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December 13, 2021

5 Costly mistakes that harm your painting business


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Having a painting job can be deeply rewarding and entertaining because of the variety in the workday, the opportunity to learn new skills, and most importantly knowing that it’s a skill that will always remain relevant. But to run a profitable and successful painting business, you need to develop sound business practices and avoid factors that hinder growth. 

Every business owner has a unique approach to how they manage everyday work. Most painters working alone, or running a business - and most people in fact - focus all their time and energy worrying about and managing costs they touch, see and feel. For example, if a contractor uses a quart of paint and two labor hours to paint a door, then the hard cost may range from $35 - $45. That’s easy to see and thus calculate.

However, following such a practice may lead to you missing out on new opportunities, hidden costs, learnings, and more. In the world of finance and economics, this phenomenon is known as the opportunity cost or the costs of forgoing an alternative in order to pursue a certain action. 

We’re not assuming that visible or hard costs are irrelevant - and we will look into how even hard costs can harm your business - but we’re starting to have you think about the costs of missing out on new opportunities. This is why we’ve compiled 5 mistakes that can seriously harm your painting business. Let’s get right into them.

Using inferior products

One of the first things you should consider when starting a painting project is using the right products for the right project. And this isn’t only about the correct color and brushes. It’s about using the best possible products you can that also fit with the surface you will be painting. Using inferior products will not only contribute to the failure of your project but also to a bad reputation. The work you do will not be satisfactory and will risk customers asking for a refund or a redo, and this will cost you a larger time and product investment. 

The paint you use has to be able to work in harmony with the surface (interior or exterior) and the age of the surface as well. If it is an older building, you might need to use a type of paint that won’t risk cracking but will still come out nicely. The type of surface is also not exclusively dependent on its age, but on its type, the local climate, and current condition as well. All of these things should be considered when choosing the products for your project. 

To avoid potentially disastrous results like flaking, peeling, cracking, uneven finishes, fading, and/or rusting, make sure you dedicate enough time to analyze the project and come prepared to the job with the best products and tools.

Underpricing the service 

While pricing is not an exact art, there are a few common pricing mistakes that a lot of companies make. By planning your strategies to avoid these mistakes, you will reduce your losses and increase your profits.   

Businesses need to learn how to set prices correctly because if you charge too high, customers will not want to purchase your services. And if you charge too low, then you risk operating at a loss - which is quite a common issue. Initially, the best strategy would be to accurately price your services and focus on delivering constant value, so that you can drive up prices as demand rises.  

To avoid underpricing your services, you have to calculate the true cost of your service by taking into account the cost of material and labor. While the cost of products and materials is easier to calculate, labor is where you can go wrong. In theory, you can charge per hour or project, but it’s important that you know the hourly rates of every employee working on the job. Using time tracking software will speed this process up and provide you with valuable data so that you can accurately estimate the cost of your services for any project. 

Related: How to calculate the cost of service using time tracking?

Unexpected project delays

Painting projects always run the risk of unexpected delays due to possible issues, bad weather, and employee absences. That’s why it’s very important to make plans ahead that will give you some wiggle room in case you need to make last-minute adjustments. 

If one or a few of your employees suddenly fall ill, if it begins to rain for a few days, or even if a surface you will be painting turns out to need more work, then your project will most likely take longer to complete. As a business owner, you have to foresee issues like this and be prepared to accommodate changes. 

One thing to always keep in mind is the deadlines you propose and agree to. It’s always best to add a day or two to the deadlines of projects beforehand so that even if there are problems you will be able to still complete the job on time. And if everything goes well, then you will complete your project ahead of schedule and your customers will be happy.

Taking the recruiting process for granted

Another mistake many painting businesses make is not paying a lot of attention to hiring and training the right people. The likelihood of project delays and failures increases when an inexperienced staff or contractor is increased. 

When you hire the right people, you can also avoid a lot of the hassle associated with a painting project. A quality painter will take the time to repair damaged or rotten wood, remove dirt or mold, and scrape or sand the surfaces to be painted. This makes sure that your project will be on track without risking delays or problems. 

If your staff aren’t properly trained, your business will need to prepare to cover for their mistakes, make up for lost time and also have to deal with customers by explaining to them what happened. While the slightest mistake could mean a poor paint job that you need to repeat to cover missed spots, paint drips, or runs. But some of the most major problems could be potential injuries on the job because employees aren’t prepared for certain tasks. 

Making sure you hire the right people and train them well means saving your business a lot of money, trouble, and disasters during projects.

Cutting Corners on Safety

One of the most costly mistakes businesses can make is cutting corners when it comes to safety. While time is money, mistakes can cost even more money. Trying to keep the prices low just to be competitive isn’t worth the risk of putting both your business and employees in harm’s way. 

The value is always in the small details, like making sure the filter in the painter’s respirator is new and fresh or using a charcoal filter for paint instead of cheaper and inappropriate ones to ensure safety. It’s also especially important to make sure that they are safe when out during jobs in the field. Make sure that all of the safety precautions on site are being taken care of, like investing in equipment and preparation to prevent falls and injuries. There should be no corners cut when dealing with the health and safety of your team.

If you need to hire other contractors to help out with specific projects, it may seem tempting to hire those who offer a surprisingly lower rate. However, in almost all of these cases, there is a backstory - the contractors are not insured. Liability issues are not what you need when taking on client projects. If they’re injured during the job, damage property or tools, or lose company equipment, they won’t be able to cover the losses. That will be the business’s responsibility to deal with. What’s more, is that these types of contractors often leave jobs unfinished, cut corners while doing their job, and use inferior products. Whenever you need to hire more people, make sure that they are insured. Saving a few dollars on hourly rates is not worth the risk of jeopardizing the success of a project.


Successful painting projects all have one thing in common: attentive preparation. If you take all of the necessary precautions to ensure that your employees are safe, your products are the best and your plan is solid, any project you take on will be a breeze. 

Make sure to give Atto a try, and see how much time tracking software can save your business money and boost productivity!

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