How to Start a Painting and Decorating Business

Updated Feb 8, 2024 | Posted Apr 27, 2021 | Professional insight, Business | 6 comments

I’ve been a Professional Decorator for the best part of 21 years, 12 of which were spent as a sole trader. So, I know how to start a painting and decorating business and what it takes to really get going.

I thought I’d put pen to paper and write a simple guide, as well as highlighting some of the resources that are available to help. I hope you find it useful.

 

Training to Become a Decorator

 

The first thing you should consider is whether you’re capable of carrying out decorating work to a professional standard. Funnily enough, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are qualified. A lot of great Decorators never went to college, but they have worked with other Decorators and received proper training.

Too many people out there assume decorating is easy, and think they can just buy a set of cheap tools and throw a few leaflets out. Well, they’re wrong. If you want to be capable of carrying out a proper standard of work, then you must first go through the years of training required.

 

Marketing

 

This is something you will need to focus on to begin with. Then moving forward, there are two different types of small decorating business owner. There are the ones who live off recommendations and repeat clients and as a rule, need to win most jobs they go to see.

Then there are those who put time and budget into marketing and raise their prices to a point where they’re winning maybe 1 in 3 jobs they go to look at. I’m speaking in general terms, but doing the latter will earn you a better income as a Painter and Decorator. After all it is a business, and running it as a business will generate a lot more profit. I’ll take you through some of the ways I bring in painting and decorating work. The main thing is to talk to as many people as you can!!

Have a walk around local estate agents, introduce yourself, then leave them a card.

Advertisement

Call in at a house renovation and have a chat to the owner or contractor, or even spend a day phoning round designers and builders (although working for builders can be a pain). Just have as many conversations as you possibly can!!

You will need a good quality website when you get up and running properly, but you set up a decorating business without one. A website acts as a reference point for everything you do. You can add it to free directories, share the URL on social media and even print it on your business cards. As you develop, you may want to go down the SEO route to generate leads from Google and other search engines.

Facebook is pound for pound the most cost-effective method when paying for advertising. You can create a Facebook page and just use it as a blog. Show your audience what you can do and try and make yourself familiar with them. I find boosting posts are a great way of bringing in enquiries, however you do seem to get a lot of timewasters through Facebook. Running social media competitions are a great way to really get things moving.

Instagram becomes a gallery to showcase your painting and decorating work. It may not bring in many leads, but you can direct potential clients to an Instagram page so they can see your projects. There are simple ways you can grow your Instagram following which are worth looking at.

I could go on and on about marketing!! I’ve given you the very basics, but as you go on with your business, you’ll find yourself targeting specific types of jobs or clients, which becomes a bit more complicated.  One of the best books out there is Marketing for Decorators by Jon Mears which is available online. If you’re starting a decorating business, then I would highly recommend it. Click here to see current prices.

 

Quoting for Painting and Decorating Jobs

 

Quoting is so important to get right if you’re looking to run a successful decorating business. You’re not just turning up to offer a price, it’s your opportunity to sell yourself. Book a time, turn up when you’re supposed to, wear clean whites and take your shoes off at the front door. This will go a long way.

Advertisement

As the client is talking to you about the decorating they’re thinking of having done, talk them through the process and materials you’d use to do the job. Highlight specific primers and their qualities or suggest specialist ceiling paints and talk them through the benefits of water-based trim paints. You need to take the lead when quoting. Your client will feel a lot more comfortable if they see you as the expert.

One very important thing to remember; if you get a bad feeling about someone, do not do any decorating work for them!! Trust your gut. You’ll learn to spot the telltale signs of a nightmare customer.

We have a separate blog on how to price a decorating job which you’ll find useful when working out the quote. There’s also a book by Pete Wilkinson called Fast and Flawless Pricing and Business for Decorators, which is available online, and well worth checking out. This book will help put you in the correct mindset to make profit from each job. Click here to see prices.

Quotes should be detailed and name products as you go. Try to get them back to your client as soon as you can. Oh, and attach some terms and conditions too!! These not only make you look professional, but also cover you.

The other thing you could do is sign up to AppyQuote. This is an app for Decorators to create professional-looking quotes for jobs in minutes. You can use it on your phone, which makes things even easier.

It comes with a 30-day free trial, and then if you use code AQDFUK when you sign up, you also get 3 months half price, which is another bonus. Click here for more info.

Advertisement

Trade Paint Accounts

 

I thought I’d mention this quickly. As a Professional Painter and Decorator you will want to stick to trade quality materials and you’ll be entitled to a trade discount at many decorating centres. The big three are Johnstone’s, Dulux and Crown, however there are loads of independent merchants too. You should set up a trade account with more than one store, this way the paint suppliers will need to be competitive with their pricing structure in order to win your business. Paint is getting so expensive nowadays with price increases every few months, so it’s important to negotiate the best rates you can.

You may also want to check out Tikkurila, who are the new player in town. I find their products can be a real talking point. If you need a trade paint website, then The Decorating Centre Online are well worth a look. If you want high end, then Benjamin Moore is perfect for you.

 

Other Important Things to Remember When Running a Decorating Business

 

There are a few other important things to remember. Liability insurance is crucial!! We do have a discount with a company called Coversure Poole who are very good. You can find them on our Approved Suppliers page.  Or call them on 01202 801782 and quote “DFUK” to qualify for insurance discount.

Do not under-sell yourself. As a painting and decorating business, you will have running costs which you must cover before you can take an income. If your rates are low, you will rush your work and as a result you’ll experience more issues. Plus, your cashflow will be a nightmare to manage!!

Stay organised and on top of everything. Maintain communication with all your clients, particularly the awkward customers, as they can be more difficult to manage. Push a job back when something else is running over, make time for quoting, marketing and the maintenance of tools. If you’re organised, running your decorating business will be a lot easier.

Advertisement
[/et_pb_row]

Oh, and choose your time wisely. Decorators are a lot busier during the spring and summer, so starting a painting and decorating business in the warmer months is a lot easier than during the colder ones.

 

Being a Specialist Decorator

 

OK, I’ve explained how to start a painting and decorating business, but there is a way earn more money than other decorators. I know loads of self-employed decorators in the industry who specialise in specific aspects of the trade. Kitchen spraying, uPVC spraying, Silk Plaster, Digital Wall Murals, there is plenty of things you can look at. Try browsing the Dulux Academy website for ideas. They also run course in marketing and business.

Going down this rout will generate a lot more income, but you need to go about it in a different way. “Word of mouth” won’t cut it as a marketing strategy, and you’ll need to work hard to generate your customer base.

You WILL need a website and spend a bit of time boosting social media posts. Maybe even pay for Google Ad Words. You may end up spending £300 every month on marketing, but if you do it correctly, you will live a comfortable lifestyle.

There is another book I’d recommend if you fancy having a go at this. It’s called The Specialist Decorator. Well worth a read.

I hope you found this blog useful

How to Start a Painting and Decorating Business – by Mike Cupit

Advertisement

How I got into Professional Decorating

 

I was ‘wannabe’ Graphic Designer who went to university and failed due to a mixture of circumstances and lack of dedication. It was too competitive in that field and still is.

Out of boredom I decorated my own house where I lived in with my family. Off the back of decorating my own house, I got asked to decorate my then landlord’s other property for £40 a day. I accepted with no hesitation as I had a daughter at a very young age and any money at that time was a blessing.

After realising I may have a natural fair and a passion for painting, I decided to go to college and get my qualifications at the age of 26. I found it very difficult as I had to sit amongst people who treated the course as a way to avoid visiting the dole office on a regular basis. I can’t thank my tutors enough. They saw how dedicated I was and made the extra effort with me. Any question I had got answered, proper old school decorators. (Steve & Paul, Vauxhall Rd, Liverpool). They showed me how to “sling” properly, paint a door, mouldings, panels, rails, styles. Everything I’d need to know to get into professional decorating.

I got used and abused from fully fledge companies, as I’d take the minimum amount offered, yet work like a dog to the point where I’d neglect my family.

I finally got the confidence to start on my own and even though its stressful, I’ve never been happier …

I’m undercutting, overpricing, over estimating, and still learning. Being a self-employed decorator is the best job in the world when things are going well. I’m my own boss, I get job satisfaction and the amount I earn is in my own hands. I can only get better, but I’m already proud of what I can do now. This is the best feeling in the world!!

Have faith in yourself, strangers don’t say nice things for no reason

This forum has been a big help

by Steven Grace – please visit; www.gracefuldecor.co.uk/

A good understanding of things beside painting, such as accounting, promotion and be prepared to invest in yourself and the business for the long run.

Matt Limer

Having been a sole trader in UK for 16 years and now recently starting a painting and decorating business again here in Australia, the three things that I believe are most important to make sure I was able to make a decent living and acquire a good reputation are :

When looking at jobs or answering enquires, actually think about what the client is asking for and how you can help them. I’ve won jobs by simply giving them a few colour charts from my van and showing them similar colours, explaining that any colour can be made in any brand so they could have an expensive brands colour mixed to a more affordable brand. Little 5 minute acts can win the job.

Don’t be too proud of the things you don’t know or are not very good at and always be willing to ask fellow decorators or go on courses. If the need is there for a skill you’re not very good at (Mine was always installing coving) then learn to do it.

The final one and hardest is pricing! Work out what you are and aren’t willing to work for in a day- have constant ears to the ground of what clients have previously paid for decorating. Or, what other trades in your area charge, what fellow decorators are charging (hard one) and gauge the amount of quotes your winning. If you’re polite and friendly and offer good advice and you have ten quotes out and haven’t won one, you’re probably too expensive compared to your competitors. If you’re instantly winning all of them, you’re probably the cheapest which may mean your selling yourself and your skills short.

Peter Lewis

Start small. Own and learn from your mistakes. Most people are great, some are just out to do you down, but they are few and far between. Don’t be afraid to walk away if something doesn’t feel right.

Prep is everything in decorating. Get insurance. Ask friends and family if they need anything done to help build a portfolio.

Wear a mask when not using dustless sanding systems and when spraying. Never be afraid to come on here and ask for help if you are unsure. You will have to sift through a barrage of posts about gardening, “things weren’t like this when I was an apprentice painter on HMS victory” etc but there are some of us who are helpful.

Alex Greenhalgh

Updated Feb 8, 2024 | Posted Apr 27, 2021 | 6 comments

6 Comments

  1. Paul Freeman

    Some good advice Mike ,plenty of self motivation and discipline helps push your business also .

    Reply
  2. Richard

    Great advice Mike,
    Dont feel you need to work 7 days a week is my advice, a plasterer told me if you need to work weekends to make money then you are too cheap.

    Body needs a rest time over 35 /40 weekends,
    Sat am at a push occasionally.

    Your customers couldn’t care less about YOUR family time.
    Often think if wifes get P off by us working 7 days and never seeing kids doing anything together etc then a divorce caused by that will be a LOT more expensive than losing your weekend work.

    Imagine starting again buying or renting house with half the income you had..
    A new relationship etc in middle age just because you got unfairly pressured into working YOUR weekends…
    Say NO and think of the Far bigger picture..

    Reply
  3. Daniel Coffey

    Thanks Mike great advice,
    Onwards and upwards

    Reply
  4. Magic View Decorating

    Great Blog, extremely informative and helpful. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  5. ben

    im just about to finish college p&d level 2 and I’m 39.Im worried about putting myself out there as painter.

    Reply
    • Mike Cupit

      Could you work for somone else for a few months to get your confidence up?

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *