Timing Challenge Update

I received this email a few days ago –

I’m reporting on your challenge! I have taken your challenge and mostly been able to stick to it by using a stopwatch feature on my FitBit, and when I forget to hit the button, I guesstimated.

I recently did a batik throw, measuring 48 x 41. (1968 square inches) Originally I was going to do an allover pattern but the quilt “spoke” to me so I ended up doing more creative things on it. Here are my statistics.

Setup on longarm, including quick pressing, winding bobbins, pinning on and basting. – 0.75
Quilting Time – 1.0 + 0.5 + 2.5
Finishing Up – rough trim, bury threads I missed, check over and recheck, invoicing – .5
Total time 5.25 hours.

At 0.4 cents per square inch, that invoiced out at $78.72, or $14.99 per hour for my time, which isn’t bad, but my “hourly” rate is $25, so this quilt either took too long or I am not charging enough. Basically it should have taken me three hours start to finish based on a $25/hour labor rate. No way could I have done this amount of work in that time, unless I had stuck to my original plan of an all over design.

I have eight more quilts lined up to go so I will continue the challenge and see how things really are… It’s eye-opening!

Karyn Dornemann
www. karynquilts.com
(posted with the quilters permission)

Here are some photos of the quilting Karyn did – Please click on the photos to enlarge the view. I left the photos large so that you can see the detail of the quilting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karyn, I am glad to hear that you timed yourself when you were working on this quilt – which, by the way, is amazing! You did a fabulous job on the quilting!

I agree, timing your work IS eye opening! When something like this happens to me, I call it a “learning experience” and I hope that I do LEARN something from it.

I would like to make a couple of comments-

I think all quilters, at one time or another, have had a quilt “speak” to them and they change the original quilting designs to something else. It always seems that the change(s) will take more time and be more detailed quilting.

All of these changes are assumed to fall under the “do whatever you want / quilt as desired” statement and documented on the worksheet and approved by the quilt’s owner.

Personally, if I choose to quilt a more complex, detailed design, then I “absorb” the extra time and the (potential) loss of the extra quilting $$.

I do not add extra $$ to the cost of the quilting job after I give a written estimate to my customer. Think of how you feel if something costs more (possibly way more) than what you were told it was going to cost at the start! (Think car repairs!)

I will still keep track of the quilting time involved so that the next time I use that technique, pattern, template, etc., I will be able to give a more accurate estimate due to the extra time involved when using that technique, pattern, template, etc., on the next quilt.

Let’s say you are intaking a quilt and the customer says, “I really like what you did on so-and-so’s quilt, (or seen on another quilt someplace else) can you do it on my quilt?” You know what pattern / design / technique that she is talking about and you know that it will take longer to complete. Or, you suggest a pattern / technique / template, etc., and you KNOW that it will take more time to complete. Whatever the scenario, in your mind, figure out how many extra hours it will take – then by all means, ADD extra $$ to what you will charge to cover the extra time it will take to for you to complete the quilt!

Going back to my contractor example from a few posts ago – if you were working with a contractor on a home improvement and you wanted to add something that would take more time and effort for the contractor to do, wouldn’t the contractor charge extra for this? Then why shouldn’t you, as a “quilting contractor” do the same thing.

Recently, I was working on a customer quilt and I came up with a new border design using one of my templates. I knew it was going to take more time, but I didn’t know HOW much extra time it would actually take. My choice was to go ahead and use the new design and assume it would take extra time to quilt.

The quilt was 96 x 96 inches and I estimated about 2 hours for the (original design) border quilting. The actual quilting time for the border, using the new design, was 4 hours! This was a “learning experience” for me (one of many.) If I use that design again, my choice would be to add extra $$$ – a lot of extra $$$ – to my fee! OR, I can do less intense quilting in the body of the quilt (less time) and the more intense border quilting (more time) and between the two, they would equal the time for a “normal” quilt, which I would charge accordingly.

I know, this is all as clear as mud!!

Going back to the Karyn’s quilt in the email – small quilts are NOTORIOUS for taking a LOT longer to quilt! (Ask me how I know this!)

I know that I will look at a smaller quilt and think “if I do this more complex, time consuming technique /pattern, template, etc., it won’t take THAT long!” Guess what? Most of the time it does take longer (sometimes a lot longer) to finish!

With a small quilt, I will generally over estimate the time / cost of the quilting. If it takes significantly less time to quilt, I can always reduce the price of the quilting, which makes my customer happy. But if it takes longer to quilt, then at least I have some $$ for my time and effort.

Having these “learning experiences” is how we learn what techniques take more time, and on the flip side, which techniques take less time to quilt!

By timing your work, over time, you should get a bunch of averages. You should get an average amount of quilting time on a quilt, which you can break down to Queen size, King size, etc. You should also get an average price for your quilting, which you can, again, break down to techniques, such as average price for template work, free hand work, pantographs, etc.

From all of this, over time, you will be able to figure out if you are really making any $$ with your quilting!

Yes, I know we all are having way too much fun quilting, but, if you are quilting as a business – and many of you are quilting as your main source of income – then you NEED to KNOW all this information and you need to KNOW if you are making any $$.

As always, I welcome your comments and I hope to hear from more of you about your results from timing your work.

Post any comments in the comments box or if you would like to contact me personally, send me an email at longarmu@aol.com.

Advertisements

Make it Happen!

Happy 2017!

new-year-lgI hope that 2017 is a year of great things, many quilts, and great prosperity for you!

Make 2017 be the year YOU “make it happen” in your quilting business life.

How do you “make it happen” in your quilting business? First, decide what “happen” is. Is it more customers? Is it more $$$? Is it getting more inspiration or creativity? Once you can decide what you want, you can then work on getting it!

I know, it sounds so simple, but sometimes it is the hardest thing to do! I am going to take the next few blog posts and write about some of these “wants.”

You want more customers.

If you want more customers, think about who your customers are, where are they, and how are you going to let them know what you do?

We are machine quilters and if you ask, who is your customer, you usually respond with “anyone who makes a quilt!” But let’s try to be a little more specific. If you say ANYONE who has a quilt is a customer, and someone brings you the worlds ugliest quilt that is poorly pieced, has LOTS of threads hanging from it, it does not lay flat,  it’s not square and it (literally) stinks – your customer is known as the local cat lady – and the customer wants you to quilt it for el-cheapo prices, will you quilt it? Before you answer that, ask yourself – Do I REALLY want this person as a customer? If your answer to both of these questions is NO then something has to change.

Let’s also assume that the last few customers have been like this. You may have to play detective to find out how they found you. When you learn that, then you can do what is necessary to get your information off the “bad customer list”.

Now you have to find out how to get your information onto the “good customer list” and find “good” customers!

Here are some of the typical ways of doing this –

  • Join a quilt guild in another part of your neighborhood, city, county, etc.
  • Work with other quilters doing other quilting “stuff.” Is there is a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sit-and-sew in your area? Join it. Work on your projects, but bring completed works for show and tell!
  • If you can teach piecing, teach at your local quilt shop or even teach in your home or community center. This is double $$$ for you! For a fee you teach them how to make the quilt and then charge them for quilting the class project!

Here are some other ways to find new customers –

Find out who the teachers are in the local, or not so local, quilt shops and offer to quilt their class quilts for a discounted fee. (In general, I’m not a fan of discounts, but this is one place where I feel it is justified.) Many quilt instructors teach at several shops and your quilting could be shown in a wider area. I would get an email or physical address of the teacher and send any discounts directly to her/him.

A while back when I was teaching out of state, I was talking with a quilter who said they were concentrating on getting customers from a specific zip code. (This zip code was in a large metropolitan area.) I asked why that zip code? The answer was “that is where the rich people live!” This quilter was doing what was necessary, in that zip code, to contact, connect to and work with new customers.

I have talked with quilters who live in smaller towns and they say they “can’t” attend guild meetings out of their neighborhood because of where they live, etc. I am a “big city girl” and I don’t really understand this way of thinking. You have the courage to purchase a quilting machine, learn how to use it, practice, practice, practice some more and start a machine quilting business. You do all that and you don’t have the courage to go across town to a quilt guild meeting? YOU have to choose what is best for YOU and YOUR business. I say, take the deep breath, bring your show and tell, and GO to the meeting. You might be surprised – you should get a warm welcome, and possibly some more customers!

Where is it written and what “rule” says that your customers are ONLY from your area? Have you ever thought of getting customers from away (maybe far away) from where you live?

Do you live in a tourist area? Are there any gift shops you could put some quilted items (pillows, coasters, table runners, possibly lap quilts, etc.) for sale? Of course on all of these items you include a label and / or business card with your contact info, maybe even stating that you quilt for others.

You might offer a “drop off” service, where the customer who is coming to your area for vacation can drop off their quilt with you to be quilted. When the quilt is completed, you ship it back to them for a shipping fee. Or you might offer a “pick up” service where the customer ships to quilt to you before their vacation and they can pick it up when they are in the area. Note: You MUST be able to get the quilt done before their vacation time ends!

If you have things planned properly, the out of the area customer could drop off their quilt at the start of their vacation and pick it up at the end – assuming the vacation is more than a day or two. I consider something like this to be a “rush job” and a rush job usually requires more $$ to do! And, if the customer wanted the quilt back in a few days, and you can do it, that would be a MAJOR rush job with MORE $$$ added to the cost!

You will have to be a little creative to find these customers, but I know it can be done!

Does your local quilt shop have a Block of the Month quilt where you have to attend a mini-class to get the next part of the quilt? If so, join it even if it isn’t your favorite type of quilt. Be there at every mini class with something that you made – and quilted – from the previous mini-class. You could make tote bags, table runners, lap quilts for a charity, etc. But SHOW what you can do with your quilting! Bring business cards but don’t do a “hard sell.”

Do you have a special technique or style of quilting that would appeal to other piecers and quilters? For example –

I know of a quilter who LOVES Judy Neimeyer quilts!  (For information on these quilts Click Here) She has pieced and quilted several of these quilts and is targeting other piecers who love this style of quilts. Quilting this type of quilt (foundation pieced with many, many,many small pieces) has many challenges and, because of this, a lot of extra $$$ can be charged to quilt this type of quilt.

Another quilter I know loves Civil War Reproduction quilts. Not only that, she lives in an area that is a Civil War battlefield tourist area. She is “targeting” other Civil War Reproduction quilt enthusiasts and working with local businesses / charities, etc., to showcase her quilts and quilting in their advertising and in their businesses.

Personally, I love doing Sashiko on quilts and I promote my Sashiko work on my personal blog  (To view some of my Sashiko Quilts Click Here)  And yes, I have done several quilts for people from other parts of the country who saw my work online and sent their quilts to me to quilt.

This should give you some ideas of how to get new customers. YOU have to think a little “out of the box” but I know you can do this.

I know that there are even more ways than these to find new customers! If you have another idea please send it to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com or put it in the comments section.

In my next post I will talk about getting your information out to others!

 

 

 

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.

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.

Machine Quilting Myth #2

Machine Quilting Myth #2
You can quilt two, three or more quilts per day!

Machine Quilting Myth #2 is a “sister” to Machine Quilting Myth #1. The reasoning goes that if it takes only an hour or two to quilt a quilt (Myth #1), than you should be able to quilt three or more quilts per day. Please, DON’T BELIEVE THIS! If you read the comments to Machine Quilting Myth #1, you will quickly realize that it takes MUCH longer than two or three hours to complete a quilt on a quilting machine. Can someone quilt more than one quilt per day?  Yes, it can be done and I have done it.

But … what is being quilted and what is the quality of the quilting.If the quilts are small, such as baby size quilts to a twin size quilt, you could do two per day, but I would think that the quilting would be more all over, edge to edge or pantograph work. Not that any of these techniques are “bad”, they are usually less time-consuming than custom work.

If the quilts are smaller and are using the same backing fabric, I’ll either put both quilts onto the quilting machine at the same time. Or,  I’ll measure, then mount the backing fabric on the machine for the two quilts, Then I’ll put the first quilt top on, quilt it, and then put the next quilt top on below the first quilt and continue quilting until finished.(Both quilts will be rolled onto the take up roller.)  If these quilts use different backings, then they need to be on the machine individually.

But other questions that this myth raises are – Do you REALLY want to be quilting more than one quilt per day? Let’s assume that the quilts are not small, but larger, maybe larger twin to king size. Do you want to be under pressure to quilt two (or more) large quilts per day? What kind of toll will be paid to your body, your mind, and your sanity if this pace is continued for a short while? Or over a long period of time? Will you have a life or time for family, friends or your community? Will you have time to complete your own quilts and projects?

I have written a short article title “How Many Quilts Can You Quilt?” It is in a pdf file and you can view it by Clicking Here  

Here are some questions for you and please post your answers as a Comment or send them directly to me at longarmu@aol.com

Have you every completed two or more quilts in one day?

If yes, what were their approximate sizes and what did you quilt on them? These answers don’t need to be specific, especially if you did this a while ago.

If you do quilt more than one quilt per day on a reasonably consistent basis, what sizes are the quilts (approximate) and what do you usually quilt on them.

Do you “group” the quilts together on one backing or do you mount each quilt individually on the quilt machine?

If you have any other comments on this topic, please post them.  I know we all learn a lot from what others have to say.

Welcome to the Machine Quilting Business Blog

Welcome to the Machine Quilting Business Blog. No matter if you have been a professional machine quilter for a long time or just getting started on my professional machine quilting journey, I hope this blog helps you along your way.

Please feel free to stay for a while and leave comments, questions and suggestions below. Or, send your comments and questions directly to me at longarmu@aol.com

Cindy Roth
Longarm University
www.LongarmUniversity.com