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#9: Tips for Selling Furniture Online

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Welcome welcome WELCOME my friends and fellow busybees. I hope you have been having a great week and, if you’re in Canada at least, are looking forward to a wonderful long weekend. On this week’s episode I wanted to chat about selling furniture online because it’s something I have talked about in the past on my Instagram and YouTube channels, because I do think in order to do it effectively, there are a few key elements that you will want to ensure you have in place in order to have the most eyes on your beautifully refinished furniture piece and thus, get a quick sale for as much money as you were hoping to get. And even if you aren’t someone who does furniture makeovers or sells refinished furniture as a hobby or full-time job, I do think you might learn a thing or two about selling anything online, so it could come in handy the next time you do a declutter and purge around the house!

Now, I will specify that I primarily use Facebook Marketplace when posting my pieces to sell online, if they don’t get scooped up first from people in my community on Instagram who are seeing me makeover the pieces. I haven’t ever tried selling pieces on marketplaces like Etsy or offered shipping across the country like some furniture refinishers I have seen, so some of the features and additions I discuss here may be specific to the Facebook Marketplace itself, but many of the tips will definitely still be helpful if you use those other platforms or places like Kijiji and Craigslist. For me, I have just found Marketplace to be the easiest in terms of the built-in features to relist pieces and the automatic notification of when an item has been sitting for 2 weeks and prompting you to renew - for me, if I have multiple listings active, it’s so much easier than having to remember to go in and manually check on listings and whether they need to be renewed.

So jumping right into it, the overarching theme of all of these tips boils down to one thing: Marketing yourself and your product well. Firstly, you want to ensure you are getting good photos of your product that are a clear representation of the piece that the buyer will be getting. I recommend taking photos in natural, indirect light to be able to best see the true colour of the piece and avoid any direct sunlight or even worse, taking photos at night with overhead lights. It’s a mistake I’ve definitely made in the past when I first started out, getting around to taking photos at night when it’s dark out (or if it’s just, you know, 4pm in December) and not only does it result in less clear of a photo, but the lighting just ends up inherently changing the colour of the piece past the point of being able to edit it back to normal. And even if you’re thinking that it doesn’t matter because your piece is black and black is black, right? Well, I am here to tell you that, no, it is not. There are a lot of different shades and undertones in black, so figure out a spot in your house where you can get that good, indirect light and consider that your staging and photographing area moving forward. And I’m not going to go into staging the pieces specifically in this episode because I plan on allocating a full episode to that soon because I think it’s a beast of its own, but definitely ensure you’re putting some staging effort in when you’re taking photos of your piece, too!

You want to take nice photos because with the over saturation on Marketplace and these other online platforms, you want your ad and your photos to be eye-catching and scroll-stopping for those who are perusing the listings. One tip that someone shared with me early on is to use the Square option in your camera to eliminate any unnecessary surrounding space around the piece - it really helps to focus your attention on the furniture piece and not get distracted by any empty space surrounding it. You can also utilize the portrait mode if you want to really emphasize the piece crisply and blur the surrounding background.

You also need to ensure you’re getting different types of photos of the piece in order to really show it off in all of its glory. This means getting multiple angles and perspectives of the piece, like taking a photo head on, stepping back to see it fully, getting closer for detail shots, and getting on the ground to kinda look up at the piece. You also want to ensure that all photos have that same great lighting, so if your light source is to the left of the dresser you’re photographing but taking a photo of the right side would mean that it’s completely shaded, we are going to avoid our initial instinct to just be lazy and instead we are going to turn the piece around so that right side is facing the light source to get a photo that we are proud of and that would make someone more inclined to purchase it. And whichever photo shows the whole piece and is, what you deem to be, the best photo of the bunch - we want to make sure that is the first photo we upload in our ad, so that it’s the impact shot that gets people intrigued and clicking into your ad.

And to market the piece well, we want to show off any unique touches that the piece might have, which is where those up close detail shots come in. So put yourself in the shoes of the buyer and think about any questions that you might have about a piece or things you would want to see more of, and take photos of those parts. What those details are will vary, based on the type of furniture piece you have but, for example, for a vintage dresser I would take an aesthetic close up shot of the hardware, so the pull or knobs, I would take a photo of the sides of the drawers pulled out slightly from the piece to show off the dovetail joints, or showing off any bevelled edges. I would also take a photo looking down into the piece with the drawers pulled out a bit to show off a liner that might be in there or just to show how clean and good quality the drawer bottoms are, and I would show off any other decorative elements I have on the piece like contrasting wood and paint, transfer designs on the piece, or the base.

And you might be thinking, wow, that sounds like a lot of photos I’m taking of just one piece! And my answer would be, yes, yes you are. In fact, you are probably taking 3 or 4x the amount of photos than you will actually use, because we want to make sure while we are getting these shots that, again, it’s in good lighting, properly focused, well-aligned and levelled, and just aesthetically pleasing overall. So you’ll inevitably get some duds, but that’s why we take more than we need and then we can edit that down to the 10 that you can upload on your ad, or however many the platform you’re using allows.

Another thing you want to keep in mind when taking photos is to ensure that you photograph anything the buyer might need to know. Hopefully this isn’t the case if you’ve refinished the piece because we would hope that you would have repaired it in the process, but if there is any damage or imperfections on the piece, then make sure that you not only photograph it, but also make note of it in the ad by saying something like “slight imperfection on bottom right drawer, as pictured”. And then at least you have made it apparent to anyone interested in buying that it’s there and they can assess whether it’s worth it for them to get the piece.

I’ve had people drive for multiple hours sometimes to come and pick up a piece, so I would hate for them to drive all that way and then find out there was something wrong about the piece that made them no longer want to purchase it, and I wasted both of our times by not disclosing it from the beginning. So just something to keep in mind, if it’s relevant to what you’re selling! Transparency in advertising is key.

So now that we’ve got the photos ready to be posted for our ad, we need to actually make up and write the ad itself. The goal when putting together the ad is to get as many eyes on it as possible (well, eyes from the type of people who would be looking to purchase something like what you’re selling, at least), and save time for both you as the seller and for them as the buyer by having all needed details in the ad.

Starting with the title - you want it to be descriptive of what you’re selling but not too long, and try to include some common keywords surrounding the product you’re selling, like “White Distressed Farmhouse Wooden Dresser” or something to that effect. I also like to include, either in the title or somewhere near the beginning of the description, the fact that the piece is newly refinished because that will indicate to the buyer that 1) it is not a brand new piece from a manufacturer or whatever, but also 2) that it is not a used piece that is showing wear’n’tear - some people will read refinished and that will mean “used” to them in their mind still, but that’s fine, because they’re not your ideal audience anyways.

Then in the description, I recommend including any information that you know and can provide, because this will avoid any back-and-forth communication from the buyer asking questions that you could have already had answered in the description. Things like precise dimensions (so length x width x height), and I always like to include here to also put any dimensions that might be specific to the piece so if you have a high back chair, the person would want to know how tall the piece is in general, but they also probably want to know where the seat falls too to make sure it would fit well in their space, so include that too. As long as it’s laid out in an easy-to-read ad, having more information is better than not having enough in my opinion.

If you found a maker’s mark on the piece, list the original manufacturer’s name because it could be something that adds value to the piece. As well, if it’s a wood piece and you know what wood species it is, or what type of material it is in general even if it’s melamine or particle board, include that as well. Typically, people tend to value pieces made of wood more because it is more durable and lasting however, I don’t know if you’ve tried to lug a solid wood piece of furniture around lately, but it’s fucking heavy. So if someone lives on the fifth floor of an old heritage building with no elevator, they might actually prefer a lighter piece made of particle board because they’ll be able to get it up to their unit without killing themselves - you never know! Small rant but I’m so sick of this weird material hierarchy I’ve seen online where people are like “I won’t even dare touch a piece of furniture if it’s not solid wood!” like chill guys it can still hold your pyjamas, it’s all good, relaxxxx. Anyways.

In the description, I’ll also include what I did to the piece, and typically include the products I use to refinish it such as the paint colour and brand name or stain name - not only because I stand behind the products I use and I know that they will hold up over time, but also because then people can always Google those products to see other photos of it used and photographed in different lighting if they want to get a better idea of how it looks in person. I’m not sure if people actually do do that, but it’s something that I definitely do when I see a colour that someone has used on a piece on Instagram or something, so I figure “why not include it here?”. Can’t hurt.

I also am sure to include a rough location of where I’m located - in Facebook Marketplace you can also drop a pin on your location so it will show on a map but in case people aren’t scrolling down that far, I like to put it here too. I won’t put my exact address obviously, because I don’t want people randomly showing up at my house prior to my knowledge, or without my knowledge and forewarning, but since the side of the city that I live in has names for its suburbs, I will state the area’s name and also a nearby intersection of two notable streets so people have a rough idea of where they’d be going.

I also recommend including details on pick up or delivery. For me, historically I have stated pick up only, because not only was I pretty short on time while working my 9-5 but also I found that most people who asked if I could deliver could, in fact, come and pick it up but they were just asking because obviously it’s probably more convenient for them if the piece would just show up on their doorstep.

I have had an exception or two where someone was really interested in a piece but didn’t have access to transportation, so if they lived fairly close to me I’ve brought it over to them, sometimes with a fee, depending on the distance. So whatever setup you decide makes most sense for you and your business, I would just recommend having that clearly stated in the ad because, especially if you’re willing to deliver, that could be the thing that helps someone decide that “yup, this is the one!”. And you can get crafty with what you offer in terms of delivery, because I have seen it done in so many different ways. Some people will charge a flat fee for delivery regardless of your location, some people will be willing to deliver within a certain area and if the place is further, there might be a flat fee added on top of it. I’ve also seen people state that they will deliver for free within X kilometres of their location, and then they basically have a sliding scale for how much the cost will increase as the delivery location gets further away from them. Just let them know upfront what they’re consenting to, and honestly, if you don’t want to adhere to one thing in specific, I’ll say what I always say– it’s your business, so do what feels right, you can always say “inquire within for delivery options” and based on their location, decide what feels worth your while. You’re in charge, baby!

Last two things I ensure are in the description: 1) Indicating what forms of payment I offer, and I always recommend to offer at least two forms to give people some choice. I’m in Canada so I will put that either cash or etransfer is available, if for whatever reason those weren’t options for someone I could offer Paypal I suppose but.. That would probably be a little weird and questionable, like the numerous scams you get of people who really want your piece but will send you a cashier’s cheque and have their delivery truck pick it up, ever gotten that one? So annoying, but anyway, if you’re in the states or elsewhere you likely have different payment options like venmo and the other apps, so just make it apparent what’s available.

And the last thing I put in the description is a shameless plug. Because it is a marketplace, and a way to show off the awesome work you’ve done, even if the person seeing it isn’t necessarily in the market for that particular piece you have listed. I have a little blurb I add at the end of each ad saying something like “if you’re interested in checking out more of my work, you can find me on Instagram or Facebook at MelDidItHerself”. That way, people can come check you out, and maybe they see something else that you’re working on that they’d like to purchase, or maybe they have a piece in their home they were looking to makeover and they go to your social channel or website and find out you offer custom work. Win win!

On Facebook Marketplace you can also add tags to help people to find your listing better by adding keywords, which is like when you make your website SEO-optimized. So types of keywords I’ll include will be on details of the thing I’m listing (whether it’s a dresser, shelf, or bookcase) and I’ll also try to think of other things people might refer to it as. For example, some people might call a piece a wardrobe, some people might call it an armoire, and some might just say dresser.

Another sneaky way to get more eyes on your listing is to think of any common incorrect spellings for the type of piece that you have - for example, if it’s a dining table then put a tag spelled d-i-n-i-n-g table, but also d-i-n-n-i-n-g table, because some people… just aren’t great at spelling. Or are in a rush, or we can blame autocorrect, who knows.

I’ll also include the colour of the piece in the tags like “green”, but if it’s a certain shade of green or could be interpreted as such, I’d also add things like “olive green”, “sage”, “muted green” or other common terms. Again, you’re wanting to get in the minds of the buyers here so also think about the style of furniture they would be looking for - is it farmhouse, is it traditional, is it mid century. And also consider the different ways people would write it out, so having “mid century modern”, “mid century”, and “MCM” all in the tags will bring all of those people searching for those different terms to your listing.

Now, there is a limited number of tags you can add into each listing but if I haven’t yet filled them up, I will also consider the purpose for the furniture piece and the room it goes into. For purpose, I mean that just because it’s a dresser or a buffet or whatever, people may not necessarily know that they’re looking for that specific thing, however they might go onto Marketplace looking for a storage solution. Or something for organization. So having those keywords in there would help to lead them to your furniture piece that they never knew they needed! Likewise with the room that it goes into, putting “bedroom”, “living room” or “family room” or “nursery” will help people to find the ad as well.

So then your ad is ready for posting! Don’t forget to share your now-available piece on your social media platforms as well because there might be someone over there who’s lookin’ to pick up what you’re putin’ down. Okay and because I just can’t stop here, I do have some recommendations or advice for how to interact with people and treat your listings once they are up and active, based on my experience.

One- always get back to people within a timely manner. This will stop them from moving on to someone else and finding a different piece, and it’s also just good business practice.

Two- always be polite to people. Don’t be overtly rude or curt, it’s your reputation, they can see your name and your other listed ads, and they have the ability to give you a rating. Don’t forget that. What’s more, people often turn into repeat customers so nurture those relationships, and always try to create a space for them to want to come back to. They say that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your leads, so nurture the shit out of them and be a nice human to interact with, alright?

Three- this is personal preference, but when I get inquiries about an ad, I do like to do first come first served approach. This means that, assuming they are expressing imminent interest and are replying generally quick, I’ll allow the first buyer that showed interest and set up a time to pick it up (assuming that’s a firm time and date) to hold it for them. Even if someone comes to me after and says they can come and get it right away, I’ll let them know that it’s pending pick up but that I’ll let them know if it happens to fall through. I feel like this approach is more kind to the customer, because it doesn’t make people feel like they need to drop everything and come immediately in order to be able to secure the piece - people have lives.

Sometimes I’ll also ask for a deposit, or people will offer to provide one if they can’t come for a few days, which works for me because it typically means people are more likely to follow through since they’ve put some money into it already. I do know that some people require a deposit to secure a piece for a particular person expressing interest, so it’s totally up to you if you feel like that works best for you and your business.

But, there have been times where the person who said they were going to come did ended up coming to get the piece, and I do always let the other people know that they did end up taking it. Why? Because I always appreciate when people do the same for me when I’m interested in buying a piece, it’s basically closing the loop and good life lesson: always close the loop whenever you can, guys. This quick and easy practice has helped create ongoing clients on more than one occasion because in some instances, people are disappointed that they missed out however I let them know that I do custom work and so we can source a similar piece and recreate that design for them, and other times I have had a similar piece sitting in my inventory stash and have been able to whip out another one and sell it within a couple days - all because I closed the loop and got back to people when I promised that I would.

Which brings us to number four - another time for a shameless plug. Put a tag on the furniture piece or include a handwritten thank you card and business card on the piece to let people know where they can find you to follow your work or get more pieces from you. I also like to include some other little touches like including some extra paint in a little container and indicate the paint colour and brand in the thank you card, in case people ever require touch ups or they want to get another piece done to match in the future. Even though Facebook Marketplace is considered a more informal platform than, say, Etsy or selling through your own website, you want to treat it like a business and try and foster as many ongoing business relationships as you can. Another thing I like to do, which is maybe a little more selfish in nature, is put a maker’s mark with a customized stamp that I had made to really, literally, leave my mark on the piece.

And, number five, we always want client testimonials as social proof to use moving forward. So after the sale is completed and the piece is picked up and taken home, I recommend asking the person to leave you a rating through the Marketplace platform or provide a testimonial on your business page, and/or provide a photo of the piece in its new home. Choose one, maybe two to ask for and don’t make it a ton more work for the person, but if you can get it, it’s great to have as you move forward and grow your business. When asking for a rating, I’ll usually say something like “I sell pieces on here regularly as part of my business, and if you would be willing to leave a rating I would really appreciate it as it let’s people know I am a trusted seller”. People are nice and supportive, especially when they know it’s your business, so it’s rare that you’ll have someone ghost you, especially if they really love the piece they got.

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: Don’t stop until you’re proud. I think it’s a good reminder and quote to live by, but it’s a reminder that we can’t be half assing the work that we do and the ads that we put up and just assume that people will plop money into our hands. Sometimes we get lucky and less energy can have the same result, but sometimes the universe wants us to work for it a little harder - as it should. Whatever you’re doing, whatever task big or small - remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect, and a lot of the time ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect’, but make sure you keep going until you’re proud. If you feel pride in what you do and you know you gave it your all, you’ll know that whatever outcome you get couldn’t have been made different from you trying harder because you half assed something just to push it out and get it off your list. Don’t stop until you’re proud, and let that be your guiding indicator this week and as you move forward. Oh yeah, and in the wise words of my first official employer, “it’s nice to be nice”. That’s an important one to remember, too!

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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