Information on Running Painting & Decorating a Business
Licensing and Insurance
- Licensing requirements vary by state, and a painting and decorating business owner may simply need to obtain a business license, or may have to be state-licensed and bonded in order to operate legally. You will also have to obtain a tax identification number through your state's department of revenue. Liability and health insurance isn't always mandatory, but is always a good idea to protect yourself and your clients.
- The region you're in will dictate in part what sort of work you will do. The climate, building styles and clientele in rural Minnesota is very different to that in downtown Miami. You can work outdoors year around in Florida, but have indoor-only work for six months out of the year in areas with long winters. To work year around, develop clientele who will keep you busy with indoor work.
Function and Versatility
- Many painting and decorating contractors handle related work, such as power washing, drywall, wallpaper and faux painting. If you're a small one-man (or woman) operation, this allows you to stay busy by offering clients a range of services. The alternative is employing people who are capable of doing the work, or hiring capable subcontractors.
- Painting can be hard, physical work involving working on ladders and scaffolding, in hot weather, on your feet all day and carrying heavy buckets of paint. It can also be dangerous because not only will you be working at great heights, you're working with high-pressure spray equipment and handling potentially dangerous solvents and chemicals. If you work on homes built prior to 1978, you must be EPA-certified in "lead-safe work practices" beginning in April 2010. Additionally many states require anyone working with materials containing asbestos, such as acoustic texture, paneling and drywall, to do the job in accordance with state laws.
- To grow, a painting and decorating business needs clients. "Word of mouth" referral or repeat business from satisfied clients lets you know you're doing a good job. If you rarely get referral or repeat business, take a look at your quality control. Perhaps you're growing too fast and don't have time to take care of all the little details that make a great paint job, or you're scheduling too much work and falling behind. Don't take on more work than you can handle. Join local business organizations or a national organization such as the Painting and Decorators Contractors of America and network by sharing jobs.
- Estimating paint jobs is more of an art than a science; there is no formula. As you become more proficient, you'll get a good feel for how much work a job will entail. While it's tempting to bid low to get the job, you'll find yourself rushing through the work, dissatisfied because you are not making much money (or your employees are making a better hourly wage than you.) Again, networking with other painting business owners can give you a feel for the prevailing rates. If you are getting every job you bid, you may be bidding too low. Your goal should be charging a fair price for high-quality work, but not charging so little that you can't sustain your business.