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  • Vincent Nguyen, M.Eng, B.Eng

The Pros & Cons of Hiring Student Painters

Updated: Jan 7


If you are reading this article, chances are you probably just had a student painter knock at your door, offering you a free painting estimate. Having started my painting career in 2012 with a student painting company (College Pro Painters), I would like to provide insight into Toronto student painting companies and the pros & cons of dealing with them.


What Are Student Painting Companies?

Student painting companies such as College Pro, Student Works and Scholars At Your Service, are franchises that recruit university students to run painting franchises during the spring and summer. The term "Student Painter" refers to a university/college student who paints, not an apprentice painter learning the trade. Though the franchisees and painters tend to be students, this is not always the case. For example, when I ran a franchise with College Pro Painters in 2012, some franchisees and painters were not students; they were there because the money was good.


How Do Student Painting Companies Work?

Like most franchises, the franchisee pays a royalty to the company. In 2012, I was paying up to 24% of my revenue to College Pro Painters (I believe the other companies had the same royalty). In exchange, the company allowed me to operate under their name in a specific neighbourhood (Leaside). Training was provided on how to get projects, price them and eventually paint them. Unfortunately, the training provided was minimal (my training was a 3-day exterior painting project), and then I was sent off into the wild to continue training on other customers' houses. The franchisees are responsible for hiring and training their own painters (based on the single 3-day project). Often these student painters are their friends or other students who have never painted before. With that being said, some student painters and franchisees continue to paint and have more experience.

Student painters painting the exterior of a home in Leaside
My student painting crew (2012) trying to reach a 3rd floor dormer in Leaside

Pros & Cons of Hiring Student Painters


Pros

Student painters are more affordable compared to professional painters (but not always)

In 2012, the minimum wage in Ontario was approximately $11/hr. College Pro franchisees in Toronto were instructed to charge around $35/hr. At the time, professional painters typically charged around $40. However, the efficiency and expertise of a professional painter mean they may actually budget fewer hours, thus charging less than student painters (usually not the case).

Hiring student painters help them earn their tuition (but not always)

The work quality may be good if the crew is somewhat experienced

Student painters tend to be pleasant to deal with


Cons

A large chunk of the price goes to paying royalties

In 2012, I paid up to 24% of my revenue to the franchise. This was regardless of whether or not I profited. Depending on your reason for hiring student painters, homeowners should be aware that a large chunk of your project cost goes to the franchise and that the students may not necessarily make money.

Student painters are usually inexperienced or have under 2 years of experience

You risk your home being a "training house"

The finished product will probably not look as good compared to that of a professional painter



Verdict

Hiring student painters can save you money while getting you a good product and supporting local students. However, you should do your due diligence and ensure that the crew you are working with has enough experience and that the task is not too difficult. Old exterior painting projects are usually suited for student painters. As long as high-quality products are being used and the areas are far away enough, you won't likely have much to complain about for the price. However, you should avoid using student painters for jobs where aesthetic quality is the focus. For instance, projects involving semi-transparent decks, interior painting, and spraying trim are all projects where you should definitely hire a professional painter.





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