How to Win Work as a Painter and Decorator Without Competing on Price

Updated Feb 17, 2024 | Posted Jul 2, 2023 | Professional insight, Business | 8 comments

I’m a Painter and Decorator in the Northwest of England who focuses mainly on domestic work (peoples’ houses). I see debates on social media amongst tradespeople about how much a Decorator can charge. One of the arguments I see is, “people just wouldn’t pay good money in my area”. However, I’m not 100% sure I agree with that.

I thought I’d take the time to sit-down and write a very quick blog on how to win work as a Painter and Decorator without competing on price. I’ll try and keep it short because I know I can waffle on, and this entire write-up is based solely on my opinion and experience. This is what works for me.

I’ll focus more on the actual quoting side of things. It’s obvious that if you can increase the number of enquiries you receive, you will need to convert less to stay busy, so you can raise your prices. But if I start talking about marketing then we’re going to be here forever. That said, if you do want help with marketing, check out Social Media for Decorators (click here), or Sales and Marketing for Decorators (click here).

How to Win Work as a Painter and Decorator – the Consultation Stage

 

Right, you’ve had your enquiry, and someone wants you to carry out some decorating in their house. Say it’s a couple of bedrooms and a lounge. You agree a day and time, then head round to see your potential client.

I find it’s better to turn up in my whites. It’s a uniform after all and looks professional. Always take your shoes off at the door, and make sure the client sees you doing it. Say something like “I’ll just pop my shoes here”.

Things like this sound silly, but you’re essentially trying to make a sale, so you need to build trust. Your aim while you’re in the house is to let the client know you take care in peoples’ homes, you’re an expert in what you do, and you’re going to take steps to ensure the work is carried out to a great standard. This is how you stand out as a Decorator! This is how you win work without pricing too low.

I don’t tend to accept hot drinks, just because I need both my hands to point and write notes. Plus, I don’t want to hang around after I’ve finished talking through the work.

 

Talk Through EVERYTHING and Upsell Where you can

 

Don’t go into a room and come out with things like “ok, 2 coats of white emulsion on the ceiling, 2 coats of coloured on the walls, and satinwood on the woodwork”. Any Decorator can do that, and you need to prove you’re better than any Decorator.

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You might walk into a room and start by talking about painting a ceiling white. At this stage you should point out any cracks and explain how you would fix them. You should then recommend a ceiling paint and explain why you’d use it.

Say something like, “Tikkurila Anti-Reflex is the best white emulsion for a ceiling. It’s a very low-sheen paint that cuts down on defects like flashing and picture framing and hides imperfections on the plaster. It might cost a bit more, but it will look gorgeous”. (obviously talk about your favourite products, which aren’t necessarily the same as the products on this blog).

Same sort of thing with the walls. Sometimes a client has a brand in mind, sometimes they’re happy to take your guidance…. Always give guidance! Explain what you use and why you use it. IF you get the sense the client wants the best of the best, you upsell again. Instead of using Johnstone’s Covaplus, you recommend Perfect Matt. Instead of Dulux Trade Vinyl Matt, you recommend Heritage.

Woodwork is an easy thing to upsell. I use water-based paint, which gives me plenty to talk about. If you’re the same, tell them about the 2010 VOC restrictions and the issue with yellowing. Explain water-based technology has come a long way in recent years. Give your recommendations and explain why you use it. Say something like, “Benjamin Moore Scuff X is the best on woodwork. It is expensive, but it’s fully water-based, looks fantastic and is durable. A cheaper alternative might be WRX Satinwood. Again, it’s a fantastic paint that leaves you with a crisp white finish that looks awesome and is hard as nails”.

Oh, the other thing you need to do is explain what you will need from them if you go ahead. You need to tell the client that you will buy all the decorating materials, how you want the rooms prepared, the “extras” that may occur while you’re carrying out the work etc. Get it all out of the way now to make your life easier further down the line.

 

The Quoting Stage

 

The actual quotes are dead easy. Get the spec down on letter-headed paper (prep process, number of coats, the materials used etc). Get your terms across too, outlining payment terms, what you need to carry out the work, what you’re liable for etc. Mention your liability insurance etc.

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Email everything across as soon after the consultation stage as you can. Then, if you don’t hear anything back, follow up with a text a week later “hi, it’s Mike here from ……. I got that quote over to you last week. I just thought I’d follow-up to make sure you got it”.

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.

 

Final Thoughts

 

If you do everything on this blog, then you will win more jobs as a Painter and Decorator without needing to compete on price. Let me tell you a secret – most Decorators are unreliable! A potential client might phone them half a dozen times, and then it takes the Decorator weeks to turn up, do the consultation, and then send a text with the quote on. A lot of clients have a nightmare trying to find someone, or they have tales of bad Decorators they have had in the past who carried out substandard work!

These are the tradesmen you’re competing against! Stop trying to compete on price! Just be reliable, make sure the client knows how good you are, and get the quote back quickly. Do that and you can charge good money and you will always be busy.

I hope that helps.

How to Win Work as a Painter and Decorator Without Competing on Price – by Mike Gregory

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We love picky clients

 

WE LOVE PICKY CLIENTS!!! I’d work for them all the time if I could. Why?

We’re a small decorating business who strive for perfection and rely on our reputation.

We figured out a long time ago that most picky clients will pay more. The trick is to figure out which clients are going to be picky before sending the estimate. This process is what turns a lead into a potential client.

By asking the right questions, you can begin to understand, and manage your clients’ expectations, and intentions.

Have you had other estimates?
When do you expect it done by?
Have you put together a preliminary budget?

These are just a few of the questions that can help you weed out the tire kickers, and get right to the informed, ready to buy clients.

This also helps you identify problem clients, picky clients, and budget clients.

After that, price accordingly!! We have enough confidence in our level of work to know we can meet anyone’s standards. We are pickier than any client we have ever worked for. If we know our client demands perfection, we price for perfection, and then deliver it.

This type of client will also want us to use the very best paint. Everything from water-based satinwood to the best durable matt emulsion available. This is another advantage of working for picky clients.

To find out more about why we love picky clients, check out my Facebook page.

Corey Adams

Professional Decorator

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How to Win Painting Jobs

 

There are only 2 ways to compete in sales when it comes to winning painting jobs as a decorator: Price & Value.

That’s it.

There are different ways of making yourself seem valuable when estimating – For example:

Showing up on time

Smelling good

Being respectful (taking shoes off?)

Being thorough in your walk around

Offering suggestions

Alleviating concerns

Building rapport

Connecting

Having a thorough estimate

Having clean marketing (nice business card?)

You get the idea….

If you fail at the above, the customer has nothing but PRICE to compare you to.
People aren’t lowballing you, or cheap. If you’re a professional in this industry, you’ve heard people say they are WILLING TO PAY MORE FOR A QUALITY PROFESSIONAL. (All caps for the emphasis.)

Another way to stand out and win more of the painting jobs you go to see, is to talk the customer through the process. Explain the prep you would carry out on each surface, and how many coats of paint you would apply. Recommend materials too. If you recommend something like Tikkurila Anti-Reflex for a ceiling and explain it will cut down on surface blemishes and leave a luxurious finish, then you already have an advantage over a decorator who sticks to the regular Dulux and Johnstone’s brands.

Same with dust free sanding. If you have the kit, make sure you mention it when you’re at the quoting stage. Tell them there will always be some mess (you need to manage your customer’s expectations), but by using dust free sanders, you cut right down on airborne dust in their home.

Anyway, when people make their decision, they will compare someone who did all of the above, versus someone who just came there, measured and gave a price.

They will then justify the difference in price because you’ve provided VALUE

However, if two bozos go into an estimate and both offer very little value, the only option for the customer is to go with the lowest price.
Make sense?

Why not check us out on Instagram

Tanner Mullen

Professional Decorator

Updated Feb 17, 2024 | Posted Jul 2, 2023 | 8 comments

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8 Comments

  1. Steven Maidment

    The above about giving estimates is the best read I have read on this forum and all perfectly true.

    Reply
  2. Barrie king

    Ive been in decorating for over 50 years, I had my own company and employed 34 decorators, I’ve just read the article And can tell this guy is a professional, knows what he is doing. I wish him all the very best in his business there are lots of unskilled painters i wont call them decorators because there not, These people come in and give a low price to get the work then they charge extra and make the price up to what is sometimes more that if the customer had excepted the higher price to begin with. Seen this so many times also the client has to get another person to put the work right.

    Good luck to this man I wish him all the best

    Reply
    • Kris

      Very good article, I concur with everything you’ve said and this approach has worked for me for the past couple of years. I’d also go a bit further and when they’re delighted with the finish at the end, ask them if they would be so kind as to leave you some feedback online (as it’ll help other customers and help me find more work locally rather than spend money on fuel travelling further afield), send them a link to where you want the review. I can’t understand people sending quotes in text messages, no detail about process or products, generally cheaper, but I still get the work over them (at least half the time) on reputation. It’s difficult enough to sustain a business without being in a race to the bottom on price, but it’s important to remember that not everyone wants the full professional service, and if a quick tosh over is all they want (some landlords between tenancies for example) then we should be flexible enough to accommodate that if required.

      Reply
  3. Mark Williams

    I have just read the post regarding pricing and submitting estimates/ quotes for domestic work.

    This article was well balanced and packed with good advice regarding customer/ client relations at the very important initial stages of providing quotes/estimates to new customers.

    The article conveyed a professional attitude and well structured advise regarding product choice along with an assured professional knowledge of working processes involved to achieve a professional finish. It also pointed to another equally important aspect of respecting customer/clients homes by removing shoes/ boots before entering the property. I liked the advise regarding arriving at a potential job in ‘full whites’ which immediately allows the potential customer to see you are what they expect a Painter & Decorator
    and not some notepad , calculator wielding salesperson focused completely on money.

    Equally good advise regarding the follow up estimate documents that importantly should always include good detail in the estimate specs, preparation, number of coats etc… laid out on professionally letter headed paper and speedily delivered to the customer with good follow up practices.

    This is a very good article well written and packed with good advise. I can easily see why the writer remains busy with a full order book, great piece.

    Mark Williams

    Painter & Decorators for 44 years.

    Reply
    • Mike Cupit

      Great comment

      Reply
  4. mike doyle

    A very good article and one I like and find very helpful thank you however can someone help I am getting into commercial work but finding it difficult to price up. Mainly what is the going rate for commercial work per square metre etc its like a big secret.
    Many thanks for your help

    Reply
  5. Frank

    If a qualified decorator charges an average £40 an hour 95 percent of people would except this and keep decorators very busy as this is a very fare hourly rate.Once you start pricing £60 +an hour you won’t be so busy however in a month you could be working less but for a higher income so the choice is yours..The days have gone by where one work for a pittance at £25 per an hour.

    Reply
  6. jason

    this Advice is Spot on, its actually the exact same process as i use from taking your shoes off to putting them on when i leave, i explain why i use the paints i use which are all waterbased, the only thing i dont really do is follow up if i dont hear anything but i do however let them know that my quotes tend to go into junk mail so i will let them know once ive sent the quote and if they could just let me know that they have recieved it then i’ll leave it with them…
    always works and im always 6-8 months booked up…
    good advice though 👍

    Reply

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