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Struggling as a Self-Employed Decorator

By Mike Cupit


Being a self-employed decorator is a bit of a strange job. The boundaries between homelife and work life are blurred, and you often find one effects the other. It’s a complete rollercoaster.


When you’re flying and feeling good, everything just seems to slip into place. You knock work out as fast as anyone, you have a run of good jobs, cashflow isn’t an issue and you find it easy to stay motivated.


That can soon change. You can have a bad run of jobs, you might make a mistake when pricing, have a nonpayer, a nightmare customer, or it could be one of a hundred other things that could start you on a downward spiral.


Often, it’s simply your mindset. If you’re not happy at home, or not enjoying your work, you can often lose motivation. This is the worst thing for any self-employed decorator because it means you won’t actively stay on top of things, which just makes the situation worse. The van isn’t organised, tools aren’t clean or you’re missing bits of kit. You don’t get all the materials sorted for upcoming jobs. The worst thing, if jobs are running over or going wrong, you get sick of making excuses to clients and stop answering your phone all together. You start feeling like you’re drowning!! I think every self-employed decorator has felt like this at some point.


It takes a mentally strong person to thrive as a self-employed decorator. To be able to recognise an issue like this, reset and start again. You need to face up to what’s going on.


Take a housekeeping day… Phone round all your existing clients and be honest with them about when you’re likely to start. Cancel any jobs you don’t want to do! Put yourself before any deadlines!! It doesn’t matter if you break the odd promise, you’ll get through the work faster once you relieve the pressure anyway.


Clean your van, wash your tools and make sure you’re only carrying what you need for the current / next job. Get your jobs list or diary handy and make sure it’s up to date. Submit all your outstanding quotes, go and see anyone who’s waiting for an appointment. Get through all your donkey work so it’s out of the way.


If you have issues at home, sort them out too. Do it all at the same time! If you’re drinking too much, or not getting enough exercise. Maybe it’s a bad diet? Drugs? Whatever it is, sort it out. It’s all connected, you may need a full reset.


Once you’ve sorted all that, have a day or two to yourself. Spend some time with your family, go fishing, knit a jumper. Do whatever it is that relaxes you, safe in the knowledge that everything at work is already sorted. There’s no more pressure, you’ve already dealt with all of it. Get your home / work life balance on point. Always work hard, but always make time for your family.


When you do get back to work, come back harder and stronger. Get some new whites on, symbolic more than anything. Stay on top of upcoming work, don’t over stretch and don’t get bogged down. You’ve got this! You’re organised now, it’s easier. Always keep an eye on your next job and get organised for it while you’re working on the job you’re on now. That way you’ll stay organised and you won’t feel the pressure as much.


Finally, and I can’t emphasise this enough, remember it’s only a job. It’s a means to an end. You and your family come first and that will never change, so don’t take the stress of work home with you.

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Struggling as a Self-Employed Decorator