image of how to hire painting subcontractors

When starting a painting business, one of the first things you need to decide is whether you want to hire employees or subcontractors. If you don’t know the difference, you’re not alone. This is a decision that many home service providers need to make before they get off the ground.

We interviewed Painters Enterprise owner, Graham Audenart, to learn some of the most important considerations to make when hiring painting subcontractors.

Painting subcontractors vs employees

Painting subcontractors and employees are very different in terms of your company’s legal obligations. Employers generally have more legal responsibilities when it comes to employees, whereas contractors and subcontractors are often more responsible for themselves.

Typically, painting subcontractors:

  • Pay for their own supplies
  • Are not eligible to receive health benefits or paid time off from employers
  • May work for multiple companies or clients at a time
  • Can set their own schedules
  • Accept or refuse work

Painting employees differ as employers must:

  • Provide supplies and a workspace to employees
  • Provide health benefits, paid vacation, and sick time if they are eligible to receive them
  • The biggest difference between the two for most business owners is overhead.

Employees are paid a wage that reflects their hours regardless of the amount of work they do. However, subcontractors are only paid for the work they have done. This payment structure means that subcontractors can be great for painting businesses.

Graham prefers subcontractors for three key reasons:

  1. They help balance seasonal fluctuations
  2. They cut down on business expenses for things like tools and supplies
  3. They tend to work faster which allows for more painting contracts and better cashflow

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How to find and staff painting subcontractors

If you’ve decided painting subcontractors are right for your business, you’re probably wondering how to find them.

When you’re just starting out, you can put out feelers for potential subcontractors by:


Talk to other contractors you know, industry contacts, previous colleagues, and anyone else you can think of.

Networking is Graham’s preferred method of finding quality workers. When we asked how he finds his painting subcontractors, Graham said,

“Networking with other painting companies. A lot of the time, they find us. Lots of people are looking for new jobs and new opportunities.”

Paying for job posting ads

Online and paper ads can help to spread the word that you’re looking for painting subcontractors and even help with getting your name out there.

You can start by posting a basic subcontractor job ad, and either boost the posting with an ad, or share the job posting on your social media accounts.

However, be warned: if you don’t spend enough time writing up a detailed job posting and share that posting, you might not get the types of results you were hoping for.

Looking through hiring sites

Sites like Indeed and Craig’s List often have ads by subcontractors who are looking for work. Take a look every so often to see if anyone catches your eye and try connecting with them.

In the beginning, growing a network of reliable subcontractors may be a challenge, but as Graham mentions, relationship building will benefit you in the future.

“In the summer when we’re working with extra subcontractors, it’s often painters we’ve hired before and who we can trust to work hard and do a good job,” Graham explains.

Once you’ve built up a good roster of painting subcontractors, you’ll have a pool of proven workers to choose from.

Finish up with a firm contract

Make sure you have each painting subcontractor sign a subcontracting agreement. This should outline the terms of your relationship.

This can help to protect both of you in the event of a future dispute as well as clearly define who is responsible for what as you work together.

image of how to hire painting subcontractors

What makes a good painting subcontractor?

While it may take some time to build up your contacts, once you do, you’ll want to keep an eye out for who your best subcontractors are so that you can continue to hire them for future jobs.

A good painting subcontractor will:

  • Be an ambitious entrepreneur at heart, just like you
  • Provide their own supplies such as paintbrushes, paint, ladders, and other tools
  • Accept big and small jobs––not just big ticket projects
  • Know how to do the job expertly without training
  • Work well with your clients and embody your customer service values
  • Understand how subcontracting works on a professional level
  • Be able to balance quality work with quick turnarounds

A good subcontractor will be someone who does high-quality work quickly, because they understand this will help you (and them) take on more contracts and make more money. This entrepreneurial spirit is a win-win for everyone involved.

Paying painting subcontractors

As mentioned, one of the biggest differences between subcontractors and employees is how they are paid. Subcontractors are incentivized by the ability to make money on the job. Consequently, their payment structure should reflect the opportunity.

Typically, a painting business owners will pay their subcontractor between 50-60% of the total cost of the job.

This might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the subcontractor will use this to make up the cost of supplies for the job, such as paint, brushes, etc. Plus, it incentivizes them to work faster for you.

The best tip for managing painting subcontractors

In 16 years of business, Painters Enterprise has only ever staffed painting subcontractors. With a lot of painting contracts to complete and a large pool of painting subcontractors to choose from, managing staff can be one of the biggest challenges.

Graham uses painting business software, (Jobber is his tool of choice) to organize subcontractors across different job sites and cities.

He can give subcontractors access to his Jobber account by making them “users” with limited permissions on his account. That way, he can assign different tasks and jobs to subcontractors with different skill sets.

Plus, his subcontractors can use Jobber to make painting estimates and quotes that are accurate and on brand. That way, his team never misses a beat (or an opportunity).

When managing subcontractors, you need to stay on top of who your best subcontractors are, what they specialize in, and who is available for what job.

Saying yes to subcontractors

All in all, painting subcontractors can be a great way to build a painting business. They help to mitigate seasonality, open up your schedule to take on more contracts, and give you more financial freedom than employees.

Interested in what painting business software can do for you?

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