Starting a successful painting company takes a thorough business plan. From market research to sourcing inventory, to hiring employees. There are countless factors to consider as you build your own business.
According to Grand View Research the U.S. painting industry reached a whopping value of $24.2 billion in 2019. With a CAGRE (compound annual growth rate) of 3.7% from 2020 to 2027, it’s not a bad time to step in and start your own painting company.
Throughout this guide, we’ll cover the basics of how to start a painting business. Owning your own business is stressful. Having all the information to get started in one place makes life easier. Topics in this painting business guide include competitive analysis, forming a legal business entity, business insurance, and more.
1. Conduct Painting Company Market Research
Starting a painting business requires some leg work. Market research offers insight into the painting industry, your target customers, and even the best service pricing model.
There are two types of market research to apply as you start a painting business:
Primary: Primary market research is the research you do yourself. It includes visiting competitor locations, talking with potential customers, and checking out local paint associations.
Secondary: Secondary research is third-person information gathered from pre-made sources like government statistics and online reviews.
Some of the information to look for during your market research are:
- Number of painting businesses in your area
- Pricing models of local painting companies
- Best paint products for residential and commercial properties
- Number of residential and commercial properties in town
- Popular painting services
- Tools required for commercial and residential paint jobs
You may also want to explore other painting services including automotive, and specialty.
Choosing the Right Paint and Services for Your Painting Business
Painting services vary between companies. Look to your customers as you select the services and products you’ll offer. See what other paint companies are offering locally and at the federal level, and research top paint brands.
Some factors impacting paint type include:
- Surface type
- Location (Indoor or outdoor)
- Traffic level (High traffic spaces require durable paints)
- Humidity (Bathrooms and kitchens often use gloss paint due to moisture)
Your original market research will help you outline the types of services to offer. Some common painting business service options are:
- Fences and decks
- Paint removal
- Textured paint
Some painting companies offer special services outside of painting, such as pressure washing and cabinet refinishing.
2. Analyze the Competition Before You Start a Painting Business
Competitors directly affect your sales and customer base. Understanding your competitors, what they offer, and how their services differ from yours will greatly benefit your overall business plan. Cost of services is often a defining factor in which company a consumer selects.
Some of the ways to analyze competition include:
- Visiting competitor websites
- Reading online reviews left on competitor social media
- Chatting with home and business owners about experiences with local painters
There are a wide range of local painting companies in every state. There are also major players in the federal and international paint markets. Some popular paint company brands to analyze are:
Five Star Painting offers residential and commercial painting services. They operate across the U.S., and use a simple online search tool for customers to find painters in their area. Five Star also offers franchising opportunities with a franchise fee of $45,000 and an overall investment of $76,230 to 184,280
As the name suggests, Commercial Painting USA focuses on commercial paint services such as interior, exterior, and chain store painting. They operate nationwide, and specialize in eco-friendly painting, refresh painting, and a variety of specialty services.
3. Understand the Costs to Start a Painting Business
As you start a painting business there are a collection of costs involved. It’s important to know your budget, the start up costs, and ongoing fees of running a painting company. Here are some things to consider.
What Does It Cost to Start a Lawn Care Business?
Starting your own house painting business involves more than buying some paint and brushes. There are a variety of initial costs to consider, including
- Business license and permits
- Business registration and entity formation
- Legal and accounting fees
- POS costs
- Business insurance
- Marketing and advertising
- Website hosting and design
- Training employees
- Employee paychecks
- Painting equipment
Beginning a small local painting business can cost as little as $2,000 to $6,000. Costs fluctuate based on the type of services you offer and accompanying equipment and materials.
You may also choose to start a painting business franchise. As you saw above, a franchise like Five Star Painting could cost as much as $184,280 in overall investments, including a $45,000 franchise fee.
Franchises have the benefit of market research, business registration, entity formation, and other formalities already being taken care of for you. On the other hand, a franchise limits you in business decision-making.
Painting Business Equipment and Materials
Painting businesses need high quality materials so paint goes on evenly and doesn’t bubble or orange peel. Paint isn’t the only thing that impacts the finish. Application tools like rollers and brushes play a big part in the complete project.
Some materials you’ll need to start a painting business include:
- Rollers: Paint rollers are a common resource for residential and commercial painting. New business owners may buy them one at a time. Eventually, you’ll want to buy in bulk. Expect to pay $2 to $5 per roller.
- Trays: Trays and rollers go hand in hand on any painting job site. Your new painting business will go through a lot of trays. Bulk trays cost $50 to $80 for a pack of 50
- Brushes: Line work and edges require brushes. You’ll use these a lot in residential painting to get into ceiling corners. It’s roughly $1 to $30 per brush. Price varies by brush size and brand.
- Drop Cloths/Plastic Sheeting: A successful business owner knows protecting the job site is essential. Drop cloths cover furniture and floors to avoid splatter. Buy drop clothes for $4 to $20 per 400 inches.
- Vacuum Sanding Kit: A new painting business may choose to start with a standard power sander. A vacuum kit takes care of 75% of the mess, capturing paint dust before it hits the floor. These run around $130.
- Painter’s Tape: To make a painting business profitable, quality is key. Painter’s tape keeps lines straight and prevents the paint from reaching baseboards and ceilings. Expect to pay around $5 to $10 for up to 300 feet.
- Paint Sprayer: You probably won’t use a sprayer in residential painting. Sprayers make quick work of a commercial paint job. It looks good to potential clients for a painting contractor to have one on hand. These run about $2,000.
- Paint Mixer/Shaker: Mixing your own paint saves time and money. A professional paint mixer runs about $1,500.
You’ll also want to invest in spackle, scrapers, wood filler, and other products to fill in holes and dents before painting. Successful businesses prep before painting. You can find most professional paint products through Grainger and The Paint Store.
Cost of Renting or Leasing a Location for a Painting Business
Painting companies spend their time in the field. Most of the work you do will be in the homes or businesses of your clients. Most paint companies still invest in commercial space for storage and a base of operations.
Commercial properties vary in price by size and location. Most charge by the square foot. You might see a commercial property advertised at $20 per square foot. For a location at 1,000 square feet, you can expect to pay $20,000 a year.
If your painting business is a small startup with minimal equipment, you may choose to operate out of your home. You can build a storage shed for $1,500 to $10,000 based on the size and type of materials.
Before marketing your painting services to the public, you must form a registered business with the Small Business Administration. In total, you’ll spend between $200 and $800 to register a company name and apply for the necessary permits.
Another step in the painting business formation process is obtaining business insurance. Insurance is essential to protect you and your employees from financial risk. Depending on the type of insurance you choose it could cover:
- Inclement weather
Most painting companies invest in general liability insurance. It protects against damage to people and property by means of your services or products.
Utilities are another ongoing cost for painting businesses. From a commercial office or from home, you’ll pay for things like:
Prices range across the country, and depend on usage, as well as property size. You can expect to pay somewhere around $50 a month for water and $2.90 for every square foot for electricity.
What Are the Ongoing Costs of a Lawn Care Business?
You’ll encounter several ongoing costs along with rent and utilities. Anything your painting business uses consistently will be renewed each month.
Some of the items you’ll need include:
- Drop cloths
- Sand paper
- Commercial vehicle fuel
- Banking fees
- POS fees
- Website fees
- Staff wages
Most painting companies don’t sell retail products. If you do choose to sell anything, you’ll also need to renew retail inventory regularly.
4. Form a Legal Business Entity
All legal businesses need to be registered as an entity in the United States. This outlines the way decisions are formed and assets are managed. For a painting business, the most common entity is an LLC, or limited liability corporation. Here’s a break down of your options.
Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)
The LLC formation is common for small local businesses because it’s easy to register. It also separates personal and professional assets. For example, if your painting business is sued because paint ruins a client’s hardwood floor. The LLC formation protects your private wealth and assets from being targeted.
Sole proprietorship grants you all decision making power in your company. You can register as this business structure if you own your painting business alone, or as a married couple. This entity isn’t as protective of private wealth. If your business is targeted for legal issues, your personal assets are at stake.
A partnership is much the same as a sole proprietorship. The main difference with this business structure is that more than one person runs the business. Unlike an LLC, a partnership entity leaves your personal assets at risk.
A corporation entity is well-structured and very protective of personal assets. The trouble is it’s also extremely complicated to register. There’s lots of paperwork involved and the cost is much higher than an LLC or sole proprietorship. This is better suited for a large company or chain.
5. Register Your Business for Taxes
Once you’ve formed a legal business entity, it’s time to register your company for an EIN. The EIN is your employee ID number or tax ID number. It tells the IRS that your company is legally operating in the U.S. and needs to be taxed as such.
With your EIN you are able to:
- Pay employees
- File taxes
- Open a business bank account
- Apply for a business credit card
To get your EIN, apply through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Double check with the U.S. government website to find sales tax in your state. This is useful information for pricing services and products.
6. Setup Accounting for a Successful Painting Business
If your business earns money, it needs an accountant. There are different types of accounting services your painting business can benefit from. You might choose to use multiple methods to cut costs and maximize organization.
Bookkeeping software like QuickBooks offers several tools to streamline invoicing, payroll, and bank reports. There are different packages for different budgets and business types. Choose the plan that best suits your company.
Find an Accountant
Along with QuickBooks you should invest in an accountant. A CPP is integral at tax time. Even if you don’t choose to work with an accountant ongoing, you’ll want to find someone to help file business taxes.
Costs for a certified public accountant range from $150 to $400 an hour. You can shop around for the most affordable and experienced accountant in your area.
Get a Business Bank Account
The IRS suggests applying for a business bank account to separate personal and company banking. Processing invoices and payments through your personal bank gets confusing. It could also put you in hot water with the IRS if there’s a misunderstanding about how business money is being managed.
Apply for a Business Credit Card
A business credit card is another way to separate personal finances from your painting business. Any big costs can be charged to the card to accrue travel miles, cash back, or other rewards. Business cards often have reduced APR to personal cards. Be careful to make timely payments. Your business credit impacts personal credit as well.
7. Obtain Business License and Permits
Painting companies get all necessary licenses and permits through the U.S. Small Business Administration. There are no special business licenses at the federal level for painting companies, but it’s always good to check.
State licenses and permits can be obtained through the SBA’s Find Local Assistance app.
8. Get Business Insurance
We touched on business insurance above, but here’s where we get technical. There are a few types of insurance for painting companies in the U.S.
- General Liability: General liability insurance protects against financial risk incurred by damage to anyone or anything by way of your business.
- Commercial Auto: Commercial auto insurance covers you against damage to or loss of a company vehicle. It also protects you in the event of an accident if you are at fault and there are legal or medical fees to be paid.
- Commercial Property: Commercial property insurance protects your inventory inside a commercial property against damage or theft. If there’s a fire, for example, commercial property insurance ensures you’re reimbursed for lost merchandise.
All insurance products vary based on provider, age and experience of the applicant, and other impactful factors.
For auto insurance you can expect to pay around $142 each month for $1 million in coverage. General liability insurance runs between $300 to $1,500 annually for $1 million in protection. Commercial real estate is $1000 to $3000 annually for $1 million in protection.
9. Create an Office Space
An office is an asset to any business owner. It offers a place to conduct new hire interviews, talk to clients over the phone, create invoices, and complete paperwork. Painting companies are field-based businesses. That doesn’t mean you can’t create an office for administrative tasks. Here are some options.
A home office is a budget-friendly alternative to a commercial office space. It saves time and money, and there’s no need for extensive contracts or lease agreements. As a bonus, the IRS allows tax deductions up to $1,500 for home offices each year.
Coworking offices like WeWork give you places to complete administrative work without the big commitment. No need to buy office furniture, sign a lengthy contract, or pay for more property insurance. Instead, you choose a plan that works for your schedule and budget.
WeWork offers several packages, including those for private, semi-private, and shared office spaces.
Commercial Building Office
The last office space option is a commercial office building rental. This lease is best for big companies looking for professional workspaces. Commercial offices are expensive, and often require a year or more as a base timeframe for a lease. It’s not a great fit for a painting business.
10. Source Your Equipment
Finding the best equipment can give you a leg up on the competition. For paint companies, this means sourcing high quality paint, brushes, and rollers for wholesale prices. There are different ways to go about this, including buying new and used.
Buying new equipment is nice because you know it’s in good working order. Anything not working as it should can be returned or exchanged, unlike used merchandise. Painting supplies can be purchased new from Mazer Wholesale and Global Sources.
Used equipment saves money, and often can be as good as new. Be careful with painting equipment that everything is clean and in good working order. Some places to shop for used supplies are Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
11. Establish Your Brand
Building your brand is important for developing a loyal customer base. Much of the business you achieve as a painting business will come through word-of-mouth marketing and social media. To get the shares, likes, and business card handouts you need, you must first establish yourself as an authority in your field.
The first step to distinguishing a brand is creating a point of contact. You likely have a business email address. Now you need a business phone number. This defines the line between personal and business calls and makes it easier to remember client numbers and conversations.
Create a Logo & Brand Assets
Logos create a distinct aesthetic pattern to remember your brand. Customers will think about your own painting business when they see your logo at trade shows and local events. One place to create your logo is Looka.
Looka is an AI design tool that takes all your personal preferences and turns them into a business logo. You choose famous and not so famous logos you like the look of. You also pick the color and font. Looka shows you options based on those preferences and you select the perfect match.
Create Business Cards and Signage
Business cards and signage are a good step following logo creation. You’ll want to incorporate that new logo on your business cards. Vistaprint is a one stop shop for business cards. You can design and order prints at the same time. Choose from matte, gloss, and custom shaped cards based on your preferences.
Purchase a Domain Name
A website domain name is the address customers use to find you online. Most companies use their business name with a .com or .co. Try Namecheap.com for a .com addresses tailored to your industry. Domains start at $5.98 per year.
Build a Website
You have the website name registered, now it’s time to design your online space. Think of your website as a digital shop front. This is the first impression customers get when they Google your business and click your link.
Some key points to focus on include:
- Mobile-friendly browsing
- Speedy loading
- Easy navigation
12. Join Associations and Groups
Seek out authorities in your industry for advice and supports. Get painting tips, tips on the best paint gear, and even leads on new clients. The Assocation of Pro Painters and The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades are good places to start.
Local associations offer the best resources for your area for community connections. Search by state or city to find these groups online. For example, in California, The Western Painting and Coatings Contractors Association premiere union affiliated painting group.
Fine local meetups like trade shows and painting conventions through Meetup. Search by city and state to find groups in your area, or create your own.
Another source for connecting with industry leaders is Facebook. Social media has become a hub for businesses to create a digital imprint on consumers. Facebook groups are a free asset to get invaluable advice and share personal success stories. Here are some of the top groups for painting companies:
- Painting Contractors
- Interior and Exterior House Painting and Decoration
- House Painting and Painters
Facebook groups bring together painters at the global level. You can also create your own group for local painters.
13. Focus on Marketing
Marketing is a necessity for small business owners in America. Painting companies require a lot of word-of-mouth and review marketing to get the ball rolling. There are plenty of ways to advertise your company, including having a grand opening and inviting the community. Here are some other ways to market your paint brand.
Ask Friends, Family, and Coworkers
Friends and family are an untapped resource in the marketing world. Never overlook the value of a good review. In fact, word-of-mouth marketing is still the most trusted form of advertising world wide.
Ask friends, family, and past colleagues to spread the word about your new business. Some of the ways they can promote you includes:
- Sharing your business cards
- Putting up flyers in their own shop windows
- Sharing social media posts
- Leaving online reviews for your painting services
- Recommending you to others
You can also ask to share your new business flyer on a church or community center bulletin board.
Digital Marketing Ideas
We spend so much of our time online these days. It makes sense for digital marketing to be a driving force in the American economy.
Market your painting business online by sharing photos and videos on social media, creating a newsletter, writing a blog, or making a TikTok channel. Interacting with customers online is also a form of digital marketing. It helps build brand loyalty and humanizes your company.
There are a lot of ways to market your business online affordably, or even for free. There are also paid methods of advertising like Google ads and Facebook ads.
Traditional Marketing Ideas
Along with the online marketing concept comes traditional marketing methods. Traditional marketing engages aesthetics and tangible resources like:
- Business cards
- Newspaper ads
Traditional marketing is beneficial because it offers a less disposable ad strategy. Customers are less likely to forget the coupon on the kitchen table as they are the promo code in their inbox.
14. Focus on the Customer
Customers are the bread and butter of the painting industry. Both residential and commercial painting companies rely on customer interactions and good ratings to land more jobs.
There are plenty of ways to focus on your customer, including:
- Contests and special promotions
- Contributing to community events and charities
- Loyalty Rewards
- Referral programs
- Customizing services to fit customer needs
This guide includes the basics for starting your own painting business. There are plenty of additional avenues to explore as you define your brand and evolve your services. We hope this guide has been useful, and your painting endeavors are a success!