Five ways to take home more money with less effort
Money might not be the only reason you paint, but it’s important just the same. Maybe even the most important part of your work. You give up time with your family and time doing things you enjoy in exchange for money, so it better be worthwhile. Professional painting is not a hobby. Are you interested in earning more money in less time? These five tips can help.
Profit Boosting Tip#1: Talk Less, Paint More
I’ve been alive long enough to notice that the more people talk the less they get done. This is not true all the time, but often enough to be worth remembering. Nobody pays tradespeople to talk, yet I still see many consume what probably adds up to an hour or two a day talking pointlessly. That’s an hour or more away from the things that matter in your life, all for no financial gain. Chat if you like, but realize that it comes at a price.
A proportionally high number of chatters I know have gone out of business. And although it’s not talked about very much, the fact is that one of the leading causes of family breakdown is insufficient finances.
Profit Boosting Tip#2: Bid By the Job, Not By The Hour
Being a painter is like any other trade. It involves uncertainty, and
that’s why some painters work by the hour, not by the bid. Time and materials contracts eliminate all the risk of underbidding a job, but they also cost you big time in hidden ways. Hourly work harms you in two things. First it provides no financial incentive for you to work more efficiently. And second, if you do get better and faster and more efficient, all that gain goes to the client. Don’t be unfair to yourself. You should be paid for the experience you bring to the job, not just for the time you spend spreading paint in pleasing ways. If an efficient painter can work twice as fast as a slow one, then that efficient painter deserves to take home twice as much money in a day. This can only happen by bidding on the job.
So what about the risk of bidding? If you’re a new painter, the best way to get good at bidding is by paying attention to the hours different jobs take you. Start your bidding hourly if you like, to gain experience, but be sure to use that experience to hone your estimation skills. In the same way that it took time and practice to get good with a brush and roller, it takes time and practice to get good at estimating.
Estimating large projects is one of the areas where costly mistakes are possible, especially for painters just getting into commercial and institutional work.
Profit Boosting Tip#3: Find Trusted Partners
At least half the painters I’ve met have tried to get bigger by hiring employees, but most regret the move. They give up and go back to solo work forever. Complication is the reason why. Employees come with hidden costs, paperwork is required of you, and there’s no direct connection between what you pay an employee and the amount of money they earn for you. A drywaller I know jokes that he should pay $10/hr less to anyone who smokes and owns a smart-phone. That may be extreme, but the fact is that distractions on the jobsite today are a huge issue.
Distracted workers can easily be half as productive as a painter who delivers 8 hours of actual work for 8 hours of pay. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you always need to work solo just because hourly-paid employees haven’t worked out for you in the past. Some painters manage nicely connecting with the right kind of people, especially when those people fit into the right kind of financial structure. Partnering with trusted contractors paid for the work they complete can be a win-win situation. Since you only pay them for results, you’re free of making sure they work efficiently. Hiring contractors instead of employees also saves on paperwork big-time.
Profit Boosting Tip#4: Collect and Use Testimonials
Besides painting work itself, your biggest challenge as a professional painter is ensuring a steady supply of work. While new clients might come to you automatically at some times, lean times are never far away, either. This is where testimonials can help. Nothing else convinces potential clients to become actual clients as effectively as testimonials delivered online. This is especially true if you’re a good painter. Ultimately, as with all the manual trades in the world, efficiency makes the difference between thriving and simply surviving. Collecting and using testimonials online in some way is the cheapest and most effective sales tool you can use.
Profit Boosting Tip#5: Claim All Tax Deductions
As a professional painter, you’re entitled to deduct every last little business expense before paying Big Brother, but it’s surprising how many professionals don’t make full use of this option. Most of your expenses come is small chunks, but they add up. Gas, brushes, rollers, meals on the road, that new brake job on your work vehicle, the garage and office space in your house that you use for work – it adds up to a nice chunk taken off your bottom line before the tax man takes his cut. It’s bad enough you need to buy these things in the first place, but you should never pay income taxes on these expenses. So how can you deal with all those little sales receipts in an efficient way? Add them up as you go. Here’s what I do . . .
After collecting about a week’s worth of receipts, I spend a few minutes typing the amounts into a spreadsheet. No big deal, I have half a dozen headings up top that correspond to the expense headings I’ll use on my income tax return. I then put the paper sales slips in a cardboard accordion folder in case I need to present receipts to the government one day. This folder has internal dividers to keep the different categories of slips separate. Claiming legitimate expenses saves me thousands of dollars in tax each year, and the paperwork is almost automatic. Having a spread sheet also lets me see exactly what I spend on gas, supplies, vehicle repairs, restaurant meals and every other expense I incur. Knowledge is the best management tool.
Sooner or later, painting stops being fun. At least for a while it does. But at times like these, there is another source of professional enthusiasm. Unless you win the lottery, striving for better efficiencies and more profits is a goal that never seems to get stale.