I’m a Southerner, and we often speak in idioms or with phrases that have special meaning. You know something more is being said without vocalizing it when someone says “Bless his/her heart,” or “Oh, honey, it’s so sad”. That last one is usually followed by an awful story about someone else which should be a warning to you. Bless your heart. So here’s mine, for today: who wants to buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
I just got back from my second Quilt Market, and spent some serious time discussing modern quilting and the industry with many, many people like Cristy over at Purple Daisies and her mom, Sharon Schamber, Ebony at LoveBug Studios, Sam at Hunter’s Design Studio (which is what originally got me thinking about this, when Sam wrote her post that started the We Are $ew Worth It campaign), and Maddie at BadAss Quilter’s Society, and I think it’s time to share some of the things that have really begun to make me think about where I’m going as a business. My word for 2014 is “forward”, after all.
Ebony over at LoveBug Studios has already addressed the new credentials at Quilt Market this year, and why they are a good thing. Before I go any further, I think that she’s totally right in her assessment, and it applies most particularly where the “modern quilter” is concerned. I want to expand on something that Ebony discussed, particularly about making things for a company in exchange for goods. You may have noticed that there is a dynamic in our modern quilting world between bloggers and various companies (and smaller or local companies too, but more on that in a bit) where the blogger gets sent a line of fabric in exchange for making something and writing about it on the blog. The idea is that the blogger gets attention and free fabric, and the company gets a “shout out”.
I will be the first to admit that I have done this. Not often, but enough to know that while there can be a positive benefit (supplies for my book, new-to-me products that I wouldn’t prioritize to buy on my own, but which I want to try out so I can provide things that I think are best for my projects that I plan on selling), it’s still a slope that can slide on you.
We all know this story, because it happens all the time: there are quilt bloggers to whom a company sends out free fabric, for which the cost to the company is minimal. The blogger then spends a great deal of time making something out of that fabric. Let’s say a minimum of 2-3 hours for design, 5-10 hours for piecing, and 5-10 hours for quilting. That’s a MINIMUM of 20 hours committed to a project. The company receives a huge return on investment, with that person doing all of the work for free. That blogger got a bump in her traffic, along with lots of fluffer comments that made her or him feel good, but oh honey, it’s so sad…those poor bloggers are mistaking the accolades of the public for money, can you believe it? But honey, it’s so sad, because modern quilters are all about getting “free” stuff, and giving away their work for free. And those comments that make a person feel good? They may be sincere, but they’re also part of the problem. They aren’t money, and unless they’re buying fabric from that blogger, that blogger won’t see a percentage of sales due to his or her hard work. Bless their hearts.
In all seriousness, though, these companies are making money off her work and her designs when people buy fabric from them to make something that SHE has created, and there is a good chance many of these bloggers won’t see a dime of that beyond the free fabric they’ve received. It’s not a fair trade.
You are doing yourself and others–professional or not–a disservice by giving away your work for free. This may sound harsh, but the reality is that we are devaluing our work and receiving less than a living wage because of it, and there is no way to maintain a viable business. If we do not start this conversation among ourselves, being open and honest about what our expectations must be AS PROFESSIONALS, then we are dooming ourselves as business people. Lest you think that this is just something that happens with big companies, it happens in local shops as well. Think long and hard about giving your work away for free so you can “get out there”. Your work still matters and still has monetary value. Don’t be a sucker, and give yourself the value you have earned with the time and money you have put into honing your art and craft.
This is the dark underbelly, and it’s probably scaring the crap out of some of you. To be honest, it scares the crap out of me. I don’t think it has to be this way, but it’s going to take a concerted effort to discuss it amongst ourselves, to keep discussing it, and also to learn from the quilters who worked in this industry before us; these women and men have things to teach us about getting on. They have contracts, they have protected themselves, and they also have made mistakes that we need to learn from, which only happens through talking with them.
I also want to point out that we in the quilt world are not the only ones who suffer from our egos driving our decisions. I really recommend reading some of the articles below and watching the video. Spend some time thinking long and hard about giving away the milk for free.
No!Spec is a website for graphics designers who face similar problems (“spec work” stands for “speculative work”, and is work you do for free, that may or not be purchased after you’re done. You can see the problems.)
I think we all need to read the book by Mike Monteiro of Mule Design called Design Is a Job, and there’s an excellent review of it right here at The Designer’s Review of Books, which I think you should read, too. You should really watch this video of Mike Monteiro putting it out there. Language is NSFW, but seriously, *make* it your job to see this. And then watch it again. And take notes.
And then think about your business and the decisions you need to make to make it a viable income for you and any dependents you may have. I know I am.
This post is going to be in its own category “Why Buy the Cow” and “Value Your Work”. I’m not sure if this will be a series, but I really believe it’s time for us modern quilters to start talking about this, often and openly, especially since so many of us are seriously considering making this a home-based business, or have already done so. I also want to add that I do know several bloggers and businesses who can and do make this work for them equitably, where the exchange between parties is reasonable and both parties benefit, and I hope they add their thoughts in the comments. I think, as Ebony says in her post, that in instances like this it is even more important to examine the give and take of transactions like this. It is also important to think about whether or not you should be a business and what that means for you and for those who are working to make a living from quilting. I am leaving open comments on this post, but please maintain a positive and supportive atmosphere. It’s a HUGE topic, and I have only covered a tiny portion of it. Thanks for reading, y’all.
ETA here are some additional links that have been shared in the comments, from other souces:
Added 5/19/2014: “Should Designers Be Paid for Their Services” at Craftypod (note the date on that post, friends)
Added 5/20/2014: Quilting in America 2010 (instant download PDF) If you don’t want to download this, essentially it breaks down the different aspects of the quilt industry by where people spend their money, and their demographics. In 2010, the quilting industry brought in $3.58 billion.
Added 5/20/2014: Part of the problem stems, I think, from the “heyday bubble” of blogging, which reached its height about 3 years ago. Many modern quilters read and saw the big names of people who managed to monetize their blogs with ads and posts, and think that is the way it works, always. This article on DesignSponge talks about just this problem, and I think those of us quilters who have dreams of using our blogs as a monetized platform (and I don’t make $ to speak of, and if I do, I disclose my monetized links) need to consider what this means for us.
very interesting fodder for thought… thanks mandy..
Courtney K says
I’m gonna send you a message about my experience with this in my craft/hobby. it’s not just quilting where this conversation is taking place. talk soon!!
ps. can you email me your email address. I try to avoid Facebook 🙂
Courtney, I’d love it if you’re comfortable supplying links to those conversations. Both of us work in women-dominated fields, and I think that how we perceive of ourselves as women has a lot to do with that.
Courtney K says
Most of the conversations I’ve had with others that I can think of quickly have been in private groups/message boards. I know there are some public ones out there – I’ll look.
Courtney K says
This post is a few years old…
Thanks Courtney! (come visit before you move?) That’s a hell of a post, and one we should all read. I’ll add it to the links on the post.
Debby Brown says
I’ve been in the quilting industry for 20+ years and I still hear that I have to “pay my dues.” I feel, at this point, that an exchange of currency is in order. I still donate work to quilting charities and have a great relationship with long-term designer friends, but beyond that? No free quilting.
Debby, you are so right. There are so many aspects. If you feel moved to write your reflections, I’d love for you to share the link here.
I also think a big part of the conversation is how to price our work. I know it’s another small part of this big conversation, but I constantly feel conflicted between what I’m “suppose” to pay myself when making a quilt (say, for an etsy custom order) and what’s reasonable for people to pay. We’re inundated with people using cheap products (I.e., less than quilting quality fabric) and then bringing down market values for handmade quilts. Like I said, I haven’t figured out the sweet spot, but thanks for starting the dialogue.
Thanks for starting this! I only started making quilts for fabric companies after they approached me & offered to pay me for samples & designs. I don’t think I would have said yes if i weren’t being paid 🙂
I agree this needs to be in the open!! I’ve learned a lot by having my frugal blog for 4 years now and when a company sends me an email asking me to promote something for them, I then send them my media kit and most of their replies is “not in the budget”.
I did have a eBay quilting business for 5 years. Took a break since I started having a family. So, now I’m back to that. Quilting is where my passion is and I want to make that work.
I would like to work with companies in the quilting industry and I’ll be working on my Media Kit for them too. I’m just starting out on my quilting blog too, but I know that those that follow me also value my opinion.
Doesn’t matter if your blog is big or small. You tell your readers something and they will follow you.
Please write more on this subject. It needs to be out there! Thanks!
Joey, if you’re comfortable, I’d love to have you tell us more about your media kit. I think it’s something many of us don’t know about, or hell, even have the words to talk about! Knowledge is a powerful thing.
Sam Hunter says
Brava Mandy! I’m in wholehearted agreement with the conversation. And I just got told this afternoon that I might want to lecture for the local guild for free to get my name out there! Let’s keep a foot on this gas… We are absolutely worth a living wage.
Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios says
Ha. Ha ha. Get your name out there. I’d say… it’s out there. 🙂
Great article! Even if we end up doing these types of deals… it’s important to do them knowing full well what we’re getting into.
Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios says
Media Kit! Brilliant! I wonder if we should start a tutorial on things like marketing materials, packaging, media, ad rates, etc. Maybe people don’t do it because they just have no idea what those things are or how to get them.
I was thinking the same thing, Ebony. Joey, would you be willing to talk a little bit about your media kit and what you’ve included?
Heike Schaefer says
I think there a many quilters outside to hear more from you!
“Media Kit” is a foreign term to me.. I have an idea, but would like to know more!
The MQG has a business webinar series. A bit of promotion here, but I’ve got a Marketing webinar I’m presenting in Julyish timeframe that covers this topic. A media kit is one of several ways to market your business. Anyway, if you are an MQG member, keep an eye out for the Marketing webinar in the coming months. We’ve also got a Branding webinar and B2B sales webinar we’ll be announcing in the next couple of weeks.
Thanks for the heads up. I think it would be a good thing to discuss this issue with bloggers who may be considering being a business, too.
Please! I get so stuck on this sort of thing!!
I am so happy you wrote about this! It amazes me that companies expect so much for so little. They certainly wouldn’t work for ‘fabric’. Joey is brilliant with the “Media Kit”! Keep up the good work and let’s see if we can get this conversation out there to those that really need to read it!
This dialog is long overdue! I’m so glad that we who create are coming into the daylight to gain the acknowledgment/value that’s been taken for free for far too long. Pricing is like walking a tightrope that I’ve deliberated over for decades (since I had my bridal/formal wear sewing business). The credibility of a painter’s/artist’s finish, and the time spent in his/her studio to achieve it, somehow is more readily accepted as “art” by the buying public and worthy of $$$$$ while the quilting/textile artist who creates in a “sewing room” struggles to be viewed with the same value/credibility! Keep the “talk” going ladies and guys…………………………..
Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios says
Don’t create in a sewing room. Call it a studio just like other artists do. 🙂
That’s what I tell ’em too!!!!! “Just a sewing room” has become such a demeaning term!!!!!! Ugh!!!!
Joanne Flamand says
Yes and yes and yes and yes!!!!!
Wow, thanks so much Mandy. I am soaking this up like a sponge. As a newbie I have so many questions. How do we combat the “clearance” price mentality for handmade quilts?
As a pro photographer, I have fought some of the same battles with friends, family members and companies minimizing the value of professional services. I remember similar discussions with photographers that concluded that we were a major contributor to reducing the value of our work. Some of the contributing factors are similar to those in the quilting industry mentioned above.
We also recognized that a united effort in “how we do business” was needed to help increase the “value” of professional photography. A “standard of practices” was needed. A standard of practices is a baseline from which companies would begin negotiations for services.
Hypothetically speaking, before the SOP, a day rate for photography was arbitrary, but after, the minimum was $500. Another biggie for photographers is copyright. Before SOP, companies could get away with paying less than $500 a day and keep the copyright to your pictures. If you did not agree you did not get the job. They would keep calling photographers until someone agreed to their terms.
Thanks for continuing the conversation!
Di Sandland says
I only quilt as a hobby but, until illness intervened, I made silver jewellery as a business. I think it inherent in all craftspeople to undervalue themselves, in my case and that of many colleagues, by not charging anywhere near enough for the time component involved in making. I often wondered if this was because I classified myself as a first-person rather than an artist? An old debate perhaps but one that I think is relevant in terms of valuing ourselves.
Lisa H Calle says
Wow, couldn’t agree with you more. I have had a Longarm quilting business for the past 10 years. I was on the high side of pricing in my area because I wanted to make a certain hourly wage. But there are many in my area that got their machine for themselves and now do customer quilts more as a hobby. Ughhh, your time is worth something don’t give it away for free. It drives me crazy when I hear what some people quilt for.
Great conversation Mandy! Let’s hope it reaches a ton of ears.
Margaret Solomon Gunn says
here-here. Can’t count the number of pattern designers and book writers I have turned down because I won’t quilt their quilts for “the massive amount of publicity it may bring you” (aka “FREE”). If I am as good as you say I am, then pay for the service. I can’t go to my grocery store and get my food for free just because I am a good cook, can I?
Christie P. says
That is a really good way of looking at this issue. Free food for being a good cook. I bought my longarm about a year ago and would like to make a business out of it to help supplement my husband’s pay check when he retires in a couple of years.
As a former professional in the apparel biz and now financial professional, I would live to figure out how to “make a living” doing what I love with textiles. Believe me, I have run the numbers and have yet to figure out how to make it produce a paycheck that I can live off of, largely because of the reasons you state above. Until quilters, bloggers and others on the “craft” side of the equation take their skills and consider themselves professionals, this will continue to be the challenge. Count me in on the challenge and fight on!!!
Kristy Daum says
I know that when that “free” sign is waved in front of people, we all have a tendency to forget that it really isn’t “free”. There is so much that is not talked about, so it’s great that you are putting this out there.
I learned my lesson quite quickly and the vast majority of work that I do is contract-based and I am paid accordingly for my time/effort.
Kristy Daum says
Although I would like to add, that sometimes if you have built a real relationship with a company, I do think it is okay to accept certain “free” things because it is a mutual agreement for a set purpose. One example, like you mentioned…receiving fabric for a book/pattern one is writing.
It is a fine line we all walk, and I think it is up to the individual to decide how best to proceed and be smart about it.
Kristy, I agree. Finding things for the book is a good example, which is a mutually beneficial thing. I don’t have *any* budget for supplies, and so I receive the benefit of these companies providing fabric at my request (I chose whom I wanted to work with based on each project’s needs), and I will be mentioning that relationship with a big “thank you”. Another example is that I also spoke with Thermoweb asking about how certain of their products worked for a project I have in mind for the future, and wasn’t sure if it would work the way I had envisioned. They sent me a number of products to try and use, and when I get to that project and write my pattern, I will fully disclose that as well. When I weighed the options on that one, I carefully considered whether the balance was equal,and in this case I felt it was. With respect to your point, I do think it is possible to have a good relationship with a company, and like Ebony said, it’s important to look at that and see it for what it is.
On my blog, I have a disclaimer that tells where I make money from affiliate links on my blog (which is not a significant source of income, but still needs to be there), and which explains my relationship with Bernina as an ambassador: I own my machine, and purchased it before I became an ambassador, so all thoughts about it are my own. I would love to hear from others on how they handle this. I do think people need to be transparent about what they’re being paid to do or trading services for.
I do not quilt; I hem invisibly. When I quote hand-hemming prices based on speed x minimum wage, quilters gasp at the enormous cost to them. It is incumbent upon quilters to honor the time and effort of those without whose work their quilts would not yet be truly finished works of art. My work exists so quilters can use their time to select more fabric, attend more markets and create more designs.
Late Night Quilter says
Mandy I’m so lucky you posted this. As a new blogger, I am benefiting greatly from this piece you’ve written. It is a huge factor to consider as I conceptualize my blog and career plans.
I noticed awhile ago that a wonderful garment pattern maker named Melissa from Sew Like My Mom has a great “advertising” tab on her blog, and it links to her Media Kit. http://sewlikemymom.com/advertise/
It may not be exactly what Joey is talking about…. she doesn’t put pricing out there. But it is in the same orbit.
This is something that all quilter bloggers (quilloggers :))) should be talking about together.
Imagine how things could change if putting Media Kits out there for ourselves became an industry standard!?
I agree that if you are trying to make your living as a blogger, than all the work going into sewing a project just to give a “shout out” to a manufacturer is probably not worth it. But if blogging is something you do just to talk about your hobby, then I think it would be great to get some free fabric to play with in exchange for mentioning the manufacturer or designer.
It still needs to be disclosed. Your blog and each post has to specifically state the relationship, and the reader has the right to know that the post is sponsored.
As for me, I have a tax ID and a registered business name. My business is quilting for others, publishing my own patterns (either with magazines or under my own label), teaching, and writing a book. This blog is my platform, but it is not a primary source of income, and it isn’t my main job.
I am interested to see if you go down the rabbit hole of popularity and publicity vs. payment. By this I mean: If a person is doing ‘free’ work to get his/her name out there for a future profitable venture, make sure that the percieved profit outweighs how popular you become. I see many sewers making free samples for Market, blogging for free, submitting free blocks to magazines, etc. with the hopes that they get a pattern or book deal. In addition to these deals being few and far between, these “deals’ don’t often pay nearly as well as one would expect and rarely amount to more than pennies per hour of investment. I was recently asked to do some work for a fabric company and was pleasantly surprised when they brought up payment for services rendered because it’s usually a trade as you so eloquently brought up. Don’t sell yourself, the industry or our craft short – you’re worth it. 🙂 [Not sure if that makes sense, but thank you for addressing a very important issue for the industry as a whole.]
That’s a hell of an important point, Suzy. I think we often confuse accolades for a form of payment, and while it can raise your online visibility… there’s no guarantee that it will. I think Ebony also may be referring to this point of view when she talks about people getting bent out of shape that they weren’t allowed to go to market, because they aren’t legitimately businesses. They’re making things so why can’t they go? Because they haven’t committed themselves to making this their business, and are doing it for non-monetary compensation.
It’s also what I referred to when I was speaking for myself. Personally, I’ve only done one free project for market, but the other projects for which I have procured fabric have all gone to books or magazines, and I have been paid for those patterns appearing there. The free fabric I was sent was (or will be) credited to the company, so they get paid in visibility, and I received payment for the design and patterns from the magazines. In my forthcoming book, I’ve got ten projects which require a huge amount of fabric. The companies I am working with know that I am using their fabric and batting because I like it and have chosen to do so, and the relationship is the same as the magazines.
Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios says
I just wanted to add something here – don’t be pleasantly surprised at the offer of compensation, and don’t wait for them to bring it up (and this isn’t me yelling at you Suzy, but you mentioned it and I really want to drive this home for everyone. The “you” is universal, not Suzy.)
Getting paid is not a pleasant surprise, it should be a given. Start the conversation with the expectation that it is a paid assignment. If you are doing work – committing time, labor, effort, skill, whatever – EXPECT to be paid. ASK to be paid. TALK about getting paid, BEFORE any work is done. That way, you know before idea is put to paper whether or not there’s money on the other side, and you make an informed decision about whether or not you actually want to undertake it. The worst thing is regretting later not asking to be paid for something that turns out to be a huge amount of work. Send them a proper invoice, allow them 30 days to pay if you can afford it, and follow up on payment.
And at a minimum, get a shipper account from these companies or ask them to send you a shipping label, so they pay for the shipment of the work product to wherever it needs to go in the time it needs to get there.
Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins says
Very thoughtful post. I’ve been thinking lots lately about this and related issues. I realised how much time making quilts to feature other people’s new fabric lines takes away from my business. Sure, they send me fabric for free, but I work my butt off of it. I’m not sure if I’ll keep doing this kind of thing, but of course I do love positive feedback and it makes me feel like I’m succeeding…. Thanks so much for sharing, I’m going to direct my readers to you as I often talk about these kinds of things and I know they’d enjoy this article. If you start a movement where we pledge to seek our worth in these kinds of exchanges rather than just flattery and fabric, I’m in!
Gemma, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I’d be interested to know if you’ve kept track of that time and effort to show the comparison between their outlay and yours. I think it’s interesting that positive feedback is so important–I think we all love it, and need it, but i think we often will accept that rather than a form of compensation that allows us to consider ourselves businesses. Hearing how pretty my work is is great, but unless it translates to a tangible benefit with patterns sold or more customers asking me to quilt for them, it doesn’t help my bottom line. I don’t know where the answers are, here, between the hobby and the business (it’s kind of like people selling on etsy for waaaaaay below the cost of what their work is worth), but I hope we can really look at this and other topics with an eye toward running a viable business.
But even if it is “just a hobby”, our work still has value, and we should charge accordingly!
Cristy Fincher says
This is so important. I think the fact that so many quilters have already paved this road for us is easily forgotten. If someone is new to our industry, they shouldn’t have to invent their own wheel. Someone has already been there and done that. If more people would seek out those that came before and ask how to navigate their way, they would learn so much. My mom (Sharon Schamber) taught me from day 1 (10 years ago, now) to value myself and my time. I hope we keep this conversation going.
Jennifer Haston says
I’ve been quilting for a few years now. I make quilts for friends and family. I love giving them to people who I care about. It’s why I love quilting. It takes lots of love to make one, and feels so good to give that love to someone. I feel like not everything has to be about money, but people are interested in my work. This is a topic I need to start thinking about. They take so long to make. Most people wouldn’t pay the amount that they would be worth if I include time into the total. Thanks for posting this.
I make quilts for family and friends, too, that I don’t charge for. They’re called personal gifts 🙂 the fabric in them comes from my personal collection and not from fabric I have purchased to use for my business (this is a part of the bookkeeping process, but I work to keep those areas distinct from each other). As a business owner, I sell my patterns, my quilting skill, and my quilts and that is where the line between business and hobby comes into play. If, say, I sell a quilt for cost of materials or just over and not taking into account my time, then I am not making a profit and my business will fail.
Here is the link to the IRS definition of how to determine if something is a hobbt vs. a business: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Business-or-Hobby%3F-Answer-Has-Implications-for-Deductions
the most key questions are these, and my answers to them are why I declared myself a business 2 years ago:
Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
Does the activity make a profit in some years?
Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?
Excellent discussion! As a longarm quilter of…geeze! 10 years now (it gets away from you 😉 ) I often have similar conversations with people who want to start up in this business. I have mentored a few quilters and simply answered questions for others. One of the things I try very hard to impress upon them is that your clients are NOT paying you for thread on a quilt. They are paying for your skills and expertise; your time and your knowledge. Your time on this planet is limited. When exchanging that limited time for $ be sure you are NOT shortchanging yourself.
Yes. I love my job. Lucky, lucky me! That does not mean I should do it for next to nothing. It means that I should appreciate how lucky I am to be MAKING A LIVING at something I enjoy.
May I please share a link to this blog on mine. I think this is an important conversation that needs to be shared.
Thanks so much.
Terri, please feel free to share! You may also find this article really interesting, along the lines of “doing what you love” being something you bankrupt yourself for. I’d really love your thoughts if you read it!
Thank you. I will check out the article.
Parts of it really resonate, and others don’t. Still interesting 😉
Great post! Gemma sent me here 🙂
I just recently had a conversation with quite a well known quilter who makes amazing quilts using a very well known fabric designers lines. I was under the impression that she would be paid to make such beautiful quilts to send to quilt market and to advertise fabric lines for the designers – but no. I was incredibly shocked and disappointed that she literally gets the fabric sent out and that is it. She even had to find a way to get the quilts to quilt market herself. It made me re-evaluate what I want to get out of my quilting “career”. Bravo to you!
Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios says
That is a shame and a travesty indeed. I ask for shipper accounts for any company that I do work for, or ask that shipping labels be sent.
When I do blog giveaways for prizes, I ask the companies to ship directly to the winner. In one case, all the prizes were shipped to me up front, but the company just sent me labels via email when needed.
I think part of why companies are able to get away with this is that we treat money like it’s a taboo subject. Because we’re all “friends”, and we love the companies we work with, and it’s one big love fest of yay, I get to do what I love! that people get the idea that it’s ok to not get paid or to bring it up at all. That’s why the hobby/business thing is so important. If you treat your business like a hobby, everyone else will respond accordingly.
I work for $. Nuff said.
Lisa H Callle says
This had been a great conversation. My husband is in the construction industry so when I got my Longarm we looked at it as a specialized piece of machinery that required hours and hours of training, similar to a backhoe. Think about how much those operators get paid….. $40 – $80/ hour seemly for digging dirt. It is a skill that they have honed just like a longarmer has to hone their skills. We pay for classes to become better, don’t we? It is not acceptable to make less than minimum wage….now I’m not saying that we should make $80/ hr but we should all make a decent wage.
I wish even hobbyisys would not devalue their work. I’ve seen crafters make and sell stuff for less than the supplies cost. Kills me when I’m trying to be legitimate.
Yes, this is its own giant issue.
becky m says
:::standing up and applauding::: looking forward to reading all the links you posted and seeing the videos. I agree, a lot of this has been brought on by the fact that the quilting explosion on the internet is fairly new. Many bloggers are trying to find their way and don’t even know that it creates this situation. Will be interesting to see how this develops
Thanks so much for publishing this, Mandy! It’s such an important conversation to be having, and it seems like the new Quilt Market credentialing requirements have brought it even more to the fore, which is a good thing.
I love the ideas of a media kit and industry standards that some commenters brought up earlier. I know that, as a relative newcomer to this industry, it’s difficult to figure out what the standard operating procedures are for each aspect that I get involved with. Having all of that type of information (e.g., should you expect to get paid for designing a promotional quilt for a fabric manufacturer? If so, how much should you charge? Do you charge by the hour or by the finished project? etc. to mention just one type of possible revenue stream) would be so, so helpful to so many of us. I’ve seen the question raised about whether quilting teachers should publish their rates online, and I know that I *love* it when they do, because it gives me a benchmark as to what I should be asking for myself.
Many thanks again for jumpstarting and hosting this discussion–I’m looking forward to following it as it continues to develop!
I can so relate to the above comments!
First we need to consider ourselves specialists or technicians, and realize we are valuable just for our knowledge. I moved recently, and I’m retired now. I wanted to be a positive influence on the youth in my neighborhood. I offered free sewing lessons to several families and you know what,,, no one took me up on it! They all sounded so interested, but I believe that they figured if I was givin’ it away, it wasn’t worth it! Lesson learned and sewing classes now have a price tag.
A side note – Isn’t interesting that we have to defend making a living. I don’t think my husband has ever had to justify his right to be paid for his work.
Lorna McMahon says
I am sew glad to be seeing more people speaking out about this complex issue. I am in total agreement with your point. Milk for free? Even cows demand good feed to produce their milk. Please do check out my link here. http://sewfreshquilts.blogspot.ca/p/blog-page_18.html
I would be happy to elaborate on my experience and explain why some people would be reluctant to post about it.
Oh that was really good. Thanks. When I started quilting, I got a job at a local company and was paid for each project and for every “pattern testing” I did. When I found out that in blog land nobody paid for that I was shocked. I’ve been teaching, and doing some quilting for money and recently decided expand my expected incoming revenue.(mama wants to get paid) I devised a business plan and I’m moving forward. So far so good. But yr post was really good validation, thank you.
These posts are enlightening and empowering. I have a very small quilting business…so small that after four years, I am closing my doors for awhile to regroup and possibly start over. Although, I have a business plan, I deviated from it. Because in my area, there is an expectation to quilt for free at certain times and/or lower prices, especially for guild members; not because I am a poor quilter but because I was new to the area and quilting for charity was the way I was to pay my dues. I can tell you that once a business owner bends to the pressure of taking less money, it’s an uphill battle to raise prices and keep customers. My long term customers have asked me to keep my prices that same in order to keep them coming back to me… my prices are the lowest in the area. At this point, I’m not making enough money to pay off my equipment. This experience has left me feeling that my work is subpar. I appreciate the dialogue and links posted thus far.
” Because in my area, there is an expectation to quilt for free at certain times and/or lower prices, especially for guild members;”
I am a long arm quilter and belong to 2 guilds as a regular member, I refuse to pay the extra fee to become a business member mostly due to the reason stated above. The expectation is quite clear that business members will give guild members a 15-25% discount on quilting in my area.
I refuse to be party to this scheme of drumming up business, I charge all my customers the same rate simply because I put the same amount of time and effort into each quilt no matter if the are a guild member or not.
This is Just another example of bending to the pressure of thinking you need to or should charge less for the same hard work in order to compete or stay in business.
The “Free Milk” topic is good conversation but there will always be those who will Buy the Milk but expect a “Free Lunch” in return.
Christie Prenger says
Here is a story from a different perspective. When I first starting piecing quilt tops about 7 years ago, I took a mystery quilt class from a LQS. Once it was complete I started looking for a place to get it quilted. My LQS had a longarm service, but the backlog was about 6+ months. This is because she had to quilt in her “off” time, as the rest of the time was spent running the quilt shop itself – longarm machine was in a different location. I found another longarm quilter who worked from home. She did an AWESOME job. I was so thrilled with her work. It is still one of my most favorite quilts. I didn’t shop around for price at all. I now know that she WAAAY undercharged me!!! When I showed the LQS where I did the mystery class the final project she asked me how much it cost. She was shocked because I got a fully custom quilted quilt for less that the LQS would have charged for a very simple all over meander. I didn’t have a clue as to what to expect for quilting services, and I would have gladly paid twice or even three times the amount for her work. The LQS only really did easy all overs due to time constraints – maybe even skill level. I now know – as I bought a longarm about a year ago, that it takes a lot of TIME to learn to even use the machine effectively -even more with exceptional skill. I really hope that she has raised prices and is still in business. I have since moved out of state from her, but she was truly a talented quilter.
We pay backhoe operators $50+ to dig holes in the dirt, plumbers to unclog toilets, and HVAC techs to repair our HVAC units – why? because not everyone can do it themselves. If quilting were easy – then everyone would do it themselves. Cindy Roth from Longarm University has an article (sorry I don’t have the link) about the true cost of doing business. It includes things like equipment cost, training costs, office supplies, marketing costs, time spent designing, material costs, and even rent costs – if working from a separate location, or even from home. All these things eat into your bottom line. I am still honing my skills on my own personal quilts, and will be for a while before I officially “open” for business. I love articles like this because I want to start out on the right foot.
I once heard something to the effect that a fool never learns from his mistakes, a smart person learns from THEIR mistakes, and a wise person learns from OTHERS mistakes. I hope to become a wise person.
I am so glad you put this out there! And as someone who is hoping to expand into a bigger and more successful business setting, I have so many questions and would love love love to hear and learn more about the media kits and pricing, which is something I know a lot of us in the handmade industry struggle with.
Nina With Freckles says
A bit late to the party, but oh how I recognise the situation from selling jewellery on Etsy… People keep pushing the prices down and would rather sell more at lower price points than fewer but more expensive pieces. Apparently it looks good to have huge sale numbers, but I’d rather sell less. As for the world of quilting, I think I go by “Work for full salary or do volunteer for free” in the future, if I ever get started on pattern writing.
Well written and a great discussion, the topic is important. Are we artists, though, or do we “dabble”? For many the step to call themselves artists is nearly impossible to take, even after decades of honing their skills. Sad. Ebony made some great points in case someone missed them above mine.