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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: greatseams
Date: 04-15-2007, 08:29 PM (1 of 28)
I have a question....I have had little success in gathering steady sewing/alterations customers, and have been told that I don't charge enough for my services. I have a list that I found online that gives me a guideline for charging for alterations, but if it isn't on the list...I charge a flat $10.00 per hour. Any and all help will be truly appreciated
Kathy
a few spare hours, a stash of fabric, and a well oiled machine...
User: greatseams
Member since: 03-28-2007
Total posts: 22
From: Linda in Colorado
Date: 04-22-2007, 12:28 PM (2 of 28)
Oh, Honey! You are not charging enough for your work! You need to be charging at least twice that amount. As I think you said on another post at Sew-Whats-New, you get gripes even charging $10.00. We all do, no matter how much or how little we charge.

There was a story that went around recently about a consultant who was charging $100 per hour and not getting enough business. He raised his prices to $200 per hour and got lots of business. Why? Because the higher cost meant to most people that he was worth that cost!

Or to put this another way -- if you have too much business, raise your prices. If you have too little business, raise your prices!

So charge what you can comfortably afford to charge, taking into consideration your skill level, the amount of time needed for a particular project, and so forth. If people gripe about your fees, tell them ever so sweetly that they are entirely right, and they should go out and get some equipment and do it themselves! BIG EVIL GRIN
User: Linda in Colorado
Member since: 03-27-2000
Total posts: 102
From: lendube
Date: 04-22-2007, 02:12 PM (3 of 28)
Hi Greatseams,

May I ask what list you found online. I had trouble finding one. I go by a list I got from a dry cleaners. I was charging $15.00 per hour plus whatever I had to buy, no mark up. I felt like I was robbing people. But if I'm not making at least $15.00 per hour I feel it's not worth my time. What a dilemma. :re:

Lennie
User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: Pcat
Date: 04-22-2007, 11:00 PM (4 of 28)
This won't be much help, but I need to whine... I don't have a sewing business, but recently agreed to make a costume for a friend-of-a-friend. It was a 17th century style fancy dress with an underskirt, boned bodice, miles of trimming and lace. I told her I'd do it for $100 (and she bought the fabric). Big mistake! It took me 4 fitting visits and a week to sew that blasted thing. (8 yards of taffeta and satin) Ugh! Of course, that's better than the items I have made for relatives (at their request) that I have NEVER been paid for! :mad: Anyone have that happen to them?
User: Pcat
Member since: 04-17-2007
Total posts: 20
From: greatseams
Date: 04-23-2007, 07:41 AM (5 of 28)
Thank you all for the response! I truly appreciate it. To answer a question...the list I found was: www.barbsewingworks.8.com I found it in 2001, and have used it a bit. I also found www.naturalcleaners.com. The cleaners around here don't usually offer alterations, and the few that do offer that service don't give out their price list that is unless you use their service and have to pay for the work...then they give you the price for the service. I quite agree...I've been sewing forever and think that I don't charge enough either...but have been reluctant to charge more. I'll "up" my prices and see what happens!
Thanks:up:
a few spare hours, a stash of fabric, and a well oiled machine...
User: greatseams
Member since: 03-28-2007
Total posts: 22
From: lendube
Date: 04-23-2007, 12:21 PM (6 of 28)
Thanks for the site but I couldn't get the first one.

Now I'm scared. I've been asked recently if I could replace the lining in a camel jacket for someone. I see on the one list that they charge $100.00 to do that!!! Yikes. I may be getting in over my head. Never replaced a lining in a jacket. Better check out the procedure before accepting that job.

Lennie
User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: Pcat
Date: 04-23-2007, 03:14 PM (7 of 28)
Lennie: I have replaced a lining. It's not that hard, but you will need to make a pattern either from the jacket or from the old lining. If you can get $100 for the work, I say GO FOR IT.

(BTW, I work in the veterinary world for my 9-5 job. Nobody wants to pay our prices there, either.)

Pam
User: Pcat
Member since: 04-17-2007
Total posts: 20
From: lendube
Date: 04-23-2007, 06:12 PM (8 of 28)
Thanks, Pam. I'll give it the old college try but I doubt that I'll charge that much. This is a small town and this would be for the guy that runs the local newspaper. He could certainly talk me up with all of the people he comes into contact with daily. :up:

Off-subject: Must be tough in the vet. world. With a kid you can't just say, "Oh, that's too much, just put'em down." :re: :shock:

I am proud to say I've probably put a few vet's kids through college though. From a lab with a torn ACL ($3500.00) and everything else that having loads of animals entails, we've paid through the nose. I try to be understanding but didn't get it when I asked if my vet (whom I think is terrific) gives multi-pet discounts and they said no. Dang, I bring 7 animals to her office.

Lennie
User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: AndreaSews
Date: 04-23-2007, 07:30 PM (9 of 28)
Hi Greatseams. Just eves-dropping here, since I'm not in business myself. If most of the cleaners in your area don't offer alterations, then maybe you could do some schmoozing with them and see if you can strike up a relationship for referrals. Maybe post your business card or flier on their bulletin board. Also, if I'm correct about your region, there are probably some beachy boutique clothing outfitters within a short drive, and some of their local (not the tourists, right?) clients might be inclined to purchase those wonderful pants, etc, if only the hem were a bit shorter. Have you tapped those kinds of places to get referrals yet? My mother and grandmother had their own alterations businesses, both operating out of the same home, and they managed to keep 'em coming. It wasn't by being inexpensive either. I was little, but as I recall, they each found a small handful of upscale shoppers who knew what they wanted and were prepared to pay for it, even if it didn't fit! I remember the characters well.
Andrea
User: AndreaSews
Member since: 02-18-2005
Total posts: 1007
From: Pcat
Date: 04-23-2007, 11:38 PM (10 of 28)
Lennie: you sound like a great pet owner. Too bad its such a long drive -- you could come to my clinic LOL

If your newspaper client talks up your talents it will be worth a discount (just tell him not to quote your prices).

Andrea you have some great ideas! Also, don't forget about giving your biz card to the local fabric stores. At our Hancock Fabrics, they keep a binder with cards from local home-grown sewers (home dec people, quilters, alterations, whatever). The employees cannot push the biz in one direction (company rules) but can offer the information for people to make their own choices.

Good Luck to all!

Pam
User: Pcat
Member since: 04-17-2007
Total posts: 20
From: toadusew
Date: 04-24-2007, 07:46 AM (11 of 28)
Andrea, now I know where you get your sewing talent!:up: Have you thought of going into business for yourself?

Greatseams, I had a friend who owned her own business some years ago and when her business slowed down, she raised her prices and got more business than she could handle! Even though it wasn't a sewing business, I think the same principle applies.

Pcat, I moved to northern Virginia from Dallas about one year ago. My vet happened to be in Plano, so I'm curious which vet clinic you work in. (The vet's name is Komkov.)
User: toadusew
Member since: 01-08-2005
Total posts: 369
From: Shirlene
Date: 04-24-2007, 08:19 AM (12 of 28)
I know this is off-topic - but I wanted to give a shout out to Andrea - I am also a licensed SLP currently a SAHM. Do you think you'll get back into it at some point? I dunno. I'll always keep my license - worked too hard for it not to! But I'd much rather sew!!!!!
Also, you look like a girl that went to school with me in Florence, Italy during college!
User: Shirlene
Member since: 03-16-2007
Total posts: 7
From: Pcat
Date: 04-24-2007, 11:12 AM (13 of 28)
Off topic again, but Toadusew: I know of Dr. Komkov, and I know some people that work/worked for her. They are down the street from me. I'm at Legacy and Custer.

On topic: just wondering if any of you base your sole support on sewing for pay. Or, if you are like me and supplement your 9-5 income with a "hobby" you get paid for?

Because I have a stressful job (no, its not all about snuggling with puppies and kitties) and I usually come home rather dirty and furry, I look to sewing as my relaxation. But so many people started asking me to "whip up something" for them, that I no longer wanted to do it for free. (who wants to be good-for-nothing? :re: ) Giving them a "sure, I charge $25" weeds out the moochers!

Pam
User: Pcat
Member since: 04-17-2007
Total posts: 20
From: Carol in ME
Date: 04-25-2007, 12:02 AM (14 of 28)
Relining a jacket is not very difficult, but it is time-consuming. $100 is about right, I charged $125 for the last one I did, but that included the zippered "map pocket" in the lining. Very few people go for a reline, because nine times out of ten, they purchased a cheap-o jacket to begin with, and it wasn't worth $100 new.

Here's the tip: take out only half the lining to use as a pattern, leave the other half in there, intact (as much as possible) to guide you as you in your reconstruction. Your camel sport coat will likely have a vent in the back, and the left and right backs will be different.

The reline I did was a leather jacket. It was a good quality jacket, and it had sentimental value, as well. I couldn't find any lining at Joann's that I thought would hold up. I ended up using polyester prom-dress satin. (He wanted a specific color, not brown or black.)
User: Carol in ME
Member since: 01-27-2003
Total posts: 105
From: lendube
Date: 04-25-2007, 11:02 AM (15 of 28)
Thank you so much, Carol and Pam, for the tips. If I hear from him again I'll probably be comin' round again with a question or two.

Lennie :bg:
User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: Teri
Date: 04-26-2007, 11:34 AM (16 of 28)
I find I have a 2 tiered pricing system, if I sew for family and close friends it's $10 per hour they drop off and pick up the items. If I have advertised for a customer I charge $20. Some things I just have a set price for, like machine hemming pants $7.00, machine blind hem $10, etc. I use Craig's List and bulleton boards to advertise. I offer a time quote of between x and x hours to do the job at $20 per hour. I meet the customer, pick up and drop off the sewing (usually home decor) at the local fabric shop. I worked out of a dry cleaners for several years where I got 1/2 of what I booked, prices were high, 49.75 per hour, but I was 1 of only 2 commercial seamstress in a very wealthy town in the Florida Keys. The issue today is the Walmart problem, why pay to have a zipper replaced when you can buy brand new jeans for almost the same price.
Teri

"Where are we going, and why am I in this basket?"
User: Teri
Member since: 09-14-2005
Total posts: 66
From: greatseams
Date: 04-27-2007, 09:53 AM (17 of 28)
I like that Terri...thank you so much. I will try that for sure. I don't like to charge friends and family the same as an advertised customer...but didn't know what to do about that. Your approach makes things a lot easier. Currently I am in the throes of finishing up two Bishops that will be worn by the Flower girls in a wedding. This is a recommendation from a friend who works in a shop. I think that I took the job too cheaply, but my friend has a set price that she goes by...and I am slow. Oh well...I am grateful for the work. At least I know where the fabric came from, and it's of good quality...that's a great asset!
a few spare hours, a stash of fabric, and a well oiled machine...
User: greatseams
Member since: 03-28-2007
Total posts: 22
From: kathidahl
Date: 05-03-2007, 11:24 PM (18 of 28)
Wow, I have gotten into doing an Irish Dance Dress. It is a whole new world! I sure don't know what to charge either. Anyone have any experience in that special area? I am doing the applique also.
User: kathidahl
Member since: 09-23-2006
Total posts: 3
From: LeapFrog Libby
Date: 05-11-2007, 07:10 PM (19 of 28)
Special techniques like that require more skill and training... So, therefore normal fees of $ 20. per hour does not cut it.. $ 30. per hour for that jobbie.. Think about an electrician or a plumber... They are charging $65. per hour around here.. Sewing is a similar technical skill, and the more specialized things require more money...
Sew With Love
Libby
User: LeapFrog Libby
Member since: 05-01-2002
Total posts: 2022
From: kathidahl
Date: 05-17-2007, 11:06 PM (20 of 28)
Thanks Libby, for the advice! You are sure right about plumbers etc.!
Kathi
User: kathidahl
Member since: 09-23-2006
Total posts: 3
From: VenusElaine
Date: 05-18-2007, 09:52 PM (21 of 28)
I have used every pricing method and many combinations thereof in my "day job" and "home business". You can charge strictly by the hour, do timings of basic services and figure price from your hourly rate, follow other methods in several good guideline books. One of the best in my library is "Overcome Your Fear of Pricing" with chapters on Custom Bridal, Home Decor, Sewing for Children, Alterations, Consignment, and Wearble Art. It also describes many pricing methods, as well as business structure. Of course I'll have to go to work tomorrow and find out where it came from.
Woops, time for me to hit the sack; many Brides await me tomorrow.

VenusElaine
"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: Helen Weiss
Date: 06-01-2007, 11:49 AM (22 of 28)
One drawback to the hourly rate is that as you become more accomplished you speed up! Does that mean you should do more work in that hour? I hope not! I have found the only time I use an hourly rate is if the job is one I haven't done often, or if I'm not sure going in how much time it will take to complete the job.
sewhappy
User: Helen Weiss
Member since: 10-16-2003
Total posts: 69
From: Patty22
Date: 06-21-2007, 07:24 PM (23 of 28)
I was in the LQS the other day and a woman came in with an antique quilt that needed repair. The shop owner came and got me to talk to her customer. The quilt was a red/green applique (c 1860-1880) with a pattern similiar to the Rose of Sharon. All of the red fabric had shredded and needed replacement, otherwise, the acidic green was holding up quite well and the quilting was very nice and in good condition.

I estimated that one border would take me about four hours to repair and when I told her I would charge $10 an hour you could see the shock in her entire body. She was stunned. I guess she thought custom repair work by a trained curator as well as textile lover should be about hourly factory rate for athletic shoes in Asia.

When I consider my working four hours on one border is less than 1/2 the amount my plumber would charge for ONE HOUR.......I didn't feel sorry for her shock. I also didn't react to her rigid body reaction because I have seen it so many times before it wasn't an anomaly.

I was very nice and picked out a fabric she could use in the repair and explained in detail how to do it herself. I also gave a lengthy explanation of how to keep the family history with it and making a label about original family member who had made the quilt as well as dates of her own repairs on the quilt.

I don't get people sometimes. And I'm :bolt:
Patty
User: Patty22
Member since: 03-29-2006
Total posts: 1194
From: toadusew
Date: 06-22-2007, 07:37 AM (24 of 28)
Patty, when that woman gets started trying to repair that quilt, not only will she understand why you were going to charge the amount you quoted her (which I thought was quite reasonable), but she might have a change of heart and come back and ask you to to do all that work!:bluesmile
User: toadusew
Member since: 01-08-2005
Total posts: 369
From: Patty22
Date: 06-22-2007, 08:55 PM (25 of 28)
Bwhahahaha....no, it would really be in her best interest to do the job herself. This way she can connect with her grandmother (who she loved dearly) and leave her own little bit of history for her family.

I'm guessing it will take her some time in order to complete the project - but there is nothing wrong with her learning the value in handwork. I'm guessing she will treasure it more.

I couldn't take the project on for about six months due to work commitments I've made to others (contract work as well as working for my husband) and trying to finish some of my own projects.
Patty
User: Patty22
Member since: 03-29-2006
Total posts: 1194
From: Carol in ME
Date: 06-23-2007, 04:17 PM (26 of 28)
I wonder....how many people who self-rightously say they'd "never shop at [insert reviled retailer here]because they treat the employees so badly" balk at the price of work by skilled artisans in their own neighborhood?

I've done alterations for many places. Many potential customers expect me to sew for less money per hour than I'd earn cashiering at Wal-mart. Go figure!
User: Carol in ME
Member since: 01-27-2003
Total posts: 105
From: toadusew
Date: 06-24-2007, 08:31 AM (27 of 28)
Patty, I think you're right that this woman will definitely learn the value of handwork by tackling this particular project herself. And in the future, she might not be quite so shocked at the amount someone else might charge for the work. Definitely a good lesson for her!:bg:
User: toadusew
Member since: 01-08-2005
Total posts: 369
From: Kerkyra
Date: 07-01-2007, 11:58 AM (28 of 28)
Hi I charge 10.00 (about $9.00 I think) per hour but I live in Greece, and we have the lowest wages in the whole of Europe. You should definitely be charging more. What I get a lot of is, "you must do it this way, exactly as I say!!! I know because I sew", erm OK why are you asking me to do it then?

Sewing is my job, and I get fed up of people belittling and undervalueing what we do. It takes years of patience, study and mistakes!! If someone brings me a zip to replace and don't like the sound of my prices then they are free to find someone else to do it!! What we do isn't just a job but requires skill and artistry.:love:
User: Kerkyra
Member since: 07-01-2007
Total posts: 15
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