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Professionalize Keeping it all Straight
Starting A Home Business Link Sewing on The Net

New Business Focus - Halloween Costuming

Why Keep My Regular Job?
  Sewing Organizations
  Elegant Resources
  Any Advice for Starters?
  I'm Too Old
  Drumming up Business
   

New Business Focus - Halloween Costuming

added November 2001 from an e-mail

Leanna, I am in the planning stages still, but I am looking to start a sewing business from home. I'm a mom too. My children are 8 and 4. I've been a stay home mom since my son (#2) was "in the oven." I've been sewing for about 15 years. Over the years, I've taken on various jobs here and there for others. Everything from alterations to bridal parties. No bride gowns, but lots of brides maids!! I've always planned on "going back to work" once both kids are in school. That day is fast approaching, even though I'd like to hold it off and keep them little. Now that I have one in school, I understand how difficult it would be to find a "real" job and still be here when the children are here after school and during the summer. Not to mention all the half days of school and days they are home sick!! So starting a job here at home seems like the best answer to me!

When we were first married, my hubby was self employed. So I understand all the headaches, like taxes (YUCK) that I will be facing. But I think in the long run it will be worth it. One of the ladies on the alt.sewing newsgroup pointed me towards your site. I can't say how thrilled I am to find it!! I wanted to send you a note and tell you thanks for putting your brain out here for us all to pick. I will be reading it very carefully over the next little while.

I think I have found a niche for myself. I have quite a reputation for Halloween costumes. LOL The ones I have made for my children over the years always get a lot of attention --- the Good kind. So I plan on making it known that I will do those for folks. The thing that I love most and my friends love most is that my costumes hold up to be used as dress up clothes after Halloween is over. And I can make them (for others) for not much more than a store bought costume that will fall apart 10 minutes after trick or treat is over. I also do a lot of children's clothing. I have a couple of friends that have children with odd body types and they love that I can make clothes for their wee ones that actually fit!

I plan on giving them lots of business cards to hand out!! Too I have done tons of alterations work. And I know that can bring in a good bit of business. I even plan to make a few outfits for friends and their children at cost. This way I can use them as advertising to get me started. I plan to give them a ton of business cards and when someone says "Oh, that is darling! Where did you get it?" they can hand over one of my cards. I've talked to one friend about this already. She said she can hardly wait for me to get started. Plus I have my own two models that are thrilled to pieces every time I make something new for them.

I also plan on sitting down with another friend who happens to be an attorney. I know she can give me lots of good advice both on legalities and the ins and outs of owning a business. She and her husband run her practice, and have for years.

Thank you again for your wonderful web site. I know it will be invaluable to me while I am getting up on my feet. Stop by sometime and visit us all in alt.sewing. Lots of sewing junkies and always something interesting to read!! Sharon

Sounds like you have a great plan going and plenty of enthusiasm to make it work for you. I wish you the best of luck. Halloween costuming is a difficult niche to be successful in mostly because folks don't want to pay fancy prices for good work when they are only wearing the garment once. It makes it very hard to make a decent profit. But I'd be willing to bet that you will do just fine.

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Drumming up Business

added October 2001

Also, this will be my first time at starting a business, do you have any advice as to how to 'drum up' business?

As for drummin' up business - word of mouth is your best advertising. Just do a good, quality job for each customer and you will be amazed how they will be beating a path to you. I've tried all kinds of advertising: radio, newspaper, magazines, etc. and none can beat a satisfied customer. Yellow pages is a good idea, but I don't do that anymore because I just don't need it.

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Starting A Home Business Link

Here's a link for you that I have not had the time to read totally yet.
http://www.bcentral.com/articles/anthony/225.asp

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I'm Too Old

added May 2001

I'd started sewing much earlier (I'm 30). My dream is to retire early & start my own alterations/custom sewing business then.

It's never too late to start. And in fact, your age is an advantage. Running my own business at the age of 22 wasn't giving me any advantage. Most folks dismissed me saying I was too young. Only recently (now that I'm pushing 40) have I started getting ahead.

Do follow your dream and please do let me know how you are doing from time to time. I will give any advice I may have or just listen when you need to vent, OK?

 


Any Advice for Starters?

added September 2000

I love your web site. I'm so glad I came across it. In the very near future I will be adding a sewing room on to my house and go in the yellow pages. Your web page is very encouraging and gave me a lot of ideas and information. I'm 23 and have only been doing alterations for about 2 years. So I'm a little nervous but excited all the same to follow my dream. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Any tips or advise?

It's sounds like you don't need any advise. You are off to a great start. Your attitude is one of your best assets, so do your best to keep it positive, even when cranky customers try to cut you down. Have the trouble with being an artist (for that is really what sewing folk are) is that you put some of yourself in your work and sometime customers don't realize how it hurts to be criticized. They just think they are trying to get it the way they wanted. So, don't let yourself get discouraged.

Otherwise, I have been planning a new addition to my site that I hope to get off the ground soon. I will be writing instructional files that teach all kind of alteration tasks. I will be photographing myself as I fit customer and sew on items to illustrate the instructions. I have seen various books out on clothing alteration, but I have yet to find one that really teaches what I have done for years. Hopefully, after some time I will have a neat library of instructional files on my site for folks to access.

Right now I have only the Duct Tape Double instruction, which are doing well. So, I do think this idea will be a good one.

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Elegant Resources

added September 2000

I would also love to find out where I can get things that seem available only to the pro industry, like pretty novelty elastic trims, etc. Most everything I run across is too home-sewing-ish. I want my garments to be elegant! Do you have any advice or resources to share with me?

Fortunately for me, I have a great fabric store here in Cincinnati named Banasch's. It has wonderful fabrics and very pretty trims and notions. Pretty prices too, but you get what you pay for. I don't do mail order or Internet buying. I just don't see how people can really get what they need without seeing and feeling it first.

You may have to look long to find a place near you or one not to far away you can go to now and then, but that's what I'd recommend. Try posting a question on the sewing newsgroup or a e-mail sewing list. Folks on these lists are always happy to share info on their favorite places.

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Sewing Organizations

added September 2000

I sew for others, crochet, and craft in general. I would dearly love to find a sewing/crafting club in my area -- any ideas?

Check out PACC: http://www.paccprofessionals.org/

or ASG: http://www.asg.org

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Why Keep My Regular Job?

I have for a long time considered starting a sewing business out of my home, but I like my regular job. What should I do? I have sewn for one person who paid me well and I think I can make a good living at this, but I'm such a slow sew-er that I'm not sure how to charge.

If you love your job, keep it. It is a very hard thing to make a lot of money sewing. Since you are slow also, you may have a difficult time. But this does not mean you can't do it part time. You already have one great customer. Would she be willing to tell her friends about you?

Starting off slow is a good thing anyway, and word of mouth is the best advertisement. So, keep that great job and do a little sewing on the side. If you like it enough, you can always go full time some day in the future.
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Keeping it all Straight

I haven't yet figured out how to do all of a color and still keep the details of the items and the owners straight.

This can be a big headache! My big worry was in keeping the customer's special hangers with the proper garment so they get back to the same customer. Here's what I do:

At the fitting, I fill out a 3 page, carbonless invoice listing the garments (type & color) with the instructions for work to be done, the customer's name and phone number, and date due back to the store. In the corner is a code for which store along with the invoice number. The customer gets the pink copy, the white and yellow is placed in a baggy that hangs on the hanger, not pinned onto the garment.

When I get to the studio, I hang the orders according to due date. When I sew, I do cluster colors together like Lorraine suggested. It does save time. I carry the hanger of the garment I'm currently working on to my sewing table where it is hung from a hook on the end of one of the shelving brackets above the sewing machine. When done I know right where the proper hanger is. I hang the item and place it back with the other garments in the order and initial the invoice beside that item.  I hang it to the right of the hanger that has the baggy on it and from the backside of the rod so I can see at a glance what is completed.  When all items in one order are done I log the order in a spreadsheet program I made to do my monthly billings to each store. Then they are moved out of the date section to the deliver section. I tie a ribbon around the hanger hooks to keep the order together for delivery to the proper store.

I do tend to be over organized sometimes. But you need some system to keep up with customer's stuff. This works for me. Hope you can find some good ideas that may work for you in there.
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Professionalize

Professionalize Your Workspace

If you are going to run a business you absolutely have to have a dedicated, set aside space for your work. Not only because it gives you a great tax break, but because it is the only way you can call yourself "professional". If you have your machine set up on the dining room table and your cutting is done on the kitchen floor, I would not label you a professional. This is the first step you must take in getting serious about what you are doing.

If there is no room in your house that you can spare for this need, then a workspace can be created out of a closet with a pop-out table and nice shelving inside the closet for storage. Although the more space you can spare the easier your job will be, a small space can still be made "professional" looking. Organization, and neatness are the keys.

Professionalize Your Phone

Have a separate phone line and answer it with your business name. Set business hours and use a message service or answering machine during off times. You may or may not want a yellow pages listing. Either way the phone will still be your first impression. Be congenial but keep the language professional. Avoid slang words and flippant comments. Also, if you have a computer, get a modem that does fax. Then get distinctive ring for a second phone number without paying the price of a second line. It's only a couple dollars a month, but the benefits are great to your professional image.

Professionalize Yourself

Look neat and clean. Dress well, do your hair and put on some make-up. Your nails should be well groomed, for your hands will be looked at a lot! One of the conveniences of working at home is that you can work in jeans and a T-shirt or your PJ's if you want to, but not if a customer is coming for a fitting.

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Sewing on The Net

Would you consider networking with me on the net? I know you are busy like I am but you know that some times you need to talk to someone in the business.

Isn't the Internet great! it helps people like us, who work by themselves, to not feel so all alone. I go to the news group alt.sewing. It's a great exchange of ideas and advice. You have my e-mail, write whenever you like!

A great way to exchange ideas is by joining an e-mail list like the SewingList. Go to: http://www.quiltropolis.net/maillists/maillists.asp and sign up for a list or 2.

Write whenever you like. I love getting mail!

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