I’ve been restoring furniture for years now as a hobby. I’ve always loved transforming and improving things that I purchase or find, and I recently decided to turn it into a side business…partly because I’ve run out of room in my house for all of my projects.
Like the other side businesses that I have had over the years, I followed a set of strategic tips to make my products as profitable as possible. Even though this particular example is centered around restoring furniture, these helpful tips can be used in any business setting where you are selling products!
**If you’re not really interested in the furniture example, but still want tips for increasing profits in your business, skip to the free cheat sheet download at the bottom!**
I have learned a lot over the years, not just about flipping furniture, but flipping it to make a profit. There have been plenty of projects that I have sold, but I either didn’t make any money or I just broke even. Neither of those outcomes are what you want after you’ve put hours of work into a piece. If you’re restoring/repurposing furniture with the intention of selling the pieces, you need to be sure you are not only making money, but making enough money to pay for your materials and most importantly, your time. A friend of mine asked me, “do you really want to share your furniture flipping secrets with all of your blog readers? Won’t people who know you start flipping furniture themselves instead of buying pieces from you?” Here is my opinion on that: you can pretty much do anything yourself. There are enough blogs and videos right at consumers’ fingertips that we could pretty much never pay somebody to do something for us again. I’ve watched tons of tutorials and I’m pretty confident that I could cut my own hair – but I don’t (shaky hands…bad idea). So if my posts give you the confidence to start furniture flipping yourself, you go, Glenn Coco.
How I Make Money Flipping Furniture: The Tips
My first bit of advice for making money flipping furniture is about sourcing your flip pieces. You obviously wouldn’t go to a furniture store and purchase an $800 dresser that you’re going to destroy and put back together. You need to find the junk pieces that everyone else walks past without giving a second thought – because those are the pieces that can be purchased for little money which means that they only thing standing between you and an awesome profit is how long it takes you to finish and get it sold!
Probably the most expensive piece that I have made-over is The Sam’s Club Cabinet – which my parents purchased from Sam’s Club over ten years ago and gave to me when I moved out because they thought it was ugly. But it wasn’t originally purchased with the intention of flipping.
Some of the best places to find flips are:
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore: If you aren’t familiar with ReStore, it is a place where people go and donate furniture and building supplies which are then sold to the public, and the money is put towards community outreach. As you can probably assume, a lot of the furniture has seen better days…hence the reason it was donated. But where some people see beat up furniture, I see potential (I should be an inspirational speaker).I have raved about ReStore in some of my previous posts – one in particular is the Habitat for Humanity desk which I purchased for $30 and completely transformed.
Another one of my ReStore finds was the first chair I ever reupholstered…I haven’t blogged about it because it was SUCH a project that I don’t even know where to start. But here is the photographic evidence. I bought this cat-scratched hot mess for $25 and ended up giving it away to a friend of mine (NOT a good money-making example…but I probably could have sold it for a good bit if I chose to).
2. Goodwill stores: This is very similar to the ReStore, but Goodwills typically aren’t as focused on furniture as ReStores are. But sometimes you can find some really good pieces!
3. Friends who don’t know what they’re getting rid of: If you’re looking to make money flipping furniture, this is a big one. People are cleaning, renovating, moving and throwing things away ALL THE TIME. Put a bug in the ear of your friends that you like to fix up things, and before you know it you’ll have a garage full of “projects” and a husband who walks inside and stares you down every time he tries to get the lawn mower out. Oops. One of my favorite “friend finds” was an old window that I turned into a frame for my wedding keepsakes.
4. Side of the road: You’re going to think I’m super sketchy…but I have found some of the best items on the side of the road. My most recent flip was found on the side of the road, put out for the trash truck. I brought it home, spent part of a Sunday afternoon painting and sprucing, and sold it within a few hours for $30.
The main point is this: When you are in the business of selling products, you want to keep your cost of goods sold low (I may have pulled a C in economics, but that is a concept that stuck). Take your time when sourcing products! Try to find the best quality items for the best price.
In my vinyl business, I spent a LOT of time searching and making sure that I was always getting my supplies for the best price possible, and that effort went a long way as I started making about $1,000/month cutting and selling vinyls. You can read about that business venture in How I Make $1,000 a Month Cutting Vinyls.
Tip #2: time spent flipping. There are some pieces that can be sold for a good amount of money, but typically I like to keep my projects priced around $300 and less. For me, the fast-movers are typically priced $150 and less. The hardest concept for me to grasp over the years is factoring in the time I spent working on a project. It’s so easy to say “oh well I only spent $20 on materials and $30 on the piece so $100 will still give me a $50 profit.” Okay, BUT, how many hours did you put into this project? Five? Ten? If you spent ten hours on said project (this is not a crazy amount of time…even if you only work on something for an hour or two a day and it doesn’t seem very time consuming, it adds up) and you made $50 profit, that would mean you are only being paid $5 an hour for your work. That is far below minimum wage, and you would probably never accept a job offer with that kind of pay…so why settle for that when you’re working for yourself?!
Let me also say, just because you get behind and spend twenty hours on a project that (just being honest) didn’t turn out that great, you can’t expect a customer to pay more for an average-quality piece just because you put a lot of time into it. It’s all about finding the right balance between price and time spent flipping.
For instance, I purchased a dresser not too long ago for $25 and couldn’t wait to refinish it. My plan was simple enough: strip off the old paint, sand, re-paint/stain and change the hardware. I had only stripped very small pieces up until this point…so I had NO clue how many hours it was going to take me just to get the old, nasty paint off of that thing. Then there were all types of other unforeseen issues – fine scratches that refused to be filled, stain not taking evenly, broken pieces…the list goes on and on. Before I knew it, I had spent probably close to twenty hours (over the course of a month) working on this dresser and it STILL wasn’t how I wanted it to be. Typically a refinished antique dresser can pull anywhere from $200-$300+, but this one just had a few too many quirks for me to feel okay about charging that much. Long story short, I ended up selling it for $100 just to get it out of my dining room. Doing the math on that would just depress me, so I’m not going to. But just know, it was not one of my finest flips. But I learned a lot about how to better predict what I’m getting myself into next time I take on a similar piece. Pricing and time spent flipping are definitely things to keep in mind when you’re trying to make money flipping furniture, or make money doing anything for that matter.
This next tip seems obvious, but it is so important for keeping your COGS (my accounting professor would be SO pleased with me right now) as low as possible. The tip is: use materials that you already have. I know how it feels when you have a brand new POS furniture piece in the back seat of your Mazda and the ideas are flying through your head about what you’re going to do with it. You can’t wait to get to Lowe’s and buy some fresh, new supplies and paint. This is where I have to stop myself from being petty – “well I could use the gallon of stain that I already have at home, but it’s Jacobean and I really had more of a Dark Walnut color in mind.” Stop it, Eden. There is no need to go and buy brand new paint and stain for every single project you’re doing, if you can make what you already have work.
For instance, when I was deciding on a paint color for the time sucking dresser of mine, I had a really dark navy blue paired with a dark stain in mind. I was so close to running down to Lowe’s and picking up a quart of some paint with a mysterious name when I remembered that I had almost an entire quart left of the blue paint I used to paint The Sam’s Club Cabinet a few months ago. So instead of spending $15+ on a whole new paint color, I bought a $4 sample of black paint which I used to transform the paint I already had into the color I envisioned.
Using DIY supplies that you already have will not only save you a trip or two to the store, but it will also cut back on your cost, meaning more profit for you!
Make Money Flipping Furniture Bonus tip: DIY items you should be purchasing at dollar stores.
- Multi-purpose cleaning cloths: These can be used for cleaning the piece before starting, wiping off sanding dust, wiping wood down with mineral spirits, staining and a number of other DIY tasks. I purchased a pack of eight for ONE DOLLAR.
- Plastic buckets: I used these to mix up my new paint color and it was perfect. Instead of transforming all that was left of the Sam’s Club Cabinet paint, I was able to pour just enough into the plastic bucket to mix up and paint the dresser with. I purchased a two-pack of these bad boys for (you guessed it) ONE DOLLAR)!
- Plastic gloves: They sell a wide variety of gloves meant for cleaning at dollar stores, and they really come in handy, especially when it comes to stripping and staining. The stripping agent that I used was not harsh at all, but I still wasn’t too eager to get it all over my hands. I love Lowe’s to death but I think they’re under the impression that all DIYers are men with XXL sized hands – not ideal for us petite gals. Whenever I try to use those I feel like a child borrowing my dad’s gloves…and I have serious worries that there could be a spider hiding out in the empty fingertips. Luckily, it seems that dollar stores believe that only women with size small hands are doing housework…because their cleaning gloves fit me [like a glove] – hilarious, I know.
- Metal pans: Not only are these great for when you’re bringing something to somebody’s house who you’re pretty sure is a tupperware thief, they’re great for DIY projects, too! The paint stripper that I was using (like most others) instructed to pour the gel into a metal pan before brushing it onto the piece. I used the other pan (because I purchased TWO FOR A DOLLAR!) to pour the mineral spirits in when cleaning up the piece after stripping. Adore these.
On to the next tip…marketing your products. This is a huge deal, and not just because I’m a total marketing freak, but because it doesn’t matter how amazing your work is if nobody knows it exists. There are tons of people out there looking for unique furniture, but you have to reach them. My marketing methods are extremely simple, and you can probably even do better than this, but this is what is currently working for me.
- Nextdoor: This is a private social network for you and your neighbors. You have to be invited to join and prove where you live to be a part of it. Luckily for me, our Nextdoor includes over twenty nearby neighborhoods – so when I post something it is seen by tons of people. If your neighborhood doesn’t have Nextdoor, you can sign up on http://www.nextdoor.com.
- Social media: This includes Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. Whenever I finish a project, I always love to post pictures. Not only to sell things, but I know that I love being nosey and seeing what others have created, so I’m contributing to the nosiness of all my friends. It’s the least I can do. And if somebody shares one of my posts, it is then seen by their friends as well.
- Facebook Yard Sale Groups: I put this in a category by itself because it’s not the same as posting a status with a photo of your latest creation. Facebook yard sale groups are generally started and kept up by an individual or a group of individuals and anyone who lives near that city or area can be invited to post items for sale. While I have had some luck on these sites, it is a little challenging due to the volume of people posting their own items. You can post something and ten minutes later it is buried at the bottom of the feed because twenty other people decided to post things at the same time. And if all of these people are anything like me, they can only look at so many purses and children’s clothes before they have to get off of that page…it is exhausting. BUT!!! This can be a great place to find project items…people seriously have no clue what they’re getting rid of. YAY! And if you post at the right time, it can be a good way to sell your products/services.
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Related: How I Make $1,000 a Month Cutting Vinyls