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New Years Checklist for the Upholsterer

January 02, 2020 7:59 AM | Michelle Minner

written by Michelle Minner, NUA board member at large and owner of Blue Roof Cabin Upholstery


It’s that time, the beginning of another glorious year in your business.  The time to reset, organize and start fresh. Here’s a list of things to help you start the New Year off right in your upholstery business. 

Deep Cleaning & Maintenance.

All of the items on this list you need to do often, more than once a year but let’s get started off right, shall we? 

First up…

Let us start out with the obvious. All those cobwebs and staples in the corners have got to go.  Pull out all the tables, cabinets and shelving units or get behind them and sweep/vacuum. Bonus, you will most likely find all the small tools you lost this year. Mop the floor. Clean the windows.

Empty your air tank of your air compressor and drain it.

Oil all of your pneumatic staple guns, including the ones you rarely use.

Oil your sewing machines and dust with canned air. Clean out the little drawer of your sewing table it no doubt has 20 random things hiding in it.

Sharpen your scissors.

Change the batteries in your smoke detector.

Check on you fire extinguisher, is it still charged?

 Next up... 

Get organized & assess your efficiency.  What have you been tripping over all year?

Is your workshop efficient?  Ask yourself how is your current set up working for you? Do you need to change out a storage system that isn’t functioning? Now is the time to move the sewing machine to the other side of the room to gain more elbow room or better light. Is your air hose where you want it? Are you tired of dragging that long hose across the floor? Time to get that thing hung from the ceiling. Lastly, how’s your work table? Is the top surface looking embarrassingly shabby? Perhaps covering with vinyl or canvas will help it to look and function better.

Take inventory, even if only mentally, of what supplies you have. Open up all cabinet doors, drawers and shelving. How often have you ordered something only to find you already had a box or two stuffed in the back of a shelf or cabinet?

Organize your supplies. Store like things together, label the shelves and drawers.

And most importantly,

Purge. Toss out or recycle those random scraps of fabric, dacron and foam that are too small for you to be keeping. Are you saving them for dog beds you will never make? Find someone who does make them and give the stuff to them.

Speaking of purging…

Organize your fabric books.

Check your vendor’s website for a list of discontinued books. Toss or donate the old books.

Price changes happen at this time. Check Vendor websites for price increases and print the updated pricing sheets. 

This is a good time to assess if you are happy with the fabric lines you carry. Are you satisfied with the lines you already have or do you want to add a new vendor? (see a list of NUA Vendor Members here)

Now that we have the workroom looking spiffy lets focus on….


Revisit your pricing. Are there certain areas or types of pieces you need to increase your prices on? Perhaps an overall increase is in order.

Do you need to implement a new fee? A COM (customers own material) charge for instance? Maybe you want to start charging for pattern matching, since it adds hours to each job. (Two fees that I will be implementing this year.)

Review your contract. Update any new fees or changes to your policy. Add verbiage to cover you in areas you may have found an issue with this past year.

Next up how is your estimating process working? Think about issues that have come up that may be solved by tightening up your estimating procedures. I did this at the end of last year and I noticed a definite increase in my income per job. Things are easily forgotten when you estimate off the cuff. Take the time to establish a good form and process and use it every time.

File all finished job paperwork. Pull outdated quotes and archive. Perhaps this would be a good time to contact these potential clients that haven’t converted and ask if they’d like an updated quote. Are they still looking for fabric? A quick note may get the project back on track for them.

Still with me? Let’s move on to the fun stuff.

Freshen up your Social Media


Is it time to change your cover photo? How about that profile picture? Is it a photograph of you from ten years ago? Maybe its time to switch to something a little more current.

Check and update your hours, phone number, email, physical address or business description.

Review your automatic response message to direct messages. If you don’t have one setting it up is a great way to let potential clients know you got the message and when they should expect a response. You can also use it to point people to your email if that’s how you prefer to be contacted. No more lost messages. 


Review your Instagram profile information. Does it have your correct info? Does it still reflect your brand and business goals? Is it interesting?

How about the link to your website? Is your homepage where you want to direct people or would a specific page be better? Consider adding a landing page to your website if you have more than one product or place you’d like to direct your clients.

Are you using hashtags? If not start using them.  Take the time to research and find the hashtags that are relevant. Type up the list and put it somewhere you can save it, like the notes on your phone or an email draft. Then each time you post you can go to that place and copy & paste them into your post. That initial effort will pay off going forward. I put this off for years until my friend Rachel said you need to do this now. Listen to her, she is smart. It will make a difference.

By the way, now that your workroom is looking sharp it would be a great time to take photos, do a facebook live or Instagram story. Take clients on a tour of your workroom; they’d love to see where the magic happens. If not your clients, then your fellow upholsterers surely will.

And last but not least,

The Website

Ask yourself, does your website reflect you and your business, has it been working for you this year? If not, seek help.  A well thought out website makes a great impression and can answer those recurring questions so you don’t have to.

Review every page and update content as needed like pricing and contact information etc.

Don’t forget to add those amazing photos of your recent projects to your galleries or home page to keep it fresh.

Whew that was a lot! Hopefully this will help set you up for a successful 2020. Time to get around to all those things that keep moving to the back of the list.

Here’s a handy Printable Checklist that you can print and use.  Don’t we all just love checking off the boxes? I left a few blank spaces in each category for you to add more.

year end checklist for upholstery businesses.pdf

Best Wishes and continued success to you in the New Year! Bring it 2020!


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