Worst Things About Being a Self-Employed Decorator

Updated Feb 17, 2024 | Posted Aug 23, 2021 | Professional insight, Business, Life of a Decorator | 3 comments

I’ve been a self-employed decorator for what feels like six thousand years. I generally like my job if I’m honest, but there are a lot of negatives that come with it too. I thought I’d explain a few of the worst things about being a self-employed decorator for the readers on DFUK. Hopefully, if you’re thinking about taking this cr4p up as a living, this will make you think again.


The paint


Paint is horrible stuff!! It get’s everywhere!! All over you, all over your tools, all over everything which isn’t covered and even on some things that are covered!! We literally fight the same battle every day. We go in and need to cover everything, just to then walk paint into the next room!! We’re expected to always look presentable and tidy, but get covered in the stuff every time we use it. We carry buckets of the stuff in our vans, which we sit in with paint filled clothes, but we’re expected to have pristine looking vans!! It’s mental!!


The Wallpaper


As a decorator, I often hang wallpaper. 9 times out of 10 the paper is fine and there are no issues. However, the law of average dictates we’re going to come up against a bad paper like Arthouse fairly regularly!! Get a bad paper which marks when you hang it, or shows every seam and we run the risk of not being paid for the job. It isn’t always our fault if a paper doesn’t look right!!


The Unpaid Part of Being Self-Employed


Washing tools out, quoting, keeping the van in top shape, paperwork, organising materials and much much more, are all to be carried out in our own time without pay!! Or that’s how I see it anyway, which is why I’m always behind with it all.


Running Costs of being a Self-Employed Decorator


Not only are we expected to do loads of work free-or-charge, but we also need to pay for stuff!! Tool upkeep, training, marketing, liability insurance, the list goes on. The running costs all need to come out of the pot before you can take a wage.


Bodily Ailments


Tennis elbow, a bad back, three bad knees, ankles and shoulders. When we go out to do the same thing every day for a prolonged period, we put our bodies under a ridiculous amount of stress. It takes its toll in a massive way and you rarely meet an older decorator with no major complaints.


Is Decorating Even a Trade?


Yes, it is!! Now shut up!! People can’t understand why we charge what we do. Well, we need to!! We work very hard, have loads of running costs, put up with all kinds of sh1t and still earn a relatively low wage compared to other trade!! Listen, if you don’t want to pay, ask your local gardener!!


Drink and Drug Problems


This is a myth …. honest


Bad Clients


Self-employed decorators run a gauntlet when it comes to clients!! There is often no way of knowing whether a new customer is out to rip you off or has unrealistic standards. Some ask for ridiculous levels of work such as two coats of emulsion on a ceiling or the use of undercoat before gloss!! Some don’t even make you a brew!! You can end up working for an absolute nightmare of a customer!


Final thoughts


I know this blog sounds pessimistic, but being a self-employed decorator is like being on a rollercoaster. Sometimes things are going well and you focus on the good things, such as being your own boss. Other times you can’t seem to see pasted the worst whings about being a self-employed decorator and you focus on that.

We’re under a lot of pressure a lot of the time. Things aren’t always smooth sailing and people don’t realise the amount of work that goes into the running of a decorating business.


Still fancy becoming a self-employed decorator? Nar, maybe I should start looking for a different career too!!

The Worst Things About Being a Self-Employed Decorator – by Mike Cupit

Updated Feb 17, 2024 | Posted Aug 23, 2021 | 3 comments

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  1. Andy Smith

    Could of written that myself, being a 43 year time served decorator, i consider myself extremely lucky to have worked for almost the entire 43 years, i don’t even need the use of both hands and fingers to count the days i have not had work in front of me, its been extremely challenging at times especially during the 4-5 recession times, and especially the last couple of years with a very painfull neck, shoulders and arms problems, but i battle on, it definatly helps having a good partner/wife behind you, i’ve done all types of decorating over the years, but mainly now i stick to the domestic stuff, a bit easier but not without its problems, people often ask me how i have managed to work constintly, i would put this down to being good at what i do, reliable, honest, give value for money, don’t take the michael, and having a good relationship with the customer i generally work now so i can have more and longer holidays, will i ever retire, i think we all know a decorater that never retires.

  2. Neil

    No wonder there isn’t any youngsters coming into the trade with blogs like that.

    As someone with autism decorating has been my saviour , it’s allowed me to channel my autism in so many ways.

    Working to schedule, systems and having an i for detail.

    And the major one being able to carry out extremely boring preparation work hours at a time.

    Yes it I’ve got the ailments due to work related issues but not the bad knees etc.

    I’ve only had one job since leaving school. As soon as picked up that paint brush I knew it was the job for me.

  3. S.P.A Painting and Decorating

    2 coats of emulsion on a ceiling.
    and under coating woodwork.
    That’s all standard isn’t it 🙂


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