I’m writing this from the hills of Sa Pa Vietnam.
When starting out as a builder in Queensland Australia, even after completing my studies, I had little idea about where to start. I went out onto the field, blind. I stumbled often and made many mistakes. With some guidance from valuable mentors and lessons learned from my mistakes, I’ve managed to keep my building company afloat, enjoy my developed process and hope to pass on some tips to potentially assist yourself in achieving the same.
Maybe I didn’t absorb the info, maybe it wasn’t part of my studies. To be honest, I don’t remember, but either way I didn’t know what to do when my first set of plans showed up in my inbox!
Through trial and error I’ve developed the following process:
- If the plans come from a architect or draftsman, get the clients details.
- Call them. Have a chat with them about their project. Get a feel for who they are and what they are after. If you like the clients vibe, can and would like to take on the project, ask them the following:
- What is your budget?
- When do you need it completed?
- Will you be borrowing money to build it? If so, have you got loan approval?
Too often I have gone through the lengthy quoting process to find out afterwards that the clients budget was unreasonable or that loan approval was denied after I had submitted my quote. These questions are a must. Read here for alternative quoting method.
- Quote the cost and timeframe to build the project.
- Arrange a meeting with the client, sit down, run through and answer any questions they may have.
Additional tools: when starting out I was using Microsoft Excel for the estimating process. This is not professional and will not be adequate for large projects. I currently use a program called Build Logic for my project management and estimating. They are a Brisbane based company with a great training system to get you up to speed in using the software. I use a program called Planswift to do my material take-off calculations. Another great program I used is Smartsheet, a project management tool for scheduling and project timeframes. If you don’t already use one, an accounting program like Xero will also be very handy at tracking your spending, sending invoices and making life easy at tax time.
There are many other programs out there, I chose these ones for quality of product, ease of use, price and relativity to my location.
When I started out I couldn’t use a computer, but as you can see it’s a must if you wish to simplify, reduce mistakes and professionalise your product.
Moving on, if you win the job, complete the following:
- Get a building contract filled and signed. You can get these from Master Builders or HIA. Be sure to read the contract conditions thoroughly. You must know your legal obligations.
- Tip: Joining a building association like one of the two mentioned above will give you better access to these contracts and a world of information and support wherever necessary during your building process. From legal disputes to WH&S, they have you covered. They can also provide building liability insurance, which every builder should have. I use their insurance policy as it has the best cover from what I can determine.
- Complete a Dial Before You Dig application and make sure there are no potential issues for excavating. This can be done online. If you fail to do so, your insurance may not cover you for damages if made to services. Fibre optics are not a cheap fix!!
- Make a QBCC insurance application. This can be done online, or by calling the QBCC.
- Engage your preferred certifier. This cannot be done until you have purchased QBCC Insurance.
- Have the clients establish the boundaries/easements.
- It is the client’s responsibility to supply correct boundary and property information.
- Install your builders and safety sign on the job and start your building process.
Mentors are a huge benefit in life. Don’t be scared to ask questions or for help from those that have been there before you. You may find they are more than willing to assist you in succeeding.
Check out my transparency blog post for some more tips.