Christmas and January for a Self-Employed Decorator

By Mike Cupit


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.


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.



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Christmas and January for a Self-Employed Decorator