Not a Business??

A few weeks ago I had a phone call from a quilter in another Western state. Our conversation was pretty typical, we chatted about quilting in general and some issues she was having. At several different times during the conversation, the quilter referred to “her customers” and to “her business.” She also stated that she quilted only pantographs and would like to learn how to do more custom work. We talked about what she wanted to learn  and to possibly set up some private classes with me.

She said she was in a “catch-22” – she couldn’t afford to travel and attend classes (private or otherwise) because her business wasn’t bringing in the $$ needed to attend classes. I suggested she raise her prices and find more customers so that she could make her business profitable. Then she said, “Oh, you mis-understood – I am NOT charging my customers for my quilting services.” I was dumbfounded! I asked her why she was not charging her customers. She stated, “I can’t charge anything because all I do is pantographs.” I told her I didn’t understand that statement and she replied,” I don’t do custom quilting so I can’t charge for my services.”

From that moment on, the whole conversation changed – dramatically!  She said that she didn’t know where she got the idea that pantographs weren’t “quilting to charge for.” She just assumed that if a quilt wasn’t custom quilted (which, to her, custom quilting was anything but a pantograph) you couldn’t charge for your time and effort. Because she wasn’t charging for her work, she said she had a LOT of customers and was spending all her time at her machine working.

Several of her “customers” were from out of state and SHE was paying to ship the quilts back to them. (We talked about that, too.) By the end of our phone call we had come up with a strategy about how she could begin charging her customers a reasonable fee for her services. I haven’t heard back from her yet so I don’t know if she did begin to charge her customers or how much she was charging.

Before I started writing about this conversation, I had to think hard about why I wanted to share this with you. And no, I don’t write about every phone call I get. First of all, I am not trying to embarrass or demean the quilter I was talking with. She truly and honestly believed that pantographs were “not real quilting.” (Yes, yes, yes! Pantographs ARE REAL QUILTING! And yes, I’m shouting that. Loudly! ) I am angry with her customers who were taking advantage of her quilting services and her kind heart. I am also a little miffed with other professional quilters in her area who didn’t step in and say something to her about not charging for her quilting. (Trust me, news of something like this travels fast between professional quilters – especially if you are in a small town and possibly are losing some of your customers to her.)

Here is what I want everyone who is reading this to know – if you are quilting for other people, other than maybe your family and your best friends, you SHOULD BE CHARGING FOR YOUR SERVICES. If you are charging for your services, no matter how little, you are in business.

If you are only quitting pantographs, only quilting large all over meander, only quilting Loops & Stars or Loops & Hearts, or any other fairly simple free hand designs, or doing custom quilting – whether it is just a little bit of custom quilting or super duper off the charts custom quilting, CHARGE FOR YOUR QUILTING SERVICES!!!!!

MACHINE QUILTING IS A SKILL THAT TAKES TIME, PATIENCE, PRACTICE AND PERSEVERANCE TO LEARN!

You SHOULD be compensated with $$$$, lots of them, for your skills! You have spent a lot of $$$ for your quilting machine, you have spent LOTS of time learning how to use your machine. You should be compensated for that!

Now that I am finished with my ranting and I have calmed down a bit, I want to again say, in a calmer voice – What you do is a VALUABLE service. You should and CAN charge for your quilting services.

I am posting below an article  I wrote about how to find out how much it costs to put a quilt on your quilting machine. This is part of my class handout when I give a presentation about the business of a machine quilting business.

Please feel free to read it and print a copy for yourself.

To view this article Click Here

Please feel free to leave any comments about the blog post or the business article.  If you would rather respond to me privately, you can do so by sending an email to longarmu@aol.com

I look forward to seeing your thoughts and comments.

An Intriguing Email

A while back I received this email from a fellow quilter – (Note, some information has been changed to protect the identity of the writer)

I am a Longarm quilter from an East Coast state. I was looking at your prices and was wondering if every quilt you do is custom quilted? Where I am, they want the cheapest thing I do which is meandering. They make a beautiful quilt (or not) but want it quilted as cheaply as possible.

It is very seldom I custom quilt a customer’s quilt or a even do a pantograph. I know I am much cheaper than other quilters in my area but figure this is a fair price since meandering (a big stipple) takes very little time compared to pantographs. (Sometimes that is all I can do to a quilt because it is so out of kilter.) Was wondering how you get them to want something besides the cheapest thing. I have been doing this (longarm quilting) for about 8 years now and as a part time business for about 6 years. There are so many longarmer’s in this area, it is not a full time business option. Thanks for your help.

I did write back to this person and told her to call me and we could talk about this. At this time, I have not heard anything from her. The more I thought about this email, the more I felt that the answers I would give to her are valuable information for other quilters. This one email is going to be the basis for a series of blog posts.

If you are the person who wrote this email, please call me. I included my phone number in my email back to you.

To answer the questions about my quilting business – Yes, most of the quilts I do for my customers are custom quilted. (Here is my brochure in a pdf file Cindy Roth Quilter Brochure 2013)  I occasionally do a pantograph although I do prefer all over free hand designs (AOFHD). The AOFHD many times are much easier and quicker to do than pantographs, which means I can make more $$ for the time I am working on a quilt.

An important thing to remember is, even though AOFHD’s and pantographs may be relatively easy and fairly quick to do, I DO NOT price them significantly LOWER than my custom quilting prices. In fact, I price them the SAME as my lower end custom quilting prices.

There is just as much skill involved in quilting all over designs and pantographs as there is in custom quilting! In my very un-humble opinion, a well done pantograph is better than poorly done custom quilting. And, not all quilts require custom quilting.

Personally, I don’t do “meander” – all over or otherwise – and I don’t do “regular” stippling. There is SO much more “out there” that can be done on a quilt top. I do several variations of stippling, including Ribbon Stipple and Landscape Stipple. (For a free video class on how I do these patterns Click Here) If a customer came to me and insisted that I ONLY do all over meandering on their quilt, I would probably refuse the job. Nicely, of course.

Then first the question becomes, “If I don’t want to meander, how I get the customer to change their mind?” Then the second question is, “How do I get paid more $$ to NOT meander?”

To answer the first question – When a customer comes to me with their quilt I usually ask “What is your vision? What do you see quilted on your quilt?” If they answer with – all over meander, stitch in the ditch, big stipple, etc., etc., I ask them “Why?” Their answer usually is something like “I don’t know why” or “It’s what everyone else is doing” or even occasionally someone will answer “I thought that is all you can do?”

Then I look at my customer and say very sweetly, “Let me show you something that I can do that will make your quilt look SO much better!” Sometimes, depending on the situation, I may even say something like, “Don’t you want your quilt to look different than everyone else’s? How about using this different pattern?”

Then, I show them either with other sample quilts (I believe in a LOT of sample quilts – which you should have hanging in your studio) or I pull out the Plexiglas, put it on top of their quilt, and begin drawing quilting designs on the Plexiglas. The goal here is to show them something DIFFERENT than what they have been used to. (To view a video tutorial on how to use Plexiglas Click Here)

Then this leads to the second question – How can I charge more? The easy answer is – because you are doing something DIFFERENT, you can charge differently! By that, I mean charge more $$!!

In the original email from this quilter she included her pricing which was

*Meander – .01 cents per square inch
*Overall design is quilted free hand all over the quilt.

**Pantograph – .02 – .04 cents per square inch, depending on complexity of design.
** Overall design from pantograph from border to border

Here is another question for you – If you are not going to do meandering any more, or on a very, very limited basis, why have it on your price list?

I would recommend TOTALLY ELIMINATING the lowest price you charge. (Has anyone fainted yet?) If the lowest price is NOT seen or posted, then how can you charge it or have your customers ask for it?

I would also change the wording of the above prices. For “Pantograph” I would change it to “All Over Quilting – either free hand or from pantographs, starting at 2 ½ (or better yet) 3 cents per square inch.” Don’t specify if the pattern is free hand or from a paper pattern. The customer usually doesn’t know the difference and really doesn’t care.

In one fell swoop, you have eliminated the meander and raised your prices. This is a win, win for you, and ultimately, for your customer.

If a customer absolutely insisted on all over meander, (and if I accepted the job) I would still charge it at my new “all over” price. If they resist, then I would highly recommend/insist they have a different pattern than meander or refuse the job.

I know, that is a lot easier said than done, but, believe me, I have “been there and done that.” It does take some (a lot of)  backbone and a couple of deep breaths and to do this the first time or two, but, with practice, it DOES become easier. You will begin to see that your quilting is looking much better on your customer’s quilts (not to mention eliminating the boredom factor) and you are beginning to see more $$$ for your quilting. And that’s a very good thing!

Soon I’ll write more about the other things in this email.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed and appreciated. Leave a comment, I know that we all want to know what you are thinking!

Happy 2014!!

I can’t believe it is already January 2014! Where have the last few months gone? I don’t know about you, but they FLEW past for me!

Since mid-October, I have been busy, busy, busy! Between traveling and teaching, teaching classes here at my studio, writing, creating and of course, quilting for my customers, I FINALLY now have a few seconds to sit, relax, breathe a bit, and post a blog.

Since Mid-October, I have been wanting to write about surviving your “Christmas Crunch.” But, since I was so busy with my own “crunch” I didn’t have the time to write about it.

Now that we all have survived the Christmas Crunch, (time waits for no one) we can all relax for a day or two or three before we start all over again.

If you have some time, write a comment about how you control, schedule, survive or any other strategy you use to survive super busy times of the year – whether it is Christmas, graduations, weddings, quilt show deadlines, etc.

I know everyone is different with different ways to doing things. By sharing your experience with others, you will help them and maybe someone will have an idea for you to use in the future.

Just Click on “Make a Comment” or make a “Reply” and let us know what works for you.

I hope you have a creative, prosperous and wonderful 2014!

In Three Months ……

In three months ……. it’s Christmas!!! Three months from September 25 is December 25. I know that many of us (myself included) have a hard time planning for next week, let alone three months in advance!

If you have a hard time planning in advance, do you think that maybe your customers may have the same issue? Do you think that maybe your customers need a gentle reminder that Christmas is coming? Do you think that they should be reminded to get their quilts to you EARLY so you can get them done in a reasonable amount of time? Do you want to get through your “Christmas Crunch” with a reasonable amount of sanity? NOW is the time to do this! But, HOW?

Start by creating a post card or a note card. I know that many of you are scrapbookers and you can create something unique but not too complicated. If you are not a scrapbooker, then a simple card created in Publisher, Word or any other program would work.

You could write something like -

———————–

Hi Customer First Name,

Do you realize that three months from now is Christmas! Let’s work together and get started early this year on your Christmas quilts. Now is a great time to make an appointment to bring your quilts for quilting.  Bring your quilts to me before ( *specified date) and you will receive a special offer of (*to be specified). 

By bringing your quilts to me now, you will have your Christmas gift giving started, you won’t have to worry about the last minute rush. And, I will have plenty of time to get your quilting done for you! This is a win-win for both of us. 

If you have quilting friends who want to have their quilts quilted, for Christmas or any time during the year, please be sure to tell them about my quilting services. 

I am looking forward to working with you and quilting your quilts. To schedule an appointment ,or if you have any questions, please call me at 123-456-7890.

Sincerely

*Jane Doe
Business Name
Machine Quilter

————————————–

Of course, you can write whatever you would like on your post cards or note cards.

Here are the details of the *’s

I would recommend having a special offer of some kind. I am NOT a fan of discounts – you loose too much $$ with discounts. (I will write about that in the future.) You can offer something else that won’t cost you a lot of $$. If you have a thread charge, maybe you can waive it for this special offer. If you have other fees, maybe you could waive or reduce them for this offer. Maybe you could offer an “upgrade” of some of your services. If you have multi-levels of patterns and techniques, maybe you could offer an upgrade to the next pattern level for a (slightly) reduced fee. Think about what you offer in your business as “extras” and think about how you can work that into a special offer that won’t cost you too much $$.

You also need to specify a date when this special offer is good for. Being that Christmas is only three months away, I would date this special offer to the middle of October or, at the latest, early November. That gives your customers 4 – 6 weeks to take you up on this offer. Personally, a one month time frame, in this situation, would be all that I would offer.

If you create your postcard/ note card on a computer and print it out, make sure you hand sign your name. If you would like, you could write (by hand) a brief note to your customer to make the card more personal.

Once your cards are completed, address them and send them to your customer via USPS. Yes, this will take a little bit more time and a few more $$ (which is business related expenses and deductible.)

Your goal is to get this information to your customer and have them OPEN, READ and ACT on the information. An email is great, but it gets into a SPAM folder, it gets deleted or it sits in the inbox and gets forgotten.  Also remember, many of our customers, especially the older ones, are NOT tech savvy and may not even have an email address!

Start planning NOW to communicate with your customers so that you can have a happy and relaxed Holiday Season!

Let me know your thoughts and comments. Let all of us know what your special offer is and let us know how sending out this type of card works for your business.

All comments are greatly appreciated!

The Profit

I hate to admit it –  I like reality TV shows. Not the “Housewifes” style of show, but reality shows where you can LEARN something, especially if it has to do with business!

I have recently found the series called The Profit on CNBC. This is a show where a multi-million $$$ business person, Marcus, goes into a struggling business, invests his own money in the business, and totally turns around the business. Of course, there are dysfunctional employees, clueless business owners, people who don’t want to change things, and all the other “stuff” associated with reality TV shows.

What I DO like about this show is that they show “the numbers.” They get into the nitty-gritty of how much things cost, not just cost of the product but also how much it costs to keep the business running, etc. To me, this is what makes this program different. In one episode, they even bring in a Forensic Accountant (CPA) to look over some very interesting bookkeeping. I never knew such a thing existed!

Even though you are running a small (compared to the program) business, I do believe that you will see some parallels between the businesses shown and your business.

(In episode 2, the florist, when they do a cost analysis of a bouquet of flowers, that was a real eye opener for me!)

If you have some time, please watch the show. If you have watched past episodes (it was new this summer) let me know your thoughts. You may be able to catch some episodes on CNBC on cable or you can watch full episodes online at

http://www.cnbc.com/live-tv/show/The%20Profit

Post a comment about what you found in this series that “connects” with you about your machine quilting business.

The Cost of Thread

In my opinion, as a professional machine quilter, you SHOULD be charging your customer for the thread that is used in their quilt.

Here is a question for you – What makes a quilt a quilt? You may answer, “It’s the fabrics, or piecing pattern, the quilting design, etc.” If you think about it – the THREAD is what makes a quilt a quilt!

Have you ever chain pieced a lot of pieces with no thread? What do you have? Lot’s of pieces of cut up fabric! Have you ever quilted a section of a quilt with no thread? What do you have? Three layers (quilt top, batting and backing) with a lot of holes in it!

THREAD is what makes a quilt a quilt! It is a legitimate part of the cost of doing business!

I wrote an article Calculating the Cost of Thread which I am posting in a pdf file below.

This article will be on this blog for only a SHORT time and this post will be deleted. I encourage you to download this article and you have permission to print out one copy for yourself and you can keep a copy of the pdf file on your computer for YOUR USE ONLY!

To view the article “Calculating the Cost of Thread”  Click Here

Note; This article was originally written in 2000 and I have significantly updated the information.

I encourage you to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Charity Quilt Challenge Update

A few weeks ago I posted about a Charity Quilt Challenge on the Longarm University website. Great News!! The photos of your charity quilts have been coming in. The quilts – and the quilting – are wonderful!!!

To view the charity quilt Click Here

If you would like to enter your charity quilt into this challenge, send a photo of your quilt as an email attachment along with your name, state and the charity. The challenge runs until the end of August.

If you don’t have a quick and easy piecing pattern for a charity quilt, I have one posted on the Longarm U website. I have even included a free video tutorial on tips to make this pattern even easier to construct.

For details about the FREE quilt pattern Click Here

All quilters who enter have a chance to win a $50 Gift Certificate from Longarm University / Longarm Classroom.

Quilters are the BEST people in the world!

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