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How to set your prices as a plumber

How to set your prices as a plumber
July 12, 2022
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
July 12, 2022 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

From sales volume to profit margins to your community reputation, how much you charge for services plays a big part in the success of navigating how to start a plumbing business. Knowing how to price each plumbing job correctly can help you estimate your costs, project your earnings, and plan your budget, keeping your business’s finances on the right track.  

There are a number of factors you should consider before you start devising your master plumber pricing strategy. The average rates in your area, the costs of doing business, and how you plan to position your plumbing service should all factor in. 

So whether you’re learning how to become a plumber or approaching the grand opening of your new plumbing repair business, making changes to your current pricing plan, or tearing it up and starting from scratch, this guide can help you as a licensed plumber get the numbers right. Here’s what you should consider.

 

Step 1: What are your competitors charging? 

As with any enterprise, setting your plumber pricing plan begins with researching the average cost of service in your area. Knowing the going rate of a master plumber can ensure that you set your plumbing prices at levels that are low enough to entice customers but still high enough to turn a profit. 

The best way to determine where you should set your plumbing service charges is by checking out the competition in your area. How much are other professional plumbers where you live charging for various services, like repairing leaky drain pipes or replacing sump pumps? What do they charge to send a residential plumber out for an estimate? 

Aside from keeping your plumbing prices in line with the current market, knowing what your competitors are charging can also: 

  • Help you estimate costs – When you know much your competitors charge for services like repairing septic tank leaks or replacing water pressure regulators, you can couple that information with the cost of the relevant supplies. This can give you a sense of what the overall plumbing cost will be for the service. 
  • Keep you competitive in your local plumbing repair market – Knowing your competitors’ rates means you won’t risk setting prices that are too high to make you a desirable option for customers or too low that customers won’t trust your services. 

It’s also a good idea to look into how consumers in your area are responding to local plumber pricing rates. Do they feel they’ve been charged a fair price for fair work? Checking customer reviews on Nextdoor can give you a sense of how you can keep your plumbing repair cost and prices in-line with the expectations of customers in your neighborhood. 

If you’re revising your pricing strategy, now’s also a good time to assess how your customers feel about your prices—and the quality of service you provide.

 

Step 2: What are your business costs and expenses?

A big part of your pricing strategy should reflect how much it costs you to do business. What is your overhead? How many employees do you plan to staff? How much will you need to spend on piping equipment, supplies, and other materials? These are all questions you should consider. 

When taking these matters into consideration, it is helpful to separate your business costs into two categories:

  • Fixed costs – These are the expenses that won’t change very much month to month. These costs include things like the amount of your monthly rent or mortgage payment, the salaries you pay your employees, and costs associated with equipment depreciation.
  • Variable costs – These are expenses that are likely to fluctuate rather frequently in response to business volume and outside factors, like economic conditions and inflation. They include things like the cost of equipment, supplies, and materials, the wages you pay your hourly employees, and travel expenses to and from jobs.

Figuring out your fixed and variable costs is a crucial step to strategizing a pricing plan that keeps your customers happy and your business thriving. Plugging those numbers into this simple formula can help you estimate how much you need to charge per job.

For example, suppose that Joe the Plumber figures his monthly fixed business costs at about $3,000 and his variable costs at about $40 per job. Assuming Joe performs 50 jobs over the course of a month, he can figure his cost-per-job by dividing his fixed costs by his variable costs and adding the total number of jobs to that number. The equation would look like this:

$3,000 (fixed costs) / $40 (variable costs per job) + 50 (total number of jobs) = $125.

According to this formula, Joe would need to charge around $125 per job if he hopes to turn a profit on 50 jobs at the end of the month.

 

Step 3: What is the value of your business?

Another factor that should play a part in devising your plumber pricing strategy is what your business brings to the table. What sets your plumbing company apart from the other plumbing companies in your town? Maybe you offer services that other businesses don’t. Perhaps your employees provide a level of customer service that customers won’t get anywhere else. 

Here are a few unique qualities you should factor into your pricing: 

  • Specialty services – If you provide unique services that few of your local competitors provide, you may be able to charge slightly higher-than-average rates for those services.
  • Experienced staff – If you staff a fleet of experienced, credentialled plumbers, you may be able to justify charging more for labor. After all, you’ll likely be paying them above-average wages to reflect their expertise.
  • High-end fixtures and appliances – It’s not uncommon for businesses that specialize in high-end fixtures and appliances to build those charges into their pricing. This is because high-end items, like solar-powered and high-efficiency water heaters, are often more difficult and time-consuming to install.

Step 4: What is your pricing plan?

Once you’ve looked into what your competitors are charging, determined your overhead and ongoing costs, and factored in your business’s unique value, it’s time to decide on a pricing model for your business. 

Generally, this involves deciding between two pricing options:

  • Fixed rates – Under this model, you’ll charge customers a flat fee based on the job performed according to the national average, regardless of how long the job takes to complete. 
  • Hourly rates – Many plumbing companies charge by the hour for their services. Instead of assessing a flat rate for specific jobs, customers are billed according to the amount of time the job takes. Currently, the national average hourly rate for plumbers is between $45 and $200.

Both pricing models have their pros and cons, for you and your customers. Your customers may appreciate a fixed-rate model as it can provide a more accurate estimate up-front—it’s highly unlikely that their final bill will differ from the price they were quoted. 

On the other hand, for your business, charging by the hour can prevent time, labor, and money lost on jobs that take longer than expected.

 

Step 6: What is your pricing strategy? 

Next, you need to decide what kind of prices you want to offer your customers. Many businesses define their plumbing pricing strategy in one of four ways. They are: 

  • Economy – If your goal is to corner your local market by offering the lowest available prices, choosing the economy model is the way to go. You’ll attract customers who are looking for solid work at affordable prices. 
  • Competitive – Under this model, you’ll keep your prices in line with what other plumbers in your area are charging. This gives you the opportunity to distinguish your business in other ways, for instance by offering specialty services or special promotions.
  • Premium – If your plumbers are the best in the business and you use only the highest quality products, premium pricing could be for you. Customers who want high-end finishes or service that’s backed by years of experience won’t balk at loftier quotes.
  • Value – Value pricing allows you to meet consumers where they are by charging rates that reflect how they perceive the value of your business. What do your neighbors think your services are worth? Setting your prices there may help you draw in new customers.

Keep in mind that your pricing strategy communicates vital information about your business to your customers. Among other things, it can influence your business reputation and how customers perceive the quality of your services.

That means when you’re setting your plumber pricing rates, you should consider your business goals. Do you hope to provide local customers with value prices they can’t find anywhere else? Or do you want your prices to signal a heightened level of service and expertise? Whatever the case, be sure to set your prices accordingly. 

 

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Sources: 

Home Advisor. 2022 Plumbing Cost Estimates: Leak, Pipe Repair Prices. https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/plumbing/ 

Plumber Magazine. 5 Steps to Pricing Your Plumbing Services. https://www.plumbermag.com/how-to-articles/residential-mytana-customer-plumbing/5-steps-to-pricing-your-plumbing-services_sc_01f8j 

Chron. Importance of Pricing in Business. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-pricing-business-57904.html 

 


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