Without a doubt figuring out pricing on finished work can be one of the hardest things for artists, crafters or makers of any creative kind. How do you put on price on something you love to make or do? The confusion is real! I hope you enjoy what I have to say about pricing.

At first, some of us do everything for free or at extremely low cost until while we get our skills sharpened. This is the fork in the road – is it a business or a hobby? Clients are constantly telling me that alteration quotes($) are all over the place and as a mentor it is most often the most asked question I get. “Tracy, what do you charge for XYZ?”

Here is what you need to think about if you want to start your own business or ask if you are looking for alterations or custom work. How much experience does the person have? What is their workload and turnaround time? Is the work quality high? What kind of feedback or reviews do they have? Do they have a location or do they work out of a home? Is this a full time job? Last, how professional are they, do they have a webpage, business listing, contracts, and do they pay taxes? These are just a few of the reasons prices are all over the place in the arts, crafts and maker community. Someone that pays rent and works full time at their craft will charge more. The more experience you have the more professional your work is, this makes a difference. If a turnaround time is not even given it may cost much less or never get finished. A grandma or grandpa working from home may charge practically nothing because they have no overhead and/or it may be a hobby. I know when I was new I charged $5 to hem a pants, I was practicing on clients, building my confidence, and I had a full time job so no overhead.

Price sheets, why don’t we have them? Clients call and ask for them like ordering off of a menu. For alterations the answer is simple, no two garments are made the same. Many of us tell clients that we need to see the garment’s complexity before giving them a proper quote. I offer a free fitting because many times there are other fixes that may cost less that can be made and at this point we can truly consider all the options… like six inch heels!

How do we come up with our own prices? Unfortunately, that can be complicated too. It all boils down to how long something takes to take apart and put back together again or make from the ground up. There are national average price sheets online that can aid you in the beginning. You can also call around locally with the questions above to get more input. Although, if you want to start a business and actually make money from your skills you need to charge enough to pay your bills while offering great service. This varies among professionals.

Custom work, this one is pretty easy. Pick an hourly rate. When I first started my hourly rate was $10 per hour. Over the years I have gained loads of experience which means projects now take a third of the time. Does that mean I should make a third less if my work is better? This is the point where you raise your hourly rate accordingly so you are not taking a pay cut. Experience means a better more accurate product.

The truth is everyone needs to do what they feel is right and comfortable with. There are no right or wrong answers. In 2009 when I started sewing professionally, aka with a business license and paying taxes, my mentor told me not to exclude professional alterations. She said, there is good money in alterations but you need to follow these rules.

  1. Know what you are working on and how long it will take you. A skirt hem with a kick pleat or lining will cost more than a regular skirt hem.
  2. If you are getting way too much work your prices are too low, adjust or you will suffer from burn out fast.
  3. Offer more than the big guy – be a real person, use scheduling, honesty, a professional setting, decent turnaround times and dress professionally and you will do well.
  4. Mentor and help others succeed.


The best advice I can offer is to get started and when something feels right you will know.

Behind the scenes~

I would like to thank Joy Hoover owner of JOY2Sew for inspiring this post.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh
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