How much are your sewing skills worth? Are you being rewarded financially for your hard work and skill? If so, how much should you charge? These are just a few of the many questions about sewing for money that have been asked on our chat group.
(In case you didn't know, we run one of the largest online Facebook sewing groups with over 30,000 members. You can find us on HERE if you're interested.)
We have talked about this topic before in Selling What You Sew – How To Price Your Work, that article touches on how to price and drive traffic to your online Etsy shop. But, let's face it, we are not all on Etsy selling what we sew and many of the readers of So-Sew-Easy work from home with a more limited amount of time.
Before getting involved with So-Sew-Easy.com, I did a fair bit of sewing for money but I worked only with people that could afford my skills. I don't mean to sound snobby or anything but I made seasonal storyboards, drafted patterns, made dresses and costumes, and designed accessories and jewelry and my prices were not the cheapest in the market. Why? It was not a decision I made overnight, and it was less about the money and more about weeding out the bad and difficult customers. And there are plenty… I had my share of scowling ungrateful, hard to please, obsessive, and horrible pain-in-the-butt customers. It took me a few years to realize some people will never be happy, not at home, not in life, not ever, and you shouldn't waste your time and energy trying to please them.
How to avoid this sort of thing, how much to charge when sewing for money, and how to get fairly compensated for your work are obviously questions on the minds of many of our readers.
As an example, I will use Nita's question she left as a comment on the Selling what you sew – how to price your work.
Dear Nita: To answer your question I have made this post because I think many will benefit from your question.
Nita asked “Hi my name is Nita and I already start a sewing business at my home. Like a part-time job. Just need some extra cash help out our bills. But I really need to know the right price for the product I made. I sew clothes like island dresses, ball dresses and top and skirt. I only sell it for $40 upward. I always think that the price it's not enough but I just don’t know how to work it out to come up with the right price for my sewing product. I only cut and sew but my customer comes with there own material.”
Hi Nita, this is a very complex subject and one that requires some market research in the place you are operating.
First, find out how your competition is operating. This is perhaps the most important information you can use to price your goods. You cannot charge what the market will not bear, but if you are far cheaper than what the market expects, customers may perceive your product as low-quality.
Second, charge a higher price but offer a better service: like a shorter time to finish the product, better fit, better finish, and great communication/attitude. People are always willing to pay more for a better overall experience.
Third, find out who your customers are, why they are having clothes made, and what are their specific expectations. If you meet the specific needs of your customers, you can charge higher prices.
The above paragraphs are my best and shortest answers, but at the risk of making my answer too long, I could not help myself but go into greater detail below.
Find Out What Your Competition Is Worth
Know how much your competition is charging for their goods and services so you can select your price smartly. You will have to really weigh your skill and service vs. the competition. The aim is to give your customers a sense of fairness and will have them coming back, but will still leave you knowing that the work is worth your time. Charging too much may alienate a perfectly good customer that could be coming back for more. Charging much lower than the competition may harm your credibility. When in doubt, mirror the competition and see how it works out. After enough time, you will feel comfortable enough to tailor your prices specifically to your product.
Knowing The Quality of The Goods Your Competition Is Making
Check out the quality of the work your competitors are making and improve on their weaker points. This practice will give your customers confidence in your product. Two of the most common weak points are: “fit” and “finish”. I cringe when I see a horrid finish on “ready to wear clothes”. It amazes me what people are willing to pay for badly made clothes bought at a mall and then complain about the cost of handmade goods.
Find Your Ideal Customer
Learn who you want to sell to. Who is your ideal customer? Why is your customer looking for hand-sewn clothes? How can you help your ideal customer build a wardrobe? In other words, learn to become a dependable expert in your work. Learn the reasons why your customers are looking for hand-sewn articles. Is it fit? Quality? Price? Attention? The Experience? Whatever it is in your area tap into it.
Retaining Your Past Customers
Good friendly service is the magic cloak to shield you from losing business. A happy smile is one of the most contagious gestures that we possess, but so is a depressed grimace.
Refrain from talking about bad health, poor luck, debt, and bad news in general. Nothing puts customers into a non-buying mood more than negativity — we all get more than enough from people around us and the news. Your customers come to you because of your sewing skills and infectious attitude.
This is the part where you will need to become part sewer and part psychologist. Sewing for others will give you a window to the most vulnerable parts of your customer's body. Many people focus on the bad parts of their bodies and largely ignoring the best parts. Your job is to help build back their confidence and highlight their best and help cover or disguise those aspects that make them insecure. Which brings me to the following point.
Learn To Say No
I had my share of difficult customers and failures. In hindsight, I should have said no early on to most of them. Within the first two minutes, I could sense that this person would be a pain in my behind. Difficult customers will end up taking up all of your time if you let them, stripping away time for your bright and happy customers and sapping your passion.
In my experience, many of my worst customers tended to fit a pattern. They often would come with magazine cutouts of outfits that they would love to own, demanding an exact replica. Impossible shapes for the fabric they would bring. Wrong shapes for their bodies, and people insisting on having a garment made in a smaller size than they could realistically fit. This person will not take any guidance or suggestions and you will embark on a guaranteed failed project. I have made this mistake a few times, enough to cost me a lot of money and sleep time. So learn to say no!
How To Find More Customers, And What To Do When You Do
There is a saying in Spanish “crea fama y acuestate a dormir” literal translation would be “create your fame then go to sleep”. Let your reputation preceded you. Word-of-mouth is your best marketing and it is free. Quality and service will speak for itself. But, be patient as it takes time for a great reputation to form and circulate.
When you do find new customers, put out the red carpet for them. Make sure you understand exactly what they want from the experience and do your best to give it to them.
I hope this article has answered your question, Nita, and I hope the rest of you have learned something useful from my mistakes. Don't be afraid to start your own sewing business. Begin small and with the tools you have right now, you'll be surprised how exciting the experience can be!
See you next time and happy sewing!