How to Start a Painting Business for $500

February 18th, 2017 | Eric Barstow | Featured, Painting Business Articles | 3 Comments

Sounds impossible? Hear me out. You can start a painting business with just these few steps:

  • Register your company – $100
  • Create a website – Free
  • Get insurance – $100 per month
  • Painting equipment – Free (I’ll explain later)
  • Bid for jobs
  • Getting your first painting customer – $100
  • Make a profit

This is exactly how I (Eric) started. Now our companies generate $4+ million in revenue each year, and it only took 5 years to get there.

Why isn’t it as affordable for everyone? New business owners often complicate starting a painting business. They worry about things that don’t matter that much, like having the perfect logo. Or how to perfectly estimate a painting job.

I’m going to show you how to start a painting business for under $500 and make your first profit after just 1 week. Let’s dig into the details!

Step 1: Register Your Painting Business

In the United States, you can simply google “business registration” in your state and find the state secretary site where you can register. This only takes 10-15 minutes and costs just $50-$100.

Step 2: Create a Website

So many websites offer a free trial for this. Weebly or Wix are a couple of good ones. Don’t complicate this, you really only need a contact page just to show you’re a real company.

I’ve known people who will put off making a website for months because it’s not perfect yet – or spend an absurd amount of money with a designer. Truthfully, you’ll get such little traffic (if any) at the beginning. Just make a site to show your customers that has all the relevant information on it. You can make it look better over time.

Step 3: Get Insurance

In some states in the US, you don’t need an actual license for residential painting. You only need liability insurance for your painting business. This usually costs around $100 per month for a million-dollar policy.

Editor’s note: If you are in a state that DOES require a contractor’s license, here’s a page that’ll walk you through everything you need.

Step 4: Get Painting Equipment (Or Rather, Don’t Get Painting Equipment)

Painting equipment can be expensive, especially when you’re just starting out. For example, just a paint sprayer can cost you a thousand dollars. I’m showing you how to start a painting business with under $500. So my advice is: DON’T buy equipment.

You’d be amazed how many sub-contractors have their own equipment, AND are willing to paint your house for 50-60% of what you’re charging the customer. After spending roughly 15% on paint and materials, you’ll be left with around 30% profit.

You might be asking, “Where do I get the 15% for materials?”

Most customers expect to pay a deposit when they schedule your painting services. I personally collect 25% from the customer up front. This will easily pay for any paint or materials you’ll need before starting the house.

Step 5: How to Bid a Paint Job

There’s a much more detailed article about this HERE, but we’ll cover the basics here. The easiest way to get to work and start making your profit after 1 week, is to bring your sub-contractor or painting crew to the job site and negotiate how much to pay them.

They will know WAY more than you will about estimating when you first start, so seek advice from a crew that knows their stuff.

For example, you sell a paint job for $2500. You bring your sub to the job and they say they’ll do it for $1200 if YOU buy materials. Paint and Materials on a $2500 job will usually be $300-$400.

Suddenly you’re left with an $800-$1000 profit on your first job. AND you only spent out-of-pocket money on your painting business registration and insurance.

Step 6: Get Your First Painting Customers

There are many ways to do this, which we’ve also detailed HERE. But the cheapest, easiest way to get your first customer is to knock on doors.

Some people are afraid to do this at first (I definitely was). I can still feel my heart jumping out of my throat after ringing my first doorbell. This nervousness will subside, I promise.

By knocking on doors for a couple hours, you will generate 3 to 5 leads on average. We’ve run hundreds of marketing teams to arrive at this average.

Of the 5 leads, 3 of those will turn into in-home estimates where you can potentially sell your first customer.

Of the 3 estimates, you will sell 1.

DISCLAIMER: Most people are bad at sales the first time. I get goosebumps thinking about how awkward my first estimates were. But after persevering, I became a very good salesman, where I could consistently sell about half of my overall estimates.

If you are just starting, you will be bad at estimates. So make sure to get enough door-to-door leads to set up 10 estimates or so. Even if you’re bad, you’ll probably sell at least 1 of those. And then you’ll just get better, the more you do it!

Step 7: Paint the House

I covered this a little bit earlier: use sub-contractors. Like everything about this business, it’s a numbers game. You might go through hiring and firing 4 or 5 crews before you find a reliable one.

That’s one of the biggest questions or complaints I get. How do you find good help? Again, persistence. I went through about 10 crews before I found my favorite one (that I still use to this day). Great crews DO exist!

A lot of painting crews are unreliable, sloppy, or too expensive for sub-contracting. I refuse to hire a crew with poor quality. I promise the best to my customers, so I deliver the best.

A good crew should be able to complete a $2500 painting job with high quality and good prep in 2 days.

Step 8: Make a Profit

I made so many mistakes when I first started my painting business. I’d like to save you from these costly mistakes:

  • Overpaying your sub-contractors
  • Spending too much at the paint store
  • Losing money by underbidding the job
  • Hiring sloppy painters

Mistake #1: Overpaying Subs

If you have not established a relationship with a crew or sub-contractor, they will probably give you a high estimate to paint the house. They don’t know you. You don’t know them. And EVERYONE says “If you do a good job on this house, I’ll have more work for you.” It will probably take at least a couple of jobs before you can establish a great relationship.

The most important things YOU can do to keep good workers:

  1. Pay them on time
  2. Do what you say
  3. Be honest about the work involved

By following these 3 rules and having integrity with my employees, I have kept and gained the loyalty of some INCREDIBLE people.

So many painting business owners complain about how there are no good people to hire, but are secretly breaking one of these 3 rules. Don’t be one of them.

Mistake #2: Spending too Much at the Paint Store

At the beginning, I wanted to buy every cool gadget the paint store had to offer. But these little knick-knacks add up and seriously eat into your profit margin.

Instead of spending 15% on materials, you can quickly rack up 25% on unnecessary items.

Stick to the essentials: Paint, Masking Paper, Plastic, Tape, Caulking and Primer. Your sub-contractor should have the rest.

Mistake #3: Underbidding Jobs

One of my very first jobs was to paint a dark green house, a bright yellow. I told the customer; “No problem! Coming right up!” Little did I know how much trouble this job was going to cause me in the near future.

We started spraying the house with yellow paint and IMMEDIATELY realized it was not covering the dark green. We let it dry, and then sprayed ANOTHER coat, which also did not cover. After 3 coats (and 3 times the paint originally estimated) it finally covered the old color.

Suddenly I was spending $1000 on paint instead of the $300 I had planned. Not only that, my 3-man crew quit because they basically had to paint everything 3 times so it would cover properly. They got frustrated and left.

I remember looking at the house after my workers quit, and feeling completely hopeless. There was overspray everywhere since we had to spray so much, including overspray on the roof and chimney – one of the worst mistakes you can make.

Luckily the homeowners were very understanding/patient people, and knew I was trying my best. Otherwise, this could have led to a costly lawsuit.

The moral of the story; experienced painters will see potential problems that you will not. Bring them to the job site before quoting the customer and make sure your bid covers any extra work or materials required.

Mistake #4: Hiring Sloppy Painters

It’s easy to get desperate when you’re exhausted, hurting for money, and trying to keep a deadline. Don’t let this compromise who you hire for the job. A sloppy crew will cost you way more money and hardship in the long run.

A good crew will create happy customers, which will create referrals and future business. Spend a little bit more time and money on reliable people. You’ll be happy you did.

Summary

This is literally exactly how I started my painting business. Now we are in 5 states, with over a 100 crews working for us. And there are ALWAYS more houses to paint.

We’d love to hear how you started your painting business. Drop us a line at info@painterchoice.com.

We also love this article on starting a painting business.

Thanks for reading!


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