Many of people are now thinking about how to make money sewing and create extra income on the side. If you know how to sew you have a unique opportunity to use your skill to set up a home sewing business. As well as earning some extra money, learning how to start a sewing business at home can also give you a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction.
How to Start a Sewing Business
To Make Money Sewing You Will Need:
- Sewing machine (of course!). It doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy. Get a basic machine that will be a good workhorse. As long as it does a basic straight stitch and zig-zag stitch, you will be able to sew the majority of projects. My local sewing shop always recommends staying away from computerized models and instead purchasing a good mechanical model with a metal internal frame. (Further Reading: Best Sewing Machine for Your Budget)
- Serger: While this is not absolutely necessary, most customers will have an expectation that the inside of the garment will be finished nicely. (Further Reading: Seam finishes without a Serger)
- Camera: Depending on your budget you could use your smartphone or get a nice DSLR camera. Before you spend a lot of money on photographic equipment, play around with your phone and see if you like your photos. There are so many apps out now to add filters and make even basic photos look really professional. I use a Canon 70d camera for most of my photos but I find my iPhone takes amazing close-ups.
- Mannequin or something to photograph your creations on. (Read how to choose a dressmakers dummy). If you are sewing ready to wear clothing then get a fixed mannequin in a small size to photograph samples. Smaller sized samples mean less fabric costs. When sewing custom creations, an adjustable form would be more appropriate.
- Sales Outlet: You will need a website, Facebook store or Etsy store to sell your goods on. Having your own website is probably the hardest when you are just starting out. Try and find a marketplace that already has lots of traffic and educate yourself on all the nuances of the platform. Don’t forget to check out your local markets and craft fairs as well. Many up and coming designers have got their start in markets. It is great for getting customer feedback and testing new products as well as selling your ready to wear collections.
Further Reading: How to succeed at craft fairs and markets
- Optional tools: There are are a lot of sewing machine feet and gadgets that can make your sewing faster and more efficient. A ruffler is a must-have tool if you are going to be sewing ruffles regularly. Save money by purchasing aftermarket kits such as these below.
- Sewing Patterns: Look at independent companies. Most are happy for home businesses to use their patterns for free or just a small charge. Word of mouth goes a long way so most independent pattern designers appreciate credit in your listings.
How to Start a Sewing Business: Things to Consider
Here are a few extra considerations when learning how to start a sewing business that you may not have thought about.
The best and worst part of a home sewing business is working around your kids and family. The best because you don’t have to travel each day and be away from your family and the worst because distractions make it hard for you to work.
Set up a dedicated sewing space and try and have your family respect your work time. I work from home too so know this is not always possible. Just try and get a system in place from the beginning as it is harder to make changes later on. My daughter who is like a miniature tornado through the rest of the house would never touch most of my sewing room stuff. Well maybe not never, but rarely as she did use my favorite gold sewing scissors, to cut a cheese stick this morning. You can’t expect perfection from kids!
Health and Sewing
Sewing for long periods can be hard on your body.
If you are going to be sewing for long periods of time always make sure you have good posture. Crafters and sewers have notoriously bad backs and poor posture. Try some yoga poses for improving posture and take frequent breaks to stretch.
You will need to be able to sew at a reasonable speed. There are lots of tools and gadgets to make your sewing faster and with frequent sewing, you will naturally get faster over time.
Try and sew in batches for maximum efficiency.
Charge What You are Worth
This is an important topic. You are doing this to earn some extra money so make sure you pay attention to your costs.
Pricing: Setting prices is about a balance between being competitive and not undervaluing your time and talents.
In setting prices, use this formula
Item Price = materials + time + overheads + tax + profit
Materials: Cost all your fabrics, thread, labels and any consumables you use. Don’t forget the small things like buttons and zippers as they can add up.
Time: When setting your prices don’t forget to cost your time. Work how long it takes to sew your items and then the cost of your time per hour. Choose easy styles that don’t take too long to sew and always look for shortcuts that don’t sacrifice quality.
Overheads: There are always running costs involved in having a business. These include electricity, internet, computers, sales listing fees and even wear and tear on your machines.
Tax: This is just part of any business. Take it into consideration for each item so you don’t have a big unexpected bill at the end. Always consult an expert when it comes to tax.
Profit: You may just be happy to get an hourly rate for your sewing, but ideally healthy businesses make a profit too.
- Fabric: $10.98 x 1.5 yards = $16.47
- Extras: thread, labels, buttons = $3
- Labour: 1.5 hours x $12 per hour = $18
- Electricity/wear and tear on machine = $2
- Tax = $6
- TOTAL COST =$45.47
I choose $12 per hour for the labor fairly arbitrarily. There are enormous labor differences depending on the country you live in. Just choose something that you feel is reasonable for your time considering you are working from home and your financial circumstances.
When you are starting out, you may charge less than later when you are established.
As you can see, things quickly add up. This dress may not be profitable as is. You need to make sure you stock up on fabric when it is on sale and get your sewing time way down. I also didn’t calculate any profit into my example so you may end up charging $60 for this item.
One last word on pricing: Don’t compare your prices to ready to wear items at your local discount or department store. You are not competing with them. You are making a one off or small run of a unique, handcrafted item. Value that what you do is important. You are not producing off the rack items and can’t charge the same prices as clothing mass produced in factories.
Set (and Stick) to your Terms
Create a set of terms of sale for yourself and make sure all customers have read this.
Sewing from home is a great way to make some extra money but always protect yourself and make sure you are paid for your hard work.
Deposits: I’d advise always getting a deposit before you start so you know your customers are committed to the work you are about to do. The deposit should at least cover the cost of all the materials. That way if you are stuck with an item you have only lost your time and are not out of pocket for materials.
Time Frames: Include time-frames for pickup and consequences for non-pickups.
Rules: Many countries have specific sales rules so educate yourself on your local laws.
How to Start a Sewing Business: After the Sale
Encourage your customers to photograph and tag you on social media and keep promoting yourself online. Word of mouth is the best referral tool you have.
Make Money Sewing: Products Ideas
The list of things you can make is endless but these are some of the common ones.
- Handbags and Purses: The best thing about sewing purses is that there are no sizing issues to worry about.
- Kids Clothing: These use less fabric and are fun to sew.
- Women’s Clothing: There will always be a market for women’s clothing. Try and choose simple styles with a minimum of zippers and buttons.
- Dancewear and Leotards: This is a fairly specialized field but most dance, skating and gymnastics competitions require custom-made costumes. Make sure you learn how to apply rhinestones!
- Upcycling: Don’t think you need to create items from scratch. The upcycling and repurposing vintage items is extremely trendy and popular, especially in local markets.
- Home Decor: Cushion covers are so easy to make and are ridiculously priced in many homeware shops. Find some unique fabrics and trims to set yours apart.
- Repairs and Alterations: This is not for the faint-hearted. Believe it or not, it is often harder to repair or alter garments than to create them from scratch. To do alterations you will need to be great at unpicking and fine sewing. I have always found that people often have unrealistic expectations about how long it takes to alter or repair clothing. Be extra firm in your pricing and terms.
Always consult an expert in your country for all legal, taxation and business setup and running matters. I have just tried to give you tips for starting a sewing business based on my experience but I’m not a lawyer, accountant or business expert.
Now you know how to start a sewing business, I wish you the best of luck with your new business!
If you have any extra tips to share, please comment below as it will help others.