Shipping Furniture: The ultimate intimidation (Dun, Dun, Dunnn!!!)

Let me start out my introducing myself. My name is Tina Brown, owner of Vintage Revitalized and I live in Sacramento, CA. I've been refinishing furniture since 2017 and shipped my 1st piece of large furniture in early 2020. I have now shipped my 2nd large piece and want to share my experience and new knowledge with you all. I am very motivated and passionate about continuing to grow my business and to expand my market. Local sales are wonderful and I never want to downplay that fact. But let's be honest, not everyone's local market is willing or able to pay what it takes to create some of these amazing designs. Know your worth! (Something I'm still working on )


Now, let's talk about what I am not. I am NOT an expert. I am no shipping guru and I am definitely not here to tell you I know everything, because I don't. I am just a gal who has taken the scary leap into the world of shipping furniture and I want to help you feel a little more comfortable and confident so you can do the same. WHY you may ask? Because why the heck not! There will always be competition in our world, especially with the ease of access to information. So many WONDERFUL artists have willingly shared their knowledge, techniques and experience with me/us and it has gotten me to where I am today- a proud business owner who LOVES what she's doing. Let's EMPOWER each other and continue to share information. What we do is create unique pieces of refinished furniture. We are recycling and bringing beauty to people's homes. No two pieces are identical and there will always be someone out there looking for a special piece. We are also creating the opportunity for mothers to be home more with their children, for retirees to spend their time doing something they enjoy, for working women to have a hobby that allows for a creative outlet and maybe some added income. At the end of the day, what really matters is being happy. Helping other people makes me happy.


Now that we're all clear on that, let's get to the fun/scary/exciting/anxiety inducing stuff!


THIS BLOG IS LENGTHY, AND THE REASON FOR THAT IS I WANT TO GIVE YOU AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE PRIOR TO MAKING THE DECISION TO SHIP FURNITURE. SHIPPING IS A SERIOUS COMMITMENT. IF READING THROUGH THIS IS TOO MUCH, PLEASE BELIEVE ME THAT SHIPPING WILL NOT BE FOR YOU. I SAY THAT WITH NO BAD INTENTIONS- IT'S THE TRUTH. SHIPPING TAKES TIME, ENERGY, AND EXTRA WORK. IF THAT IS NOT WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, FEEL FREE TO STOP READING NOW. IF IT IS SOMETHING YOU'RE STILL CURIOUS ABOUT, READ ON. BEING PREPARED WILL MAKE THINGS MUCH EASIER AS YOU WILL HAVE A GOOD IDEA OF WHAT'S TO COME AND WILL EASE SOME OF THE ANXIETY.


So grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet, relaxing place to read through this, and keep an open mind.


Here are the topics I will touch on:

  1. How to get an estimated shipping cost from uShip.com

  2. How to determine what to sell an item for on Etsy.com WITH shipping costs and fees included.

  3. How to find a shipper through uShip.com

  4. Ways to find alternate shipping/delivery methods

  5. How to properly pack and protect your item(s)

(Please make sure you check out my other posts on my tips to making more money refinishing furniture. A key part of all this is selecting the right pieces, taking good photos, and knowing your worth.)


So you have a beautiful piece of furniture that you refinished. You've taken great pictures and you've listed it locally for sale. Let's say it's a dresser close in measurement to the one I recently sold. It was a big-boy at 39 inches tall, 48 inches wide, and 22 inches deep. No joke, it weighed at least 200 lbs.



1. Estimated Shipping cost from uShip:

Locally, you've determined that a piece like this would/should sell for $450. Once you have your local listings up, head over to uShip.com and get a free estimate. Once you click, on "household item" then "Furniture," you can begin to enter in the dimensions and estimated weight. If you're unsure on weight, google search "average weight of common household furniture." Check out:


https://ewtaz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Average-Weight-of-Common-Household-Furniture.pdf)


https://www.interconex.com/pls/idxnet/icxweb0e49.html?p_link=ptm_wg


You will then need to enter your city or zip code and a destination city or zip code. Since we have no idea where the piece might go, I try to stick with a place far, far away. Maybe even try a couple of different locations. You want to be prepared for higher shipping cost than underestimating. I chose the city of New York for this example.



Once you click on "continue," you will be brought to a page that gives you an estimated range of offers that you can expect. It will look like that:



What this shows you is that there is a low, mid, and high amount which shippers will likely offer you to book the job. Keep in mind that many of these companies or individuals will be looking to fill up their trucks and they will be basing their availability (times frames) and cost on where you are located and where the item needs to go. You can now use this information to give you a good idea of how much to charge for an item on Etsy, including the shipping cost. Keep in mind that uShip will charge you a service fee "based on the commodity you are shipping." My experience both times so far, the fee was $24.99.


2. Determining price to sell your item on Etsy, with shipping and fees:

With this information, you can now head over to Etsy. Keep in mind that Etsy gives preference to listings that offer free shipping. So what should you do? List it as free shipping! Once you have your listing created and you get to the pricing section, you will add up all the amounts so far.


$450 for the refinished item + $300 for shipping + $25 for service fee = $775


But there are more costs to account for!


Expect to spend at lease $25-$40 in shipping materials, possibly more if it's your first time getting some of the supplies needed. For instance, the first time I shipped, I bought a large roll of bubble cushion and a decent sized cling wrap. I was able to use both for my second piece I shipped.



If you have a local Harbor Freight, buy some moving blankets from them. Make sure you can cover at least the front and sides of your piece (the back as well, if it's been refinished).


Also, "Once an item sells through Etsy, there is a 5% transaction fee on the sale price (including the shipping price you set). If you accept payments through Etsy Payments, we also collect a 3% + $0.25 payment processing fee when an item is sold." (https://www.etsy.com/sell#:~:text=Once%20an%20item%20sells%2C%20there,when%20an%20item%20is%20sold.)


OK, so here is where you really need the calculator. Your item is listed for $775.


775 x .03= 23.25 + 0.25= 23.50

775 x .05= 38.75


Etsy is expected to charge you around $62.25 in fees. If we left our listed price at $775, after all the fees and cost to ship, you would end up being paid about $362.75 for the dresser.


Wait, huh? All that for less!?!?


This is where you need to go back and UP YOUR PRICE! To break even with your $450 sale amount, you would need to list your item for $875. And keep in mind, your shipping cost could end up being more than $300. Now does it make sense why pieces are so much on Etsy?


***And let me please stop right here and say something important- PLEASE DO NOT LIST YOUR ITEM ON ETSY WITH FREE SHIPPING BUT THEN IN THE DESCRIPTION WRITE "SHIPPING NOT INCLUDED." That is false advertising and you can expect to get cancellations when a buyer finds out how much shipping can cost. So either list as free shipping OR mark your shipping cost low, like $0.10, and mention in your description to send a message with zip code BEFORE PURCHASING for a shipping quote. That way you have been ethical and honest in your expectations so that a buyer shouldn't come back at you for providing false listing information.


So is it worth it? I think so, and here are my reasons why. By not limiting yourself to just local sales, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities, new customers, and new experiences. I write in another blog about knowing your local market. Well, what if your local market only wants whites, grays and black? Or what if you live in a more eclectic area but your taste is more traditional and simple? Also, if you're someone who is limited on space (which I am confident we almost ALL are), why would you not want to pursue all options to move your pieces? I can completely understand if this is just too much of an undertaking for you, because it was for me, but once you at least try, then you can determine for yourself if it wasn't too bad, or "never again."


3. Finding a shipper on uShip:


(Keep in mind that there are other shipping options. When you're first searching in your area for available shippers, make sure to check out Freight Buddy. USPS, FedEx, UPS, and Greyhound, to name a few.)


Remember back at Step 1 when you listed the details of your item on uShip.com and came to the estimator page? If you scroll down a little, you will see another option. "Name your price" allows you to list your shipment at a set price that the shipper can accept. You can aim low, or even shoot for the mid-range, hoping for a bid. I have done this both ways and have had success.



Whether you name your price or allow bids, once you move onto the next page, you can add more details about your item. You can add a photo, the soonest and latest pick up and delivery dates, how the item will be shipped (blanket wrapped is the most common) and any special instructions.


how to ship furniture with uship

Push it through and there you go- you officially have a shipment listed!



Once your shipment listing is live:


A) Be prepared. Shipping companies, many of whom are small and looking to load up their trucks, are searching for listings that match up closely with their existing route. This means that you could get a quick message asking if the item could be ready next day. Why? Because the shipper will already be in your area. This is what just happened to me. Etsy purchase came through at 7pm Wednesday. I woke up Thursday morning to a message from the night before stating there was a company able to pick up next day. Since I already had packing materials on hand, all I had to do was wrap it up.


Now, I've also had it where a shipper wanted to pick up the next morning and I was not able to make that happen. Most of us have other jobs and commitments. If this happens, oh well. It didn't work out and you just wait for the next message.


B) Cost. A shipper may be available or offer a bid and it could be VERY high. I received a bid for $624 on this dresser. My jaw dropped! But that's ok. You just decline the bid.


You also want to be mindful of time frame. On Etsy, I allow myself 1-30 business days for estimated shipping times. Don't get SO caught up on getting a low shipping price that you max out your time. You buyer is expecting you to ship the item they spent a lot of money on. Do your due diligence to get a good bid, but you should not make them wait too long.


Once a bid is offered, you SHOULD ask questions before accepting.


C) Ask questions and check reviews. On uShip, people can leave reviews of shippers, and shippers can respond. I like that feature. If a company is new to uShip, they will not have much, if any reviews. This is when you should look them up. The company I went with had only 2 reviews on uShip. I pulled them up on Facebook, Instagram and Yelp. I was confident that they would be able to get the job done.


Also, ask if they have coverage for damage. If something happens, you want to know the cost of your item is covered. In the message let them know your item was purchased for $875. You should get a respond back with something like Yes we are fully insured with coverage up to $200k for All cargo."


Since uShip doesn’t verify service provider insurance credentials, they "offer shipping customers a cargo insurance policy through our third party partners. Unlike motor truck cargo or carrier's liability insurance, our cargo insurance provides coverage for the direct physical loss or damage to the cargo. This means a faster payout directly to you, eliminating the hassle of dealing directly with the service provider’s insurance company. Cargo insurance is available for purchase at checkout on most shipments being shipped by US based customers." They state that they offer great rates, reliable insurance company, and fast payouts on claims. Just a heads up if you want added protection.


"Enjoy low $50 deductibles on most new goods valued up to $1,000. Note, there are minimum deductibles of $50, $250, $500, or $750 dependent upon the type and value of good(s) being shipped. Please refer to the full policy to learn more."


D) Make sure you are following your Etsy store policies! I allow up to 6 hours for a buyer to cancel an Etsy order. Since this time had already passed, I was good to go. I sent her a message that I already had a shipper I would be working with. She was very happy because she had purchased another dresser in June that wouldn't be delivered until July 30th. Here we were already at July 24th and I had the same expected delivery date!


So what if you get no bids? This is why I give myself the 1-30 business days for my estimated shipping time. It seems that uShip allows you to post duplicate listings. I actually did this and create one listing to allow bids and a second listing as "name your price." This may or may not help. If your listing expires after the 7-day window, list it again but now you should be researching other options, just in case. As good customer service, it is also wise to stay in communication with your buyer. Let them know you are at the mercy of the shipping companies and you are waiting on a bid to come through from a trusted shipper. Communication is key.


4. Ways to find alternate shipping/delivery methods


Try not to freak out. If you are not getting a bid through uShip, keep trying. Also try calling or going online to other shipping carriers. As I mentioned above, this could include UPS, FedEx, Greyhound, Freight Buddy... If you are shipping an item to a destination that isn't too far from you and just need someone with a truck, check out taskrabbit.com


Either way, DO NOT FREAK OUT. I REPEAT, DO NOT FREAK OUT! Go to your Facebook groups, like "World of Chalk Paint" and "Styling and Staging Your Furniture for Sale," reach out to some of your furniture refinishing pals, and get some advice. Things change so quickly. Here we are in July 2020 and there could be other options available by next month. Plus, shipping can take time. Things need to fall properly in place. Allow for longer-than-you'd-like time lines, just in case.


5. How to properly pack and protect your item(s)


When packing your piece, the first thing to know is that your item should be strapped to the inside wall of the truck. It will not be moving around and does not need to be protected to the umpteenth degree. YES, protect your piece., but get out of your head the image of it being knocked around, needing to be in a padded, metal box with 10 blankets, 15 layers of bubble cushion and 20 rolls of cling wrap.


Your piece of furniture is painted it should be dry and cured before shipping. Just my opinion. For instance, I use Dixie Belle paint (you can purchase through my affiliate link at https://dixiebellepaint.com/?aff=419 😉) and it cures in 30 days. My piece was completed around mid-June and had been sitting inside my home since. Another reason why it's a good idea to allow for longer shipping times.


By allowing time for the piece to cure before shipping, I have less worries about any issues with the paint.


My first step is to clean my piece with basic soap and water. I vacuum the insides of the drawers and under the piece. Prep your piece as if someone is coming to pick it up for purchase.


Next I wrap the piece loosely with brown pacing paper, wrapping it all the way around the back. I then use some packing tape to keep the paper in place, like one long strip down the front.


Next I add bubble cushion around the entire piece and secure it with tape.


AT NO TIME DOES THE TAPE TOUCH THE PAINT.


This is when I add blankets. I make sure to cover as much of the piece as possible. The picture below shows the item I just shipped out. I used a blanket over the top that covered some of the front as well. Then, I took a large blanket to cover the front and sides.


To hold it all in place, I used cling wrap. I like to go up and down, and across. Make sure it's nice and snug.


The shipper should have at least 2 people to move the item, as well as a dolly if needed. They will also have the straps to secure it to the inside of the truck.

Here is the corner hutch I first shipped.


If your item has glass, make sure to securely pack and protect it.


Same goes for removable shelves. The corner hutch had 3 so I wrapped them individually and secured them to the top of the hutch, then wrapped it all together. I made sure to let the shipper AND the buyer know, so they knew to expect loose pieces when unpacking.



Packed up and ready to go.


Loaded on the truck.

At its new home!


TAAA-DAAAA! That's it folks! (Phew!!)😂


I know this is A LOT of information and a ton to digest. Take a deep breath and know you're on the right track. You're gathering information and making decisions on what's best for YOU. Even if right now is not the right time, maybe in a couple of months it will be. And you know what, this information will be right here waiting for you


Also remember, this last item I shipped happened quickly. So all this information you just read through sounds like a lot (because it is) but the more you do this, the quicker it will get. You will be prepared and ready to go.


Because this is a blog, I can update it at any time. So send me questions, comments and concerns. If something comes up that I didn't think of, I will come back and add the additional tips and info.


This might be a good time to read up on my other blog entries- the 3-part post about "More money for your pieces."


To make it a little easier to follow, here is a simplified breakdown of the steps to follow.


1. Gather an estimated shipping cost

2. Sell item on Etsy (included shipping cost and fees built into price)

3. Post shipment listing on uShip

4. Accept bid from shipper

5. Wrap/pack item

6. Arrange pick up of item

7. Communicate delivery time-line and shipper info to buyer

8. Once item is picked up, mark item "shipped" on Etsy (this will place your order into the