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What to charge?

samty | Posted in General Discussion on

What do you all charge for your services? I have done a lot of sewing for friends and usually don’t charge them much. Several times I have done small work for other people and charged them a small amount. I found out today that my friend’s coworker is interested in having me make her wedding dress. How much do I charge? I definatly want to get properly paid for my time, but I don’t want to over-charge her.

Thank you for your input.


  1. kai230 | | #1

    Welcome sammie! Have you made a wedding dress before? Do you know what type of dress the bride wants? Has a budget been mentioned? Do you have access to a reduced price for the fabric/embellishments? Do you have an idea of how much you feel your time is worth? Are you a fast or slow worker? Will you price by the hour or the project? Have you looked at comparable gowns to help gauge your price? Do you have insurance and a backup plan in case something happens to the gown?

    It's like any other business--it's charity (or, in IRS terms, a hobby) unless you can make a profit on your goods or services. Once you answer some of the questions I'm sure the pros will be able to help you. I've never sewn for $ but I have been in business for myself and there are lots of unseen costs (a client changes plans in mid-stream, e.g., which is why a contract is helpful). Good luck! 

    1. samty | | #2

      Thanks Kai,

      She wants a very simple dress (A-line, spaghetti straps, in silk georgette). I haven't done a wedding dress before, but I have done work (for myself) that is fairly complex. I consider myself a good seamstres but have never thought about what my time would be worth (the items I make for myself I consider priceless). I haven't talked with her yet to see what her budget, timeline, etc. are. I thought it would be a good idea to see what people charge before I met with her. :-)

      1. kai230 | | #3

        sammie, check the net or yellow pages for seamstresses/tailors and see if you can get a feel for the range of rates in your location. Tell them you will be supplying the fabric; I don't know if they'll give you an hourly, but if they say $1000, and you think you can do the gown in 10 hours, that's $100/hr.

        When you charge by the hour, you are responsible to use that time wisely (no extra trips to the store because you forgot something, e.g.), and to give a reasonable estimate of the total time. It's best to overestimate the time involved (some say by 1/3, but to me that is a sign you don't know how long things take). I got lots of repeat business because I consistently came in on or under budget.

        With a fixed price you run the risk that the bride won't like something, so you need to have in writing what you agree to, with a clause that anything additional will incur an additional charge.

        Definitely search the net for silk georgette prices/choices. I have never worked w/it. You will want to have a general idea of how much fabric, notions, etc. so you can itemize between labor and materials (if for no other reason than your own bookkeeping).

        If you charge by the hour, don't forget time to shop, set up fittings, etc. In your labor rate, you then must factor in wear and tear on car, shipping costs, etc. It can get a bit complex.

        The other thing is how fast can you sew well? It's a universal truth that sometimes $50/hr is cheaper than $25 if the latter takes 3 hrs and the former takes 1.

        Oh, and a final thing--what if your power goes out? You need some sort of contingency (or written escape clause) for all sorts of emergencies, esp if the bride makes last-minute changes.

        Good luck, and keep us posted!

        1. teri | | #4

          Dear Kai,

          Sammi and others have given you very good advise. I work as a seamstress at a dry cleaners in Florida, the hourly shop rate is $38.95, this is mainly alterations work. When I do dressmaking or uphostery for friends from my home I charge $10 per hour, when I sew for clients it's $15. I used to refuse to take money from friends, however, I soon found I had too many "friends" !  Another thing to consider is how you sew, I always make a muslim of any new pattern a customer requests, I do charge for this and have found I end up with a much happier client. Wedding customers are notoriously difficult, it is the most important day of their life, and Mom or Sis may have a totally different idea about what looks good, is a reasonable cost, etc. than the bride. Good luck!


          1. kai230 | | #5

            Thanks, Teri! In fairness, it was sammie requesting the info. I loved this: I always make a muslim of any new pattern--I take it you make a sample outfit from muslin? Do you buy a gauge that replicates the fabric? I think it's a great idea, esp for times so special like a wedding.

            Edited 7/20/2003 8:39:53 PM ET by kai

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