How to Start an Antique Restoration Business

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Our guide on starting an antique restoration business covers all the essential information to help you decide if this business is a good match for you. Learn about the day-to-day activities of an antique restoration business owner, the typical target market, growth potential, startup costs, legal considerations, and more!

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Start an antique restoration business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your antique restoration business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your antique restoration business is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

STEP 5. Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8. Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Business Overview

An antique restoration will restore old items either for personal use or to put on display. From masterpieces to sentimental items, a restoration business will perform the repairs and maintenance to help keep objects in good shape for many more years to come.

Who is this business right for?

The ideal owner is someone who truly cherishes the items left behind by former generations. They should have an interest in how things were made in the past (given the technology available), so they can work with a variety of fabrics, materials, and manufacturing techniques.

What happens during a typical day at an antique restoration business?

Antique restorers will need to refurbish a variety of items for different clients. They’ll also need to market to potential new clients, perform general accounting tasks, and arrange for pick-up and delivery of all items.

What is the target market?

The target market can be anyone who wants to restore an old object. However, restorers may choose to market their services directly to certain clients only. For example, they may only work with museums or select upscale clients.

How does an antique restoration business make money?

Antique restorers will charge per item depending on the work required to restore it. They may hire out their services by the hour, but they’re more likely to give people a quote per item based on its age and the severity of the repairs it requires.

What is the growth potential for an antique restoration business?

Antique restoration is a specialized business, meaning there likely aren’t very many competitors in your area. In addition, there may be more customers available than it seems. Most people have at least a few precious objects they inherited that could use some work. Whether it's an old silver tea set or a handmade quilt, restoration experts will likely have plenty of work to keep them busy. As long as the owner has the skills to work on the items, there’s plenty of growth potential in this industry.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful antique restoration business?

Owners should have advanced training in restoration and experience working on a variety of items. If an owner chooses to specialize, they should have some flexibility within their area of expertise. For example, if restoring old paintings, the owner should feel comfortable working with different types of paint (e.g., oil, watercolors, etc.).

What are the costs involved in opening an antique restoration business?

Most antique restorers can get started from the comfort of their own home or garage, so they won’t necessarily have to account for renting out a space. However, they may need to pay for ventilation equipment to keep themselves safe while on the job. Owners should ideally set up a professional website to advertise their services to potential customers. Antique restorers should budget for restoration tools, business permits and licensing fees, and commercial property insurance to cover accidental damage to the items.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting an antique restoration business?

Antique restorers have a wide range of clients from which to choose. In terms of income, the most lucrative jobs will likely come from prestigious museums or cultural institutions. The most talented restorers may be asked to work on priceless artifacts and well-known works of art. However, just because a restorer isn’t removing another layer of grime from the Mona Lisa, doesn’t mean that they can’t be successful in their field.

When first getting started, owners should identify their primary purpose for restoration. For example, they may want to help everyday people restore the items that their grandparents or great-grandparents left behind. Or maybe they want to help upscale consignment stores sell their items for a better price. Depending on your neighborhood, you may want to specialize in furniture, toys, or jewelry restoration. Check to see who your direct competitors are catering to before developing your own strategy.

Owners can also consider buying and restoring their own antiques to sell, either on a site like eBay or in their own retail space. If you choose this path, you’ll need to research which antiques are in demand and the areas in which they’re popular. Antiques are a cyclical business, and it’s difficult to predict what the latest trend will be. If a restorer isn’t planning on specializing, they should familiarize themselves with as many restoration techniques as possible to give themselves the edge they need to thrive. Finally, your communication with customers needs to be excellent. They should have clear expectations for what they can expect based on the inherent value of the item and its original condition.

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Growing Your Business

How to promote & market an antique restoration business

Antique restoration businesses can be best promoted by establishing relationships. This is true even if you're planning to help the average homeowner with a few antiques in their attic. For example, owners may want to begin visiting antique shops, cultural institutions, and museums. The more these professionals get to know you, the more likely they are to either hire you directly or recommend you to their customers. If owners are targeting everyday people, they can also consider paid internet advertising, social media campaigns, or flyers posted in local consignment stores.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Display professional photos of antiques you’ve restored as a testament to your skills. You can also provide live demos on antiques that you’ve purchased and plan to sell. The best way to retain customers is to restore the antiques as much as possible for as long as possible. Deadlines should be met, and delivery and pick-up should be coordinated with the utmost care.

How and when to build a team

Most antique restorers will operate alone until their workload becomes uncontrollable. Considering hiring an administrative professional for scheduling, payments, and delivery. Or hire a restoration assistant to prep or clean the workspace.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Restorers can charge their clients based on their expertise, the extent of the project, and the demand for their services. If hiring per hour, it’s not unusual to see up to $100 per hour for quality restoration services.

What are the ongoing expenses for an antique restoration business?

The ongoing costs include business insurance, the cost of restoration tools, and employee salaries (if applicable). Antique restorers may handle items valued well into the millions, and they need the right protections in place to keep each item safe. In addition to secured vaults, you should have excellent property coverage in case you make a mistake or unavoidable damage occurs along the way.

How much profit can an antique restoration business make?

Antique restoration businesses can be extremely profitable, especially if the restorer uses their own space in which to work. If working at $75 an hour at an 80% profit margin, you would make $480 for a full workday.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Restorers may want to split their business between consignment clients and selling their own restored techniques. This can help stave off potential dry spells in case the demand begins to decline for either service.

Next Steps

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