According to Merriam-Webster, something that has been upcycled is of “higher value” than it was originally.
Upcycling is a very positive trend that keeps items out of the dump and gives old furniture another chance at being useful. And it’s also creating another stream of income for people who love using their skills to bring new life to discarded furniture.
If this sounds like something you’d like to do, there are a few things to consider before jumping into it to help your new business be a profitable one.
Start with a quality piece of furniture
Quality matters…even in the furniture refinishing world.
Look for items that are desired in the marketplace and which are made with real wood because these are the pieces most likely to turn a profit.
If you’ve got the skills and the tools you need to repair structural damage you’ll have more choices, but at the end of the day only take on what you know you can easily do.
Also, don’t forget to include the cost of time and materials when choosing a piece to upcycle.
Your garage or shop might be filled with tons of paint, sandpaper, brushes, etc. right now, but those items will eventually run out. Which means they’ll need to be replaced. Ideally with the money you earn from selling your newly created pieces of art.
Obviously then, the less work that needs to be done to a piece, the better your profits. Because you’ll have spent less in both time and materials. A win win for both you and the lucky customer who buys your piece.
Go for items that appear sturdy and need little to help them look great.
Some places to find used furniture include:
- ⬥local thrift shops
- ⬥garage sales
- ⬥estate sales
- ⬥friends and family
Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for used furniture. You might be surprised what you can pick up for very little cash.
As with every place you hunt for furniture know your limit on what you can spend. Hint: it should be low enough to turn a profit. And be willing to walk away if you can’t get the price you need.
Tip: Moving sales are a great place to land a good piece at a steal because people are often in a rush to unload their unwanted furniture fast.
Repair damaged furniture
You don’t want to sell something that will fall apart the first time it’s used. So any structural issues must be fixed before you can sell it.
Your reputation…and your business depends on it.
It can be easy to do more to a piece of furniture than what’s really necessary, especially when your imagination comes into play.
For example, sometimes a chair just needs to be reupholstered and cleaned up a bit to be good enough to sell but you’ve imagined how amazing it would look to cover it in paint…even though there’s nothing wrong with the wood itself.
Bottom line, when you’re considering upcycling furniture, remember that the cost of materials you use…and your time…are tacked onto what you paid for the furniture.
Tips to get your pieces sold
People who are searching for a great piece of furniture for their home might love your inventory, but if you fail to consider the following when listing your items, they’ll probably buy elsewhere:
When posting images online think about how to display the features of your pieces.
For example, if you’ve refinished a beautiful antique desk, use props such as a stack of hardcover books and/or a desk lamp to help buyers imagine using it themselves.
Use a light colored backdrop and neutral floor coverings if needed to help prospective buyers focus on the desk itself, not the messy garage it was refinished in!
Lighting is key to taking a good photograph.
Natural lighting works best (a good light kit can help with this) but whether you use artificial or natural light, avoid harsh brightness or shadows in your images.
When taking pictures, don’t tilt the camera angle up or down as it can distort the image. Take photos either straight-on or at a slight angle to the left or right, but keep the focus at eye-level of the center of the piece, using a tripod to avoid taking blurry shots.
If your piece has special features you want to call attention to focus in on them, both in your photos and your description.
And speaking of descriptions…
You’ll want to include a well thought out ad with your images.
Since most people are searching online for what they want, you’ll want to include keywords that people will be using when they search such as industrial, farmhouse or art-deco.
If your piece was made by a well-known manufacturer say that in your ad. Or if you know the history of the piece, such as when and/or where it was made, a famous person who may have owned it – or one like it – include that in your ad to spark their curiosity.
If you haven’t already done this (you should have before you bought and refinished the piece) consider the market you’re in when setting your prices.
Notice what others are charging for pieces similar to yours and set yours a little higher to test the waters.
Let the piece sit for a few weeks. If you need it to move, you can:
- ⬥Lower the price by 10 to 15 percent and/or
- ⬥Re-stage and/or re-photograph it
If your prices are too low you’re probably selling everything fast – and in the process you’re devaluing the time and effort you put into the piece…not to mention failing to recoup the cost of materials.
And you’ll also be making it harder on everyone else who is upcycling furniture by lowering price expectations in the market…not a good way to make friends!
List your items everywhere you can think of. Some good places include:
- ⬥Classifieds in your local paper
- ⬥Local vintage markets
- ⬥Sales apps
You’re in business, so why accept only cash?
Use electronic payment options like Square, PayPal or Stripe to expand your ability to make a sale.
You want to remove every obstacle possible when selling your upcycled creations. Offering delivery (for an extra charge of course) as an option can help remove one more obstacle between you and the sale.
Note: If you agree to make a delivery of the item, make sure you’re getting payment upfront.
Stay in touch
Think about it.
People who buy one of your beautiful creations have friends and family who will want to know where they bought their beautiful “new” buffet.
If your customers have your contact information they can share that with these people who may want to buy something from your inventory. Or commission you to make something similar for them!
Some easy ways to stay in touch:
- ⬥Leave some business cards or ask for a referral.
- ⬥Ask your customers to “like” your Facebook page.
- ⬥Send occasional emails or text messages letting them know what you’ve created or asking if they’re looking for anything else.
Finally, while it is possible to make money by upcycling furniture, you can’t buy pieces based on whether or not you love them. You need to look at your costs and what the market demand is for that item.
Bottom line, if you’re making money, it’s a business. If you’re not, it’s a hobby. But either way, upcycling furniture is a great trend that benefits everyone.