Here is one business in which little training is required. The skill required to retail painting, inside or out, is mainly a combination of neatness and speed. Since the labor is rudimentary, it means you’ll also have an easier time hiring help, such as energetic college students. The supplies you need to start your business are also rudimentary: brushes, rollers and pans, paint thinner and ladders, and possibly a paint sprayer (this can be rented).

Your advertising should consist of a listing in the Yellow Pages and a small ad in local newspapers. If your first ad does not draw enough responses to pay for the printer’s ink, don’t automatically assume it’s going to take you months to get your first painting job. Rewrite your ad. Check the ads from other painting services and find the unique quality you want to promote in your service. For instance, if another painter says “Known County-Wide For 38 Years of Quality Service” in his ad, you obviously cannot compete with that kind of claim. But you can develop some aspect of your own service that can create almost as much credibility and attention. You can say something like, “Free Written Estimate Within 24 Hours, Every Paint Job Guaranteed For 2 Full Years.” These are services that most reputable painters offer, but few advertise.

Regardless, you can’t sit at home and just wait for your advertising to bring customers calling – especially with a service that is usually offered by many people in the same town. As with any business that’s going to succeed you have to go out there and drum up business personally. Call professional people you know and ask if their offices could use a professional-quality inexpensive paint job. Leave your business card wherever it will be seen, including paint stores willing to give them out. You will get requests for estimates.

Although the painting itself is not beyond the skill of most people, there is an aspect of a painting service that can make or break your business on one or two jobs. Before you deliver your first estimate to a potential customer, learn some of the intricacies of judging a job. That means knowing exactly how much paint you’ll need for the job and how much time to calculate to complete it. If you forgot to count the windows in a certain room, you might find yourself needing an extra two days to paint windowpanes. One six- or eight-paned window takes as much time as an interior wall.

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One young painting contractor in Connecticut saw his business triple in one year because he experimented and found a way to estimate by means of a formula. His estimates were almost always among the lowest submitted, yet he never ran short of paint or misjudged the time necessary to finish a job. You don’t have to develop your own formula but you do have to apply a good dose of common sense to your estimating.

There are two good places for the beginning paint contractor to go for information. The first is a paint wholesaler who, in the interest of selling more of his product, will give you sound help in figuring “spread,” the amount of paint needed to cover a given area, and advice on the quality of different kinds of paint. The other place to go is to another painting contractor, preferably as an employee. Unfortunately, there’s just no better way to learn than to do. What you pick up in one or two months of working for a contractor is probably worth more than a dozen books on the subject.

When putting together your figures for an estimate, take your wholesale price for the paint and add 30 percent to that. Retail paint stores add about 40 percent, so you can offer an advantage to your customer and still make a profit. Your labor costs should be based on a minimum wage for your unskilled help, plus 50 percent as your profit.