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Frequently Asked Questions

These are the questions most people ask

Eric Barstow
Published Date: 07/26/2015

Any questions about the course, go here or contact me.

What’s in This Article

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How do you bid or estimate a job? Do you have an estimating system?

I have estimating standards that I use to come up with the total number of hours and total gallons of paint that a job will take. Once I know the hours and materials, I can come up with how much I have to pay a sub-contractor for the hours/materials. Then I basically double that number to come up with my price. For example – 200 square feet of siding is going to take 1 hour and 1 gallon of paint. How to estimate, my estimating standards, and my estimating forms are all include in The Course.You can also download all of our exact estimating scripts here.

How do you avoid the up front mistakes?

The truth is, no matter how prepared you are, get ready for mistakes and screw ups. The key is learning from them. I did the best I could in The Course to prepare you for all the things that you will screw up, but some people just don’t listen and will learn their lesson the hard way.

What is the best way to go about getting work?

Follow any number of marketing strategies to generate leads. That includes everything from building a website, sending flyers, door to door, direct mail, referrals, lawn signs, directory listing websites like Yelp, or painting lead providers like Painter Choice. Whatever marketing you do, the effectiveness is the most important thing to look out for. What % do you spend on marketing to generate sales? Try to keep that under 10%, under 15% at the worst. My business spends about 3% on marketing (because our sales process is very good, we convert more of our leads into jobs). Calculate that percentage: Marketing Cost divided by Total Sales.

Is buying into a painting business a worthwhile investment?

Most likely, no. There aren’t a lot of assets in a painting company that you are buying. There are a few things worth buying in a painting business. If they have a constant flow of leads coming in, or guaranteed business, that’s worth buying. That could be a website that generates leads really well, a really well refined marketing system, or a long history with a lot of referrals. The other thing worth buying in a business, like a franchise, is the system. I would never do that though, because you can buy my system right here for way less than you pay a franchise! If you want a partner, check out our partnership opportunity here.

Since I don’t have a contractors license would that hinder or help my progress to start a painting company?

It will hinder your progress. For some customers that will be a deal breaker. So it certainly won’t help your business. Check your local area to find out the laws and rules about a contractors license. In Colorado, we don’t even need one.

How could I gain my first customers without a license?

The same way you would gain any customer, at any time. Just be aware… you are going to lose some sales because you don’t have a license. Instead of doing 3 estimates to close a job, you might have to do 5 or 6. There may be customers who ask for it, and it’s a deal breaker.

Is there a way I could get started with low start up cost?

That’s one of the best things about a painting business and why over 10 of my closest friends all run painting companies… cheap to start. I started my painting business for less than $200 before making profit. I think you can safely assume you can start for less than $1,000. I would recommend getting my course if you are just starting and don’t have a strong background in running your own business or in painting.

It seems like I’m blindly trusting sub-contractors. What protections are in place and how can I transfer mistakes/risk to them?

You are blindly trusting them, but you have the same interests. Your interest is for them to complete the job properly and correctly. That is their interest as well… because if they don’t, you won’t pay them. But you do bring up a good point. You should be selective with who you hire, and ease into the relationship with them. You wouldn’t give a brand new sub 5 jobs. Instead, you give them 1 job that you oversee more than you normally would. Then you oversee a little less until they are doing everything themselves and you can trust them. I go into a lot more detail about this in the course, but that’s the basics.

How much do you pay your sub-contractors?

I pay them 50% of the total job size. Sometimes I pay a little more than that if my sales reps underbid a job. I account for about 1.5% of total revenue to be overpaying contractors. So truly, I pay them 51.5%… 50% as agreed upon, 1.5% for our underbidding.

Do you start marketing in January? Are you marketing to set up jobs for March/April?

We do start marketing in January, usually the end of January. We are getting the early birds… Scheduling them for March/April. We usually have a couple good weeks ofpaintingin March.

If I start marketing in January, do I just trust I will be able to find subs before it is time to paint them?

Start looking for Subs heavily in January. Once you figure out how to find subs, you almost always will be able to. Back up plan is looking for really experienced painters and paying them for “piecework” – basically another way to sub-contract. You are sub-contracting to an individual vs a business.

Are there really subs that have insurance and workers comp?

There are some subs with workers comp and insurance… few and far between. The truth about the industry is that most people just run it illegally and don’t carry workers comp – they use loopholes to dodge workers comp. Illegal loopholes, but in the gray area… So just get your own workers comp, and find good reliable guys who do good work. Treat them great and you’ll keep em.

How do you tell your marketers to respond to people who tell them there is no soliciting in this neighborhood?

Apologize profusely. Say they are so sorry they didn’t know. Sorry sorry sorry. Then either leave the neighborhood or go to the next house. If you break rules, be prepared to deal with consequences. I broke rules for a long time until I got in trouble too many times, then started following the soliciting rules.

What is the best method to find target neighborhoods for door to door?

Print out a big map of your area and drive thru the whole thing. Mark the good areas, then print smaller maps for actual marketing.

How many target neighborhoods should I have to start?

5-6 for the first weekend. Then learn from that weekend. Where were you more successful? Go find more neighborhoods like those you were most successful in.

How many target neighborhoods should I build up to and keep going back to?

Unlimited. Keep growing your business!

Should I avoid neighborhoods in which the majority of homes are not owner occupied?

Yes. Target market is middle to upper class areas, where people take care of their yards and homes, drive fairly nice cars. Usually family neighborhoods too.

How close should marketers live to target neighborhoods?

Doesn’t matter as long as they’ll drive to it.

How much experience door-to-door do I need to be able to efficiently teach my marketers about going door to door? Should I just get right into teaching them the method you’ve described?

There is no right answer to that first question. The key is you need enough experience to be able to teach them to be effective – that might be a different amount of experience for everyone. The important part is training them to be effective.

Should marketers visit houses that look like they don’t need painting in the target neighborhood? If so, what does a marketer say to these houses?

Yes. Go to every door. When you start skipping houses, it’s a slippery slope and soon marketers will not go to enough houses. They should say “Hey, how’s it goin? I’m Eric with Foothills Painting. We’re doing some free estimates in the neighborhood for painting, so I just wanted to give you a free estimate.” But you can almost always find some sort of problem on a house.

How often do you pay your marketers? Once every two weeks?

Every 2 weeks.

Are marketers considered subcontractors too?

Yes. Paid as 1099 workers.

What time of year is best to start/finish marketing and estimates?

Start marketing in mid-end of January. End at end of October. Maybe sooner depending on where you live. Colorado it’s end of October

Is it typically more difficult to retain marketers early in the season during colder months?

Season has nothing to do with retention. How good you train and manage them is what counts.

How does ice/snow on a house affect your estimate?

It doesn’t.

How to know if a job requires excess paint or primer? When is tinted primer necessary?

If there is a ton of peeling on the house, you will estimate more scraping/sanding/priming hours. Primer cost is included in there. If it’s an insane amount of peeling – add a few gallons of primer to your material cost. Tinted primer is never necessary – it just helps the painters sometimes with coverage.

Is there anything particularly different if a customer just wants their wood siding stained?

No. Stain is a different price, and you divide the square footage by a different number. See the standards.

What happens if a customer has painted siding, but now wants a wood stained finish? Is this even possible? Do you still caulk the wood siding even though you could see the caulked cracks?

Can’t go from paint to stain. You can go from stain to paint by applying a shit load of primer then painting. You do still caulk on stained homes where there are big cracks that need caulking. Talk to your paint store rep, and/or your best sub-contractor with questions like this.

Is it necessary to have a contractor ready for production before closing estimates as a precaution if the customer wants to begin production immediately?

That’s up to you.

What allowed you to accurately estimate? Purely experience, or anything else you referenced?

What allowed me to estimate accurately is having specific set standards and an estimating formula. That’s all included in the course – estimate forms, estimating standards, etc…

Does location matter?

Location doesn’t matter completely. If you’re in a really small town (less than 10,000-15,000) and no towns close by, then you will have a limited market. I live in Fort Collins with around 130-150k people and neighboring towns. I could probably do $500,000-$1,000,000 in sales in just Fort Collins if I had to. So if you live in or are close to a reasonably sized town, you should be fine.

Question & Answer

I’m gearing up for some estimates in the coming weeks, but I’m having trouble with a few things in particular on the Estimating Form Standards:
-For something like Decks which need to be power washed, scraped and primed at times, did you build these costs into the “deck” labor in the bottom section, or do they need to be included separately in the top?

-Same for trim, fences,actual wood doors,pillars which may need to be washed/scraped/sanded/primed. Are these labor elements built into the labor in the bottom section? If not, how do you estimate the labor hours for scraping/sanding/priming them?

-Also for fences, we estimate the total square footage/100. Is this for one side, or both? Do you still estimate with these standards across different fence types like Wood Panel, Picket, Farm Styled?

-Do you have any method for easily estimating to the gables and dormers on houses?

-For patio cover/overhang at the bottom, how large is large? Any square footage amounts that you go by?

-I know you can tie off trees against a house. But what If the tree is too big and thick to pull over, with obstructing branches? How do I estimate this labor time?

-In the materials section, how do you estimate caulking cost?Do I even need to know this much detail or am I over-analyzing? Just don’t want to seem like an idiot with my first few customers and not know my own costs . Anyways, thanks for reading my Q’s.

P.S- Do you have any pictures of houses you’ve painted, all 4 side views, both before and after? It would be an awesome tool to learn estimating if I could pretend I was estimating the before pictures as if I were there. Then I could compare the cost of what I’ve estimated to the cost that was for the actual job… Just a thought…thanks..

The “deck” labor is for staining only – no prep work included. If you are going to be painting a deck, you can use the “deck” standards for coming up with the hours to paint the deck, but you will need to add time for prep work.

Prep work: power wash, scrape, sand prime… none is included in the bottom section. All prep work is included in the top “prep work” section. The standards for this should be in the course and on the estimating standards sheet.

Yes I use the same standards for all fences that are solid. If it’s a fence with 3 rails, use the “fascia” or “other trim” standard. And square footage is square footage. If you are only doing one side of the fence, the square footage is less than if you are doing both sides. So just get total square footage that is being painted.

Use a similar standard to come up with the estimate for gables and dormers. You could use linear feet or you could use a similar standard. So linear feet is 40 feet/hour… like fascia you divide by 40, other trim you divide by 40, etc.. So you could figure out the total linear feet of the gable and divide by 40. Or you could just ball park it – 30 minutes per gable? 15 minutes per gable? Use your judgement based on how big it is. You’ll get a feel for these things. Gotta start somewhere.

Large is like more than 100-200 square feet…

For obstructions on a house, estimate an hour for a big obstruction like a tree or a bush pressed against the house or something. Hire painters with experience so you don’t need to figure those things out… they will know how to paint it. Don’t need to worry about estimating caulking cost, primer cost, tape, masking etc… Those “miscellaneous” materials are worked into the price pretty well.

Do I even need to know this much detail or am I over-analyzing? Just don’t want to seem like an idiot with my first few customers and not know my own costs .

You’re not over analyzing… you are just someone who hasn’t started before and is nervous. Everyone gets worried about their pricing. What you should be worried about is sales…. You’ll figure out pricing as long as you can sell. But if you can’t sell, it doesn’t matter how good you are at pricing. Also – they don’t need to know that you don’t know your costs. Whatever price you present, be confident in the price. The place you want to come from is that your price is correct. Fake it til you make it man…. that’s how we all start 🙂

Feel free to ask questions man. I want you to succeed.



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