An Awkward Decorating Client

Updated May 10, 2024 | Posted Aug 20, 2021 | Professional insight, Life of a Decorator | 0 comments

You know you get some decorating clients who are just a pain in the backside? I’m lucky in that most of my work is repeat custom, but I do get the odd one. It just so happens I’ve just finished a job for that one awkward decorating client!!

An exterior job, priced in January when we didn’t have much on. I probably did under-price it slightly, but the client got three quotes and I was somewhere in the middle. I happened to get a very good price for the scaffolding which we needed for the job and I’m not VAT registered, which is what made my overall price slightly lower than the other two.

Anyway, 6 months later I got the go-ahead and started the job. Couple of gables, a load of sills and lints, some garden walls. Nothing too big, probably 6 days’ worth of work for two men. The client was down to get any joinery repairs sorted and he also asked if the roofer could use my scaff, no issues with that really.

We had the scaff erected the day before we were due to start, the scaffolder asked for a deposit, I passed that request to the client, who then started being a bit funny. I had a bad feeling from that point onwards, but he did pay the deposit in the end.


The roofer he had doing the work was away the week we were there, which meant we could crack on. We got everything boxed off to a good standard in a timely fashion. We went to lengths to surface fill every bit of masonry with Toupret Skim Coat and made sure it was right.

I made sure the masonry repairs would last. There were two little bits we couldn’t do. One was a joinery repair, the other was 3 coping stones on one of the garden walls which we couldn’t get to because of the scaffolding. The client paid us, but kept £300 back. He also refused to pay the scaffolder until everything was done. No biggie, he didn’t have much work to get done, then the scaff could come down and we could get everything boxed off.

The client did a site inspection and pulled us on 3 minor points (one of them was because we hadn’t painted the inside of the plastic gutters). We went back 3 or 4 times, either to do the minor snags, or because we were led to believe the joinery repair had been completed.

Anyway, it hadn’t. I’d promised the scaffolder we only needed the equipment for 2 weeks then he could take his kit back. 6 weeks later, I’ve got a high-rate scaffolder demanding money off me and a client who couldn’t organise a p*ss-up in a brewery and is refusing to pay. What should have been an easy job ended up being a lot of mider!! That scaffolder was ringing me every few days and I was stuck playing piggy in the middle. I felt like a numpty.

The scaffolder, knowing the client was being funny with everyone, wanted his money before the scaffolding could come down. The client, being a awkward bugger, wanted the scaffolding down before he would pay!! What a ball ache!! I really wasn’t happy with how the situation played out. Drama at every turn!! How would you have handled it.

Anyway, lesson learned. I managed to pacify the scaffolder in the end. I won’t work for that guy again and people can sort their own scaffolding out from now on.


So, just a little rant about working with awkward customers as a decorator!

I started a job about 2 weeks ago now. The spec was a whole house redecoration, already in white and going to be white again. Now before I even started the job, I said to the guy that I can only work in the evenings as I work for a company in the day, also weekends were not an option! The customer was fine with this and wanted me to start ASAP.

So off I went to the job two weeks ago as of yesterday and all I’ve managed to do is to stain the front door, complete one bedroom and a small bathroom. The reason being, because every time I text the customer and ask them if the next room has been cleared, he responds with “No not yet mate I’ll do it tomorrow” and then it never gets done.

Also, he tells me I cannot come until 5:45 in the evening, even though I finish work most days at about 3:00 – 3:30. So by the time I get there, set up and start work, it’s pretty much time for me to be pack away and come home. It’s a 30-minute drive to their house and I’m just wasting fuel! I got there today and knocked three times, and no one answered.

He has paid me for the work I’ve done, and I have other customers waiting for me to give them a date of when I can start. So, I’ve put the guy straight and basically said that I need the rooms to be clear and I need to come earlier…. In a nutshell, he’s binned me off, so I’ll be going to collect my kit tomorrow and now lost out on a lot of money. 🤬🤬 What’s worse is I see this all the time on The Forum

I’ve only ever worked for a firm and done my own bits on the side. Stuff like this puts me off going self-employed. I know most clients will be sound, but the awkward ones will make my working life hell. I think every now and again you just need to put your foot down with these people and tell them how it is!!

I only had to deal with this around a fixed hour 8-3 job. I couldn’t imagine having to deal with awkward customers whilst juggling everything else that comes with being self-employed, or needing to rely on people like this to earn a living. This has even put me off evening work. From now on, I’m going to stick to working for a boss. Let him deal with everything. I’ll turn up, do as I’m told, then take a wage at the end of every week.

Ben Moore

Professional Painter and Decorator


Could a Customer Really Ruin my Business?


Morning guys

Bit of an odd one – I worked in an area with no signal yesterday, but when I finally got a signal, I had 5 missed calls and 3 voicemails from a old lady I did about 3/4s of a day’s work for around 3yrs ago.

Basically, I had a call originally from her asking for loads of decorating to be done urgently, so I told her my day rate as she wanted to pay that way.

Halfway through the day she kicked off saying she wasn’t happy with our day rate and wanted to use an old decorator for £50 per day. I just said fine, got the lads to pack up and left. Later on that same day I had a call from the woman ranting because we hadn’t finished an area of the hallway. I explained that because she was not happy to pay our day rate, we couldn’t carry on. That said, I sent two guys back to appease her for half day a day.

Anyway, yesterday she was literally going mental saying she is going to destroy my business because we didn’t completely finish the job. Could a nutcase customer damage my business??

Also stated she withdrew £800 from the bank on this day and paid me in cash.

All utter lies!! I actually only got enough to cover paint. I think it was around £180.

But that aside, she reckons she is going to do everything in her power to cause me problems because “I don’t realise who I’m dealing with” etc 🙄😕😡

You literally couldn’t reason with her or make her see any sense at all!! But obviously from a business point of view, I don’t need the sh1t! I have never come across anyone like this in 20yrs .

What would you do??

Thoughts or experiences of nut job customers. Maybe the people on the Forum could help? 🤔🙄


Professional Painter and Decorator


A Customer Taking Over


I’ve just spent three and a half days stripping and preparing hall, stairs and landing. I completed all the donkey work, lined it with paper, and I was due to paint today.

As I left last night, the owner said she’d try a test piece. “no problem” I said. “Make sure you add a little water then, as that’s what I would do tomorrow for my first coat”.

She then spent the next half an hour arguing if adding water to my first coat is the correct way to proceed!! Like I don’t know what I’m talking about?! She text me that night and said “collect your tools ASAP, your work isn’t going to meet our expectations”.

I collected my tools and money this morning but forgot my Dyson as they’d put all my tool in the hall. I went back 2 hours later unannounced to ask for my Dyson and she answered the door covered in paint!!

So why didn’t she just say she wanted to take it from here? Or did she get frightened when the lining bubbled, cancelled me then got up this morning and it was fine??

The standard of work was spot on for where I was up to and no one would/could argue anything was not as it should be. This job is fine until the public get involved. Lol

I’m not sure what happened here if I’m honest. The customer obviously wanted to take over, but I’m unsure why. The quality of my work was good, so no issues there. It’s almost like they had some sort of insecurity about someone else working on their house. That’s why thy argued about my method (which was also spot on). They weren’t in control of the job, which made them feel uneasy.

It’s dropped me right in it to be fair. Not only are they taking over after I did all the horrible work, but I also need to find extra work for the rest of this week with next to no notice. I suppose the odd nightmare customer is all part and parcel of being a professional decorator.

Tony Coupe

Professional Painter and Decorator


Decorating Customers Don’t Like You Finishing Early


99% of decorating customers don’t like it when you finish early after grafting your backside off!! I’ve just completed an outside today which we also started this morning. 11 windows, 7 frames, 1 garage door and various bits of masonry. It was all going white. The windows needed a good sand back and 2 part filler on most of the windowsills.

One part of the masonry needed scraping back and stains sealed as part of the prep. All the work had I coat undercoat and one gloss finish. Most windowsills had to be primed with Zinsser cover stain.

Bear in mind there’s two of us. We got done for 3pm after starting at 7.15. The cheeky so-and-so of a client has asked for a discount because we completed in 1 day. The price was £550!! They supplied the Trade paint so my bill is just for labour.

I pointed out that if it would of taken us 2 days would she of been prepared to pay extra? Of course, she said “not at all”. This happens far too often in our trade that when you graft and earn your money clients hate it….

Customers just don’t see it, do they. Painting and Decorating is hard and being self-employed is even harder. We just don’t stop; it isn’t just the work we do while we’re on a job. We have quoting, admin, consultancy, washing tools, packing the van and more.

On top of all this we have the running costs they also don’t see. Tool maintenance, marketing, insurance, the list goes on!

If I submit a quote and the job runs over, I’m expected to swallow the cost. I can’t ask the client for more money. So, why does leaving early one day matter to them? We work hard, don’t stop for a break, start early.

Just pay up next time!

Pete James

Professional Painter and Decorator

Updated May 10, 2024 | Posted Aug 20, 2021 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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