'Some creations are just like little works of art'

Jane Means, 38, is a professional gift wrapper based in Lincolnshire and London. She has wrapped gifts for the Queen, and worked with companies such as Selfridges, Harrods, and The White Company.

What do you actually do?

My main work is training people who work in shops and department stores such as Selfridges and Marks & Spencer how to wrap gifts for customers. I'm often asked to teach gift wrapping techniques to an individual or a team of people working in customer services, sales, or floristry. I also run workshops and provide my own gift-wrapping services to various big retailers.

What's your work schedule like?

I'm busy up to Christmas, but then there's Valentine's Day and Mother's Day after that. Many companies book me during the summer and early autumn, so I can train their staff before the Christmas rush.

At the moment, it's a seven-day week, because I'm running a gift wrapping service in Covent Garden from noon until 8pm, with a team of trained gift wrappers. People tend to buy all their goodies in the morning, and then want them beautifully wrapped up in the afternoon before they go home, which is why we start work a bit later in the day than most people.

What do you love most about your job?

You can be very creative. Gift wrapping can either be very understated, or very flamboyant, and it gives people instant pleasure. Some wrapping creations are just like little works of art. I also enjoy the teaching side. You get people from all over the world who want to learn how to wrap gifts beautifully, so I've met some interesting characters.

What are the downsides?

By the time I get to Christmas Eve, I'm exhausted, and I want to hide my scissors and sticky tape at the bottom of a drawer for a while.

What skills do you need to do the job well?

You need creativity and an open mind. I find that often the best gift wrappers are people who are used to working with their hands, like florists. You also need to have attention to detail. Each gift has to be absolutely perfect. You should keep up to speed with the latest trends in fashion and home design.You need a good eye for colour.

What advice would you give someone with their eye on your job?

You don't have to have huge overheads. I started with a budget of 100, sitting at my kitchen table. You do need the basics, like sharp scissors and double-sided tape, and you should practise like mad before you even think about starting your own company and wrapping professionally. After that, it's learning how to market yourself well. Use your local press, and approach boutiques and shops to ask if they're interested in using your services.

What's the salary and career path like?

People start out on pretty much the minimum wage. Once you've got going, you can charge 150 a day. It's seasonal work, so you need to think about how to expand your business during the slower times.

For more information and resources on gift wrapping, visit www.ga-uk.org.uk; www.janemeans.co.uk; or www.paperchase.co.uk

Jane Means will be wrapping gifts as part of Covent Garden Christmas Deluxe, a series of entertainment events held in the Covent Garden Central Arcade and piazza