How to start a painting business

If you’re a whiz with a paintbrush and roller, a house painting business can be a great way to cash in on your skills and brighten people’s lives. We’ve assembled this short guide to show you how to start a painting business.

painter painting ceiling

Housing is one of the most resilient sectors of the economy. In good times and tough times, people yearn to feel comfortable in a home of their own. Whether a homeowner is looking to increase curb appeal before selling, or simply change up the look of a room, a fresh coat of paint always does the trick.

If you’re a whiz with a paintbrush and roller, a house painting business can be a great way to cash in on your skills and brighten people’s lives.

However, there’s more to painting than purchasing some ladders and painter’s tape. We’ve assembled this short guide to show you how to start a painting business.

Let’s get rolling!

Research legal requirements & local competition

Before you paint, you need to prime. The same is true when it comes to creating a successful painting business! Painters are in essence contractors, and in some states and municipalities, you’ll need a contractor’s license to get started.

Be sure to research local and state regulations, and if necessary:

  • Take any necessary licensing exams and pay licensing fees
  • Meet insurance requirements (more on this later)

If you’ve taken a licensing exam, it may have included questions on bidding, marketing, and other business topics. If you’re still unfamiliar with the local market, do some research.

  • What other painting businesses operate in your area?
  • How much do they charge? Examine their rates for different jobs (interior painting vs. exterior painting, by square footage or by the hour, etc.).
  • How can you differentiate your services? Maybe you’re on-call at special hours, offer faster turnaround times, or specialize in nontoxic and allergen-free paint. Or maybe you’re just more affordable (hint: this is a great value proposition when starting out).

Once you’re ready to legally enter the industry, consider the type of business structure you want to set up.

Register your painting business

Depending on your local and state laws, you will likely need to register your business as a legal entity (LLC, partnership, etc.). When choosing a business structure, there are typically three considerations to take into account. These are:

  • Business taxes
  • The industry you work in
  • Personal liability

Keep in mind that if you start working without filing any paperwork, you’re automatically considered a sole proprietorship. This may or may not require additional paperwork or business taxes. If you’re going into business with a partner, then you’ll likely have to choose a different type of structure. As a sole proprietor, there is more personal liability, as your business finances are considered the same as your personal finances.

However, a common business structure for contractors is an LLC, or limited liability company. To form an LLC, you’ll need to file paperwork and pay a fee with your state. The benefit of an LLC is that, in large part, it protects you from personal liability should something go wrong with your business.

Essentially, it creates a clear divide between your business finances and personal finances by treating your business as a separate entity. A couple other business structures include but are not limited to:

  • Partnerships
  • S-Corp

Be sure to research your state laws about the painting industry and identify a business structure that works best for you.

Address startup costs with a business plan

As a painter, you don’t need anything to get started besides a business card and some cans of paint, right?

Not exactly.

Running a successful business means investing in reliable painting equipment upfront. Of course, that also takes some startup capital. That’s why it’s important to create a business plan that can attract potential investors or help you secure a loan.

Make sure your plan includes:

  • A business name – Your name should clearly identify your business as a painting company, and be easy to spell.
  • Painting equipment costs – You’ll need step ladders, drop cloths, a sander, spray equipment, safety gear, and of course, cleaning supplies. Consider whether you also need a work vehicle to drive to and from jobs.
  • Additional Resources – Do you plan to do all the work alone, or will you need to hire employees or retain sub-contractors?
  • Licensing and insurance costs – You’ll need enough startup capital to cover these, too.
  • Pricing – How will you price your jobs? What are your profit margins?

The more detailed you are, the more easily you’ll be able to attract investors and, ultimately, customers.

Promote your painting business

Once you’re legally and financially set to run a successful painting business, it’s time to get the word out that you’re operational and ready for jobs. Try out:

  • Creating a website with images of past paint jobs and beautiful homes.
  • Connecting with other local businesses like construction companies, interior decorators, and more. You could even offer a referral bonus to these partners to motivate them to send business your way.
  • Becoming active on social media. Make it easy for customers to discover you on Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp, and ask past clients to leave reviews about your work.
  • Ask if you can leave your business cards at hardware stores and other shops frequented by new homeowners.

Protect your business with insurance

We’ve mentioned insurance a few times. You may be wondering, do I really need business insurance? Starting a business is expensive enough already!

First of all, we’ve already noted that in some states, you’ll need insurance to obtain a valid business license.

Even if insurance isn’t legally required, it’s usually a smart business idea. Why? Because you’re working at your clients’ properties. By doing so, there’s always the potential for accidents. If you accidentally damage their property or injure a third party, you might be liable for the costs associated with the incident.

Thus, most painters need:

General liability insuranceGeneral liability can provide coverage for client and third-party claims of property damage, personal and advertising injury, or bodily injury. Should a potential client sue you, your policy can provide a legal defense, cover court costs, and pay for damages.

Workers’ compensation insurance – Most states require that businesses with one or more employees cover their staff with workers’ compensation insurance. If you paint with a crew, check your state’s requirements. If you hire actual employees (and you don’t live in Texas), you’re probably required to have workers’ compensation. Even if you live in Texas, you will probably want to look into workers’ compensation to protect your assets in the event of employee injuries.

If you want to protect your own equipment or the vehicle you use just for work, you’ll need commercial property insurance or auto insurance, too.

When you’re just starting out, you may not want to pay for an annual policy when you only have a week-long painting job, or weather won’t permit you to work during certain seasons.

That’s why we designed painters insurance for businesses that are just starting out or that have needs that are not the same as some traditional businesses may have.

Available by the hour, day, or month, Thimble gives you unparalleled flexibility and customization. Instead of paying for an entire month of insurance, you can tailor it specifically to the amount of time you’re working on a paint job.

It’s insurance that works when you do, and you can sign up faster than quick dry paint dries!

With Thimble, you can get insured in under 60 seconds. Click “Get a Quote” or download the Thimble app, answer three simple questions, and we’ll generate an instant quote. By having insurance, you start your career as a painter with the protection you need. Now, you just need customers!

Paint the town!

Congrats! Now that you’ve read our guide, you know that all it takes to start a house painting business is:

  • Meeting your state’s legal licensing requirements
  • Choosing a business structure
  • Creating a business plan to succeed in your local market
  • Getting insurance to cover your legal liability
  • Marketing your painting services

As long as you stick to your business plan, you’ll have painting jobs in no time. Until then, celebrate your new business and go paint the town. (Just not literally—unless that’s part of your viral marketing plan!)

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.

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