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Struggling as a Self-Employed Decorator

Updated Aug 26, 2022 | Posted May 28, 2021 | Life of a Decorator, Professional insight | 9 comments

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.


Final Thoughts


Struggling as a self-employed decorator is normal from time to time. The trick is to make it temporary, rather than a long-term problem. You do this by taking control, and alleviating the pressure however you can, then taking some time to get organised. Once you’re organised, you need to stay on top of your business and not get bogged down with the physical work aspect of the job.


Struggling as a Self-Employed Decorator – by Mike Cupit

Updated Aug 26, 2022 | Posted May 28, 2021 | 9 comments

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  1. Robert menzies

    Could do with some more tips I’m gonna take the leap thanks

  2. Richard

    The personal life of all of us suffers when too busy, or too quiet…
    I always maintain if you daft enough to work 7days a week ALL the time and Wifes moaning and could easily start a set of events that will end in your marriage ended..
    She might get used to you not being around so that when you ARE around it annoys her.
    Say NO to customers. Others will always follow if your good.

    No weekend job is worth divorce with 50 % of your house, business and pension and the terrible thought of starting again in a crappy rental mid life…

    The emotional damage to kids etc.

    Work to live.

    Dont live to work.

    Customers generally couldnt give a toss about you, if you broke a leg and couldn’t do job they just get on googling painters ASAP.

    Rant over.

  3. Paul The Handyman

    Great points Richard.

    Also worth noting is the temptation to cut prices to get more work. A fools move and one that increases the race to the bottom or the increase of poor workmanship.

    • Robert Wilson

      45 years and counting in the early days I took anything and everything then met a old gentleman who had a plumbing company he gave me great advice one get in with people that spend other people’s money ie local H/A s heathboards ets also there no such thing a a bad decorator. Just bad customers. That may not be true but is a great mind set to have . Ata time when there may Be a shortage of staff if you’re good enough make sure you charge a good rate to many. Brothers and sisters of the brush under charge

  4. Al Parish

    Another great article Mike, knowing ones worth can often be a game changer – that & managing the client & their expectations from the get go. 👍😉

  5. Mark Cassidy

    Mike, thank you for this.

  6. Paul

    If a customer is booked in a Sun room livingroom new kitchen and hall and you reschedule due to kitchen fitter not finished and hall sunroom etc is full of units or tools . Eventually after shuffling jobs your ready to start following week only she calls and says she just want kitchen and Sun room done what do you do ?

    • richard

      The fact that decent trades are always busy and customer now knows that you be glad to get away anyway is a problem..
      You could try to explain no job ready as moved all about because of you etc and now hit her with a cancellation charge , plenty would try this, but bit difficult to get in my view however it is possible would pay.


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