Starting Your Own Electrical Contracting Business

Thinking of starting your own electrical contracting business?

I’ve found that one of the most rewarding aspects of owning an electrical estimating software company is that it has provided me an opportunity to get to know people that have made the life altering decision to start their own electrical contracting business.

The image depicts starting your own business
Starting your own contracting business?

I know from experience that running your own electrical contracting business is not for the faint of heart. It takes up a lot of your time and it can be a lot of hard work.  But it can also offer unimaginable satisfaction. There is a lot to be said for taking control of your own destiny, for having the power to make your own decisions, to make your own mistakes, and to have the opportunity to make a better life for you and your family.

What are some motivating factors?

The reasons that people have for making the decision to start their own electrical contracting business often follow a similar thread. One of the most common scenarios I hear is one where they had become extremely competent at performing their job duties while working for someone else. Their job duties ranged from working in the field as an electrician, whether as a Journeyman, Foreman, Superintendents, or those that were working in the front office. They said that as long as everything was rolling along smoothly, they were quite happy and content working for their employer. But the moment grief and aggravation became a common theme in their daily work, nagging whispers of “Why am I putting up with this grief and making money for this company when I know that I can start my own electrical contracting business?” began to awaken the entrepreneur within them.

Another common scenario for making the decision to start their own electrical contracting business is that their employer could not provide them with steady full-time employment. Depending on what segment of the electrical construction industry you work in, some employers struggle with being able to consistently provide their employees with 40-hour work weeks. Unless you’re single and living in your parent’s basement, most working adults need to work full 40-hour weeks.

The image depicts waiting in line for a job
Looking for a job? Go to the back of the line.

I was a union electrician and I know how bad it can be when the job you’re working on comes to an end. If the company your working for doesn’t have another job lined up, they might be forced to lay you off. In the case of union electricians, if you get laid off, you have to go down to your local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers  office and sign “the book”. Depending on how many other laid-off electricians are in front of you, it can take a substantial amount of time before they are able to send you out to another job.

My motivating factors

The motivating factors behind my decision to start my own electrical contracting business was a little bit different than most. First, I didn’t hate my job. The truth is that I actually loved my job. Secondly, there was not an issue with having steady work. If work slowed down in the field, I was fortunate enough to have enough additional value from my years working in the office as an estimator, running jobs as a foreman, and later being in charge of foreman as a superintendent, my employer always found a spot for me.

My motivation was simply that I didn’t want to work for someone else. I wanted to take control of my future and start my own electrical contracting business. If you think about, why would anyone want to put their family’s future in the hands of someone else? Why would you willingly give someone the power to give you your last paycheck and say, “I’m sorry but we have to let you go”. Forget that. This is America and it’s still the greatest country on earth. It’s one of the few places where you have the ability to be whatever you want to be. If you’re not afraid to put in the hard work, and if you have enough faith in yourself, you can be as successful as you want to be.

Fortunately, I was able to build a very successful electrical contracting business. I won’t lie and say it was easy in the beginning because it wasn’t. It required a great deal of dedication and a whole lot of hours.

Some things to think about now

You should start planning everything that you’ll need to do to start your own electrical contracting business as soon as possible. I would advise that you start networking potential customers as soon as possible. There are many community organizations you can join that will give you the opportunity to develop relationships with builders and other potential customers in your area.

Start researching the various expenses that you’ll incur. Make a detailed list of expected overhead expenses as well as anticipated burden costs. Our TurboBid estimating software includes an overhead calculator as well as a burden calculator. Feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to show you in a free screen share what these expenses consist of. Don’t let these expenses freak you out. You’ll account for them in your estimate and recoup them in your bid price. Just make sure that you’re accurately accounting for them in your estimate.

I would also suggest that you try to get terms at your local supply store. If you can get Net 30 or Net 60 terms, it means that you will have 30 or 60 days before you have to pay your material invoice. This gives you the opportunity to use cash flow to pay your invoices. Remember the phrase “Cash is King”.

Vehicles can be a big expense. You don’t need to buy new. I would suggest that you get yourself a well-maintained used van, and if needed, a pull behind cargo trailer.

Remember that these vehicles are traveling billboards that you can use to advertise your electrical contracting business. Don’t skimp on the graphics. You want your graphics to make a statement about your company. With that being said,  always keep your vehicles clean and well maintained.

Your vehicles are not just a mode of transportation. They are a means in which to achieve efficiency. We used to set up the inside of the pull behind cargo trailers with shelves and keep a modest material inventory. Rather than tying up a van, we would drop the trailer where the crew was working so they would have the tools and material they needed to complete the job.


Starting your own electrical contracting business, or any contracting business, can be extremely rewarding. While it is a lot of hard work, I believe that the potential benefits are well worth the effort.

When speaking with our customers on this subject, most of them feel that in spite of the hard work that was required to start their business, they absolutely love being in charge of their own destiny and have absolutely no regrets.

There are still many more aspects to discuss on this subject. I will continue my thoughts in a future article.

Best regards,

William Ruffner
Founder & CEO

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“You’re going to have to get estimating software.” – Mike Holt

For those of you that are not familiar with Mike Holt, he is a well-respected author and developer of software, books and video training programs for the electrical industry. Click here for more information.

TurboBid is the only estimating software that Mike recommends. He has worked closely with the folks at TurboBid to ensure that it follows the same terminology and principles that he teaches in his estimating course.

TurboBid’s founder, Bill Ruffner, was invited by Mike to come down to Florida and take part in filming his new estimating DVD. During filming, Mike made the following comment that made a lot of sense. The truth is that most guys that open their own shops are coming out of the field. While they might have been great electricians, running a successful contracting company takes a whole different skill set. You’re going to have to decide to become a business person.

Mike said “You need to make a decision. The reality is that if you’re going to be a business person, you’re going to have to get estimating software. You need to make the decision that, ‘I’m going to be a business person’. Once you’ve made that decision, that’s your goal. Then number two is, ‘What’s your plan? How are you going to get there? What are you going to have to do?'”

Following is a video excerpt from Mike’s Electrical Estimating Deluxe DVD Package.



The concepts that Mike goes over in his video are very important to the success of your company. Every day that passes by without taking action is a wasted opportunity. You owe it to yourself, your family and your business to take a few minutes out of your day to see for yourself how TurboBid can help you win more profitable jobs and improve your professional image.

Give us a call at (888) 417-2458 x102 or click here if you would like to schedule a specific time for us to call you so that we can have a brief chat or live demonstration.

How Do You Find the Right Estimating Software?

Invest1How Do You Find the Right Estimating Software?

It can be a daunting task when you start to look for an estimating software program that is best suited for your own particular needs.  Every company is saying the exact same thing: Our software is easy to use, it is the most accurate, it is the most consistent, it will help you win more bids……… In fact, you might even start to think that they are all pretty much the same.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

TurboBid is quickly becoming well known for both its estimating software’s capabilities as well as it’s stellar customer service.  All you have to do is listen to what our customers are saying and you’ll understand why.  But as a contractor who is not currently one of our customers, you have had very little contact, if any, with our company.

So how do you know if what we are saying is true?  Doesn’t every estimating software company make the claim that they are better than the next?  Sure, you could do your research and peruse the various blogs and forums on the internet and see all the positive press for TurboBid. While it would certainly help, would you truly be 100% convinced?  Or you could even go to Mike Holt’s website and see that TurboBid is listed as the “Best Buy” among his listing of major estimating software solutions. You might even discover that TurboBid was designed around the principles taught in Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Electrical estimating.

Again, how do you know which is the best estimating program for you?

Just remember: Without using the software in real life situations, on real bids, you are just making a decision based on what others are saying. Instead of casually looking at a limited trial version, we want to help you really use the software and prove that TurboBid is a winning solution.  We are offering you the opportunity to utilize TurboBid for 14 days, performing actual takeoffs. This isn’t just a trial where you download the software and find out that you’re left on your own to figure things out. This trial includes the full support of our company.

Download today and learn first hand why contractors across the country are so excited about TurboBid.

Why square foot pricing is not a good idea

The ultimate goal of any company is to make money. What determines if your company makes money? You simply have to sell jobs for more than what they cost you to do.

Contractors that use square foot pricing run the risk of losing money on jobs because they neglect to identify and account for all of their costs.

The description of neglect in Websters dictionary is “to give little attention or respect to”.

If a company’s ultimate goal is to make money, why would any contractor use a method of estimating that gives little attention to or respect to identifying and accounting for all of their costs? I have to believe that it’s simply because they don’t know any better.

Producing highly accurate estimates in a timely manner is not at all difficult if you know how to do it.

TurboBid provides a simple step by step process of estimating and bidding that allows you to systematically identify and account for all of the costs involved in a job.

We take great pride is our ability to personally help contractors become better business people. We have a passionate desire to help our customers succeed. Honestly, there is no better feeling in the world than receiving a letter from one of our customers thanking us for helping them provide a better life for themselves and their family.

Following is what needs to be considered when estimating and bidding on a job. Would you prefer to do all of this manually or would you prefer to use the power of TurboBid?

Material costs and labor hours

  • The fastest and most accurate method of estimating is to use assemblies. An assembly should include your material costs and the amount of time to lay out and install the assembly. TurboBid currently includes over 45,000 per-built assemblies.

Assembly maintenance screen

Material Cost

  • Your material pricing needs to be accurate. TurboBid allows you to easily keep your material prices up to date.
  • If applicable, add a percentage of the material cost to account for misc. material.
  • If applicable, add a percentage of the material cost to account for material waste and theft.
  • Add material sales tax.


  • Manpower: In order to calculate your labor cost, you need to identify the manpower that will be used on the job. Your manpower costs should include the following:
    • The employee’s pay rate per hour.
    • The employee’s burden cost. Burden is the additional cost that you incur on behalf of your employees. This is typically in the form of payroll taxes, workman’s compensation, general liability insurance, health insurance, paid vacations/holidays/sick days, benefits, bonus’, etc.
    • View our manpower selection screen
    • View our labor burden calculator
  • Pay Raises: You should account for any employee pay raises that are incurred in the middle of the job and add the prorated cost to the estimate. TurboBid does this automatically.
  • Skill Level Adjustment: The material labor units used in TurboBid are based on a typical journeyman doing the installation. If you have employees that produce at a lower rate, they will cause the job to take longer to complete. You must calculate the effect that this lower productivity has on the entire crew and add it to the estimate. TurboBid does this automatically.
  • Additional Labor: This is where most contractors leave money on the table. Your estimate needs to include all of the additional time that you’re paying your employees for. This can include things like job set up in the morning, packing up to go home at the end of the day, material handling, meetings, paperwork, sweeping, travel time, etc. These tasks can be for one-time only, per day or per week. TurboBid automatically calculates these costs and adds it to the estimate.
  • Type of Work: You can’t use the same material labor unit to estimate all types of work. For example, residential typically has a faster pace and more repetition than commercial work. You need to be able to quickly adjust your labor units to accurately reflect the type of work that you’re estimating. TurboBid does this automatically.

Misc. Expenses

  • Misc. Direct Job Expenses: You must take the time to identify and account for all of your misc. direct job expenses.
  • Subcontracts: You need to add any costs for work that you’re paying a subcontractor to perform.
  • Tools: You should not only account for the cost of new tools that a job will require you to purchase but you should account for the cost of using your existing tools as it relates to tool replenishment. TurboBid automatically calculates this cost and adds it to the estimate.

Direct Cost Detail

Your estimate should clearly display the calculated values for all of the above.


It is vital that you know your true overhead costs. Overhead is what it costs to run your company. It includes costs such as office personnel, vehicle expenses, advertising, office supplies, utilities, cell phones, etc. It’s basically all of the costs that your company incurs simply because you are in business. It has nothing to do with direct job expenses. TurboBid includes a calculator to assist you in determining your overhead expenses. It also includes the ability to break down your overhead cost into a rate per hour. In our opinion, this is the most accurate method of adding overhead to your estimate.


The are two steps in determining the price to provide to your customers.

  • Estimating: Estimating is the process of calculating how much it will cost you to do a job. This is also known as your break-even cost.
  • Bidding: Bidding is deciding how much to sell a job for. You simply need to decide how much profit to add to your break-even cost.

When I was contracting, almost all of my customers wanted to negotiate a lower price. If I only had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “you have to go back and sharpen your pencil”, I’d be a rich man.

When negotiating a job, you have to decide, how badly do you want the job?

  • Maybe it’s for a new big customer than you want to develop a relationship with. This is also known as buying a job.
  • Maybe things are slowing down and you need the job to keep your key employees.
  • Maybe you need cash flow to cover your overhead expenses.
  • Maybe you need a paycheck.

Before I created TurboBid, I have to admit that, for whatever reason, I wanted to win every job that I bid on. What used to drive me completely out of my mind is that I didn’t know how low I could go before I would lose money on the job. At the time, I relied on my gut instinct but in reality, when I look back today, I didn’t have a clue. I’m cringing right now thinking about how many jobs I probably took at below cost.

One of the biggest benefits you’ll find in using TurboBid is that you’ll know your break-even cost. You’ll be in a position to negotiate your bid price without the risk of losing money. If it comes down to it, you’ll be able to tell your customer with conviction that as much as you want to do their job, if you lower your price any more, you will lose money. At that point, tell them in no uncertain terms that they need to be very careful about awarding the job to anyone that claims they can do it for less.

View our Bid Price Detail tab

View our Bid Price report

For more information, please visit or call (888) 417-2458 Ext 102

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