House Painting 101: How to Get Started as a Part-Time Painter
Painting walls, ceilings, and trim can be very much like a relaxing meditation, even if it is a job. And you can make decent money as a part-time house painter.
I quit a job as a security guard last fall, so it was time to look for another income source. A house flipper let me join his renovation crew. Although I previously hated painting, that's what I did most of the time, and you know what? I started to enjoy it! Let's look at some of the advantages of this work.
You Don’t Need a License
Painting can be one of the easier building trades to get into because you probably don't need a license. Here in Florida, most work that doesn't involve structural components of a house doesn't require a license.
The law is similar in many states, and even in those states that require a licensed contractor for painting jobs, you can usually work for a contractor and be covered by his or her license.
You Can Learn Painting Skills Quickly
Part of the reason I was hired by the house flipper was that I had been a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and had spent a few days painting with them. That's one way to get experience (and help out a good cause), but you can also do what my new employer told me to do: learn online.
I found a great YouTube video channel on how to paint a house. It covered interior and exterior painting, and the videos were easy to follow. I watched a few other painters' videos as well, because even the professionals do not all paint in the same way.
You can also go to one of Home Depot's free workshops to learn how to paint and do related work. My wife and I once hired a painter who had learned in this way, and we paid her $35 per hour!
Practice by painting your own home. I did our bedroom, two bathrooms, a closet and the screened porch shortly after I discovered I could paint decently.
Of course it takes a lot of time on the job to become a really good painter, but not all jobs require that fine touch. If you work with someone who does have years of experience, you'll be corrected when you err, and painting mistakes can almost always be corrected (learning how to fix them should be one of your priorities).
Jobs are Plentiful
Now that the housing industry is growing again, more and more builders and contractors are looking for painters. As a result, the job outlook for painters is great. Projections show faster-than-average growth in this field. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)
If you want part-time or occasional work, look for real estate investors who need a painter for a few days now and then, or offer your services to friends and acquaintances on weekends. If you see a fixer-upper being painted, stop and ask if they need help. Once you work with other painters, they can tell you who else is hiring.
The Pay is Decent
This isn't a highly-paid profession, but on the other hand, you don't even need a high school diploma. An average wage of $16.92 per hour isn't too bad for a position that requires so little to get started.
Because of my lack of experience, I made only about $13 per hour. However, I paid attention to invoicing and other aspects of the business on my occasional contract jobs, so I could probably start a painting business myself if I wanted to. This leads us to our next advantage . . .
Painting Can Be a Low-Cost, High-Profit Business
As an employee, you’ll often work with tools and materials provided by the contractor or employer. But if you work for one of the many employers who like to hire you as an independent contractor, you may have to buy brushes, rollers and other necessary tools. You can start with as little as $100, and add tools as you need them.
Even if you go it alone, specialize to keep your initial investment low. If you do only interior painting, for example, you might get by with one ladder, a few brushes, rollers, basic hand tools and such, for an investment of less than $300. Again, you can add to your tools as you need to (every job is a bit different), and parlay profits into the equipment necessary for exterior painting or working on large commercial properties.
If you do decide to make it a full-time business, the sky’s the limit. The house flipper/contractor that I worked for billed clients $35 per hour for painting, and paid his best painters perhaps half of that, so there is room for some profit there. Consider the case of Matt Shoup, who started with $100 and went door-to-door, asking neighbors if they needed some painting done, then built a painting business that earns $2.5 million per year!
Whether you're looking for a part-time income or a potential million-dollar business, it might make sense to start asking friends, family and neighbors if they need some painting done.
Your Turn: What do you think? Do you know anyone who has done well as a painter?