WHEN is the right time to take the plunge and start a new business?

“Most people probably wouldn’t want to follow my example,” says painter and decorator Michael Barnes. “The day I started out my wife was 39 weeks pregnant with our third child and I had no idea whether I was going to be able to put food on the table.

“I remember Del Boy from the sitcom Only Fools and Horses used to always say ‘he who dares, wins’ and there is something in that. If you don’t take the plunge, you’ll never know whether you can make a success of your business. I’ve always had a positive outlook and I relied on that during those first fraught weeks. I still do.”

Such positivity has paid off for the 40-year-old, and seven years on he has a thriving business, Excell Decorators, working mostly in Glasgow’s affluent south side.

“My forte is decorative designs – shapes, stripes and feature walls,” he adds. “It took me years to perfect those skills and it’s a great feeling when customers appreciate your work.

“A lot of people think painting is easy, that anybody can do it. Sometimes you give someone a quote and they say ‘I’ll just do it myself’. They have no idea the level of skill and experience professionals bring to the job.”

Mr Barnes started training straight from school, spending four years between Glasgow Clyde College and learning on the job. He worked for big companies after qualifying as a time-served tradesman, but instability in the industry prompted him to consider going out on his own.

“Every January the building trade came to a standstill and you’d be waiting to hear whether you were going to get laid off,” says the painter, who lives with wife Andrea and his four young children in Knightswood. “That happened to me a few times and it prompted me to start my own business. I have no regrets.”

Word of mouth is key in the home improvement sector, and Mr Barnes says Facebook has also proved a helpful marketing tool, allowing him to showcase work and engage directly with customers.

“I really enjoy the communication element of the job,” he says. “I like listening to customers and giving them advice and options. Once the job is finished, there’s nothing better than seeing their faces light up. I’m a real painting and decorating geek and I genuinely love this job, so I always do my very best.”

Not that being your own boss is always a breeze, of course.

“It can be pretty stressful. Sometimes the phone never stops and you worry about how you’re going to fit everyone in, sometimes you’re stressing about not having enough work. Family life is hectic too at the moment, but I wouldn’t change anything.”

In terms of advice, the Glaswegian says confidence is key – but warns against complacency.

“It’s important to have belief in yourself,” he says. “And I always remember something one of the tutors at Business Gateway said: ‘if you think having your own business is sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in, then give up now’. They were right - it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. The first two years it was tough for me. I’d go out every night posting fliers through the doors of hundreds of houses.

“You also need to be a good communicator. Always reply to inquiries quickly, even when you’re really busy.”

Mr Barnes believes a solid grounding in your chosen sphere is vital, too.

“I can’t thank my lecturers at Glasgow Clyde College enough – they were down to earth and had a great way of passing on their skills. I also made some lifelong friends there and have nothing but happy memories.”