Tips for Your House Painting Business

Follow these wise tips for your house painting business to protect yourself from dishonest clientele.

| January/February 1975

I've just finished reading How to Start a House Painting Business by Joel Ellis and House Painting Business Tips by Donald W. Geary in MOTHER EARTH NEWS and found that they made a lot of sense. Both authors, though, failed to stress some points I think are essential.

I worked for ten years as a carpenter and have been in business myself for five years as a general contractor and builder . . . and although I don't like to insist on signed contracts, pay exorbitant insurance rates, etc., that's the way it has to be or I'd find myself on the short end of the stick. Here are some suggestions that MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers might think about before grabbing a brush and going to work.

[1] Get the customer to sign an agreement, and be very specific in that contract about what you are and aren't to do. Otherwise, you may find yourself stuck with jobs you never expected because the homeowner thought you were supposed to do them. After all, until you've got all the money in your hand (in cash), the other fellow has you by the seat of the pants . . . and he knows it. Believe me, I've been there.

[2] Don't fall for the "extras" deal . . . the one where the owner says, "As long as you're on the spot you might as well do so-and-so and I'll pay you extra." It's fine to pick up odd jobs — in fact, they'll help you break even if you find you've underestimated the original work — but make out an "additional work order" and have the customer sign it. If he's not out to screw you, he'll understand that this protects him as well as you.

[3] When you write up an agreement, specify how and when you are to be paid for your work. Got at least a third of the money — preferably half — down before you paint, or at any rate on the day you start the job. This advance will cover the cost of materials and some wages. If you hire an assistant it's an absolute must, for he has to be paid whether you are or not.

Remember, no matter what kind of nice guy you think your customer is, the down payment will sometimes be all you'll ever get. You may even be surprised to find out that people you thought of as friends will stick it to you for a couple of bucks . . . so at least make an effort to protect yourself.

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