If you’ve found your way to my site, you know that you have at least the twinkle of a wonderful skill – dressmaking. Folks comment on the stuff you make, or approach you to make them copies of your own home-made clothes from time to time. With just a little effort, you could turn this spark into a thriving home-based business.
If you want to make a go of it, you must have excellent pattern-following abilities, an eye for details, and a business plan. If you plan to work in your spare time from home, this plan needn’t be much more than the answers to a few questions, though more detail is always better.
One of the first questions you’ll consider is the type of work you’ll do. You can sew home-furnishings, bags, pet clothes, children’s clothes, formal wear, or anything in between. You can likely even turn variations of your favorite personal pieces into the basis for a dressmaking business. There is always a need for basic alterations and repairs, and Halloween can be a wonderful time to pick up extra work making custom costumes for kids and their parents. Figuring out the primary work you’ll do, though, can help to frame the process for you.
The very life-blood of your dressmaking business will be your reliable sewing machine. If you’re considering going professional, it’s pretty likely that you already have a good machine. Even if it lacks some features that you’d like to have, you may be able to start building your business with it before upgrading. If you do need to upgrade, think carefully about the purchase, and read a few of the other articles on my site for some specific guidance with regards to cost, brand, and features.
Though many get by without them, if you have the money and the space, a serger will absolutely change the way you do your dressmaking. Able to create seams that are simply out of the realm of standard sewing machines, a serger will make your stitching look truly professional, while at the same time making your work significantly more durable. Beyond these machines, the other basic tools and equipment are likely already in your home or studio – shears, tape measures, needles, and the like.
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when you get started will be brining business in. A lot of this kind of work in small towns is passed via word of mouth – so let your friends, family, and neighbors know what you’re up to. Show them some of your work and ask them to keep you in mind as they talk with friends.
Local advertisement can be as simple as putting up fliers and business cards around town, or as complex as sitting down and doing some demos or short classes at a local fair or market. Donate a garment to a charity auction of two, where they will post information about your business. Also, don’t overlook the internet. Craigslist and other similar sites have a section where you can offer your services, as well as a section where others post their needs. Talk about your business in the former, and visit the latter regularly to pick up work.
If you’ll be working out of your home, you may want to stop hauling your machine into the living room or setting up on the kitchen table every time you have work to do. Not only will that quickly become tiresome, but you could get food on your professional work – not good. If you can, convert a spare room or corner of the basement into a permanent studio. Try to set up a space where you can work unperturbed and where you can have clients come by for discrete and professional measurements and fittings.
While introducing kids to dressmaking is a wonderful opportunity for building skills and bonding – if you want to be successful, you need to think of your studio as your office, where you can work without distraction and without stepping over toys, puppies, and kids. Keep your working space private, clean, and quiet whenever possible.
Finally, plan for financial success right from the start. Visit an accountant and learn how to track your income and expenses. See what expenses are tax deductible, and get some guidance on how to withhold applicable taxes. You could make a very tidy living as a dressmaker, so planning for financial success is preferable to being surprised when the tax man comes by for a visit.