From a longarm quilter's perspective, there can be a lot of fear and anxiety in what to charge clients, especially if you are just starting a business. I was right there, too, especially at the beginning of my journey.
I just looked back at some of my invoices before I got my longarm. I started taking on miscellaneous sewing projects in 2007, and I charged someone $120 for making a twin quilt on my home sewing machine. This project would have required me to buy the fabric, batting, and thread, baste the layers on my kitchen floor with a lot of safety pins, free motion quilt it through the small throat space, trim, make and apply the binding... the whole shebang. A small saving grace is that it was a whole cloth quilt (no extra piecing required) made with solid fabrics (less expensive than some designer prints) with a simple meander requested as the quilting motif. The project cost me probably around $60 in materials (buying retail at the store with no wholesale accounts), which would have left me around $60 in labor, which would have resulted in I don't even want know how much per hour.
There's a reason why I'm not still offering that service! It's where I started, literally not having anyone to talk to about this kind of a thing and just eager to make any kind of money, not factoring my time or expertise into the equation.
Why do we price so low?
Here are just a few things that have gone through my mind over the years: I didn't feel confident in what I was offering, at least not right away. I was afraid of overcharging. I worried about what someone else would think of me as a person (Who does she think she is?). I didn't think I could possibly charge more than any other longarm quilter in my area. I loved quilting so much that I wanted to make it easily accessible to everyone. I didn't have any other employment at that time, so I figured that even if I was making $2/hour, it was comparatively more than $0/hour. (Ouch, this stings.)
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
No matter what kind of services we provide, short-changing ourselves is a sure-fire way to develop feelings of resentment that can quickly lead to burnout. It's simply not a sustainable way to do business.
When we know better, we do better—that's the hope, anyway. We're all on that journey to knowing better. As a quilter, evolving your business model, service or product offerings, and prices based on changing knowledge, increased skill, and circumstances should be the name of the game.
First, honor where you started. Next, let's normalize not staying the same. Let's feel good about learning, growing, and changing!
My Informal Survey
Recently, I became very curious about how much people were willing to spend to have a quilt quilted and so I asked my Instagram audience (via Stories from my @threadedquilting account) for their help. I phrased it this way:
What is the most you've ever paid for a single quilt to be quilted (edge-to-edge or custom)?
This was obviously a very un-scientific process as the Instagram Story and responses were only collected for 24 hours. In almost all cases, the actual dollar amount wasn't exact, and we don't know the size of the quilt, if tax was included, or really... if shipping and batting were included for that matter. We're also relying on the memory of respondents providing a quick answer and likely not looking back in their records.
What follows are the 84 responses I received. I did convert into US Dollars when other currencies were given. The amounts were sorted from lowest to highest dollar amounts.
Remember, this is the MOST they ever paid for a single quilt to be quilted OR if they were a quilter, the highest amount they invoiced for quilting a single quilt.
The average price was $384 (rounded to the nearest dollar) and the median price was $275.
I would guess that most of the responses over the $400 range indicate custom work, but that is not important to my objective. I was looking for evidence of what one person was monetarily willing to exchange for the quilting of one quilt.
I will admit that my favorite responses were ones with comments that the money was totally worth it! :) Ideally, a longarm quilter will be able to provide results that the client wouldn't be able to accomplish on their own, especially without a lot of time and hassle. I hope that clients find JOY in being able to hire out awesome quilting so that they don't have to do it themselves. I love a good win-win!
As longarm quilters, we put so much money into our equipment. Often, we put even more money and time into education, training, and skill development for how to use our machines effectively. We buy designs to give our clients a broad range of options to choose from or we work like mad learning new hand-guided motifs in the case of a non-computerized or non-pantograph quilter.
We spend as much time as needed with each client in design consultations via emails, texts, phone calls, in-person appointments, etc. before work begins. And then there is storing and prepping quilts, managing a queue of waiting work, the loading process, thread changes, setting up computerized designs and adjusting the scale, if necessary, or formulating the quilting plan.
And then FINALLY, we reach the point where we can actually start stitching! Huzzah! We either stand hunched over the frame hand-guiding the machine for the whole process or we stand watching the computer stitch out, trying to predict and navigate around any "hot spots" in the quilt and generally supervising until it's time to roll the quilt to a new pass. Then we advance the quilt, fixing any issues that pop up along the way.
When the quilting is complete, we'll still need to take photos, invoice the work, package it up, and ship it or make arrangements for the pickup, all of which takes time.
Even with totally computerized edge-to-edge quilting, it's not simply a matter of pressing a button and walking away! There is a lot of time involved beyond the time it's "under the needle".
If you are a longarm quilter, I'd challenge you to consider the whole process from initial contact to the return of a quilt when you think about your pricing. Consider the VALUE you are providing, as well.
Think of how much we pay hairstylists for their hard work, extract that to an hourly rate. Standing on their feet for long hours, using their skill set, tools, and expertise to provide a haircut and/or color... and that won't even last "forever" as our quilting services do! 😁 Back to the haircut scenario, yes, we could cut it ourselves or price-shop until we get the cheapest price. But, I love my stylist and eagerly pay whatever she charges. When she does raise her prices, I'm the first to say "good for you" because she does a great job and I trust her. I want the transaction to be worth it for her because I want her to stay in business—selfishly, for me, yes—but also for her, her family, and the rest of her clientele.
Do you see the parallels, too? It's about time we start thinking of ourselves as quilt stylists, don't you think?! :)
We'd love to share a little bit about how we support longarm quilters through education and community. Updates typically go out on Wednesdays - we'd love to stay in touch with you!