Welcome to Day 19 of How to Earn $ From Sewing and Quilting! This week we are talking about Quilting for Others, and today I’ll be answering some of the Frequently Asked Questions people have when they are thinking about starting to quilt for others.
I had a bit of a search on Google to see if there were any FAQ for people who are thinking of quilting for others already out there… but didn’t really find any. Most of the FAQ’s are for people who want to send their quilts off… but I worked out a few that I think are relevant for the quilter rather than the customer. I will be splitting them up into two days, so today is part 1.
When is the Right Time to Start Quilting for Others?
When I first got Emmie G, I had people asking me from the start to quilt for them. I on the other hand, was nervous and wanted to have more time to practice! If it wasn’t for my lovely customers hassling me, I am sure I would have waited longer to start quilting for others.
There is the temptation to wait until you are “really good” – whatever that means! But then you will never take the plunge and quilt for others. You can practice and practice and practice… but at some stage, if you are wanting or needing to do this as a business, you need to just start.
Starting with friends is the best way in my opinion. They will forgive any mistakes you make starting out. Once you start, you will gain more confidence, and the word will start spreading. If people see the quilts you have finished for others and like them, then they will ask you to quilt for them. They have seen the quality of your work and know what to expect. You can be confident that if they are asking you to quilt for them, then they are happy with trusting you with their quilts.
I always like to have samples to show new customers. Because my machine is hand guided and not computerized, I want to make sure they know that they are not getting “perfection”, but that sometimes there might be some wobbles! I show them my samples and say, this is what you will get…. and if they are happy with that, I will go ahead.
How do I Work out Pricing?
This is a tough one! When you are beginning, you feel bad about charging too much. I know I did. I felt like I should be charging less than others because I was still learning.
Remember that I was the only one with a longarm in town at the time. The other person was Nora who lived 5 hours away and had her own customer base. Evelyn was also quilting for others on her 440, and she was in the same town as me.
I did end up charging less than Nora, after discussing it with her, we both agreed on what we thought was a fair price. Evelyn was charging by the hour, so it was hard to compare, and she was a lot more experienced than I was of course.
The most common way of charging is by size – square inch, or square foot. Here Nora and I charged by square inch… in Australia square foot seems to be the way to go. Some people, like Evelyn, charge by hour. It really is up to you and I would go with what is the common way in your area.
Have a look at what others are charging, and try to charge a similar price. It is tempting to charge less, but then you are undercutting others which is not nice. But you need to be the judge in your own situation. I am definitely in the camp of “I am less experienced, so I should charge less!” Many others would not agree with me on this.
When Emmie G and I went back to Oz, I only did a few quilts for friends. I charged “mates rates” because they were friends, but I didn’t go into actual business. I was too busy with other things.
Pricing is also determined by what design you are using on the quilt. Edge to edge designs are cheaper than custom quilting. Again, look at the going rates in your area and work it out from there.
I think I could write a whole post about this one topic! But for now I’ve just skimmed the surface and hope that helps a little…
Do I Need to Make up a Contract?
Not many quilters that I know of make up actual legal contracts for their customers. It is tempting to think about though, because there are so many “what ifs” (some of which I will be covering in part 2) – what if I mess up the quilt? What if it goes missing in the mail? What if they don’t like it and get angry? etc, etc.
Of course you can make up a legal contract for your customers if it makes you feel better. You would have to talk to a specialist, but I would ask others in the industry what they do. I found one quilter online who has a contract as part of her work order. You can find the link to it here.
What is a Quilting Work Order?
A quilting work order is basically a plan of what your customer wants for their quilt. It lists how big the quilt is, what design the customer wants, which thread, etc. It is also a pricing guide so that the final price is clear for both you and the customer. You may want the customer to sign it, making it a contract of sorts, or it can just be a guide for you.
Some sample work orders can be found here:
It is also helpful to provide your customers with a guide of how they should prepare their top, batting and backing before they give it to you. This can be given at the same time as the work order. I would always recommend doing this so that there are no misunderstandings on either side. A great example of this is from the Village Quilter’s website.
What Should my Quilt “Turn Around Time” be?
A quilt turn around time is how quickly you get the quilt back to the customer.
This is one of the first things you will be asked (after pricing!). “When will my quilt be done?!” Most people will want it to be done yesterday 🙂
I was shocked when I went back to Ballarat to hear that there were quilters who had a quilt turn around time of between 3 and 6 months! They must be very special quilters, is my thought!!
When you are just starting, you won’t have many customers, so your quilt turn around should be fairly quick. Mine was usually between a week and two weeks.
I am the type of person who just wants to get the quilt done as soon as I can so I can move on to other things. Nora is the same. Sometimes her turn around time is a few days.
( On a side note – Never tell a quilter that there is no rush and they can take their time!!!! Well, don’t tell me that at least! I had a quilt for a year because of this, lol! Mind you, I was moving house and travelling between countries at the time.. but… still!!!)
Basically work out how long it is going to take you to quilt and add a few days so that you are not rushing.
What About the Little Extras?
There are always little extras that you may need to do, like ironing the quilt, piecing the backing, using more thread than usual because of an intricate design, supplying the batting or not, etc,……
Many of these things will be covered in a comprehensive work order. You can have a thread charge, you can provide batting and charge the customer, you can charge to piece the backing and iron the top…. it’s up to you.
Well, that is it for this part… in two days I’ll be answering some more FAQ, but tomorrow will be…. Quilting for Others – Featuring Susan from Granny Smith’s Quilts!
PS Please remember I am answering your comments in the comment section below and not via email like I usually do. Sorry for the hassle, but I am hoping this month we can share ideas!
PPS The main page of this series is here along with links to each post for this series.
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