The #1 Best Way to Advertise Your Painting Business (For Beginners)

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If you’re reading this right now, I’ve been there. You’re a beginner just starting and want to know the #1 best way to advertise your painting business.

You’re tired of working for painters who either don’t do it right or don’t pay enough money.

When I started my painting business, I had no idea how to advertise and had very little money.

I chewed on every fingernail. Good thing I couldn’t get my toes up to my mouth.

I knew how to paint; that was the easy part.

So, how did I do it? How could I leave my secure job, go out on my own, promote my business with hardly any money, and pay my bills?

Chill out, Cub Scout.

I took all the hits and made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to, and I’ve been doing it for 30 years.

I will show you how to promote your business and start you on the path to success and financial independence.

Let’s jump right in!

What types of advertising are there

There are many different types of advertising, each with different results.

Some work better than others, and some are a waste of time.

  • Print: Print advertising consists of printed flyers and brochures or ad placement in local newspapers and magazines. Printed yard signs are a popular advertising form and relatively cheap to create.
  • Direct Mail: Direct mail uses targeted mailing addresses in desired geographic locations. Printed flyers, brochures, and postcards are mailed directly to homeowners in areas where businesses are looking to craft their trade.
  • Television: T.V. ads are great if you can afford them. However, T.V. Ads are costly to make and super expensive to show on prime-time slots.
  • Radio: Radio advertising is cheaper than television Ads but can take a while to produce results that pay off.
  • Social Media: Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote a business is ineffective. Digital Media companies use targeted lists to send out ads promoting likes and shares. I’ve tried Facebook campaigns through a Digital Media firm, which can be pricey and take multiple campaigns to get leads. Social Media needs to be more organic; it takes time to build an audience and get shares and likes.

A few more advertising methods are available, but they’re all digital forms of promotion and too involved for someone just starting.

Remember that marketing and advertising agencies want your money and will promise you the moon regarding results. Take it all with a grain of salt and start with smaller, more uncomplicated steps.

What advertising works best (when you have the money)?

Direct mail has better results than email and social media campaigns.

Here’s why.

According to the S.B.A. (Small Business Association)

While direct mail and email marketing campaigns get similar response rates, a recent study found direct mail campaigns generate purchases five times larger than email campaigns. Combining email with direct mail led to the best results of all: purchases six times larger than email alone generated.

Direct mail stands out. Young people get hundreds of emails a day but only a few pieces of actual mail, notes one marketer quoted by Vox. In the same way digital-first companies such as Warby Parker and Glossier have begun opening physical stores to create a special experience, sending physical mail is a way to stand out from the crowd.

Direct mail is more shareable. Unlike email that goes to one person, physical mail goes to a household. RetailWire reports 88% of key purchase decisions for retail, financial and automotive categories are discussed at home, and direct mail pieces give recipients a reason to talk over the offer.

Direct mail has a longer lifespan. Email has a lifespan of just a few seconds, RetailWire reports, while direct mail’s average lifespan is 17 days.

SBA (U.S. Small Business Association)

You can see from this report that Direct Mail targets your audience more effectively than other forms of marketing and advertising.

The method I will teach you will use a bit of print combined with a form of Direct Mail.

What advertising works best (when you have very little money)?

The short answer is simple, printed “inserts.” are the best way to advertise your painting business. I’ll expand on what I mean.

An insert is a simple word document you can create on your computer. You make the first draft on white paper with bold black ink.

The insert should have basic and essential information on it:

  • Name and address of your business.
  • Telephone number of your business.
  • Business license or registration #.
  • Facebook or website URL.
  • Bullet points of the services your business provides.
  • A discount on your services.
  • A time limit on your discount offer.

That’s it! Plain and simple. No frills, no exotic artwork or photos.

The “busier” and more crowded the print, the more likely someone would not read the entire flyer.

Here’s an example of an insert that I’ve used over the years:

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Author Document

Steps to create and distribute an insert advertisement

Now that you know what an insert looks like let’s go over the steps to create, print, and distribute the insert.

Step 1.

Create the insert using Microsoft Word or whatever document writing software you have installed on your computer. If you don’t have a laptop, consider asking a family member or friend to help you.

If all else fails, go to any free public library and sign up for a membership. Libraries are a great source of information on reading about marketing and advertising. Libraries also have computers you can use to create and print the document (approximately .10cents per sheet)

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Add the information (as suggested above) to the document and make the print bold.

List the bullet points of the services you provide. Keep it simple and direct. You don’t want to promise the moon when you’re just starting.

Be sure to include a discount on the insert. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can list the discount at the bottom and add a line that states, “present this flyer at the time of the estimate to get the savings,” or something to that effect.

Step 2.

Now that you have your insert draft, the next step is to distribute it. But first, you need to know how many inserts to print to get it to your intended clients.

Here is the Direct Mail marketing portion of the advertising. It’s not precisely Direct Mail, but it has the same effect.

Most locations have a local newspaper or community periodical in their towns or counties. If not, then the most popular newspaper will do.

Contact the advertising department of the local paper and speak with a representative about adding your insert. An agent can provide you with the zones or zip codes of the areas you wish to target. You can mix and match the places you want to do business in and get an exact count of the distribution numbers for the selected areas. That is how you determine the number of inserts you need to have printed.

Most newspapers include inserts with their distribution, but there is a particular day of the week, mainly Thursday or Friday, when retailers insert their circulars and flyers right before the weekend. That’s when most people do their shopping for groceries, clothing, and sale items. Clients expect those circulars and flyers in their newspapers or circulations. They’re looking to see what’s on sale and what to purchase.

Ask the agent what day the circulars get inserted into the paper. You want your flyer inserted into that paper!

Take notes of the distribution numbers for the targeted areas and the pricing per thousand. You can negotiate the price and tell the agent that you will be a repeat customer if the insert does well.

Step 3.

Take the insert draft to your local printer. Be sure the draft is on plain white paper, and the letters and numbers are in bold black.

Tell the printer you want a price for printing the inserts on bright “Canary Yellow” paper. Trust me on this one. Don’t get cute and pick blue or green because they’re your favorite colors. You want your insert to stand out amongst the other flyers. If the printer suggests a better layout, ask how much they charge to change it.

Get the cost estimate from the printer.

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Step 4.

Reach out to the advertising agent and tell them the date you want the flyers inserted into the newspaper.

Let the printer know the distribution date. Give the printer enough time to get the flyers completed.

Pick up the flyers and bring them to the newspaper. The agent will let you know where to drop them off and how to mark the boxes.

The boxes should be marked with a black marker and include the distribution date and the number of packages in the order (i.e., box 1 of 6, box 2 of 6, etc.). Newspapers can print more than one publication, so be sure the boxes are labeled for the correct paper.

Pick up a copy of the newspaper on the day of the distribution to see if your insert is there. You’ll soon find this is the best way to advertise your painting business when the calls start coming in.

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Step 5.

Be prepared to answer the phone or check your email (if it’s on the flyer). Respond immediately to any calls, don’t let them go to voicemail.

It’s essential to show that you’re ready for new business. Be polite and engaging on calls and emails. Ask for a name, address, and phone number.

Schedule an estimate as soon as possible. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin so you can tell the client that you will be in their area doing estimates on the such and such day between such and such times. That way, you can map out your estimates to flow from area to area and at specific times. You may have to give up some weekend activities, but it’s a small price to pay to grow your business.

Dress appropriately and be on time. Get a clipboard, notepad, a pencil and lots of business cards. Wear painter’s “whites” when you can; it looks more professional. But if you are doing an estimate during working hours, it’s OK to wear your work clothes.

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First impressions are everything when growing a business.

When meeting a client, be nice and give them a business card. Business cards represent a professional front and add legitimacy to your company.

Be thorough with your estimates. Ask specific questions and point out items you feel need to be addressed. Offer separate pricing for items. That will show the client they have multiple options to complete their projects. Write up an estimate while on location or ask for an email address, write a more detailed estimate, and send it to them within a day or two.

Make sure the estimate shows the discounted offer from the flyer.

Why inserts are the #1 best way to advertise your painting business

Inserts are, by far, the cheapest, the fastest, and the best way to advertise your painting business.

Consider an advertising method of creating a Direct Mail postcard campaign. Postcards are cheap, and postage is pennies, so why not try it?

A postcard campaign is not cheap. First, you have to design and print the postcard. You could do the design independently, but it may look crappy, and you want it to look professional. There are plenty of online businesses like VistaPrint that can design and ship postcards to your front door. But, by the time you add up the design, shipping, and postage, each card will cost you about the price of a first-class stamp. So, making up 5,000 postcards would cost around $2,500. However, you need addresses to mail them, meaning you have to buy a targeted email list for the desired area, which could cost between $500-$600. That puts it over $3000.

The insert campaign will cost less than half and without postage. It’s Direct Mail without the stamp! People are waiting for their circulars to arrive in the paper, and your flyer will stand out over the others with its Canary Yellow color.

I’ve had clients hang on to my flyer for two years and then call me for an estimate. Do you know what I did? I gave them the discount even though the offer had expired. Customers love a bargain!

Plus, you can create inserts that align with seasonal changes. When it gets too cold for exterior work, offer a discount for interior work with low V.O.C. paints with no odors. Add an offer for a Holiday Gift Certificate that a client can give to a spouse or family member. The possibilities are endless. Each insert campaign pays for itself with one or two jobs, depending on the size.

Some businesses try to drive around and stuff mailboxes with flyers. Bad idea. I tried it once, and the Postmaster General called my business line and told me that nothing could go into a mailbox without a stamp. It’s illegal, and you can be prosecuted and fined. He was nice enough to collect all the flyers they removed from the boxes and returned them to me.

Canvassing neighborhoods on foot and placing flyers and brochures on doorknobs doesn’t work as well as the inserts. People get aggravated when unknown people walk up to their front door uninvited. It’s not a good first impression.

How many houses could you canvass per day? A couple of hundred, maybe. Inserts can hit thousands of homes in one day.

Two clients from my very first insert campaign provided me with referrals that produced over $150,000 over the years! Those two referrals alone prove that inserts are the best way to advertise your painting business!

What to do when you get your first client

The first job you get from your flyers is the most important. Your first client could make or break your business. It may sound negative, but bad news travels faster than good news, so you don’t want the client to bad-mouth your work.

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  • Do a superior job for the client.
  • Be on time and courteous at all times.
  • Don’t blast loud and offensive music on the job site.
  • Make sure all workers wear painter’s whites.
  • Inform the client of how you will proceed with the work and what areas you would like to start.
  • Accommodate any timing or scheduling issues with the client.
  • Clean the workspace at the end of each day.
  • Clean tools and materials in an inconspicuous area and rinse the area of any paint residue (make sure you hose off bushes, grass, and plants in the cleaning area).
  • Take before and after pictures.
  • Ask for a testimonial on your Facebook page (make a page if you don’t have one).
  • Ask the client to refer you to friends and family ( the back of my business card reads “the best compliment you can give is a referral.“)
  • Post the before and after pictures on your Facebook page.

How to pay for the advertising and your bills

The hard fact is that you have to spend some money to start your business. You can apply for 0% or low percentage credit cards and float the cost of the advertising and bills.

Deposits from jobs should pay for the supplies, materials, and labor, so you shouldn’t have out-of-pocket expenses.

Keep an eye out for sales on tools and supplies. Take a look at Craigslist or classified ads for tools for sale. You can save a ton. It took me years to finally get the best tools for my business. Buy the tools you need to complete each job, and soon you will have everything you need to run a successful business.

After a few ad campaigns, you’ll find that word-of-mouth advertising and referrals are, hands down, the ultimate best way to grow a business. Do great work and reap the rewards.

Take your first steps to financial independence

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Now that you know the #1 best way to advertise your painting business (for beginners), can you picture the design of your first insert?

Are you thinking about which services to bullet point?

Which areas do you want to work in?

Following the steps in this post, you can start your ad campaign and save a ton of money with inserts. Cheap and effective advertising will generate leads and jobs that lead you toward a brighter future.

Your company can grow to a point where you can manage the business, let your employees do the painting, and give you more time to spend with family and friends.

I’m excited for you.

I can’t wait to see you get started!

Let me know how you make out.

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