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Step-by-step guide to how to become a painter and decorator in the UK


Painters and decorators are always in demand across the UK. If you’re looking to work for yourself, starting a painting and decorating business could be a great option.

So how do you become a painter and decorator? Read on for our step-by-step guide.

What do painters and decorators do?

Painters and decorators can work on a variety of different projects, whether domestic, commercial, or industrial. The work can vary widely, but some of your key tasks are likely to include:

  • Measuring areas and determining how much of each material is required
  • Stripping old surfaces
  • Filling or repairing surfaces, for example to fix cracks
  • Priming surfaces or covering them with undercoat
  • Mixing paint
  • Applying paint or other materials, depending on the nature of the job

Painters and decorators normally work 35 to 40 hour weeks, in normal working patterns. However, you may be required to work overtime or during weekends if a project demands it.

What do painters and decorators earn?

Self-employed painters and decorators are free to set their own rates for their work, unlike painters and decorators who work for an existing firm. You’ll need to make sure that you price your work competitively, and in line with your experience and any specialisms.

More generally, the wages for a painter decorator in the UK can range from around £15,000 for someone just starting out, through to as much as £30,000 for those with lots of experience and potentially some in-demand specialisms.

How to become a painter and decorator – step-by-step

Ready to take the leap and become a self-employed painter and decorator? Read the steps below to get started.

1. The skills required to be a painter and decorator

Painters and decorators need to be extremely practical, and happy working with their hands, whether indoors or outdoors. Increasingly, painters and decorators use computer software or digital colour charts to complete tasks like finding the correct paint mix, so you’ll benefit from basic computer skills. You’ll also need some maths in order to work out how much of each material you need.

There’s no set route into painting and decorating, and you don’t need a qualification. Many painters and decorators start out by working as an apprentice. However, if you’re working on building sites, you should remember that you’ll need a Construction Skills Certificate Scheme card. Read more about how to get a CSCS card.

2. What equipment do painters and decorators need?

If you’re starting out as a self-employed painter and decorator, you’ll need to provide your own equipment. This might include:

  • Paintbrushes in a variety of sizes
  • Paint rollers and trays
  • Materials for cleaning brushes and rollers
  • Dustsheets
  • Sandpaper
  • Spirit levels
  • Stanley knives
  • Stepladders

Bear in mind that this is an incomplete list; the actual equipment you’ll need may vary from job to job.

3. Get the legal side sorted

If you’re starting a painting and decorating business, there’s a range of legal tasks that you need to get sorted straight away. It’s likely that you’ll operate as a sole trader, but you might alternatively choose to set up a limited company for your work.

You’ll also need to make sure that you’re set up as self-employed with HMRC. You’ll have to complete an annual Self Assessment tax return, and pay any tax due by the relevant deadlines. Read about how to register as self-employed with HMRC. We’ve also compiled a full guide to going self-employed in the UK, which contains lots of useful information on getting started working for yourself.

4. Get insured

Business insurance is vital for self-employed painters and decorators. Remember that as you’re your own boss, you’ll also be liable for any mistakes or accidents. The consequences of even a small mistake can be financially devastating, so it’s important that you’re properly protected.

As a self-employed painter and decorator, your core cover is likely to be public liability insurance. This protects you against claims arising from injury or loss suffered by someone in the course of your work.

If you employ anyone, you’re legally obliged to take out employers’ liability insurance. You might also consider business equipment insurance or tools insurance to protect the items you need to do your work.

Simply Business offers tailored insurance specifically for painters and decorators. This means you can combine all the covers you need into a single policy, with a single premium and renewal date. Compare painter and decorator insurance quotes.

5. Find clients!

Now that you’re all set up as a self-employed painter and decorator, you need to find some clients.

It’s often best to start local – try advertising in local newspapers or magazines, or placing ads in shops. On top of that, you should make sure that you have at least a basic web presence showcasing your work. Thease days cheap and easy to do – check out our list of free tools to build a business website.

Once you’ve got your website up and running, you might also choose to try some other online techniques. For more information on this, read our guide to online marketing for tradesmen, and our top tips for social media for tradesmen.

Are you getting started as a self-employed painter and decorator? Are you already up and running? Let us know in the comments.

Are you protecting your trade?

As the UK’s biggest business insurance provider, we specialise in public liability insurance and protect more trades than anybody else. Why not take a look now and build a quick, tailored tradesman insurance quote?

Josh Hall

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