How to make more money in bathtub refinishing

“If I raise my price, my regular customers will stop using me and I’m going to lose work!”

How many times have we heard a refinisher say that? All the time, right? So why is it those refinishers who have higher prices are generally a lot busier than the ones who doing tubs for very cheap?

I get where the urge to ‘race to the bottom’ on price is coming from. You see a lot of other pros around your area doing tubs who are keeping their prices cheap. Sometimes people are calling but not always booking the job. Plus, we’re doing business in an economy that isn’t still great. So you’re thinking, “Come on, Mike. With all that going on, I need to think about dropping my price. Not raising it!”

With over 30 years in this business, I’m here to tell you that the cheapest guy is almost never the busiest guy. Instead, that guy is doing a lot more work for a lot less money. Meanwhile, the best run companies with the highest prices are keeping very busy.

So what’s their big secret?

#1: Believe In Your Value
In the last month alone, I've talked to three separate refinishing business owners. They’re constantly competing with lower priced refinishers. But instead of lowering their prices, they have a price increase every 3-5 years. What are they thinking? It starts with how they view their own work and knowing who they want to work with rather than just anyone.

Each one of those owners expressed a similar belief: “Sure, we’re competing with cheap guys all over the place. But let them work harder for next to no money. We’re after the people who want good work and are going to pay for it. Since we’re in this business to make money, we know our work is worth the price.”

Nice thought. But is it actually working? You bet. They’re getting between $400 - $550 to do a standard 5 foot tub and at least $125 - $175 a strip. Meanwhile, they’re booked over a month out.

#2: Raise Your Prices Or You’re Taking A Pay Cut
That’s right. Every year you’re too afraid to raise your prices, you’re taking a pay cut. Why? The cost of living keeps going up everywhere you look: Gas. Health and car insurance. Groceries. And taxes certainly aren't going down! Think about all of those annual rising costs for a moment. Now imagine never raising your own prices over 10-20 years. When economic conditions and your prices are headed in opposite directions like that, you can see how you’re only going to be working harder every year to compensate.

 #3: Fire Your Cheapest Customers
Here’s a plain and simple fact: When you raise your prices, you’re going to lose some customers and some opportunities. I’m talking mainly about your cheapest customers and the people shopping exclusively on price. Well, so be it. Fire those cheap customers and replace them with better customers who are going to pay you well for your work. Do you really want customers who are going to know you more for being the cheap guy than your work? Of course not. You’re turning out a professional product and you have the right to earn a professional living.

 #4: All Things Equal, The Only Difference Is The Marketing
There’s a lot to be said for how you position yourself when you believe your work is truly worth it.

Here’s a true story. 6 years ago, my 19-year-old stepson didn't have a job so he took my 2-day refinishing training class. One week after he finished training, a local refinishing company charging $550 per tub called me and asked if I knew anyone looking to refinish.

2 months later, that 19-year-old kid became their lead tech, doing the work on a tub for $550 and a strip for another $175.

At the same time, several local refinishers – many of which were refinishing before my stepson was born – were using the exact same product, taking the exact same steps and working in the exact same town. The only difference? They were charging $295 for a tub and $50 to strip. And literally selling themselves short.

So how long has it been since you have increased your prices?

The evidence is clear. It’s about time you gave yourself a well-deserved raise.