Despite the growing popularity of throw-away clothing from discount retailers in the USA, people do still purchase and wear quality clothing that requires occasional repair or alteration. Many skills that were once considered elementary and essential, skills like sewing and repairing clothing, have become rather uncommon in the USA. This creates an opportunity for those who are skilled with a needle and thread (and perhaps a sewing machine) to start their own home-based business repairing and altering clothing.
The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in their occupational projections data, reports that nearly 55,000 people worked as “tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers” in 2008. Unfortunately, this industry is expected to shrink over the next decade from 2008 – 2018, losing two percent of the occupational jobs in the decade. BLS reports that median annual wages are “low” at $24,990 for those working as tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers. 43.5 percent of tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers are self-employed.
Starting a home-based clothing repair and alterations business may require setting up a dedicated work area in your home. Dragging everything from the closet to the kitchen table may work satisfactorily for the occasional repair, but this system will probably not work well once you have a business going. Setting up a dedicated work area for your business will improve your image as a home-based professional. This will also make it easier to keep track of customer’s clothing, and will probably make working easier and more pleasant. This work area may be a spare room or even a converted garage or shop on your property. A room with a separate entrance is most convenient as this avoids needing to have customers pass through the rest of your home on each visit.
Offering a pickup and delivery service to customers may be an option worth considering. This can set you apart from any competition and increase the value and convenience of your service to your customers. Including a pickup and delivery service fee in the invoice could offset the cost of offering the service.
Some clothing repair and alteration businesses contract with local dry cleaners, dress and clothing shops, and bridal boutiques to provide contract alterations and repairs. This can increase your business since these related businesses have a steady supply of customers already. Many of their customers will require alteration or repair work on occasion.
Customers for your home-based clothing repair and alterations business will likely be drawn from your local area. However, it is also possible to specialize in a certain type of work and to market much more widely with clothing being shipped back and forth between the customer and the repair shop. Other businesses are probably more likely to be willing to ship clothing to an outsourced seamstress or tailor than consumers will be though.
Word-of-mouth advertising is always the holy grail of advertising. This is also true in the clothing repair and alterations business. Many people do not know where to take their clothing for repairs or alterations and may have clothing hanging in the closet just waiting until they find someone to repair the items. A personal recommendation from a friend, family member or co-worker will be all that is required for them to become a customer too. Customers can be encouraged to spread the word about your business through the use of “rewards programs” that offer discounts or free work in exchange for referrals.
Business cards are a useful marketing tool. Cards should be professionally printed to convey an image of professionalism. Professionally printed cards are an inexpensive investment in your marketing plan. Business cards can be distributed to potential customers whenever the subject of your new business comes up in a conversation. They can also be included when returning clothing to customers to be sure that they have your contact information handy when they need it again.
Advertising in a local newspaper or classified ads publication can be an effective way of increasing awareness of your clothing repair and alterations business. Community newspapers and classified ad publications often have affordable rates for ads. Discounts are usually offered for long-term advertising agreements with these publications.
Craigslist is becoming an increasingly important classified ads service. Many people now look to Craigslist first when they are looking for a job, apartment, vehicle, or professional service ad. Best of all, most Craigslist ads are free in most markets. Placing a professional services ad on Craigslist is another way to make sure that customers can find you when they are looking for someone to repair or alter their clothing.
Setting up a business website is an inexpensive way to advertise what services you offer, your rates for repairs and alterations, and to list contact information and directions to your business location. A business website also allows you to display photos of your work and testimonials from satisfied customers.
Distributing or posting brochures at local office or professional buildings can put you in contact with potential customers. People who work in office buildings often wear more expensive clothing and may choose to have their clothing repaired rather than replacing the item. People who wear better clothing and suits will often have them altered to accommodate weight gains or losses as well.
Putting a sign or lettering on your vehicle can advertise your clothing repair and alterations business everywhere you go. This can be particularly helpful if you are providing pickup and delivery services to your customers since their neighbors or co-workers will see your business advertised when you make pickups and deliveries.
Detailed work orders, complete with the customer’s signature, can prevent misunderstandings and problems after the work has been completed. Work orders should describe the article of clothing, any damage or wear to the garment, the work that will be performed, the cost of the repair, and when the repair will be completed. This simple paperwork process can eliminate many problems later when you have completed the repair or alteration.
Business auto insurance or a business use rider on your personal auto insurance is required if you will use your vehicle for business. This is particularly important if you are putting a sign or lettering on your vehicle. Your auto insurance company may deny a claim if your vehicle is not properly insured. Contact your auto insurance agent with any specific questions about your insurance needs.
Comprehensive business insurance may be in order if you have customers coming to your home or are storing customer clothing at your home. This insurance could protect you in the event that someone was injured at your home or if their clothing were to be destroyed or damaged while at your home for repair or alteration.
Local zoning laws should be checked in advance of starting any business that will require customers to come to your home on a regular basis. These laws vary considerably between municipalities and sometimes even between neighborhoods.
Starting a home-based clothing repair and alterations business can be a good business for someone who is skilled at sewing. Many people are not able to repair or alter their own clothing and require the services of someone who is able. This business can also be started quite inexpensively if you already have the supplies and equipment you need from your own sewing projects.
United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Site accessed on 7 October 2010.
Linda DuToit. Start a Successful Sewing Business Doing Repairs and Alterations. Suite101.com. Site accessed on 23 November 2010.
Emma S. How to Start an Alterations Business – Alterations: Making a Living Repairing Clothing. Associated Content. Site accessed on 23 November 2010.