Sewing for Profit (is not always Fun)

If you become at all competent at sewing, people will flock to you, wanting you to sew them things. Run up a cute apron from an easy sew pattern and put some good pictures of it on Instagram or whatever, and suddenly the cousin of the girl who sat next to you in AP Biology in 9th grade will be on your doorstep, wondering if you can make her wedding gown. For cheap.

photo via morguefile (not my work)

photo via morguefile
(not my work)

Of course you can’t, and you send her away, feeling flattered and terrified. If you keep sewing, in a few years, your sorority sister’s husband’s co-worker’s office mate’s bride to be will be there instead, with the same request. If you don’t give in to her, eventually, you’ll succumb to someone and find yourself making a couture style wedding dress or prom dress or Princess Leia costume, and getting paid for it. When that day comes, here are some things to keep in mind.

Have a Pricing Menu

This should be a straightforward, easy to understand list of prices for everything you do. Whole dresses/outfits. Alterations, major and minor. Accessories. Everything should have a price, down to the last “replace buttons”. Do some internet searches to see some samples of these menus. If you’re not sure how much you should charge, find out what other people in your area charge. Decide how your work compares to theirs and proceed from there.

Do not undercut the market significantly. This might get you more clients, but they will not be clients that you actually want. You’ll get bargain hunters who will expect you to produce a designer garment out of old sheets and nonsense. Unless you’re a contestant on some reality sewing show, don’t go there.

If you fall in love with some bride or quinceañera girl or prom queen who honestly can’t afford your regular rates and you want to give her a discount, that’s entirely up to you. Don’t sew for the publicity or the good reviews or “to get your name out there”. Your reputation will not be helped by catering to bargain hunting harpies coming to you with handfuls of cheap satin and unreasonable demands.

Have a Contract

Before you so much as draw a rough sketch or browse a pattern catalog with your potential client, have a contract ready to go. Cover all your costs: Your time, (include a charge for rescheduling missed fittings and other missed appointments) all the supplies necessary (don’t forget the notions), what the initial deposit will be, what the cancellation fee will be if they cancel. Make sure that they understand that the garment will not be delivered until it’s paid for in full. Make sure they understand that changes made after you start the garment will add to the price. Make a separate change order for each change and insist that they sign before you begin any changes.

Are you related? Say no.

There might be that rare friend or relative who will pay you what you’re worth, listen to your advice, and not expect you to slave away 24 hours a day with ridiculous last minute changes. Even if you love someone so much that you want to make their wedding dress or whatever as a present, proceed with caution. The most lovely, reasonable people on earth can sometimes turn into Bridezilla. Make a contract, just like you would for a paying customer. They need to see and understand just what it is you’re giving them.

It is rewarding to see someone’s dress or costume dreams come true. You can avoid unnecessary headaches and heartaches by being prepared! Your skill, talent and experience are valuable. Don’t work for free, don’t undersell yourself, and don’t put up with nonsense.

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