How To Start A Painting Company

Starting A Painting Company

Starting a painting company is simple, get a paint brush, ladder, bucket, and a truck and you now have a professional painting company.  Sounds simple right?  Well that is one way to look at it but painting is an art, craft, skill, and trade that takes years to acquire and starting your own painting company takes more than calling yourself a painter cause you own a brush and a truck.  If you hang out here I will walk you through some of the simple steps it takes to start and run a legitimate painting company.


You do not necessarily have to be a painter or have painting skills to start a painting company but it does help.  What is important is understanding how to operate a company according to local rules and regulations and what key business practices to follow.  When starting any business it is very important to have some form of insurance that protects you from unforeseen accidents that could legally ruin you financially.  Insurance protects you in case you burn a customers house down, drop a ladder on their new Bentley, or accidentally break their custom cook top.  Believe me, these things happen just follow the news.


Insurance is part of doing business and an expense you should not go without paying from the moment you step on a clients property.  Smart prospective clients will ask for your insurance before you start any work for them.  It is rare but it protects both parties.  Simple liability insurance is one form but you can even get so specific as to get overspray insurance.  One painter I personally know would have saved the financial expense of detailing 200 cars after getting overspray on them in downtown Boise while painting a parking garage.   After getting insurance you need to look into local rules and regulations on whether you need to be licensed or registered as a painter in your area.


In Boise Idaho you do not need a license to operate a painting company.  There are no rules or regulations that require you to have any form of certification of qualification either.  There is one rule that is kinda of odd and that is being a registered contractor in the State.  You simply pay a $25 fee and fill out a one page form so the State can keep track of you.  The piece of paper you receive is meaningless but if you fail to do so it is a crime.  Check you local regulations.  Not necessary but highly recommended is joining you local Better Business Bureau and or Chamber of Commerce. 


Joining organizations like these begin to establish your credibility and show you are willing to hold your business to the high standards that the organization requires.  They require a fee but in 20 years of operating a painting company I directly received work from these memberships that covered the fees.  There are other important ways of establishing credibility and building prospective client trust like having a webpage, Facebook page, being on Angies List to name a few.  This begins to get into marketing and social media marketing which I will talk about later.  Now you have insurance, you obtained your license, joined the Better Business Bureau so let's get a business card and vehicle logos.


Start an LLC or S-Corp.  This is an important part of starting a legitimate painting company then many overlook.  Starting a limited liability corporation is simple to do and personally protects your financial assets in the event something goes wrong with the painting business.  An S-Corp is similar but offers tax advantages that an LLC does not.  In Idaho, it roughly cost $125 to start an LLC and can be done in about an hour.   I recommend an attorney consultation if this is a little intimating or if you want to go the route of the S-Corp.  I believe I invested $3000 in having an attorney set up our S-Corp.  The tax savings ends up paying for the fee at the end of the year. 


Once you start a business you will begin coming in contact with friends, family, and people in general that you can inform about your new business.  Personal conversations go a long way in selling yourself but you always want to leave the conversation with handing over a business card just in case they decide to refer you or call you for an estimate.  Have a well built and professional looking business card that has key information such as “Free Estimate” your phone number, email address and what you actually do.  Create a logo that brands yourself well.  You need to think about branding and have a consistent brand across your business cards, letter head, estimates, vehicles, yard signs to name a few. 


After getting your business card created you can think about having yard signs and vehicle lettering done.  These are free advertising bill boards that begin establishing your brands and notifying everyone that you are in business and working in the neighborhood.  This is an investment you cannot do without.  One job will pay tor the branding on a vehicle.  I am simply amazed how many painters do not invest in their own business and fail to take advantage of the free advertising that comes with these simple steps.  Every time I teach and do a survey of the class I am amazed how many painters do not have a webpage


Even if you think it is unnecessary or you already have enough work, creating and having a webpage is part of an overall branding package that positions yourself as a legitimate business.  For the majority of my business career, my webpage was the leader in prospective leads.  Times have changes and other methods took the webs top spot but it still ranks in the tops three.  There are some basic things you need to do like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to get a webpage to generate leads and this is something you can do or hire someone to do for you at a reasonable cost.  If you are not familiar with SEO, this is what gets your webpage placed on the front page of Google when someone does a search for painters in your area.  Now a days you do not need to have web development skills or pay $10,000 to have a webpage built.


I have used services like Fiverr to have webpages built for as little as $150.  Yes you read that right, $150.  I had a webpage built called The Idaho Cyclist using Fiverr.  Page is still up and running.  Little out of date as it was many years ago and I do not utilize the page or update it anymore.  Fiverr can be used to have logos made, newsletters written, resumes built and much more.  Go check it out after reading this article of course,  You are now getting everything together but one thing that is overlooked by many painting companies is wearing your brand.


I know it is nice to get free shirts from your local paint store and it does save you money but why advertise for them?  Get yourself some painting pants as that is tradition and what makes you look like you know what you doing but also get your own shirts with your brand on them.  You want everyone you come into contact with to begin associating your brand with the guys who paint in your area. Along with shirts goes hats.


I personally feel hats add a professional look.  Have you ever wondered why police officers or military personnel where hats?  I was a former police officer in Boise Idaho so I am kinda familiar why.  Command presence and professionalism.  Two terms I strive for as an owner of a painting company.  A clean looking baseball cap with your company logo on it is a must in my play book.  I know it is tempting to get those free hats from your local paint store but they do nothing for promoting your brand and in most cases they are really crummy hats.  Acting and looking professional is very important.


You are eventually going to begin getting calls for bids and you will have to sell yourself in person if you want to have a successful painting business.  You need to look professional and act professional at all times.  When I approach any prospective clients I am looking at someone who could potentially provide food on my dinner table.  I am thankful and appreciate that opportunity.  I speak politely, treat their property with respect like taking off my shoes when I enter their home, and carry myself in a professional manner.


I cover my tattoos, remove my ear rings, take a shower, comb my hair, and put on some cologne when I go do bid.  These simple things go a long way.  Yes you do not have to do this, you can be yourself as so many of us our taught, be rebellious, but in the end it come down to how much money you want to make.  If you want to make a $100 an hour then carry yourself and act like you deserve to make $100 and hour.


Now that you are getting everything lined up you are just about ready to start working.  If you want to win bids or simply win more bids then the you need to have a personalized bid package.  Hand writing or giving office store carbon copy estimates will never win the potential bids a personalized bid package that incorporates your brand and the customers name into it will.  My bid package of a single bed room is approximately 17 pages long.  My bid package is what sells my company after I have left the clients house or got off the phone gathering the necessary information.  What can you possibly put in a bid package for one bedroom you may ask?


Standard documents in the PDF is why choose my company, my resume, who works for us, what the bid includes, what it does not include, extras a customer can choose from, references, copies of licenses, are a few of what you may find in my package.


Here are a few supplemental things you can look into applying for to protect your business assets.  I felt like I created a unique business logo and had a business name I only want people in Idaho to associate with me and my painting company so I applied for and was granted an Idaho trademark and copyright.  I received approval on both the logo and business name.  What I was after here was keeping anyone from creating a similar or like logo and name.


In the very beginning I knew I was going to create a business I was going to sell in the future and the majority of successful businesses have some form of trademark or copyright.  In Idaho the fees were less than $100  and the applications took less the an hour to complete.  If you become well known and get a good reputation in the community there will naturally be others who try to capitalize on that success.  In one case I had a painter move into town and start a company called B&K Painters and I was B&K Painting.  I am sure you can see how prospective clients looking for me and our superb reputation could call this new company believing it was us.


With a granted copyright or trademark you can legally have that company change their name.  Luckily I did not have to get an attorney to do so but a letter sent to the company with evidence of my trademark and copyright and a polite statement saying I did not want to take legal action got them to quickly change their name.  Moral of the story is protect yourself.  Well there are a few simple steps to getting you on your way to running a successful painting company,  Stay tuned for more great tips and tricks on social media marketing in my next article.


Should your start a Sole Proprietor, LLC, or a Corporation some may ask?  If you are asking if you should be an LLC vs a Sole Proprietor (not filing any legal entity paperwork with the state), then you should absolutely be an LLC as it separates the businesses assets and actions (for the most part) from your own. An LLC separates you from the company. If something catastrophic happens your company can be garnished or sued. But as a Sole Proprietor they could come after you for your house, assets, etc.


So for example, if you had a lawsuit against your company they could not try to take your house. If the question is why an LLC vs a C-Corporation (Inc) that is mostly because an LLC is a lot cheaper and easier to set up and manage. It is fairly complicated but generally an LLC requires a lot less paperwork. None of this has anything to do with taxes. As an LLC you can be taxed as a sole-proprietor or as an S-Corp. Which you should choose will depend on a handful of factors and that is really a good question for your CPA or tax preparer. This is a good time to mention that if you plan on building a business any bigger than say $100,000 in annual revenue you should invest about $500-$1000 now and have a lawyer file this paperwork for you. You will be happy that you did.


An S Corp is a tax election. You can be an LLC and an S Corp.  My company’s structure was an S Corp. The LLC definitely provides some peace of mind for us in being personally protected from liability.


S Corp structure saves you on the self employment tax. Your business income is passed on to you as the individual, so your income tax remains the same, but you and the company only pay Social Sec/Medicare tax on your W-2 salary. You have to make sure your salary is “reasonable” according to the IRS, however. If you are considering an S Corp., talk to your accountant about it.  If you don't have an accountant, get one post haste.


There you have it, this is my condensed version of how to start your own painting company. Thank you for reading my article, hope you enjoy some of my tips and tricks on starting your own company.   


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Great Blog!
Thanks for sharing.


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