How to Start a Painting Business From Scratch

Want to learn how to start a painting business without having much money?

Here’s how I got started and how you can do the same:

I started my painting company in 2010 with $200, and in 2014 we sold over $1,000,000 in house painting. Over the last 10 years I’ve helped hundreds of others start a painting business.

In this article I’m going to cover, in depth, how to start a painting business from scratch, including:

  • How to register your painting company
  • Licensing requirements
  • Insurance and Workers Comp
  • Painting equipment and what you need to buy
  • How to get your first jobs
  • Estimating
  • How to paint your first house
  • How you make money
  • Total startup costs

Of course there are many different ways to start and run a business. I’m going to show you how to start a painting business legally, and what I believe is the most efficient and cost effective way to start making money.

Just to help you out, I put together a few things to help you get started…

  1. Checklist to starting your business – Make sure to set everything up correctly and legally, including where to do it all. This stressed me out when I was starting.
  2. Goal setting sheet – It’s important to set attainable goals so you have some direction.
  3. $1,000,000 Business Blueprint — So you can see what it looks like from a high level.

You can download these forms here:

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Lets get to it…

How to Register Your Painting Company

There are two steps to registering your business.

Step 1: Register With Secretary of State

First, you need to register with the Secretary of State. Each state has a different website for this.

Just type this in Google search “Secretary of State” + your state:

Registering painting business with secretary of state

You’ll want to file a new document and go through the process to establish your business.

I set up my companies to be an LLC, which is what I’d recommend.

Step 2: Get EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Second, you need to get a Federal EIN number.

Search “Federal EIN” (or visit website here) and click on the IRS page that says “Apply for an EIN”.

Applying for an federal EIN

Go through all the steps to apply for your EIN.

This is your Employer Identification Number which is used to set up your bank account and file taxes.

Once you have your Articles of Organization from the Secretary of State and your Federal EIN from the IRS, you can go to the bank with those documents to set up your bank account.

Costs will vary state to state for filing your Articles of Organization. Depending on your bank, you may need to make a small deposit to open your business account.

Painting License Requirements, Insurance, and Workers’ Comp

Every state has different requirements for a painting business license.

In some states, like Colorado, you don’t need a license to legally run a painting company. Other states, like California or Michigan, have a lot of steps that you need to go through in order to obtain your license. You’ll need to find out what those requirements are.

Insurance requirements can vary state to state as well, but it’s fairly standard to have $1,000,000 in general liability insurance and $1,000,000 per each occurrence.

I’d recommend calling around to local insurance companies and let them know you are starting a painting business and need liability insurance. Some insurance companies don’t do this type of insurance, so you may need to call a few places. Get quotes. When you’re just starting out, it shouldn’t cost you more than $100/month for your insurance.

Workers’ comp requirements also vary state to state. You can find these requirements out best by starting with a Google search and then contacting local government offices if you need to confirm the requirements.

Painting business pro testimonial on course results

Painting Equipment and What You Need to Buy

What you need to buy depends on a few factors. Do you already own equipment? Are you going to be doing the work yourself, or hiring employees? What is your budget? Are you going to be using employees or sub-contractors?

If you choose to use sub-contractors, you won’t have to buy any painting equipment. The only equipment you need to buy is marketing and sales materials… maybe a brush for doing color samples for customers.

If you choose to use employees, you need to buy all of the necessary equipment to paint a house. This can add up to around $500-$2000 depending on how much money you want to spend. Anything you don’t buy, you can usually rent for a per-day rate.

If you don’t hire subcontractors, here is what you’ll need to paint a house:

  • Ladders: 8′-12′ and a 28′-32′ sizes. $100-$300.
  • Drop cloths to avoid drips: At least one drop cloth per person working on the house. $20
  • Brush: one brush per person. Don’t go cheap on brushes. $15-$25/brush.
  • Roller with:
    • Roller heads: lots of options, see what you like best.
    • Roller Tray: size to fit the size of roller you bought.
  • Airless Paint Sprayer: These can range in price greatly. This is not required, but it definitely speeds up painting. You’ll want to hire someone with experience spraying if you have never done it before. Any experienced painter will tell you there is definitely an art or skill to doing a great job spraying a house. $250-$1500
  • Caulk Gun: Nothing special here. $10
  • Masking Gun: Not necessary if you are not purchasing a sprayer. This is to mask off windows, doors, roofline, etc. It is absolutely worth the $50 with how much time it saves you masking things off.
  • 5-in-1 Scraper: For scraping off peeling paint. $10
  • Wire-brush: Not absolutely necessary, but can be useful depending on the surfaces you are working with. $15
  • Sandpaper: 60 to 80 grit sandpaper for sanding down the peeling areas. Get a few sheets.

Total Equipment Cost: $500-$2,000

Ouch.

Like I mentioned earlier, consider hiring subcontractors to do the work for you.

How to Get Your First Painting Jobs

There are a lot of ways to go about this. I recommend checking out some of my YouTube videos about marketing and growing your painting business, which you can find here: http://www.youtube.com/ebarstow18

Cheap route (what I did):

  1. Talk to friends and family – then get referrals from them. It’s easier to sell work to referrals than to acquire new ones.
  2. Make a free Facebook page – reach out to friends and ask them if they need any work done.
  3. Print a few hundred flyers – 4 per page, and go door to door. This is how I got my first 4 jobs. I knocked on doors and said “Hey, I’m Eric with Foothills Painting. I noticed some peeling paint on your house. Would you like a free estimate?” Cost: $100 — for the flyers.

Expensive route: Review my article, “Painting Leads: Marketing a Painting Business” and basically do everything on that list. You could spend about $3,000 per month on marketing.

Middle of the road: Start with the pay per lead services listed in that article. This way you can manage your budget. Use the free website route, and make your own website. There are companies that make that very easy to do.

Setting Up Estimates

Once you start getting people who are interested, you are going to need to give them an estimate.

For this, you’ll want to have a basic “client manual” which outlines:

  • Who you are
  • What your company is about
  • Why you’re different
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Pre-made templates client manuals are in my Painting Business Pro course. Just by having a client manual you will already look more professional than 90% of the other painting companies giving estimates.

I’d also recommend creating a basic contract (also in my course). I made it on Excel and it shows people the areas of the house that are included in the estimate, the materials included, the prep work included, other notes, and the prices and options. There’s also a place to put the total job size, the deposit, and where the customer can sign.

Once you have all of your materials… start generating leads. Call those people who want estimates, and set up a time to meet with them.

You’re also going to need a really good sales process.

In the painting business starter course, I’ll teach you everything you need to make sales and provide you with all the scripts, templates, and training you need to be successful.

You should check it out 🙂

Everything up to this point, almost anyone can do. But when it comes to actually getting jobs booked – that’s where people start to fall short.

Meet with the customer, find out what they need and want, answer their questions, walk around the house with them, recommend solutions to the problems on their house, and come up with options to write up for them. Estimate the job and come up with your prices. Write up your estimate. Present it to them. Ask for the job.

Take a deposit. This will help you start making money faster, and cover some of your material and startup costs.

Estimating

To properly estimate the cost to paint a house, you need to know how much the labor will cost and how much the materials will cost.

Once you know that total cost, you need to add in your mark-up or your profit margin.

To learn estimating, I encourage you to check out my articles on estimating which explain a lot more than I could in this article:

How to Paint Your First House

You have 3 options:

  1. Hiring a subcontractor (recommended)
  2. Hire you own employees
  3. Do the work yourself

Hiring A Subcontractor

Using a sub-contractor is the easiest thing to do (and the cheapest) because you don’t have to purchase materials and you don’t need to train them.

These are people who own a painting company, and instead of going direct to customers, they get work from people like you… people who have jobs already, and want to hire a sub-contractor to do the painting.

Hiring Your Own Employees

Hiring employees is the most difficult, because you need to learn how to hire the right people, you need to train them, then you need to manage them.

You will also need to provide all of the equipment and materials.

You also need to process payroll and deal with payroll taxes.

All of these things can be avoided by hiring a great sub-contractor.

Doing the Work Yourself

Doing the work yourself lands somewhere in the middle.

If you have previous painting experience, it is a great way to make a lot of money right away. You can bid the jobs lower because you are doing them yourself… but don’t make that a habit.

If you are going to do the first few jobs yourself, that’s fine. Plan to move towards having other people do the work by your 4th or 5th job at the most.

The way to succeed in this business is by doing a lot of revenue. It’s hard to make much more than $50,000-$70,000 a year if you are doing all the painting.

Not to mention, it’s very hard work on your body!

Simple Formula: How You Can Make a Lot of Money

Revenue minus expenses = profit.

The total amount the customer pays you, minus all of your expenses is what you are left with – this is your pay. We don’t care about the initial startup expenses, we care about the expenses per job. These costs per job include the materials, the labor, and any other other non-reusable materials you use on the job. It could also include any marketing expenses you incurred to get this customer.

Here’s an example:

$3,000 job

– $1,500 for the labor and materials

– $250 for the marketing

= $1,250 profit

Total Startup Costs

  • Registering the business: $50-$150
  • Opening bank account: $0-$200
  • License: $0-$1,500
  • Insurance: $200 plus monthly payment about $100/month
  • Workers’ Comp: $0-$5,000 that can be broken down into monthly payments
  • Equipment: $500-$2,000
  • Marketing & Sales Materials: $100-$300
  • Initial Marketing Costs: $100-$3,000 plus potential monthly costs if you pay for monthly services

TOTAL cost to start your painting business:

$950 to $12,350 plus $100 to $3,100 per month (depending on your ongoing marketing costs)

But more marketing means more business.

If you want a great source for generating quality leads, check out Painter Choice (I’m one of the co-owners) at http://www.PaintingLeads.com

For a how to start a painting business-in-a-box, including all of the sales scripts, all of the forms I mentioned, and about 15-20 hours of training, you can check out my course at http://www.paintingbusinesspro.com/course

Let me know if you have any questions!

Eric

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32 Comments

  1. Andrew H. Powell Jr. | July 21, 2015 at 9:30 am Reply

    Eric, I’m very impressed with your business , I’ve painted for over 25years but never had the business know how you have, I’m a retired Firefighter / Medic and would like to talk with you about starting something in the Central Florida area , mainly Orlando, Disney World areas, I’m a registered Vendor at Disney in Specialty
    coatings , you can check it out on http://www.g-plasitcoat.com or Miracle Shield Coating. if you like you can call me and we can talk some other options I have
    cell phone 407-415-9415

    • Eric | December 3, 2015 at 6:33 pm Reply

      Andrew – just saw this post. Somehow I missed it. Contact me on the contact page if you have something you are interested in talking about. Thanks!
      -Eric

  2. Ronald Helmick | August 11, 2015 at 6:43 am Reply

    Thanks for the information.I have beenvpainting on and off again for the past 20 yrs.And have seen alot of different type painters.Which makes me interested and believe I should do good and be successful at a painting company. I’m 41 wasted alot if time working for people in the construction field. Because the money was always good I believe that’s what made it hard for me to see what would be more secure for my family’s future.Until the past7 years with alt of life’s situations and bad buisness choices on the company’s owner not the help. It’s put me in a bad situation financially a time or two.I’ve took ]ride in my painting,until I was forced to help a friend out with section 8 housing wich was under the tablebwich as the last few jobs money was excellent cause painters was impossible to find good ones even though it was section 8 as I found out none of the work was really done properly.As usual family buisness never ment my family’s survival wich I’m not going to keep going on wich these are the reasons I want to thank you for your time and concern to offer help in this area. I feel that I have allot to offer this buisness and need to make this count me my fiance 5 yr old son yet old daughter,and15monthbold bsbybgirl.I’ve given so much of myself to this field to only in the end realize my family’s fait is in someone else’s hands in more ways than I realized.wich is why it’s a must for me to succeed.

    • Eric | August 12, 2015 at 3:08 pm Reply

      Hey Ronald.

      It sounds like it’s time for you to make this happen on your own… for yourself, and for your family. I’m glad you found my site, and I hope my articles and videos can help get you going in the right direction.

      Entrepreneurship is the only way to live!

  3. Cherri | August 13, 2015 at 6:54 am Reply

    Your video was very helpful. Can’t wait to get started. My boyfriend n I I(Been together 4 years) want to do this. Calling it His n Hers Painting. Does that sound ok? Thank you so much for your help

    • Eric | August 13, 2015 at 8:44 am Reply

      That name will work fine. Check out my article on naming your painting business if you want some of my thoughts on good names. I’m glad you found my site… there is a ton of great info here. If you are really serious about this business, I’d strongly encourage you to get my course. Let me know if you have any questions that come up. Good luck!

  4. chris | August 28, 2015 at 2:08 pm Reply

    hello, Eric I just wanted to thank you for the time and information you put in to this, Ive been wanting to start my own small paint business for a long time but I was like a lot of other people,i didn’t know how to get it started or even how to estimate a job.this information you give is very helpful and already learned a lot just from reading the material you provided on here and clicking on some of your links.you have been a blessing and gave me that extra push and know how to get my small business started.

    • Eric | September 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm Reply

      Great to hear Chris, thank you!

  5. Cody Lemmons | September 1, 2015 at 9:22 am Reply

    I need all the advice I can get. My husband and I are professional painters and have all the equipment to get started. I just don’t have the money to hire a lawyer to get everything started. I live in Texas and need all the free help I can get to get all of my paper work in line to open. thanks for the good info..

    • Eric | September 12, 2015 at 2:33 pm Reply

      I don’t think you need a lawyer for anything. I paid a lawyer the first time my 5th year in business. All you really need to do is register your business and start selling jobs! You should be able to find all the necessary information on the site and in my course. If you have other questions just let me know. Cheers.

  6. Kendra | September 1, 2015 at 11:16 am Reply

    My bf wants to start a house painting business. He had been working for his father’s family business for over 8 years, and you know how stressful it can be to work with family, so he wants to do it on his own. We are in upstate N.Y. (Dutchess County). Do we need a licence, dba, llc formation? Can we simply file a dba and get e&o insurance? Please help there is little on the internet I can find for this area. Thank you kindly.

    • Eric | September 12, 2015 at 2:31 pm Reply

      Hey Kendra,

      I’m pretty sure you will need a license anywhere in New York. Google “Dutchess County Painting Contractor License Requirements” or something like that. You may need to call a couple local government offices to confirm.

      Licenseing is difficult to help with, because every state (and, in some states, every county) has different rules and requirements.

      Dutchess County is a great place to do business though. You won’t have a hard time getting work, that’s for sure. Great area, and a lot of other great areas nearby to expand into.

      Here’s what you need for sure:
      Register business
      EIN
      Bank account
      Insurance

      Insurance companies can probably answer your licensing questions as well.

      Let me know if you have more questions. I respond faster if you go to the “contact” section on the website.

  7. micheal | September 8, 2015 at 7:53 am Reply

    Hi my name is Michael I’m 23 and have a budget of 15 thousand and I am extremely interested in starting my own painting business this website helps greatly what’s the fastest way to maximize my income in one year.

    • Eric | September 12, 2015 at 2:22 pm Reply

      Michael,

      My advice is this: Watch all of my YouTube videos. Read all of my articles. Buy my course. Then keep following me. I’m going to keep adding more and more high level information to come.

      I have more courses coming that are more about “bigger business”. But Painting Business Pro, the course, will get you all the information to build a solid foundation.

  8. Travis Thorrington | September 27, 2015 at 4:46 pm Reply

    I have a painting business and have been painting for over 20 years. I currently live in Indiana and I have been successful. I am wanting to sell my painting business along with several vehicles, ladders, sprayers. I also have been in this location for the past 5yrs. I have went from Zero to over 450K in Gross sales due to customer service and having an eye for detail. Due to health reasons I want to sell my Painting Business. I have been told to get a Lawyer and get all I can but I have another avenue of income and want to sell everything including my leads I have acquired. If anyone knows anyone in the Muncie, IN area please let me know. Thanks Travis 765-748-3080 I will share with them what I have to offer equipment wise. I am currently keeping 8/9 employee’s busy painting new homes, residential, restoration companies. Thank you.

    • Eric | December 3, 2015 at 6:26 pm Reply

      If you are still looking to sell your business, please contact me thru the contact page.

  9. Shawn | September 30, 2015 at 9:57 am Reply

    My question is before I get my LLC .. Do I have to be required to show that I have passed some painting course or show hours of documented work through other companies ?

    • Eric | December 3, 2015 at 6:25 pm Reply

      You may need to do something like that to obtain your license, depending on where you live. Check local licensing requirements.

  10. Andrew | October 16, 2015 at 8:52 am Reply

    What if I have a small job ($400-600) lined up and I don’t have a registered business, EIN, business bank account or insurance?

    Can I still do the job and report it later?

    Also, is this type of business considered a home based business?

    And do I need to do anything else if I were to do remodeling work also (ie patching walls, replacing baseboard/doors/windows, install new faucets/sinks, tile work etc.)

    Thanks for all the helpful info!

    • Eric | December 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm Reply

      Hey Andrew –
      If you don’t have any of those things, the customer needs to write the final payment to you. It does no good if it’s written out to your non-existent business. If it’s that small, you probably don’t even need to report it. But yes, end of year ask your accountant. This is probably not considered a home based business, but I don’t know for sure the definitions. I also don’t have information on remodeling businesses.

      Let me know if you have other questions. Contacting me on the contact page gets a faster response.

  11. Jon | December 22, 2015 at 9:39 am Reply

    Is there anywhere to find out more specifically about starting a painting business in new york? Wanted to know more about what licence were needed in my state. Or wherw i can get that information

    • Eric | February 9, 2016 at 7:12 pm Reply

      You will need to contact your local government office. Start with a google search of “painting contractor license requirements in new york” or something. Dig around until you can find the requirements.

  12. Cosy | February 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm Reply

    I just read your article and am very impressed. Am an Operations person with a private company. I’ve been wanting to start a painting business due to my high interest but haven’t done so yet. I’ve registered a general company though. Would like to do the business side by side my 8 to 5 job by marketing and sub contracting contracts. This will be my way of planning for my retirement. Your advise will be helpful. Thank you. Cosy

    • Eric | February 9, 2016 at 6:49 pm Reply

      You got it Cosy! Glad you’re finding it helpful. There are a lot of opportunities out there.

  13. michelle | December 24, 2016 at 1:50 am Reply

    I think what you doing is terrific! Professional. May God increase you! I am in cape town south africa, worked for years making everyone else wealthy and sometimes being short changed on commission to suit owners! How can I get a flyer idea from you to start on my own, I know the business but lack the forms so i can streamline and especially the flyer – I am willing to walk a street in a wealthy area from the 3rd Jan and ring bells, comment, keep it short and try to 20 homes a morning at set times 8am to 10am. Could you help me with a flyer idea, I have made a whats ap business card initially to get started, eco friendly. I need to do this and have a goal to see my Dad in Durban who is in his 90’s and financially not been able to see him, an owner closed and never gave me all….thanks Michelle – Going to plaster this 1st goal on my wall. michelle salati [on linkedin]

    • Eric | March 21, 2017 at 8:56 pm Reply

      Sorry I just don’t have time to help people one on one, you’ll have to refer to my resources online. Good luck! Thanks for the kind message.

  14. tony | January 10, 2017 at 1:36 pm Reply

    Thank you for the information and videos. they were very helpful. I have been painting off and on for over 10 years and worked for a few different painters. i feel like i have the skills to get my own business started. i even do alot of work by myself. I just wanted to thank you for what you do by helping other people get started. thats what my plan is for my family is to get my own painting business started. i am always willing to learn more too and i look up to people like yourself thank you.

    • Eric | March 21, 2017 at 8:51 pm Reply

      Thanks Tony! I really appreciate it man. Good luck with your business!

  15. Richard | January 22, 2017 at 6:51 am Reply

    Hi Eric, I’ve been spray painting for about 25 years in the marine industry, I’ve painted everything from super yachts, industrial barges, cars, an even factory’s plus houses. I have always worked for others (businesses) never been business minded, recently I went into business with a couple partners, an it started off ok but eventually went down hill from there, One of my partners claimed he knew how a business should be so I followed his lead, a lot of his decisions he made lost us a lot of work, eventually losing all contracts due to his stubbornness, saying this is how business is run. Now I have decided to step away from the company an go on my own. I watched the video of you ( how to start a business from scratch) an was blown away!!! Everything you stated in the clip? We did none of that when we started our company, (following the lead of my business partner) poured so much of my savings into it in the beginning an financially ruined me, I could go on for ever but now I’m broke, I’m starting to do sub contracting work now to get back on track with living expenses, I am going to start my own business an see where I go from there. I will take on what you said in the clip, an see how go. Thanks kind regards Richard

    • Eric | March 21, 2017 at 8:47 pm Reply

      Partnerships can be tough. Glad you’re getting going on your own. I’d really recommend my course for you. It’ll fill in all the business stuff that you aren’t as strong with, and will pay for itself almost immediately.

  16. Pam Murphy | February 7, 2017 at 9:13 am Reply

    Hello.
    On and off for years I have managed to acquire my own painting jobs. 3 home interiors, 2 murals, custom curtains, and some basic decorating consulting. I’ve mostly done the work myself.
    I’m certain with a couple of calls I can have a job fast.
    However, I wish to be my own boss and go the distance and finally quit working in restaurants.
    Where do I begin?
    I’m a little overwhelmed with all the needs to start. How can I start small then grow?
    Thanks
    Pam

    • Eric | March 21, 2017 at 8:32 pm Reply

      I would recommend starting with my free information. If you are really serious about starting a painting business, and setting it up so you run the business (the business doesn’t run you), then I would strongly recommend looking into my program.

      I’ve done this with hundreds of people, walking people step by step to starting a painting business, regardless of their background. There is a process and a clearly defined system for building the business. The course will include every little detail you need from marketing, estimating, sales, production, and overall business growth strategy.

      You can also download a “business launch checklist” in my article section. Just find the article on how to start a painting business from scratch.

      Cheers,

      Eric


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About Me

I’m Eric Barstow, creator of Painting Business Pro, founder of National Painting Group & Foothills Painting, Co-Owner of Painter Choice. I’m disrupting the painting industry, and helping thousands of painters start or improve their businesses. I love what I do!

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