IKEA furniture is a staple in most people’s homes.
It’s cheap and it looks good, and its flatpack nature means it’s easy to get home. But the biggest disadvantage? You’ve got to build it yourself.
According to a new survey, 90% of millennial DIY ends in disaster – so Waz Mahmood, from Redbridge, saw a gap in the market.
After being made redundant during the pandemic, the 31-year-old construction site manager decided to use his skills to start an unusual business – building other people’s IKEA furniture.
First getting paid to assemble flat pack Ikea items in 2018, Waz – whose wife, Nuhi, 29, is a project manager – has now assembled 500 pieces and even drove 160 miles to erect a wardrobe.
Dusting off his tool belt when he was made redundant from his position as a trainee construction site manager in September 2020 following a period of furlough, he picked up flatpack furniture jobs on the mobile app Airtasker, saying: ” I love the challenge of building something from boxes, then seeing the final product.
“I think, ‘Like, yeah, I made that!'”
And, despite starting another construction job last month, he is still assembling IKEA items as a hobby – admitting that, at one time, he even interrupted dates with Nuhi to put together tables and cupboards for people.
He said: “If an Ikea job came in while we were on a date, I’d cut short the evening.
“But, instead of being angry like most girlfriends, she would join me for ‘moral support’
“We all have goals and she loved how driven I was. It mixed the dates up not knowing where we might end up that evening.
“When she came along, customers would say, ‘How do you manage it? If I was putting up furniture with my partner we’d be at each other’s necks.’
“Luckily, it worked for us – but I wouldn’t get away with leaving early on anniversaries.”
Waz first signed up to the Airtasker app in July 2018, as part of a last-ditch plan to get spending money for a lads’ holiday to Ibiza the following month, having quit a job in recruitment earlier that year.
And with property website Bayut finding that 16% of the 20 to 37-year-olds they surveyed had hit their fingers with a hammer, while 12% sustained an electric shock doing DIY, it is no surprise that he was soon in demand.
He said: “I was enjoying doing nothing, but when my lads’ holiday got closer, I realised I needed to make some money, fast.
“My mates were nagging me to get it sorted, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go.
“I didn’t want to be that guy who goes to Ibiza and stays in the hotel while his friends have the time of their lives.”
He soon found Airtasker – which lets users post tasks they want doing while other members ‘bid’ to secure the job, with each worker getting an Uber-style rating from their customers – was a lucrative source of extra money for him.
With his Ibizan flights and hotel already paid for by credit card, he needed at least £500 in cash for his five-day blow-out trip, so he took on every job he could find.
Mainly by cleaning swanky Airbnb properties in Mayfair and Earl’s Court, by the end of July, he had enough cash to “make it rain” in Ibiza’s hottest clubs.
He said: “It was amazing. We saw David Guetta and Martin Garrix’s sets, which was the main thing I wanted to do.
“But I didn’t tell my mates how I made the money – I was worried they’d take the Mickey, to be honest.”
When he returned home, he landed a construction site job and met Nuhi, who he married in August 2019.
In August 2018, he spotted a job alert to put up a flatpack desk, day bed and chest of drawers for £100 and, despite admitting he ‘had no idea what he was doing,’ he decided to give it a go.
He said: “The bed worried me, so the night before I watched YouTube tutorials on how to do it and trawled through the Ikea website for instructions. I didn’t want to get there and embarrass myself.
“The woman was really nice. I spent about eight hours at her house in total, taking it slow and making sure I got it done properly. Plus, she had a really nice cat.”
Emboldened to take on more jobs, Waz became obsessed with erecting furniture – making hundreds of pounds a week at his peak, through his side hustle.
He said: “I’d finish work at 4.30pm and go for a job at 6pm, which might not finish until 9pm. I’d do that a few times a week. I tried to work fast enough so that each job worked out to at least £20 an hour.
“Now, of course, I’m a well-known name on Airtasker. I’ve been in the game for a while, so when I bid on a job everyone recognises me.”
But, when he started out, Waz accepted jobs as far away as Southampton, which involved a five-hour, 160-mile round trip.
He recalled: “I’m not very good with geography, so I only thought the house was about an hour away – but my wife told me it was much further.
“I set out at 8am and got home at 1am the following day. I was there for so long I had a takeaway with the customers – it was madness.”
Waz’s weirdest-ever job was putting up a wardrobe at a posh house in Sloane Square in south west London’s Chelsea, which could not fit together properly as the floors were so wonky.
But, despite his many successes, there was one notable catastrophe.
He said: “I had just built a wardrobe with my nephew and was packing up when he tripped over and fell into it, busting a big hole in the back panel.
“At first, you could hear a pin drop. But then I was like, ‘Tell me you didn’t just do that!’ I couldn’t believe it.
“Thankfully, the customer saw the funny side and it was covered by a shelf, so they didn’t mind too much.”
And his flatpack assembly skills came in handy when he was furloughed in March last year when the pandemic struck, going on to be made redundant in September.
Waz, who luckily landed a new job last month as an assistant construction site manager, said: “I’m too busy now to respond to the job alerts quickly enough, but I enjoy putting flatpack furniture together so much that I do still take on the odd job here and there.
“I’d like to think after all that time doing it that I still have some clout, too.”
Airtasker is a trusted community marketplace that connects people who need work done with people who want to work. To sign up for Airtasker and start finding innovative ways to make up for the lost earnings of the past year, click here.