11 Tips to Screen Trades Customers before Saying ‘Yes’ for your Next Job

Customer Writing

Customers have all the right to do a thorough search before hiring a Tradie for their next project. And why not; their hard earned money is flowing out of their pockets after all.

So Tradies hear questions like: Are you licensed, qualified and insured? Can you charge less for this? Do you quote free? Please clean up before leaving. The list goes on forever.

Unfortunately for Tradies checking a customer’s past history is not so simple. Most of the times they would rely on their gut feeling and hope that the customer won’t be too fussy, pay late or simply waste their time by changing their mind even before the job begins.

So how can Tradies weed out tire kickers and difficult customers early on so they don’t end up pulling out their hair doing the job or grinding their teeth as they chase after money owed.

We have gathered some tips from the pros:

1. Charge a call out fee

This is probably the best way to check if the customer calling for a quote respects your time or not. Quoting is a lengthy process. It takes time and money to travel all the way, inspect the job and settle over a quote. It’s only fair for a Tradie to charge a call out fee. If a customer is not willing to pay that then they are either not serious or will be more hassle than it’s worth once you start the work.

2. Listen closely to what they say about the previous Tradies

Of course if the work looks dodgy, customers have all the right to complain. But if someone is bad-mouthing the previous Tradies who had been there before and for no apparent reason, they will probably try to find out faults in your work too and will be too hard to please.

3. Watch out for late payers

If your customers are too eager to get discounts or keep on trying to negotiate the rates, this should ring a bell. You don’t want to get caught with someone who values price over quality and hard work. They can be a pain in the neck when the job is done and "it's" pay time.

Better yet, run a search on Late Payer’s List to check if your potential customer’s name is there. This will safeguard your business from customers who beat around the bush when the payment is due.

4. Follow your intuition

When you are long enough into your business, you sort of develop a sixth sense to sniff out troublemakers. While trusting your gut feeling can be risky, it’s very necessary. Most of the times, a first meeting is all you will need to decide to work for them or not. The trick is to be super observant.

Start with a checklist for yourself: Do they have a clear picture of what they need to get done? Are they educated enough to know that the Block’s timeframes are unrealistic? Are they nagging over the cost too much? Do they look like they will be able to pay for the job? Watch out for those looking for discounts in exchange for help or repeatedly telling you how hard it is to be a pensioner.

5. Ask them their budget and time frame

Your time is precious so use it wisely. Instead of spending an hour to an elaborate landscape design only to find out later that their budget is for a basic garden bed, ask them about their budget first.

Most of the times, the discussion will end just there.

6. Do some reference calling

Customers have the advantage to look at their Tradie’s licenses, certificates, work experience and so on. But Tradies can do the same! Ask customers about the Tradies they have worked with before and call them to do some reference check. More than a few bad testimonials should be enough to ring the bell.

7. Have everything written and signed

From when and how they are going to pay to who buys the material and how will the costing of extra work will be done, get them to agree to all the terms in writing and have it signed by them before the work starts. If they disagree or try to negotiate too much, they will probably continue to do so throughout the job. Don't change the terms that can potentially put your business at risk. Take it as a warning. Walk out.

8. Ask them what aspect of work are they most focused on?

If a customer doesn’t have realistic expectations, giving them charge of the project can prove to be a disaster.

Let them tell you what they want but set the agenda yourself and walk them through the project scope, completion timeline, variations, materials and payment process. Ask them what matters the most to them. Quality, time or cost and you will be able to weed them out right there.

9. How many quotes have they requested already from other Tradies?

If the customer has approached twelve other Tradies before getting a quote from you too, it can show their priority is the price and not the quality of the job. Make sure you don’t waste time with tire kickers.

10. Find out who the decision maker is

If the decision maker of the household knows how to do the job, but does not have time to do it, chances are they will not be happy with your work. If they have a nephew who happens to be a Tradie, chances are you are going to get a lot of tips on how he does it so efficiently. If they don’t know what they want, they won’t be happy with what they get.

11. Look for the right attitude

If a customer has called for a job, the Tradie is under the impression that they want to get the job done. But not making themselves available for a meeting is not okay. Respect for Tradie’s time is number one rule for business. Are they calling for an emergency job that should have been done a long time back? There might be trouble when it's pay time. Are they trying to suggest what the job should cost? They don’t understand the value of your skills.


If you are new into your business, you might bump into the wrong customers more often than you like.

But not all small businesses have the luxury to say no just because your gut tells you to. If time is on your side, be accommodating and patient. Take a few minutes to chat and laugh with them to see things from their eyes. But do your homework, before saying yes to your next job.

Note: This article was created after talking to over a 50 Tradies and Tradie Wives on what steps do they take to make sure their customers are the right fit for their business.

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Wardah Wadood

Wardah Wadood

Content Manager and Community Strategist at i4Tradies | Social Media Evangelist | Writer | Editor