How to Make a Side Income by Flipping Furniture
Working from home has been one of the biggest challenges of my life (try speaking to a business contact on the phone while your son screams for you to wipe his butt from the bathroom) and yet it is one of the things that I’m most proud of. I can dictate my own hours, I can earn some cash for my family and I can engage my brain with tasks that fulfill me. Home to Heather has allowed me all of those things.
One of my most favorite subjects to write about is how I find an old piece of furniture and give it new life. To date, all of the pieces I’ve refurbished are at use in our home but with each bit of furniture I work on I realize how much money this saves us. I love that pre-owned furniture is inexpensive and that I can add value to it by giving it a re-do.
Refurbishing furniture is also an ideal way to earn some cash. If I were to sell the things I’ve made over I could put a bit of coin in the account – another work at home side income can be had!
Here’s how to do it.
#1 – Find a great piece
The best pieces of furniture to flip are in good and sturdy condition, need very little work and can serve a purpose in someone’s home. Check your local thrift shops, garage sales and classifieds. You can even ask your friends and family if they have anything they might part with. The key to your success is to pay very little money for your finds.
TIP: Moving sales are fantastic places to score a great deal because people really do need to unload their stuff and fast. Negotiate and bargain and be willing to walk away if you can’t get it for the price you need to pay.
Example: The pedestal table and chairs I painted would be ideal – I only paid $50!
#2 – Fix it up!
If the piece has any structural issues, fix them. You don’t want to sell a piece that will fall apart. Your clients are paying you money in exchange for something useful. A broken chair isn’t going to be useful and you don’t want them to be dissatisfied with what they buy from you.
When redoing furniture, there can be a tendency to overdo it. Sometimes a chair only needs the seat recovered, or maybe a good cleaning and a new coat of wax is enough to bring a piece back to life. Paint if you need to and only if you need to.
It’s super important to keep your material costs down. A second hand piece of furniture is always going to be a second hand piece of furniture. There will be a ceiling to the amount of money you can sell it for. If you blow your budget on materials your profits can fizzle away quickly.
Tip: When fixing items up that you intend you sell, keep the finishes simple. The longer you work on each project, the less money you’ll make.
Example: I spent about $75 on materials to fix up my table including paint, primer, sanding blocks and rollers, all of which I had to buy new.
#3 – Sell it!
Start a profile on VarageSale. List your items. Wait.
Okay, I suppose there’s a bit more to it than that. You want to show your handiwork off in the very best way. Take a great photo in good lighting and make sure it highlights the important details of the piece. When you write your listing include dimensions and any other pertinent info. Buyers can be fickle and they might not bother to message you to find out how large something is. Give them what they need to make a purchasing decision. Answer your messages promptly and keep appointments on time.
VarageSale is an excellent tool because it’s a social network too. Interact with people, leave polite feedback and be prepared to negotiate. Don’t over price. It’s smart to keep track of your costs and how much time you spent on a piece so you can have an idea of your bottom line.
Tip: Put the word out that you are looking for used furniture. People will start begging you to take their old stuff away.
Example: Listing the table for $290 would be appealing to buyers and would allow me a profit of $165 or approximately $55/hour which is nothing to sneeze at for a side gig!
This isn’t a get rich quick scheme but if you can scout out great pieces, keep your costs down and sell quickly you can earn a nice income on the side to save up for that vacation you’ve wanted to take. Remember that not every piece is going to need a massive makeover. If you can score good items at below market value and sell them at market value you will earn a profit without even picking up a paintbrush.
Note: Values listed are for illustrative purposes. What you can earn will depend on the market in your area.
*VarageSale has generously sponsored this post. All opinions remain my own.
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Kyla @ Mommy's Weird says
I love painted furniture. I love the beachy theme, but I have NO time to do it myself. But, I will open my wallet!
I love this idea!! So cool and a great way to make cashola doing fab DIYs. Love!
Now I have a use for all the items I’m storing for a rainy day. Literally my garage has a couple dressers, headboards and night stands kicking around because I “might” be able to use them one day. You are genius!
Great idea. Now if I was only good at this kind of thing. Le sigh. Maybe I’ll just buy stuff that YOU redo instead. 🙂
Kim McD says
What a cool Idea, I’m a sucker for redone furniture, I’d probably have a hard time selling once I actually got around to finishing it, but it would make me feel pretty awesome if someone were to buy my handy work.
Jody Robbins says
I need to do this. Thanks so much for breaking it down into manageable tasks for me.
Love the ideas! I make a decent side income flipping furniture. I notice a big mistake many people do is charge too much for the pieces. Just because you painted it doesn’t mean that it’s now worth hundreds of dollars 🙂
Yes! I think knowing your price points can make or break it. And every market is different too. Glad to hear you’re doing well Ashley!
Thats a good idea. So helpfull. Thanks alot.
Just finished painting my first piece of furniture. An old antique cedar chest that belonged to my great grandmother. It was simple to do , didn’t take long and the chalk paint from home depot was very inexpensive. A little goes a long wAy. Been looking for a side business. As soon as I fix up a couple of pieces I have at home. Going to start searching, painting and selling. Can’t wAit to get started. Thanks for the idea.
Just curious, but how does shipping work on a site like VarageSale?
Varagesale is mostly used for local selling within your community so it’s all pick up / drop off in person. I guess if you wanted to ship you could but I don’t think there are any tools within VarageSale to help you with that.
its not quite as simple as this…. Out of necessity my family has always refinished old pieces, and after working for 22 years in the corporate world, I left to return to what I loved, refinishing furniture. I have built my business up over the last 3 years, and am doing very well for myself so far, but turning a hobby into a business that actually paid the family’s bills was another thing. You are dirty, all day you are dirty…. And sometimes covered in paint! It takes extra time in the bathroom to get it all of, just so you can go out in public to your kids sporting event, where you’re only going to sweat again and be in need of yet another shower today! I’m not saying I don’t love what I do, because I totally do, but it took me a while to figure out how to price for my market, charge a decent hourly wage, and still make a profit.
The one thing that I can’t stress enough is the math. Take how much you paid for it, + materials+hourly wage x number of hours….THEN AND ONLY THEN do you figure out what the profit is, not the profit divided by the number of hours = hourly wage. Good luck and go get dirty!
Thank you so much for your comment Emma! I’m sure it’s not simple day to day and you are to be commended for committing to it and making it work. Congratulations!
Ashley Williams says
SOOOO TRUE! IT is DEFINITELY NOT as glamorous or easy as it looks and sounds! Been doing this for 5 years and it is hard laborous work. First, you have to find the pieces, then you have to lift and haul the pieces, then you have a place to store it while you find time to paint it. Once you spend hours painting, distressing and finishing the pieces with a topcoat, you then have to either store it or haul it again only to have the customer ask you if you can come down on the price at all. All this for EVERY piece only to find out you broke even at the end of the year when you add up the price of all your paint, brushes, sandpaper, gas, rent, etc….
important things are hard! It is definitely something you need to love doing and keeping your costs down is key! Good luck for 2016 🙂
I totally agree with Emma and Ashley.
This blog post isn’t really about flipping furniture for profit, but more of a how-to in finding and restoring pieces. You really have to understand your target market because the bottom line is THEY are the ones who will determine what your pieces are worth, regardless of how much sweat you put into them.
I am fortunate enough to live in an area where vintage and antique furniture is abundant. However, the younger generation is not interested in “old stuff” as is, but they love painted, distressed and otherwise ‘new’ pieces they consider more modern. As well, people who can’t get their hands on vintage/antiques are willing to pay handsomely for a rare find.
Bottom line is…understand who you’re selling to and that flipping furniture is physically, financially and creatively demanding, but it can be oh, so rewarding, too!
Thanks for your comment Daisy! Yes, this post is more of a thought starter than anything else. There’s the business side of things and then there’s the re-do/artistic work and while they are connected, they are very different. Knowing your market is paramount! I live in a fairly young, affluent city and people are often just wanting to buy something and be done – flippers do well here but I can see how it might be tough or impossible in other areas.
Marcia leal says
I do this on my own now I never pay for pieces find discarded things an re do them people give me stuff all the time love doing it and make money never heard of this site do you have to pay to post? is it in my area?
It’s free to join and post on VarageSale. You should be able to search for your area and see if there’s a group to join. If not, you can convert a facebook group to a VarageSale community.
Mary Hotaling says
I have been refurbishing old pieces for sometime as a hobby but also a money maker. Some things I take into consideration are: Original price for the item, cost of the materials and time. I have posted the finished items on Craigslist, as well as looking for cost effective ways at flea markets or co-ops to sell the items. So far I have been lucky turning a nice profit on the items. You have to know the value of your item and be willing to ask for it when selling it. It is hard work but it always so fun and rewarding to see the finished product. My husband is always amazed with the transformation.
Hi all! I love painting/ fixing old pieces and seeing their transformations. I was just reading some of the Terms, etc on VarageSale’s website. I suggest you read thru Everything there, so you can make an informed decision as to see if that’s the site for you…
Absolutely! I agree.
Post an add on you hometown Facebook funiture for sale or craigslist. For wanted free items like dressers tables beds. I did I it for a week and have projects for a few months. I also asked for free pianos to repurpose. My friends don’t like me much from all the calls I got. But they will get over it. 15 free pianos and multiple other items for the best price. Nothing.
Hi Heather love your blog on flipping furniture. I have chalked painted a few pieces of my own myself, and absolutely love it! I think starting a side business flipping furniture is a excellent idea. I always look for pieces for little or no cost and like you they’ve all been person pieces for my home. Thinking about branching out now thanks to you! Great job. Wanna start a blog too. Any tips?
Join some facebook groups for blogging and furniture makeovers. I know there are lots…you might want to search for one in your local area. Good luck!
Awesome post. I like everything u talked about. Thanks a lot for your tips.
Everyone please answer me with this Hubby and U are having some dissagreements. Example What is the maximum amount of money you have would spent in the beginning of the learning to flip furniture do the chalk Painting and shabby and knobs etc.. He is looking at armoires that are in good condition Cost 300 and Then put in our work and sell for more around 1000, Which no one around here can afford. My look is I find a ugly wooden armouir Do the same exact job / work that he is going to do on the 300 piece he bought But I spent 30,40, Mabie 60. And I put in my work add some knobs and sell that for 200-300. Where is the best way to profit? Please help me !!! Can anyone send pics of furniture they found how much they paid How much work put in and & What it sold for with pics. He does not believe the furniture is out there… Email the price you originally paid , What you put into it and how much it sold for To Nicoledavis1111@yahoo.com
Thanks for reading! I think it’s less a question of who is right and more of a question of doing some more market research. Check out similar businesses in your area, or areas that are like yours. Search on Facebook for people who sell on their pages. If they have high priced items for sale, how long have they been listed? (Are they selling or sitting at those prices?) What are their prices like? Once you know what your market will bear you can sort of work backwards factoring in material costs etc to get a good idea of how much you can spend.
Michael Kerr says
I’ve been in the bizz of flipping for a year or so. I think it’s important to find a happy medium. Some pieces you clean up. Some pieces you touch up. Some pieces you paint. Some you repurpose. Some as is. When at the thrift or store be open to possibilities of all materials. If you want to redo chair seats used and bargain bin curtains are a great money saver for example as opposed to buying fabric by the yard. Hardware stores have shelves with clearance paints stains and strippers. Also buying furniture or looking for curb pieces to salvage scrap wood, handles, legs and replacement backs. A piece can be used for pieces. Art furniture is back in a big way. I’m happy to be able to tap my creativity for profit.
Thanks so much for your comment! Great info here.
Cindy Wentinks, aka Mermaid Dreams says
I started buying pisses to “redo a couple of years ago. My first inclination was to just do the shabby chic thing, but have found that there are many places you can find those types of pieces near me so, now I have turned the pieces into art, which makes them much more unique and sell easier. The key for me is finding pieces as cheap as possible because of the amount of time some of them take. I would never recoup a decent hourly rate, but I enjoy it so much I don’t care. It’s more about being able to use my creativity. My ultimate dream is to open a small shop in a very touristy little town near me with a lot of shopping foot traffic within about a year. I have sold quite a few places on the local varage sale sites, and fortunately have developed a little bit of following. When it comes time to open my shop I will use those sites to market to those already happy customers who I have sold to in the past. I have gotten some pieces given to me by neighbors who were moving and one customer actually brought something by for me to paint that she had gotten free from someone. I think that selling on the verge sale sites has helped me to promote my brand. Before I knew about the sites, I was taking pieces to a consignment store that had a ton of foot traffic. Unfortunately, they kept 45%. Because it was in a better neighborhood and a little higher priced, I didnt mind as much. It also helped getting my brand out there. I have had people go back to the store looking for my pieces. My initial intent was not to make a lot of money, but rather have an outlet for my creativity And the little extra money was bonus, and since my ultimate goal has always been opening my own shop, getting my brand out there has been key.
Ery man says
Hi Heather, I love your post , I want to start my project of finishing furniture too just because I can haha , today I scored a great working bench for only 20$ but I don’t know anything about finishing or painor even the tools could you please help me and tell me how to start ? I would be great ful thank you!
Honestly, everything you need to learn is on the web. There are so many bloggers writing about furniture makeovers that my best advice is to hit Pinterest and just read, read read! If you have a good eye, that will take you far. Everyone has their favourite supplies so you’ll have to figure out what you love via trial and error. Most of the time, the person behind the paint desk at your hardware store is your best source of info. Good luck to you!