Is Decorating the “Poor Cousin” to Other Trades?

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Jun 1, 2020 | Miscellaneous, Professional insight | 2 comments

Do we make ourselves the poor cousin to other trades, or do customers have such a low opinion of our trade as a whole? I walked off a job some time ago because a client was b*tching that my hourly rate of £15ph was expensive, irrespective of the fact that she earned £25ph in her job!

Her job was more important, and I was just a painter / decorator. I see posts where guys ask for advice on pricing jobs on the Decorators Forum and they get ripped to bits, simply for daring to ask, but to be honest prices are different all over the country so ripping someone a new hole for asking for help and advice seems counterproductive.

So, are our attitudes pushing that idea of us being the poor embarrassing secret? There are always going to be the leeches that undercut us, but if we don’t support others we will always have customers like the one who’s job I walked off from taking the p*ss. Let’s face it, mumsnet does that for us already. Just something to discuss like well rounded adults.


Why is decorating viewed as the poor trade? Ask yourself that question!

New entrant fresh from college – gets work with company – employed -should be basic of say £15 per hour.

New entrant to decorating – change of career or otherwise – no qualifications – £10 per hour self-employed (to begin with) build up business profile and customer base. More work comes in, busier you get can then afford to up the rates. Those who are not good, or not busy generally lower their rates in order to get money in. Irregular work so always going in low to win work. Quality doesn’t improve because head says money is shit so not going to work my nuts off for peanuts

Always someone out there cheaper than YOU, ALWAYS!

SO WHY REDUCE YOUR PRICE? Know your VALUE and you will quickly learn WHO YOUR CLIENTS ARE.

Price is based in experience and skill. Both go hand in hand. If you have no experience then skill is low, price is low. Lots of skill and experience means price should be high. Hence why pricing posts are pointless as we can see a pic of a job but have absolutely NO IDEA how good or experienced you are. If you are after a guide for price, then by the BRICS price guide and work out your own rates. Don’t use someone else’s as you are likely to price yourself out of a job, or price yourself too low. Only you know what you need to survive. You should also know timings for painting areas and understand standard costs for metre or linear metres on a number of different substrates. Once you understand that you’ll be fine 👍

Steve Trebilcook

Professional Painter and Decorator

Never be intimidated by a customer, I’ve knocked back toxic and arrogant customers because I’m in a position where I can. Hope you can do the same, and good customers know good Decorators are not going to charge pittance.

Michael Didak

Professional Painter and Decorator

I don’t think we’re anyone’s poor cousin. Maybe back in the day, but the modern decorator is a completely different breed. We are experts in the various modern paint products available, most of which are alien to the average muggle.

We use expensive airless spray equipment and dust free sanders. We focus on marketing and target the right type of client. Starting a decorating business is not easy, and running an established business is even harder. Do not undervalue yourselves!

Mike Parks

Professional Painter and Decorator


In business terms, painting is known as a “Low cost of entry” business. You know the story: Matey gets made redundant and he goes to B&Q and buys a roller set and a couple of brushes and Hey Presto: he’s a decorator!

Thanks to B&Q also screwing our trade by convincing anyone they can paint (idiots, I hate them) our part of the industry is always going to be vulnerable to attack. I certainly don’t know all the answers, but I do know that everything needs painting, whether it be industrial, or domestic, or trade wise. Are these “low cost” newbies going to compete with the decorators who can abseil and earn £500 a day? are they going to compete with the guys who have all the spraying kit? are they going to break into the architects and designers market?  Would they be let loose on an English Heritage property? Its the biggest market out there, its the trade that keeps you the fittest, its the thing that everybody sees and its the thing that everybody needs – it’ just getting the thinking caps on and market ourselves properly.  I doubt Nike worry about the £5 trainers on the market stall. I wish there was a way to fix the trade easily but it is still there and always will be!

Kevin foot

Professional Painter and Decorator

Decorating is only the poor cousin to other trades for those of you who don’t step back and look at the industry as a whole. It is easy to target the higher-end work with a bit of marketing nonce and by focusing on your image.

Or, you could go one better and specialise. We’ve got all sorts of options now. I know kitchen sprayers who earn close to £2,000 a week!! Or you could go for Silk Plaster, or Digital Wall Murals. Decorators are kings compared to other trades, unless you’re happy living off “word of mouth” and plodding on with domestic jobs.

Mike Cupit

Professional Painter and Decorator

Blog written by Bill Hayes – Professional Painter and Decorator

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Jun 1, 2020 | 2 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.


  1. Andy Smith

    What can I say? I did a job on some new extensions a couple of years ago. Firstly the customer was more interested in when I could start the work rather than how much the cost was – I had to remind her she ought to ask me but it wasnt an issue – she just wanted someone good to do it. I was working on rooms whilst the builders were working in othe areas. Now and then she would offer them a drink and produce a tray of builders tea for them. They were most put out when they found out, every time they got tea, she bought me a posh coffee and biscuits. Her justification, the buiders are noisy and make a mess but the decorator comes in and makes it all look nice. I had to laugh but it does show that some people see us as the craftsmen adding value rather than second rate trades. Oh incidentally, she calls me back now and then for other work and never asks the cost. Gaining that level of trust from a customer is the ultimate sign of success as far as I’m concerned.

  2. Yasmin

    There will always be those difficult customers but It’s important for both parties to be comfortable and upfront with each other regarding what each party expects of the other.


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