The Power of a Single Word!

The Winter Holidays are fast approaching! No matter which holiday you celebrate, you know that there are TONS of things that you need to do! Making your holiday(s) festive usually falls on the shoulders of we who are the busiest, and we gladly accept it!  But, if you have your own machine quilting business, this could be your busiest, most hectic time of year! Are you prepared for the extra challenges?

If you are like me, early December is when you begin to stress over the gifts you want to make for your own family and friends, which are often quilts or quilted items. You may have planned ahead. Maybe the quilt tops have already been pieced, and you just barely have time to quilt and bind them. Family and friends think, “You have a quilting machine and you can get quilts done really quick!” Then, add in family traditions – special foods, decorations, events, letters, shopping, cleaning, baking, wrapping, mailing, etc. On top of all of that, add in the quilts you need to finish for your customers! Are you breaking out in a cold sweat yet?!!!!

 Now. Think of your customers. They are also in panic mode! By early December they begin to stress over the quilts they want to give as gifts to their family and friends. Then they have a light bulb moment ….. They don’t have a quilting machine, but you do! So they give you a call. They whine, they grovel, and they will do almost anything to get you to complete their quilts before a certain date – usually within a week or two!

And, then they tell you they still have to get the borders on their quilt and sew the back! Aarrgghh!! You now face a classic dilemma. Think fast. What do you do? How many quilts do you have lined up? It’s time to face the music…. Do you quilt your customer’s quilt or not? Yes? No?  or Later?

I wish I could give you a definite answer but I can’t. Only YOU can do that!  BUT … here are some questions you may want to ask yourself and think about before you have to give your next customer your answer.

Is this a regular, reliable customer that does good to excellent piecing? If you have worked well with this customer in the past, they like your style of quilting, they have good piecing skills, and will show up at appointments on time, you may want to say, “Yes!” (Especially if they usually say “quilt what you want. I am always happy with your work!”) You may even enjoy working on their quilt!

On the other hand ……

What if this is a difficult customer? They are notorious for cancelling appointments, not showing up at all, or have poor piecing skills. You may not want to deal with the stress of working with them and their quilt until after things calm down. This may be the time you will have to be ready to say, “NO!”

What if this is a new customer? They don’t know your quilting schedule, but you want them for future quilting; so, you might say, “Yes.”

Let’s assume you are thinking of working on their quilt. You haven’t seen the quilt yet, but from their description the quilt may need a little more complex quilting. Ask yourself this question:

“Will the extra time and effort needed for this quilt be worth the time I need to take away from my family and other activities I have planned in my own life?”

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question. Only YOU can! Even if this quilt needs only simple quilting, decide if you can justify to your family, friends and to yourself the time it will take you away from important holiday activities. Will you be prepared for the extra stress this quilt may add to your probably already chaotic and stressed life?

What about the money? The extra $$ that this quilt (and maybe a few more) will bring may be very nice; but, is it worth the stress this will add to your life, especially at this time of the year?  Do you really want to be quilting long into the night on holiday evenings? Ask me how I know this! Again, only YOU can answer this question!

 BUT, what if the answer is, “NO!” How can you say no in a way that won’t upset your customer or make you look like a “meanie?

Here are some possible responses:

For the new or difficult customer: “I would really love to quilt your quilt for you, but my holiday quilt schedule is full. I am so sorry, but I am swamped, and I can’t squeeze in another quilt until January. Let’s make an appointment so you can bring the quilt to me after the holidays, and I can get your quilt into my schedule.”

For your good, regular customer: “I would really love to quilt your quilt for you, but my holiday quilt schedule is really full. Let me take the information about your quilt, and if I have some extra time to quilt it, I’ll give you a call. I can’t make any guarantees about this, but I will keep you and your quilt in my mind.  To be sure you get onto my schedule as early as possible, let’s go ahead and make an appointment to bring your quilt in after the holidays.”

A Business Idea – Keep Your Customer, Even When You Can’t Meet their Deadline Request!

A great idea is to design a Quilting Certificate your customer can “gift” with the unquilted top.  The Quilting Certificate will say the quilt will be quilted in the future and then returned to the recipient when it is finished. Your customer can include this Quilting Certificate with their unquilted gift. The recipient then sees the beautiful quilt that was made for them, gives it back to your customer, and they get it to you after the holidays as scheduled. You can send this Quilting Certificate as an email attachment, or print it on pretty paper and send it via regular mail to your customer.

Here is an example of such a quilting Certificate. (Click on the highlighted text to view the pdf file.)Quilting Certificate

 If you would like the Quilting Certificate in MS Publisher so that you can use it, please send an email to I will send the Publisher file as an email attachment.

 TIP: If this is for a good, long term, regular customer, I would not charge anything for the Quilting Certificate. If this for a new or difficult customer I would consider charging something.  I might suggest a $25 – $50 deposit to keep them in my three month schedule. Everyone schedules differently, so make this idea work for you.

What is the hardest part of saying NO, even in a nice way? The hardest part is being FIRM about NO and not saying, “NO, but …. maybe …….” It’s hard!

If you become wishy-washy about NO, you are telling your customer that THEY can get you to do what THEY want (not what YOU want.) Aarrgghh!! If they persist, whine or grovel enough, YOU might cave! Stop this behavior! It shows that YOU are not in control of your own business!

 Being able to say, “NO” and being firm (but not mean) about it, is something we all have to learn. Unfortunately, most of us have to learn it the hard way!

 Have I said, “Yes” to quilt projects I should not have? Absolutely! I hate to admit it, but I have done this several times. Have I learned lessons from these experiences? Yes I have!

 One thing that helps is to be prepared.  Instead of saying NO, say “I can” but not until a later date. Example: “I would love to quilt your quilt, My next available opening is approximately _____.” Having said that, sometimes NO just has to mean NO!  You might even need to practice what you are going to say in front of a mirror.

Also, do you charge a Rush Fee or charge extra $$ for quilting on short notice? This is reasonable, and customers will gladly pay. However, you need to know that even if you charge extra $$ for short notice quilting, it is usually not enough to cover the time away from family, friends, your own projects or loss of sleep at this time of the year!

 [Note: I will talk more about Rush Fees in an upcoming post.]

 At the end of December, say between Christmas and New Years, I highly recommend quilters take some time away from their business to relax, de-stress, and re-charge.  Give your machine a good dusting, unplug it, close the door to your studio and take a few days off from quilting! Spend some time doing something YOU want to do and RELAX! Visit with friends and family, or just spend some time by yourself. Whatever makes you happy, just do it! When you get back to work, you will be refreshed and ready to begin again!

 From me and all the rest of us at LongarmUniversity, to you and your family, we wish you all a wonderful holiday season; and please, enjoy some relaxing time for your personal life.

Please feel free to post your comments.


About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 10 and quilting forever!

6 Responses to The Power of a Single Word!

  1. George Krug says:

    Now if only my wife would stick to her dead line. 2 years in a row takes in last minute not done quilting till 12-23. She is a glutten for punishment. Next year I’m going to make sure she finishes OUR families quilts in July. Thanks for you great advice.

  2. Janine says:

    Did you hear the champagne cork? I just finished my last customer quilt. Next year will be different:) I had hoped to take December off – now it will be January. I can’t believe the stress we allow others to put on us. I was schooled by a customer who didn’t ask “Can you….” Instead it went something like “Here you go, I need them by…..” I was caught off guard to be sure – but not the next time! I really enjoy your posts – very relevant and reassuring – Thanks!

  3. Darlene says:

    Great information. Wish it had come earlier in the month so I could have practiced what to say in the mirror. Now I am learning the hard way this year. Thanks for all your tips.

  4. Carmen/SW MO says:

    Excellent article! I struggle with what to say without sounding MEAN. Over the years I’ve learned to set a seasonal deadline, usually November 1 is when I take the last large quilt project. Little things like baby, kid or small lap quilts can be “worked” in as time permits. I look forward your future postings!

  5. TeresaB. says:

    Thanks so much I found this very informative and it came at a good time. I look forward to future posting.

  6. H Davis says:

    …”They whine, they grovel, and they will do almost anything to get you to complete their quilts before a certain date – usually within a week or two!

    And, then they tell you they still have to get the borders on their quilt and sew the back! Aarrgghh!! ”

    Cindy, have you been listening in on my phone calls?

    H Davis

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