How to start a plastering business

If you’re looking for a practical, hands-on start-up idea, consider starting up a plastering business. Find out how here

Plastering is one of the skilled trades, and a key part of any renovation or building process. Whether you choose to work on everyday domestic jobs, large scale commercial projects, or, if in time you want to focus on specialist ornamental design, plastering lays the foundation for other decorative works to take place – it’s much more than just smooth walls.

In this guide, you’ll learn the essential steps you need to take to set up your own plastering business. These include:

While you can choose to become a self-employed plasterer or work for a company, we’ll focus on the former. That being said, you may start working for yourself, and eventually grow to take on staff to form a plastering team – we’ll touch on that too.

IBISWorld published research in 2018 about the plastering industry in the UK. It found that over the five years through 2018-19, the industry revenue is predicted to grow at a compound rate of 11.7% and is set to reach £2.7 billion.

Who is suited to starting up a plastering business?

You’ll need to have the following skills and abilities:

  • Plastering ability
  • – whether you opt for a formal course or you learn on the job, you’ll need to be able to plaster a wall to a high standard. Be sure to assess your skill level before you enter the industry

  • Maths skills
  • – a key part of the job is working out the ratios for mixing plaster, as well as measuring the dimensions and calculating the surface area you’ll need to cover

  • Physical ability
  • – as with any trade, it’s hands-on work that will require you to lift heavy bags of plaster, as well as to use the tools repeatedly

  • Communication skills
  • – you’ll need to be able to follow a brief, as well as communicate effectively with customers, plus potentially relay information to other contractors too

So now you know what the current market is like and what skills you need, let’s dive in and learn the details about how to actually set up your plastering business.


1. Register your business

Now that you’ve decided that you want to work for yourself as a plasterer, the first step you have to take is registering your business. You have to do this for legal and tax purposes, as well as to ensure you can access the correct business accounts, at banks as well as at DIY or hardware shops, for example.

2. Should you operate as a sole trader or as a limited company?

The key decision is here is what type of business you register – you can choose to operate as a sole trader or as a limited company.

Sole trader Limited company
Definition Run your own business individually; self-employed The business is run as a separate legal entity with finances separate from your personal accounts too
Profit/loss All profits (after tax) can be kept by you; personally responsible for losses The business is run as a separate legal entity with finances separate from your personal accounts too
Registration process Check criteria; if applicable, register for self-assessment and complete a tax return every year Review requirements; register with Companies House
Responsibilities Keep records, pay Income Tax on profits; file tax return annually A director of a limited company has multiple responsibilities (see here)
More information Setting up as a sole trader Set up a limited company

If you’re going to be working a main job and creating your business as a side hustle while you develop your skills and build a customer base, then you’re more likely to become a sole trader.

Alternatively, if you want to run a plastering business that eventually grows to hire other people to work for you, then you may want to register as a limited company from the offset.

It’s essential to maintain accurate records of jobs, invoices and other payments associated with your business, such as your tools, materials and van running costs.

You’ll need this for tax purposes for all types of businesses, such as to complete self-assessment forms. You could consider hiring an accountant to help with this.

Be sure to check if VAT applies to your business. If your turnover is £85,000 or higher, then you must register for VAT. If your turnover is below this amount, then you can choose to register for it.


3. Write a business plan

During the set-up stage of your plastering business, you’ll need to write a business plan.
Essentially, a business plan is a document that details the direction your business will go in, such as your predicted revenue stream, plus your short, medium and long term goals.

It will include your anticipated costs as well as how you plan to connect with your target audience. Your target audience is key – will you focus on domestic or commercial projects? Or you could consider both, as long as you have the skills and resources to do so.

Download a free business plan template here.

4. Consider your earnings

While it’s impossible to predict exactly how much a self-employed plasterer salary is, it’s important to think about what your potential income could be. Some factors to consider when setting your hourly or daily rates include:

  • Area – the location you work in can affect what your rates will be, as this will depend on how much work is available, as well as regional variations in pricing
  • Level – if you’re a plasterer’s mate (assistant) gaining experience or an entry-level worker with limited knowledge, you’re likely to be on a lower rate than a skilled, experienced plasterer. So take your skills and ability level into account when determining how much to charge
  • Qualifications – while not a prerequisite to do the job, having a recognised qualification (such as City & Guilds) not only adds prestige, but you could factor in the cost of the course and your expertise gained in to your fees

There isn’t data or statistics readily available for self-employed plasterer rates. Generally, if you’re self-employed your rates can be higher. But this does come with a level of uncertainty too as your next job isn’t guaranteed, plus there isn’t sick or holiday pay.

A very rough guide to salaries (depending on if you’re self-employed or employed by a company) is £14,000 – £30,000 per year.

The lower end of the scale is for newly qualified or inexperienced plasterers, while the top bracket is reserved for those with years of experience.

When you’re starting up a plastering business, you’ll need to find an efficient way of taking payments and maintaining accurate records.

Merchant accounts are a type of account that act as a middle point between funds leaving a customer’s account and going into your business’ bank account.

To find out how merchant accounts could help streamline your business’ finances, click here to compare quotes.


5. Research equipment and tools

To run your own plastering business effectively, you’re going to need certain equipment and tools. While there are many items that you may eventually wish to have at your disposal, here’s a guide to the must-have kit:

  • Trowel and hawk – the essential tools of the trade, you’ll need these to hold and spread the plaster mixture across surfaces
  • Bucket – a large, durable bucket that’s strong enough to hold high volumes of mixture in it is necessary to complete the job
  • Mechanical whisk – this is crucial to ensure the created mixture has the correct consistency

As this is a minimal tool kit, you may consider purchasing your tools outright at the beginning. If you’re reluctant to lay out that amount of money initially, then you can look into tool hire to rent the equipment that you need.

In addition to your plastering kit, there are some other pieces you’re likely to need, such as:

  • Duplicate invoice book – keep track of purchases and payments with an invoice book that provides a copy for you and for your customer
  • Driving license – you’ll need to be able to get yourself from one job to another, as well as your tools and kit, so being able to drive is very useful
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – ensure you have the correct clothing for plastering, such as an eye mask, gloves and reinforced boots
  • Van – following on from the above, having your own van will give you the independence and the ability to take on a wider range of jobs in different locations. Not sure if you want to buy or lease a van? You can find more information on finding a van here.

6. Review health and safety and other regulations

Health and safety is a critical part of all trades, including plastering. Whenever you’re working with potentially dangerous equipment as well as outside, at height or with mixtures, there are going to be health and safety concerns.

In order to protect you and your customers, you should consider the following points to help your plastering business run safely and smoothly.

What do you need to work on construction sites?

Having some construction experience can be beneficial to enhance your knowledge, and also to gain an understanding of the wider process. If you do want to work on a building site, then you’ll need to get your Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. While not a legal requirement, most major construction companies and sites will want this.

To apply for your CSCS card, you’ll most likely need to have passed the relevant Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Health safety and environment test. It assesses your understanding of health and safety within the construction industry.

You can find out more about workplace health and safety on the Health and Safety Executive website here.

Which insurance policies will you require?

You’ll also need to consider taking out the applicable insurance policies. Which policies these are will depend on if you decide to become self-employed or to run a company with employees. Generally, insurance policies to think about are:

Public liability – offers protection against your business should a member of the public experience an injury or damaged property because of your business

Employers’ liability – this will only apply if/when you decide to take on staff. If you have one or more member of staff, then this type of policy offers cover if they should get sick or have an accident at work

Professional indemnity – this kind of insurance is used to cover any financial losses a customer may experience due to your work

Health insurance – a private health insurance policy provides cover if you become too unwell to carry out your work

Equipment cover – the cost of your plastering kit and tools can all add up. Consider this type of cover to protect you should they be lost or stolen


7. Get customers

Once you’ve followed the steps above, your next concern is going to be finding, growing and retaining a customer base.

While plastering is still very much a word-of-mouth business, and your customers are likely to refer you (providing you have a good reputation), how do you get customers in the first place? And what others ways can you attract potential customers so you’re not reliant on one form of marketing? Read on to find out more.

Word-of-mouth

Perhaps still the most prevalent form of marketing for tradespeople, what others (both customers and contractors) say about you goes a long way in this industry. Ensure you do the work well and at a competitive price, and in time, your customers could refer you to other people needing a plasterer.

Plus, use any opportunity to spread the word about your business – you never know when a contact or someone in your network may need plastering services.

Sign write your vehicle

Whether you’re travelling between jobs or just out and about, your van is not only a method of transportation and a way of storing your equipment, it can be a considerable part of your marketing strategy too.

Sign write your vehicle with your business’ name and contact details. If you have a logo then include that too. Make sure the text is big enough to be seen from a distance and that your phone number, email or website are easy and quick to remember.

Hand out flyers

Create flyers to promote your business and deliver them door-to-door for the target location and audience you focused on in your business plan. You could hire someone to make the deliveries on your behalf if you’re strapped for time.

Alternatively, consider distributing them yourself. Not only will this give you an ‘on-the-ground’ feel for the area, you may also get the chance to talk with, and promote your work to, homeowners or decision-makers there and then.

The key information (business name, type of work offered and contact details) should always be included clearly and prominently.

Get online

While traditional forms of marketing are still going strong in the plastering industry, the trade is starting to see an increasing online presence. This is essential in today’s marketplace and it’s easier than you may think.

Initially, you could consider signing up to a listings website or trade directory. Also, think about building your own website so there’s a place on the web with your business information that potential customers can access quickly and easily.

As your business grows, you may consider hiring a web designer to enhance your website – for example, to offer customers the option to book a consultation or certain jobs online.

Similarly, use social media to promote your work instantly. For example, consider uploading videos to YouTube that showcase you in action – what better way to encourage a customer to choose you than by actually showing them what you can do?

Also, be sure to take photos of completed projects to create a portfolio that you can include on your website, or share on Facebook.

Create business cards

Business cards offer you a concise and easy way to connect with potential customers. Be sure to carry them with you and hand them out wherever relevant, such as at a trade show or while completing a job.

They have limited space so keep it short: your name, your business’ name and contact details are all you need, plus an image if possible to show your work.

Ensure it has a memorable design and consider the paper quality too – you’ll want it to be durable and able to withstand the wear and tear of a building site or renovation project.

How the business card looks should reflect your business and make you stand out. For inspiration, you can have a look at plastering business cards online, as well as those from other tradespeople.

You can find out more about what makes a business card stand out, including insight from other small business owners, here.

Become a specialist

Narrowing your niche to a particular type of plastering may sound like it doesn’t make sense, but bear with us here. While you may wish to offer all types of plastering work in the early days, as time goes on you may wish to develop a particular skill set within the trade.

Whether you get a formal qualification or your talent and interest appears naturally, becoming a specialist may mean a smaller pool of work. But you could increase your market share, especially if you’re one of only a few that can offer it.

For example, you could consider specialising in ornamental plastering, such as the intricate and detailed crown moulding found in period architecture. You could specialise in restoring such pieces and/or creating replicas in new buildings.


What are the next steps?

From our guide, you’ve learned the key steps about how to start a plastering business. This includes registering as a sole trader or a limited company, as well as writing a business plan and finding customers. Now that you know the process, the next step is to get going and your start your business – good luck!