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Overbooked & Overwhelmed When Starting A Sewing Business

Every year I see it.. A news story highlighting a small dressmaking business/sole entrepreneur who started their dressmaking business, ready and excited to receive new prom dress orders. Unfortunately things don't go quite as expected.... cut to a very frazzled looking designer trying to make their case for why several of their dresses will not be done by the time of the prom. Then cut to angry parents and tearful girls who will have to for go their dream dress for a quick store bought dress, they never wanted in the first place.

I often shake my head because I think I know precisely what happen here, but first a commentary on how business is perceive on social media. The idea of looking or being "booked and busy" & accepting every order that comes in. There are some businesses where that strategy works fine. Usually products that are bought in bulk and don't require much tactical work except packaging and postal pick up or delivery.

However, this strategy can prove disastrous for handmade businesses. Especially dressmakers, where we are on a deadline and our work (due the cost) requires that not only are we on time, but that our end results capture the essence that is a custom made piece. Intricate, neat and expertly done don't often go hand in hand with the "booked and busy" ideology. Especially if its just one person doing it all!

So what you end up getting is dressmaker's that are overwhelmed and over booked. They have the talent and skill to attract customers to their business but not the right systems in place to ensure that things would run smoothly.

Story Time:

How do I know? Well, I've been there. In 2017 or 2018 my business had been running for a few years, but I was still not receiving the kinds of projects I wanted. I stayed on social media envying the people that did the things I wanted to do in business (as we all do).Then finally got a gown order! A girl wanted a very extravagant gown, (for 1/2 the price of course) we negotiated a more simple design. I was so eager to have this sale that I lower my price and disregarded my 3-4 month production policy at the time. She wanted in 2 weeks! Now for some designer's that doesn't seem to bad, but I pride my self on taking my time and sourcing the best material, setting up the dress inside and out like an architect building a house. I create blueprints for each of my pieces. But I really wanted this, so I agreed to it...... it was a nightmare! I didn't know enough about the client (client vetting is very important) and two weeks was not enough time to order materials build the sample and create the finished dress. Which included quite a bit of hand sewing. The dress was rushed and finished hours before prom. Where it proceeded to fall apart through out the night! I got an angry email from the mom and ended up refunding the entire dress out of guilt that I had ruin her big day. Here's the dress before things went down hill.

Now although I wasn't overbooked, I was overwhelmed and did not have the proper systems in place to protect myself, my business or even my client.

I can tell you that as glamorous as it seems to be booked and busy, if you don't have the right systems in place for your business whether you are just starting out or have been doing it for years.. You may be in danger of finding yourself in the same predicament or worse.

Even with all the options available for dressmaking & fashion design businesses available to small business owners, a majority of our clientele comes from referrals. The old adage being "bad news, travels fast." It is far more difficult to ruin your reputation and then try to repair it, then it is to start out by doing the best you can to avoid certain situations.

So now what? Well, I've been a dressmaker and designer for many years since graduating from Fashion Industries in NYC. In the last 8 years I have been doing it professionally. I've learned a lot. When I started 8 years ago however, there were not many resources I found for the type of business I wanted to pursue. So unfortunately I had to learn a lot the hard way.......

........but you don't. I finally feel ready to share what I learned throughout my journey and these lessons will become vital to you if you are running a dressmaking business or considering it.

I've compiled everything I've learned in this Ebook, Sew Professional broken down into 4 sections:

Currently, I'm running a promo, if you have made it this far you deserve a gift, 20% off of Sew Professional using the code "SEWPRO" at checkout.

If you have been considering this for a long time or really just started to play with the idea, in your mind that you want to build something for yourself and your family using your creative talents, as well as being apart of some of the most memorable moments in someone else's life. Then the time to start is now and Sew Professional Productivity Work book and Business planner is the perfect place to start!

Need more? In my Etsy shop there are dozen of useful tools and templates starting as low as $1!

More?! My Youtube channel is scheduled to release well over a hundred videos by end of 2024, is dedicated to all things dressmaking, teaching you the skills and tools you need to be the best. I also create videos teaching fashion history and behind the scenes of some of my original designs and custom pieces I've design for clients.

Jasmine Terry-Ankobil owner and operator of LAIDIECLOTH fashion house, where I create custom designs and perform alterations for formal occasions. &Online Couture Sewing School LAIDIECLOTH U. Please feel free to share this article and/or visit my site

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