As many of you know, I am a sewing teacher. I absolutely adore my job.
I can’t take credit for how it’s grown; the Lord Jesus Christ is the One who gave me all of my students, and I thank Him every day for the opportunity I have to teach this long lost skill that I love so much.
My dad’s favorite Bible verse is found in Proverbs 21:31:
“The horse is made ready for battle, but victory is from the Lord.”
I think this is a favorite verse of mine too.
I want to encourage y’all to work for what you want, but never forget that it’s the Lord who will bless your future business, and Him alone. (I didn’t just wake up and become a sewing teacher. It took WORK!)
Excited? You should be! Let’s get ready for battle.
Starting a Sewing Business 101
1. Get Confident.
It may sound surprising, but I have male students as well as female students, and guess which gender tends to learn sewing more quickly? The males! The biggest difference I have found is that males have tons of confidence in comparison to their female counterparts. Instead of worrying about failing, they just start sewing.
Ladies, it’s going to take a ton of confidence in your sewing abilities to start a small business. Pray, ask the Lord to give your strength, and work hard to learn and practice skills you feel a bit shaky with. Remember that there will ALWAYS be someone who is prettier, smarter, funnier, more skilled, etcetera, etcetera etcetera. Stop comparing yourself! Comparison is the thief of joy. Instead, be thankful for who you are and who God made you. The best way to build more confidence in yourself is to follow the second step:
2. Find your Niche
Niche: or appropriate
I think the best way to get a feel as to what your personal style is, is to start collecting little things that you absolutely love. Maybe it’s a swatch of gold fabric, a pretty ribbon or vintage buttons. Whatever tells yourself “this is so me!” Buy a corkboard and pin these inspiration pieces on it and hang it up in your sewing room. Keep it here and look to it often to stay focused on your personal style.
Making what YOU think it beautiful and useful is the best way to target a group of customers who share your aesthetic, and it also gives your work a professional cohesive look. This is especially important when your business grows and you start to add different products to your line.
I’m not only talking about selling handmade items! Your niche may be doing alterations for people, or teaching lessons. Finding a personal “style” will still be important. You need to let your customers know what your “specialty” is (maybe it’s teaching upholstery classes or only altering wedding dresses, etc.), and own it!
Once you find your niche/speciality/style, write it down. Put it on your board. Don’t be afraid to let it evolve and expand, but don’t forget who you are. [Wow, that sounded Disney.] Time to move on to step 3!
3. Don’t just say “yes”
When you are starting your own business, you need to commit to not saying “yes” unless you really mean it.
Y’all, I can’t begin to tell you the amount of promises and the “oh I’ll do that as soon as I have time”‘s I have given in my life. I have the hardest time telling anyone “no”. It became a HUGE problem in my sewing business; I ended up overcommitting to the point where I was up till 2 most nights getting alterations for customers done, and then up by 6 or 7 the next morning only to spend all day teaching lessons.
I found that in trying to do everything, I ended up doing mediocre work, which is never okay if you’re trying to start a business in the competitive world. (Another reason to follow step #2 above! Find your niche!)
One day, I read this little statement in this random book (or maybe it was an article on Facebook… Anyway it was one of those inspirational books/articles that I usually ignore), and it went like this:
“Saying yes to one thing is saying no to something else”.
That hit home with my people-pleaser personality type! My “yes”‘s were actually “no”‘s to someone else! A lightbulb went off.
Don’t say “yes” right away. Pause. Breath. Think about it first.
Personally for me, I memorized a little response to the people who asked me to do things for them (for real, I had random people coming into my sewing classroom and dropping prom dresses off for me to alter DURING class. As in: sew these up really quickly while you are teaching. The worst part? I would stand there and let them walk all over me! Not ok.).
My go-to line became: “Sorry, I need to check my calender and see if I have any openings. In the meantime, check out Moda on Richmond Road. They do wonderful alterations!”
If you can’t so no to anyone, memorize your own go-to line. Write it down and hang that one up on your corkboard too.
Please don’t let any person walk all over you because you’re young, nice and you have the ability to do it.
4. Be a Doer
I know I just got done saying not to say “yes” to every soul who asks you to fall down and kiss their feet… But in the beginning of your business, you need to be jumping at the chance to do any sewing work for anyone.
I remember when I got my first sewing student ever. I was so excited! My entire life was spent planning out what I was going to teach her every week. If she wanted specialty beaded fabric from London, you better believe I was surfing eBay and looking for the best imported fabric deals.
I bent over backwards to make sure she absolutely loved sewing lessons. Guess what? That 1 student told all her friends about sewing lessons and they told their friends who told their friends.
I had 86 more students by the end of the year.
What I am trying to tell you is, when you do say yes, be a DOER. Get up and work hard to the best of your abilities.
Surprise your customer with early deadlines, never late ones.
Keep commitments when you make them.
Procrastination will kill you. It’s honestly just a bad habit that all of us need to break! In this day and age, it’s easy to get distracted with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all the other social media just a click away. Take steps to prevent yourself from losing focus, and then keep on keeping on.
One day, you’ll look back where you started, and you’ll be thankful that you did your very best, even in the small stuff.
Next week, I’ll talk about using social media to advertise yourself professionally (aka No selfies!).