If you are like me you started sewing as a hobby. In the beginning it was just fun, nothing I took seriously, but over the years I have learned a lot. I’ve invested a lot of time, money, and education into sewing. I am not sure if I would call myself a professional seamstress or designer yet, but I wouldn’t call myself a hobbyist either. I’ve come a long way and am really proud of what I have accomplished. With this newly honed skill there has also come a desire to make some money at what I do, but I have also found that sewing is generally undervalued. As opportunities have come my way I have had some bad experiences, but have recently had some really great commissions. I thought that a lot of you are probably in a similar situation so I thought it might be helpful to share what I have learned.
1. Get Paid By the Hour – For me this is by far the best way to charge for a project. I am a stay at home mom right now which means that every minute that I spend sewing commissioned work is time away from playing with my kids, doing bills, making dinner etc… I just don’t have a lot of extra time so when I spend time on these projects every bit of time counts. If a project takes longer than expected (which it usually does) then it is important to me to be compensated for that extra time. I also like that once the hourly rate is decided upon then I don’t have to keep negotiating prices every time a new project comes my way.
2. Figure Out What You Are Worth – Depending on how experienced you are or how much extra time you have will determine how much you charge. I think a good rule of thumb is think of a rate that would make you excited every time you received a new commission. If you are dreading every new job then you are probably not paying yourself enough. I won’t tell you how much I charge, but I will say that in my opinion minimum wage is way too little to charge for an experienced sewer. Be honest with yourself, but don’t sell yourself short either.
3. Say No – When a conversation starts with “This will be really good for your portfolio.” or “I have a pair of old jeans that I was hoping to…” then I know that it’s probably going to be a no for me. I’ve become pretty good at politely explaining how I am not really trying to grow my portfolio right now or how it’s often not worth it to fix a pair of ill fitting jeans. There have been a couple of times that I have been sucked into saying yes out of obligation or coercion, and I always end up regretting it. There is nothing worse than hemming your neighbors grandsons jeans – especially when you are not getting paid for it.
4. Refer a Tailor – One of the ways that I am able to stick to my guns on #3 is to know of a decent tailor. I try to explain that they are much faster than I am and therefore it would probably be cheaper to just have a tailor do it. If you already know of someone good then it’s really easy to just refer them on when it’s a job you are not interested in.
5. Teach Your Friends – I know I’ve sounded like a real hard A in 1-4, but I do think that it’s important to be generous when you can. My rule of thumb is that if one of my friends asks me to sew or mend something for them I usually turn them down, but offer to teach them how to do it instead. Sure, it may take more time in the long run, but I enjoy the opportunity to hang out with my friends (and usually it becomes a play date for my kids too) and to teach them a new skill at the same time.
Well, that it’s it. I am sure that many of you go about this in a very different way than I do so please share your thoughts. I am still learning. Hope this helps!