The easiest way to lose money as a house painter is to make a mistake on the estimate that you give to the client. The client decides to hire a house painter for a painting or staining job based the estimated costs for the job. Once you and the client are agreed on the price, you are committed to doing the work for that price. If you underestimate the amount of labor time involved or the amount of materials required for the job, you will see your profits quickly diminish.
Things You'll Need
With a notepad in hand, walk around the house with the client. Talk to the client and take down notes and details about the job. The initial walk-through should clarify what the client's expectations are and what you will provide.
Walk around the house a second time with a notepad and figure out the labor time involved in painting or staining the house. Estimate one side at a time. Write "north side" on the pad and itemize the different elements such as windows, doors, overhang/soffit, siding, and deck and railing. Determine how much time it will take you to prep, prime and paint two coats on a window. Multiply the time by the number of windows. Do the same for each item. Follow the same procedure for the other sides of the house.
Factor in other time considerations. Setting up and cleaning up each day takes time as well, and this time needs to be figured into the overall labor time. It is important to clean your brushes and tools at the end of each day, and it also important to clean the area around the house so that you don't leave the client with a mess. Pay attention to things that may slow you down. For example, setting up ladders on uneven ground, working around bushes and shrubbery, removing old fragile storm windows, as well as other things, require additional time. Finally, take the time and distance that you are traveling into consideration.
Determine the amount of paint or stain required for the job. Painting a house typically requires one coat of primer and two coats of paint. Staining a house or deck usually requires two coats as well. The amount of paint or stain depends on the condition of the wood or material that you are working on. An old sun-worn deck soaks up stain very quickly.
Write an painting or staining estimate. Put the total cost, the labor and materials at the top of the page. Itemize each part of the job so that the details are clear to you and the client. This prevents disagreements and unexpected surprises while you are working on the job. If the client wants additional work done, then you can discuss the additional costs involved.