How to Price a Decorating Job
By Mike Cupit
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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.
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.
How to Price a Decorating Job