How to Land ‘The Big One’

Alison Stanton


It’s a scenario that has probably happened at one time or another to most commercial painters. Driving by a building and seeing a crew hard at work, they find themselves thinking, “I wish I could get a contract like that!”

Craig Jooste, managing director of WOW 1 DAY Painting and owner of the Seattle franchise, is familiar with this situation. A few months ago, he says he noticed a simple two-level walk-up apartment complex that was being painted.

“The job wasn’t too complicated, and since it was only two levels, the painters weren’t even using lifts, just ladders,” Jooste says.

“I thought to myself as I drove by that these are exactly the jobs that I want to land, as we can easily replicate our residential model to fit this kind of work. I began to make a list of complexes like the one I drove past and began contacting the property managers in charge to discuss their painting needs.”

In addition to Jooste’s idea of reaching out directly to building managers, there are a variety of other methods that commercial painters can use in order to land some of the more plum jobs in their areas.


When it comes to being hired for large painting jobs, Jooste says inviting potential customers for coffee or lunch is an ideal way to start building relationships. Also, picking up the phone and calling the property manager or caretaker can help painters get their proverbial foot in the door at apartment complexes, he adds.

“The more proactive you are, the better,” he says.

“Your sales pitch is also key to landing the more lucrative paint jobs. Create a concise pitch that’s tailored to the needs of the customer and deliver it. These people are usually busy, so shorter is better, but make sure you customize it because a one-size-fits-all approach will not be as effective.”


For Chris Burke, owner of Mr. Faux, a Virginia-based company that specializes in faux-finishing, he has found that harnessing the power of the Internet and the giant search engine Google is a great way to help his company get noticed online. This, in turn, helps him get hired.

“What has worked best for me is to have a nice presentation on my website, and then I also drive my customers there through Google AdWords,” he says, adding that he was inspired to revamp his company’s website four years ago after reading the book Google for Dummies.

“I put my site on different search engines for free advertising, then I used Google AdWords’ pay-per-click to have my site get noticed,” he says, adding that he can also designate with Google how much he wants to spend.

“Certain search words have different values. In my case, ‘faux painter’ is the number one searched term for me. I’ve landed jobs at a Rolls-Royce dealership, office buildings, and other large projects through Google.”


Social networking and joining the local chamber of commerce can also help painters get hired, Burke says, because it can greatly increase a company’s exposure.

“Many times, it’s about who you know. The chamber of commerce is a great way to network at different events. The more business owners and people you know, the better your chances are of getting more work.”


How painters conduct themselves after getting an estimate request is also extremely important to being hired, notes Jeremiah Metzger, owner of Metzger’s Painting Professionals, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona.

“When you receive an estimate request, be on time to the appointment, dress professionally, present yourself intelligently, be detailed in how you will perform if awarded the job, send an estimate describing in detail your services and warranty, send the proposal quickly, and follow up,” Metzger says.

In his experience, commercial management companies are a great source for a steady stream of work, since they often manage multiple sites throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area.

“Once you get an in with them, be consistent and provide quality work and good customer service,” Metzger notes.

For Virna Hudson who, along with her husband Cliff, has owned a Fresh Coat franchise in California since 2006, offering a fair price combined with outstanding work is key to being hired not just once, but numerous times by the same customer.

“You must bid at a competitive price, and then deliver a quality product so that the general contractor looks good. If you do this, they will take you with them to other projects,” Hudson says.

“The key is getting your foot in the door, then deliver.”


Painters who want to land some of the better contracts should also avoid certain tactics.

“I would say that just emailing commercial prospects is not enough. You need to pick up the phone or visit them in person,” Jooste says.

Also, when coming up with a quote for the project, Jooste says painters should remember that commercial customers are much more cost-conscious than most residential customers.

“Lastly, be sure to provide exceptional customer service to the residents or tenants of the building you’re painting. The last thing property managers want to do is deal with complaints stemming from your work.”

Steering clear of low bids is also something painters should keep in mind, Cliff Hudson says.

“Know what you can do the job for, and walk away if it is below your number. You have to know your business before you can do this.”

While being ready, willing and able to work is a good thing, Burke advises against acting overly aggressively with potential customers.


No matter what approaches they use to get hired, Metzger says the finished product is the most important type of advertising a painter can have.

“Customers will spread the word for you. You are in control of how your work will be talked about.”

Rich McConnell, operations manager for the painting and waterproofing division at R&B Contractors in Ohio, gets most of his work through word of mouth. He says this approach has kept him steadily busy and not needing to rely on advertising. “People know that I’m competent.”

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