Advice on starting a painting business

As a frequent contributor on numerous discussion boards for painting contractors, I regularly see questions about how to start a paint contracting business. While there is no single, or simple, answer, there are some general rules that one should follow.

1. Identify why you want to own a business and what you want it to provide you. If you don’t know where you are going, it is impossible to know how to get there.

2. Develop a plan. If you don’t have a plan you are simply floating in the wind. You will find yourself going in a dozen different directions and doing things that are inconsistent.

3. Learn from others. You can do this by joining organizations like the National Alliance of Professional Painters, participating in discussion boards like PaintTalk.com, or purchasing training materials from Out of the Bucket.com.

There are a lot of challenges in starting a business, no matter what type. Marketing, sales, production, administration– all of these take time and effort.

It is a fact that 90% of the businesses starting this year will fail within 5 years. There are many reasons for this. But if you spend the time to plan, to identify where you want to go and how you will get there, you will greatly increase your chances for success.

Marketing your new painting business

A frequent question from those starting a new painting business is how to obtain work. With few, if any references, no market presence, and often little money for advertising, the new business owner is in a quandry.

While I would recommend developing a business plan (including a marketing plan) prior to launching a new business, this does little good for someone who has already opened the doors.

Perhaps the easiest and least expensive method is door hangers. When I started my business 22 years ago I distributed thousands of door hangers. When I didn’t have a job to do, my job was handing out door hangers. It wasn’t fun (particularly in Houston’s very hot summers) but it worked.

The following can serve as a crude marketing plan:

Select a small area to target (1,000 to 2,500 homes). Get the door hangers out as quickly as possible. When a job is sold, get a sign in the yard immediately and leave it there as long as possible. At the same time, market to the neighbors with more door hangers or direct mail. This provides consistent and regular exposure in a small area and increases the effectiveness of each piece. Rinse and repeat.

As money permits add the following to your marketing plan: vehicle signage, customer retention, and newspaper ads or inserts. Again, keep your marketing focused on a small area to maximize exposures.

No marketing plan is perfect. Nor will the results be immediate. But persistence and consistency will produce results in time.

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