Is Starting a Painting Business a Good Idea?

Is Starting a Painting Business a Good Idea?

Date Published: 09/15/2020

Written By George Leon

George Leon is a Painting Contractor in Charlotte NC and a Partner at Scalebloom Web Design.

As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably asked yourself “is starting a painting business a good idea?” Unlike other industries, the painting business is relatively simple to enter, making it an easy choice when starting your own company. But is this low barrier-to-entry industry the right choice for you? Only you can decide.

We’ve laid out some of the pros and cons to help you determine if you should start a painting business. And then we list out some tips on starting a painting business.

Why Starting a Painting Business Is a Good Idea

Market Size

One of the biggest reasons why starting a painting business is a good idea is because there is a huge market for painting. There are so many types of painting jobs out there for the taking. You can choose to specialize in residential interior or exterior painting for homeowners, new construction painting, or residential painting for builders. There are also commercial painting jobs for offices, apartment buildings, industrial facilities, and more. The options are endless with the size of the market!

Not only is the market large though, but it’s also a recurring market. This means that even though you’ve painted a house or an office this year, in a few years they will likely need to be repainted hence the client will give you a call. The size of the market is constantly growing as well. Think about how many new homes and restaurants have opened in your area over the past few years. All of those structures needed to hire a painting company because painting is often a need, not a luxury.

Low Start-Up Costs

When going into business on your own, your goal is to turn a profit as quickly as possible. In some industries, this can take months (or years!) before you make a profit or begin to grow your business. However, start-up costs for the painting industry are extremely low, meaning you can open a painting business with almost nothing and turn that into an immediate profit with just a few clients. This is without a doubt a major benefit to starting a painting company that most industries can’t match.

Easy to Learn

Starting a business is an exciting time. You’ve probably read dozens of books on being an entrepreneur, and you think you have the chops to succeed. If you’re interested in starting a painting company, you’re in luck. Understanding the painting business is relatively simple and easy for someone with limited painting experience to pick up. You don’t need to have a background in painting wrap your head around how the painting business works and get started. This makes it relatively easy to start a painting business with no experience. In some states, you might need a contractor’s license to paint houses but in others, you won’t even have to file a license application.

As the owner of the painting company, you need to be able to help direct the employee on the job. What prep work needs to be done? What materials need to be used? How can we completely satisfy the customer? If you can answer these three questions for each type of paint job your company offers (interior residential homes, exterior residential homes, etc.), you’ll have mastered the most important skills needed to lead a successful painting company.

Profitable

As a small business owner, your goal is to be profitable. A major benefit of the painting industry is that most jobs have very healthy high-profit margins. Whether your painting company specializes in commercial, residential, or industrial painting, the profit margins for painting help cushion your bottom line and keep cash flowing into your bank account. While most lines of painting are profitable, it’s important to note that new construction doesn’t have great profit margins. When starting your painting company, make sure you’re taking a mix of jobs to ensure you’re making a profit.

Competition

While competition in the painting industry certainly exists, the companies you’re competing with are majorly lacking. If you look for painting companies in your area, you’ll likely find hundreds of them. But just because there are a lot of them, doesn’t mean you have tough competition.

Most of these painting companies are not business-savvy. If you read their reviews (if they even have reviews!), you’ll find that they aren’t good at communicating with their clients, they’re always running fashionably late, and they provide subpar paint jobs, or don’t reply back to their clients. On the business side of things, they often don’t understand how to run a business, lacking a streamlined sales process, and ignoring important marketing channels. While there might be a lot of competitors out there in your city or state, most of them aren’t real competition.

It’s easy to say you’re a painter, but it’s a lot harder to prove that you’re a professional painter. If you’re able to get your name out there as a reputable painting company in your area, you’ll be able to turn a decent profit quickly and stand out from the competition.

Why Starting a Painting Business Isn’t a Good Idea

Effort

If you’re looking for a shortcut to make the most amount of money possible by putting in the least amount of time and effort, then starting a painting company isn’t the right choice for you. Painting isn’t going to be a fast track to success—but with time and effort, you will be successful. If you’re starting a painting company (or any other business), you should expect a tight work schedule and put in a lot of time and hard work to get the company successfully off the ground.

Hard Work

Do you like to work hard? Are you ready to pour your heart and soul into your painting company? Starting any business is difficult, but for many, the benefits outweigh any of the trials and tribulations. After years of hard work, you’ll be rewarded with a job in which you can control your time and income—but without putting the time in the frontend, starting a painting company isn’t for you.

Failure

As a business owner, you can’t be afraid to fail. In fact, you need to be able to accept failures and be willing to learn from your mistakes. If you can’t get back up again after stumbling a few times along the way, you won’t be able to succeed in the painting business.

Responsibility

When the clock hits 5 pm, you can’t just check out mentally and forget about work anymore. As the owner of the business, you are responsible for everything, even after the workday is over. It can be extremely difficult to find the balance between home life and work-life now that you are 100% responsible for your employees, clients, and everything in between.

How Much Does It Cost To Start A Painting Business?

If you’re starting your own painting business with no experience, you might be asking yourself the following question? How much does it cost to start a painting business? The following cost analysis will help you budget and plan.

We’re going to be looking at the costs based on three different routes you might take.

1. The low budget route.

2. The recommended (by me) route.

3. And the optimized route to fast track your success.

Before we get into all the costs, take a look at the results of this poll I made in a Facebook group asking the audience “How much did you spend to start your painting business?”

How Much Does It Cost To Start A Painting Business?

Step 1) Register a Domain Name

I will say that your company’s domain name should be your first expense when starting your painting company. This way, you can name your company based on the available domain names. This will ensure you get an optimized domain name.

Very often I see people come up with a company name first. And then in the future, they go and look for a domain name. What’s the problem with this approach? They will likely realize that there are no optimized domain names that suit their company name available. So they have to settle for an inferior domain name.

What’s an optimized domain name? It’s a domain name that’s short, simple, and easy to remember. An inferior domain name is one that’s harder to remember. Things that make a domain name harder to remember are dash marks that don’t fit naturally, long domain names, having to add unnecessary words to the front or end, or using uncommon domain name endings such as .info.

The best domain names are usually your company name + .com.

The reason you want an optimized domain name is that it increases the likelihood of someone visiting your website when they see or hear your domain name. For example, someone might see your domain name on your company vans or yard signs. Or they might hear it over the phone or in person. If your domain name is simple and easy to remember, there is a greater likelihood they will then visit your website. And thus a greater likelihood that they will become a customer.

I recommend Google Domains as the place to get your domains. The price is very reasonable when you take into account that they give you privacy protection for free. And their system is very easy to use, as you would expect from any Google product. The price is going to be between $12 for most available domain names. Some domain endings are a bit more.

Occasionally we here at Scalebloom sell premium domain names for painting contractors. You can check out what we have available here.

Low Budget Route$0.00 – Don’t get a domain name
Recommended Route$12.00 – Get a domain name
Optimized Route$12.00 or more for a premium aftermarket domain name

Step 2) Get a Business Email

If you’re on a low budget, you can use a standard email. I recommend Gmail from Google.

But if you want to look more professional, get an email at your domain name. This typically costs $6 to $7 per month.

Low Budget Route$0.00 – Use a regular email
Recommended Route$84.00/year for G Suite custom email
Optimized Route$84.00/year for G Suite custom email

Step 3) Register with your Secretary of State

The exact cost of registering your LLC or other business entity varies from state to state. You will also have to renew it every year. Expect to pay between $50 to $500 per year. Some states have extra taxes such as California’s Franchise Tax.

Low Budget Route$150 – average (depends on state)
Recommended Route$150 – average (depends on state)
Optimized Route$300 – privacy + charging order protection

Step 4) Apply for a EIN (Employer ID)

The IRS offers this for free on their website. You’ll likely need it in order to open a business bank account.

All Routes$0.00 – Free from IRS

Step 5) Open a Business Bank Account

Many banks let you open a business bank account for free. But they might have ongoing monthly fees. You can usually avoid the fees by meeting some basic requirements such as having a certain amount in your account (usually less than $500).

All Routes$0.00 – Free from most banks

Step 6) Get a Credit Card Processor

I recommend using software that doesn’t charge you to set up the service. They will instead take a small fee from every transaction. Even if you buy a physical point of sale system, they will still charge you a fee from each transaction. Software-based systems usually involve sending your customer an email that contains a payment link.

I see no benefit in buying a physical system that lets customers swipe their cards.

All Routes$0.00 – Use an online service with no upfront costs

Step 7) Get Insurance

This will vary from state to state. Other factors are your projected revenue, services offered, employee count, use of subcontractors, whether you have your subcontractors sign a painting subcontractor agreement to protect yourself, etc.

I posted a poll on Facebook to ask what other painting contractors are paying yearly for insurance. Here are the results:

Quite a few painters pay under $1000 per year but the largest group pays between $2000 to $3000 per year.

Speaking of Facebook, please follow us at facebook.com/scalebloommarketing.

Starting Your Own Painting Business

Low Budget Route$600.00/yr – Low-quality insurance – depends on the state.
Recommended Route$2500/yr – Average according to my FB poll
Optimized Route$5000/yr – Or more for better quality insurance

Step 8) Set Up Bookkeeping

If you want to avoid bookkeeping costs you can track every transaction yourself on a spreadsheet. Make sure to have a field for the category so you can distinguish the types of expenses such as ‘cost of goods sold’ or ‘marketing’.

To make your life easier, there are lots of bookkeeping and accounting software programs out there. They can connect with your bank account to help you track each expense. I recommend a cloud-based program so that you don’t have to go through the inconvenience of installing anything on your computer. From what I have seen, these programs typically cost $20 to $30 per month for the most basic versions.

If you want to save as much time as possible, hire an accountant to do your monthly bookkeeping. Expect to pay about $200 to $500 per month for this service. But you usually get to ask them questions as well which is helpful during your first few years.

Low Budget Route$0.00 – Do your own bookkeeping
Recommended Route$300/yr – Cloud based accounting software
Optimized Route$3600/yr – Bookkeeper retainer

Step 9) Prepare for Taxes

If you use an accounting software program for your bookkeeping, check to see if they also offer tax prep reports or support.

Or you can use your accountant that does your monthly bookkeeping. Tax prep will normally be a separate cost and won’t be included in the bookkeeping fee. Expect to pay $500 to $3000 for tax prep if you hire an accountant.

Low Budget Route$0.00 – Do your own tax prep
Recommended Route$300/yr – Cloud based accounting software
Optimized Route$1000 – Hire an accountant for tax prep

Step 10) Get a Business Phone Number

To avoid any phone costs you can use your personal phone number. You can also try a free app such as Google Voice.

If you find it’s just not quite the same thing, invest in decent quality but bare-bones work phone for about $150. I would budget replacing it every 2 years but hopefully, you can get more out of it. So remember to annualize your cost down to $75 per year if you pay $150 for a phone that will last 2 years.

I recommend Google Fi for your phone plan. I pay about $40 for each line on my plan.

Low Budget Route$0.00 – Use an existing phone
Recommended Route$555/yr – Buy a $150 phone every 2 years + $480/yr plan
Optimized Route$555/yr – Buy a $150 phone every 2 years + $480/yr plan

Step 11) Buy T-Shirts & Hoodies

Your team will look much more professional with branded T-shirts and hoodies. You don’t need to supply pants or other attire. But T-shirts are worth the investment for team morale and professionalism.

At a minimum, I would make sure each painter has 5 shirts (one for each weekday). Then they can do laundry on the weekends and wear the same 5 shirts the next week. And plan on replacing those 5 shirts every 3 months at a minimum. That comes out to 60 shirts per painter. Costs per shirt will vary between $6 to $15 per shirt. Hoodies will be between $20 to $60 per hoodie.

Low Budget Route$0.00 – Don’t buy branded T shirts
Recommended Route$1000.00 – Buy branded T shirts
Optimized Route$1000.00 – Buy branded T shirts

Step 12) Set Up a Website

There are a few costs involved with having a website:

  1. Cost to design and set up the website.
    • This can be free if you do it yourself. You can make a free website from your Google My Business profile. You’ll still have to pay for the domain name but it’s a pretty great platform for free.
    • If you want a more professional painting website design with better features, conversion rate optimization, and custom design, expect to pay between $500 to $3000. That will depend on how custom you want it. I would also ask your web designer if they have experience making websites for painting contractors.
  2. Ongoing Fees
    • Hosting is the most important and unavoidable cost. A website is a collection of files. Those files need to be hosted on an online server in order to be on the internet.
    • a CDN (content delivery network) is an optional ongoing cost that will make your website faster. This increases the user experience. Which will in turn help your website get better search rankings.
    • Maintenance is another unavoidable part of having a website. Code, plugins, API’s can all get outdated which makes your website vulnerable to hacking, performance drops, and broken features. Maintenance might also include making changes to the content as needed. This would include updating company hours, service offerings, etc.
Low Budget Route$0.00 – Don’t buy a website
Recommended Route$1500.00 – Buy a website.
Optimized Route$2500.00 – Buy an enterprise level website

Other Considerations

The above costs were overhead costs. There are also job-related costs, known as “costs of goods sold”. These will include things like supplies, materials, payroll, subcontractors, gas and other travel expenses, etc.

These are paid for by each job. So you generally don’t need to budget too much for these costs. But if you work for customers that take a long time to pay (commercial customers), you’ll need to budget for it.

I did not include advertising costs for the same reason, they can be paid back from each job.

And I didn’t include a section for equipment because this will vary from company to company based on your services and team size. Many companies even hire subcontractors that supply their own equipment. This means they don’t have to buy any equipment themselves.

As you can see, compared to other types of businesses, the start up costs for painting is quite low, which is one of the reasons that I think it’s a good idea to start a painting business.

Tips on Starting a Painting Business

Tips on Starting a Painting Business

One of the best things about the painting industry is that you don’t need to have years of experience under your belt to run a successful painting company. With only the drive to succeed and a handful of tips on starting a painting business in your pocket, you can get your company off the ground and generate profit almost immediately. What’s not to like about that?

Although success isn’t guaranteed, following these tips on starting a painting business will help you reach more prospects, and in turn, generate more revenue. Here are our top four tips on starting a painting business.

1) Get Business Details Finalized

First things first, you need to get all your back of house business details finalized. Once you determine what your company’s name and logo are, you can register your business with the state. After you receive your LLC paperwork from the state, you’ll be able to file for an EIN which allows you to file taxes and create a business bank account.

You will also need to determine if your state requires you to get a builder’s license. The requirements vary from state to state. Along with proper licensing, you’ll want to round up general liability insurance and/or worker’s compensation insurance, if applicable. While organizing these details might not seem like fun, getting everything set up correctly is imperative to running a successful painting company.

2) Analyze Your Competition

A major benefit of starting a painting business is that the competition is usually lacking, which means there is ample opportunity for you to swoop in and dominate within your target market. But that doesn’t mean you should assume they aren’t doing anything to win potential customers.

In order to create the best strategy for your painting company, you should do research on which painting companies in your area have a good online presence and/or physical presence in the market. Take a look at the different services they offer and what promotions or special offers they run. Do they offer a painting warranty or any type of guarantee on their work? Are they investing in paid or social media advertising or bringing in 5-star reviews after every job?

Take note of who seems to be doing a good job marketing their brand and what they’re doing. You will need to find a way to outperform them by doing what they do — but doing it better.

3) Build a Reputable and Optimized Website

One of the biggest tips on starting a painting business that we can give you is this: treat your website as a 24-hour sales rep. First and foremost, you need a website. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Your website makes it possible for potential customers to find your painting company whenever and wherever they are. But your website shouldn’t just be something that you throw together halfheartedly — when you think of it as a 24-hour sales rep, it needs to be able to provide prospects with all the information they’re looking for.

Create a website that follows search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. You need to not only have a fast website with excellent user experience, but you need optimized web content detailing who you are, what you offer, and more. Adding elements like a contact form to your homepage make it easy for customers to get in touch. You can even add elements like an appointment scheduler where prospects can schedule an estimate without even giving you a call. Or you can include an estimator calculator that allows homeowners to add in the square footage of the room or home they need painted to get a rough estimate of what the paint job will cost.

Don’t forget that Google ranks web pages, not websites. This means that the more content you build out on your website improves your chances of being found by prospects within the search results. Start by building out individual pages for each of your service offerings from whole home painting to exterior painting to cabinet painting and more. Once you have all your services accounted for, you can create hyper-local pages for your top service areas. Choose your top four or five towns in your service area that you want to target and create customized service offering pages for each of those areas. This will help you show up in local searches. Last but certainly not least, you should create a blogging strategy where you create content that answers frequently asked questions and provides resources to your customers. The more helpful you are, the more authoritative you will seem to those looking for painting services. Even if the prospect isn’t ready to pull the trigger on scheduling services just yet, getting them to your website through the blog is an easy way to get your company name out there.

4) Invest in Paid Marketing

When first starting out, you need as many leads as you can get. It’s possible to get some free painting leads but because you don’t have a reputation, you’ll find yourself having a low closing rate with leads. So it becomes a number game, the more leads you get, the higher the chances of winning jobs. That’s where paid marketing can be extremely beneficial. By running paid advertising campaigns on Google, also known as pay per click campaigns, you are able to jump to the top of the search results when local customers are searching “painting services near me” or similar queries. With the right pay per click strategy, you can appear at the top of the search results (while still appearing in the organic listings below), which increases your odds of having a searcher click through to your website and convert into a lead.

Another option is to run paid advertising campaigns on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. With so many people scrolling through their news feeds on a regular basis, you can pay to have a sponsored ad that shows up on their feed. It’s a proven tactic to gain leads because you can drill down your criteria so your ad is only shown to your specified audience — and you can narrow it down as deep as new homeowners in a certain zip code. Paid marketing is a great way to hone in on your ideal customer and get your painting company directly in front of them.

Is a Painting Business Profitable

Yes, most painting businesses are profitable thanks to low startup costs and high margins.

If your number one goal as a small business owner is to be profitable, the painting industry is a perfect choice for you. Because most jobs have high profit margins, you can rest easy knowing that each job you do will help cushion your company’s bottom line.

Painting is one of those services that nearly everyone is going to need at some point in their lives. From new builds to home renovations, there will always be opportunities for you to close. In fact, “painter near me” is searched on Google almost 40,000 times every month! With so much demand for painting services, you can have a strong pipeline of leads with the right marketing campaigns in place.

When you consider how many people are searching for painting services each month, you also need to be aware of what the average price is for various painting services. The average price for an interior paint job is $1,870 and an exterior paint job is $2,926. The more jobs you’re able to complete each month, the higher your net profits will be — keep in mind that these are the average prices and some jobs are going to be higher or lower depending on the specific task or square footage.

Your annual revenue and profits are going to be greatly impacted by a few things — the number of jobs you take, the size of your team, your market, the services you offer, and how good you are at providing high quality work. All of these needs to be factored in when setting your growth goals.

Why Is a Painting Company Profitable?

Before getting into the painting business, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of what makes it such a profitable business. Here are a few of the many reasons why starting a painting company is a great option for entrepreneurs:

Market Size
The market for painting is extremely large — and it’s growing larger every single day! From new build residential construction to repainting existing homes to commercial and industrial paint jobs, there are a variety of markets for you to tackle. You can have your painting company specialize in one of these niche markets, or you can be a jack of all trades offer both residential and commercial painting services. While painting isn’t a service that people are going to need year after year, once you’re in with a homeowner, you’re likely going to be their go-to painting company any time they need painting services moving forward. It’s important for you to pick your desired target market and stick with it — this will allow you to build up your authority and experience, both of which will help you to bring in more sales.

Competition
If you Google “painting companies near me,” it might seem like there are a lot. However, most of the painting competition is horrible! Because the painting industry is easy to break into (more on this later), many subpar painting companies exist. Even worse, many of these painting companies don’t have a strategic marketing plan in place to bring in leads. This is a win-win for you because while the competition exists, it’s easy for you to stand out amongst them as the clear winner.

Low Startup Costs
When just starting out, you likely don’t have much money to throw into a business. The last thing you need is to start a company with high startup costs. That is one of the biggest benefits of starting a painting company — essentially all you need is you, your materials, and your license to get started. You don’t need to spend large amounts of money on materials or equipment early on. You can easily get by with the basics until you have a bit more money in the bank.

Profit Margins
Profit is key to starting a business. You don’t have the time to sink some money into a business, only to have to wait a year or two to see any time of return on your investment. The profit margins on most paint jobs are extremely high, allowing you to bring in enough profit to help cushion your bottom line. Whether you opt to work in the residential or commercial market (or both!), you can have peace of mind knowing most painting jobs are profitable. Take the time to analyze your profit margins and determine which types of paint jobs have the highest margins — this will allow you to focus on getting more of your most profitable jobs.

Easy to Learn
Starting a new business can be a difficult venture, and it’s made even more difficult when you enter an industry you know nothing about. A benefit of starting a painting company is that you don’t need to spend hours upon hours learning how to paint — which allows you to bring in leads and sales from day one. Unlike other industries, you also don’t need to spend any money on training or education before getting started. This allows you to use your profits how you want and not spend them on costly training courses.

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