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Five Ways to Make Offering Custom Work Easier In Your Furniture Painting & Refinishing Business

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. I just hopped off a Pod Pals Zoom Party with a bunch of podcasters, hosted by Adam from the Podcasting Business School podcast who has, probably unbeknownst to him, become my unofficial podcasting coach because he is always sharing so many good nuggets of knowledge. So if you’re ever interested in starting a podcast I would definitely recommend you check out some of his content because it has been so helpful for me as I aim to continually improve the experience here for you. But because I was already in the creative mood, I figured I’d hop on over here to get this post written and spend some time hanging out with you. How you doin? Have you started working on those goals from the last two episodes yet? It’s okay, no shade if you haven’t yet, just giving you a reminder, my friend.


We’ve talked about offering custom work here on the blog before, and for a lot of furniture painters and refinishers it can either be something that they stay far, far away from, or it could be the bread and butter of their business. I’ve met furniture flippers on both sides of the coin, and I can totally understand where both parties come from because there is an added level of complexity and rigidity when offering custom refinishing projects. If you haven’t yet listened to it, Episode 8 of the podcast is called Thinking About Offering Custom Work Doing Furniture Transformations? And I went through some of the Pros and Cons of offering this service in your business- I’ll link to that episode in the show notes in case you want to head over and listen to that first to evaluate whether it’s something you want to try out for yourself (and spoiler alert: if you decide you don’t enjoy it as much as you thought you might, you can absolutely decide to no longer offer it at any given time because like I always like to remind you guys, you are the ones in the driver’s seat of your business!).


Another episode that I will link to that might be of interest is Episode 16: Preparing for In-Home Consultations and Structuring Your Custom Work which will be a great tie in to today’s episode which is highlighting 5 ways to make offering custom work easier in your furniture refinishing and furniture painting business. Because I want to put the work in and scream the lessons learned far and wide so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did, or waste any unnecessary time in your day.


Because the upside of offering custom work is that it’s guaranteed income lined up for you, but it also means that you can’t just let your creative juices run wild most of the time so that can result in added time spent going back and forth with your client to determine what the project plan is and what direction you want to go with on the piece. And just getting all of the necessary information required to provide an informed estimate to give to the client can take a ton of time going back and forth, asking specific questions to ensure you have a good idea of what kind of shape the piece is currently in, and where you want to take it during the transformation process.


But tip number one will help to cut down on that time spent information-gathering back and forth by creating and implementing a custom project intake form. This has saved me a ton of time messaging with clients because when someone reaches out asking for an estimate for the piece, I can just send them the link to the form and politely ask them to fill it out so that I can capture all the needed details to provide them with a price estimate for the project.


This serves the purpose of saving me time in my day, but it is also helpful to have all the information stored in one place so if I ever need to refer back to it, it’s easily accessible and organized. There’s times when I may send an estimate to someone but we don’t actually start on the piece for a couple months, and with the short attention span that I have, you better believe I need to have notes to refer back to in order to remind myself what direction we’re going on the piece, what we’re doing with the hardware, what colour we might be painting it, and the finish that they want on the top coat we add on. Having this system set up allows me to log in, see it all, and keep it handy if need be.


It’s also helpful for me when I’m evaluating the prices I am charging and can ensure that I am consistent across different projects when I have everything in one place and can refer to previous similar pieces or similarly-sized pieces.


Another reason it’s helpful is that I can include any information I want to ensure that I relay to the client in the introductory paragraph of the intake form, so that potential clients are aware of any policies I may have in relation to deposits, payments, delivery, and things like that and doesn’t require me to type them all out every single time. If you offer custom work, I HIGHLY recommend you set aside some time to do the upfront work of putting together this form, I just used Google Forms for mine, because you will totally thank yourself later. Even if you don’t get all that many custom inquiries right now based on where your business is at, it doesn’t hurt to get this system set up now because trust me when I say, when things start getting busier it will be even harder to find the time, or justify taking the upfront time, to do this instead of just trying to plug through the millions of other tasks you have at any given minute.


And if you are wanting to start your own official furniture painting and refinishing business, you need to check out the FREE guide and checklist I put together for you to start your own furniture refinishing business so you can get started today, and follow a step-by-step road map so you don’t miss anything important. I also recommend this for anyone who found themselves unexpectedly running a business selling their refinished furniture, because that’s often what happens, you do a couple pieces for your own home then do some for friends then get convinced to sell them and then BAM! You’re a business owner and you didn’t even know it. So if that is you, I also think you’ll really benefit from this guide and checklist to help you make sure you’ve ticked all of the boxes and aren’t missing anything you ought to be implementing, like systems like this intake form. So check out the link to download the free guide and checklist today, and let’s get you started on the right foot!


My second tip for making custom work easier in your furniture flipping business is to think about other time-consuming parts of the custom project process and if there are ways that you can change your policies to cut down on that time. One way that I went about doing this is creating the policy that the projects need to be dropped off to me and picked up from me once they’re completed.


Now, if someone didn’t have access to a vehicle or there were some other circumstances that stopped them from being able to bring me the piece and I could fit it in my vehicle, we’d find a way to figure it out but as a rule of thumb, on the whole, I have clients drop the pieces off to me and that way I’m not “wasting” time driving to pick up, loading the piece, driving home, then unloading it and doing the same thing once the project is completed. Depending where the person was located within the Ottawa area, that could be more than 2 more hours added to this project. So in order to maximize the amount of time I have at home to get other things on my To Do list accomplished (and to make sure I can still provide a reasonably-priced quote without having to add that travel time cost on), I integrated this and it has been working perfectly so far. I have never really had anyone have an issue with it, and I think it’s helpful for the client as well because then they a) know where I live, so that likely brings some piece of mind in case they were worried I could run off with their family heirloom piece or something, they’d know where to find me and b) they can see my workshop and where the magic happens!


The third tip to make offering custom work easier maaay be one that some people don’t jive with too much, and that’s fine if that’s the case. Different strokes for different folks, but I do not give out my telephone number to clients. And this isn’t just for my custom clients but in general, anything business related, I don’t put that anywhere. What’s the difference if you’re always on your phone and on social media already anyways, you ask? Great question, I would love to tell you. Fun fact about me: I have like, the most minimal amount of notifications enabled on my phone possible. I basically receive Instagram DM notifications and Facebook Messenger notifications so I can be alerted to messages about my pieces I have for sale. Everything else, I have to go out and seek. Oh, and I guess email notifications too, but that’s not social media-related anyways.


So I get to protect my time and attention and address incoming inquiries or opportunities or whatever it may be, when I want to and when it works for me. Which might sound selfish to just overtly say it like that, but it’s my way of setting boundaries around me and my work life and ensuring that I maintain a healthy work-life balance and when I’m turned off from work for the night, I can’t be forced back in. And giving out my phone number and giving people the opportunity to call or text whenever it works for their schedule isn’t something that would jive with that set up. If that something that resonates with you, then maybe consider implementing that boundary! And I am definitely always happy to chat via phone with clients, but we can set up a mutually-beneficial time for the both of us and then when I call, I just make sure my number is blocked. Win-win!


The fourth way to make offering custom work easier in your furniture refinishing business is by not creating set in stone timelines for yourself if they aren’t necessary or beneficial to you (or your client). Now, some people need hard end dates in order to get stuff done and off of their plate and I totally understand that so if that’s you, just tune out for a sec. But if you’re someone who starts to feel overwhelmed or pressured or stressed if you have deadlines upcoming and you have a client who has said “no worries on when its done, no rush, just let me know” and you don’t have anything else that you’re trying to get it done for, like if you have another custom piece being dropped off soon and you need the space, then DON’T force those deadlines on yourself.


Definitely ensure you’re being consistent and working on it to move the project forward as much as possible, but if that deadline is going to put you into more of a state of panic or paralysis instead of kicking your ass into gear, then don’t set them. Sometimes we feel the need to do so because it feels like the official business-y thing to do, but if your client genuinely is in no rush and it’s something that will leave you feeling paralyzed, then just plug away at your pieces and don’t focus too much on the calendar. Again, different strokes for different folks but be honest with yourself as to what approach will work best for you and be most effective for your success and productivity- whatever that looks like!


And before we get to my last tip (which is a really good one, not gonna lie), I wanted to remind you about my Friday Furniture Focus newsletter because I know you are a fan of painted and refinished furniture pieces if you are listening to this episode. It’s my weekly newsletter I send out (yes, on Fridays) that gives updates on any projects that I have ongoing, shares furniture facts which are different tidbits about the furniture that you’re making over, or a furniture fix which is a hack or a tip for saving time and effort doing your furniture flips. And every week I feature a new furniture painter or refinisher and do a Q&A to get to know them, their pieces, and their business better. So if you’re interested in receiving this, you can head to my website MelDidItHerself.ca to sign up and then keep an eye on your inbox for some furniture inspo to start the weekend off right!


Okay, so my fifth and last tip for today on how to make offering custom work easier for you and your furniture flipping business is to always be networking and building connections and relationships and talking about your business wherever you go, because you honestly never know where opportunities will arise. This will help get people into your orbit more broadly, so that might mean another follower on social media or another name added to your email list or even an incoming inquiry for a custom project. But also make sure that you’re networking within your own field locally with your “competition” and getting to know them and creating relationships with them. Firstly, because they know exactly what you’re going through and you guys can probably create a great friendship or at least business relationship, and also, if they know, like and trust you and know you do good work, if they ever get too busy or they have someone come to them with a request for a project they feel is out of their ability or comfort zone, they may just refer that client over to you which means money in your pocket, baby.


I think it’s so important to connect with the stockists and other small business owners you interact with in your business as well like any service providers you use or maybe where you purchase your supplies– a great example of this is that I created a relationship with one of the stockists I frequent and just, you know, did things to support them and their business and send them little friendly emails during the holidays and whatnot and guess what came from that? Partnership opportunities AND they always refer clients to me for custom work that they don’t have the capacity to take on.


Which is huge for me and I’m so grateful for, but I also recognize that that came as a result of me pushing myself past my comfort zone of shyness and being authentic and empathetic and considerate and just really trying to foster that relationship. And I mean, don’t just do these things with the expectation that it will result in good things for you– do it from the goodness of your heart and expect nothing but appreciate everything. There is opportunity behind every corner if you look for it!


And you guys know I always love being able to hear from you and your feedback on the episodes and your thoughts on the topics discussed in the episodes, and I also love being able to support and amplify you and your furniture painting and refinishing businesses, because I am absolutely of the belief that we rise by lifting others. So I wanted to introduce a new little segment here on the podcast called BusyBees Buzzing where I want to hear from you! In every episode description and show notes I always include a link to my SpeakPipe account where you can click in and record a quick voice message to be sent over to me. I always love hearing from you guys about episode topics you want to see come down the pipeline, but in BusyBee’s Buzzing I want to hear which episode you’ve loved the most so far and why you enjoyed it or it resonated most with you– and because I want to make sure people know where to find you and your furniture painting and refinishing business (if you have one), make sure to shout out your business name and let the other BusyBees know where they can find you on social media or your website so we can all follow along on your journey, too! So check out that link and I can’t wait to hear the buzz on the street.


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 from the Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher that I love tuning in to, and she said this in one episode: stress work is not our best work.


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


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