Doing this while you have a full time job is the perfect way to start. More on that here.
Step 1: Do a quick and dirty market study – start searching and calling competitors. Use trends.google.com to find out which company in your town is the largest (most search volume) and study them. Are they doing digital marketing? Are they putting out good content (content marketing) on their website? Call them and play a customer. Ask them 100 questions about their process and their lead time. Lead time is the most important. If they are booked out a few weeks you know they are overloaded with customers. Thats a good sign. Move on to step 2.
Step 2: Buy a web domain and hosting for $1.99 per month and build a WordPress site. Get a Google My Business location at your home. Get some reviews on here as fast as possible. I wrote down all the early tools I used here if you’d like to check it out. Google is going to power your business early on. Get a logo and some door hanging flyers put together using a freelancing site. Get your logo embroidered on a nice polo shirt.
Step 3: Write some great content focused around keywords in your town here. Use ahrefs.com to research the keywords you want to target and build some DIY guides for homeowners in your town using those keywords. Some really useful stuff that people will engage with. Thats content marketing and its the best way to get a leg up on google. More on that here.
Step 4: Consider getting a part time for a painting company that specializes in interior and/or exterior on the weekends. Get a feel for the sprayers, rollers equipment, methods and get better at painting. Speed is the key in this business. Offer to do some painting for friends for free (if they buy the paint). Get those friends to take pictures of your work and leave you a nice detailed review on your Google My Business location. Get at least 5 reviews. Have them call you and get directions to your location and click through to your website before leaving the review so Google knows it isn’t fake.
Step 5: Marketing. Watch Zillow and Realtor.com and filter for homes that are recently sold in your target areas. New homeowners are exponentially more likely to want interior and exterior painting services than a random joe off the street. Put on your polo and a pair of khakis and go to the homes that recently sold and knock on the door. Smile at them and shake their hand firmly. Tell them about yourself and that you’d love to offer them a free quote to touch up or re-paint some rooms. If they don’t answer hang the flyer on the door and go to the next house.
Go to a paint store and make friends with the employees there. Give them your business cards and your flyers and ask them to spread the word. Offer them $20 cash each time they bring a customer that says they sent you.
Get some nice lawn signs made and ask customers if you can put them in the lawn. Some will let you if they like you. If they don’t offer them a discount on a future painting.
Ignore getting a social media following. Not worth your time or money. Post videos of your work on youtube with local keywords instead. Experiment with social media marketing and PPC marketing by hiring a freelancer who specializes in this sort of thing.
Get creative with your marketing. You know where your customers are and who your perfect customer is. Go find them.
When you get some interest move on to step 6.
Step 6: Purchase used equipment and a cargo van. Here is my used cargo van buying guide (i’ve purchased 15 or so used vans all under $7500 and they are amazing assets. Get a sprayer, rollers, brushes, a ladder etc. You’re about ready to go.
Step 7: Housekeeping stuff. Register with the state as a sole proprietor and get liability insurance. Before you hire your first employee get workers compensation insurance and consider incorporating. Get accounting software like quickbooks and outsource your payroll to a service like Gusto or Paychex. Keep very detailed records of everything and read this book. Consider hiring a bookkeeper but make sure you understand most of it yourself as well. Become a licensed contractor in your state.
Step 8: Get out and paint.
A few notes:
Its competitive. A lot of companies are painting. Answer the phone every time with friendly, eager professionalism and enthusiasm and you’ll be in the top 10%. Nurture your Google Business location. Its your most important asset. Reviews with photos are worth 10 regular reviews.
Play around with the pricing you charge. Price your time at what you estimate would be $40 per hour at first but make sure to charge by the job and not by the hour. You will get better at quoting over time and you will also get much faster at painting.
When you start to get some momentum set up a CRM like Jobber. It allows you to look way more professional than you are. Do all of your billing online. Attach photos of the jobs as they are completed.
You are not going to compete on price. You are going to compete on speed, professionalism, customer service and quality. They are going to like you as a person and want to do business with you. Learn more about this concept in my episode#13 “never compete on price again”.
How about a text message when you are on the way to service a customer? How about a link in that text to a picture of the smiling clean cut person who will be stepping onto their property? And a note about what you can expect from the person and how the appointment will go? How about instead of a t-shirt and dirty jeans you have a collared shirt and khakis? How about hair up in a pony tail, tattoos covered, and beard neatly trimmed? How about a giant smile, a firm handshake and an enthusiastic opening statement?
Eventually you will get some momentum. You will be able to upgrade your equipment and get a nicer sprayer. You’ll need to hire some help on the weekends you work. Pay well, $15+ per hour, and get competent people. Oversee them for a while until you trust them to paint without you being there.
Avoid being a subcontractor. General contractors only care about one thing – price. You aren’t competing on price. You are adding service the the equation so your business only deals with the customers one on one.
Focus on what you do best and outsource everything else.
Form a personal relationship with your customers. Know the names of everyone in the family. Show up with a teddy bear for the little guy. Send a thank you note a few weeks after the job.
Maybe partner with a few realty shops in town or watch the MLS and visit homeowners the week before an open house. A home looks a lot newer with a fresh coat of paint. Use google maps and street view to quote exterior jobs instantly over the phone with customers.
Consider learning Spanish so your customer and employee base is expanded.
Consider expanding to other services like sealcoating and deck staining. Partner with deck builders and pavers and send them business and they will return the favor by sending business your way.
Eventually you will build a great little business. You will compete on speed and quality and not price. You will charge more than the average joes who offer painting on craigslist and people will be happy to pay it. You can chose to stay small and charge a high price or try to grow and scale the business.
“On demand” is going to be your competitive advantage so you can charge a higher price. Make sure you can offer next day service or same day service. As soon as you get too busy to do that you need to raise your prices or hire another employee. Make sure that person is presentable and clean cut. Simplify the job so your employees can thrive. Train them to do their core task really well. Don’t ask them to do 20 things or they’ll do them all poorly. Don’t forget workers comp.
Now spend all of your time answering the phone, dealing with clients, and quoting jobs and managing the marketing. Build a series of youtube videos targeting your city and the keywords so you show up on the second largest search engine in the world (Youtube).
When do you quit your job? That is all up to you. Lean out your life and your business so its less risky and you can get by on earning less. Stay lean as you grow and keep your expenses variable so you can change, pivot and close up shop if things go poorly.
Don’t like painting? Check out this list and take your pick.