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One Man Gang
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been in the same position for years, and would like advice from those who have gone before me…


My Dad was a painter, and I have been painting since I was 14. I am now 35. I worked with crews doing commercial buildings after high school for a few years, went to college and all that (Philosophy, haha), then started my own painting business about 10 years ago. I advertised in the yellowpages, put door hangers, word of mouth, etc. I have had work one after the other with not much problem. In the beginning I had some huge scary gaps, but not anymore (drinking 12 packs every other day in the beginning didn't help either, I'm sure that made me look too unprofessional and so did not get re-hired or referred enough, just young and dumb).

Anyway, I have been doing nothing but residential re-paints the whole time I have worked for myself. I do like it, getting to meet people around town and all, being a guest in someone's house for a week or two. Every one in a while I get a total ass who likes to try to be my master and boss me around because he hired me and I am a painter, but anyway, comes with the territory: just ignore, work fast, finish, get paid, move on quickly. I have painted hundreds of houses entirely by myself, using the right equipment such as a spray rig and mini scaffolding makes things go fairly quickly. I do not know anybody else, or have never met anyone else who works alone painting houses. But I am only making enough to pay the bills this way, I am supporting a stay at home wife, a nice house, and two kids with one on the way for now this way, but dream of maybe hiring 1, or especially at least 2 people to help or paint for me while I look for work.

The problem is, is that I am always only getting 1, maybe 2 jobs at a time, and so I can never promise steady work, plus I always want to just keep all the money ;)
I have hired people in the past, like from Craigslist, and man, talk about unreliable! I will not go into details here! Sometimes I think it may be better for my well-being and piece of mind that I just stay alone, listening to my mp3 player all day. I have come to the conclusion that residential repaints must be THE hardest field of painting, if not some of the hardest work in the world, plus lining up at least 5 jobs in a row all the time is something I cannot figure out, unless it is just difficult in this area in particular…

Every week I get an e-mail with a new set of blueprints for fairly large commercial buildings, but I have no idea how to bid from something that I cannot see. I know it is a gamble, I could make a lot of money, or lose my ass, but I am not in the position to gamble right now. I met a man who paints Wal-Marts, and he said he had to paint a whole Wal-Mart just to pay for his losses on the first one he painted. I need to get on figuring this out. Commercial can be way easier and more money. More headache though?

Should I just keep my peace of mind and keep doing residential re-paints alone, or should I go for bigger, easier money by taking risks on commercial buildings from blueprints?


But the main question is, how does one go about lining up 3, 4, 5 jobs in row in residential re-painting, if I stay in this area, allowing for a promise of steady work for workers?

Here is my website: https://www.facebook.com/appainting

Any advice from wise ones?....

Peace!

-Damon
 

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Super Moderator
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24,726 Posts
Commercial painting will eat you alive.

You will have to bank roll the job for 45-90 days and then wait for retainage. Takes cash, equipment & manpower.

Bidding off of plans is looking at square footage, elevations and reading the specs & plans with an electron microscope.

Better off working for a commercial guy to see first hand what is involved.
 

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Accidental Painter
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+1

45 day pay periods suck balls. Oh & copy/pasting your post from paintalk seems spammy. At least toss in a different sentence here & there.

I'm just now getting paid for work I did back in august. This months work will be paid in february.

Charge accordingly. The longer I wait to be paid, the more I charge.
 

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Welcome to the forum.

I was a one man show for many years doing mostly residential repaints. I took on a sub when I needed help on the bigger jobs. I now have an employee and still use a sub.

Without knowing your location or anything about you I believe the best approach is the tried and true. Hard work, honesty, and integrity. Then, right price, quality workmanship, and word of mouth will take care of the rest. I am not a believer in needing a website etc.

This is a slow approach, in time people will be willing to wait for you to get to them because you will be worth waiting for.
Slowly identify what your business truly needs, insurance, bonded, workers comp, etc, then slowly as funds allow, build your business in your community. (maybe you already have all this)

The companies that spring up overnight in our community rarely last long. The successful companies do so over a long period of time.

When I started I would paint anything that came along, now I am far more selective. Large commercial painting is not part of it.

I remember I was in a position similar to you. Look at hiring a sub who understands your situation (true sub, not under the table stuff).

I assume you want to be in a position where people give you house alarm codes or house keys when they go on vacation, so whoever you hire must be honest, and have integrity just like you. If you don't your integrity is done and you won't get it back.

The sub's painting skills are a bonus. Then figure how to make money off them. Eventually you will want to have a fulltime employee or sub because you will want to make money off them all the time. You will know when this time is right.

Take your time and good luck, enjoy the forum there is a great group on here. Tell us a little more about yourself.
Martin.
 

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Particulate Filter
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I would recommend looking at a specialization that requires expensive equipment and/or skills. I started painting and then got into hardwood floors. The equipment costs keep out the riff raff and the client has more respect for you.

You could also consider concrete finishing, plaster work, wall paper, siding and windows, countertops, bath remodel anything really other than painting you will earn more money at. In my town the russians will do anything for a dollar, except paint. That ought to tell you something.

Honestly if you find a formula for making money off of labor in the skilled residential finishing trades you let me know because I can't think of a single person who can still do it. In the 80s and 90s yes. But not now. If the recovery has legs it might be feasible in another twenty four or thirty six months.
 

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One Man Gang
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Connected

Is this forum directly connected to the Painttalk forum?, sorry to post same thing twice. Anyway, I will say more about myself soon and thank you for the wonderful ideas. I guess it is strange that I do not know any other work alone painters around my area -Lafayette, Louisiana. The big painting contractors that I do know that I worked for won't talk to me because of the whole competition thing I suppose. So this kind of forum will be good for me and I will try my best to contribute ideas to others as well, like methods and equipment that can make things fly faster. I haven't been in the game all that long, but working alone I have figured out plenty of creative solutions.

Peace!
 

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Painters in my area of Michigan are also drywallers. Hang finish and paint. Very few only do paint. Not enough work for them. And new construction ? Forget it unless you want to work for free.
 

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Project Superintendent
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Your work looks great, especially the exterior stuff. I hate to see people cover up good wood siding and trim with vinyl just because the paint needs to be brought back to good condition, which is what it appears you do. I would think their would be a niche for that, you just need to figure out how to get to them.
 

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Man! You're in the same spot as me! I've been working in Toronto for 10 years. The last 2 years have been consistently busy and now I'm getting booked for a couple months in advance. I don't advertise anymore, all referral. I've also broken into the high end home wealthy client base. Now that I am consistently busy I've enlisted a friend of mine to help out randomly. He works as a set extra and a backup goalie and so he doesn't require full time work. For me, it works well to pay him a cash hourly rate and have him in a couple days a week. I can generally plan my jobs to account for his presence and have him doing prep, rolling and cleanup. Generally I like working alone and listening to podcasts but I also enjoy the company once in awhile. I'm also trying to develop my management skills so that as I get older and tired I will be able to manage crews and do less of the exhausting physical work myself. We have to consider what we will do into our 50s. So, my advice would be to find guys who don't need a full-time gig but just require a couple days a week. Build from there. Figure out a pay scale that allows you to make a few bucks an hour off their labour. It's hard to know what that is in the beginning but you'll see quickly how paying a guy half your rate and having him take off face plates just as quick is worthwhile. For me, I also find I'm more productive when there's a team mentality.
 

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The Ultimate Wire Hider
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But the main question is, how does one go about lining up 3, 4, 5 jobs in row in residential re-painting, if I stay in this area, allowing for a promise of steady work for workers?
Oconomowoc/Mike has an excellent system for scheduling which I have been using in a modified way. Overall he suggests that you schedule your jobs Friday thru Monday (versus Mon-Fri) where you schedule the first one for Friday, then the next one for Thursday and Wednesday and so on. Doing it this way will make it easier to fill your schedule because you won't be in that perpetual "trap" of working 2 to 3 jobs and then running out to chase more work.

So let's say you took this week off and did nothing but schedule jobs for the following week- If you scheduled your first set of jobs on Friday, the second ones on Thursday, etc. you can spend every day looking for work while knowing that you already have jobs in the pipeline. When you schedule Monday thru Friday, you have much less time to look for work and/or schedule jobs because you will be busy painting.

Having said that, if you are only able to fill your schedule from Friday thru Wednesday, at least you'll know that you need your crew for 3 days. If you happen to pick up 2 more jobs for Tuesday and Monday, you can still do them yourself and then spend your Wed-Fri filling your schedule for the following week.
 
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Commercial sucks!! Haven't done too terribly much of it and don't want to. Stick with residential repaints. In the long run it's your repeat customers that will keep you afloat. I often do an exterior for someone in Summer, then they invite me back for interior painting during the Winter. New construction is good, but be selective. Research the General contractor that's hiring you. Find out how much time you will have and make sure your profit is up there. GC's are much less forgiving than homeowners. Honestly, I've never advertised, other than handing out a few business cards to friends. Word of mouth has carried me for the last 4 years. One client leads to another. Do you have a regular paint supplier that you use? Make them your ally. It's in their best interest to send people your way. Ohio Painter pretty much described me exactly. I only started my business 4-5 years ago. I work alone, but have a friend, also a contractor, and we hire eachother from time to time. I have a safe full of keys/alarm codes to clients houses. I started with nothing, I mean NOTHING. I had a van with a bad transmission and a toolbag with some brushes and hand tools. That's it. Things sure have changed in 5 short years. I'm also a remodeler, and now I have mostly all the tools I need for a small to medium sized remodel. I've just bought one tool at a time and built up my arsenal. Painting accounts for about %50 of my income. I love it, and find that people are often willing to wait for me. I'm really up front about my scheduling. I allow generous time to complete each job, so I'm not rushed, but pretty much schedule back to back most of the year. Running big crews sucks. Doing the work yourself with maybe 1 or 2 guys helping you is the gravy train. Put on the music and go to town. All the better if the house is empty. You can hire guys through a temp agency. That way, they can work only for you, but you don't have to deal with payroll, workers comp, etc. Works nicely. Gary H had a good point as well. If you can do some drywall repairs, or hang drywall, maybe fix/replace a door now and then, replace some trim or a few shingles or decking, or anything else, it will help greatly. I've found that people love not having to call 3 different contractors to complete some simple maintenance tasks. You can do a lot around a house with one of those cordless combo kits (drill, circular saw, recip saw, etc.). Not sure what your seasons are like there, but here we have rain and Summer. I've started painting houses as early as mid February, and as late as early May. That's a big gap, so I don't carve any dates into stone until about a month before I know I can get to the job. I merely "put them on the books", and keep in touch. I give a call when it's getting close. I can't control the weather, just have to wait and see. Exterior season usually ends around Oct-Nov. and I usually stop adding to my schedule in July-Aug. There's always some last minute, end of the season, clients that wrap up my season. Supporting a family is a tall order. Repeat business and referrals is the key. Taking commercial work is asking for a headache. Your kids will be eating cereal for dinner while you're waiting to get paid. One of the few commercial jobs I did, I had to wait 5 weeks to get paid. Down payment was spent already. My wife and I ate deer stew and crackers for 2 of those weeks. Good times.
 

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Lots of good comments on this thread, sounds like there are several of us in similar business arrangements.

It is interesting the differences in our areas regarding the trades. Where I am in central Ohio the established painters really just paint. The commercial guys tend to stick to commercial and us residential guys have no desire to step on their toes. Drywallers stick to drywall, siding etc.

While there are guys who do "a bit of everything" I believe these guys are always the guys who have trouble staying busy. In my opinion the customers never think to call the "does it all guy" because they were not sure if they do such and such.

I think as residential painters doing high end homes we should be able to replace some trim, repair drywall or plaster, but primarily paint.

Love that Fri - mon scheduling idea.
 

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Every now and then poster
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I do everything and have been booked for months for years...

I can't imagine filling my schedule with one and two day jobs. That sounds terribly stressful. Id schedule out as far as possible then increase workforce as needed to accommodate additional incoming sales..
 
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