The Bigger Picture: Self Employed Painters and Decorators

When you’re looking at how to become a self employed painter and decorator, the first thing you need to do is learn your trade. That’s done by apprenticeship and training. Qualifications for painting and decorating, and indeed for all construction trades, are taken as National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ), which come in levels from 1 through 5: level 1 shows that you’ve just started out, and are still apprenticed to someone else: level 5 shows that you’re at the top of the game, highly professional and trained in business management as well as the nuts and bolts of the everyday trade.


Do I really need to qualify? I’ve been working under someone else for years.

This is a question that is frequently heard across the construction trades – and the truthful answer is no you don’t, because a client is unlikely to care about anything other than your recommendations and what you do when you’re on their property. That said, qualifications can open doors for you and you might be able to work while you learn, so you’ll be earning as well.

What do I need to know about self employment then?

The question of how to become a self employed painter and decorator, in large part, is simply the question of how you go self employed. At a basic level, the answer couldn’t be easier. If you’ve got the skill and you’ve got the equipment, then get out there and start putting yourself about. That means advertising. If you want to make a go of self employment, you need to learn how to let people know you’re available for work.

OK – so what do I do to advertise?

Learning to self-promote is the hardest part of self employment – it’s what makes or breaks your business. There are a couple of golden rules. First, make sure you’re advertising to the right people. Knowing how to become a self employed painter and decorator involves knowing where your market lies. Property developers; building companies; local businesses with premises in need of routine maintenance; landlords – these are all grist to your mill. Get leaflets to businesses and always be on the lookout for new development projects. Also, get to know your local tradespeople – construction trades tend to share work around between people they know and trust.

Second, don’t expect to become busy overnight. It can take weeks or even months to fill up your appointment book.

What tools do I need?

The basic tools of the painter and decorator are your brushes and rollers; your trays; and your preparation hardware (sandpaper, files and grinders). You may also specialise in ornate finishing, in which case you’ll require extra sets of dedicated finishing tools. You need dust sheets and step ladders, overalls, and eye protection too. All of which leads to a much bigger requirement – a vehicle. Most painters and decorators have a small works van, which fills up over the years with the bits of equipment they find they just can’t do without.

What about prices?

The painter and decorator is a skilled worker, able to turn his or her hand to all common household and commercial finishes. If you do your job in one area, and do it well, you should find over time that your reputation starts to bring in work for you. You won’t get any work, though, if you are too expensive: and you won’t get any if you’re too cheap. Finding the right price for your service means looking at what your competitors charge, understanding what your customers want, and identifying a price that sounds attractive without making you seem cheap.

image source: flickr

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