Q: WHAT’S YOUR APPROACH TO GETTING WORK DURING THE OFF SEASON?
From August through October I let people know about our winterize and cleanup specials: I offer caulking around windows and doors; also, pressure washing the house, which includes washing the roof and chimney. For an upcharge, we’ll pressure wash the sidewalk, clean gutters, cut back branches and pull dead tree limbs from roofs. We offer small carpentry repair; for example, fixing loose siding and spouting or securing a fascia board. We replace rotted wood; we even take off shutters, repaint them in my shop, and put them back in place when the weather’s better.
In October and November, I call on customers whose exteriors we painted in the past few summers to see if they have any interior painting needs. I guarantee them we’ll be in and out before the holidays.
To market these services, I mail fliers to 300 or 400 of my most recent customers, offering our services. We usually get 30 to 40 calls and we’ll close on 20 to 40 jobs from that. Sometimes calls come from people seeing our job signs, and sometimes we look at houses that need painting and then we’ll approach the homeowner and let them know that we’re in their neighborhood.
Another service I’ve offered to fill in the winter work lull is Christmas lighting installation. The average price for a standard residential Christmas light installation is roughly $1,400 for a few hours of work. And, most of that is profit. A small company (two or three installers) can take in more than $100,000 during the three months of the season.
Wallpaper is another off-season service that’s worked well for me. It’s labor-intensive and most homeowners don’t know how to remove it—nor have the time to. For the contractor, a one-time purchase of a few low-cost wallpaper-removal tools … and you’re ready to go. The best part is, it’s all profit! We see higher margins removing wallpaper than we do painting interiors.
Finally, I’m not opposed to using loss leaders to gain business. For example, I’ll offer free plaster or drywall repair (within reason) for three or more rooms to be painted, or I’ll paint four rooms for the price of three. Many times, my company makes little or no profit, but it provides a paycheck and keeps us working. The key is to stay busy and keep the momentum going, even when you’re not profitable. I believe in the adage, “Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.”
Terry Begue, owner of Begue Painting, Inc. in Hartville, Ohio, has been in the painting industry since 1978. Begue prefers to focus on residential exteriors, and doesn’t work on new construction. He has become the local go-to expert in painting aluminum or cedar-sided homes. With a crew of just three painters and himself, Begue paints more than 100 homes each year, April through November. He credits his high volume to his house-a-day painting system, combined with the ability to communicate high value to his customers.
Begue wrote an e-book, The Wealthy House Painters Guide to Having It All, and created ‘The 4 Abilities’ (the4abilities.com) program, which helps business owners generate more business.