Playing the Pricing Game

I belong to a couple of Facebook groups where people post photos of the projects they are working on or have completed. These groups are open to quilters of all skill levels – there are some professional machine quilters but most are “regular” piecers and (home sewing machine) quilters. Some of the quilt photos that are posted are quilted, most are not.

As I was cruising the photos I noticed photos of a very, very nicely, professionally quilted quilt. Then I read the caption with the photos, which read in part,

“The quilting took 10 days and 15+ bobbins…. the client is thrilled.” That REALLY caught my attention!

Note: I am specifically NOT posting the name of the Facebook group or the name of the quilter, who I don’t know. I have NO issue with the quilting that was done on this quilt and I am not criticizing the quality of the work.

From what I saw in the photos, and making a few assumptions, the quilt looked like it was a larger quilt, maybe even a King Size and it had a LOT of quilting on it. From looking at the photos, there appeared to be no ruler work, just all free hand. (The caption also said ” I don’t have a computer, this is all hand guided.”)

With this all stated, let’s begin to play the “pricing game.”

The quilter states that it took her 10 days to quilt this particular quilt. To me, that is worthless information. Did the quilter work on this quilt 10 – 12 hours per day or, did she work on this quilt when she had family visiting and could quilt only one hour a day?

(The quilting, which is very nice, is not THAT difficult to quilt and I probably could have done it in about 10 hours. There were a lot of feathers and free hand horizontal and vertical line fill in stitching. Also, in the Comments section, someone asked how long she had been quilting and she stated she has been quilting for 18 years.)

Let’s assume that the quilter DID work on this quilt for 8 hours a day. Let’s also assume that during that 8 hours she took a couple of potty breaks, a lunch break and had a couple of phone calls, for a total working time (standing at the quilting machine, actually working on the quilt) of 6 hours per day.

So with the assumption of 6 hours of working time, multiplied by 10 days equals a total of 60 hours working on this quilt.

Let’s do some math – Let’s assume she charged the customer per hour for this job.

60 hours x $10 per hour = $600
60 hours x $15 per hour = $900
60 hours x $20 per hour = $1,200
60 hours x $25 per hour = $1,500
60 hours x $30 per hour = $1,800

I am willing to bet that the price she charged was NO WHERE NEAR these numbers!

I looked up her name on the internet and found a website that had her name on it. (I am assuming that the person on the website is the same person who quilted this quilt. ) On her website she had her quilting prices listed.

Here is the price posted on the website –

“Custom quilting – $0.025 to $0.030 (per square inch) depending on the intensity of the quilting.”

Let’s do some more math –

Let’s assume that this was a Queen Size quilt, 90 x 108 inches, which is 9,720 square inches (si). At her high end of 3 cents per square inch, the total labor cost would be $291.60! (9,720 x .03 = 291.6) Let’s be nice and round that up to $300.

Let’s take the (assumed) 60 hours of quilting time and divide that into $300, which equals an hourly rate of – drum roll please! – $5 per hour!!!

Let’s assume this is a King Size quilt, 120 x 120 inches, which is 14,400si. Doing the same math as above ( 14,440 x .03 = $432) the hourly rate would raise dramatically to ….. wait for it ……… $7.20 per hour!!!

FWIW – the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour (http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm, the minimum wage in Washington State where I live is $9.47 per hour and in Seattle, the minimum wage is now $15 per hour!

You can draw your own conclusions about this!

Why do I bring this up and write about this? I feel that many, if not most, professional machine quilters FORGET to add the numbers of hours they take to complete a quilt into their pricing equation.

Using the King and Queen size examples above, if the quilter could have done the quilting in 10 hours, her hourly wage would be about $30 per hour for the Queen size quilt and about $43 per hour for the King size!

And remember, you need to allow for your business expenses from these numbers!

I highly recommend that you begin to time yourself when you are working on EACH and EVERY quilt. You are not playing “beat the clock” to get a quilt completed in a certain amount of time. You are trying to determine how much TIME it is taking you, on average, to complete a quilt.

When you are standing at your machine, working on a quilt, write down the date and your start and stop time. Then, when you are finished with that project, total your hours and then divide that into the $$$ you are charging to find out how much you are earning per hour.

I know you will be amazed at the (low) hourly wage you are making.

How can you change this? I’ll write about that in the next post.

For the record – the last quilt I worked on was a large 93 x 110, Yellow Brick Road flannel quilt. It took me 4 days to complete the quilting. I did free hand feathers and swirls in the body of the quilt and a little more detailed free hand feather design in the borders. I put the quilt on the machine so that the long edge was attached to my leaders.

Sherrees-Quilt

Click on the photo for a larger view

Note: I drove a school bus for nearly 20 years and we did our time cards, etc., in hundredths. So 15 minutes would be .25, 30 minutes would be .50, 45 minutes would be .75. This is how I keep track of my time when working on quilts and it is easy (to me) to calculate.

Day 1 – put quilt on the machine – .75 (45 minutes)

Day 2 – marked and quilted most of the top (as attached to the machine) border – .75

Day 3 – remainder of top border and body of the quilt – .75 + .75. Total of 1.5 hours.

Note: I was having problems with a sore muscle in my right arm and could only quilt about 45 minutes at a time before having to stop and rest.

Day 4 – two sessions of .75 each and 1 session of 1 hour. Total 2.5 hours

Total time worked on this 5.5 hours and I added an extra .5 “just because”, for a grand total of 6 hours working on this quilt.

I charged my customer $375 for the labor (93 x 110 = 10,230si x .035 = $358, rounded up to $375) which I divided by 6 hours = $62.50 per hour!

You can draw your own conclusions about this!

I welcome your thoughts and comments!

—————————————-

I received a comment about quilting the borders and I have been trying to post a photo in the comments reply section and I couldn’t do it. So I’m responding here –

No, I did not have to turn the quilt. I was able to quilt the border design at the same time that I quilted the body of the quilt.

Here is a photo of the border design drawn out on the quilt border.

Feather Design in the border

Feather Design in the border

I used the Expo Bright Stick markers on top of Plexiglas to draw the design. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The white lines are registration lines I marked on the quilt top and the pink lines are the quilting lines.

I used Signature cotton thread “Latte” for the quilting – you can’t see the stitching lines, just the texture.

Advertisements

About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 11 and quilting forever!

13 Responses to Playing the Pricing Game

  1. Leeanna Brunsell says:

    Very good information and great replies. I’ve been longarm quilting since the late 80s. Pricing has always been a challenge. I must say I have reluctantly raised my prices, but I also make value judgments. I always do the best work I’m able but less intricate/time-consuming for those who are on fixed income, et al. My heart is in the intense, creative, value-added beauty, but few quilters can afford that. This is how I earn enough to live in addition to my “fixed income”. There is work to do and we can make it work for everyone. That is why I LOVE this business. Now, I would like to know what marking tools you used on the quilt – please and thank you!! Leeanna

    • Cindy Roth says:

      Thank you for your comments on my post. Not every quilt needs super duper intense quilting, nor can every piecer afford that kind of quilting. We have to make those judgments and work with our customers to do the best we can for their quilts.

      What I use for marking is – for a customer quilt with light color fabrics I use Mark-b-Gone fabric marker, which is the blue marker that disappears with a spritz of water. For dark color fabrics I use Miracle Chalk Powder in a Chalk-o-Liner (COL) dispenser. I remove the chalk that comes in the COL and throw it out. Then I replace it with the Miracle Chalk. The Miracle Chalk with disappear with steam or by rubbing briskly with a micro fiber cloth.

      For my own quilts, or quilts that I can wash with warm water and detergent, I use fine point, Crayola WASHABLE markers. These markers are cheap, can be found almost anyplace and they REALLY come out!

      • Leeanna Brunsell says:

        Great and thank you. I can see some quilts need to be marked before loading but most of what I do is “free-spirited” 🙂 and could use markings after loading. It is such a test because many chalk markers require too much pressure to mark on a loaded quilt. I love my chalk-o-liner, too, but didn’t know about Miracle Chalk…thanks!

  2. CJ says:

    Reblogged this on Tink² = Longarm Quilting… and a bit of everything else ! and commented:
    In communities like mine, I feel it’s so important to share this information. I’m the highest priced quilter in the area, and I don’t charge enough.

  3. I have a long arm that I bought for my own use, but with the intention of quilting for others. I am just starting to put together my business model. I completely agree that quilters need to charge a reasonable rate. I have seen several articles like your that talk about calculating machine time rates. But I have yet to see anyone cover how they charge for their design time. What do you do about design time? Do you charge for time to sit with the client to come up with design? If the customer leaves the design to your discretion to you charge time for that?

    • Cindy Roth says:

      Design time can be a tricky thing. Personally, I allow about an hour for the quilt intake and build that into the price I charge my customer. If you feel that you will have to do a lot (you define “a lot”) of work / design before you begin quilting, then I would build that into the price you are charging. How much do you charge for design time? That is up to you. Again, I would come up with an estimated fee for design time and add that to my total labor charge.

      If this is “routine” design time of what will I quilt on this quilt, generally I don’t charge for this, but if the designs are custom, or I have to do a LOT of planning, drawing, deciding, communicating with the customer, etc., then I will add extra time, and extra fees, to my final labor charge. I estimate this time and if I spend less time than anticipated, then I can – if I choose – reduce the labor fees a little bit.

      You will find that the more you quilt – for yourself and others – the less design time you will need, unless you are working on something “extreme” or outside your comfort zone.

  4. wjfuller77 says:

    Cindy,
    I love seeing this type of post and want to thank you for continuing to help us all find ways to understand the value we add to a quilt and the way you help us see that the work we do is an art that takes skill and is worth getting paid for!
    I’d like to share another story of pricing woes that I recently came across… one that really got me fired up to help others see this issue:
    I was at a guild meeting and in the show and share time, one of the longarmers was up there. She said, “I don’t normally show customer quilts, but I’m so proud of this! I’ve spent over 40 hours on it!” It happened to be a 55×55″(ish) Judy Neimeyer quilt. It got some oooo’s and aaahhhh’s, and I couldn’t wait until the end of the session to go see it in person (I was in the back and couldn’t see details), as I’m a continuous learner and wanted to soak this in. I mean, WOW… 40 hours on a quilt that size… I was already impressed with the expected details and all! I had just been asked to quilt a JN quilt and it would be my first, so wanted ideas! (I’ve been longarm quilting for 5 years and have been quilting for customers with my formal business for two now)
    So I went up to her after class and started talking to her about it… It was very nicely done, and I quickly learned that it was a computer design purchased from JN/Quiltworx and she explained that it takes many hours to line up all of the small areas to quilt one by one. I was quite impressed with her patience with this process, as I am a hand-guided longarmer. I know it takes skills to do both methods! Like you, I then was calculating about how much time it might have taken me to do freehand (and I consulted with another hand guided quilter there…) we agreed it was about 10-15 hrs worth of work for our process.
    So then came the delicate moment of asking the longarmer how much she charged for it. She started off with many comments and explanations as to how difficult it is to find clients where she lives and that she has to be careful not to overprice because they will go elsewhere. (this already concerned me) She then told me she also had to spend $60 on the computer design, which she said she didn’t charge the customer for. (I’m not sure the standard practice on this, as I’m not a computer gal) So, when she finally got around to telling me she charged the customer (are you sitting down????) $60, I could have just cried!! I actually had to ask her to clarify to make sure I hear her right. I tried as carefully as I could to say “So, am I understanding you right in that you spent 40 hours working on this, you spent $60 for the design, and you charged her $60… so you basically did this for free and only covered the cost of the design?” YES. ouch.
    Without giving the longarmer a “mom lecture”, (she’s older than I am) I HAD to say something. I gently spoke to how she deserves to be paid for the work she put into it, and that not only personally does she have the right to the respect and the pay for that project, but the community of longarmers (myself and the second handguided longarmer that was standing there with her jaw dropped open as well) needed her to stand up for us.
    I mean who wouldn’t want to go have her to a JN quilt per the Quiltworx quilting pattern with 40 hours of work for only $60!!!! She painfully talked to us about how her clients were dropping off and this past year was the first year she actually lost money. It was a difficult conversation, but we talked to her about creating a new client base through skill, customer service, and fair pricing. She has a lot of things to consider, I’m sure, but oh my…
    SO, again… THANK YOU, Cindy for continuing to remind us that we are a valuable part of the quit making process. And that finding customers that appreciate our unique styles and the services we deliver (so that we can charge what we’re worth) is imperative!!
    Wendy

  5. Pamela Schenck says:

    I have been reading these types of articles for almost a year with interest. I’d like to speak from the other side of the road. I know I’m one of those people who you would consider under charging for their services. I don’t consider myself under charging, I also consider myself a very good quilter. I do some custom but mostly edge to edge. My business mission statement could say, to see everyday people get their quilts finished at an affordable price, hence my business name “Affordable quilting and fabric shop”. There are wonderful quilters whom I admire that I’m happy to refer a person to and I have their cards available.
    We used to have our taxes done by “X” company and paid $$$$ yearly. Switched over to a local firm (husband & wife) and pay $$ for the same quality and they feel they make a fair wage and living. Whom would you use? Do you ever wander into Wal-mart or only shop Abercrombie & Fitch.
    I’m a professional quilter charging a fair price for the everyday person. My price starts @.015 and that includes thread, I stay booked out. Many in my area start @.03 plus extras and those quilters stay booked months out the same as me. I make a fair wage and living. I’m not trying to under sell or “hurt” the local industry as everyone stays pretty booked. There are all levels of pricing in everything including the quilting world.

    • Ruth Cook says:

      I’m with you Pamela. Oh don’t get me wrong, I would love to do all custom work and charge $.08 psi. I would be able to do less quilting and make more money. But, my customers are mostly retired and live on fixed incomes. I decided when I started this business that I wanted everyone who wanted a professional to do their quilts could afford it. My standard is, if I can’t afford my prices than neither will my clients be able to afford them. I also am booked, not months, but weeks out. Many of the quilters in my area charge two to three times what I do and they are also booked 6 weeks to 4 months out. There is room for everyone and all prices. If I’m happy with my income then whats the big deal?

  6. leeanne says:

    Wonderful post Cindy! I thank you. I have always kept a time tally, I am in this quilting ‘gig’ for business, not to help friends out. This is my livelihood. I have spend many years of practice, practice, practice, plenty of money on a fabulous machine, why should I pay myself LESS than the minimum wage. We are worth it, as good quilters.

  7. Jan says:

    I feel this is the trickest part of starting a business… I don’t want to over charge but yet this is a skill that many have no desire to do/ or can’t do.
    You give us all a lot to think about….thank you!

  8. Sharon Deming says:

    Cindy, I have a question. On this quilt, did you turn the quilt to complete the border(s)?

    • Cindy Roth says:

      No, I did not turn the quilt to complete the borders. I have a photo and more details at the bottom of the post which is above.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: