Selling what you make
8 years agoMaggie @Maggie
I never figured I could make money selling hand-made things. It is a labor of love. The time spent makes it impractical, and I don’t have the skills for a really high quality finish.
Now an acquaintance has asked me to sell her a couple zippered pouches. This got me thinking, do you sell? Would you? How do you price it?
I might just ask for something to cover my costs, but I’d rather not sell at all. It makes it seem less fun somehow.8 years ago
A few gals here have tried their hand at selling. I’ve thought of selling newborn sizes to use up biggish scraps of nicer fabrics, as a way of paying for the materials, but I think it’s hard to find that sweet spot where you feel that you are being compensated for your time at a level that works for you, while still charging fairly for your level of skill. I’d suggest making one item and timing yourself from the beginning of the process, starting with prewashing, drafting, buying supplies. Just to see how long it really takes vs. how long you think it takes. Might be more, might be less, but once you have a solid idea of the cost to you in terms of time and labor, you’ll have a better sense of pricing.
If it’s just for an acquaintance that you like, and you want to do her a favor, you could ask her to supply the materials. Or if it’s a very simple pouch, you could offer to teach her to do it herself 🙂8 years agoRobin @Robin
This is a tough one. I now make people pay for their supplies and ask them how much they think my time is worth. Most often they are so shocked by the final price that they walk away. Which is fine with me. The other thing I’ve done is swapped services: babysitting, painting, floor washing, and other assorted tasks that won’t get done if I’m sewing. I did get dinner and a movie out with “the buyer” once. That was a fun swap.8 years agobren5kids @bren5kids
I just faced the same dilemma recently. I sewed my last babies diapers, bumgenius style, and have dreamed of doing them to sell someday. Plenty of sahms do, and can command pretty good prices. Bumgenius sell for $20+ per diaper and most of the sahm/wahm ones on etsy are in the $15-$25 range.Then a friend asked me if I would make some for her, and I agonized over what to charge her. I know what other people are selling them for, and its easier to charge a stranger a certain price than a friend. But still, I am a busy mom and my time is worth alot! So I went ’round and ’round. I finally decided I’d charge her $10 a diaper, but I still felt bad that she’d have to shell out $200 for 20 diapers. Meanwhile, I gave her my son’s outgrown diapers to try before she committed, and good thing I did because her husband didn’t want anything to do with cloth diapers. So that took care of that and my dilemma was over! But the thing I worry about everytime I make something for somebody else, especially to sell, is that it might not be quite good enough or neat enough or perfectly sewn, and I really have no business asking the going rate. Even though I am recognized among my friends, seamstress and non-seamstress, as a very neat and creative seamstress, I still feel like for some reason that the things I make might not be up to par and I shouldn’t be asking for what I really think it’s worth. I gotta get over that.8 years agoJane @jesims
“But the thing I worry about everytime I make something for somebody else, especially to sell, is that it might not be quite good enough or neat enough or perfectly sewn, and I really have no business asking the going rate.”
I feel the exact same way. I made an art smock for a friend’s little boy for his birthday. I almost didn’t give it to him because I could see where the seam was a bit off, etc (all those small details no one else would probably notice). I have been asked to make things for people quite a bit and have had many people suggest I have an Etsy shop, etc. I always claim to be “too busy” or any number of other excuses I can come up with. In the end, I sew because I enjoy seeing my kids wear the things I make for them. I enjoy the compliments they get when they wear something I have made out. I think some of that personal joy would be lost and it would become tedious and stressful if I were to try to turn it into a business.
Jane8 years agoBrittney @georgeandizzy
I have had people tell me that too, to open an etsy store, but to be honest I just don’t want to! I want sewing to be fun, and when I sew to sell it just isn’t for me.
I have a friend who I will make custom items for, the first few times I under charged and was unhappy in the end. The next time she asked me I told her yes, but raised my price to what it was worth for me to do it and she still happily paid me to make the items, and has even requested more. I know not everyone will be that way, in fact, I had a friend ask a price to make a Fairy Tale Cinderella like I had for one of my girls and when I gave her the price she was shocked and politely declined. That is why I learned to sew, to have pretty things for my kids without the huge price:)8 years ago
I hope I am not embarrassing Nicole by constantly using her as an example, but I look at the dress she made for my (extremely lucky!) daughter and every line of a tiny, dense pattern matches up — there are no extra-tiny stitches followed by extra-long stitches where she went over a bump in a seam — all those little kinds of details. This is not a dress I would buy in a store for $300 — because the store bought dress would be half polyester and Nicole’s is a gorgeous wool. You know? So I don’t think it’s really false modesty to think that my own sewing is not at that level, I know for a fact it is not, and I’m not ashamed of that because I know I am continuing to grow and become more experienced and confident. It’s ok to not already be an expert!
But it goes back to the balance between what it’s fair to charge (above minimum wage, but not astronomically far above) and what I need to make for it to be worth my time if I’m doing it only for the money. Obviously I am more than happy to sew for my own loved ones for $0/hr!
Where it gets tricky is, like people have said, where it’s not purely financial (I am trying to pay my rent) and neither purely altruistic (I am doing it out of love) — sewing for friends and acquaintances. What I would do is something like what was suggested above — letting people see a representative sample and telling them the price. They can say yes or no, no hard feelings.8 years agowith love Heidi @with love Heidi
Although all my olover and S stuff goes to my fiends’ kids as gifts I’ve not sold any. I have done a few sewing projects that have been paid for , but I do these knowing full well that I’m doing it because I love to sew and can help them and if I get paid it’s a bonus, sometimes a large one :), but if I don’t (get paid) then I’m not unhappy nor is the relationship strained. But this is only about once a year.8 years agoReeni @Reeni
I come from a food industry background, and from there so many people are affronted when you tell them how expensive it is/how long it takes to make a pretty thing like a decorated cake. Obviously the longer you do something the faster you get, but sewing or doing any craft for money becomes about how much your time is worth. A friend calls it “girly pricing,” when you undervalue your work because you’re a mom or because you know the person you’re selling to. I had a bit of an eye-opener when I started to think about it in terms of the things I wasn’t doing (reading with my kids, making meals) because I was crafting/working. (at legal minimum wage of $10.15 an hour, how much is that worth?)
That being said, I’ve just recently become a “rock star” to my daughter’s dance school by sewing them 31 red hoods and doing alterations for a dozen costumes in the week/days before the annual recital, in exchange for free classes for my daughter. They have offered to pay for the fabric for the hoods, but the alterations (and a few were extensive, like turning a medium teen’s into a large child’s size) were on the basis of that exchange of services. Agreements like that help you test the waters of actually selling stuff — and of course, putting up an online shop doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly get very very busy. or very very rich.8 years agoNicole @motherof5
Sarvi, you do flatter me.
I must add, Sarvi and I did a swop. I received the most beautiful knitted shrug for Matilda from the softest wool!
When I take on sewing I charge $25/hour plus costs. I rarely do it now as I am so busy. I had no complaints and only a few people balked at my fee.8 years agomeleliza @meleliza
I’ve been going around on this for a few years and even ran up a few sample dresses to time myself once. The prices I would have to charge are much higher than most people are willing to pay. Americans (it seems like the economy in Australia is very different and I cant speak to that) are so used to fast cheap clothes that few of us understand the cost involved. I try to explain, and people still don’t get it. Once, a woman (“working” obviously) suggested I do it anyway, “for myself.” I told her I don’t need to do a job for free to feel valued as a person. Sigh.
I suppose if you’re very fast, have a serger, draft your own patterns, find supplies wholesale, and do simple things, you could find a good balance between your labor and the finished price. But I’ve looked carefully at the inexpensive things they sell on Etsy or at craft fairs, and I’m personally not interested in producing that kind of work. And I don’t want to support the “girly pricing” whereby moms aren’t earning themselves a fair wage.
Recently, however, I think have found a niche with potential. I’ve started taking a few commissions for special occasion dresses and I’m starting to spread the word and plan some targeted advertising. I don’t think this is a platform for getting rich, but if it matches my old part time teaching income, it would be plenty. I have a number of reasons to believe this could work. If you’re interested to read more, sewing.patternreview.com has a forum for sewing for business. There, quite a few people specialize in costumes for ice skating or ballroom dancing or in very high end alterations or dressmaking.
The other issue is of course that any time you take something you love and turn it into work, you risk not loving it so much. A hobby is a good thing to have, so that is a valid consideration.8 years ago
Great comments above, I agree with everything.8 years agoMaggie @Maggie
This is all very interesting. I think specialized, custom work would be the way to charge high enough prices. People expect to pay more for custom work.
It isn’t for me. I don’t want to sweat over the quality. I’m still learning.
Currently I’m sewing a dog bed for a friend. Not a glamourous project at all, but I enjoy the challenge of something new ( and quick). It will be a gift, as she is very generous with my family.8 years agobren5kids @bren5kids
Ditto what Sarvi said8 years agobrenda1652 @brenda1652
I have made and sold items on eBay. I don’t charge by the hour since I take time to relax and smell the roses(!), but I have set prices for things or starting points for auctions. You can check out similar handmade items on sale on eBay and etsy to get an idea about pricing. If you do something novel it sells better: like an entirely hand sewn item or items made from recycled /repurposed things. Don’t sell your items too cheaply. Your time and skill have value, plus selling cheap undermines the sales for other seamstresses trying to sell on line.
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