I belong to various sewing lists and there’s a question that comes up regularly on them (as it tends to in life generally). It came up again today, in the following form:
To: “Fashion for the Plus size Woman” [______ @lyris.quiltropolis.com]
Subject: [fullfashion] Question regarding sewing for a friend
I have a question regarding sewing for friends and I was hoping you all might have some insight. I just completed a costume for a friend (the weird coat I was asking about a few months ago) and I’m not sure how to handle costs. I’m a sewing novice but I offered to make the costume to help my friend out. Now, the project is done, and he told me to total up my costs and “add in something for labor.” I was only expecting him to pay for materials, but it turned out to be a very time consuming project, so I appreciate that he’s willing to pay for my time. However, I have no idea what a reasonable amount is.
To complicate matters, we work together and see each other 8 hours a day, so I don’t want to strain our friendship/working relationship by haggling over money.
So, how do you handle the costs when sewing for friends?
This is usually a very slow list but for this question there was a flurry of eager answers. Lots of reminiscing about having been taken advantage of when younger and less experienced and suggestions to write this off as an expensive lesson. I had been going to suggest that Laura heave the ball back into her friend’s court and simply ask him to pay her what he thought she was worth. If he really had no clue, he would give her $25 and she would know he had no clue. And she could keep her mouth shut and save everyone’s pride that way.
But I didn’t, because someone beat me to the punch with a far better answer that I just had to share with the world:
To: “Fashion for the Plus size Woman” [_______ @lyris.quiltropolis.com]
Subject: [fullfashion] Re: Question regarding sewing for a friend
Hi Laura –
This really is the kettle of fish you think it is….
My 2 cents are this…
Then list your hours times hourly wage (feel free to not cheat the hours) and put in anything from min. wage to your hourly wage at our real job to the $50.00+ an hour, the custom creation job hours are worth. Then we do a series of discounts: 10% for being a learning example; 25% for not having a deadline; 5% for bringing me coffee etc. until you “price it down” to what you’d like to be paid in labor. (I’m sure in your heart of hearts there is a dollar amount you’d like to be paid for labor.)
This method while sounding silly lets people that don’t ahve a clue (and even some that do) how much a “non-friend” could have/would have charged them. This method has saved me friendships (in my opinion) though I will tell you that I typically go down to something really tiny for labor as I had offered to do it for free, and then many people will kick in more, but again you can’t expect it.
Heather in wisconsin
Much better than pretending to everyone that your time, skills and labour have no (or minimal) worth. It even factors in the value of friendship.
[originally transmitted by e-mail August 12, 2004]