As a subbie, you’ll most likely be well versed in quoting a construction job. However, sometimes a much larger job will come along that you have to really put in the hard yards to win over the heart of the head contractor who is tendering for a job. 

You probably have what a tender is down pat, so we’ve got some tips for putting together your best quote yet.

What is a quote?

First of all, what is a quote? Quotes and estimates are sometimes used interchangeably.

A construction quote is a formal document of pricing that a business needs to be paid in order to fulfil the job requirements. 

When it comes to a quote versus an estimate, an estimate differs only slightly from this in that it is more of an idea of how much the materials, labour and other parts may cost. 

Sometimes there might be some variables that may make it difficult for a business to give an accurate quote, therefore an estimate is your best best until you get clarification.

When would I be required to quote?

At all different stages of construction tenders, you may be required to provide a quote. 

Head contractors are always looking for large tender jobs. Depending on your past experience and relationships you may get approached to quote a construction job for a subcontractor tender

Otherwise, you may have to reach out to the head contractor, sell yourself and provide a great quote for your trade part of the tender. 

After a contract is awarded, head contractors will also typically circle back to you to try negotiate the price down further (or as they like to call it, “sharpen your pencils”). This is where you’ll need to remain competitive with your pricing as well and will likely keep you in their good books for future. Be smart with your quoting throughout the process! 

What should I include in my construction quote?

Construction quotes can be pretty straight forward if you know how to write a quote. 

There’s a few key things you want to make sure you include so that it’s the most accurate representation of what you have to offer.

Administrative details

Considering the quote might be quite long, it’s always worth making it extra clear what your overall figure is. We’re talking big, bold text. Make sure it’s clear what the tax excluded and tax included pricing is. 

Don’t make the head contractor suffer by reading all the small font line items. 

You’ll also need to include the obvious details of both parties, what project it’s for any other classic administrative details.

Scope of works

Here’s where the hard work goes. You’ll need to show the head contractor what is and isn’t included. This is applicable to both the labour and materials.

Inclusions can sometimes include:

  • Labour and apprentice costs (as well as how they’re calculated)
  • Transport to and from the job
  • Call out fees or public holiday rates

When it comes to exclusions, you want to be super clear as well. This can vary but may include things like:

  • Fixing damage to finished work (that was not done by you)
  • Hazardous material removal of materials you encounter
  • Working height restrictions

Depending on your trade, there is a wide range of things that could fill these lists out. Just make sure you’re trying to include as much as you sensibly can.


There’s a few tricks of the trade when quoting out materials. Sometimes a head contractor will name a specific brand in the documentation that you’ll need to quote installation and labour against. Other times, you may have to provide options. 

The best way you can do this is by clearly listing each material requirement and installation as separate line items (the contractor will love you for this).

When you are listing out materials, it’s important to be as clear as possible, particularly when it comes to allowances. 

Sometimes the head contractor or other people working on the project might change a design so you’ll need to accommodate any changes and be flexible with your quoting. 

Head contractors like to see that you’ve clearly allowed for variation in product or other elements. You should do this by including measurements and clear descriptions.

A good example when it comes to flooring would be:

  • Timber Flooring [Good]: Allowance for equivalent 190x19mm timber board, floating install in lieu of direct stuck.
  • Timber Flooring [Bad]: Allowance for alternative timber.

Or for carpentry:

  • Carpentry [Good]: Allowance for 62mm MDF skirting in lieu of 100mm specified
  • Carpentry [Bad]: Allowance for skirting

It’s all about clarifying the small parts of the job so that the head contractor has everything up front, clear and ready to go should you be selected. 
If you’re looking for more tips on subcontractor tenders, responses and general industry knowledge, don’t forget to check out our other articles on our Insights blog.

When it comes to bidding for construction tenders, there’s so many things to consider when completing a tender response. 

Think of tender responses like exams. You need to be prepared, answer concisely and persuasively. Your tender response will always need to show your unique value proposition and tick all the boxes the contractor has set. 

In the meantime, we’ve put together a more specific guide on how to bid for construction tenders.

Step 1 – Invitation to tender

Before you can even start thinking about how to write a tender response, you need a tender to bid for. 

Tenders won’t always fall into your lap. It’s important to always network, network, network (we cover this in our article How to find your next construction job as a subcontractor).

The best way to get invitations to tender or get a whiff of any work that’s out there is to keep these networks alive!

Some builders we have on EstimateOne maintain an address book of subbies (who are, of course, also on EstimateOne). If you request documents from a head contractor and introduce yourself, you’re likely to be added to that address book.

When it comes to the tender, typically a contractor will send out invitations to tender which will likely include the:

  • Scope of work
  • Time of completion
  • Pre-qualification details

Depending on the tender, there is usually a lot more information to help you out. Head contractors will usually package this out to specific trades so you receive the relevant information. 

This is where you draw all the information you need in order to make a bid for a construction project.

Step 2 – The quote

Writing a quote isn’t a simple task. Some businesses get professional bid writers to help them out. We’re here to give you confidence in writing it yourself with tips for your construction bid.  

Things you could include in your response:

  • Accurate details of your business
  • Background and capabilities of your business 
  • Clear responses to each question
  • Schedule of rates
  • Timelines
  • References
  • Terms and conditions 

Sometimes it’s even worth putting in information about the staff who you would select to work on the project. Some people like to know who specifically will be working and their experience.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to answer the questions or address any specific requests made by the contractor. If you’re unsure of anything, you can always ask questions for clarification.

After you’ve completed your response you should review, review, review.

Once you’re completely happy with your response, it’s time to submit!

Step 3 – Submission

Once you’ve reached the submission stage it’s important to call out what you have and haven’t quoted. This will ensure that everything is super clear with what you will and won’t be doing. 

The actual submission is pretty quick (in terms of your input). Once you’ve submitted your proposal by the deadline, contractors will compile all responses and start reviewing them. 

So long as you’ve met their requirements and provided an immaculate document, you’ll be in with a chance. 

A lot of turning points for contractors are the pricing structures, so without putting yourself in a bad position, do your absolute best on pricing. This will give you a competitive advantage over others. 

It’s always worth chasing up the head contractor as well to show your interest (exactly like a job interview).

Step 4 – Contractor reviews applications

As the contractor reviews submissions they may conduct interviews during this period to go through any specific details they want to expand on. 

Contractors will work off their own timelines so if you have the hunger for more work, use this time to search for other tenders and get cracking on some other responses to maximise your opportunities. 

Check out our subbie section for some relevant tenders out there at the moment for your trade. 

Step 5 – Final decision, negotiation and contracts

Once the contractor has made the final decision on who they’d like to select, this is where you come in and start negotiations. 

Obviously there’s a huge amount of moving parts in a project so pending on changes or any specifics, there’s still opportunity for you to negotiate different elements, without veering too far from your proposal (you know, the one that won you the job). 

Once you nut out all this information with the contractor you will reach the agreement phase. 


In case that was a lot of information to absorb, we’ll recap for you. 

For your tender responses, always consider the below points:

  • The design and aesthetic of the response
  • Address the selection criteria
  • Clear, concise language
  • Spelling and grammar perfected
  • Your unique selling point
  • Competitive pricing
  • Understand the contractor
  • Understand the project inside out

Keep an eye on our blog as we’ve got all types of information to help you out through every part of a tender process, whether it be before, during or after.