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Pricing

sewsassy | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Does anyone have guidelines for pricing on alterations and general sewing? I’ve been asked on several occassions to start a sewing service in my community, and do not know what type of “formula” to work with.  For instance, what to charge for a pair of unlined pants (I’ve been told $9.00 is a going rate–but I think that’s a bit much). 

I am also well experienced drapery/ home decor designer as well as apparel, but I have not sewn for paying customers (I’ve only sewn exclusively for relatives and close friends).  I recently read some time back on a threads post that the going rate for drapes are about $25.00 per panal (is that lined or unlined?). And what would be a fair price for valances or cornice boards?

If anyone could give me any ideas, advice or where I could obtain this information would be greatly appreciated.

Replies

  1. starzoe | | #1

    $9.00 to MAKE a pair of unlined pants? I would think that is away too little - maybe triple that $9.00 and you are still working for slave wages.

    Prices vary a good deal depending on the location, and of course the type of clientele you want to attract. My experience has been to keep prices high, people seem to think if it costs more it is better. There has always been ongoing discussions on sewing sites about pricing and there is no norm. What is suggested is to get a written agreement on what you will charge, add everything in; your time, your expenses, your experience, your license to operate (some municipalities want you to pay for a license), your phone, your vehicle if you have to take trips for sundries, don't have special rates for "friends", in other words go at it as any professional would. There is a lot more to think about if you will have people coming to your home; insurance for that? If you have to be licensed you will no doubt have to pay taxes on your income, it goes on and on.

    1. sewsassy | | #5

      I should have been more specific in stating the going rate charged in my area to HEM a pair of pants is $9.00.

      Please do not misunderstand me, I am not trying to do a disservice to any seamstress who successfully does this.   All I am asking for are general guidelines for pricing. Do most people charge an hourly rate, an hourly rate plus the type of garment being worked on, or by the piece?

      I guess my apprehension is that I may charge too much or not enough.

      Thank you for your input, I will keep that in mind.

  2. jjgg | | #2

    http://www.jsmpatterns.com/products.html

    You didn't say what you were doing to the pants for $9.00. I hope that's just for a hem.

    You do yourself a disservice and every other sewer out there if you charge too little.

    Your plumber charges you $x.00 to unstop a toilet, yes we all think it's way too much, but you pay it anyway. It's what they are all charging. How much do you pay your hairdresser? How long are you in the chaird for that amount of money.

    If you want to be a professional and run a business, you tell your customer the price with a smile on your face, they either pay it or go elsewhere.

    You also have to charge the customer for your time going tot he store to buy thread and other supplies, service on your machine, the time you spend on doing your books, paying your taxes. When you gjo out to buy a specific something for a specific customer, you charge them 10 - 20% more for the product.

    If you are really going to start a business, you should join a professional association so your can stand up tall and say "I am a Professional, this is a real business (vs. I'm aunt Jo, doing this for cousin BOb)

    http://www.paccprofessionals.org/site/



    Edited 3/2/2008 12:44 am ET by jjgg

  3. moira | | #3

    I've spent years trying to work this out and have eventually come to a rate that I'm happy with. I'm in the UK and for dressmaking I have been informing customers in writing that my charge is £30 per hour. I then I give them an estimated figure for what they want done. I let them know that I won't charge more than an hour's worth on top of my estimate unless something unforeseen happens - like they change their mind about something, in which case I let them know of the additional cost before proceeding.
    Alterations seem like a different ball game, but I'm not sure they really are. In some cases I charge alterations per job - say £12.50 for hemming gents' trousers etc, but have now begun charging hourly for the less predictable jobs and that's more satisfying. The customer has a garment she can now wear at a price that's fair for me. I just got paid for a huge pile of alterations, to the sum of over £300. It sounded crazy but the client knew the work it took; she knew beforehand the rough cost and was happy to pay, and I don't feel like 'just a dressmaker'.

  4. ellaluna | | #4

    $25.00 for an unlined drapery panel is about what you would pay at Target.

    Think about it: When you make something for someone, you are providing something customized and unique. You are giving your customer something they can't get anywhere else. Think about how much time you will spend on an item. Are you going shopping with them? Helping them pick out fabric? Measuring their windows? Customizing the panel to their specifications? You are not only offering your sewing expertise, you are also offering your design expertise, and that's worth a helluva lot more than minimum wage!

    You should also take into account the going rates where you live. If you are talking about basic alterations, you can probably get a price list from a local dry-cleaner. Many of them do simple alterations. That might be a good jumping-off point.

    Don't undersell yourself!!!

    km

    1. sewsassy | | #6

      Thank you for the idea of contacting a local dry cleaner.  That may be a good starting point.

      1. solosmocker | | #7

        When I designed and sold custom window treatments we had pictures of various top treatments and they were priced by the linear foot, and varied by style. One employer had us breakdown the cost for the customer with the installation separate, another had it all wrapped into the price. Hope this helps.

  5. mainestitcher | | #8

    I've done alterations out  of my home.  Unfortunately, I live in a very small town.  People around here think sewing almost anything should cost $3-4. My "take home" is about half of what I bill per hour.  I can cashier at WM for $10 an hour, no point in sewing for less. 

    I currently work in a bridal store.  A customer thought we should make spaghetti straps out of an extra shawl for a couple bucks.  Uhh, no.  

    It would be very worth your while to keep accurate books.  I've read that seamstresses are very prone to working for cash, not recording it, and also not recording the expenses required to "make" that money.  In doing so, an individual is merely moving money from one pocket to another, isn't she? 

    I really like the analogy of the hairdresser.  I'm in the chair for 20 minutes or so, maybe less.  Even at the cheap-o discount places it probably runs $13-15.

    From what I've done, heard, and been told, $25 per unlined panel would be the low end of the scale, but at least it's on the scale!

    I tell customers that a custom-made anything will likely cost two to five times a similar item off the rack.  Last Christmas a woman wanted a custom-made  lined jacket as a gift for her sister.  And she wanted to barter for it...an astrological reading.   No offense to those who do this kind of thing, but I'm not going to invest $50-60 in materials, 4-5 hours labor, for a couple hours of her time.

    The dry cleaners where I currently work actually starts to make a profit when a seamstress can put out $45 of billable work per hour.   Bridal shop aims for $60.

     

  6. Beavette | | #9

    I do custom design and alterations in California/Bay Area. I price two different ways. One is piece work, depending on the difficulty per item prices vary, such as simple hems on a pair of pants is $10, taking in the side seams of a pair of pants $12 but if a customer hands me a bunch of mending, I set a timer and charge $15 per hour. To make a custom made garment - labor only - I charge by the hour as well $15 per hour. If I have to get anything from the fabric store, that is added on to the bill plus my time to go to the store, usually another hours pay. This encourages the customer to bring you all that is needed. I also adjust my pricing for people in need. I do believe in some public service for the low income. If I know that someone is less off, I do adjust my pricing.
    I have been told that for the Bay area my pricing is to low....but I do have constant customers and repeat ones most of the time.
    Just my 2 cents worth.

    1. sewsassy | | #10

      Thank you.  This is along the line of what I was planning. I am more interested in repeat business than overcharging then never seeing the client again.

      I do like your idea of charging less for those in unpredictable situations. Do those clients then become repeat customers? How long have you been doing this? Do you have to advertise?

      Do you do strictly alterations and apparel sewing, or are you sewing home dec items as well? If so, what is your pricing guidelines on that?

      I'm just trying to gather enough info/suggestions/ ideas before I venture into this area.  I have done some alterations for pay in the past but I didn't have the time to fully devote to it.  Now I've been approched on many occassions to sew for others, and find myself a little apprehensive (don't ask--don't know why). Nervous jitters, I guess!!

      1. Beavette | | #14

        I have been sewing for customers now about 15 years, but sewing for 30 years. I do all fabric creations. For interior or exterior fabric creations, I have to look at the item/items and evaluate how much of my time is involved along with what the value of having it done is. For example:
        Many people have garden furniture, and the fabrics get worn or in this case the customer got a great deal on the furniture set but didn't like the fabric color/pattern. So they wanted to have new covers made for all the pieces(18 pillows in all)They first asked me to give them a yardage needed estimate and they ordered the fabric. They brought me one of each type of pillow in the set. I made a pattern from the existing pillows which took me 2 hours(at $15 an hour)Many of the pillows were repeat pattern pieces so I did not have to make 18 patterns. Then knowing these were simple lines and easy to sew, I could sew two an hour, so I charged the customer $10 each pillow for labor. I also put the cases on only the pillows I had at the studio(since the pillow covers were removable for washing) I charged her another hours worth of my time to put the pillow cases on those pillows. The remaining pillow cases the customer could put on themselves at home. Total cost to me for this project was $225. The customer could replace the look for $500 or less including cost of fabric and labor. Within the next two months I had 3 other people come to me with the same request(after seeing the first one at their friends house)to cover the same furniture set.(I believe it was a Costco special) I already had the patterns for the pillows made, so they were easier.
        See photo of covers.

        Edited 3/6/2008 3:57 pm ET by Beavette

        1. sewsassy | | #15

          Your pillows are beautiful.  Thank you for sharing.

          From your previous post, I can understand your reasoning for charging the prices you do for labor.  I would do the same thing you descirbed with the single father and his son. I live in Michigan, and the  tough economy is taking its toll on everyone here.  I would feel guilty charging too much when I know people are having such a rough time financially. 

          Your input has been quite valuable for me, and I am going to follow my instincts as to charging a fair price.  After all, repeat business and satisfied customers are what matters.

    2. suesew | | #11

      If you are in the Bay area you should be charging $30 an hour at least. Don't undervalue yourself.

      1. jjgg | | #12

        No only should she be charging at least $30.00/hr, but she may find that when she raises her prices she gets even more business. Would you go to a "professional" of any sort that was dirt cheap? I would be suspicious of the quality of the work if they are undercharging.

        1. Beavette | | #13

          I do understand my value, but the general public does not....We live in a world of low cost clothing, and for alterations, people are not so willing to pay to have lower cost clothing altered if it costs them more than they paid for the item to begin with. I do not have wealthy customers...if I did business in LA or even San Francisco I would ask more for my services. Everyone should be able to afford to get clothing altered to fit them great, not just the ones who buy high end..
          Here is an example of a situation I ran into recently.
          A single man needed to have a loin costume for his son to perform in a play at school, The father and son go to the fabric store totally overwhelmed by what they see, The store employees recommended the very expensive fur fabric costing $75 per yard which would bring the costume to about $400 in supplies alone. Both upset with the situation and ready to abandon it, they get my business card from the services rack at the store and call me. I met them at the store, recommended an alternate choice of materials, and they ended up spending $45 on materials. I spend 6 hours sewing the costume, charge $15 and hour, plus $15 for going to the store for an hour, so I end up with $105 labor -total cost of costume for father is $150. Much more reasonable for a two night elementary school play and this story has a happy ending. The next week the man brings me 6 pair of pant to hem for both him and his son. Continued customer satisfaction.
          Once I get a customer, my quality proves my ability. I get my customers through word of mouth/recommendations and fliers put up at local businesses. I guess if I paid for advertising and drew a broader range of customers I would have to reevaluate my pricing. I also don't have to pay for my studio, so overhead is low for me.
          Sorry for the lengthy response.

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