Side Hustle Spotlight: Flipping Furniture with A Young Pro

Hi there, Mrs. 1500 again. Last month, I asked you What is your Side Hustle? I got several very interesting responses, including one from Reader Nick. His original comment was “I make the most from flipping various items I obtain through yard sales (mostly video games and furniture).” I emailed him for more information about flipping furniture. I had already read his post about flipping video games, and I would not ever remember enough to make any money doing that. (As a kid, my parents bought us an Atari system. I remember fighting with my sister to be able to play it, but not because I wanted to play – I just didn’t want her to play.)

I got a little more information about it, and asked if he would write up a post to share with the class. Without further ado, here is Nick:

I have a riddle for you. What do you get when you cross a love for old stuff, countless hours spent watching HGTV, my wife, and a desire to create multiple income streams? I’ll give you a moment to consider.

Waiting…

Waiting…

Have you figured it out yet? Here’s the answer: my latest side hustle!

What We Do

A child's desk, purchased on Craigslist for $35.

A child’s desk, purchased on Craigslist for $35.

Lately I have been OBSESSED with purchasing furniture. I look for this furniture everywhere: at yard sales, antique shops, online, even on the side of the road. I only have a few requirements for the furniture. It must be solid wood, in good enough condition that it can be restored, and above all, the price must be right (much like real estate, the money is made in the purchase price).

Once I purchase the furniture, the real magic takes place. That magic comes in the form of my wife, Tiffany. Tiffany has been honing her skills as a finish painter for as long as she can remember. Recently, she has added woodworking skills to her bag of tricks. My penchant for haggling and scouting out good furniture, combined with her array of finishing and reconstruction skills has created our favorite new side hustle: refinishing furniture.

You Can Do It Too

A shelf at the midway point. Top half has been painted and stained, bottom half has not yet.

A shelf at the midway point. Top half has been painted and stained, bottom half has not yet.

I may have scared you off a bit with the talk of my wife’s serious skills. While it is true that she is extremely talented, talent is not really a prerequisite for this side hustle. All you truly need is a desire to hunt out items that others have given up on, and the discipline to put some time into refinishing the item.

Here are the basic steps we take with every item:

1. Find an item and purchase it for as little as possible.

2. Rough up the surface of the wood with a palm sander.

3. Throw on a coat of paint.

4. Sand off the paint in a few spots.

5. Stain or glaze the spots that you sanded.

6. Apply a coat of Polycrylic clear coat spray.

7. List the item on Craigslist or a similar site.

Finished table - purchased for $25, asking $125 on Craigslist.

Finished table – purchased for $25, asking $125 on Craigslist.

The style that we strive for with each of our items is sort of “Country Rustic”, which is a very popular look where we live. If you finish your item in a different style, some of the steps may be different or not required. Spend some time getting a feel for the style that sells well in your area and start honing your skills to finish that style. Remember, people are going to pay for your stuff because it matches their style, but they don’t have the time or knowledge to do it themselves.

How Much Can You Make?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten the main reason most of us spend time on side hustles: income. Like any side hustle, income from refinishing furniture is highly variable. There are a lot of factors involved including purchase price of the original piece of furniture, refinishing skill/style, availability of similar items in your market, time spent on the side hustle, and many other factors.

In general, you should be able to make a pretty good return on your money. We typically buy items for less than $50 and sell them for $100 or more. When we are focused we can do this several times per month. You probably won’t be able to replace your full-time income with this side hustle, but if you are diligent you can make a nice chunk of change. As an added bonus, refinishing furniture can be really fun! So the next time you see a piece of old furniture don’t think of it as a piece of junk, think of it as a possible investment!

This guest post was written by Nick. Nick is a recent college graduate trying to find his way in the crazy corporate world. He is a happy husband, a proud father, enjoying life in Utah. You can connect with Nick on Twitter.

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35 Responses to Side Hustle Spotlight: Flipping Furniture with A Young Pro

  1. Incredibly done! What a great (and rewarding) side hustle, for sure. You do great work.
    Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce recently posted…The Problem with DesireMy Profile

  2. catherine says:

    This is something I’ve considered. I’m both crafty and handy. I hesitate because of time, something I currently lack. Having said that I may still give it a go!

  3. Oh no! My heart breaks for the beautiful solid wood that is being buried under layers of paint! We have several pieces that we’ve acquired on the cheap over the years and have stripped, sanded, stained, and varnished into things of beauty. And several more that are in various stages of incompletion along the way. =).

    Great side hustle, but I don’t think I’d want to paint beautiful old wood! What if it’s American chestnut under there?
    Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted…He Said She Said – The Banana Thief!My Profile

    • Mary says:

      I love this article! I’m really into vintage, and antique pieces. I have a collection that’s large enough to furnish a massive family home (but moving into a 500sq ft train car), so I spend a chunk on storage. However in response to the wood lovers, something about the research involved in flipping furniture is the education gained. I guarantee Nick and his talented wife know more about types, periods, and design than the average. If they found a true hepplewhite, I am sure they’d restore it. On the other hand some pieces, especially those with veneers, are salvaged, recycled, and saved from the landfill by them painting it. Kudos to them on making extra cash recycling! Wish I could meet Nick and his wife to shake hands, and say thank you for giving new life to pieces that might have ended up in a landfill (: Blessings, and prosperity to you both!

  4. E.M. says:

    I really like how you and your wife work together on this! The bookshelf is really cute. This is definitely something I’ve been interested in, but I have to agree with Mrs. Pop. Both my dad and my boyfriend love the look of wood, so I don’t think they’d be letting me paint anything. My dad has a shop set up in the garage and just recently refinished the coffee table they’ve had ever since I can remember! My mom said it turned out lovely. If I am able to move closer to them I’d love to work on things with my dad and see what we can make happen, though it’s primarily a hobby for him, not something he thinks of as a side hustle.
    E.M. recently posted…Two Sides: Car Accident EditionMy Profile

  5. Alicia @ Financial Diffraction says:

    This post is so up my alley right now. I have beautifully made furniture, dovetail corners, solid wood… it’s lasted me for 25 years so far. The only catch is it is white with gold details a la the French Provencal. Great for a little girl, not so great for a grown woman (and man sleeps in that room too!). Since we don’t have any disposable money for new furniture at the moment I’ve decided I am going to give Chalk Paint a try in a bold-ish colour. I think it will be a nice mix of the old lines and a fun colour. Cost to me, around $100. And I get to keep something I’ve had for essentially my entire life – I know this isn’t a side-hustle, but it’s furniture flipping for myself 😉
    Alicia @ Financial Diffraction recently posted…being a wedding guest is expensive.My Profile

  6. cj says:

    1500! I would certainly flip furniture except my nails, my precious Nancy Nails that I use to create gorgeous, milky tones on the classical guitar. Surely, I’d lose a digit or two on my very first project and cry on my 6 strings forever more….
    cj recently posted…Who’s Afraid of the Urgent Doc?My Profile

  7. Micro says:

    A nice side benefit is you basically perfect your refinishing skills in case you find anything that you would like to place within your own house! This is definitely a side hustle I wouldn’t mind doing once I find myself a house and have the work space. Living in an apartment makes things a bit more difficult. That and I’m sure my two dogs would sneak away and chew up the table legs if they got the chance 🙂
    Micro recently posted…Would you move to find work?My Profile

  8. No Waste says:

    This is a side hustle that I can dig, the end product is so cool!

    The problem I would have is letting it go when I’m done!
    No Waste recently posted…Waste Of The WeekMy Profile

  9. Pribi says:

    Nice job. Can you please tell us how many hours (in average) you spend on single peace of furniture?

  10. I love this side hustle…making old things new. How cool. Do you have any tips on picking up paint, (e.g. – from the oops table at Home Depot) or do you pick out cans specifically for a piece of furniture?
    Done by Forty recently posted…How We Negotiate, Part IMy Profile

  11. Crystal says:

    Thanks for demonstrating that flipping furniture is a real way for regular peeps to make some extra money with time and dedication – thanks for sharing your experience, well done and much continued success to you!

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  13. Flippin Vintage says:

    Thanks for the post! This is a side hussle for me and am loving it. I primarily work with chalk paints although it is costly. Will by jumping in to making my own soon. My question to you Nick is other than Craig’s List as you mentioned, where are you getting success in selling your items? I’m starting to build local clientele on Facebook but am looking for other avenues.

    Thank you!

    • Beth says:

      Have you tried the swip swap pages on Facebook for your area? Me and a fellow stay at home mom do this to earn some extra money. These groups seem to yield the most responses for us.

  14. Judy says:

    I just refinished my first piece of furniture with chalk paint, my own 30 year old dresser. It turned out great, and I am hooked! I don’t know if I can make money as a side hustle (although I would love to), but at least it will be a fun hobby.

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  16. Dennie says:

    1500, Its great to hear about this sideline, and anyone can really do it. I personally am taking it a step farther, and opening a shop where I live, as the market is fabulous here, and it really is a sideline in a way for the other things I sell in the shop.

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  18. chelsea says:

    Hey there, I found two fairly large unique chairs yesterday for $8.00 each and they were solid wood with an upholstered seat. I would need to upholster it and paint it. My question is if its worth buying to flip for a profit? and how do you figure out pricing?

    • 1500 says:

      Hi Chelsea-

      You know, $8 is a good deal if the chairs are study and appealing. Solid wood is hard to come by in the age of Ikea. If I were you, I’d go for it. It shouldn’t cost much time or money to come up with some paint and fabric. If you don’t already have paint, check the “Ooops” paint section at Home Depot. They sell returns for a fraction of what they would cost normally.

      As far as pricing, I’d throw them on Craiglist after doing a bit of research. There are CL search engines like this: http://www.searchtempest.com/ Remember to price a little high because people will always want to bargain with you.

      I hope this helped!

  19. Daina says:

    Thanks for the great advice! Been wanting to try this. 🙂

  20. Michelle says:

    Do you sell your finished furniture pieces anywhere besides Craigslist? Etsy? A local high-end consignment?

  21. Michael G says:

    I’ve just started this myself. I’m 46 but maybe by the time I retire I’ll have enough skills to be able to make a little extra cash and keep myself busy at the same time.

  22. Shawna perez says:

    I am working on my first dresser for my babies room. It’s turning out really nice so I’m thinking about doing some flipping myself. I am wondering if you have a suggestion for where to get new guide rails for drawers?

  23. zaizai says:

    Thanks for the great advice

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  26. Jan says:

    I realize I’m late to arrive on this article but one of the first things that caught my attention was the reference to how much was spent on an item and the expected return.

    I typically shop on Craigslist (I don’t have the patience to drive all over town looking at garage sales that may or may not have furniture) and look at everything under $50. I look for shapes that mimic something I’ve seen finished already but also stumble on things that just have an interesting look overall.

    The difference is in my selling price. I have repeatedly sold items for between $150-$400 that I’ve picked up for between $25-$50. I’d love to leave my website here but at the same time, I don’t want potential buyers knowing what my margin is. Mind you, making $300 on a $50 investment isn’t all gravy; it’s hard work! I don’t just slap paint on or stretch new fabric over old dirty fabric. I strip everything down to the bare bones and rebuild. So in a sense, my customer is getting a new product.

    Also – be patient when you’re selling. Do not settle for a low-ball offer because you think that’s all it’s worth. You’ve put a lot of work and creativity into your pieces and finding the right buyer can take time; sometimes several months! It’s not all about a quick sale if you want to really make money ‘flipping’ furniture (I avoid calling myself a flipper because of the work I put into my furniture).

    I’ve been doing this part time for a couple of years but because of recent employment changes, might be taking the plunge into making this a full time career.

    Wish me luck!

    • 1500 says:

      Jan, you hit on an important point here:

      “Mind you, making $300 on a $50 investment isn’t all gravy; it’s hard work!”

      Time is the most valuable asset we all have! Your elbow grease and knowledge is what folks are really paying for and not the initial cost of the item.

      I’m glad to see that it’s working out for you and would love to hear about your adventures if you take it full time.

      • Chairished says:

        Great post. There is money to be made if you’re willing to be creative, resourceful and work hard!

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