HOW TO START YOUR OWN PAINTING
BUSINESS

There are several key considerations when starting a new painting company. Take the time to do it right, and put yourself on the path to success.

Painting contractor assessing a white wall.
Being your own boss by starting your own painting business can be one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do—and one of the most challenging. Address each area outlined here from the outset, and you'll set yourself up for success.

“Business is like getting in shape at the gym,” explains Nick May, founder of Walls By Design of Denver, Colorado. “If you go all out at the beginning and try and do everything all at once, you’ll get really sore and discouraged. Grow slow. Pace yourself.” We’ll help you sort through what’s essential up front, and what can be taken care of down the road.
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1

Create an Identity

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First step:

When starting a new painting company, you will need to create a name for your business. More than just something catchy, your business name should be memorable enough to differentiate yourself from the competition in your local market. Consider:


  • What makes you stand out?
  • What will make people remember you?
  • What will make people spread the word about your good reputation?

Explaining why your business exists, which will also fuel your business plan, will inform the ideas behind choosing a company name.

Level up:

Coming up with a name should also include designing a logo to be used on everything from business cards and letterhead to yard signs, vans, and more. See our guide to naming your painting business for more on these crucial steps.
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2

Register Your Business Legally

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First step:

While you don't need to officially register a business name to do freelance work under your own name, once you've chosen a name for your painting company, it's time to make your business an official legal entity. Start with obtaining a tax ID number and establishing a dedicated business bank account. These will help separate your personal and professional finances and will make tax time easier.

Check Your Locality’s Business Regulations

Different provinces have different regulations for small businesses (most have fees less than $300). Visit your federal and/or provincial ministry or agency for small businesses and be prepared to share:

  • Your business name and location
  • Your ownership structure: Is it just you? Or you and a partner or partners?
  • Do you have a registered agent who receives legal documents on behalf of your company?

Level up:


You will also need to determine your business structure—while most new painting businesses are set up as a Limited Liability Company or LLC, some choose to be Partnerships. Each offers different benefits, and the federal and/or provincial ministry or agency for small businesses will help you by giving you more details on these options and what you’ll need to produce. You will also need to check with your municipal government to determine if you need a license to start a painting company and legally do business in your area.
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3

Make Sure You're Insured

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First step:

You may not need to worry about buying insurance for everything when you first start out, but before you pick up a brush, you should at least make sure you have basic health coverage so you're covered if you get sick or injured on the job. General liability insurance may not be required in your locality, but is certainly recommended in case accidents happen.


Level up:

Registering your business as an LLC or corporation is an important step, but you should consider adding business insurance to provide protection against claims as well as accidents and natural disasters. As you grow and add full-time employees, you will need to add:


  • Workers’ compensation
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Auto insurance for any vehicles you use

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) offers an in-depth guide to insurance, where you can shop around for the best quote. Be sure to reassess your needs as your business grows to make sure you're protected.
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4

Get Equipped

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First step:

The tools you need to start a painting business beyond basic brushes, rollers, scrapers and drop cloths are dependent on the jobs you take. Put off investing money in other equipment until you take on the jobs to justify paying for them.

Resist the temptation to buy cheap brushes and rollers, which are geared more for DIY-ers, not professionals. The quality shortcomings of these discount brushes and rollers will become painfully apparent when used on your professional jobs, ultimately forcing you to make costly and time-consuming touch-ups.

Level up:

Additional equipment you might need, from ladders to paint sprayers, really depends on the jobs you're taking. Your Benjamin Moore contractor representative and local retailer are helpful resources to determine the right equipment you need for the jobs you have, as well as other work you hope to win in your area.
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5

Find Work

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First step:

Painters are often hired through word-of-mouth recommendations, so start by talking about your business to family, friends, and neighbours. Even though you are on a friendly basis with them, make sure you are as professional and communicative with them as you would be with a new client you didn't know, including giving them a detailed estimate. When you finish a job, ask customers to forward your phone number and web address to their neighbors or friends they know who are looking for painters.

Level up:

You can, of course, get work in your neighbourhood without a website, but these days, an online presence is a requirement for any reputable business.

“Twenty years ago, when I was just starting to build an exterior painting firm, you had to spend thousands on an enormous Yellow Pages advertisement for people to even know your business existed,” explains Nick May. “Now, setting up a website is cheap and easy, and potential clients all over your market area can simply Google your business—or its service—and find out everything they need to know.”

Developing an Online Presence Is Time Well Spent

There are many modern online tools, like Squarespace or Wix, which can make you look professional with minimal effort. Tap into the power of social media—Facebook and Instagram offer a great way to show off your work, particularly through compelling before-and-after photos.
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6

Get Connected

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First step:

One of the best resources for a new painter just starting out is your Benjamin Moore contractor representative who can offer professional guidance, industry advice, professional tools to start a painting business, and training opportunities to help grow your business. Your rep can also help connect you to your local Benjamin Moore retailer to ensure your business needs are easily met.

Level up:

Your local Benjamin Moore retailer can help you:


  • Determine the start-up supplies you actually need, and what options are best for your jobs.
  • Choose products and tools that will work best for your specific job (e.g., SCUFF-X® for a clothing retailer who wants scuff-free walls, Aura® Bath & Spa for a bathroom project, etc.)
  • Get job leads in your area.
  • Introduce you to potential customers.

Clearly, your success means more business for these hardworking independent retailers, so they have a vested interest in helping you succeed.
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7

Staff Up (or Not)

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First step:

As a painter, revenue only comes in when painting is taking place. But trying to do it all, including painting, is simply not sustainable. As a new business owner, you need to allow time to market your business, find leads—and win—new jobs. Hiring a painter will help free up some of your time to get it done.

Level up:

Growing your business doesn't have to mean hiring full-time employees. In fact, hiring a full-time staffer can be a costly mistake if you don't have enough work to fill 40 hours a week, every week.

Finding reliable subcontractors is a good middle ground. Establish a network of self-employed painters whom you trust to get the job done under your direction. Building this network may take time, but if you treat your subcontractors fairly, communicate with them clearly, and pay them on time, you’ll earn their loyalty.

Again, count on your local Benjamin Moore retailer to connect you to a network of reliable local painters.

Starting a New Painting Company Lets You Be Your Own Boss

"No matter what makes your business tick, get creative, and don’t try and do what others do," stresses Nick May. "Look to stand out, be different, and bring great value. Celebrate what makes your business different from your competitors. Trust me, the money will follow."

Don't hesitate to reach out to your Benjamin Moore contractor representative for help—they have experience helping a range of contractors like yourself through starting and growing their businesses, can connect you with a great local retailer resource, and can offer you a leg up on the competition.

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