Many young painters start their careers by completing a TAFE course and training under an experienced and qualified supervisor. But once they have become an experienced tradesperson themselves, many start their own company so that they can contract and subcontract to other companies, work directly for clients, and work for themselves (“be their own boss”).
In Australia, starting a business is relatively easy, and there are plenty of resources - many provided by state and federal governments - to help you start and run a successful business. Of course, governments have an interest in helping you to do the right thing - properly established companies follow relevant laws, maintain safe working environments, and pay taxes.
Do I need a license or qualifications to start a painting business?
The short answer is yes.
The requirements for painters vary from state-to-state but more follow the same basic idea; you must be qualified and you must have a license. Helpfully, you need to be qualified to get a license in most cases. In NSW, for example, you must have completed a Certificate III in Painting and Decorating to be eligible to apply for a license.
NSW Fair Trading says the following about being a painter in NSW:
You must have a licence before you do any residential building work in NSW, including painting, valued at more than $5000 (incl GST) in labour and materials.
Painting means applying a clear, resin-based or pigmented product in liquid form which, when put on a surface by brush, roller or spray gun, forms a dry, adherent film.
Paint may be applied for decorative or protective reasons, and to any appropriate surface on any structure, fixture, fitting or apparatus.
While that definition might seem complex, it is designed to be a catch-all and to reflect common sense; effectively, don’t complete work as a painter unless you have a license, or you work for someone who has a license.
The definition of “painting” and the licensing requirements associated with painting work are fairly similar in other states, but you should check with relevant authorities if you’re not sure.
There are also insurance requirements associated with being a licensed painter, but we’ll discuss insurance later in this article.
What do I need to start a business?
Once you have completed your qualifications and have your license, you’ll need a few more things to start a successful business:
An ABN: all sole traders and businesses in Australia must have an Australian Business Number (ABN). The application process is fairly simple. Follow the prompts at https://www.abr.gov.au/. Registering for an ABN is free.
A business name: in Australia you can trade in your own name (the name on your birth certificate) or you can register a business or trading name. This name is then linked to your ABN which means you can include it on invoices. Picking a name is an important step and can mean the difference between success and failure. Your business name should describe what you do and be easy to remember. It is okay to pick something abstract or quirky but doing so means you’ll need to spend time and effort (and money) on brand development and marketing to improve brand recognition. You should check that the name you have chosen isn’t currently registered to someone else, or being used elsewhere (in Australia) and you should avoid names that are obviously close to those of existing well-known brands. You can check lists of existing names and register a business name at https://asic.gov.au/.
A logo: once you have a business name you can start establishing your brand. A logo is a visual representation of your company and will appear on invoices, business cards, your website, signage, and any marketing and promotional material. Again, try to avoid images that are obviously close to well-known brands or organisations. Don’t, for example, use a logo that is five alternate coloured rings, as most people associate this image with the Olympic Games. The easiest way to get a logo is to hire a graphic designer who can produce a few ideas for you to consider, and then provide you with all relevant digital files for the logo you have chosen. You can find great graphic designers on BorisDoes: https://borisdoes.com.au/.
A URL: a URL is the name of your business online; the address of your website. It should match the name of your business. Only one business can be registered at any specific URL, meaning that if the URL you want is available, nobody else has a website there. However, you should pick something that is easy to remember and easy to type into an address bar so that customers can find you if they see your website URL on advertising or hear about your business from a friend. You should choose the .com.au variant of a URL, but avoid any URL where there is a well-known business at the .com or .org versions of the same address.
A website: having a well-designed website allows your potential customers to get to know your business, review your products and services, and see pictures of your previous work. A company website integrated with Instagram and Facebook makes for a great online presence that will help with brand awareness and customer engagement. You won’t be surprised when we tell you we know exactly where you can have a great website built for your new business: our partners at BorisDoes have a great new Website Building Service with packages for new businesses, well-established corporations, and everything in between. https://bit.ly/3qtmWdt
Bank accounts: you start a business so that you can complete work and get paid for it. So make sure you can get paid for it. Bank accounts in your company name (which you can open once you have an ABN and a ASIC-registered business name) convey legitimacy and reassure clients they are dealing with someone trusted and professional. Your existing bank can usually help you open a new account, or you can shop around and find a bank that offers business banking with great features.
Insurance: painters need both public liability and worker’s compensation insurance to protect the property of the clients they are working for, and to protect themselves (and their employees) at work. In addition, all states except Tasmania require Home Warranty Insurance policies to be in place for any construction (including painting) work valued above a particular amount: NSW and WA ($20,000), Victoria ($16,000), South Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory ($12,000), and Queensland ($3,300). Home Warranty Insurance premiums are usually between 0.5% and 1% of the contract value and are paid by you as a service provider (though you can pass these costs on to the client). In most states with a Home Warranty Insurance scheme, deliberately underquoting to avoid having to take out Home Warranty Insurance can result in loss of license.
Anything else I should do?
Once your new business is established you should consider becoming a member of the Master Painters Association, the professional association for painters in Australia. There are qualification and proficiency requirements and you can find out more at https://masterpainters.com.au/.
There are also product-specific programs that you can join that give you special discounts and resources, like the Dulux Accredited Painter program. Again, there are qualification and product requirements, and you can find out more at https://www.dulux.com.au/applicator/services/dulux-accredited-painters/overview.
How do I promote my business?
For new businesses there are generally three ways to get jobs: referrals from other businesses, word of mouth, or advertising.
Referrals from other businesses are fairly straightforward. If you have worked for a painting and decorating business while completing your qualifications or during the early part of your career, there’s a good chance that business - and the commercial partners and contacts of that business - will be happy to refer potential clients to you. They may not be the best jobs, the highest paying jobs, or the closest jobs, but they come with a genuine and enthusiastic recommendation, which is super-valuable.
Word of mouth is critically important. As you complete work, satisfied customers will recommend you to other potential customers. You may have seen this while working for someone else - they might complete a string of jobs for people on the same street, or from the same tennis club, or in the same family. If you do a good job, people will be enthusiastic about suggesting that other people hire you too.
Advertising has been effective since the days of ancient Rome and Egypt. You can advertise your services on your car or van and develop brand recognition in the areas where you work. You can produce, print and distribute flyers to homes and businesses with details of your service or special promotions. If it is cost effective, you can even consider local or regional radio or television advertising. Your website - as we discussed above - is one of your most valuable tools as it is the bridge between the advertising that clients see and an opportunity to provide them with a quote. In short, it should convert interest into jobs.
Any other suggestions?
Actually, yes! PaintAccess partner BorisDoes is a new Australian tasker platform designed to connect people who need tasks completed with tradies and other service providers who can complete them. It’s a great place to promote your new business, provide quotes in response to posted tasks, and complete work for customers. You can complete tasks jst in your local area, or make yourself available to a larger area while you are growing your business.
BorisDoes has a few great ways to grow your business, and the first step is to register a business account. From there you can start responding to posted tasks. Visit www.BorisDoes.com.au today!
I’m a good painter, but not a good accountant!
That’s not uncommon, and unless you have a family member who can help you organise your finances, things can get very complicated very quickly. The easiest way to solve the problem is with some well-known accounting software (like MYOB or Xero) and a good accountant. They can help you organise your receipts, invoices, bills, income, taxes and expenses so that you can get on with the important things… completing painting work for your clients.
Should I pay retail prices for paint, equipment and supplies?
No. You probably have some tools already and you know which paints to buy for different projects. But there’s no need to pay retail prices in a hardware store. Online wholesalers like PaintAccess can supply you with everything that you need.
And because PaintAccess is focused on supplying professional contractors and experienced DIY customers, we have a trades discount. Simply send us your details, including your license number for verification, and you’ll be entitled to a 7% discount on all purchases over $200, in addition to any regular specials, discounts and other deals we might have on at the time.
That means that even if you charge your customers no mark-up or margin on the retail cost of materials, you’ll still make 7% on the materials component of new jobs. And because PaintAccess is online, we can deliver paint, equipment and supplies directly to you anywhere in Australia.
I’ll do it!
You should! We at PaintAccess are great believers in entrepreneurial spirit and we love seeing new businesses pop up to provide great service to customers. It’s even more exciting when the apprentice or mentoree of one of our existing customers strikes out on their own and takes what they have learned forward into a new business.
At PaintAccess, we’re always happy to help, and we’re always happy to provide advice and guidance to painters and decorators. If you have a client with an unusual request and need something as a special order, let us know! We’re here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek advice from experienced tradies.
Good luck out there!
One final thing!
We love success stories, and we love to hear about businesses using PaintAccess paints, products, and equipment to provide outstanding service to clients. If you have a project you’re particularly proud of, let us know!
Our YouTube channel is full of reviews from industry experts. If you would like to be the next industry expert to review a product for us, let us know! We’ll tag you and your business and promote your business across our social media channels.
And if you’ve tried a product somewhere, or you’ve seen something online and you think PaintAccess should stock it, let us know! We’re always keen to try new things!
Phone: (02) 8064 7050