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Stop Treating Your Furniture Refinishing Business Like A Hobby

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. I hope you are all having a wonderful week and if it’s a day that’s relevant for you, that you had a very happy Valentine’s day earlier this week, whether you spent it with a special someone, friends, family or even just gave yourself some self-care love– that’s super important, too!

For today’s episode I wanted to have a bit of real talk with you– yes, you!– who has decided to turn your furniture painting and refinishing into an official business and have intentions to grow it, maybe you hope to one day be able to go full-time in the business… and you’re still treating it like a hobby. Like, you love the idea of being a business owner and you’re doing things by the book and doing what you can to continue and grow the business… except, are you really? Or are you still treating it like a hobby and just doing it when you please or when you feel called to it but you still only really have one leg in and one leg out. Does that sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one!

Now, I’m fully aware that there are plenty of people out there who do furniture flips as a fun little hobby, either to act as a creative outlet or maybe even just out of necessity to have furniture in your home that is tailored to your style and the pieces that you wish existed in stores, but you want to keep it as inexpensive as possible. That is TOTALLY fine and there is nothing wrong with that, if it is your intention to keep it as a hobby. I love that, I think it’s an awesome hobby to have and one that can get you into flow and in the zone in such a great way. So don’t let this episode feel like I’m trying to encourage or force you into monetizing your hobby or starting a business, because if you don’t want that for you, then neither do I!

But I think a lot of times we can have those ambitions and desires for more, for a life where we have these businesses doing furniture painting or furniture refinishing and then we finally make that leap to take it to the next level, to take it from being a hobby to being a business. It’s a big step, and I know for me at least, it was kind of freaky because I had no idea what that would entail since I don’t have a business background. I knew it was something that I wanted to do and continue doing but I was also like, “who do I think I am? What do I know about running a business like this? I barely even know what I’m doing on my furniture makeovers!”.

Whatever that internal dialogue is saying for you, that’s our self-doubt creeping in. It’s telling us that we aren’t worthy of something like that, or we aren’t exceptional so why should something like that work out for us? It tells us that we don’t have anyone around us doing something similar, so how are we supposed to know what to do? Or how could we tell if we were doing it right? Or more importantly, if we’re doing it wrong?

And because we are human, we’re susceptible to letting this self-doubt creep into our subconscious and keep us stagnant. So we have a business, but we treat it like a hobby… because we aren’t believing in ourselves, in our worthiness, in our capabilities and in our ability to figure it out as we go. Because let’s get real, none of us on this earth really know what we’re doing, amirite? We’re just figuring it out as we go, asking for advice or researching when we need to, and just doing our best to make the right decisions and do and say the right things. Does the term “fake it ‘til you make it” ring a bell?

So we start to feel fake or unworthy or *insert feeling of lack here* and we start to get that imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome which, for the record, every person on this planet feels at one point or another. Even the people you look at who you aspire to be like. Even celebrities. Even scholars. Even politicians. Even the most confident, well-rounded, successful people that you come across. So in the kindest way possible, let me remind you that you are not all that different, not all that unique so you, too, can achieve these great things if you put your mind, time, and dedication to it. Period. Hard stop.

So you need to shoot for what you really want… do you want this furniture painting and refinishing business? Great! Then let’s start treating it like a business and stop being scared of just trying. Attempting something and failing at it or experiencing a barrier or screwing something up is the only way we will effectively learn, and in order to do that, you need to DO. So don’t shy away from or being afraid of achieving success.

You may even be someone listening who currently just does these furniture flips as a hobby or little side hustle and you have the itch to really pursue it and see what you could make of it, but you might be scared that you could make it official and turn it into a business and then potentially fail. So that keeps you scared or nervous and keeps you playing small and staying in your comfort zone of what you’re currently doing and what you know works.

But we need to step past those comfort zones in order to achieve growth, so do your best to push past that fear of success or failure and just give ‘er a go. I can say with near certainty that if you put your all into it and really commit and give it your best shot and make changes when you see things aren’t working, you will grow. You will learn. You will develop skills, and your business will progress. Maybe it won’t explode as fast as you had hoped, maybe you’ll encounter roadblocks or screw up along the way… there’s no shame in that. If you put yourself out there and give it your all, people will be inspired by you trying, they will encourage you, they will support you and so your attempt, however flawed, could end up motivating others to do the same… or at least get their gears spinning and getting them that much closer to trying out the thing they’ve been nervous to do.

When I was about to announce to my previous job that I was deciding to leave and pursue my business full-time, I’ll be honest, I was really nervous. Not so much about going all in on the business (that nervousness and second guessing came after I finally took the plunge!), but about the reaction I would get. I was prepared to have to defend my reasoning for doing it, explain that I had thought things through and set myself up for success and had Plans B, C and D ready in case they were needed and just generally answer to people’s surprised reactions and being like “OMG but what about your pEnSiOn???” Essentially, I was catastrophizing in my mind and assuming the worst and that people would be skeptical, judgmental or cynical about my choice. My choice that I assumed they would think was reckless, poorly thought out or unrealistic.

But something surprising happened. People I talked to were not only supportive and excited for me, I also heard SO many stories from people talking about things that they had wished they’d pulled the trigger and pursued when they were younger. I heard about passions that could have turned into businesses, had they just taken the leap and tried. I heard about people’s fears from the past about how they were worried they weren’t going to be able to figure it out, and so they never really tried. And I heard about REGRET– the very thing I didn’t want to end up with, that nudged me into the decision I was announcing. So I went forward with this support and encouragement and positivity from those around me and I still feel it to this day with old colleagues that still follow me and support my business in different ways. So literally… the OPPOSITE of what I had built up in my mind.

So let yourself think big, act big, take big leaps and push yourself past that comfort zone and start treating your business like a business. I know that it can be easy to want to keep things laid back and go-with-the-flow because we think if we set goals or deadlines or start certain projects that we will add stress to our plate and it will make it no longer enjoyable. But I can honestly say that now, doing what I really enjoy doing every day, I don’t feel like I’m “working” because every day is a fun new challenge, a new thing to learn, a new approach to try out, or a new leap to make. Don’t create that stress for yourself and you will find yourself more fulfilled, excited, challenged and determined.

So what are some ways that we can find ourselves (whether subconsciously or not) playing small and treating our business like a hobby? I’m glad you asked!

So here’s the thing about businesses… their goal is to create profit, which is money. More money in than money out. We don’t want to be spending more than we are making. And one way that we can play small is by not charging enough for our pieces to make this happen. And honestly, I see this more often than not and it is my biggest pet peeve in this space because it then sets a standard that is low so people opt to typically go for a piece that is half the cost, which is understandable. And now this obviously depends on where you’re located for how much you will be charging for pieces because some places the standard is higher and in some places people aren’t willing to pay as much for pieces.

So that’s why some market research is required in order to find that sweet spot. You may be charging too little and not making your nut either because you see others charging that amount, or maybe you just don’t believe that people would be willing to pay more for your work. Again, that’s that self-doubt and negative self-talk creeping in. So nip that in the bud and get objective and start paying attention to the prices you’re charging. I recommend this even if you are just selling your pieces as a hobby or a little unofficial side hustle, because at the end of the day we all rise by lifting each other and raising our prices as a whole.

Early on, I was definitely charging too little for both my pieces I sold and my custom projects that I was doing. Looking back, I know that now. And like I said, we need to make those mistakes or learn those lessons in order to grow and figure our shit out. When I figured out that I was charging less than I should be and also less than it was making it feel worth it (particularly for custom work, because I underestimated the amount of added time going back and forth with clients to figure out what they’re hoping to achieve on the piece, touching base along the way as I work on the piece and all that added stuff), I was a little nervous that when I started charging more.

I worried that people would receive the estimates and either laugh and ghost me OR maybe just look around until they found someone who would do the work for less money. But that never really happened, because my conversion rate is pretty high to this day of people who receive estimates that end up moving forward with the project and I had a realization: people are coming to us for us and our expertise.

Maybe they found you on social media, maybe they saw a different piece of yours for sale that they liked the look of, maybe they heard about you and your work through word of mouth. Whatever it is, that’s likely the thing that is bringing them to you and the price isn’t the be all end all… if it’s out of their budget or they just had a completely different number in mind, sure, that could be a barrier to some, no doubt, it plays a role. But it’s not the sole thing people are looking at, so remind yourself of that the next time you’re feeling hesitant to shoot your shot and charge what you’re really worth.

And a quick aside because I mentioned those who keep things unofficial and just sell pieces as a little side hustle and keep things off the books. A reminder, as I always say, that I don’t recommend this approach. There is the legalities aspect where you should be declaring any business you operate and declare any income received through the proper channels etc., etc.. but I know you already know that and have chosen not to, so fair enough, let me tell you why else I think it’s important to do.

It’s worth noting that a lot of the time, we’re advertising our work and our pieces online on social media which are typically public accounts that, at the end of the day, aren’t as anonymous as we’d like to think they are. There’s locations tied to every post you make, there’s IP addresses, and probably other stuff too, I’m not a tech wiz so that’s the end of the jargon I know. So that’s public information. You also are likely posting your pieces for sale in other public places, like maybe on Facebook Marketplace or other similar online marketplace apps or websites where, again, everything is public. Now, do I think that that means you will inevitably get “caught”? No, not necessarily, however the tax agencies are developing new strategies every day and they are creating new ways of catching people who aren’t declaring their income and are committing fraud. So just be aware of that, and beware! I encourage people to register their businesses because I don’t want anyone getting into trouble.

It will also just give you the peace of mind of knowing that you’ve done your part and crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s and everything is in order as it should be. But ultimately, when you are registered and submitting your business income and expenses, you get to write off those business expenses which end up being a lot more things than you probably realize or are thinking of. The pieces you source, any products you use to makeover your piece, your tools, your gas to pick up the pieces and to deliver them, part of your phone bill since you use your phone for business, and you are likely working out of your home and using a portion of it as your workshop so there are write offs with that as well.

After all of these expenses are tallied, unless you’re making fuckin’ bank, they’ll likely be totaling more than your actual income anyway if you just have a little side hustle flipping pieces here and there, so there will be nothing to worry about tax-wise. And if that’s not the case and you still have much more income than expenses, well, then you should have been registered anyways, I don’t know what to tell you.

But having your business registered and treating it like a business instead of a hobby makes you get a lot more intentional with your time and your systems and how you are running your business… or, you maybe should, if you aren’t already. It makes your life so much easier, I promise! If you want to make sure you have the basics set up for your business, feel free to check out my free guide and checklist for starting an official furniture painting and refinishing business that can help you make sure you’re on the right path.

And little spoiler for my loyal followers: I will soon be announcing mini consultations that I will be offering to talk all about running a business doing furniture makeovers that you can sign up for, for free, that will be played as shorty episodes on the podcast periodically! I want to help you guys set up these systems and get things in order or surpass any hurdles or barriers you may be experiencing in either setting up your business or moving it forward, whatever that looks like for you. If you’re interested in being one of the first ones to hear about this when I launch them, send me a DM on Instagram or shoot me an email and I’ll be sure to add you to the waitlist.

The last thing that making your business official and treating it like a business instead of a hobby will do is to force you to look at the numbers that I was talking about earlier. You sit down and are forced to face the facts of whether or not you are profitable so you can then see if you need to be upping what you charge for your pieces, and if you are eating money when you really feel like you’re making it. And if determining all of these things and interpreting the numbers is something totally foreign to you, then this forces you to Google or research, ask questions and thus learn and expand your knowledge. In turn, you will just increase your confidence in yourself, your abilities and it will result in growth. It’s win-win in my books!

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: Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear walking.

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

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