Basic Rules for The Self-Employed Decorator

Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Nov 3, 2020 | Professional insight, Business | 5 comments

If you’re a decorator and you’re thinking about becoming your own boss, there are a few very basic things that you must get right in order to succeed. I’m no big professor or guru so this blog is going to be very basic, but getting all the points right will be vital for your next step. These are the basic rules for any self-employed decorator.


Don’t Under-Sell Yourself as a Decorator


Running a small business isn’t cheap and you’ll have running costs to pay from the start, up until you retire. Not just that, but you do a lot of unpaid work in the evening, either quoting, washing tools or getting organised. You need to find a way you can make it pay, so do not undercharge on quotes, even when you’re desperate for work!!

I’ll give you an idea of what I mean. Your running costs include your insurances, keeping your van on the road, tool maintenance, mobile phone and any scheme memberships. Everyone’s running costs are different, but mine are roughly £30 per day.

So if your running costs are £30 per day and you’re only charging £120 on your day rate, then your actual wage is £90 per day. If you have to do some running around after your day on the tools, maybe go out and price a job, then you’re working 10 hours for that £90. That’s only £9 per hour!! You can earn a better working at Asda!!


Remember that’s a self-employed rate, so you don’t get holiday pay, sick pay or pension. You’re earning the equivalent to about £6 per hour. Hardly seems worth it really? So, the first basic rule for any self-employed decorator, is charge your worth. If you’re worried about losing work, focus on marketing for a while, but don’t drop your prices.


A Decorator’s Uniform


A decorator need to come across in the correct way!! If you turn up in a car with paint up the sides and scruffy genes on, then you’re not going to win the work. Have a van, keep it clean, make sure you’re wearing whites and keep them clean too. By looking the part, you send a message to your customers. You’re clean, tidy and care about appearance.


Look After your Decorating Tools


For no other reason than it’ll be expensive if you don’t. Wash brushes and rollers every week (or every day if you have time). Keep everything in a box or bag and make sure you can get your hands on the tool you need, when you need it. As a decorator, you will need to invest in dust free sanders (maybe not straight away). You’ll need sprayers too if you want to maximise your earning potential. It all costs money, so look after them.


Leave a Clean and Tidy Job When Decorating


Your work needs to be bang on as a decorator, that goes without saying. The other thing that goes a long way is keeping the job clean and tidy. Set your base out and keep all your tools on it. When you finish a job, get everything looking immaculate before you go. Get it dust free, remove any waste and make sure there is no paint on anything there shouldn’t be paint on. You’ll impress everyone you work for by doing this.


Don’t be a Mug!!


You are the expert!! Do not let your customers tell you how to do your job or push you around. Your price is your price and you are available when you are actually available. If a job runs over, do not be afraid to pick up the phone and have an awkward conversation with your next client to push their start date back. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed!!


The Stress of Being a Self-Employed Decorator


Do not let anyone tell you “Decorating is therapeutic”, because it isn’t! Being a self-employed decorator can be very stressful. There is a lot that can go wrong, from nightmare customers to jobs running over. Rain can stop play, or a supplier might mess up an order. Maybe you smash an expensive TV with your roller pole.

Being self-employed is like being on a rollercoaster; One minute you’re flying, the next it feels like you’re drowning. Make sure you have the correct liability insurance in place, and do not take your work life stress home with you.

Blog written by Mike Gregory – Professional Painter, Decorator and Blogger

Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Nov 3, 2020 | 5 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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  1. Richard

    Great advice Mike.

    I would add not to give customers your full discount at merchants, your discount is commercially sensitive information.
    Merchants push for this as desperate for any trade stop customers going wickes..
    Not to let customers know you work weekends. Once your start they expect all time, l speaking from past experience.
    Your weekend is your time its a hard job especially over 40s body stars to desperately need a rest.

    Can actually sadly cause marriages to finish, Wifes not stand for bringing kids up themselves every weekend…its 2020 not 1970. that be FAR FAR more expensive AND damaging than losing a few weekends work over the year.
    Think twice 99pc customers couldn’t care less about your personal happiness all matters their job done.
    Holidays extremely important, book advance and take it cause if you dont you wont take it off and sit about house, sadly l now think holidays are starting to become hard to justify to customers pre Covid.

  2. Brian Roberts

    Absolutely, well put and very true, really good order, brilliant 👍

  3. Pete Lewis

    Great advice. Being confident in your pricing is crucial.It comes with experience ( and doing a couple of jobs you underpriced which always turn out to be the most awkward). People will ALWAYS think your price is too high.I now know what I believe my work is worth so price accordingly. I’ve even had a client ask me if I could lower my price and when I said I believe the price is competitive for the work required, they said fair enough, we were going to choose you for the job but still wanted to see if we could save a bit more money.No offence! Also,sounds weird but taking your shoes/ boots off when looking at or undertaking work! I find that makes a big impression (And so does leaving them on)!

  4. Matt

    Is it still possible to have the password to access your costing program if so that would be much appreciated.
    Best regards

  5. Redman decorators

    Pretty much spot on kid


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