Is Painting and Decorating a Good Job?

Updated May 14, 2024 | Posted Aug 1, 2023 | Professional insight, Business, Life of a Decorator | 1 comment

If you’re thinking about a career in painting and decorating, and you’re doing a little bit of research before making a move, then hopefully you’ll find this blog useful. I have just spent a little bit of time on Google, looking at what the “experts” and Career Advisers say, but it all looks like a load of marketing bumf.

I’m a Professional Decorator, and I’ve been in the industry for roughly 20 years. I thought I’d sit down and tell you truthfully whether painting and decorating is a good job.


How Long Does It Take Before you can Call Yourself a Decorator?


I think you can complete an NVQ in Painting and Decorating in a couple of years or so college. However, around 50% of Professional Decorators hold no formal qualifications. They simply get a job labouring for a Decorator, then stick with it.

It does take a little bit of time to get trained up. You need to learn how to do the job to a professional standard and quickly enough to make money. You need to learn about the different aspects of the industry and have the product knowledge to go with it. You need to be able to explain to a client why you’re using a specialist ceiling paint, or water-based MSP in a certain area, or go through colours and designs.


Everyone is different. I worked with a Painter and Decorator for 6 years from the age of 18, then tried to go self-employed. It didn’t work, and I ended up in a load of debt because of it. But that may have just been because I wasn’t ready to run a business, rather than lack of ability as a Decorator.

I think that if someone attends college once a week and spends the rest of the week working for another Decorator, then in 3 years they should be able to work for someone as a Professional Painter and Decorator. There are loads of jobs around, mostly subby type work and commercial sites. Some pay good wages too.

It’s going to take longer than that before you can set yourself up in business, and I wouldn’t recommend it until you’re ready.


How Much Does a Painter and Decorator earn in the UK


At the time of writing this blog, if you can get your NVQ and CSCS cards, buy a van and own your own tools, you can basically walk into a subby type role and earn between £150 and £200 per day before tax. There are loads of vacancies around because there’s a shortage of Decorators in the UK. (There are running costs involved, such as tool maintenance, liability insurance etc).

The rates that Decorators with their own businesses charge varies dramatically. Some Decorators are convinced they can’t charge more than £150 per day, which considering that needs to cover business expenses, isn’t a lot of money. Some Decorators charge double that or more and earn a good living. Some specialist Decorators earn upwards of a couple of grand every week.


The Downside


Working for someone else as a Painter and Decorator is fine. You turn up, do as you’re told, and then go home again. Your money is generally guaranteed at the end of the week.

Running a Painting and Decorating business is stressful. There’s so much that can go wrong, jobs running over, breakages, nightmare customers, cashflow, the list goes on. Plus, there’s the workload! Quoting, colour consultancy, nipping back to jobs for “a quick touch up”, trying to hit deadlines, fitting small jobs in for people. It can be an absolute nightmare, and it’s constant!


Then you have the aches and pains all Professional Painters and Decorators seem to have when they hit a certain age. Knees, back, tennis elbow, wrists. Over-working will probably lead to difficulties in later life.


The Upside of Painting and Decorating


There is good money to be made in Painting and Decorating if you have the skills required. If you go into business, focus on marketing and trying to reach the right sort of clientele so you can charge better rates. Better yet, specialise in a certain aspect of the industry. Look into something like kitchen spraying, digital wall murals, or uPVC spraying. By focusing on work that most Painters and Decorators don’t do, you will inevitably earn better money.

Even sub-contracting is quite good money, and it’s easy. Up to £25 per hour before expenses and tax is pretty good going for a few years of training.

I should probably balance all the above and tell you other trades seem to earn more than Painters and Decorators. Gas Engineers, sparkies, joiners, they all do.


Final Thoughts


Painting and Decorating has been good for me. I always lagged behind in school, but I really took to Decorating and stuck with it. I left school at 16, never went to collage, and did ok. I enjoy it too. It’s a hard game sometimes, but I still think it’s a worthy career choice.

Updated May 14, 2024 | Posted Aug 1, 2023 | 1 comment

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 Comment

  1. richard

    A builder told me recently that good painters are now worse trade to get…

    Shortage is off the scale, even poor ones snowed under because customers try all good ones who are too busy take on new clients then the poor ones get the jobs…

    Its changed a lot in last 5 years plus this is in a downturn of new build sites where new build painters should be looking for work , great just in a housing crisis 4 million shortage houses UK and we build LESS houses and flats.

    What l find more now and its a good thing is young painters want top money from day 1 nowadays.

    Finally , if and when Labour get in there be a building boom , houses, flats, schools hospitals etc, always is

    300 to 500 a day on prices if your lucky although not always


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