How to Start a House Painting Business

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Starting your own home painting business can cost very little—and lead to big profits almost right away.

A little curb appeal can go a long way.

If you're interested in painting houses, you already know this. (And your potential clientele does, too.)

But how does your business go from an idea to reality?

In this article, we cover 11 necessary steps to start a house-painting business and set it up for long-term success. Keep reading for tips, info on small business loans, and more.

1. Do Some Preliminary Research

When building your business, start by researching to determine the building blocks for your business.

Who is your target audience? Determine where your competitors succeed, where they fail, and where they don't exist yet. Figure out how you fit into the market and narrow down your target audience.

How much can you charge as a house painter? The cost will depend on the amount of work required. You can charge per square foot (aim for $2 to $6/sq. ft.) or by the hour ($20 to $50/hour).

Where will your business operate from? You can get a formal business location or you can rent a P.O. Box and operate from your home. Having a physical business location can help boost credibility, but it will cost more upfront.

How might your house painting business grow? Grow your painting business over time by expanding your customer base, growing your team, and offering more specialized services.

2. Settle the Upfront and Ongoing Costs

Starting a painting business can be more affordable than other types of businesses. Plus, you can start with minimal equipment and earn a profit relatively quickly.

Be prepared for the following upfront and ongoing costs in running your house painting business:

Upfront Costs

  • Professional paint sprayer: $1,000
  • 32' Ladder: $500
  • 12' Ladder: $300
  • Pressure washer: $310
  • Power sander: $70
  • Paint: $60/bucket
  • Protective gear (goggles, gloves, coveralls): $100/person
  • Drop cloths: $6/each
  • Caulking gun: $20
  • Paint trays: $5/each
  • Roller frames: $5
  • Paint brushes: $10
  • Misc. tools (paint scrapers, hammers, screwdrivers): $50

Approximate Upfront Costs: $2,000

Ongoing Costs

  • Insurance: $1,000/year
  • Licenses: $500 - $1,000/year
  • Accounting & payroll Software: $50/month
  • Tool maintenance: $200/year

Approximate Ongoing Costs: $2,500/year

Loans for Small Businesses
Small businesses can apply for a variety of grants and loans to help with ongoing expenses.

Your revenue and your time in business will impact the types of loans available to you. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several desirable loans and grants for businesses that can get you anywhere from $500 to $500,000.

3. Finalize Your Business Plan

A business plan is essential to the growth of your house painting business, and should include:

  • Your company goals
  • The organization of your management team
  • Finances and revenue projections
  • Market research and target audience(s)

Take into account any startup costs, fixed and ongoing costs, and how long it may take you to break even.

What are your goals for your house painting business?
Before starting a new business venture, think about the long-term goals that will help guide you. Maybe you want to...
  1. Have flexibility in your schedule
  2. Be your own boss
  3. Pursue your passion
  4. Build a multi-generational business
  5. Acheieve financial freedom

4. Name Your Business and Secure Your Domain

The name of your business serves as the customers' first impression of your business. Ask yourself these questions when thinking of a name:

  • Is it unique or meaningful to you?
  • Is it easy to say and read?
  • Is it already registered to any high-profile business?

Once you've chosen, be sure to secure a website domain with the same name (consistency is key for branding).

Don't forget: A professional email address ties your branding together and boosts credibility. Here's how to get yours set up.

5. Choose Your Business Structure

Establishing your business as a legal entity allows you certain perks, like protecting your personal assets, the ability to build business credit, and access to tax benefits.

Not sure which business entity to adopt? Here are the main differences:

Corporation: Legal entity meant to conduct business; no personal liability, but detailed recordkeeping required.

Limited liability company (LLC): Hybrid of corporation and partnership; profits can be passed tax-free to owners with no personal liability.

Partnership: Business involves two or more people who agree to share in the profits.

Sole proprietorship: No employees; owner is personally liable for the business' finances.

DBA: Or, "Doing Business As"; needed if you're an unregistered business operating under a name that is not your own legal name.

What to consider when choosing a business structure
Take these factors into consideration:
  • Liability: Pick an LLC or corporation for personal liability protection.
  • Business taxes: Do you prefer to be taxed as a business or on the personal level?
  • Your industry: Companies that carry a higher risk tend to form LLCs, while industries needing flexibility may form partnerships.

6. Get Permits, Licenses, and Insurance

Without the proper permits and licenses, your business could face heavy fines or even be shut down.

Be sure to secure the following licenses before you being operating as a business:

State and local licenses: First check with your city clerk's office about the licenses you need. Then, check with the Small Business Association (SBA) for additional requirements.

In some states, like Colorado, painting businesses do not need a license to operate, but in other states, they do. Be sure to confirm the requirements.

Service agreement: This will be a vital part of your business and includes the business name, client's name, a description of the work, and the cost of supplies and labor.

Insurance: Insurance requirements vary by state. In most situations, it is standard to have $1,000,000 in general liability insurance and an additional $1,000,000 for every occurrence.

You may need workers' comp insurance as well. Requirements vary by state.

7. File for an EIN

An EIN, or employer identification number, is a unique, nine-digit number that lets the IRS identify you as a taxpayer and keep track of your business' tax reporting.

To get an EIN, you'll need to provide business information, including your official business name. You can apply online or call the IRS directly.

After filling out the form, you'll immediately be assigned your EIN.

In addition to being recognized as a taxpayer, your EIN enables you to hire employees, open a business banking account (more on this below), and even prevent identity theft.

Does my business need an EIN?
Your business needs an EIN if:
  • You have employees.
  • Your business operates as a corporation or partnership.
  • You file employment, excise, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco taxes.
  • Your business withholds taxes, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien.

8. Set Up Business Bank Accounts

A business bank account is essential to keep track of all business expenses. It also keeps business costs separate from personal costs so any personal assets (like a car or home) are protected if you get sued.

In addition, having a business account will make filing your taxes much easier and faster. Many banks offer affordable business accounts for business owners, even with added perks and sign-up bonuses.

A business account can give your berry farm the leg up it needs to thrive. After you're done reading, explore our guide on the best banks for small businesses.

Once your accounts are set up, using an accounting software can help you keep tabs on everything related to business finances. You can customize invoices, track your accounts, and some even come bundled with payroll features.

9. Hire Labor & Management

Many house painting businesses opt to hire subcontractors instead of employees. The primary benefit is the cost: You can pay a subcontractor 60% of your total charge on painting a house, thus increasing your profits.

However, the main downside to subcontractors is establishing the relationship. Because you don't know or trust each other yet, the subcontractor may charge a higher fee.

You can pay painters around $50 an hour for their services, but it will vary depending on the job and skills.

Tip: Multiple employees usually means you need a good payroll software. Find our round-up of payroll programs here.

How long until a house painting business is profitable?
Because startup costs are fairly low, many painters have reported earning a 20% to 30% margin on their work. Depending on how much you spend and your marketing plan, you can start earning a profit within a few months.

10. Check the Boxes on Labor Safety Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lays out a number of labor safety requirements for worksites.

Regardless of whether you have employees or subcontractors, it's important to follow the OSHA regulations. If you violate worksite safety regulations, you can face large fines.

Before hiring anyone, visit the OSHA website and check the requirements for your specific industry and type of work.

11. Market Your Business

No business can survive or grow without successful marketing. Consider these different strategies to gain exposure and increase your clients:

Specialize: When you start marketing, be clear about how your business differs from others. Look at what your market needs most and what your competitors do not offer.

Advert Campaigns: Start by testing different advertising campaigns to see what works for your market. Try different types of brochures, or feature testimonials and special offers.

Market Research: Continuing market research will help your business stay on top of its game. What would prospective clients want? Ask them about past experiences with painters and any disappointments.

To build brand awareness, you should also create accounts on:

  • Yelp (specifically, a business account)
  • Google Business
  • Facebook (Facebook ads will take your business even further)

Active social media accounts and an up-to-date website will help your business appear more credible.

Essential Tips for Starting a House Painting Business

To make your house painting business successful, consider these tips:

  1. Always strive to learn more about the business. Consult other professionals and take advantage of endless online resources.

  2. Price your services once you have determined how much you will pay your labor. This will help you calculate your profit ahead of time.

  3. Determine whether you want to service the commercial or residential market.

  4. Set goals for yourself and your business to determine a direction and pace of growth.

  5. If you are looking to expand, consider hiring subcontractors or finding a partner to grow the business.

Bottom Line

Starting your own painting business can be a lucrative business with low upstart costs. With an investment in marketing and perfecting your craft, you can grow your business to make a heavy profit right from the start.

Write to Samantha Tatro at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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