I’ve always been an entrepreneur. When I was younger I would braid the hair of the kids in my building. At $10 a head, I used the money I made to buy fabric. Both my parents had sewing machines that I had access to, yes my father sewed too, and I’ve been making money off of sewing ever since.
Now, in the era of the gig economy it seems that nearly everyone has a side hustle. Executive Assistants by day can be sculptors by night. As you build your sewing skills you may be considering how you can start to monetize your new skill set. The good news is that it’s now easier than ever. Here are some ideas to get your side hustle going.
I ran a made-to-order business for many years. This entails consulting with clients to design clothing from scratch. You select everything together from the design, to the fabric, to closures. Often times people seek this service for formal wear. When there is an occasion that someone really wants to stand-out and wear something unique. Particularly, because this is an expensive service. People are making an investment in the clothing and the service often because they want an outfit to make memories in. Think about that when your marketing yourself.
Most people start off with a specialty (suits, men’s formal wear, gowns, etc.) and perfect that before moving onto other areas. Because this is a one-to-one service business you can charge more than what someone would pay off the rack. The key to success in this type of business is choosing the right clients, ones that know the value of custom made clothes and pay for it. Also, building a client base so that you always have a project to work on and there isn’t any lag time.
This service is the next best thing to a tailored made-to-order outfit. This entails individuals purchasing off-the-rack items and contracting with you to alter the clothes for better fit. This can include shortening a hem or letting it out for additional length, taking in the waistline, or adding darts in a shirt for a slimmer fit.
While you can still specialize, it is much easier to be a generalist in this area. Alteration don’t take as much time as an outfit from scratch, so the price point isn’t as high. Depending on what your altering would dictate the price point. For instance, adjusting a suit would cost more the hemming jeans.
Ready to Wear
Now, you know how I feel about ready to wear. But there is a market for it and when done with intentionality and thought it is an option. This business model takes the most upfront cost out of all the ones mentioned. An over-view of the upfront cost you would have to consider when getting started:
- You would have to develop patterns (including grading for multiple sizes)
- Source fabric and trims
- Find fit models
- If you’re not sewing everything yourself, other seamstresses or a factory that excepts small lot orders.
- There are other things to consider, I’m just scratching the surface.
If this is the way you want to go, narrowing your focus is one way to cut cost when getting started. Listed below are other options to keep cost to a minimum.
- Research your ideal customer and offer a limited size range to cut down on pattern development cost.
- Design a small collection of 5 to 10 pieces to limit fabric/ trim sourcing and pattern making.
- Use fabric and trim sources that sell wholesale and can reorder material as needed.
- Use a friend that fits the body type of your ideal customer as a fit model.
- In the beginning you may have to sew the first samples yourself and then give to seamstress(es) or small lot factory to sew the bulk of the pieces.
Selling Your Product/ Service
Once you have chosen the type of business you want and who you want to sell to, your niche, test it. Start small to see if there is a market for the service or products you want to sell. Alternatively, you can work backwards and find a community that you want to serve and make what they want or what appeals to them.
Artists and entrepreneurs have more direct access to consumers than ever before. Fast growing businesses such as Etsy and Shopify just to name few, have created platforms designed to facilitate selling your clothes if you choose the ready-to-wear option.
Platforms like Thumbtack can be used to post your tailoring or alteration services.
Finally, you must not underestimate the importance of social media. Building your followership on Instagram, Facebook or other platforms is an effective way to get buzz and word-of-mouth referrals.
Which method appeals most to you? Leave a comment below.