How to get painting contracts: The art of client acquisition

Editorial headshot of Mike Mosser
Getting your painting business off the ground requires a solid business plan, a marketing strategy, and the right approach to writing up painting contracts between yourself and your customers.
Painting contractor applying a coat of paint to the walls of a commercial building.

Let's take a look at how to start a painting business, protect its assets, and make it profitable. 

Build a solid business plan for your painting company

A business plan can help you map out your path to success and think ahead about any problems you might have and how you’ll address them.

It can also be a useful tool that you can show potential customers or investors, to let them know you’re prepared for success. Potential lenders might ask to see a business plan before granting you a loan.

Here are the key steps towards creating a business plan for your painting business:

1. Name your business

You’ll need a business name that stands out and gives people a clear idea of what your business does. You might check within your area to see the kinds of names your potential competitors use, and make sure you don’t adopt a name that’s too similar to theirs.

One option is to use the name of your city or neighborhood in your name. This is useful if you plan to only work in a particular location. It could also help you stand out when people do a Google search for painters in your area.

2. Choose a logo

You might ask a friend or an artist to design a logo for you, or buy a predesigned logo online. You can use this logo on your business cards, email signatures, and on magnetic stickers for your business vehicle. Including your website or other contact information within your logo can make it easy for potential customers to contact you.

3. Register your business

Will you need a business license? You may have to register your business with your state or local government. You can check with your state’s Secretary of State website, and/or your local city or county clerk’s office, to see what’s required.

4. Study the marketplace to better serve your area

Will you be a solo entrepreneur, or will you hire people to work for you? You can see what the marketplace is like by checking out local online job boards and social media sites such as Facebook, Angi (formerly Angie’s List), and Craigslist.

You can find out the kind of wages an employee might expect, and learn how much customers are willing to pay for different painting jobs.

5. Define your painting services and costs

What’s your target market going to be? Will you work directly for homeowners or general contractors? Will you focus on interior painting or exterior painting jobs? Will you be strictly residential or are you willing to work on larger jobs, such as commercial properties? Will you only do painting, or will you also handle drywall and similar work?

Do you have a particular expertise that will help you stand out from the competition? Will you quote your job estimates by square footage or the number of hours you expect a job to take? What’s your target market going to be?

You should be able to cite specific services and price ranges for each type of job.

6. Create a website

Potential customers will want to check out your website to find out more about your business. A well-designed website can help convince people you’re a legitimate business owner who provides quality work.

You don’t have to go overboard and create something fancy, and you might not even need a web designer. Web hosting platforms, such as GoDaddy, make it easy to create a website yourself using templates. These platforms also have people you can hire to do the job for you.

At the very least, your website should include the name of your business, your locale, the types of services you offer, and any credentials you have, such as your level of experience. You might also ask your satisfied customers for comments and endorsements you can add to your website.

Your potential customers will want to see that your website is professional looking and offers a clear idea of who you are and the types of painting services you offer.

Find the right coverage for your painting business

Protect your business with the right insurance coverage

As you grow your painting business, you’ll need the financial protection small business insurance provides. Some policies may be required by law, or to qualify for contracts.

General liability insurance covers ordinary business risks, such as a customer’s slip and fall accident on your property, or damage that yourself or your employees cause to a customer’s property.

Business owner's policy (BOP) combines your general liability coverage and commercial property insurance. It’s typically less expensive than buying each policy separately.

Workers’ compensation insurance is required in most states for businesses with one or more employees, and for sole proprietors in some of the riskier professions in the building trades.

Commercial auto insurance covers legal bills, medical expenses, and property damage if a vehicle owned by your painting business is involved in an accident. Most states require this coverage for business-owned vehicles.

Contractor’s tools and equipment insurance covers the repair or replacement of your tools and equipment if they’re lost, stolen, or damaged.

Professional liability insurance, also called errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, covers your legal costs if an unsatisfied customer sues you over a mistake, such as missing a deadline on a painting job.

Surety bonds act as a contract between a business, a client, and an insurance company. They guarantee the surety company will reimburse the client if the business fails to deliver contracted services. In the construction and painting fields, these are also referred to as a license bond and a contractor bond.

Define your marketing and sales strategies

As mentioned above, Facebook, Angi, and Craigslist can be a great way to find out about your competitors. They can be a cost-effective means of promoting your business as well. Another marketing avenue to consider is creating a profile and promoting your business on LinkedIn, Nextdoor, and Instagram.

Make sure you’re also listed in local business directories, such as Google Business Profile, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and your local Better Business Bureau.

A word-of-mouth campaign can be an effective tool for promoting your business. You can ask your satisfied customers to refer you to their friends and neighbors as potential clients, and to post reviews on whatever social media platforms they use, to help with your social media marketing efforts.

You could also initiate a referral program with other businesses in your area, such as realtors and contractors, where you recommend each other’s services and help each other with lead generation.

Real estate agents will be aware of any home buyers or sellers looking to spruce up their properties. And contractors and construction companies might be willing to hire you directly as a subcontractor on construction or remodeling jobs they do.

Property developers might let you know about new construction in your area. You could also find painting leads through interior designers and property managers, who might be willing to offer referrals.

It’s also a good idea to have your logo and contact information printed on lawn signs you can post outside your painting projects, especially for house painting jobs where neighbors can see it.

Consider online advertising

At the top of any Google search results, you’ll likely find ads related to whatever you’re searching for. These Google ads can help you promote your business and stand out from the competition. You might consider Facebook ads as well. One of the benefits of these is you can track the results to see how effective these ads are for your business and whether you’re reaching your target market.

Show off your work

Once you’ve successfully completed a few painting jobs, you can highlight them on your website and social media. You can include before and after pictures that show off what you’ve accomplished.

Just make sure you obtain a customer’s permission first. If customers are willing, you might ask them for a brief endorsement of your work to add to your website.

Join local and professional associations

Your local chamber of commerce may have networking events. You can also join trade and business groups on LinkedIn and other platforms.

The Painting Contractors Association, originally known as the “Painting and Decorating Contractors of America,” offers education and certification courses, as well as networking events for painting contractors. Listing this membership and certifications on your website and promotional materials can help you stand out from your competitors.

The Commercial Painting Industry Association is a global trade association for commercial painting contractors. It offers webinars and other resources for commercial painting contractors.

The Pro Painter Network is a trade group whose goal is to empower independent painting contractors and help them succeed. It provides access to retailer discounts, networking opportunities, and informational resources.

Attend painter networking events

Painting industry conferences offer the chance to expand your knowledge base about the industry, learn from other people’s experience, and gain knowledge on a variety of topics that impact painting contractors.

PCA Expo is the Painting Contractors Association’s annual tradeshow that offers networking opportunities, educational intensives, and panel discussions on painting industry topics.

Contractor Reboot Conference, also run by the Painting Contractors Association, offers the chance to learn about business operations, strategies for building strong teams, and maintaining a positive cash flow, among other topics.

Securing painting contracts

When writing a contract for painting jobs, you’ll have to take several things into account as you draft an estimate. You’ll also have to make sure the contract is clearly written so the customer understands what’s involved.

Make sure your written contract spells out the scope of work to be done, when it will be done, and every detail involved. This includes:

  • Whether furniture will have to be moved or covered, and who will do this.
  • How and when you’ll gain access to the premises.
  • The type of paints to be used and their color.
  • When the work will be completed.
  • How and when payment will be made.

Of course, before you can write up an estimate, you’ll have to inspect the premises and get an idea of the room size, the types of surfaces you’ll have to paint, and any obstacles such as furniture, light fixtures, and anything attached to the walls.

When it comes to estimating the price of a job, you ought to start with the amount of paint you’ll need. You can do this by measuring the square footage of the surfaces, then make your own calculations or use one of the many online tools available via paint and home-improvement supply websites. There are also phone apps that can help with this.

Remember to take all your costs into account when drafting an estimate. This includes your paint and everything else you’ll need for the painting job, such as brushes, rollers, painter’s tape, masks, and cleaning supplies.

You’ll also have to account for labor costs, including yourself and any employees or subcontractors. If your contract includes a warranty on your work, it should spell out exactly what’s covered and for how long.

How much do professional painters make?

The average base salary for painters in the United States is $20.03 per hour according to Indeed, plus $5,625 per year in overtime.

Those with less than a year of experience earn an average of $18.11 while someone with more than 10 years of experience averages $23.68.

Indeed also reports that obtaining certification cards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can boost a painter’s income substantially. An OSHA 10 certification can boost a painter’s income by more than 17%. An OSHA 30 certification can increase a painter’s income by 36%.

Get insurance quotes for your painting business from Insureon

Complete Insureon’s easy online application today to compare insurance quotes from top-rated U.S. carriers. You can also consult with an insurance agent on your business insurance needs. Once you find the right coverage for your small business, you can begin coverage and get your certificate of insurance (COI) in less than 24 hours.

Mike Mosser, Content Specialist

Mike spent several years as a reporter and editor covering politics, crime, and the world financial markets. He’s worked for several newspapers, a financial newswire, and a monthly magazine. As a copywriter, Mike has produced SEO-based content, marketing, public relations, and advertising work for a variety of companies.

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