Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Something that I see on many threads in online groups about refinishing furniture is that people often ask why their revamped piece isn't selling, or why people are making them such low offers. There are multiple reasons for this and I will give you my best advice in 3 sections of WHY and WHAT you can do to help fix this.
1- Know Your (local) Market
2- Know how to present your work
3- Know Your Worth
1) Know your (local) market.
Do you live in a more rural area where farmhouse decor with muted colors is still the top trend? Are you from a more eclectic neighborhood where people thrive off bright colors and funky designs? Do you sell your pieces in a more up-scale location where classy, elegant and traditional designs are highly sought after? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself and research. Search through Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp and other sales apps and see if there are other artists in your vicinity. What have they sold? Go to their Facebook and Instagram pages to get inspiration (not to copy them! That is not the point of this). This is one of the reasons why myself and so many others post a picture of a piece that has sold. If you think it's just to show off, it's not. I use that information to see what's selling. When someone posts an image and it says "OMG, I posted this and it sold in 2 hours!" pay attention...
If you find joy out of the creative outlet of this and want to paint in any color you choose and any style, I recommend building a name for yourself by sharing your work, asking your friends to share, and open an Etsy shop. This will expand your market. People are willing to buy pieces online and have them shipped. I know that can be intimidating but there is a market for just about anything and everything out there. I also have a blog on my experience with shipping furniture. Feel free to check it out and see if it's something that you'd be interested in trying . I promise, it's not that bad and people tend to pay more for a one-of-a-kind piece. This is where Step 2 & 3 will really come into play...
2) Know how to present your work: PHOTOS! I can not express enough just how much your pictures play a role in selling your pieces. You do not need to be a professional photographer with professional equipment. Actually, all you need is a smart phone and some decent lighting (natural is best!).
Start with a clean space. Make sure there is no clutter in the picture. Try to place your piece up against a wall. Now decide- should it be staged or can it stand on it's own? If you decide to use some items to decorate your piece, remember the golden 3-second rule: Your furniture piece needs to be the focal point that the potential buyer sees immediately. Within 3 seconds, they will know if they are attracted to the piece or not. DO NOT CLUTTER YOUR PIECE. Add a vase with flowers, or a area rug with a a few books. Keep it simple. There are even groups on Facebook that are dedicated to styling and staging furniture. You can post a pic and ask for advice.
Once you have your piece placed and ready to go. Make sure you have adequate light. If you don't have nice natural light or a lighting kit, get a good lamp (or 2, or 3!) and move it around to determine where to place it for the best results. Try to limit the shadows.
Once you have this all set up, take pictures from different angles. Make sure to get a few good pics at hip height. Have some that include the entire piece and a few that are more close up. After you take your pics, look through them and see how you feel when you look at your piece. Do they do it justice? If so, it's time to edit!
There are SO many photo editing apps out there. I HIGHLY recommend Adobe Lightroom (free version and a paid version). I use this app to edit the brightness, contrast, shadows, temp, saturation, sharpening effect, optical effect and to straighten the picture. It's literally a game changer. Next, I use Adobe Photoshop Mix to add/layer my watermark logo. Don't feel the need to pay for a subscription. Even Instagram has some great editing tools. Try them out. Play around some. Most important are to make sure your picture is straight, bright, and focused/clear.
Now that you have 6-10 photos, you're ready to list your item with a description that includes the dimensions, location, whether you can deliver or pick up only, and a couple of sentences as to how great it is, how it can be used, and your price. Some artisans like to include a "before" picture of the item so people can see how much of a transformation occurred. This can help you to promote your work for future business.
3) Know Your Worth
Trust me, this can be a hard one, especially when starting out. Remember in #1 above when I told you to research what is selling in your local area? Part of what you should also be doing is checking out the prices people ares selling those items for in your area. A big mistake you can make is to over price, or even under price, your item. The more on-point you are with your pricing, the quicker your piece can sell. When you overprice your item, people will get the impression that they cannot afford your work. Even if they can't afford that specific piece only, they may be intimidated by your pricing and think they can't afford ANYTHING you do. I have done most of my custom work from people who saw pieces I was selling, knew I refinished the item, and asked me if I could do something else for them ("I have a dresser I'd like redone" or "Could you do something like this in blue?"). When you undersell your work, not only are you selling yourself short but also other local artists. It really helps no one. Also, buyers will not value your work. I need you to trust me on this. I see too often someone saying "I've already lowered my price from $295 to $175, and people keep offering me $100." DO NOT LOWER YOUR PRICE UNLESS YOU'RE DESPERATE FOR THE MONEY AND/OR SPACE. If your item has been listed for 2+ weeks with no offer, it's best to delete the listing, wait a day or two, and then relist it. Make sure to list to multiple sites as well. If people see a professional piece due to the pictures, listing and work, they will not be shocked by a price that meets the quality of the product. My rule of thumb is this: I take the cost of the item (if it was free I use the price I would have realistically bought it for) and the cost of supplies, then multiply $25 for each hour I put in, and add it all up. That should be just about what you should charge, plus or minus.
It's not always easy to tally up the hours I've spent on a furniture piece. That is when I use the more ballpark figures. One of the groups I follow on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/stylingforfurniture/) has some really great information, including this file that lists basic pricing for common pieces. This is a great starting point. Again, do some research for your area and compare to this.