Getting New Customers

I recently received this question from a quilter who is starting her new, machine quilting business.

I wish I could find information about how to find longarm customers…outside the usual guild memberships.

I thought that this is an excellent question and it is important to those beginning their machine quilting business and to those “experienced” quilters wishing to expand their customer base.

The quilter asking the question lives in central Pennsylvania, and, according to MapQuest is 20 miles for Harrisburg (the State Capitol), 55 miles from Gettysburg, 90 miles from Baltimore, and about 120 miles from Philadelphia. (You can probably see where I am going with the location!)

So let’s help her, and ourselves. Write a comment on how you find YOUR customers for your machine quilting business.

To leave a Comment – at the top of this post, next to the date, click on the “Leave a Comment” button. Then type your comment or suggestion in the space provided.

I know that we are all looking forward to viewing the comments and suggestions.

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T-Shirt Quit Follow Up

Here is a follow up to a  comment that was posted to my blog post “The T-Shirt Quilt Story”.

I posted an online  article  about pricing a “start to finish” quilt. You can view this article by Clicking Here

In the article I say that I send a copy of an estimate/invoice which I create in QuickBooks (my accounting software) along with some drawings, etc., so that my customer knows what the charges are and what the finished quilt will look like.

A quilter wanted to see what the estimate/invoice would look like. I have created a QuickBooks  invoice for the quilt I described in the article.

To view the invoice Click Here 

I would add the word “Estimate” across the top of the invoice and date it. I usually give a time limit of 30 days.  I would write something like:

Estimate of charges. This price good until ____ (date, 30 days from today). I may also add, “Prices subject to change due to cost of materials and complexity of piecing pattern.”

I would sign and date (today’s date)  underneath this written statement. My customer would receive a copy of this estimate and I would keep a copy in the records for this project.

The T-Shirt Quilt Story

I belong to several online, (group) email lists which are hosted at YahooGroups.com.

(Note: if you don’t belong to a group(s) like this, I would highly recommend it. Go to YahooGroups.com, and in the search box, enter the brand of your quilting machine, and join this group. The other group I would recommend is the Machine Quilting Professional group. This group is open to ALL machine quilters, no matter what machine you have, no matter what your skill level is, and no matter if you have a business or not.)

A few days ago, someone posted that they were looking for a different way of putting together a T-shirt quilt. Here is my response –

A few years ago I did a t shirt quilt for a customer who had ALL different sizes of t shirts, logos, etc.

I started with a 3 x 6 grid and then determined which parts of the t shirts would go where on the grid. Then I cut assorted fabrics into 3.5 x 6.5 “bricks” and began building the quilt.

Here are some photos of the T-shirt quilt I made, from start to finish. Click on any photo for a larger view.

For more photos of this quilt Click Here

tshirt1

tshirt3

I got several nice responses from people on the list. Then there was an post asking about how much I charged for the making and quilting of this quilt. Here is my response –

<<could you tell me what you charged for this quilt?>>

Of course, and there is a story behind this quilt. 

In about late October/early November, a friend called and said her (female) boss wanted a t shirt quilt done for her son for Christmas and would I be able to do it. I really didn’t want to do it, but, my friend insisted that I should. So I told my friend that I would do the quilt, but here were my conditions – 

The price would be between $1,200 – $1,400, 
I needed half that amount as a non refundable down payment, 
I would have complete control over how the t shirts were placed on the quilt
I would use fabric from my own stash (I had a great Fat Quarter collection for the quilt) and
I would have to have the t-shirts within the next few days. 

I truly thought that my conditions would discourage the customer. Guess what? 48 hours later, my friend is at my front door with two HUGE bags of t shirts and a check for $700! I got the quilt made for Christmas along with a couple of throw pillows. 

If you think that $1,200 – $1,400 for a Queen Size quilt is too much $$, check out my article about Pricing for Commission Quilts at 

http://longarmuniversity.com/Bookstore%20pages/pricing_booklet_sample_article.htm

Again, I got several positive responses from my post – and one FABULOUS response! With permission, I am posting the fabulous response I received below.

Cindy,

Thank you for being so generous with sharing this sort of information. It is too easy for us to all undervalue our work. A car mechanic, or electrician would not think of working for the kind of low wages that many quilters charge. We are skilled craftsmen/woman. We to consider that we should make just $10.hr or less in some cases is just way out of line and not at all reasonable. We have over head and years of experience to consider. Even someone new to longarm work most likely has years of experience in sewing. We invest in our machine, dedicate a large bit of usable space of our home, we do research and pay association dues and engage in on going education. We cannot give our work away. I think it is important to educate new quilters so they can educate their clients.

I just don’t understand how some customers can readily pay $60 – $100 per hour for some work and then expect to pay so little for skilled work.. and in many cases artistry!

now that I have gotten on this soap box, I might as well let it all out..

I find it down right offensive that essential services like dental care (that is one of my pet peeves) can amount to even $900 per hour! I find that even immoral! True the dentist has lots of overhead and years of training and support staff. But compare that to what we do – surely our training, equipment and overhead deserve to be considered. .. .. and not just getting by on what comes out to some minimal hourly rate. So… I say… do the very best you can.  Always be improving your skills and do not be afraid to charge what you are worth!
Thanks again Cindy!

Gail in CO

Gail – I couldn’t have said it better! 

I contacted Gail to get her permission to put her email on this blog. Here is her response –

Well thank you, and please do include my contact. If you like you can include my websites at www.gailsegreto.com or www.facebook.com/QuiltingMemoriesEveryday if you feel it is appropriate.

I live in an area where there is a lot of other long arm quilters. And I know the tendency is to undercut to get your business started. Well that is just a terrible idea because it is too hard to raise the prices later. And when starting out, a quilter may not feel their skill is up to the standard of the other quilters. So, I just charged for edge to edge at the going rate and increased fees as I was able to increase skill and add some custom work. I still charge the same for my edge to edge work only now I can get it done faster. : )
(feel free to insert that too if you like)
Thanks for all the great resources on your long arm U site! Gail

Gail, you have said exactly what I think!

Both Gail and I would love to hear your responses to this post. Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Cost of Quilting – Part 2

Last month, I wrote about the hidden costs of having a machine quilting business. Have you have been keeping track of ALL your business expenses, as I challenged you to do last month? Have you totaled them up and are you surprised at how much they really are?

Now we are going to take our monthly business expenses and have some “fun with numbers.”

First of all, take amount of your business expenses last month and multiply it by 12 (months) for a yearly total. Now, I know that this is not going to be an “exact” number, but it will give you a real good idea.

Let’s say your total monthly business expenses are $500.  Multiplied by 12 = $6,000 per year. For someone who has a full time machine quilting business, this amount, to me, seems reasonable. Remember, your business expenses may be different, and that’s all right.

Now I want to break this number down to “business expenses per quilt.” To do this, you need to know how many quilts, on average, you quilt per month. For this example, I will assume that all the quilts completed are Queen Size quilts.

Take the number of customer quilts you complete per month and divide that number into your monthly business expenses.

With business expenses of $500 per month –

  • if you complete 10 customer quilts per month, that is $50 per quilt.
  • if you complete 12 customer quilts per month, that is $41.66 per quilt. 
  • if you complete 15 customer quilts per month, that is $33.33 per quilt.
  • if you complete more or less customer quilts, your numbers will be different.

What this shows you is that no matter what I/you charge for quilting, the first $50 – $33.33 per quilt is to cover your business expenses!

But wait! There’s more!

Cost of your Quilting Machine – There is another part of the Cost of Quilting, and that is recovering the cost of your quilting machine. No, this is not depreciation or anything related to the IRS. (That is something you need to talk to you tax professional about.) This is simply a way of “getting back” the $$ you spent on your machine.

Let’s assume you spent $15,000 on your quilting machine and would like to recover this cost over 8 years. Here is the math on this –

$15,000 divided by 8 (years) = $1,875 per year, divided by 12 months = $156.25 per month. For easier math, I am going to round this number to $156. Now divide this number buy how many customer quilts you complete per month.

  • $156 divided by 10 quilts = $15.60 per quilt
  • $156 divided by 12 quilts = $13.00 per quilt
  • $156 divided by 15 quilts = $10.40 per quilt
  • And so on.

On last thing to include in the Cost of Quilting is TAXES! You need to include taxes into the cost of quilting. These taxes are self employment taxes and other taxes that are not sales taxes. I am not a CPA or an authority on taxes and can not give specific information about your tax situation. This is something you NEED to talk to your CPA/tax professional about.

For this post, I am going to include $15 per quilt for taxes.

Let’s put all of this together!

We need to add together the –

  • Business expenses (BE), per quilt
  • Cost of the Quilting Machine(QM), per quilt
  • Taxes (T), per quilt

For 10 quilts per month, that equals $80.60 per quilt
($50 BE + $1560 QM + $15 T)

For 12 quilts per month, that equals $69.66 per quilt
($41.66 BE + $13.00 QM + $15 T)

For 15 quilts per month, that equals $58.73 per quilt
($33.33 BE + $10.40 QM + 15 T)

According to these calculation, it will cost between $80.60 – $58.73 in total expenses BEFORE the quilting process even begins! 

I encourage you to do the math with your own numbers and see how much your expenses REALLY are in your own business!