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How to start a painting business

Starting up a reliable painting business you can be proud of.

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With the right painter qualifications and skills, you can run a successful painting business. Starting a new venture is an exciting prospect, but it can be hard to know exactly how to get started. There are many factors to consider to ensure your business is set up on strong foundations.

We've put together some key information on starting a painting business in Australia so you can hit the ground running.

What is a painting business?

A painting business offers clients the service of residential, commercial and strata painting for both indoor and exterior settings. A painting business's service areas generally include wood treatment, wallpaper stripping and installation, spraying, specialised finishes and colour consultancy. Some businesses are also certified to deal with any lead-based hazard management.

How to start a painting business

To ensure you cover all the steps of starting your painting business, develop a business plan to guide you.

  1. Choose a target market. If you are just starting your business, consider whether your work will be limited to a certain geographical area, other companies you would work with, and whether your business is limited to residential or commercial spaces. Research your main competitors to understand your own company's benchmark and what gaps you can fill in.
  2. Create your brand identity. Create a brand name and logo that sets you apart. Then register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Your brand logo should be memorable, so you can choose to hire a graphic designer or use graphic design tools and services to create your logo.
  3. Organise your transport and licence. Having a vehicle is essential to your work. You want to make sure that the vehicle you choose is spacious enough, so consider buying a ute or a van. The vehicle will also act as a storage for your equipment during off-work hours. You can also consider a pre-purchase vehicle inspection to make sure you get the best quality vehicle for your money.
  4. Compare loan options. If you need to make a sizable investment in your business, you may want to consider applying for a loan. Depending on your needs, you can choose to get a small business loan, a car loan or a personal loan.
  5. Consider your insurance. As a painting business, your equipment is the foundation of your work. So ensure that you get tool insurance in the unlikely event of theft or damage. You may also need Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect your business from potential legal costs.
  6. Fulfil your legal requirements. As painting is considered trade work by the government, you will need to apply for a contract licence if the work's value is more than $5,000, including labour and materials. Before starting on a job, you may also need to have a Service Agreement and Cancellation Policy in place.
  7. Create a marketing strategy. Marketing is one of the key aspects of your business's success. Build your brand by advertising and offering small incentives for clients. You may want to set up a website to help customers understand your business, its services and any partnerships you may have.

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Skills needed to start a painting business

To position yourself as a professional painter offering a quality service, you'll naturally need to have some knowledge and experience with painting techniques and paint products. It also helps to be detail-oriented and have a good eye for aesthetics. Setting up a business will also require some management and communication skills.

Here are a few skills and requirements to consider when getting started:

  • The ability to coordinate colours and patterns
  • Organisational skills
  • Physical dexterity – balance and strength
  • Good soft skills to deal with customers
  • Be capable of measuring spaces that need to be covered
  • Be able to use scaffolds and ladders
  • Project planning
  • Time management

Courses and qualifications

The main qualification for painting recognised in Australia is the Certificate III in Painting and Decorating. You can do this with a registered training organisation such as TAFE or as part of a traineeship. You'll also need to obtain a White Card, which is a "Work Safely in the Construction Industry" certification. This card is a requirement for anyone working on a construction site or projects involving construction by law.

A subsidised Certificate III in Painting and Decorating at TAFE can range from $2,990 to $8,570, including an apprenticeship. The full non-subsidised price is around $14,270.

Some states in Australia require a painter's licence before you can get started. You can apply for one of these once you've registered for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and have officially chosen your business name:


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Equipment needed to start a painting business

Your painting business will operate mostly out of your van or ute with a selection of painting tools at the ready.

Here's some of the equipment often needed to set up a painting business:

  • Paint trays
  • Paint
  • Rollers
  • Brushes
  • Tarpaulin
  • Ladders
  • Tape
  • Sandpaper
  • A caulking gun
  • Protective clothing
  • Breathing masks

To run your business efficiently, it's likely that you'll also need some basic computer software and equipment to handle the admin side of your company. You may need:

Loan options for a painting business

If you are looking to take out a loan to get started with your business, you may want to consider personal loans. When researching loans, ensure that the loan you choose is one you can afford to pay back.

If you have been in business for at least six months, you can look into small business loans to further your business's growth. These loans are available from banks and non-bank lenders. Here is our guide on small business loans to help you make comparisons. Each lender has their own requirements you'll need to meet.

How to structure your painting business

The simplest, most hassle-free way to start your painting business is as a Sole Trader. This structure works well if you just want to start a small enterprise and have complete control over your business operations. Alternatively, if you want to share the responsibility, you could create a Partnership and collaborate with others.

  • Sole Trader. Operating your painting business as a Sole Trader is a straightforward way to get started and have complete freedom in how you run your business.
  • Partnership. If you want to partner with one or more other people in your business, you can set up a Partnership. A Partnership means all members will share equal control and responsibility for the business.
  • Proprietary Company. Setting up a Company can be a more time-consuming and complicated process. Still, it has advantages, including greater flexibility for tax planning and raising capital by bringing on additional shareholders.

As previously mentioned, your business set-up's initial stages will need to include applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and registering your business name. While an ABN is not strictly required by the Australian Taxation Office until your annual turnover reaches $75,000, it will be necessary when invoicing clients and for tax purposes.

While all the necessary legal components involved in setting up a business can seem daunting, there are plenty of online legal services to help you get through this initial process.

Here are some of the legal documents you'll need for a painting business:

  • Client Agreement. This document, sometimes known as a Service Level Agreement, sets out the expectations and obligations for every job, for both you and your customer.
  • Partnership Agreement. If you're going into a Partnership, you'll need to draw up an agreement to protect both you and your partner in your venture.
  • Employment Agreement. As you take on more staff or external contractors, it's imperative to have Employment Agreements in place, so everyone is clear on expectations.

You'll also want to think about your insurance needs. For example, Public Liability Insurance might be essential given the physical work involved in a painting business. Getting this type of business cover can offer protection if you injure someone or damage their property from your business activity.

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How to find customers

When you're first getting started, you can quickly find customers by posting your services on online marketing platforms. Some of the leading platforms in Australia include:

  • Airtasker. Easily connect with customers and make offers on job posts.
  • hipages. Find quality customer leads with this professional platform for tradespeople.
  • tradiesonline.com.au. Add your business to this Australian site and find customers fast.

It may be a good idea to download the apps for these platforms so you can browse job postings and quickly make offers. Airtasker updates in real time and you can communicate via messages with potential customers while you're on the go.

You might also want to consider advertising your services on business directories such as White Pages and True Local.

How much should I charge my customers?

Painters typically charge anything between $2,500 and $20,000 on average for a painting job, according to hipages. There are several factors to consider when setting your prices for a painting job, including the home or building size. Typically, a painter calculates costs on a per-square-metre basis. The painters also take into consideration preparation or repairs required, ease of access, ceiling heights, architraves and trims, and separate treatments.

Firstly, you'll need to do a site visit and take measurements to help with your estimate. Then you'll need to do an estimate of the cost of paint, materials and labour required, and add your mark-up.

Accept payments from your customers in person and online with Square's card readers, payment terminals, digital invoicing and e-commerce tools.

Frequently asked questions

How do I write a business plan for a painting company?

Look into the market in your area, analyse the products you'll need and think about what makes you unique as a business. Then sit down and brainstorm how you want to run your business, your overall vision for the future, your preferred company structure and your target market. Then go through the necessary steps to draw up your plan.

How do painters get clients?

In addition to word-of-mouth business, having a strong website and driving traffic to it using search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques or search engine advertisements may help you get noticed online.

You could also leverage social media and you may want to look into Facebook ads. Make sure to list your business in popular directories such as the Yellow Pages under the painter categories.

How can I grow my painting business?

To grow your business, you'll need to regularly build on your marketing and engage with potential customers. You may want to look into setting up a customer relationship management software (CRM) to capture and track your interactions with previous clients and prospective customers.

You can bring interested customers into an email list using online ads such as Google and Facebook ads. This way, you can leverage inbound marketing by having your customers come to you.

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