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A good paint job can transform a room, but a poor quality job can be a distraction and detract from the room’s appearance. Painting is time-intensive and it requires attention to detail and a bit of talent, so many homeowners are happy to outsource it to a professional. When you own a painting business, you’ll be responsible for many different projects, from painting a single room to painting an entire home, inside and out. You’ll also be in charge of managing your team of painters, overseeing each project, and making sure that the results are work that you’re proud of. 

One of the major benefits of starting a painting business is that it requires relatively little initial investment. If you have painting experience, a truck, and the money to buy some initial tools and insurance, then you have everything you need to begin what could be a lucrative and enjoyable business. 

Business Overview

Painting companies most often provide residential painting services to homeowners, though some of these businesses also paint commercial businesses, too. Painting businesses may be hired by homeowners to paint brand-new homes, or they may be brought into existing homes in need of renovation or new paint. Many businesses offer both interior and exterior painting services.

Homeowners and building owners hire painters because these painting businesses are convenient, work quickly, and do quality work. They also have the resources to tackle tough-to-access areas and challenging projects, like those involving wall repair or wallpaper removal. 

Industry summary

The painting industry has undergone recent growth, leading to more businesses and increased employment. According to IBIS World, the industry experienced 4.2 percent annual growth from 2014 to 2019, which was largely prompted by the increase in residential building construction during that time. The number of businesses grew to 323,194 and industry employment increased to 503,130. In 2019, the painting industry is predicted to bring in $43 billion in revenue, and if the housing construction market continues to thrive, the painting industry should enjoy continued success, too.

Industry trends

The painting industry is continuously shaped by home decor trends and the home buying industry. According to 360 Degree Painting, an increased awareness of how much color matters in staging a house may prompt homeowners to have their homes strategically painted before putting them up for sale. 

It’s also important to remember that the professional painting industry is closely linked to disposable income. As homeowners have more disposable income, they’re more likely to hire a professional painter than they are to complete a painting project on their own. With a healthy home buying and selling industry, there can also be increased demand for painting services as people buy, remodel, and move into new homes. 

Who is the target market for a painting business?

The target market for a painting business depends on the business’ model. Many painting companies target home owners who are looking for house painting services when owners want to refresh or move from their homes. Other businesses may target developers who are building new homes and who need painting services for those new buildings. Businesses that offer commercial painting will market to commercial building owners. 

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a painting business

It doesn’t take a business degree to start a painting business, but certain skills and experience are useful and can make starting the business easier. 

Experience with painting techniques and products. Experience with and knowledge of painting techniques and common products used is essential for any painter. Apprenticing with a professional painter can be a good way to get this experience if you haven’t previously worked in the industry. 

Attention to detail. Painting is all about attention to detail, and customers will quickly realize when important details have been overlooked. Detail is also present within the business, itself, in scheduling, creating project estimates, and even training employees. 

Organization skills. Great organization is essential in running a painting business. A business owner needs to manage everything from ordering the right paint for upcoming jobs to managing a schedule and maintaining inventory. 

Customer service skills. A painting business owner needs to know how to interact with potential clients well and should provide quality customer service. A painter who communicates promptly and who responds to customer questions and concerns can build a strong reputation and may even be referred to other customers. 

Management experience. When leading a team of painters, management experience is important. A business owner who has previously hired, trained, and managed employees can put together a team of quality employees. 

Financial Overview

In most cases, starting a painting business is relatively inexpensive, especially if you already have a van or truck available to use for the business. Expect to spend about $2,000 on painting equipment, inventory and other supplies, plus the cost of a vehicle if you don’t have one available. 

Common startup costs for a painting business include: 

  • Business vehicle, like a van or truck
  • Equipment including ladders and uniforms
  • Supplies and materials like paint, brushes, pails, and other tools

Working capital

A painting company will depend on working capital to cover operating expenses like inventory and employee salaries to keep the business operating. If too much working capital gets tied up in inventory or expenses and the business doesn’t have enough jobs to replenish that working capital, it will be difficult to keep the business running. 

Insurance

Painting businesses need to be covered by several types of insurance policies: 

  • General liability insurance protects the business if customers are ever injured because of the work being done, and can cover expenses like legal fees. 
  • Commercial property insurance can cover the loss of inventory and equipment after an event, like a fire. 
  • Commercial auto insurance covers the expenses that can result after an accident involving a company vehicle. 
  • Workman’s comp insurance helps to cover expenses like lost wages or medical bills if an employee gets hurt while working. 

Insurance policy cost can vary depending on the business’ location, the number of employees, and even the value of the business vehicles and inventory. To get an accurate idea of what insurance will cost, request quotes from multiple providers. Then, look at how the quotes compare in terms of factors like premiums, coverage limits and exclusions, and deductibles. 

Common operational expenses

In addition to the above startup costs, a painting business will face the following operational expenses. 

Rent

A smaller business may not need to rent a physical space, but larger businesses may choose to rent a building or garage to store supplies and inventory.

Employees

Most painting businesses need at least a few employees or subcontractors to ensure that they can complete larger jobs promptly. According to Payscale, painters earn an average of $16.86 per hour, though that hourly pay rate can range from $11.76 to as much as $25.61.

Hiring employees results in more expenses than just salary costs. Additional expenses can include workman’s comp insurance, payroll taxes, paid time off, and health insurance contributions. 

Marketing

A painting business also needs to actively market to bring in new customers, especially since homeowners will only have occasional painting needs, limiting repeat business. Many painters market through social media, print advertising, and even direct mail. Referral programs that encourage clients to refer the painter new business can also be effective. Marketing costs will vary according to the type and volume of marketing being performed. If a business owner can do some of their own marketing, they can save on the expense of hiring a professional marketer. 

Business Licenses & Permits

A painting business will likely need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.  

How much can you potentially make owning a painting business? 

While painters can make $16 an hour on average, a painting business owner can make much more if they hire a talented team of employees and build up a business with a great reputation. While hard data on painting business profits isn’t currently available, individual painters have reported net profits ranging from 15 to 30 percent of their income. Your exact income will depend on the clients you’re marketing to, the number of years you’ve been in business, your overhead, and other individual factors. 

Things to consider before starting a painting business

Starting your own painting business can be a great way to create a profitable business with minimal initial investment, but the industry does come with some challenges. Painting can be a seasonal activity, and weather will limit your ability to do exterior painting jobs. The industry can also fluctuate with the availability of disposable income, so challenging economic periods can significantly impact your income, too. 

Because there are relatively few barriers to starting a painting contractor business, this can be a highly competitive industry. It’s a good idea to research the painters in your local area who are already operating. Look for areas where they fall short, or certain services that they don’t provide, and consider whether you can use these to your advantage. It’s important to find a way to differentiate your business, whether you do that through the services you provide, a reputation for excellent customer service, or some other unique factor. 

Painting experience is truly essential in this industry. Knowledge of surface preparation, primers, paints, and the other chemicals that you’ll use will allow you to do a quality job. If you don’t have firsthand experience, look for an apprentice opportunity that will give you the hands-on skills that you can teach to your team. Remember that painting is also highly physical, so be prepared to work alongside your team until your business is established enough to have you in a management, rather than a hands-on painting, position. 

Resources: 
Master Painters and Decorators Association
Painting Contractors Association

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