3 Rookie Mistakes of Flipping Furniture for Profit

Colorfully painted dressers, chairs, and other furniture stacked in a tower

3 Rookie Mistakes of Flipping Furniture for Profit

By Devon Whalen 
November 17, 2020

Maybe we were a teeny bit arrogant about our skills when we set out to launch our business repurposing furniture. We were so sure that we would have no problem. We’re intelligent, educated, hard-working people with experience in business, sales, painting, basic home repair, and writing. We have creativity and passion and a dedication to our company’s mission. None of those skills or traits could prevent us from making a bunch of mistakes as we first started out. Those mistakes, however, have provided us with immense opportunity to learn, to improve, and to share.

Colorfully painted dressers, chairs, and other furniture stacked in a tower

“…if you’re just starting out with a small business and little capital, be sure to see your process through and not get stuck scouring Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace and end up in the furniture equivalent of Analysis Paralysis.”

Mistake #1 Accumulating Too Much Inventory

Having inventory—particularly pieces that you’ve come by that are unique and/or free—seems like a really amazing problem to have when you have a business flipping furniture. Sure, it’s likely still a better problem than having a hard time finding pieces to flip. However, when you have an over-abundance of projects, there are a number of things that happen. 

Firstly, those pieces take up space. If you are operating out of a relatively small shop or garage, space can be at a premium.  When you fill it all with unworked pieces, you can really begin to cramp your actual workspace, which can make the work harder than it should be. 

Secondly, you are probably spending a good bit of time searching for and collecting pieces, which means that you’re not spending that time finishing the pieces you have. This delay in working on your pieces means that you’re not generating any revenue in the immediate. This may or may not be a problem, depending on your financial situation, but if you’re just starting out with a small business and little capital, be sure to see your process through and not get stuck scouring Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace and end up in the furniture equivalent of Analysis Paralysis. 

If you’re not convinced that too much inventory is a mistake, let me just offer one more reason that it can be problematic.  Your finished pieces are more at-risk when you have more inventory than you can handle.  When your workspace becomes cramped, your  pieces are more likely to get bumped, scratched, or covered in sanding dust.  If you have too many started projects, there can also be delays in your ability to sell your product because you don’t have a clear pipeline. For a small business relying on local sales listed individually on websites, any bottle neck in the system can cause a problem for listing and selling.  If your workspace is not a temperature-controlled area, the delay can also put your finished pieces at risk.  So, be sure to consider what you have the ability to fit into your space and in your timeline so that you don’t have too many pending projects and materials.

Mistake #2 Spending Too Much Time on YouTube

Don’t get me wrong! YouTube, TikTok, blogs—they’re all fantastic places to learn new things. But if you are like my husband and I, you can really find yourself going down the rabbit hole of how-to videos and neglecting the other tasks you have pending.  But perhaps more importantly, you will also likely find yourself in a place where you have watched a ton of videos and read a bunch of articles and are still not really any closer to finding the answer you’re looking for.

Over Shoulder Photo of woman looking at phone with youtube logo on it

The thing is bloggers, vloggers, and content-creators are all doing what we do best—imparting our knowledge. Some of us certainly have more of that to spare than others. But even the best and brightest with the most insight and experience to offer are still presenting what they know and in a manner that makes sense to them. So, you’re likely to sit through countless videos and skim endless blogs to find out that they never actually tell you what grit they’re using to sand between layers.  You may spend hours looking for someone who will demonstrate just the right technique for adding that top coat, only to find a time lapse video that doesn’t really show you the detail you were looking for.  You can’t get all that wasted time back. 

Hey, I’m not saying to stop searching online or answers or to stop watching videos and reading blogs (please don’t stop reading blogs!), but I am going to encourage you to find a more personal connection if you can.  Apprentice with someone who is already doing the work.  Reach out to someone in a group or forum. Find a venue where you can ask a question and receive a real-time (or prompt) answer and maybe even a demonstration that directly answers your question.

Mistake #3 Not Testing & Sampling Enough Before Flipping Furniture

It can be tempting to jump right into your business or hobby flipping furniture.  When you have a new piece and idea, it can be really tempting to run straight out to the store to buy what you think you need and get to work.  And after reading about Mistake #2, you may be ready to yell at your screen, saying “But you just said not to watch a million videos!”.  And you would be right. I did.  But I am not asking you to pause to and spend the rest of your day scouring YouTube and TikTok for people doing projects like yours.  I want to encourage you to take more time to test strategies and sample products.  Before painting an entire piece of furniture with a new paint, buy a sample of the color.  Test a sample of the product on a scrap of wood.  Try a new sanding technique on a piece that you’re not particularly crazy about before redoing that antique.  Whenever you engage in the making process, it’s important that you take the time to tinker, to try and fail, to prototype, and to iterate.  That doesn’t meant that you have to reach perfection before creating a piece.  You don’t want to get stuck in the testing phase any more than you want to get caught up in the research.  But testing and sampling will save you from spending a fortune on expensive chalk paint in a color you realize you cannot stand.

Anyone just starting out in a new business or on a new creative venture is likely to make some really fantastic mistakes. Own them. They’re a part of your journey and your process.  But hopefully you can find a way to avoid these three rookie mistakes we made and move onto your own big “oops!” moment. 

Have you made any bloopers in your journey? Share them with us in the comments so we can all learn and grow together.

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