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How to Price a Decorating Job

Updated Oct 5, 2022 | Posted Jan 21, 2021 | Business, Professional insight | 15 comments

Pricing posts come up all the time on Decorators Forum UK, and they’re hardly ever helpful. I’m no guru by any means, but I am a decorator of 19 years and I’ve been self employed almost 10 of those years.

I thought I’d run you through how I price a decorating job. If you’re about to make the leap to becoming self-employed and you’re unsure, this simple blog will help.

 

Running Costs of a Decorating Business

 

First of all, it is important to understand that what you charge and your salary are two completely different figures. I know it sounds obvious, but a lot of people overlook this simple fact. We have to buy and maintain our own tools, keep a van on the road, pay for marketing or scheme memberships, Public liability insurance and much more. We also need to account for the time we take in the evenings and weekends running around pricing jobs, aftercare for existing clients, sick days and bank holidays.

My advice is to sit down and work out how much you spend on the upkeep of your business over the average week. If you haven’t already, it’ll be an eye opener for you. Also, if you don’t spend money on marketing then you should do, otherwise you will find it difficult to increase your prices. A good resource for this is jonmears.co.uk. Or, if you’re into books you can pick up Marketing for Decorators from Amazon which I would highly recommend.

I can tell you now that I spend approximately £150 every week on running costs, or £30 per day.

 

Pricing an Interior Decorating Job

 

Ok, let’s get down to how to actually price a decorating job. There is a simple formula which I follow every time when quoting an interior job. First of all, I work out how many days the job would take to complete. If we’re talking about multiple rooms, just break it down and work out how long you’re likely to spend in each. Do not start thinking about part days. If a room will take a day and a half, work on it taking 2. Allow for extra time in case your job runs over.

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Next you need to work out how much to charge per day. Start with your wage. I can’t really tell you how much you should be earning. It depends on whether you run your business well, how long you’ve been trading, the client base you’ve accumulated and where you are in the country. The average wage in the UK is £120 per day, so that is a good starting point.

Running costs, which we’ve already talked about, is your next consideration. Mine are £30 per day, but yours will be different.

The last thing you need to consider is profit. You need this as a working capital within your business. New van, a float for materials, and any unexpected costs which come along. I add an extra tenner per day for this.

Add all this together, times it by how many days it will take you to complete the job and add the cost of materials.

On the average day I personally like to earn £140, my running costs are £30 and I add a tenner to go into the business pot. Therefore, my day rate is £180 per day, times the number of days I estimate the job will take, plus materials.

You shouldn’t be winning every job you go and see so if you are, you need to increase your prices. As long as you get your marketing right, the leads will keep coming and you can afford to lose out on a few.

 

Pricing an Exterior Decorating Job

 

I go one further when I price an exterior decorating job. You need to allow for the unpredictable weather for a start. I don’t get paid to sit in the van and look at the rain, so I always make sure I cover myself by adding extra money to the quote. On top of this, you get more unexpected repairs, mostly patches of rot in woodwork. If your terms and conditions allow, you can add extras onto the bill for unexpected repair work, however you also need to cover yourself on the original price. Plus, you should earn extra money for working at height.

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You can make really good money on external decorating jobs when things go your way, but you can equally be left out of pocket when they don’t.

 

Quotes Vs Estimates

 

I’ll touch on this briefly from the decorators’ point of view. Depending on the job in hand, sometimes I offer a quote and sometimes it is an estimate. Let’s be clear, as long as you have proper terms and conditions in place, you will always be covered for unforeseen work. For example, if you end up having to repair plaster because it’s blown, or you need to complete a bit of joinery work after finding a spot of rot. None of that is your fault and you can charge for it.

So, you can charge  for extras regardless of whether you offer a quote or a estimate. However, excluding unforeseen work, a quote is a fixed price which you should stick to, regardless of how long the job takes.

An estimate is a rough idea of cost. If you agree with a client bill will be based on £160 per day and it will take roughly 10 days, you may estimate the job will cost £1,600. If you complete the work a day early, their bill will drop to £1,440. If you take a day longer your bill would increase to £1,760.

This is a safer way of doing things, but it means having to discuss day rates with clients, which can be a nightmare. They start clocking what time you arrive, when you leave and when you stop for a break.

However, an estimate is handy when you really haven’t got a clue how long it’s going to take. Say you’re on a big wallpapered hallway and you’ve got to remove all the original wallcovering. You suspect the walls behind are knackered, a fixed quote is impractical until you can see the state of the walls underneath the existing paper. All I’d do is explain the variables, offer an estimate and explain the bill will probably have a different amount it.

 

Business Help

 

I started off by telling you I am no guru and that still stands, however I have explained to the best of my ability how to price a decorating job. I hope it has given you a few things to think about. There are some other resources you should definitely check out.

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The first is a Decorators Guide to Pricing, which is an amazing book, easy to read and really makes you think. It changes your mindset. You can order this online from Amazon.

The other book you should check out is Marketing for Decorators. This will help you look at your business in a different way and really motivate you to move forward. This is also available on Amazon.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The above blog lays out how I price decorating jobs. There are people in the industry that do things differently. For example, some decorators work on meterage, or “price per door”, which can also work well.

One thing I will say, is if you’re in two minds about the final price on a quote you’re putting together, don’t worry about being “too expensive”, worry about being “too cheap”. I’m not talking about being greedy, but if you do submit a low price, you will put yourself under a lot of pressure. This is especially true for the bigger jobs.

 

How to Price a Decorating Job – by Mike Cupit

Updated Oct 5, 2022 | Posted Jan 21, 2021 | 15 comments

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15 Comments

  1. Craig Hibbert

    Really good advice. I’ve been on the tools over 20 years. This is how I have always worked.

    Reply
  2. Phoenix

    Thanks for this blog, it’s really helpful. Very insightful. Thank you for the literature also.

    Reply
  3. Robert Wilson

    Very good advice the only thing I would add as self employed decorators we should put something away for our retirement either a pension or ISAS or in my case I have property unfortunately I have a lot of fellow decorators who will have to work way past retirement

    Reply
  4. Jason McCourt

    A very good read with sound advice, i will certainly be changing the way i price jobs

    Reply
  5. Debbie

    A really good and informative read. I will certainly take it on board. Thanks

    Reply
  6. Des Harkin

    Very good advice and hopefully helps some of the decorators on the page. I would highly recommend any of the members of the group to really think about paying into a pension pot for their future. I was self-employed for 15 years and didn’t even consider it. Now in full time employed fir 5 years and paying high monthly payments in to a fund trying to catch up.

    Reply
    • Tony

      Thanks for all the advertising and explanation how things should be add up.
      I have working on construction industry for the last 20 years,as handyman and now just set up my new business for painting and decorating also handyman jobs. Thanks for tips!!!
      Keep up all with the good work 💪😉,and success with your business!

      Reply
  7. Joe MC namara

    Went out on my own recently great advice well done

    Reply
  8. Andy Newland

    Very interesting and helpful thank you.

    Reply
  9. Derek fenwick

    I have basically used the same method and stick to it
    I have an hourly but never tell a customer what it is because it always seams a lot to them .
    If I am on £25 an hour and the job will take me 10 hours then the price is £250 .
    So charge per room
    Eg ceiling 2 coats Emulsion2 1hr
    Walls 2 coats 3 hours
    Woodwork 2 coats 3 hours
    Preparation 2 hours
    Total 10 hrs = £250

    Reply
  10. Scott

    Great advice here, very similar to the way I price, would be interested to know from a few folk how do they incorporate travel to and from the job.

    Cheers scott

    Reply
  11. Alley

    Hi. I’m trying to price a decorating job of quite a large scale. It’s to prep and paint the communal hallways, stairs and landings in 6 blocks of flat. On average. Each block of flats has approximately 8 flats. Time scale we have worked out that with 3 men, 5 days a week, for 1 year will be the time frame the job will take. We have to also take into consideration materials and wellness such as wellness office and hire toilets for staff. It sounds a lot but the figure we are coming up with for the quote is around £300k mark. Does this sound completely ridiculous? I keep coming up with the same figure. Any advise would be much appreciated. Thank you

    Reply
  12. John

    I just got into decorating as a side hustle actually and have to say I will follow these tips. Since the pricing and negotiating were the hardest parts for me.

    Reply
  13. Jade

    Thanks for sharing these tips! Just saved so I can refer to this in the future.

    Reply

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