Pros - How did you get into it?
Just curious what your stories are. What was your experience before you started painting for money? When did you consider yourself a pro (in skill level, not by definition)? As a pro, how did you or how do you or did you deal with situations you haven't/hadn't encountered before? And what's the biggest thing that irks you about other pro painters?
In short- I spent 3 years in the painter apprentice program, and left the union and went solo in 81 . the learning never stops.
You always learn a new trick here and there. Summer before last I just learned pushing in the side of your bucket instead of using a screen for whizz roller. I have been painting off and on for the last 20 years and I never saw that done before. You can be a pro at many different types of painting. The first summer I held a brush & roller in my hand we painted empty college dorms. I have also worked for companies that specialize in $500K and up homes that use interior decorators to pick colors and will many times have 2 accent walls in a room.
The year I was born(1976) my father quit his long standing union painter job and moved the family to Tennessee to start a small farm. I grew up as a farm kid, lots of work, crops, cows , pigs. Farming was an every day dawn to dusk job for my dad.
Most of the small farms around here went bankrupt and were bought out by the government in the late 80's. including us.
So my dad with his union experience started a painting business. Being used to working with him whenever possible I apprenticed to him around age 16. Old school apprenticeship too, I filled nail holes, did switch plates, sanded, anything at all but paint, for about 2 years. Finally got to put some paint on just after high school.
Started training on spraying and hanging paper at around 22. Dad finally dubbed me a "journeyman" at 24.
My dad has been gone for awhile. I still think of him every day and am great-full to him for teaching me a trade and building a business that I took over. A lot of people aren't so lucky.
I put myself through school in the trades---primarily the landscape and painting ones. I liked both because the pros who practiced them were usually the last on the job and while they got screamed at for everything that had been wrong over the course of the project, they seemed even tempered and did get to "frost the cake" and finish things off.
The pros that took me under wing were crusty old geezers at the time but expert at painting with lots of tricks of the trade I used to the end. It was far enough back that many of us were still mixing our own color and I was good at that. For some reason, I took to painting trim and did it well and got better with practice so I seldom had trouble finding work with others.
I left the hands on part of the trades after school and practiced landscape design successfully for a number of years and specialized in designing outdoor structure (and building it when time permitted). I also worked for a major turfgrass management firm and was head designer for a retail nursery that specialized in designing and selling sinfully expensive container explosions of annuals, hanging baskets and intimate gardens. I started sneezing my head off almost all year round to the point I needed shots, Northern California got slapped with water rationing and folks wanted to tear out lawns and tacky lawn ornaments and pour concrete, so I bailed.
Family circumstances and reverse parenting forced me to pursue a career that made enough money to support a couple of households. I had a background in high technology and advanced healthcare and dental devices so slipped into a career in PR and crisis planning that I practiced at the highend for decades. When I no longer had to support to households, I relaxed and stopped living on airplanes.
When I returned to the trades I wanted to do more than paint so apprenticed with a couple of guys that did beautiful work on antique homes. I phased out of working for them and started doing projects on my own. I decided to slow down and not take on such comprehensive projects so shifted back to doing painting, and repairs to make it work out, more or less exclusively on antique homes and businesses and stayed busy until....
I suffered a DVT (blood clot in left leg) and a PE (pulmonary embolism when part or all of the clot moves into a lung on the path to the heart) about 5 years ago. Due in part to a nasty venous stasis ulcer on the leg (finally figured out how to help it heal just a couple months ago) I lost some use of my left leg and could not make it up and down ladders on a regular basis to paint anymore. I do miss it.
As mentioned, there is always something to learn. I was able to tap a nice network of people working on antique home and many of us got together to share information about products and techniques. We volunteered our time to rescue architectural elements from old homes being torn down. I stayed in touch with other painters and we backed each other up on projects from time to time.
My work kept me, and sometimes a couple others, more than busy and in many ways was of a type a lot of other painters did not want to mess with so I was never viewed as much of a threat. Most of us doing the same kinds of projects did not get into bidding wars and clients were suspicious of anybody undercutting us so we got along fine. All of us had waiting lists.
I also did a lot of work for art galleries, commercial and public, through the years so had the portfolio to move with to different locations. Such clients made good launching pads and at times, I also did lighting design and color consulting to go with the painting. Many painters do not want to be involved in color selection.
I guess I considered myself a pro when I, or those I worked for, charged a fair price for the jobs being done. I certainly learned a lot and have seen a lot of changes in materials over the years. I am now in the process of mentoring some young ones that did decent work for me. We shall see how they fare. One is a great trim painter and good overall but is slow. The other sees himself doing more new construction work and running a large crew. Time will tell.
I have not really done that much work here in the City so can help them only so far. One stayed in Central Illinois where I worked before and took over some of my clients there. I think she will be alright as she picks up speed.
My great granddad was a general contractor who taught his son and grandsons various parts of the building trades. My dad just happened to like painting and learned the ropes from my great granddad. He in turn taught me. I started at $2 an hour painting with my dad doing the ugly jobs like painting block foundations, shutters, etc. I worked summers in HS and through college. The money I saved from painting put me through (bank loans helped too) college. After a few jobs where I either got laid off or let go, I decided to enter the paint trade full time. Started in 1978 working for my dad. Became a contractor in 1991. Like many of you have mentioned, it is a constant learning process. I am just now (at age 50) feeling comfortable in the process of doing this job as a pro. I think that's why I have been successful. I am not afraid to tell customers that "I don't know, but I will find out." It's just the nature of this job......always changing.
What I dislike: Customers who won't pay. Nothing more frustrating than working your tail off on a stretch of 95 degree days in August, customer says they are pleased...........and you get nothing from them for 3 months.
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