There is one thing all of us do every day—we sit. Chances are we all sit on an upholstered chair or sofa. Someone in professional upholstery had to lovingly and carefully place springs, padding, and fabric over a frame of some sort to create the soft seat you enjoy each day, and that person is a professional upholsterer.
Yet, unlike doctors, lawyers, and accountants, which are careers that are prolifically filled, there are way fewer upholsterers to be found. One has to wonder why this is and if it is worth it to become an upholsterer?
A Closer Look at the Upholstery Profession
Deciding whether you want to become a professional upholsterer is not a decision to make lightly, and it’s a lengthy journey to the ultimate goal of having your own upholstery shop and thriving business. However, the journey is ultimately worth it.
Not many younger people choose to enter a trade where they work with their hands such as a carpenter or tailor as the lure of high-tech careers and “big” earning jobs is always strong.
Traditionally, upholstery was a trade passed in a family from father to son and other family members. Apprenticeship started at a young age, with all the family members helping out as needed in the shop.
Today, upholstery has become a very specialized trade with new techniques and tools balancing with traditional methods and tools that have been used in the upholstery trade since the first craftsmen in ancient Egypt.
As an upholsterer, you can specialize in different areas of expertise such as automotive upholstery, commercial upholstery, and residential and industrial upholstery. Each of these fields has its own perks, from upholstering high-end vehicles to designing and manufacturing stunning new upholstered furniture for up-market hotels and restaurants.
The upholstery trade is anything but boring!
Skills an Upholsterer Requires
If you are considering a career as a professional upholsterer, you would do well with the following skills or requirements in place:
- Practical nature and natural problem-solver
- Neat and meticulous with attention to detail
- Good team player and attentive student
- Natural design flare
- Physically strong with good eyesight
- Excellent dexterity and hand-eye coordination
Other skills you would do well to cultivate include:
- Good people skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Sound mathematical reasoning skills
- Spatial reasoning skills
- Good sense of style
- Good with documents and filing
- Time management
Pros of Becoming an Upholsterer
There are many benefits to working as an upholsterer. There is steady work, and you’ll never run out of work as furniture requires reupholstering as people’s tastes change, accidents happen, and furniture needs to be repaired. Other pros include:
- An average salary of $25-$30 per hour
- The annual wage for 90% of upholsterers is $52,190
- Upholsterers working for the government, hospitals, schools, and public institutions earn a mean wage of $38.93 per hour, which is above-average hourly wages
- Good room for expansion as most upholsterers are situated on the East Coast
- As an upholsterer, you get to be creative, and no two upholstery jobs are the same
- Not office-based, and you will get to see different businesses, homes, and shops when you travel for quotations, deliveries, and pickups
- Ideal career alternative to those who are more inclined to being physically creative
- Great satisfaction in seeing an upholstery job through from start to finish
Cons of Working as an Upholsterer
As with any job, there are a few cons to working as a professional upholsterer. You may find that:
- Deadlines can be tight and cramp creativity
- Clients can be difficult
- Costs may increase as a project runs, which can end up costing you if your quote isn’t padded for the unexpected
- Setting up an upholstery shop and taking out insurance can be expensive
- When selling upholstery fabric, there can be additional losses as fabrics change and the trending fabrics are never the same
- The job can be physically exhausting with serious back strain if you work on larger pieces
A Day in the Life of an Upholsterer
What can you expect if you decide to work as an upholsterer? A day in the life of an upholsterer includes planning the day’s work, scheduling deliveries, training staff and apprentices, ordering new stock, selling or discounting old stock, and engaging with clients who have custom orders.
The upholsterer may also travel to consult with future clients, complete bids for contract work with the government or other institutions, and attend decor and design shows is also a good idea (though, not daily).
For smaller upholstery shops, you may need to physically cut, measure, attach, and finish off the upholstery for the furniture items.
The Future of Craftsmanship Careers Like Upholsterers
The craftsmen who make furniture, reupholster, repair, and renovate that furniture are vital to our way of life. While machines can do some of the work, there are still craftsmen required. Therefore, the future for a career as an upholsterer looks bright.
Should You or Your Children Consider Becoming an Upholsterer?
If you are considering a career change, it may be worth noting that an apprenticeship as an upholsterer can be for up to 10 years, which may be more time than you want to invest now.
However, there are many great DIY upholstery opportunities available for those who don’t have the time or finances available to complete such a lengthy apprenticeship. If you want to try your hand at upholstery work, there is great satisfaction in making beautiful things.
When still young, undertaking such a long apprenticeship is not as intimidating, and encouraging your children to work as upholsterers is a great career path to follow.
Consider your natural skills, likes and dislikes, and decide whether you want to work in an exciting field or trade.
Personality Requirements to Become a Successful Upholsterer
A professional upholsterer may need specific qualities to succeed, so if you or your children have these, you should consider becoming a professional upholsterer.
- Good people relations
- Excellent at managing people (staff and clients and suppliers)
- A great sense of humor
- Perfectionism balanced with practicality
- Don’t-quit personality
- Creative and good designer with basic drawing skills
- Ingenuity to solve problems, make new furniture, and convert existing furniture
Professional Upholstery as Career FAQs
Question: Is it hard to learn to upholster?
Answer: While upholstery as a trade is not considered manual labor, it requires dedication to learn how to use different tools, stretch fabrics, work with different materials, and achieve a requested look.
Once you have the basics in place, it is not hard to do upholstery work. However, the margin for error is small, making it quite a challenging job too.
Question: How do I learn to upholster?
Answer: There are several online courses that can teach you the basics of working as an upholsterer and you can also watch tutorial videos on YouTube. The traditional route is to apprentice yourself to an upholsterer whom you respect and whose work you admire.
A fun way to get started is to try your own upholstery project with an easy furniture item such as a headboard, simple dining room chair, or by making slipcovers for your existing furniture.
Question: Is it worth it to become a professional upholsterer?
Answer: It is worth it to become a professional upholsterer. There are many perks to working with your hands, being surrounded by beautiful fabrics, and learning new ways to solve problems with furniture.
Financially, working as a professional upholsterer is a good idea as there are several job openings and the hourly wage is substantial.
The Final Verdict
It is definitely worth it to become a professional upholsterer. The career path, while long, is exciting, and you’ll get to explore and develop your creativity while doing what you love.
When considering a career as an upholsterer, keep in mind that this is not a career for those who are in poor health. An upholsterer needs to be quite robust and strong.
As a professional upholsterer, you will find that your creativity expands as you work with beautiful things. While the work can be physically taxing, always focus on building your reputation and establishing yourself as the best upholsterer in your area. Are you a talented upholsterer looking for a trade partner? Reach out to Kovi and join a family of industry innovators.