Ali Edwards

This is my story

I had my first and second sons in 2009 and 2011.  By 2012 I wanted to look at a new career, one that would work for me, the children and our home life.  I was very keen to get out of sales into something creative and useful.  

Simultaneously, we had bought a house that needed completely re-decorating.  I had the choice to pay someone to do it or learn how to do it myself.  So I enrolled at college and completed a city and guilds in painting and decorating.  I applied and practiced my new skills on our new home and when I was ready, I started asking friends, family and neighbours, friends of friends, offering a free day as a prize at the school fayre and so on.  Very quickly my business has developed purely via word of mouth and repeat business.

I tend to work school hours, up to 5 days a week, term time only.  Perfect!  I love it!  I work my socks off between 9am and 3pm transforming spaces and can still be there to drop off and pick up my  kids and be around in school holidays.

In a nutshell

Marketing spend

Work weeks per year

% Job Satisfaction

What line of work were you in prior to becoming a decorator?  

I was in a sales role, recruitment to be precise.  I used to find it stressful and unrewarding.  I wanted a non-repetitive job doing something creative and to be self-employed.

Did you go on a training courses to learn the trade?  How did you choose the right course?

I did a city and guilds Level 2 in painting and decorating.  It was self funded, one day a week for an academic year.  I chose this course as it fitted around my plans and family commitment.

Was the course successful and did it actually equip you well enough to go out and start working straight away?  

Sadly, I learned very little at college.  THe quality and commitment by the majority of the staff was very poor.  The best way to learn was via my own research and mistakes at home.  I also did work experience prior to plucking up the courage to go it alone.

How long was the course and how much time did you invest in it?

One academic year, one day a week plus home study.

How did you go about finding work at the beginning and how do  you get new clients now?

I volunteered to work for free with local decorators.  Work experience was hard to find but I persisted and made a great friend and partner with a local experienced decorator.  We still help each other out five years later when needed.

All my clients come via repeat business and referrals.  I did try networking once and gained business from it, but I don’t need to go networking anymore.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing the same?  What is the best and worst of being a decorator?

Offer to work with someone with experience, even if it is for a few hours here and there to see if you like it.

The best:  Non-repetitive and very rewarding.  The worst – The dust!  You have to not mind getting dirty.