Imagine getting to decide when you wake up and when you go to work. It may seem like that’s impossible for a painter, but starting a painting business can help that.
You probably won’t have control over your work as an employee. But making the leap to entrepreneur is easier than you might expect.
Read on to learn how to start a painting business so that you can look forward to getting up for work.
Why Start a Painting Business
Starting a painting business is an excellent option for entrepreneurs who want to be active. But it doesn’t have as many of the same complexities as other trades. Maybe you’ve enjoyed painting your own home and want to help others.
Or perhaps you don’t want to work for someone else, and you’re good at painting. Whatever the situation, there are a few reasons why you might want to open a painting business.
Easy to Start
Compared to similar types of businesses, such as HVAC or construction, painting is easy to begin. You don’t need a ton of experience or education. As long as you have some basic painting skills, you can get your first few clients.
Then, you’ll be able to learn on the job and improve your skills. However, you don’t have to go to trade school or spend years learning before you can get a customer.
If you can’t afford to go to school, becoming a painting business owner is a great option. While having experience can be easier than starting a painting business with no experience, both are possible. So think about your situation when looking for the right clients for your business.
Low Startup Costs
If you’ve done some DIY painting, you probably have some basic supplies. All you need to start painting is some brushes and ladders. You can bill clients for the paint or include those materials in your pricing.
As you start, you can also use your existing vehicle. Later, you’ll be able to buy a business vehicle when you have the money, but it’s not a necessity. If you have an SUV or truck, it should be big enough to hold your painting supplies.
Even if you need to buy stuff, like ladders, you can get started on a budget. Then, you don’t have to worry about getting a massive loan or investors to fund your business. If you have the savings, you can use that to start.
Starting a painting business is great if you want to consistently have work. People need painters when building a new house or adding to an existing home. You can also get projects that involve home renovation, such as removing wallpaper or repainting a room.
If you offer interior painting services, you can get work throughout the year. Then, you won’t have to worry about a dry spell in the winter when it gets too cold to paint outside.
You may still experience slow periods, but the painting industry is almost always in demand. If you can market yourself well, you can become the go-to painting business in your city. Eventually, you might have clients coming to you.
Specialize Your Services
If you want to make more money from your painting business, you can offer specialized services. One way to do so is to focus on commercial painting. Businesses typically have more money to pay for those projects, so you can charge them more.
Another option is to specialize in historically accurate painting. You can get clients who own historical homes and who want to preserve the house. Or you may specialize in a certain painting technique or style.
If you learn how to do that style well, you can charge clients more than a generalist painter. It can seem like that will limit your ability to get business. However, when you do get a client, they’ll be willing to pay more for your expertise.
You can specialize from the beginning or do so later. That way, you’ll know what you like before you settle on your area of focus.
Control Your Schedule
One of the most significant benefits of starting a painting business is the ability to control your schedule. You’ll get to decide when and where you work, and you can bid on the projects you want and not the ones you don’t.
While you may have to work when a client is awake, you don’t have to do all of the work. If you don’t want to have to work all day, you can hire people to do the painting for you. Then, you’ll be able to control your schedule.
However, you’ll have even more flexibility regarding when you do your admin tasks. If you work well at night, you can do your bookkeeping and invoicing at that time. Or you might choose to wake up early to get stuff done.
Decide When or If You Grow
If you want to keep your painting business as a small business, you can do so. However, you also get to choose when you want to start hiring people. Maybe you get an influx of clients needing painting work, so you decide to hire a few subcontractors.
Or perhaps you get a big commercial client, so you hire employees. Then, you can take on more clients without having to work all of the time yourself.
You get to control who you hire and how much you pay them. Or if you don’t want to hire anyone, you can focus on building a small but sustainable painting business.
How to Start a Painting Business
When you first start your business, it may seem like you don’t have to do a lot. However, you should learn how to start a painting business properly.
Some of the steps are similar to those of opening any sort of company. Other steps are more specific either to painting or various trades. Following these steps can help set yourself up for success and avoid potentially costly mistakes.
Here are some things you should do as you start your painting company.
Hone Your Painting Skills
If you’ve hardly painted before, you should take some time to learn. You can do so by redoing a couple of rooms in your home. Then, you have plenty of time to practice and make mistakes without having a client complain.
Another option is to practice painting for a friend or family member. They can give you a testimonial for your work, which may help you get clients early on.
Regardless of where you practice, you should practice some professional painting skills. You’ll need to learn how to prepare a room for painting, such as covering valuables. Of course, you should figure out how to use different brushes and rollers.
If you want to use different kinds of paint, you should learn when to use what. And you should learn about when to use a primer before your first coat of paint.
Outline a Business Plan
Once you decide to start a painting business, you should write a short business plan. It doesn’t have to be super detailed, but it can help you plan for the first year or so of your business.
A good business plan covers your financial projections, marketing plan, and executive statement. If you’re ever unsure of what to do to grow your business, you can refer back to the plan for ideas.
Having a business plan is necessary if you want to get outside funding. You can show the plan to a lender or investor. Even if you don’t plan on getting outside funding, the plan helps hold you accountable.
Register Your Business
If you want to set up a limited liability company (LLC), you should register it with your state. You will need to choose an available name, and you can set that up with your state government or use an online service.
An LLC can help separate your business from yourself, but it can be expensive to start. If you don’t plan on hiring right away, you can start as a sole proprietor. You won’t have to file any paperwork to register your business.
If you change your mind later, you can always register an LLC at that time. Just make sure you have the registration fee to get everything started.
Get a License
You might be asking, “Do you need a license to start a painting business?” Sadly, the answer isn’t clear across the board.
Depending on your city and state, you may need to obtain a state-level business license for painters. Some states may only require a license for specific types of paint, such as paint with lead. Others will require a license no matter what materials you choose to use.
You should also check with your city to see if there are more specific requirements. Maybe your state doesn’t need you to have a license but your city does. And if you live near a state line, check the neighboring state requirements so that you can work with clients in that state.
Whether you need a license or not, you should buy insurance for your business. At the very least, you’ll want to purchase professional liability insurance. That will protect you in case a client sues you after you complete a project.
If you plan to hire employees, you’ll also need to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Most states require that, so be sure to get it before you hire anyone. When hiring employees, you might also need to buy group health insurance, depending on the size of your company.
Whether you hire people or not, you should purchase good car insurance. You can use your existing vehicle, but make sure it has collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, and liability insurance. That way, you’ll have protection in case something happens to your car.
Open a Business Bank Account
The next step to starting a painting business is to open a business bank account. If you file for an LLC, you should wait until your state processes that paperwork. That way, you can get an employer identification number (EIN) to connect to your bank account.
When you’re a sole proprietor, you can use your social security number to set up a bank account for your business. Either way, having a separate account can help you keep track of income and expenses.
You’ll be able to use the business account to invoice clients. And you can get a debit card to use to purchase supplies. If you hire painting contractors or employees, you can use the business bank account to pay them.
Choose the Right Software
Along with a business bank account, you should look at software to manage your finances. You may want to use accounting software to view your revenue and profit month by month. However, it also helps to have software to collect payments.
That way, you can make sure your clients pay you on time. When that happens, you can pay your bills on time and keep your business running. Even if one or two of your clients pay late, it can throw things off for you.
You can also choose software to help schedule bidding appointments or other meetings. Then, you won’t have to email back and forth to try and set a good time to meet with clients. The right pieces of software can help make the administrative side of your business much easier.
List Your Services
If you haven’t done so already, you should list out the services offered. A painting business can offer a lot of different things to clients. For example, you might choose to focus on exterior painting or interior painting.
Of course, you can offer both services. You can also offer services that are related to painting, such as repaints, wallpaper removal, and staining. More services to consider include deck reconditioning and power washing.
Providing more services can help you attract more clients, and you may get more recurring clients. For example, someone may only need interior painting now. However, they might want you to powerwash their deck in a few months.
Another benefit of offering different services is that you can bundle services together. You might package wallpaper removal and interior painting into the same job. Then, you’ll be able to charge more to cover the extra work.
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Choose a Target Audience
As you consider the services you want to offer, you should select a target audience. The first thing to decide is if you want to work with residential or commercial clients. Residential clients are easy to get, and the jobs are simple.
However, many residential clients don’t need recurring work. Commercial clients can get you recurring work so that you don’t have to constantly find new customers. But they can also be difficult to get at first.
Another way to choose your ideal customer is to narrow in on other factors. You might choose to work with people in a certain age group or who make a certain income. If you notice a lot of people are flipping houses, you can target the flippers.
Then, you can create your marketing materials for that one specific person. It can be easier to get clients when they feel like you’re speaking directly to them when marketing your business. And if you choose the right type of client, you may enjoy working with people more.
Acquire Some Tools
Another thing you’ll need to do when starting a painting business is to get some supplies. You may already have brushes or even a ladder or two. However, you should stock up on rollers, drop cloths, and painter’s tape.
To work on even more projects, you might need sandpaper and scrapers. That way, you can prepare a room to repaint it, or you can do exterior paint jobs. You’ll also need plenty of paint, so it helps to partner with someone who knows how to start a paint-selling business.
When you get a new project, you can go to the person selling the paint. They may help you get the color you need, and you can even get a discount if you buy from them frequently. That’s a great way to save money to increase profits.
At first, it may be tempting to borrow these tools from clients or your own contractors or employees. However, that’s not a viable strategy long term. If you rely on clients, you can limit the jobs you can get if clients don’t have what you need.
Similarly, you might be out of luck if a contractor suddenly stops working with you. They don’t have to give you their supplies. So make sure you invest in some tools from the beginning so that you don’t have to borrow them later.
Set Up Painting Contracts
If you want to protect yourself and your painting business, you should use contracts. A contract is legally binding, and it can help you in case someone refuses to pay. You can ask all clients to sign your contract before you begin painting for them.
Before you hire anyone, you should also develop a contract for your employees or subcontractors. It can cover your expectations for the work and what may warrant termination. If any of your workers try to sue, you can also make sure the contract protects you.
Consider hiring a lawyer to write a contract or two for you. Then, you can edit the template with the date and client or employee name. A lawyer can be expensive, but they can make sure the contract will hold up in court in case of a suit.
If you can’t afford a lawyer, look for contract templates online. You’ll be able to edit the template to cover your services so that it meets your needs.
Create a Price List
Another thing to do when starting a painting business is to create a price list. You don’t need to show this list to clients, and you might not want to. However, the list can help you give more accurate quotes when bidding for jobs.
For example, you may write down your hourly labor cost as well as the price of common materials. You can also make a note of the profit margin you want to maintain. Whenever you go to bid for a project, refer to that price list to help.
You can make sure you don’t quote the project too low and compromise your profits. As you create your price list, you can also look around at local painting companies. Consider how much they’re charging so that you can match the market rate.
Develop a Brand
When starting your business, you should develop a brand, including a logo, colors, fonts, and a brand voice. This will help you when interacting with clients so that you can build name recognition.
You can use your ideal client to help inform your branding. If you want to get commercial clients, you might use neutral colors and a simple logo. On the other hand, if you’re attracting young homebuyers who are getting into home improvement projects, you may choose something more fun and colorful.
Then, you’ll be able to design a logo or hire a designer for the task. You can use the colors and fonts you select when setting up your website. A good website can help people find your business when searching online, so you can get more clients.
Another way to utilize your branding is to create uniform shirts for you and your team. When working at a client site, you or your employees can wear the shirt. This can help clients and others in their homes or offices know who you are and why you’re there.
Now, you’re ready to start marketing your business to get your first few clients. You can market your business online and offline using:
- Business cards
- Social media
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
When you wrote a business plan, you may have included a marketing plan. If so, refer to that to help decide where to promote your business. You can also look at your ideal client and figure out the best ways to reach them, such as with specific social networks.
A good network to use is Nextdoor because it shows people’s local posts. That can help you reach more people at first before you get a lot of work.
If you want to focus on digital marketing, you should also set up a Google My Business page. The page will show up when people search for your business or for painters in your area, and it can help you get more leads.
Hire Employees or Contractors
Depending on how or if you want to grow your business, you may want to hire employees or contractors. Employees are great because they will work for you long-term. That means you can predict how much work you can take on as you get more clients.
However, you have to pay for things like benefits and workers’ compensation insurance. You may want to start by hiring contractors who you can turn into employees later. Hiring a contractor is more affordable because you don’t have to pay for benefits.
Also, you only have to pay the contractor when they work. If you think you might face a slow period soon, a contractor is more cost-effective. Plus, you can find multiple contractors so that you always have someone who’s available to help you.
If you can’t decide which is best, use a combination of the two. You might hire one or two full-time employees who you can count on to complete most projects. But you can have a list of contractors to contact when you get an influx of work.
Schedule Administrative Work
Before you get your first client, you’ll spend most of your time on administrative tasks. You need to set up your business, get insurance and a painting license, and market your company. But that doesn’t stop once you get a client or two.
Make sure to schedule admin time each week so that you can stay on top of invoicing and other tasks. You can spend an hour or two a day sending invoices and reminding clients to pay their bills if they haven’t done so.
The admin time is also great for scheduling posts to social media to help market the business. And you can use some time to reply to emails and book time to bid on new projects.
If you don’t have time for everything, consider hiring an assistant. You can hire them as an employee or contractor, and they can free up more of your time to paint or communicate with clients.
Starting a Painting Business Made Easy
Starting a painting business is an excellent way to become an entrepreneur. You don’t need to go to a trade school or have a ton of experience. But you can enjoy the benefits of working for yourself.
With the right steps, tools, and software, you can get your painting business off the ground. Then, you’ll be able to control your schedule and enjoy your work. And you can make more money than you might as an employee.
Do you want the right software to grow your painting company? Book a free demo today.