How to Get Painting Contracts: Expert Weighs In
One of the biggest challenges in any service-based business is generating more contracts. We spent some time with Graham Ardenaut, owner of Painters Enterprise, to find out how painters like you can bring in more contracts and grow your business after you’ve gone through the process of starting your own painting company.
How to get more commercial painting contracts in four steps
Generally speaking, there are four steps you should take to improve your chances of winning more contracts and growing your painting business:
- Know the difference between residential and commercial client markets.
- Build a reputation and connections through hands-on experience.
- Market yourself through networking, meetups, and advertising.
- Be professional by making a good first impression, both in-person and online.
1. Deciding who your clients are
In the painting business, there are two main types of clients: commercial and residential.
Residential clients are people who want their homes or fences painted. These types of clients aren’t often long-term as they only have so many things that need to be painted (like the interior or exterior of their home).
Winning more jobs within the residential market tends to rely mostly on marketing your painting business.
Not sure about residential or commercial clients?
Learn all about the advantages to servicing each market
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Commercial clients are clients who need painting done in condo buildings, community centers, and retail properties. These types of clients can offer longer contracts, but they are also more deadline centric.
Winning more jobs within the commercial market tends to rely mostly on your network and connections.
The main difference between these markets is that while commercial clients tend to offer contracts (for example, they might need someone to paint four separate retail spaces within a certain timeframe), residential clients don’t. Instead, they tend to only need one job done at a time.
Which type of client you choose depends on the type of work you want to do and have experience in, as well as how you want to focus and grow your business.
For example, if you have more experience in painting homes and you want to work with individual clients and take your time, residential may be the best focus for you.
However, if you have more experience in commercial painting and you like a fast-paced environment, commercial may be a great place for you to move towards.
In this post, we’ll focus on commercial clients, such as business and property owners, builders, and contractors and how to win them over to get more contracts signed.
2. Building a reputation
As with just about any small business, building a reputation for yourself is a very important part of getting more (and better) contracts.
This is especially important in the painting industry, as the community tends to be small and well-connected, Graham advises.
Start with hands-on experience
Learn the ropes by getting your hands dirty and knowing your trade in and out. Make sure that every job you do is high-quality, completed on time, and that you conduct yourself as a courteous professional.
Do a good job
A major aspect of building your reputation is simply by doing a great job. If you work hard and set high standards, you’ll impress your clients and gain traction in the commercial painting industry through word-of-mouth.
Don’t turn away too many jobs
And remember, the jobs you take can also influence how clients view you. For example, if you turn down a job because it’s too small, it may have a negative impact on whether you’re given a bigger job in the future.
Once you’ve built a solid reputation for yourself, you can have some more leeway when it comes to picking and choosing which contracts to take on, but in the early days, it’s best not to be too selective.
3. Marketing yourself
That being said, you shouldn’t rely solely on word-of-mouth and reputation for your marketing plan when it comes to getting commercial projects.
In the commercial painting industry, a lot of contracts are based on who you know, and if you are just starting out, you probably don’t know a lot of people.
Meetups and networking events
Check out local meetups and networking events in your area for tradespeople and commercial contractors.
Graham recommends joining BNI, which has brought in some pretty solid leads for his business.
Be sure to bring along some business cards and be sure to take some for yourself—if you refer business to others, they’ll likely refer business to you.
Go above and beyond for prospects
When you do meet potential clients, make yourself stand out by going above and beyond what another commercial painter would do.
For example, Graham suggests buying donuts or cupcakes for contracting crews to make you stand out and show that you care about the people you’ll be working with, not just the job itself.
Position your business
Set yourself up for success with clients by positioning your business in a way that attracts them.
Often, commercial clients are looking for painters who can get a job done quickly and professionally while providing high-quality results.
By putting an emphasis on building those aspects of your reputation, you can help yourself to get noticed by the types of clients you want to work with.
4. Focusing on professionalism
Another important aspect of bringing in more contracts is making sure that you come off as a professional—both face-to-face and online.
Most of the clients you’ll be working with as a commercial painter are legitimate businesses, so you want to make sure that you bring your business acumen to the table by having the following:
- A business address
- Business operations software
- Operations and maintenance manuals
A business address and online presence
Graham points to having an address that’s a P.O. Box (instead of a home address) and a website as keys to giving off a more professional vibe.
Graham has invested in an office space that doubles as a shop for equipment storage. It’s not a necessity, but he explains that it’s a great place to invite clients to before signing contracts because it’s impressive and it demonstrates to them that he owns a stable business.
You should also consider having a separate business phone number and voicemail, as well as a business email address.
Business operations software
Software can help you provide detailed, organized quotes to your clients that you can easily convert to invoices, all while keeping keep tabs on each and every job. All this demonstrates that you’re up-to-date and on the ball. Plus, it never hurts to show that your business is keeping up with technology.
An operation and maintenance manual
You can also make a manual to give clients at the end of every job that includes things like the paint brand, colors, where they were used, what rooms or spaces you painted, and tools that you used to complete a contract.
Graham explains that he has spent time over the years on perfecting his own operations manual. It’s something you need to develop over time with your own custom template. He recommends keeping track of your receipts in your business operation software. That way, it’s easy to track and document everything that was used for the contract.
Handing this over to your clients helps neatly wrap up the end of a job, and demonstrates transparency and honesty in the work you’ve done.
Cracking the commercial painting contract code
Commercial painting can be an intimidating industry to break into, but by following the steps we’ve outlined in this resource, you can give yourself a head start.
Know who your clients are, build a solid reputation by doing high-quality work, market yourself effectively, and ensure that every aspect of your business comes off as professional and you’ll be on the right path.
Interested in getting more contracts?