hobby to pro

When to Go Pro: Six Tips for Turning Your Embroidery Work into a Business

Erich has more than 18 years experience as an award-winning digitizer, e-commerce manager, and industry educator. He empowers decorators to do their best work and achieve a greater success. A current educator and long-time columnist, Erich takes every opportunity to provide value to the industry. Find more information on Erich and his publications here.

With many years under my belt writing and teaching embroiderers from all backgrounds, I’ve found that the path from hobbyist to business person has the same pitfalls for many of those who walk it. I have learned from the willingness of the home embroiderers to experiment and stretch the boundaries of what we can technically achieve, under-price and I  hope to help those hobbyists in transition to bridge the gaps that keep them from becoming full-fledged businesspeople.

To that end, here are six things I’ve repeatedly told my hobby-to-business friends when they are faced with such dilemmas:

Focus, focus, focus

It’s easy to be pulled in myriad directions by each new project that tickles your creative fancy, and it’s good to experiment. However, not every project, prospective product, or technique is meant to be a part of your business. Define your customer, define your specialty, play to your strengths, and prune away the things that don’t fit. This is especially true if the new venture requires new equipment. If you aren’t profitable with the equipment you have, and your new venture is less than a sure moneymaker, give the appropriate attention to your core business or technique instead of buying into the new fun thing.

There are times when new equipment or decoration processes will enhance your business, but it’s not nearly as frequent as the times when a shiny new toy will enthrall you. I know a stable of embroiderers with unnecessary equipment gathering dust in their studios who wish they had been more focused and purposeful with their growth.

Be ready for the boring bits

If you aren’t a businessperson, don’t like handling money matters, can’t stand sales or marketing, or don’t like serving people, you had better find a partner who does. If you want to get paid, you will shuffle some (real or virtual) paper in the process.

Know what it costs to do the work

So many new embroiderers underprice their work because they feel unsure of their skills, but do so at the peril of their businesses. This is especially true when they’ve made capital investments and have leases to pay on their equipment. Costs include the following variables:

  • The costs of running your machine
  • The cost of your machine
  • The cost of your materials
  • The amount of materials you need to use for a job
  • The amount of time a job involves

Calculate a price that simultaneously accounts for all these variables and pays you a wage for the work you do. Know your overhead and price accordingly. Better yet, price on the value you provide and not the work you do. If a unique proposition exists to give value to the client and they stand to gain from your work, there’s no reason they can’t share the wealth.

Have the audacity to ask for what you are worth

Don’t undervalue your labor or discount it at random. Value your work and expertise and realize that you are exchanging your expert technical knowledge, creativity, and the use of uncommon machinery and supplies for the price you are asking. If you believe in your work, believe that it is worth paying for.

Set firm boundaries

Especially in the home-based business arena, it’s hard to physically and mentally separate your business and home lives. Start early by fencing off business hours, using a second phone for business-only contact, and if possible, by physically keeping your work in a designated work space. Even if it’s a temporary space, don’t let the work bleed into other areas. It harms your life and the life of the business, and it goes both ways. Don’t let other personal pursuits into the business time. Clock into your job, and just as importantly, clock out and recharge!

Be ready to sell

Sales isn’t a dirty word; if you are doing good work, sharing it, selling it, and telling people about it is wholly desirable. After all, if you believe in your work, you are doing the world a disservice if you don’t put it in front of them and show them what they might be missing. If you provide real value, sales doesn’t have to be shifty.

Read the full version of this blog and more tips on Erich's blog here.