7 types of software every contractor should be using
Most contractors are creatures of habit. You probably have at least a few tools in your toolbox that have been there for years but that you’d never dream of replacing. There are probably a few tricks up your sleeve that you’ve been using since you started in the business, and you couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
The hands-on side of construction lends itself to that kind of personal tradition. However, the administrative and business side of the industry has changed a lot. If you’re not up to date with the latest technology, you might be missing out.
Construction technology, whether it’s construction quoting software or something else, is a huge time saver. The more time you save on one task, the more you can get done in a day and the more money you make. That’s just how the industry works. So, while we would never suggest you retire your favorite hammer or give up your time-saving tricks, we do recommend you consider some of these software packages and tools.
1. Scheduling Software
If you’re still tracking jobs on a whiteboard (or several) in your back office or on a spreadsheet on your laptop, it’s time to look into some slightly more modern options. Some of the options out there are integrated directly into residential estimating software, and some construction quoting software has integrated scheduling options.
However, if you’re not using any of those (or they don’t have the features you need built-in), you do have options. You could try:
MS Project – one of the original project scheduling software packages – it’s not free, but it’s got great support!
Gantt Project – a free, open-source version of MS Project – doesn’t have all the features but gets the job done
Trello – a visual, card-based planning tool that is great for people who don’t like Gantt charts – there are free and paid options
Asana – a task list and calendar-based option, also with free and paid options
2. Accounting Software
Another important type of software contractors and construction companies need to use is accounting software. Not only does this allow you to keep track of your finances, but many also act as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, and several integrate directly with various construction quoting software packages.
odern accounting software packages are relatively user-friendly and don’t take too long to master. Many are also cloud-based, which is perfect for teams that are spread out geographically. There are free and paid options available too, such as:
QuickBooks – is pretty much the gold standard for small and medium businesses, has tons of features, and various subscription options
Wave – another great cloud-based option, which has a free version with somewhat limited features you can use
GnuCash – an open-source accounting software you can run from a local machine – doesn’t have all the features and is harder to set up, but is completely free forever
3. Take Off Software
If you often find yourself struggling with measuring off-plan, scaling dimensions, and more, take-off software might be the solution.
This software allows you to choose a measurement system, calibrate measurements from known/figured dimensions, and measure lengths, areas, and more. The drawing you’re measuring from does need to be drawn to scale, but it doesn’t have to be printed or provided to scale. This means you can scan a printed drawing into your computer and use it to do an accurate dimension takeoff.
There are some very high techs take-off software options out there, but in this category, we’ve only got one recommendation for you: Vu360’s free version. It’s easy to use, accurate and costs nothing.
4. CAD Viewers
If you work with architects fairly regularly, there’s a good chance they will share drawings, and sometimes, those might be in CAD format rather than as a PDF. Usually, if this is from AutoCAD, it will be a .dwg file.
The good news is that AutoCAD themselves offers a variety of free viewers you can use to open and view these files, and you can find them all here.
5. CAD Drawings
If you need to present your clients with drawings, and you don’t want to hire someone to do them for you, there are several affordable options you can use. AutoCAD and MicroStation are some of the big names in the CAD world, but for most residential contractors, they’re overkill. Try one of these instead:
TurboCad from IMSI – is a paid product that costs a fraction of what you would pay for AutoCAD – and it can open and edit .dwg files as well as being a complete CAD solution
BRL-CAD is a free, open-source CAD package that does all the basics – it’s not the same as a commercial package, but if your drawings are simple, it’s a good option
Free CAD, as the name suggests, is another free, open-source product – it’s also reasonably basic but perfect for simple drawings
6. Cloud Storage
If you’re working with a team that is on various sites and in different locations, cloud storage is a great way to share and collaborate on documents and more. The good news is that there are many clouds storage options out there, and many are free. These include:
DropBox – everyone knows about DropBox these days, and it’s a good option if you just want to share files (but it doesn’t allow collaboration, so you need to have software to view and edit anything shared here) – there are free and paid options
Google Drive – when combined with Google Docs, Sheets, and other cloud-based software solutions, this allows you to share and collaborate
OneDrive – is Microsoft’s cloud-based sharing option, and it incorporates Office – so you can share and collaborate with native Office documents and spreadsheets, even when the receiver doesn’t have that software on their computer
7. Construction Quoting Software
No matter how you slice it, doing quotes manually is time-consuming, and the risk of errors is significant. Revisions and alternatives take forever, and keeping track of quotes is a nightmare.
Construction quoting software is a great way to take control of your estimating process. It allows you to automate and standardize your quoting procedure. While there are some specialist options for roof estimating software, bathroom remodelling software and so on, an excellent residential estimating software should handle any trade or specialty without needing a trade-specific solution.
When it comes to residential estimating software, the only option we feel comfortable recommending is CostCertified. Not because it’s the construction quoting software we make, but because it addresses all the problems WE had with this kind of software. It’s fast, easy to use, allows real-time upgrades and gives customers an e-commerce like experience. There’s just nothing else out there that’s even close to this software for contractors.
Investing In Software for Contractors Makes Financial Sense
The list of software for contractors we have provided here is not complete or exhaustive, but it is a good start if you’re looking for ways to speed up and improve your business and administrative processes.
Many of the options listed here are free or cheap or have various pricing options, so the overall cost to upgrade your business with this software for contractors might only add a few hundred dollars to your monthly overhead costs. However, you need to consider how much it can save you, including:
Reducing human error – when you have pre-programmed construction quoting software, accounting software and more, there’s less chance of an entry error
Saving labor costs – consider how much you pay your estimators, accountant, and admin team – now imagine if you can cut their workload in half with technology – they’ll have more time to get more done, and you will still save money!
Cut administrative staffing costs – when you’re doing everything the old-fashioned way, with pencils, paper, and calculators, you need people to do filing, capture data in spreadsheets and more – upgrading your technology lowers the need for hands-on administrative staffing
Fewer mistakes on site – when you can give your crews accurate information and send them updates via the cloud, there’s less chance they’ll make costly mistakes in the field
Convert more leads into orders – clients expect speedy service, and that starts with their quote – construction quoting software that speeds up the process and delivers what your customers want quickly is more likely to result in more sales
Investing in big changes to your business can be daunting, but if you’re struggling to get your construction business to the next level, it might be precisely what you need.
Think about where the bottlenecks and problems are, both in the office and in the field, and investigate those construction software options first. Look for tools that offer integration and automation and that offer good support and training services.
While you might need a little time to adapt to this kind of change, it’s almost always worth it. We know because many of our customers have doubled or even tripled their revenue just by choosing to use CostCertified. Imagine what you could do with the right technology?