Why don’t painters get any respect?

It is generally recognized by those in the painting industry that painters get very little respect. I think that there are several reasons for this.

Perhaps the most significant is the perception that anyone can paint. Most people have had some experience with painting in their own home, and even when the results are less than desirable, they still regard painting as relatively easy. People who would never consider doing plumbing or electrical work will quickly pick up a paint brush.

Another reason is that painting is primarily visual. A bad paint job is visually unappealing. A bad electrical job won’t be visible until your house burns down.

A third reason is the widely held idea that all painters are drunks and dope fiends. I certainly don’t know the numbers of painters afflicted with such “habits”, but I seriously doubt that they are significantly higher than any other trade.

Another explanation is that there are fewer barriers to entering the painting trade than other trades. Many states do not license painters, while most (if not all) license plumbers and electricians. The capital requirements are certainly lower—one can literally start a painting company with no equipment.

The perception of our industry presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is overcoming these erroneous perceptions. The opportunity is that it makes it easy to shine.

Does your painting company have curb appeal?

Home owners are often advised to improve the curb appeal of their home when they put it up for sale. The idea is to improve the exterior appearance of the home to create a better first impression. If the home lacks curb appeal, the potential buyer will often fail to look at the home any further.

The same is true of our paint contracting business. However, our curb appeal comes in the form of the image we create in our marketing, our contact with customers, etc. If that image does not resonate with the potential customer, they will not investigate our company further.

But curb appeal alone is not enough. A home that looks beautiful on the outside, but is trashed on the inside, will not sell quickly. A painting company that presents a wonderful image, but fails to back it up will be in a similar position.

All sizzle and no steak does not make for an appetizing meal. The aroma of grilled meat is no replacement for the actual meat—there must be substance behind the image. And that substance must be present throughout the company.

When you put your services up for sale be certain that you have curb appeal. More importantly, make sure you have your house in order.

Why advertising prices for paint jobs is a bad idea

Every so often I will see a painting contractor will advertise a ridiculous price for his services, such as $100 per room. There is actually a franchise that makes this a big part of their advertising. If you read the small print on these ads you will notice that the price typically only includes the walls, does not include paint, and limits the room size.

On the surface, this may seem like a good idea. For the consumer the price might seem reasonable. For the painter, he gets his foot in the door and can then pile on the extras.

The truth is this is a bad idea for several reasons. For the customer the extras can become significant.

For the contractor, this tactic positions him as the “cheap” contractor. And if he does start piling on a lot of additional charges he also develops a reputation as being somewhat shady—i.e., using bait and switch tactics. Neither will serve him well in the long term.

In a similar fashion I occasionally see painting contractors advertise a set price for painting exteriors. These ads include similar restrictions as the $100 a room gimmick. And they are just as bad of an idea.

Anyone who has painted more than a few houses has probably discovered that each home, even within the same neighborhood, can be vastly different. Among the items that must be taken into consideration when estimating job are:

  • The type and quantity of the surfaces
  • The current condition of the surfaces
  • Access issues
  • Repairs

Each of these can have a huge impact on the price of a job. If they are not identified they cannot be properly priced. To advertise a set price without this information means that the advertised price won’t stand, the customer will receive a mediocre job, the contractor will lose his shirt, or perhaps all three.

If you think advertising fixed prices is a good idea, consider giving me a price for painting my home. If you can’t because you haven’t seen it, then what makes you think you can price any other job sight unseen?

Are you getting ready for winter?

It won’t be long before squirrels start burying acorns in anticipation of winter. It’s not like we have harsh winters in Houston, but that is just what squirrels do.

Lagging months behind the squirrels, in late fall painting contractors will start to worry about leads slowing down. It’s not like this should come as a huge surprise, but that is just what painting contractors do.

Unlike squirrels, who act automatically according to their nature, painting contractors have a choice in the matter. They can choose to prepare for the winter, or they can choose to evade the fact that winter arrives at about the same time every year. But don’t just take my word on it, consult a calendar.

Squirrels can be rather ingenious little things. For years I battled to keep them out of our bird feeders. I tried all kinds of things, including putting Vaseline on the poles that held the feeders. Nothing worked, until we found a feeder designed specifically to keep squirrels away. In other words, someone figured out a way to defeat the squirrels.

Now I am not implying that painting contractors should bury acorns. That would be silly because acorns aren’t going to do a painting contractor much good. But if we use acorns as a metaphor, then we must wonder why so many painting contractors plod along year after year without preparing for winter.

I have lots of guesses– laziness, myopia, delusion, and massive aphid infestations are a few. But regardless of the reason, the fact remains that we will soon be deluged with contractors suddenly realizing that winter is about to descend upon us. And then it will likely be too late to do anything about it.

So take a lesson from the squirrels and start getting ready for winter. And just as a heads up, the same thing is going to happen next year. Trust me on that one.

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