How To Start a Painting Business? (A Complete Guide)

Jon Morgan
Published by Jon Morgan | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: March 14, 2024
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There are key aspects to consider when launching your painting business to set yourself up for success, like equipment, color aesthetics, business management, and detail orientation.

Venture Smarter, in collaboration with a great team of seasoned entrepreneurs, who bring over twelve years of experience in the painting and design sector, aims to help you navigate the ins and outs of setting up and running a painting business effectively.

We've compiled this detailed guide on how to start a successful painting business.

Quick Summary

  • To start a painting business, master professional painting skills, decide on your service offerings, choose a business structure, and obtain necessary registrations and licenses.
  • In the U.S., most states except Texas require painting contractors to have workers' compensation insurance, highlighting the importance of proper coverage.
  • There were roughly  178,477 house painting and decorating contractors businesses in the US as of 2023, which communicates the need to legally establish your business to stand out.
  • We often advise clients to invest in quality painting equipment and continuous skill development in establishing a successful painting businesses. 

9 Steps To Start a Painting Business

Here are the guidelines on how to start your own painting business entity:

1. Learn Professional Skills

Painting outdoor scenery

To succeed as a professional painter and get clients, having a skill set that includes the competencies you'll need to carry out your painting business obligations is critical.

Here are skills you should master before opening a painting business:

  • Understand How Equipment Works

Supplies needed for painting include paint, trays, water, brushes, straight edges, and equipment for blending paint and producing distinctive effects.

For painters, it's crucial to understand these materials and how to apply them. Once you've learned how to utilize painting equipment, you may play with them to produce exceptional services.

  • Develop Brush Stroke Skills

By developing this skill, you can produce textures, depth, shadows, and other special effects. Gaining this ability can increase the value of your work and enable you to produce works in the client's preferred style.

  • Understand Color Theory

Color theory is a set of laws that govern color schemes and dictates how colors should be used harmoniously. Understanding color theory will help you better communicate feelings and ideas in your paintings.

  • Develop Dexterity

Dexterity is crucial for painters since they spend much time using their hands. Dexterity requires strong hand-eye coordination, which is the capacity to carry out specific activities with your hands.

This talent makes it possible to paint for lengthy periods without becoming tired while adding minute details.

2. Decide Your Painting Services

Woman thinking how to open a painting business

Deciding on the services you want to provide can help you develop your abilities, concentrate your marketing and business plan, and avoid taking on business that seems great but you're not ready for.

A recent report by IBIS World shows that over the past five years,  from 2018 to 2023, the number of painting businesses within the house painting and decorating contractors industry has experienced an average annual growth of 1.2% [1].

The painting services you provide should be in line with your interests, skills, and clientele base.

Here are different painting services that you can consider:

  • Interior Painting

Interior painting of a building is a well-known painting service. With this service, you'll give your customer's house or workplace a new lease on life.

  • Exterior Painting

With color treatments that keep their brilliance for years, this painting endeavor gives the client's property's exterior fresh vitality. Updated exterior paint jobs increase curb appeal and a home's value to future purchasers.

  • Staining

External wood buildings typically deteriorate over time due to dry wind, rain, sunlight, and cold temperatures, which cause the exterior to bend, rot, and become discolored. Your staining services will offer painting treatments to give your customer's deck life and vigor.

  • Metal Painting

As a business owner, you can offer metal painting services for commercial and residential premises with metal doors. This service is available for all types of doors, including entrance, garage, storage building, and interior doors.

The procedure includes removing the old paint, priming the door appropriately, and then painting the door with a new coat.

Other painting services that you can venture into include:

  • Wallpaper removal
  • Repaints
  • Construction painting
  • Deck reconditioning
  • Drywall repairs
  • Pressure washing or power washing

3. Choose A Business Structure

Busy woman choosing business structure

Once you've selected a memorable name for your new painting company, you're prepared to file the documentation required to transact business legally.

Venture Smarter always advises clients seeking advice to first choose the appropriate business structure under which they wish to register their company.

New painting businesses can register as a limited liability company (LLC), limited liability partnership (LLP), Sole Proprietorship, or Corporation.

Some LLCs and LLPs are established as pass-through entities for individual owners or partners.

With the help of these, you may keep your assets distinct from your company's and even file your business taxes using personal returns.

S and C corporations require you to pay company taxes separately from your return and entail a little more paperwork and logistics.

We recommend speaking with a lawyer to help you understand which business structure best suits your entity.

4. Register Your Business

Once you have a business structure, the next step is to register it with the Secretary of State; you'll need to submit your formation documents, including the Articles of Organization.

Your new painting business is ready to open once the state approves your formation documents.

During registration, it's also important to have a verified trade name or Doing Business As (DBA) for your painting business that you can also register.

With a DBA, you may pick a business name that appeals to your target market and matches your operation.

The cost of registering a business name varies by state and might be between $10 and $100. You can register with your state's county clerk's office or local state government.

5. Get Business Licenses

Man holding certificates and documents for licensees

For you to legally perform professional painting work, most jurisdictions demand a state and municipal business license. Therefore, the type of business license or permit you require largely depends on the state you're transacting.

For example, if you own a painting business in California, you must apply for a painter's license from the California Contractors State Board License when earning $500 on a task [2].

Before you start your painting work, you should confirm that you have all necessary licenses and abide by all applicable regulations.

Without the appropriate licensing, you run the risk of getting in trouble with the law and paying fines for employing illegally.

Again, in this case, Venture Smarter recommends seeking the professional judgment of a lawyer or attorney.

Apart from licenses, all states except Texas require all painting contractors to have business insurance, specifically workers' compensation insurance [3].

Successful painting businesses rely on some kind of small company insurance to safeguard the owner and the staff in the event of an accident at the job site as well as monetary assistance in the case of a lawsuit or other legal matter.

Your coverage will depend on the type of insurance you choose, and several alternatives are available for you depending on your budget.

6. Set up Bookkeeping and Accounting

Setting up bookkeeping and accounting using a laptop and printed copy

Once your business is up and running, it's crucial to keep track of your own business cash flow through accounting.

With a positive cash flow, you can pay yourself and cover your overhead expenses and your workers or subcontractors. To save time and frustration in the future, you can engage an accountant to assist with your bookkeeping and accounting.

You may also spend money on software for painters that integrates with QuickBooks so you can handle your online billing, payments, and bookkeeping.

"To keep your personal and business finances separate, you should also create a business checking account once your firm has been registered with the local or state government."

- Delina Yasmeh, J.D./Tax LL.M, Distinguished Expert in Mergers & Acquisitions

This is an important step in starting a business because if you don't put the money in your company's bank account, your assets might be taken if your company fails or is sued.

The good thing is that opening a business bank account is simple. Many banks exclusively accept applications online, so you may open for example an LLC business bank account without visiting the bank.

7. Purchase Painting Equipment

Painting equipment up close

Another crucial step to opening a successful painting business is to own an arsenal of quality equipment, including:

  • Paintbrushes 
  • Paint buckets
  • Rollers and paint trays
  • Painter's tape
  • Scrapers
  • Drop cloths
  • Sandpaper 
  • Caulking gun
  • Electric rotary hand sander
  • Double ladder 
  • Step ladder

You need a decent amount of money to purchase this quality equipment, and if you're limited funds-wise, then equipment finance loans might be a fantastic choice.

The way these equipment finance loans work is different from how a conventional bank term loan works; instead of forcing you to put up collateral to acquire the funds you need, equipment financing loans let you take the money you need to complete that purchase.

Most lenders for equipment loans will inquire about your shopping list and request a vendor's pricing quote.

If the loan is authorized, they will lend you the whole cost of the equipment in exchange for repayment over a specific length of time, plus accrued interest.

8. Hire Employees

Shaking hands for a newly hired employee

Hiring personnel is necessary as the painting business grows. However, it's a huge move that might cost you money if it goes wrong.

When it comes to hiring painters, most new painting businesses have these two choices:

  • Employees: Whether you hire full-time or part-time workers, you'll be fully responsible for all taxes and insurance payments. Additionally, all supplies and tools must be provided by you.
  • Subcontractors: These are standalone, skilled painters who you can hire as needed for a project. You won't have to offer materials when hiring freelancers, relieving you of several legal obligations of hiring full-time employees. Even so, you might not realize as much of a profit as their rates are often high.

9. Brand and Market Your Business

Top view of brand and business marketing

Once you have a robust business plan and your entity is ready to launch, the next thing is to develop the brand.

Your brand shapes the public perception of your company. It should indicate what makes you different from your rivals and reflect the appearance and personality of your business.

Here are helpful pointers for developing your brand to guarantee business success:

  • Know what you are offering: What distinguishes your company from other successful businesses? It may be your primary clientele, your principles, or the eco-friendly products that you’re using. Summarize all the qualities that make you stand out in a single, memorable sentence.
  • Choose your company's colors and logo: Try using different online logo makers to create something straightforward and simple to read. Your logo and color scheme should reflect your company's distinctive qualities.
  • Flyers and cards: Make customized business cards and automobile decals with your logo, name of the business, contact information, and websites.
  • Select a uniform: This enhances how well you (and your team) represent your commercial painting business. You may purchase t-shirts with your name and emblem on them, as well as jeans, caps, or face masks in your company's colors.

The majority of your potential customers browse for companies online. Having an online presence makes it simpler for potential clients to locate and contact your business online.

You can create different social media pages for your painting company and a website. But if you aren't ready to build a website just yet, you can opt to create a Google business profile.

A Google business profile is a free internet listing that allows you to promote your company to customers. You may promote your company name, service, location, and client endorsements on the profile.

"Using a Google business profile as a marketing plan is vital to the success of your company because more than 80% of customers check in Google business listings to discover a local provider."
- Graham Audenart, Founder of Painters Enterprise

Related articles:


Is Painting Business Profitable?

Yes, the painting business is profitable, with 12-30% profit margins per year.

What Skills Are Needed To Be a Painter?

The skills needed to be a painter include dexterity, aesthetic instincts, good brush strokes, attention to detail, and great color combinations.

How Much Does an Interior Painter Make Per Hour?

An interior painter makes about $18 per hour per the United States Department of Labor.

You May Need Professional Help Opening Your Painting Business

Learning how to launch a painting business might seem overwhelming. However, with expert help from companies like ZenBusiness, you are on a good path to attracting more clients, making a profit, and earning a livelihood doing what you enjoy.

By carefully planning your service offerings, costing, marketing, and recruiting, ZenBusiness will assist you in creating a successful and flourishing painting business.



About The Author

Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Jon Morgan, MBA, LLM, has over ten years of experience growing startups and currently serves as CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Venture Smarter. Educated at UC Davis and Harvard, he offers deeply informed guidance. Beyond work, he enjoys spending time with family, his poodle Sophie, and learning Spanish.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Growth & Transition Advisor
LJ Viveros has 40 years of experience in founding and scaling businesses, including a significant sale to Logitech. He has led Market Solutions LLC since 1999, focusing on strategic transitions for global brands. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Communications, LJ is also a distinguished Matsushita Executive alumnus.
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