There are four definite things you’ll need to start out in the upholstery business. A sewing machine, an air compressor, and a staple gun are three of them. The other thing is the building. Couches, chairs, car seats, and boat interiors take up a lot of space, so you’ll need a place where these jobs can be done. Of course, there are countless other items you could use to make your job easier, like good lighting or tools and implements such as hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches.
What types of supplies you’ll need depends largely on what type of upholstering you’ll be doing. If you only do furniture, for instance, you’ll need staples, plastic, and cotton welt, tacks and tack strip, cotton, foam, and so on. But, if you’ll be doing strictly marine-type upholstery work, you’ll probably have a rare occasion for the use of cotton or tacks. Make a list of the supplies you’ll need and contact suppliers to check prices. Some items can be ordered only when you need them, so find out what the delivery estimates are for these supplies.
If you are in the marine or automotive upholstery line, you’ll probably need a garage or a carport-type of setup where you can store cars or boats while they’re being fixed. Schedule jobs to where you are not overly pressed for space, but where you can finish one job and immediately start the next. Allow for unforeseen emergencies, like having to wait longer than expected on fabrics to arrive, or the accidental tearing of the fabric while re-installing.
After you have your shop set up, visit some car dealerships, boat marinas, or other related industries. Many of these businesses will allow you to place your business card on their countertop for potential customers. You can often make arrangements with the owner to tell your customers about his business if hell tells his customers about yours. Car dealerships, if you do that type of upholstery work, are a great place to locate jobs. Often these dealers will have ripped seats or torn carpet replaced before selling the car.
Once you have done a job or two for the dealer, he’s likely to give you all of his upcoming upholstery work. Advertise your work by having business cards printed, running ads in the yellow pages and other media, or wearing shirts with your shop’s logo on it. And, be sure and put up a nice, big, eye-catching sign out front. Other ways to advertise are to get magnetic signs for your van or truck, have business cards printed, run ads in the yellow pages and other media, or wear shirts with your shop’s logo imprinted.
If you strictly do furniture upholstery work, check with doctors’ offices, hospitals, and restaurants. These types of businesses often have tons of upholstered furniture, many pieces that are in need of new fabric. Wear and tear on furniture at offices is rapid and they often need repeated upholstering. When dealing with large companies, don’t expect to get paid when the job is finished.
Usually, the company will expect to pay you within 90 days of receiving the invoice, although it is not unusual for an upholsterer to ask for, and receive, an initial deposit to cover the fabric expenses. This price can be anywhere from ten to fifty percent, depending upon the amount of fabric and how expensive it is.
Your work is the best advertisement, so pay attention to detail, pick up and deliver items on time, and remember to send previous customers an occasional reminder of your shopss, such as a calendar or Christmas card.
Your work is the best advertisement