Whether you are completely new to the upholstery world, or have a few projects under your belt, there is an important conversation that every beginner upholsterer should have, and that involves taking on upholstery client work. I often see beginners performing upholstery client work too soon, before they are really ready. It is a more common occurrence than you might think! To illustrate this point, today I want to tell you a story about Lucy.

Lucy’s Upholstery Predicament

Lucy started her upholstery journey and loved it! Her reupholstered chairs turned out beautifully! Lucy loves these chairs and the fabrics she picked. However, during the reupholstering process, she struggled to get things to look good, and did have to redo a few sections a couple of times. She finally completed her piece though!

Lucy’s neighbor, Sarah, pops over and sees Lucy’s gorgeous new chair. She asks a bunch of questions and finds out Lucy did it herself!  Sarah then asks Lucy for her help to reupholster her own chair, which is completely different from the chair Lucy just finished.

Now, things get complicated. Lucy doesn’t have a strong foundation in her upholstery skills, and this project is something she has never done before. However, she really doesn’t want to disappoint her friend either. Lucy’s thoughts race as she tries to decide what to do.  If she does decide to help Sarah out, what happens if the project turns out poorly?  Not only will Lucy feel awful anytime she sees Sarah or goes over to her house, but Sarah might tell other friends what a bad job Lucy did. If I was speaking to Lucy, I would tell her DON’T DO IT!

In a different scenario,  Sarah’s chair is exactly like Lucy’s.  Lucy knows it took her a long time to finish her chair, but now she knows what to expect and has learned from her mistakes the first time.  Since the chair is the same, Lucy helps her friend and finishes the job in a little less time than she did the first time, with no major hiccups. The end result is great and Sarah is super happy!

Don’t Perform Upholstery Client Work Before You Are Ready!

When you are starting out with upholstery or any new skill, it might be tempting to help others or even take on client work before you are ready. Others see the end result of your hard work, but they don’t realize how many times you had to redo the arms of the chair to get them to look right, or the time you had invested. You don’t want the added pressure of doing work for a friend or client and worrying about all the things that could go wrong when you are still learning! Performing upholstery client work before you’re ready creates a stressful situation.

Maybe you are in a situation like Lucy. You’ve done a few upholstered pieces for your home. You feel confident and know the pieces look good. Now your friends are asking you to upholster furniture for them. BEFORE you say yes, ask yourself a few questions!

Is their chair or piece of furniture similar to one you’ve done? 

Before you answer this question, make sure you see the chair in person first! Sometimes people might inaccurately describe the furniture. Then when you finally see it in person, you realize you’ve bit off more than you can chew! You’ll want to know all the details upfront! For instance, do you know if your friend’s chair has 8-way tied coil springs or not? Did you know the frame needed repair? These are important details to know before you commit to performing a reupholstery project.

Do you have the skills it will take to successfully reupholster their chair?

Once you have seen the chair and discern whether or not it is similar to a project you’ve already done, you’ll want to ask yourself, if you have the skills it will take to successfully reupholster their chair? 

Answer this question honestly and realistically. You won’t be doing anyone any favors if you commit to something that you have a feeling might be too much for you to take on. 

Are you at a point where you can make decisions as they come up during the project?

This question is important because as you reupholster more and more pieces of furniture you will see just how many small decisions you must make throughout a project. Sometimes you find something unexpected during the teardown process that might cause you to re-think how to approach the next steps. Will you be able to pivot, make the necessary decisions, and move forward without fear? If small decisions on a personal project still cause you to fret or send you into a tailspin of doubt and questions, then you may need to hold off until you have a little more experience under your belt.

Not sure what level of upholstery you’re ready for?  Take a look at this blog.

Do you have all the necessary tools and supplies?

If you don’t have all the tools you need to complete the project then you definitely don’t want to take on someone else’s project. 

Do you have a resource for all the supplies you’ll need? Are you familiar with each step and the various supplies used at each step? Can you easily get the supplies you need? If you don’t have a good resource for obtaining project supplies, completing a new project will be difficult. 

Are you already stressing out about completing this project?

This is probably one of the most important questions. Even if your answers to all the other questions above indicated you were ready, and this one question is a yes, then DON’T DO IT! Listen to your gut. Let them know you are not ready yet to do projects for others.  They will respect your honesty.

Show Yourself Kindness

Don’t feel badly for not being able to help someone else out. You don’t know what you don’t know. There is no shame in that. You don’t want to do something that will cause stress or even dread, just because you don’t want to disappoint someone. Upholstery for many is fun – a creative outlet. Making it stressful will cause you to no longer want to do it. You definitely don’t want that. You should find ways to de-stress like playing videogames or Online poker with bitcoin.

The Pros And Cons Of Performing Upholstery Client Work Too Soon

The Pros

To put it bluntly, there are none. As already mentioned, the stress and worry aren’t worth it, nor is the potential for disappointment on both sides.

The Cons

  • If you lack understanding and experience with upholstery, you won’t know what you’ll find when you take off the fabric
  • You won’t be able to communicate your problem accurately when asking for help
  • Not knowing what questions to ask the client about the work to be done. The more experience you have in upholstery, the more you know and understand what you might find, and therefore, what questions to ask
  • Not knowing how to price a job. You might not charge enough to cover all the supplies needed for the project, or charge too much and underdeliver on a project
  • As a beginner upholsterer, you might not know the answers to a client’s potential questions 
  • Not knowing what tools and supplies you may need will leave you feeling lost and stressed
  • You won’t know what to do when a problem arises. Cue panic
  • Loss of time and money due to mistakes 

The Cons Continued . . .

You involve the client in the project after you begin, which you should not do!

If you reach out to your client about supplies needed or to extend the timeline of the project, as a result of your inexperience, you will cast doubt on your ability to finish the job properly.

These are all items that should be taken into consideration upfront. Someone who knows what they are doing would have thought of possible scenarios that could occur and added a buffer of time, or incorporated a contingency plan for supplies upfront. 

Potential Loss of Friendships

This is an unfortunate outcome to the situation, but I’ve seen it happen. Taking on a project too soon, and under-delivering on a project, or leaving your friend/client unhappy with the furniture will create strain on a friendship. They may be frustrated with you for accepting the project, and you will likely feel ashamed or guilty, all of which will create a wedge in the relationship. 

Performing Upholstery Client Work Before You’re Ready Will Leave You Feeling Discouraged

A less than wonderful outcome will likely cause one to be discouraged from learning more and furthering skills. It will almost certainly prevent you from ever taking on client work again, even if you do eventually become more advanced.

Lastly, it will leave you feeling like a failure. We want to avoid this at all costs!

All of these negative outcomes can be avoided entirely by just being open and honest stating that you are not in a position at the moment to take on client work, or extra projects. Assure your friends that when you are ready you will let them know! 

When that time comes and you are ready to reupholster pieces for clients, you will feel confident and proud to say you did them. You will also get to bring in some extra cash, which feels awesome! When in doubt, listen to your gut. You will know when you’re ready. 

Even if you still aren’t ready to perform upholstery client work, rest assured you will get there! If you are looking for more training to advance your skills, our online membership hub instantly grants you access to an online library with hundreds of training videos. You will also have access to a wonderful membership community to learn from and ask questions, detailed instructions, more DIY tips, and our online training experts who are on standby ready to assist you. Join our online membership and start learning when and where you like, while enjoying the support of our amazing online upholstery experts!

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Kim’s Upholstery is all about helping and equipping others to learn the art of upholstery for pleasure, and if they want, enabling them to create an income for themselves – all on their own schedule!

See you on the inside, Kim