I’ve been a professional decorator for the best part of 20 years, 11 of which were spent as a sole trader. So, I know all about starting 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.
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 the latter will earn a better income as a painter and decorator.
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.
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 (don’t work for builders unless you really need to). Just have as many conversations as you possibly can!!
You will need a good quality website. This 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.
We have a discount in place with a website company called The Busy Trader, who specialise in web builds for tradesmen. I’d suggest going with someone like this, as they understand exactly what you need to bring in work.
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, 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. You will be more successful having read it.
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.
As the client is talking to you about the work they’re thinking of having done, talk them through the process and materials you’d use to complete the work. Highlighting specific primers and their qualities, or suggest paint brands they’re unfamiliar with such as Tikkurila or Teknos. This can work to your advantage. 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 work for them!! Trust your gut. You’ll learn to spot the telltale signs of a nightmare customer.
We have a separate blog fon 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.
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.
Trade Paint Accounts
I thought I’d mention this quickly. As a professional painter and decorator you will want to stick to trade paints 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 Paint Shed are well worth a look. If you want high end, then WRX Trade paint or Benjamin Moore are 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 you can click here to automatically qualify for insurance discount.
Do not under-sell yourself. As a 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.
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, you’re just starting up a decorating business. Want to 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 Add 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
Starting a Painting and Decorating Business – by Mike Cupit