Having your own business as a dressmaker can be a rewarding and lucrative venture. However, as with any small business, dressmaking has its share of pitfalls. Stop for a moment and carefully consider the problems you might encounter once you open your own business, and you'll save quite a few headaches in the future! Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid when starting out as a dressmaker:
1. Not Implementing Store Policies
Have policies in place, and state them clearly. Make sure that customers are aware of these policies the moment they place an order. Many instances of customer dissatisfaction can be avoided completely by being absolutely clear about your rules and regulations. For example, if you alter wedding gowns, but do not dry clean them afterwards, make sure the bride understands that this is something she will have to make arrangements to do herself. If you can only hold finished garments for a certain period of time, let your clients know.
2. Not Communicating Clearly
Be truthful about what the client can expect from you, and make sure she understands the end result. If you promise to deliver by a certain date, stick to your commitment. If for some reason anything goes wrong, be sure to talk to your customer directly. At all times, be clear and concise when you communicate. For example, if a gown requires extensive altering to create the look your customer wants, be realistic about the outcome. You are the expert, after all, and it is up to you to relay your instincts to your customer.
3. Not Getting Extra Help
If your business is booming and you have more than you can handle, get extra help. Have a friend or family member answer phones or handle billing if you are just getting through a rough patch. Or consider hiring an extra seamstress to help with smaller jobs. Don't try to be Superwoman and do it all, and don't be afraid to ask for assistance. In the end, your customers will be served more efficiently, and that will make them happy. That's what matters most!
4. Not Having the Proper Equipment
If your current sewing machine is too basic or not sturdy enough to handle the rigors of professional dressmaking, invest in a heavy-duty machine. Purchase a serger/overlock machine that will give garments a finished look. Make sure you have a few dressmaker dummies. Have a lot of cheap fabric, like muslin, on hand for making toiles. This is business planning at its most basic: you simply cannot handle jobs properly if you don't have suitable equipment.
5. Not Setting Accurate Prices
It is easy to underrate your services and charge too little, and this will make your potential profits nosedive. Take the time to accurately assess your rates, and make sure you budget enough of your valuable time to get the job done. Obviously, hemming a skirt takes much less work than creating a custom prom dress. Your prices should reflect this difference.
The bottom line? Strive at all times to be clear, accurate, and most of all, practical in your business dealings. By avoiding these 5 common mistakes, your dressmaking business will be satisfying and profitable for years to come.
Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.