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This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: mozeyrn
Date: 06-02-2006, 12:33 PM (1 of 27)
I brought in the baby bag for the woman I made this week. She loved it. Our director saw it and wanted one (she's a soon-to-be-grandma). I brought in fabric yesterday to see if it was ok (she wanted something for girl/boy & I had found some with teddy bears - not too busy - I bought it because I liked it and would have made one anyway) and she said that was great, "I like teddy bears". I asked what kind of liner/handles she wanted and she told me pretty much what I was going to do anyway.
Here's the problem: She offered me $15 over what I was going to ask. I was at a loss for words but I think she thought it wasn't enough and offered another $5.
What do I do?
Was I under-charging because I didn't really charge the first woman alot of $$ since it was my first bag being sold.
I'm kind of confused here.
- Maureen.
Learning something new with every stitch!!
Kenmore 16231000
User: mozeyrn
Member since: 11-29-2005
Total posts: 349
From: Sew-Enchanting
Date: 06-02-2006, 12:46 PM (2 of 27)
A lot of times, I think we undervalue our sewing work. I am SO guilty of that. I'm afraid of losing the job if I charge too much - but I usually find out that they were willing to pay more. It is a challenge for me to actually bill out at $23 - $25 an hour, because I, myself, wouldn't pay that. I've had to learn that I'm worth it.

That said - if you feel "guilty" (just because I can't find a better word right now) about taking that much, just pause for a moment and determine if you really are undercharging. This woman places a higher value on your work than you do, and she to her, it is worth that $20 extra. If you used a kitchen timer on everything for your bags, from shopping for material and notions to laying out the pattern to prepping, sewing, pressing, etc - how much time have you committed to that single bag? Also, add up all the costs of notions, etc - even if it's "only a half yard of elastic" - they add up.

When I did that, I was a *astounded* at how quickly the time adds up. I made a few mistakes early on in my business and some very lucky people got very inexpensive gowns because of it. But really - when you add up your hours, multiply by $18/hour. Or even $15/hour. But make sure to PAY YOURSELF for your time!

Now that's usually how I do business, because I'm trying to pay off some bills and I love to sew special occasion dresses. I know that I won't get rich off it, and it will never be my full-time job. But I do know some sewers who will do the $20/hour and then add 20% on top of that as profit. For me, my profit is my hourly rate - my labor. It works for me.

Wow, what a long answer. If you don't feel like doing the math on it, I would offer to give her a "deal" and take $10 over what you had originally thought to charge her. If the other woman points out she paid less, tell this woman your costs (labor) went up.

I know - it's hard to set prices. It's what challenges me the most! lol

Good luck -
User: Sew-Enchanting
Member since: 12-28-2005
Total posts: 53
From: Magot
Date: 06-02-2006, 02:38 PM (3 of 27)
The bag you are making for your director is bespoke - she obviously would pay that amount for a made in a sweat shop bag so be proud of your work! Don't undervalue yourself.
love and kisses, Jan
Cells a Speciality
DNA to order.
User: Magot
Member since: 12-22-2002
Total posts: 3626
From: MaryW
Date: 06-02-2006, 03:17 PM (4 of 27)
Well said Jan.
owner/editor of Sew Whats New
User: MaryW
Member since: 06-23-2005
Total posts: 2542
From: mozeyrn
Date: 06-05-2006, 11:34 AM (5 of 27)
One of the girls at work this morning asked what I charged for a bag like the first one I did. I told her what the director offered and she said, "That's too much for me, I'll use one of the Wawa plastic bags instead". There would be too much work involved to charge the same price. The bag for her would have been a beach bag so that would have involved sewing with canvas (which I've never done). You'd never get all the sand out of a quilted bag.
I began to think the price I told her was too much (and was going to reduce it) but then I remembered that I'd have to go out and get the heavier needles which I don't have, heavy duty thread (which I also don't have) not to mention going out and finding the canvas/fabric. The director offered me $45 for a bag about 17"Hx22"L with an inside pocket and fabric handles.
I was going to do the canvas bag for the same price (my dh said I should charge more for canvas but I've never worked with it before and don't know how it'll turn out).
I'm not saying I'm not worth it but I feel funny telling people/friends prices of things and think I'm asking too much. Do people have a different price list for people they know?
Should I ask her if she wanted a quilted bag or a canvas one and then drop the price a little if it's quilted? I'm only thinking canvas because the quilted kind may bring home too much sand.
- Maureen.
Learning something new with every stitch!!
Kenmore 16231000
User: mozeyrn
Member since: 11-29-2005
Total posts: 349
From: AndreaSews
Date: 06-05-2006, 05:20 PM (6 of 27)
different price list for people you know..... hmmm...I like the idea of that first one or two going cheaply to a trusted friend who is going to give your name to everyone she knows. But like a new mom's first a full night's sleep, once you go all the way, there's no going back! Keep in mind those special people who covet the items but can't pay for them. That tote would make a _very_ special gift for one of them for a special occasion, and she'll probably still sing your praises to folks you might like to buy one.
User: AndreaSews
Member since: 02-18-2005
Total posts: 1007
From: Sew-Enchanting
Date: 06-05-2006, 05:33 PM (7 of 27)
Because of the problems (not to mention wear and tear on your machine!) with canvas, I'd charge more - two different charges for the different material is totally acceptable.

I absolutely hate mentioning price to friends. They (at least for me) are the ones that open their eyes all wide and say something like, "And you can get that for your little sewing business?" Argh. At times, I'll give a "friends discount", but I always make sure that they realize that regular price is different.

Good luck!
User: Sew-Enchanting
Member since: 12-28-2005
Total posts: 53
From: ellymolin
Date: 06-05-2006, 05:58 PM (8 of 27)
Recently I replaced a couple of zippers in a pair of men's dress pants, I was debating if I should charge $6 or $7 each. The customer insisted I take $10 each for them, & has since given me 2 more pairs. A while back I was selling quilted pillows for $35 a pair at a craft sale. The lady who purchased them thought they were $35 each, & she would have paid it. I hesitate to charge what things are worth sometimes, it is something I struggle with, but I guess we should remember that it is quality work being done. Elly
User: ellymolin
Member since: 01-13-2005
Total posts: 37
From: MrsSnuggly
Date: 06-06-2006, 11:07 AM (9 of 27)
I have this problem too. Is it just that I'm being nice or that I wouldn't pay over a certain price especially since I know how much certain materials cost and such.......I see dresses for sale - i.e.: a little a-line denim jumper with 2 rows of rick rack in a store for $50. Are you kidding? That cost all of $10 to make nd didn't take a yard of material.....Consequently my mother says I don't charge enough. I have no idea how to deal with it.
User: MrsSnuggly
Member since: 05-21-2006
Total posts: 104
From: esrun3
Date: 06-06-2006, 10:08 PM (10 of 27)
Why is it we don't think we are worth the price we can get? I'm like that too...tend to give away my work. Now if I have time to get input from folks, I'm asking around, friends, co-workers, others who do it for a living, etc. Then I kind of average out the rate and go from there. But, I still underprice.
User: esrun3
Member since: 12-02-2004
Total posts: 2345
From: Carol in ME
Date: 06-06-2006, 11:40 PM (11 of 27)
On one hand, it feels good to say to one's self, "I sold x items today." I suspect we too often don't balance that with what it cost us to make those items. It's easy to gloss over that, 'cause we're so excited that someone is willing to buy what we've made. But you can sell anything, if you set the price low enough.

When people ask about what it would be to make - anything - I tell them two to five times what it would be to buy it in a store. Custom work is more expensive than RTW. I worked for many years in an upscale clothing store for men. Even the lawyers and CEOs who were our customers didn't buy custom made clothing.

If you've ever watched Dr. Phil, you may have heard him say "you teach people how to treat you." I believe every time some seamstress undervalues her time, she's teaching the general public that seamstresses should produce custom made items for peanuts.

When I look at items in the stores, I often calculate it would cost as much or more to make them for myself. And not just the discount stores like Wally's or Tarjhay, I mean I was in Macy's and thought, I can't buy the fabric for a cocktail dress for that price.

There is an economy of scale that we won't reproduce...and custom made is not intended to do that, anyway.
User: Carol in ME
Member since: 01-27-2003
Total posts: 105
From: Chrysantha
Date: 06-07-2006, 12:35 AM (12 of 27)
Theres also where you live in the country. Some places it's easy to charge more than others.

As a pro cake decorator I made(20 yrs ago) $30 an hr in CA....More in NV....less in CO $15 an hr. Here in FL...when I got here 10 yrs ago...I got $8.50 an hr.

It all depends...just don't short your time and efforts...custom costs, it always has, always will and it should.
User: Chrysantha
Member since: 09-06-2002
Total posts: 2414
From: CodyGramma
Date: 06-07-2006, 07:26 AM (13 of 27)
I agree that it makes a difference where you live. I live in a small town and can't get near what I should for stuff but because I enjoy it so much I keep plugging away at it. My sister lives in a big city and she tells me what stuff sells for there and I told her next time she has a yard sale to let me know and I will make and send a bunch of stuff to her!

But I have also had some people hand me extra $$ when I give them a price on something they say "oh, thats not enough" and give me more which I graciously accept...I figure if they are willing to pay more why not accept it! :bluewink:
User: CodyGramma
Member since: 04-22-2005
Total posts: 133
From: SandyGirl
Date: 06-07-2006, 07:59 AM (14 of 27)
Welcome to sales. I don't do business w/"friends and family" because they always think you are out to screw them .....I sleep better at night. Set a price, stick to it...same for all! Take the extra money as a "tip" if you feel guilty. Just say thanks! Maybe even re-think your pricing. A fair price is what your market will pay. Retail 101

I used to be a rep calling on independent gift shops. The ones who felt "guilty" charging full price are no longer in business. duh!

User: SandyGirl
Member since: 09-16-2005
Total posts: 97
From: bluebirdie
Date: 06-07-2006, 01:35 PM (15 of 27)
I think here in California, most people don't charge how much they think is fair. Instead they charge how much they think buyers can afford. As long as the consumers agree, then it's a fair value.

That said, if you still worry about the customer offering too much for the baby bag, add something extra to the sales. For example, make a matching makeup bag or simple shoulder bag for the new mom (or anything else you think would be nice and go with the baby bag) so the price is for a set instead. This way, your sales still doubled, your future price is not jeopardized, and both you and the customer may be happier ;-)
- Robin
User: bluebirdie
Member since: 03-12-2006
Total posts: 139
From: VenusElaine
Date: 06-23-2006, 10:59 PM (16 of 27)
I am currently an alteration specialist. I find my clients come in two extremes. Those who think I do not charge nearly enough for my work :dave: and those that think my prices are outrageous :shock: .
I decided long ago not to undervalue myself. I may not have a "degree" in sewing ( I live in a "university small city"), but I have spent my entire life since the age of five learning, practicing, and perfecting my craft. I research and read, study all the RTW I alter, and participate in forums such as this one to continue to educate myself and expand my skill and talent.
My time is no less valuable than my plumber's or my mechanic's. Or any other professional I choose to employ. I am also a professional, one that is becoming increasingly difficult to find, and demand to be treated as such.
I sew because I choose to do so, not because I am not intelligent or educated enough to earn my living some other way. My father worked for A.T.&T. during its glory years and once I asked him why he was paid so much to sit at a desk. He told me, "They don't pay me for what I do; they pay me for what I know". My clients know that if they want my work they will pay for it, and, unfortunately, wait for it. Sewing is not just my living, it is the fabric of my life (pun intended).

"Always put as much effort into your marriage as you do into your wedding."
User: VenusElaine
Member since: 10-22-2005
Total posts: 126
From: LeapFrog Libby
Date: 06-24-2006, 12:17 PM (17 of 27)
I admire you ! ! more power to you.. I could not do what you do and I know my limitations.. I would explode at someone and I am not normally an out of control person.. But, I could not take that pressure of having to SEW to please someone else.. I do it for fun and most of the fun is deciding what to make and what fabric to make it with..When I have to do it to someone else's specifications , it is no longer enjoyable at all, but a lot of drudgery and at this point of my life, I don't need that.. I am retired and very glad of it, as you can tell.. :bg: :bg:
Sew With Love
User: LeapFrog Libby
Member since: 05-01-2002
Total posts: 2022
From: cottageartist
Date: 06-24-2006, 11:19 PM (18 of 27)
Hello to all, my name is Katie. I live in a small town, in a low population area, few jobs ect... I offer "sewing services" that covers alterations, home decor, some garment and my specialty...quilt repair, restoration and conservation (not a big call for that where i live)
I am currently having a problem with a customer who quite frankly does not want to pay my price listings for curtains. The original order was for fourteen panels. After having made the first four panels, he has cut his order to eight. On top of that he wants me to pick up the fabric for him (drive, shop, pay for it and drive back). Usually my customers will purchase their own fabrics and bring them to me. Keep in mind that I live 80 miles away from a fabric shop. He doesnt want to pay me for the time it will take to shop and drive (gas is $3.00/gallon here) nor does he want to give me the money for the fabric in advance.
I have decided to deliver the curtains that have already been made with a bill for them and tell him that if he wants the rest of the windows completed he will either have to shop for fabric himself or pay me to do it.
Before even accepting his request for these curtains I took the time to explain to him the cost difference between custom work and retail. I honestly think that just because I work out of my home he thought I would be grateful for payment right around $5/panel.

Most of my customers seem to know and respect the cost of fabric, notions, time and creativity. There are some who have said "that is too much".
Then I show them the finished cost to an hourly wage for same and it is considerable less then minimum wage. Those who have it set in their mind that is it "not worth it" will walk away.
I am ok with that, and do worry that that kind of "word of mouth" will stunt my buisness growth but then I remind myself that I have loyal customers who love my work.
I enjoy what I do and I am good at it. If I start reducing prices to appease a customer that doesnt value my time and talent then I feel that I am sending a message that I dont value myself. Losing a positive sence of self worth is Way too expensive to me.
User: cottageartist
Member since: 01-01-2006
Total posts: 2
From: Laurie H
Date: 06-25-2006, 07:44 AM (19 of 27)
I live in an area where most people either sew for themselves or buy the cheap stuff from stores because there is no way they can afford something to have something custom made. However, there have been a few people who wanted to buy one of my quilts or baskets.

The baskets are easy to price because they are very to make time-wise and I can price them by the hour if I wish, but I usually price them by size and can easily make a nice profit.

The quilts are a different story. I have one lady who will buy from me and always pays me more than I ask because she loves my work and I'm usually able to give her exactly what she pictures. She's purchased 4 quilts from so far.

DH had a co-worker who wanted to have me make a quilt for his wife. He didn't mind the price I was asking, in fact, thought it was more than fair for a custom made quilt, but after thinking about it for a while, he decided to talk to his wife instead of surprising her with it. When I spoke to her, she was the one who didn't want to pay the price. She would have loved the quilt, but thought the price too high. The quilt didn't get made.

I don't feel I can charge as much for a quilt that will be sold in my area over one that might be sold, say in the Boston area because the money isn't here. However, I won't sell for nothing. I am worth something. I do take into consideration my love of sewing/quilting and that plays a big part in pricing, but I do not give away what I make when I'm hired.
User: Laurie H
Member since: 05-07-2006
Total posts: 40
From: Tom Land
Date: 06-25-2006, 11:14 AM (20 of 27)
Well put Sandy. Also, if you charge too little people tend to value your product less.
Have fun or don't do it, Tom
User: Tom Land
Member since: 09-21-2005
Total posts: 514
From: Sancin
Date: 06-25-2006, 06:52 PM (21 of 27)
I am in a situation where I am no longer able to do some household repairs for myself and recently have had to hire a handyman from time to time. I shop for prices so I know what the going rates are - and I tend to hire the cheapest when I know they will do a good job (I am on a fixed income). If I hire someone who is quick and does a good job I give them something extra and tell them that the job is worth more than they are charging as they have often done a little extra. I don't consider it a tip, I consider it my estimation of a job well done. What I really object to in many hospitality situations is the expectation of a tip or even worse, when it is built in.
I have no desire to sew for others but if I did I would consider what most have here. Calculate your actual charges including minimum wage, if need be, and then raise it slightly. I would then I raise my prices over time and tell returning or new customers exactly what my rate is. I admire all of you who are so giving of your sewing skills, even when it is to make a living.

RE sewing on canvas. I don't find it any harder than other fabrics, in fact in some cases easier BUT it depends on the type of strength your sewing machine has and the size and awkwardness of what you are sewing.
RE the man with the drapes, he sounds patriarchal (colonialist mentality) and probably is that way with everyone. I have run across many people like him (I worked in the health care field with doctors) and when I was younger I was so shocked I often did what they wanted. Now, if I don't laugh, I inform them what I will or will not do and why. On the other hand, he may not have the money he expected to have and is saying what he not to lose face. Funny attitude, but very common.
*~*~*~* Nancy*~*~*~* " I try to take one day at a time - but sometimes several days attack me at once."
User: Sancin
Member since: 02-13-2005
Total posts: 895
From: BabsSewingRoom
Date: 06-30-2006, 02:32 PM (22 of 27)
Pricing is very difficult. I know I don't charge enough and many times they will pay me more than I charge. Since I'm not really doing it as a business I find it kind of amusing those that will pay me extra and those that give me to the penny what I ask.

When I sew for family & close friends I always put the full price on the ticket and then give them a discount. I even make a ticket for the things I do for my granddaughter and then give her a "Granddaughter discount" for the full amount. I have only one grandchild.
User: BabsSewingRoom
Member since: 04-10-2004
Total posts: 80
From: SandyGirl
Date: 06-30-2006, 04:29 PM (23 of 27)
Laurie, too bad the lady did not value herself enough to accept a generous gift of a hand-made quilt from her loving husband...who was happy with the price. Even as "customers" we women do not always see our value and thus won't splurge on ourselves! (personally, I don't have that problem!! I deserve it all!!)

How sad, she deprived him of his joy of giving a lovely gift to her.
User: SandyGirl
Member since: 09-16-2005
Total posts: 97
From: kameline
Date: 07-08-2006, 11:39 AM (24 of 27)
I know for me, I have to decide on the total amount while I am sewing the item... Often, struggling with difficult fabric, changing thread colors, breaking needles, etc., makes it necessary for me to add a few dollars to the total to soothe my nerves! If I wait till I am finished, the stress is forgotten and the work seems worth less... even though it isn't. I do charge by the hour, but it changes often. Usually, I figure on a price and add about $5 so it ends up being worth it to me... think about it... charging someone $5 extra really isn't much for them... but it adds up fast when you charge everyone $5 extra. I work part-time at a credit union... I know how money adds up... and time is money.
Do all to the glory of God!
User: kameline
Member since: 03-09-2006
Total posts: 41
From: VenusElaine
Date: 07-22-2006, 01:26 AM (25 of 27)
One of the most important tools I use in pricing is a timing sheet. When determining my price list , I did timings on all my general alterations. The timing sheet is strictly kept for sewing time only. If I get up to wait on a customer, go to the little room, get a cup of coffee; I "time out". Then I "time in" when I return. I base my prices on average time multiplied by my hourly rate, which varies according to your skill level and prevailing wage in your area.

I also use this method for the custom work I do in my home-based business. If a client requests something I have never done before ( I am currently beginning a custom posing suit for a bodybuilding competition), I explain that I will keep the timing sheet and bill accordingly, within a certain range based on previous experience with similar items.

This seems to work well, for most of my clients. If they truly want custom work, they must be educated by us to pay a fair price for it.

"Always put as much effort into your marriage as you do into your wedding."
User: VenusElaine
Member since: 10-22-2005
Total posts: 126
From: MariLynntex
Date: 07-25-2006, 06:27 PM (26 of 27)
I did custom sewing, mainly costumes and bridal and fancy clothing. My approach was one basic price for a basic sheath, subject to type of fabric. Everything added had a price. Lining was more than simple facings, zippers, collars, cuffs, belts, sleeves, buttons, buttonholes, button loops, bindings, long skirts, full skirts, bouffant skirts, types of hems, bows, sashes, plain trims, ruffled trims, overskirt, handwork (such as embroidery or beading), or machine work (such as embroidery or applique`, lace insertion), veils, trains, undergarments, lace mitts, bouquet holders or wraps...I did it ALL. I also did baby clothes and children's clothes, and Christmas ornaments: cutwork and battenberg trees, stocking, and angels, Santas. They were the things that were fun! But it worked out very well and if they thought I was too high I just said I was sorry, but that was it. I am retired now, since I had a very bad accident and was in a wheelchair for almost a year, and am now beginning to be slightly arthritic. After all, I am pushiing 80! I started out as a professional singer until I had 7 children! I write a lot now, have self-published a book about freemotion machine embroidery and also a book of poetry. I was named an outstanding poet of 2005 in Who's Who in Poetry of 2005, which pleased me immensely. MariLynntex
User: MariLynntex
Member since: 01-05-2006
Total posts: 107
From: VenusElaine
Date: 08-05-2006, 08:02 PM (27 of 27)
I understand your price list perfctly! :smile: The biggest reason I DO NOT distribute a public price list is because they NEVER see the "add for" . I also give very few prices over the phone because most people do not accurately describe the alterations needed.
Once I quoted a price to a woman on the phone to hem plain jacket sleeves. These are sleeves that are lined, no vent, no buttons. When she brought the jacket in, it was vented with three buttons on each sleeve.
It reminds me of when I was an upholstery seamstress, (I really know how to do too much!). People would call my boss and ask him how much it would be to reupholster a small chair. He would tell them he could not see it from there, put it in the car and bring it to the shop. They would tell him it would not fit in the car, and he would reply, "Then it is not a small chair, is it?"

"Always put as much effort into your marriage as you do into your wedding."
User: VenusElaine
Member since: 10-22-2005
Total posts: 126
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