2 Words That Can Only Hurt Your Service Business

by Corey Philip
January 16, 2018

Contractors and home service business owners love to throw these words around. They stick them everywhere. All over their website. On their business cards. In their social media profiles. It’s almost as if they’re happy to flaunt them. We’re not talking about ‘licensed’ & ‘Insured’.


Everyone loves to use those words. And the marketing professors, the ones that have no hands on experience’ love to perpetuate the use of those words in every bit of copy you put online.

Every tradesman I know is frustrated with the ‘free estimate’ request. How many times have you taken your attention away from a revenue generating opportunity, such as managing your painters, physically building cabinets, or whatever generates the revenue in your trade, to go give a ‘free estimate’ and only to have your time wasted by tire kickers, bid collectors, or no charge consultation seekers?

Those estimates weren’t so free for you.

Now some will say, particularly consumers or marketers that run across this blog post, will say that ‘free estimates’ are just a cost of ‘doing doing business. I agree they are. However, if you give everyone a free estimate, you’ll ultimately end up selling VERY LITTLE, as a many of the prospects requesting a ‘free estimate’ have no actual intention of hiring you or anyone else for your service. In most trades / markets, you would run yourself straight out of business.

That’s why I wrote the blog post Naturally Qualifying ‘Free Estimate’ Requests On The First Call in which I talk about specific ways to qualify prospects, that are actual leads, in a way that isn’t salesy or aggressive.

But contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters and every other tradesmen and actual service business owners already know this. Yet many keep the words ‘Free Estimates’ front and center in all of their stationary and marketing material. Why? Why? Why?

The logic behind it, is that those 2 words, ‘Free Estimates’ will encourage customers to take the first step, and contact your business. It’s a call to action. Many fear that removing those words would significantly decrease the number of inbound inquiries they recieve.

News Flash: it won’t make a damn bit of difference. You see, consumers are conditioned to expect a ‘free estimate’. Whether or not you the words ‘free estimates’ are visible, everyone expects that free estimate. In other words, no one contacts you just because you give free estimates.

Would you specifically go to a restaurant because they offer ‘free condiments’. Would you choose a lawyer because they offer ‘free payment processing’? It’s a whole nother’ story but I once I had an attorney charge me $30 to “process and record client payment”. The point is this stuff is all expected or implied, so there is no benefit to be had in advertising it.

So those words have NO BENEFIT whatsoever. Here’s where we get to the part about how those words can hurt you….

If you’re qualifying prospects as you should, you’re not going to be giving everyone a free estimate. Notice I didn’t say “no more free estimates”. Rather you’re only going to be giving free estimates to those that have an interest in hiring you and that you feel comfortable doing business with. Part of that will include declining some free estimate requests.

Now lets say you’re one of the 99% that uses the words ‘free estimates’ in your advertising. What is the first thing many prospects are going to say when you politely decline their request for a free estimate or inform them that you don’t feel it is mutually beneficial to provide a free estimate or suggest a paid visit for a written specific quote?


Their next step is going to be take up a review site and say something to the effect of “their website says free estimates, but they wouldn’t come out and give me my free estimate”.

You gained nothing, and got hurt with a negative review. It all easily could’ve been avoided.

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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