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First I'm going to start this post with an apology.  I don't want anyone to be offended that I'm broaching a sensitive subject like pricing and customer loyalty, so if you don't want to share, that's fine. 

I've been quilting for others for a little over 10 years now.  Most of the ladies that I have quilted for have been steady repeat customers.  Before I had my computerized machine, and especially when I was really green, I charged about 1.5 cents per square inch for an all over panto.  I know that's really low, but I figured that I was trying to grow my business and at the time I was just learning as well, so I was just happy for the little extra income.  I was constantly busy and I really enjoyed it. 

About three years ago I upgraded to the IQ computerized quilting module.  As those of you who have it can attest, it wasn't a cheap upgrade.  So to help offset the price of the IQ and to be more in line with other long arm quilters prices, I increased my pricing to 2 or 2.5 cents per square inch depending on how much time I have to spend programming the design into the IQ or if the customer wants custom free motion quilting.  I don't think this is outrageous, but I did notice a considerable drop in the number of quilts that have come in, especially this year.  It's really confusing to me.  The quality of the quilting is flawless because of the computerized part, I have hundreds of pantos and custom quilting designs for my customers to choose from, my turnaround time is very good (usually one week).  I just don't understand what I could be missing.  

The thing that really just burns me is that there are several of what I thought were loyal customers that I see once a month at my local sewing center who during show and tell show off their quilts that they have had quilted by someone else.  All of them, and I mean every single one, is quilted in just a simple pantograph.  None of them ever have custom quilting at all.  When I do show and tell on my own personal quilts, I always do custom quilting.  I like getting in there and really trying to make the quilt sing in the piecing as well as the quilting.  Since my customer workload has dropped off, I've been making a lot of personal quilts (actually finished 8 UFOs so far this year YAY!.  Two more will be done before the end of the month. :D ).  Last month when I was at the sewing club, one of the ladies asked me if I every quilted for anyone else.  ...... She had to ask!?!  Duh!  I very nicely said that I did and gave her one of my cards.  Then she asked me if I ever did anything simple like an all over design.  ......again I was dumbfounded...... Of course!  I can do whatever style of quilting you want on your quilt, is what I told her.  She thanked me and then pocketed my card.  

Am I missing something?  Can I be scaring people off because I show off my custom quilting and that's not what they are looking for?  Are my prices too high?  I really am at a loss and scratching my head.  If  you don't mind, would you please share your thoughts, pricing methodologies, and other factors that could be affecting my situation.  I really appreciate you taking the time to read and respond.  Thank you. 

 


Lora.

Lora in California -  Ultimate I with IntelliStitch and IntelliQuilter.  The Thimble Bee http://www.thimblebee.com

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No one has replied, so I will gingerly step in and give you my take on the problem. Adding a computer to your machine does not mean that you should raise your prices above the industry standard, especially for overall designs. The customer doesn't care how you get there or what you use---they are interested in the finished product and don't want to pay extra for computerized when someone else can do the same thing for less. I'm talking about pantos/overalls, not custom. Also, you have "niched" yourself. You have inadvertently sent a message to your customers that you are out of the panto/overall business by showing lots of custom quilting. Custom=$$$$ to everyone. Make some simple quilt tops and quilt them with overalls or a panto and show them everywhere. Remind them that you're still around and offering the less-expensive quilting. I think your customers perception of what you offer and your pricing has been muddled---that you are now too expensive. To get them back in the fold, use your favorite method to contact them and offer a blow-them-away deal on pantos and overalls "exclusively for you, my favorite customer". Any size quilt up to a Queen (you supply the limit for dimensions) with a choice of three pantos/computerized or freehand overall (not a big meander) for $100. This will price you at less than a cent-and-a-half, but will give your business a boost. They will dig out all the big UFOs and maybe get one done as a Christmas gift. Limit the number (like first 20 quilts) and limit the month---like November only or first two weeks in January. See if that will nudge them back to you. Good luck---it's disheartening when the customers you think are friends stop becoming customers.


Linda Rech

Finely Finished Quilts

Millennium on Bliss rails--hand-guided

http://www.topperquilttools.com

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It has been an unusually slow year for me as well. I have not changed my prices at all. But there are 2 things happening in my area that may be having an effect: A larger-than-you'd-think number of quilters in my area are buying mid-arms and longarms and doing their own quilting. They aren't necessarily getting into business - they simply don't need a longarmer. And second, a new small home-town quilt store recently opened in a town not far away, and she does simple free-motion meander for $.005 per square inch. I am continuing to hold my prices, show and tell quilts I have done for myself with pantos that I love. I'm also reaching out to the quilt stores in the area and offering workshops to meet new people.

 


Sharon

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My last 4 customers have asked for big allover patterns and puffy batting. They don't want tight quilting or custom, just want them done as gifts and don't want to spend lots of money, They say price of fabric is more than they like to pay and want to keep cost down, especially for donation quilts. Also local quilt shop has set up a longarm rental service and some are going that way, saying they want to do the whole quilt start to finish.

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I agree with Linda.  You upgraded to a computerized system but your customers are not interested in that, they just want a nice design on their quilts that do not cost them so much.  I have found that if a person is wanting a panto or all over design, they want this because they do not want to add more cost to their quilt.  The only time I have had customers ask for custom or more detailed all over designs is that they are either gifting as a special gift or wanting to place the quilt in a show.  Quilters are looking for the best deal they can get and the best quilting they can get.  You have lost some of your clients because of your increase in price.  You were wanting to off set the upgrade cost and hoping to get your clients to pay for this upgrade, hoping they would appreciate that computerized will make the designs more perfect for them.   I do not have a computerized system and  exclusively do panto's for my customers.  I use to offer both custom and pantos, but found that my bread and butter was in the pantos, so I only do custom for myself now.  There are other longarmers (some computerized) in my small rural area that do custom and some of my customers go to them for custom when that is what they want.   However, they always come to me for their pantos because I offer lower price and a fast turn around time.  These things are very important to them.   I have often thought of upgrading to a computerized system, but only to shorten my time at the machine and produce a better stitch line in designs.  It would help me do more quilts in less time I think, thus the volume of quilts done would actually help pay for this upgrade. 

As Linda said... offer some incentives to get your clients to come back.  With more people getting their own quilting machines, we need to keep our businesses going with incentive marketing.  Know what your quilters want, know what is being offered out there from other longarmers and adjust your  pricing accordingly.


Laura

 

www.mydoterra.com/laurarosenwald

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We have a quilt store in my area that only does meandering on any type of quilt, even beautiful ones.  Her customers only want cheap, and she charges a penny an inch. She bought an advante with prostitcher and rarely uses it.  They know my work is beautiful and have asked for a card, and I clearly tell them custom is more expensive, but I rarely charge more than 4 cents an inch.  I do pantos for 1.5 to 1.75 because we have so many other quilters in this area. A very good friend of mine charges $100 for a light custom queen size.  She's a dear and needs the money.  Her turn around time can be a year, but her customers don't care because of the price. Since this is more of a hobby for me, my attitude is, "Pay what I ask or go somewhere else."  I'm not giving away my time.

Do you have a website to attract customers from out of your area who would appreciate your work and pay you for it? I've seen quilters advertise on FB under the group quilters classified as quilting pantographs for 2 cents an inch including batting.

A suggestion would be to choose pantos you would do for 1.5 cents an inch.  Simple ones that look nice, but can be done faster and not take up as much time for you.  I hope you do get those customers back.

 

 

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How much you can charge depends on the area. We have lots of quilters doing their own and some for their friends, lots of work done under the table. In fact when I added the computer, I dropped my price on edge to edge because I didn't have to "do the work". A friend of mine is always talking about pricing with other longarmmers and I know she is talking at me about how cheap I am but I am trying to pay for the computer. A little bit is better than nothing.


Cee K

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I have always believed (and still do) that quilting makes the quilt. And when I moved from Europe to Canada and started working at the local quilt shop, I was totally surprised when I found out that most people don't agree with that assessment, that in fact most quilters don't actually like to quilt at all. They just like making the tops. And the quilting is not important to them at all. I love to quilt, and that's why I eventually decided to buy a longarm machine and quilt for others. I would love to add a computer to do the pantos for me because I find them quite boring. But I know that no one would pay me for that, it would have to be a business investment for myself.

I custom quilt all my own stuff, and that's what I show at the guild meetings, and that's what brings me customers because they are all in awe of my skills (which are far from perfect, especially compared to what you guys post here but if you can't quilt at all, you might look at things a little differently). But the majority of them stills wants pantographs because it's cheaper.


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What are others in your area charging for simple pantos?  Less than your new prices?  I would pick out five or six computerized pantos that are fairly simple, no backtracking, low density, and stitches quickly, make a small sample.....plain muslin would work......and stitch out a row or two of each of your choices. Bind it and take to your next show and tell with the pricing for those choices. 

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Just a quick update.  I talked to one of my customers at the sewing club this morning and asked her why she was taking her quilts to another quilter instead of me (not in those words of course).  I just wanted to hear from her what I could do to improve my business, my relationship with customers, etc.  I could tell she was a little uncomfortable at first, but I assured her that I was not trying to coax her into coming back to me, just curious about the change.  She said that she uses the other woman for all over panto work, and would be using me exclusively for custom work - something the other woman doesn't offer.  She showed me an invoice from the other woman and her pricing was very similar to my new pricing, however, one thing she includes in her pricing is trimming the quilt and attaching the binding strips to the back of the quilt.  

gkazee, I really like your idea of making a sample quilt with the pantos that I would do for 1 1/2 cents a square inch.  Linda, your suggestion of having a sale month is a great one too.   I'll make up the sample quilt and promote my sale for the month of November and the first two weeks of December.  We'll see what happens.  

Thank you all for being candid with me.  I had checked around and found that my previous prices were about a cent below the average in my area.  I had been told by many that I wasn't charging enough, so I raised my prices a little after I got the computerized system.  Now I see your points about customers not caring that the stitching is perfect and just wanting to get the quilts finished quickly and as cheap as possible.  Also, I recognize now that showcasing all of my custom work probably scared some people off.  I think you are right - they see the detail and amount of effort in the quilting on those quilts and think $$$$$ cha-ching! and don't want to pay for that.  

Next year, I'm going to try to show off two quilts a month (probably lap size) - one with custom quilting and one with an all over panto.  Hopefully, that will convey the message that I can do both.  

Thanks again.  I really appreciate your honest feedback and input!!!!!  Thank you. 

 


Lora.

Lora in California -  Ultimate I with IntelliStitch and IntelliQuilter.  The Thimble Bee http://www.thimblebee.com

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I love this topic, and my business is growing with cutomers. No quilt shop within miles and my guild now has about 6 longarmers. I don't get too many customers from the guild, but where I live. The thing about it is, people want great prices and want their quilts to look good. I have had 2 people call me to quilt their quilt tops, and because I don't have a computer, they went to another longarmer. I even had showed them some of my work. Oh well, Now we have formed a longarmer group through our guild and can help each other out with that. Just chiming in. Ann

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Lora, great topic which needs to be brought up every now and then.  I like hearing what's happening in other parts of the country and world.  I have Millie with an IQ.  I did not raise  my prices when I got my computer.  I didn't need to because I could do more quilts which evened the field.  I charge a penny and a half for loose pantos/e2e and 2 pennies for tight pantos/e2e.  I have a Quilt finishing shop a block away from me (I'm also in a small town) who charges about the same.  The owner and I have a great relationship because she just does pantos/e2e.  She also sells batting, wide backs and flannel.  She does no custom, so she sends those customers to me or another longarmer.  There's work for everyone.  You really have to flow with the local pricing or you will loose those "bread and butter" customers.  When I moved to Michigan, I asked around about longarm pricing before I decided on what to charge.  I ask my customers  to pick out the panto they want from the hundreds I have  but  if a customer wants a particular panto design that I don't have (i.e. hippos, fire hose, particular flowers),  I charge them a one time special design charge of $15.00,  plus my normal square inch charge.  It will help you build your design catalog fast  without coming directly from your pocket.  I do the same with my embroidery business. 

Great info, advise and thoughts everyone.


Connie
Port Huron, MI   48060
APQS Sales Rep and Educator
Millennium with Intelliquilter (IQ)

"Be a good listener, your ears will never get you in trouble" Frank Tygr


sewsweetgator@aol.com
http://www.yoursite.com
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Custom quilting is beautiful, but the pantos and freehands are the money makers. 


"Of all the things a woman's hands have made---The quilt so lightly thrown across her bed---The quilt that keeps her loved ones warm---Is woven of her love and dreams and thread." excerpt from The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt by Carrie A. Hall
 

:rolleyes:  :rolleyes:  :rolleyes:  :rolleyes:  :rolleyes:  :rolleyes:  :rolleyes: 

Shana in North Pole, Alaska ---- The Farthest North APQS Sales Rep  
 Always quilting with her faithful friend, Mademoiselle Madeleine Millennium, Bliss-fully skating gracefully...and having lots of fun with IntelliQuilter

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