The Vintique Upholstery workshop during filming of BBC Money For Nothing show showing a camera filming an armchair with gold painted legs covered in pink fabrics

The business tips I wish I’d known when I started out in upholstery

Starting your own upholstery business is an exciting but scary prospect. Suddenly, you’re your own boss and when it comes to every aspect of the brand, the buck stops with you. Looking back now, I realise that some of my fears of what I thought I should and shouldn’t do were holding me back. So, today’s blog goes out to you if you’re just launching your upholstery business. This is what I wish someone had told me right back at the start, my top business tips…

Sharon O'Connor sat outside house happy after starting business

New to running an upholstery business? Read on for the business tips I wish I’d had when I started.

Done is better than perfect

Procrastination is a dangerous thing and overthinking can stop you in your tracks. I wish I’d known that I didn’t have to wait for everything to be perfect. I never cut corners in the quality of my work but when you worry about every detail of your business, it can paralyse and hold you back.

Sharon O'Connor reupholstering a chair

Me starting out in my workshop 8 years ago; happy and doing what I enjoy every day having learned that patience and resilience is my super power.

With that in mind, my business tip is, ‘don’t wait to be perfect’. There’s a great saying, which is, ‘ready, fire, aim’. That’s right, sometimes you need to just get started and hone your business along the way. There’s no set time to start something and if you wait till what seems like the ideal moment to launch, it will never happen. Grow gradually, build up your confidence, tweak the things that aren’t working and improve on the things that are.

It can feel like everyone is doing better or has more experience, but there’s only way to overcome those feelings and that is to crack on and do it! Don’t compare your start to someone else’s middle.

If people connect with you, they believe in you

It’s all too easy to get swept away with impressive branding and looking the part, but none of that matters as much as the quality of what you DO. I thought I needed a fabulous website, but I didn’t have the budget when I started. I started with an engaging landing page with my story and contact details and a few pictures of my chairs. For four years, that landing page brought me loads of business.
Now, of course I’ve invested in ‘proper’ branding, a website I’m proud of and plenty else besides but you don’t NEED all of that from the outset.

Sharon O'Connor on first brand photoshoot sat with pet dog

My very first branding shoot four years into my business.

I thought I needed a van with a logo and a fancy shop on the high street but actually, I didn’t then, and I don’t now either. I’m so relieved I don’t have the expense or annoyance, anyone with a store front will tell you how many tyre kickers it attracts.

My workshop is still tiny but it’s functional and I can promise you that size really doesn’t matter. I have enough space to do my work and in this digital era, you can still build a profile even when you’re tucked away.

Charge what you’re worth

Doubts and insecurities can lead to dropping your prices but even in those early days, you have to stick to your guns. Naming your price is not about someone’s willingness to pay or can afford, it’s about charging what you’re worth. You HAVE to factor in your overheads, your materials and – most important of all – your time. If you’re not, then you’re doing yourself a disservice and you’ll never build your business into the success it’s capable of being.

Pink chair in workshop during filming for BBC Money For Nothing TV show

The first time I was filmed doing my craft for the BBC’s Money For Nothing programme; a ‘pinch me’ moment.

“Naming your price is not about what about someone’s willing to pay or can afford, it’s about charging what you’re worth.”

Sharon O'Connor scuba diving on first holiday after starting business

My first holiday 5 years into starting my business.

Someone once told me that if you quote your price and feel nervous, that’s a good sign because it means you’re not discounting, you’re charging your worth. Equally, if you feel you’re not getting the jobs initially, don’t assume it’s because you’ve got your pricing wrong. People can take a while to confirm a job and it’s natural to shop around. Besides, do you really want to build a reputation on being the cheapest? Have the courage of your convictions and if someone’s not willing to pay your carefully considered price, then it’s simple – they’re not ‘your people’.

I hope you enjoyed reading my business tips and found them useful.

Would you like to sign up for a Vintique Upholstery POWER HOUR with me, Sharon O’Connor? Ideal for anyone starting out or just feeling a bit stuck in their established upholstery business, I can give you the support you’re looking for with a one-to-one online session (or sessions). In this targeted hour, we will identify what your specific challenges are, then try to fix them!

Download the PDF from the link here. You’ll then be able to access a discovery form, which will tell me where you are with your business and what you’d like to discuss or learn.

£125 per hour. Sessions take place virtually over FaceTime or Zoom.

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