Creating your estimates online saves you hours of manual work. Better yet, using an online estimate maker means even more time savings — so you can focus on more pressing tasks.
In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about online estimate generators, as well as the steps outlining how to make an estimate sheet.
As a bonus, you’ll get access to a free estimate invoice template you can use to strengthen your business processes.
What is an online estimate generator?
An online estimate generator, also known as an estimate creator or estimate maker, is a tool used to create estimates quickly and effortlessly. It can be as simple as a Google Sheet template, or as robust as a dedicated estimating software.
These tools include all the necessary details and fields that businesses need to generate complete estimates. They’re typically web-based tools with features that work together to simplify the estimating process.
But before getting into the features of an estimate maker, it’s important to establish the difference between an estimate and a quote.
Estimate vs. quote
The primary difference between an estimate and a quote is that an estimate is a ballpark figure, while a quote is an exact price that you’ll charge your customer. For the most part, estimates are subject to change throughout the job, whereas a quote is set in stone; a contractor must deliver the agreed upon services for the quoted price.
Whether you create an estimate or a quote, the amount should be what you base your required deposit on.
Features of an estimate generator
A good online estimate maker should have several features that make it easy to use.
One important feature is that it should allow you to create free estimates. While there are tools that require payment, you can usually get the job done with a free estimate maker online.
What’s more, your free online estimate maker should have a simple interface and design that’s easy to use. The point of using a free estimate creator is to save time – you shouldn’t have to spend more time simply figuring out how to input data into the program.
Finally, a free estimate generator should have all of the necessary fields that you need. These fields include:
- Customer information.
- Your business information.
- Job description.
- Estimate date and number.
- Cost breakdown and the final estimated amount.
Your estimate maker should also simplify other optional estimating steps, such as adding a general contractor markup.
It’s a bonus if your estimate maker also allows you to convert an estimate directly to an invoice. The quicker you get invoices out, the less likely you’ll end up chasing payment. However, this is only possible with specific types of estimate generators.
Let’s take a look at how different types of estimate makers work.
How estimate generators works
The way that an estimate maker works depends on the particular type that you choose.
Types of estimate generators
As mentioned, there are several types of invoice and estimate makers. The main two are software and estimate sheets.
Free online estimating software allows you to get the most done in the least amount of time.
If you’re wondering, “How do I create an invoice from an estimate?”, the answer is that only select software allows you to do this. Keep your eyes out for this functionality as it streamlines your processes, increasing your business efficiency.
Better yet, some estimating software even allows you to create an invoice and estimate on the go via a mobile app.
Estimate sheets are another option for estimate creation.
You can find free online estimate templates that make it easy to fill in relevant information to create detailed templates. Depending on the format of your sheet, it’s also possible to convert your estimate to an invoice with just a few simple changes.
Not sure which type of estimate maker is best for your business? Keep reading.
Choosing the right estimate generator for your business
Before choosing the right estimating process for your business, it’s important to understand your needs.
First, consider your time budget. It’s more difficult to find free contractor estimate and invoice software than it is to get a free estimate sheet.
You also want to consider the level of productivity your business aspires to. Software is the fastest and most reliable way to create an estimate online, so those who opt for free estimate sheets might be sacrificing efficiency.
That being said, no matter which option you choose, you’re sure to improve your estimating process and strengthen your operations.
Best practices for using an estimate creator
While online estimate makers allow you to create and send out estimates in little time, it’s important to learn how to use this tool properly and avoid costly mistakes. Follow these best practices to ensure your estimates are accurate every time:
- Find an estimator that you can customize for your business.
- While most online estimate tools reduce human error, it’s important to always double check your estimates for accuracy before delivering them to a potential customer.
- Remain flexible. If you start with a free estimate maker but your business outgrows it, consider opting for paid software as a more robust solution.
- To simplify converting your estimates into invoices, make sure to update your estimate throughout the job to ensure that everything is accounted for and up to date.
To wrap up, estimate generators are a great way to minimize the time you spend creating estimates and maximize the time you spend growing your business.
Better yet, there are plenty of free estimate creators online that you can customize to fulfill your business needs. There’s no need to pay for or learn how to create an estimate template when you can simply download one for free!
Estimate generator FAQs
Can I customize my estimates?
You should be able to customize any estimate template you download online. Estimate software should always allow you to tailor estimates to each job and your business.
If your customization options are limited on your current template, consider switching to one that’s more personalizable.
How do I send an estimate?
The best way to send an estimate to your customer is by email. Emailing estimates is a straightforward process:
- Make sure “estimate” is in the subject line.
- Attach the estimate to the email.
- Follow up with your customer to ensure they received it.
Can I charge for estimates?
In general, most businesses don’t charge for an estimate unless it concerns a very large and complicated project. These types of jobs usually involve detailed designs and multiple plan revisions.
Otherwise, it isn’t best practice to charge for estimates as it might dissuade potential customers from doing business with you.
Look no further for a good estimate generator online. Download your free template today.
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