Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cover the world

Man, I love painting.

Not pictures. Houses.

I love dipping a brush into a fresh can of paint and sweeping it across plasterboard walls and ceilings and then watching a room suddenly come alive with personality. Or, if it's an exterior job, rehabing a worn and weather-beaten wall or porch or fence or carport back to functional beauty.

I've been doing this for about three or four years now. I started doing this to make some supplemental income after I retired from 30 years in journalism and found, somewhat to my surprise, how much I liked it.

Mostly, I like the fact that there's no stress involved. At least, not the deadline pressure stress that I experienced in 30 previous years in the newspaper business. In addition, almost all of my customers are people who I know, and I like to think that kind of familiarity is a bonus for both of us.

So far, it's resulted in a nice little world-of-mouth business, averaging five or six jobs per season.

I do point out to my potential customers that at 60 years old I don't climb ladders, although that's a soft rule that I do bend on occasion. I will use a step ladder for some interior jobs. I will use an extension ladder to work outside if I don't have to paint anything above 10 or 12 feet. In that case, I guestimate whether or not I can survive a fall off a ladder before I accept a job at a particular work site. If I figure that a fall won't kill me — say, if a potential fall can be broken by some boxwoods or snap dragons or impatiens with the result of only a few broken bones and not brain damage or worse — I might take the chance.

However, I sometimes do have an uncomfortable urge to take a step back to see how my work is progressing. Not a good idea while standing on a ladder, though.

I don't do wallpaper, plaster or carpentry. Hey, I'm a sportswriter, remember?

Since I don't consider myself to be particularly experienced, and I certainly don't have a vast array of equipment such as sanders or paint eaters (or even a ladder, for that matter. I usually borrow my neighbor's extension ladder or use ladders my customers might be able to provide), I charge $12 per hour, or essentially $100 per eight-hour day. This is basically an apprentice rate. This is what I've been charging for all those years. The price of gas soars daily, but I remain the same.

I also feel like I'm filling a niche in the painting universe. I happily work in a small-job world that might be ignored by larger, pricier contractors who might be out for the larger pieces of the painter's pie.

My slice suits me just fine, thank you.


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