Christmas and January for a Self-Employed Decorator

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Dec 25, 2020 | Professional insight, Business | 5 comments

I’ve been a decorator for the best part of 20 years and for half of that time I’ve been running my own little decorating business. I’m not massive, just a one-man band targeting domestics local to me. I do a mix of interior and exterior work, airless spraying, and wallpaper.

The run up to Christmas and the 6 weeks after have always been a bit of a nightmare since going self-employed, for a few different reasons. I thought I’d put pen to paper and explain what Christmas and January are like for a self-employed decorator.


The Christmas Rush


The Christmas rush is odd in itself. You know you’re going to be busy just before Christmas, but people don’t seem to book until right at the last minute. It’s almost like they only look at their house at the start of December when they’re preparing for the big day. You always get the “can you do it before Christmas” line a few times in the buildup, and ultimately end up working weekends and lates to try and keep your regular clients happy. Your work / life balance can be off, but then it’s good to have some money for the months to come.

This gives me a strange mindset. I feel under pressure and tired, but I can see the finish line, so I just work towards that. Four weeks of hell and potentially broken promises to clients, all so I can work up to the first day when I don’t need to have an alarm set and can sleep in. (It doesn’t actually work like that, my body clock is too well programmed).


January and February


From January up until about mid-Feb is the hardest time for a self-employed decorator whose bread and butter are peoples’ houses!! A lot of clients just don’t have the money to spend, or they just don’t want the hassle of having work done. There’s twice as much work in the warmer months anyway because you get the exterior work, but January is particularly bad, by far the worst time of the year.

I know a few decorators who will appreciate the situation, but don’t have to worry about where the work is coming from. I know others who just take an extended break. I find myself dropping my prices slightly sometimes. I also do my annual “texting round” to a few choice clients, maybe a little social media campaign. It can be tough and it’s a massive contrast to December!! Again, it’s only temporary. The situation gets a lot better from mid-Feb and by March I’m inundated with phone calls.


Being a Self-Employed Decorator


I’ve just given you an idea of what it’s like to be a self-employed decorator from the start of December, through to mid-Feb. I know it may be an extreme example, but it depicts the working life of the self-employed brilliantly. It’s like being on a rollercoaster and nothing like working for someone else. No stability, one minute you’re flying, then next you’re struggling, or something goes wrong. Then you pick yourself up and go again. It’s hard at times, but very rewarding.


Final Thoughts


One of the advantages of being a self-employed decorator is we have a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to business. So, even though Christmas and January can bring certain pressures with it, we can adapt and overcome as we need to.

The first thing is to gauge how much work we have in the diary in the run-up to Christmas. If by October, we have work booked for January, then we have a head start. If not, then October might be the time to do something about it. We might try and spread out the work and fill those January slots or focus on marketing.

A lot of decorators I know manage their finances on the run up to Christmas, then take holidays in January.

This blog was written by Mike Cupit, a Professional Decorator of over 20 years and owner of Decorators Forum UK.

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Dec 25, 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.


  1. richard

    Too true Mike, l feel nowadays people get totally overwhelmed with the perfect family Xmas and if their hall /kitchen etc is not painted and looking good, new sofa carpets in many cases it be a disaster somehow and xmas is ruined.. Your good name then MUD for letting them down..
    At the time of the 1st lockdown people started to think different and revaluate their lifes… I thought great.

    It was worse…

    Best tip for next Xmas rush.

    Yes Mrs Smith, I will TRY my best and get done before Xmas. This covers your behind l found in the past.

    Paying accountants monthly better cashflow in January when tax bill and Accounting bill due good tip, also try not to buy too much on account in December, even pay suppliers a touch ir tell people buy materials yourselves as go along..
    so suppliers bills not high in 31 January.
    It can take a few months to settle down Working Capital in yoyr business is a thing of the past l finding.

  2. Pete Fearn

    Hi Mike
    For the first time i am fully booked in Jan and Feb, like you i am a 1 man band , i have never been so busy but having to be keen on price as lots of decs in my area , looking at a price rise for labour after April.

    • Mike Cupit

      That’s great to hear!! You must be doing something right Pete. It has been a very busy season for most decorators to be fair. Long may it continue

  3. Lee harris

    Hi I’ve been really lucky this year and been rushed off my feet and still going its nice too hear that there are painter’s aswell well. Looking too start fully on my own next year because of the way work is building up. Any tips would be appreciated.

  4. Robert Wilson

    Good decorators are in demand clients have money in the bank so are prepared to pay for quality we are as busy as we want to be one thing COVID taught us make time for yourself hence we don’t work Friday but put our hourly rate up to compensate


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