step 3: Perform a Quantity Takeoff

A quantity takeoff is a list of all the materials required for the job, including their costs. Using the blueprints, calculate exactly how much of each item you’ll need. These may include:

  • Light fixtures

  • Receptacles

  • Electrical wiring

  • Conduits

You’ll need to add up the cost of all the materials needed and include this in your estimate to calculate your total cost.

Step 4: Calculate Labor Costs

Now that you know the scope of the job, you can work out how many electricians you’ll need to carry out the work and how long the job will take.

To work out your labor costs, many electricians use this simple formula:

Hourly labor rate x number of labor hours

You may find NECA’s manual of labor units helpful or you can use ServiceTitan’s Labor Rate Calculator

Some electrical contractors charge an hourly rate. We recommend using the flat-rate pricing model (we explain more on this below)

Step 5: Factor in Overhead Costs and Profit

Now that you know your operating costs, make sure to include a percentage of your overheads too. These include costs such as rent, utilities, insurance, admin staff, trucks, equipment, and more.

Likewise, your profit should be a percentage of the overall estimate, so ensure you mark up the total cost to include the profit you would like to make on the job.

Learn more on how to organize your financials for profit in the ServiceTitan Playbook.

Step 6: Create Your Electrical Estimate

Once you have completed the first five steps, you are ready to build your estimate.

We discuss how ServiceTitan’s features can help you do this below, but in broad terms, your estimate should include a clear description of the electrical service or installation you will provide (for example, “complete rewire”), and the estimated cost of that service. 

You should also list the materials you will be using, with costs for each, and the total cost of the estimate, including taxes.

Remember to include the date, a reference number, and state how long the estimate is valid for (30 days for example).

Step 7: Double Check & Submit Your Proposal

Once you have drafted your estimate, double check all quantities and calculations to make sure everything is correct. Ideally, ask someone else to review it for you and proofread your proposal to ensure it’s exactly what you intended. It’s also sensible to compare your bid to any previous jobs of a similar size to ensure there is no significant variance in price.

Once you have completed these steps and you are satisfied with your estimate, your bid is ready to submit to the potential customer. 

As well as compiling estimates manually or with the help of spreadsheets, there are also estimate templates you can use. But the simplest way to produce clear, accurate estimates that ensure profitable electrical jobs is to use electrical estimating software like ServiceTitan.

Here’s how it works. 

How ServiceTitan’s Electrical Bidding Software Helps Create Accurate, Profitable Estimates

ServiceTitan is a holistic end-to-end software used by dozens of electrical contractor businesses as well as other services such as HVAC and plumbing. ServiceTitan users can streamline and manage their electrical bids as well as every other process in the workflow such as reporting and invoicing.

ServiceTitan helps electrical contractors:

  • Use a flat-rate pricebook to build profitable estimates

  • Present customers with tiered options (good-better-best)

  • Include memberships to bring in guaranteed income

  • Offer financing options to customers 

  • Give techs mobile access to create estimates from wherever they are

  • Automate lead follow-ups so no bids slip through the net

  • Track and analyze data to improve performance and increase profit

  • Integrate with other business processes from service calls to billing

Why We Suggest Flat-Rate Pricing

As mentioned above, electrical contractors calculate their prices using one of two pricing models: 

  • Time & Materials (Hourly Rate): Costs are based on the time spent performing the work (labor cost), and for materials used on the job (material costs).

  • Flat Rate: Charges one fixed rate for a service instead of charging by the hour and materials used. 

In our experience, the most successful electrical businesses use the flat-rate pricing model, largely because of two drawbacks with the Time & Materials approach:  

  1. Justifying hourly rates: Electricians understand that an hourly rate incorporates their pay, overhead costs and other expenses. But a charge of $200 or $300 per hour can be difficult for a homeowner or commercial customer to grasp. Without that understanding, potential customers can feel distrustful of such charges and are less likely to get on board. 

  2. Encouraging poor performance: With Time & Materials pricing, electricians who work slowly can run up the bill, even if they’re doing an inadequate job. Likewise, an electrician who completes tasks quickly and competently, can generate less revenue. This results in lower-quality electrical services, reputational damage, and fewer overall jobs being completed. This directly affects profit margins.  

Implementing flat-rate pricing solves both of these problems. Charging a flat rate for services means there’s no chance of customers getting caught up on hourly rates. They know exactly how much a job will cost, regardless of how long it takes. Moreover, electricians are incentivized to work efficiently, which means they can cover more jobs and bring in more revenue.

A digital flat-rate pricebook gives your estimators and electricians a better tool for communicating with customers, as it serves to educate in simple terms and provides independent resources to explain and validate recommended services, says Master Electrician Chris Crew, who is also president of The Blue Collar Success Group.

"Using a pricebook creates consistency for the company to manage margins, and consistency for customers from a price-integrity standpoint," Crew says. 

Ron Lutwiller, chief operating officer at The Roby Family of Companies in Charlotte, N.C,. was hired to make operational system changes. A “true operations guy,” Lutwiller needed freedom to move the company forward. 

“I was a huge opponent of flat rates,” he says. “I thought people would kind of balk at the idea, you’re only here for this long but you’re charging me this?”

But instead of complaints, he found benefits. 

“What it does is it takes the nit-picking out of it,” Lutwiller says. “With time and material, inevitably the customer is standing over our technician and looking at his watch. That doesn’t happen with flat rates.” 

“They understand what the price is and to a certain extent they really don’t care how long it takes you. You’ve already given them a price and there’s no surprise to it.” 

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ServiceTitan’s Pricebook Pro

Service Titan’s add-on pricebook software, PricebookPro, comes with a wide range of pre-built, flat-rate electrical services including detailed descriptions and vivid images. Pricebooks can be organized by verticals and business units so there’s no need to trawl through unwieldy lists of catalogs, products and materials. Simply click through each category to get to the specific part you’re looking for. 

You can integrate with specific suppliers via Service Titan’s Pricebook Connect. These can be linked to your pricebook so you are notified of any price changes, or you can choose to have the changes made to your pricebook automatically. Any pricing updates and adjustments are reflected across the entire pricebook and are accessible to all office staff and techs instantly (via mobile tablet or desktop). 

ServiceTitan will even send notifications of any upgrades or recommendations that sell well for specific electrical services you offer. This protects your profitability as you are always on top of the latest products and opportunities for selling higher-ticket products as soon as they are available. 

ServiceTitan offers advanced editing and automation features too. Users can apply edits and markups in bulk so that they apply across your entire pricebook, or you can select specific groups or categories. You can also apply edits to individual line items. In addition, ServiceTitan’s Dynamic Pricing feature allows you to set up rules that automatically update your pricing, such as when you want to change your labor rates. 

These features save a huge amount of time and streamline the whole process of managing your electrical pricing so you can be confident that it is up-to-date and correct when you build your estimate.

Read more about ServiceTitan’s electrical pricebook in this post and this post.

Present Customers with Tiered Options

Offering three options (good-better-best) for customers has proved to increase ticket sales. Customers sense flexibility and, most often, opt for the mid-priced option. The ability to create multiple estimates that give the customer choices at different price points aids their decision. These choices mimic the online shopping experience so many of us are accustomed to.

ServiceTitan’s software makes it easy to prepare Good-Better-Best proposals, either in real-time when out in the field, or back at the office. 

Once a customer selects their option, ServiceTitan connects the estimate to the rest of the electrical workflow.

Include Memberships

Signing up customers to memberships or maintenance agreements is one of the most reliable ways of generating recurring income for an electrical business, but it’s often overlooked, both by owners and by techs.

The electrical service call could be routine, with a residential customer wanting an electrical estimate for a common problem, such as meter service, a problem with a ceiling fan or a non-working outlet. But, training techs to look more holistically at the property can often uncover opportunities for other work, including recurring contracts.

“If you’ve got a 40-year-old house and your electrical panel is extremely outdated and the fuses are corroding, it’s a responsibility on our part to make sure you know that,” Lutwiller says. “If you call me about a light that’s faulty, I still want to inspect your electrical box. If you have a fan that’s not working properly, I still want to look at your electrical box. 

That’s extremely important for us. It opens up a lot of opportunities.”

Service contracts had not been a big emphasis for Roby before Lutwiller joined the company, but they now represent a significant source of revenue, and something he requires his technicians to offer with every quote. “Memberships have been huge for us,” he says. 

With ServiceTitan, you can create membership agreements from scratch or you can adapt and improve an existing agreement if you’re already using one that works for you.

Electrical contractors can select agreements from a wide range of customizable templates and set up and store as many as needed to suit different membership types. 

Agreements are easy to set up and, once up and running, can be integrated with your electrical estimates.

Lutwiller says that ServiceTitan has paid for itself through selling memberships alone. 

“On all three sides, electrical, plumbing and HVAC, a big thing is with our memberships,” Lutwiller says. “We really didn’t sell memberships at all (before the change in software). When we flipped the switch to ServiceTitan, we had nine memberships. We now have 330-something.   

“With that revenue, we’re paying for ServiceTitan.” 

Learn more about how to set up and use membership agreements to increase profit in this article.

Mobile Access

The ability to create accurate estimates that look professional on site is critical for electricians to stand a good chance of bidding successfully for electrical jobs. 

With ServiceTitan mobile, your electricians can access estimate templates and create proposals while out in the field by selecting pricebook items and attaching them to the relevant photos and visuals. This helps explain the need for each repair or service to the customer who can approve and e-sign the estimate on the spot.

Electricians can also offer financing directly from their mobile tablet. We will discuss this next.

Offer Financing

Electrical contractors who offer financing increase sales opportunities, because all options become more affordable to their customers.

With ServiceTitan’s integrated customer financing, a tech's tablet automatically displays financing options to customers when they view the good-better-and-best options.

"If you walk into any sales opportunity and you have multiple different options, it's an absolute game-changer," says Carly Armstrong, National Account Manager at ServiceTitan. 

"Offer these each and every time, and you're going to see a huge impact on the bottom line of the business."

ServiceTitan's partnerships with top providers GreenSky, Service Finance, Turns, and Financeit streamline the process so electrical contractors can easily offer customer financing. Electrical businesses customize their own financing plans, so all financing solutions remain profitable.

“When you talk about integrated financing, it’s not just whether they finance or not,” says Darius Lyvers, Chief Operating Officer at F.H. Furr Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical in Northern Virginia. “It opens the door for the customer to afford all your products, and they may buy something they otherwise wouldn’t have if you hadn’t presented financing options."

Learn more about how financing can help grow your electrical business in this article

Automate Lead Follow-Up

Following up on leads, including those you’ve visited and given estimates for, is an important part of closing leads in any service business. Doing this manually, from what we’ve seen, is tedious and difficult to keep organized. There’s rarely a dedicated employee for this task, so some leads inevitably don’t get follow-ups, which leaves sales on the table. 

With ServiceTitan you can automate the process by sending reminder emails or texts to follow up on open electrical estimates. This eases the workload of office and field staff and means that no outstanding bids slip through. 

All the data an electrician or front office staff needs is logged within ServiceTitan — customer information, the estimate details and any questions they’ve answered. This can be used to gently follow up the bid, see if there is any further information they need, and (hopefully) close the sale. 

Analyze Data to Improve Performance

Tracking and analyzing data from your commercial and residential electrical jobs will help you boost your electrical business’s performance.

ServiceTitan software provides an overall snapshot of your company's performance and lets you track the key components such as average ticket price and closing rate. 

With our technician scorecard, you can stay up-to-date on every tech’s stats, such as, number of calls per day, estimates closed, revenue generated, memberships sold, and more. Likewise, our CSR scorecard lets you monitor metrics for your customer service team, such as number of calls handled, conversions, etc. 

Where Lutwiller saw less accountability and discipline among technicians before his arrival, he used analytics and persuasion to change the culture. He installed televisions in the office to display current performance statistics for all to see, from the techs to their bosses. That move, Lutwiller says, creates a lot of friendly competition. 

“When you start putting pressure on people, they either assimilate to what you want or they go away,” he says. 

ServiceTitan’s analytics data gives you insight into how you can improve your electrical estimating and bidding process, so you can increase leads and grow your business.

Integration with Other Business Processes

Using an integrated software solution like ServiceTitan considerably improves customer experience — from the initial phone call through creating the electrical estimate to acceptance of completed work, and billing. 

This saves the significant amount of time it would take to use different software and processes (such as spreadsheets) and reduces the likelihood of errors. 

Once the customer has agreed to the estimate, ServiceTitan lets you:

  • Generate electronic purchase orders and order equipment and materials.

  • Log any change orders as they arise and have those changes automatically apply to all relevant processes.

  • Schedule and dispatch the work order.

  • Generate the electrical invoice, send it via email to the customer, and automatically file it electronically.

  • Accept check or credit card payments on the spot via mobile or through the ServiceTitan portal, speeding up cash flow and reducing the need for follow-up calls.

  • Integrate directly with accounting tools such as Intacct and QuickBooks so you don't have to change your current processes.

Learn more about invoicing best practices in the ServiceTitan Playbook and check out our electrical invoicing tips here. Read more tips here on how to integrate QuickBooks with ServiceTitan.

6 Extra Tips for Building Electrical Estimates

In addition, take these 6 tips into account when considering how to bid electrical jobs:

1. Charge a Service Call Fee

No matter your billing method, consider a fee for a service call, perhaps $49, to weed out customers simply looking for the lowest price. If you get the job, discount the fee from the total. Also, consider never charging the fee, whether you get the job or not. 

2. Always Do a Site Visit

Always visit the job site for electrical estimating, rather than doing an estimate over the phone. You never know what you might run into, or how else you might be able to help the customer stay safe. 

3. Focus on Safety

With a focus on safety, provide the customer with options that help them prioritize other items or services they might consider. Good-better-best options and the corresponding prices are helpful as well, and work to build even more trust.

4. Overestimate

Always overestimate the time you think a job will take, especially on bigger orders. Coming in under the anticipated cost is always welcomed by the customer. And don’t forget to factor in the cost of any extra items such as permits, rental equipment or concrete work.

5. Consider Potential Problems

Consider the difficulty of the job. Will parking be tough because of the location, or is extra travel time necessary? Is the age of the structure likely to cause problems you don’t expect? Will any facet of the electrical job need to be subcontracted? 

6. Educate Customers

Remember that educating electrical customers in the process of building a service estimate builds the bottom line through trust. 

And, if yours isn’t the winning estimate, don’t lower your price to get the job. Not every opportunity is the right one.

Ready to Try ServiceTitan to Help Bid for Electrical Jobs?

ServiceTitan helps build accurate and profitable estimates so you can successfully bid for commercial and residential electrical jobs quickly and professionally. Our software gives you the ability to run your electrical business anytime, from anywhere, so you can ensure service options and memberships are consistently offered in the field while estimates are seamlessly integrated to all your other business processes.

It’s easy to train electricians to produce estimates using ServiceTitan. For Lutwiller and The Roby Family of Companies, ServiceTitan software has increased efficiency, employee engagement and accountability, and provided better analytics. Lutwiller says his technicians made the transition to the new software with ease.

“Quite frankly, it has been easier for the field technicians than office personnel,” Lutwiller says. “They had fewer training sessions (and) I’m still amazed at how quickly they picked it up.”

“That’s the first thing people think, ‘Oh, your technicians, are they struggling?’ No, they’re really not. I do random sampling of invoices that come through, and I’m still amazed at some of our new technicians, how much they are actually doing in the system with so little time under their belt in regards to working with ServiceTitan.” 

“It’s actually been a little refreshing.” 

Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our electrical contractor software can help you successfully bid for electrical jobs and grow your business. 

ServiceTitan Electrical Software

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive electrical business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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