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

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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.

You can also check out this great article that covers all the painting equipment you need, plus recommendations on specifically what to buy.

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


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.


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 https://paintingbusinesspro.com/course

Let me know if you have any questions!


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