Custom pricing--food for thought

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I once read a book that described the levels as "drag, brag, and show". I've yet to do any that I charged a "show" rate but I know I should have. With this economy as slow as it is, I'd rather be busy. I'm hoping next year to raise my rates- and will if thread keeps going up.

Cee K

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Love reading these posts. I know I charge too little for custom. I'm basically just starting to re-build my customer base. I used to quilt full time, lost my machine for over a year-divorce issues and a jerk ex. , had other family issues, went back to work full time etc. My life is finally settling down again and my quilting basement is almost finished. My hours are now usually 7-3:30 so that gives me more time in the afternoon/evening than when I was off at 5:00.

It's a really good time for me to re-examine my pricing so am really thinking about all of your comments. I'm starting to work on some samples to illustrate the different pricing. I used to end up with lots of custom with me designing much of it--hopefully that will change. I love doing custom but it's so time consuming I'm hoping to jump in with more E2E and simple custom rather than those work your magic quilts. I can also be picky about the quilts I accept cause it's no longer my bread and butter job.

Part of it on custom ones is my mind set that I take simple and embelish to where I would want my quilt to be without thinking about cost or time then don't charge for all the extra.



Fil-Tec / Glide Distributor

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Zeke, I hate to, but have to say this - you are a guy. When I was doing beadwork and working bead shows - the men were getting top dollar as they were perceived as "artists" while women were "crafters" or "hobbyists". The same can be said of man-quilters. Perception is they are artists, even though we are all doing the same types of quilts/quilting. Probably opening a can of worms with this comment but it's been my experience.

As to pricing, one tip I got was to post my prices as Light Custom $.03 spi starting price, Full Custom - $.05 starting price, etc. Always leaving room for higher $$ if something calls for it.




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Guest Linda S

Whoa! I guess being a guy might make a difference. Zeke - I've worked as an administrator at the University of Oregon for 32 years and I barely make $24/hour on that job. I didn't think I'd ever make near that amount quilting. And I don't think Oregon is a particularly depressed area either (well, at least opposed to the rest of the country). Bless you for being able to pull down that kind of change, but I really don't ever see that happening here. Especially because I'm not a super-zippy quilter, people would be paying me $3000 a quilt!

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Light Pantograph/Edge to Edge Quilting

Medium Pantograph/Edge to Edge Quilting/Pattern Boards

Full Pantograph Quilting - Pattern Boards with Separate Border

Light Freehand Custom Quilting - same design all blocks; one freehand border.

Medium Freehand Custom Quilting - unique block designs may require marking and more than one stop and start; one freehand sashing and border.

Full Freehand Custom Quilting - Stitch in Ditch (SID) applique or blocks; unique marked block designs, may require more than one stop and start; thread changes; multiple freehand sashings or borders.

Premium Freehand Custom Quilting - Stitch in Ditch (SID) applique, blocks, and borders; background fill or crosshatching; different marked block designs, requiring more than one stop and start; thread changes; complex sashing or borders requiring marking or turning.

Artistic/Creative Interpretation enhancing elements of the quilt with individual imaginative quilting.

These levels and descriptions have evolved as I have timed myself to see how long it takes to do each type of work. If they work for you feel free to use.


Lyn Crump   Hand Guided 2013 Millenium Blissed and Gliding    APQS Sales Rep SE Qld Australia   www.busyquilting.com.au   On Facebook and Instagram as BusyQuilting

Attitude is everything - So pick a good one!

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Hi, I love this thread too. Like most of you, I am a tragic when it comes to quoting prices for my quilting. We all talk the talk, but how many of us actually walk the walk? ;)

I charge a minimum of $50.00 for a quilt. This comes from a $25.00 set up fee and thread fee. These fees are NEVER discounted. We all know how much thread is soaked up in quilting. I try to count bobbin changes just to give the customer an idea of much thread was actually used. Most of them have no idea, they just see the pretty design.

I am seriously considering ditch stitching as a category of its own and charging like a wounded bull for it. I am so sick of customers saying "just put some straight lines on it(quilt)". We all know, don't we, that straight lines are just soooo much easier than wavy lines or circles to quilt! NOT!! :D Why would I want to charge for the challenge and aggravation of making straight lines appear straight when the "no measure border attachement method" has been used?!

Sandra, I charge an extra $30 per border if they require seperate treatment. Once again, it is a fee I can discount if I feel that the border was easy to do and didn't require any extra time or effort in comparison to the body. Seperating Borders from the body of a quilt is not Edge to Edge by any stretch of the imagination.

I too have a husband that complains about my making less than minimum wage and I am facing part time workforce to supplement my quilting business. Sad world, isn't it! I sometimes feel that I am being used, but I also know that this is my own fault. It is intersting to see that Zeke has no hesitation in charging what he thinks he is worth, why are we women always so afraid to displease???! But that is a discussion for another thread.:D;)

Keep the ideas and thoughts coming ladies.




"The Essentials to happiness are... something to love, something to do and something to hope for." - William Blake

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first, let me remind any of you who do not know this, i do not quilt for others. that being said....

i really don't get the whole "i don't want them to gasp" thing.

custom is expensive - and it should be expensive. it is unique. it is designed especially BY YOU to enhance the specific quilt. it is your art. you time as an artist is worth money.

if it's too expensive for the customer, you offer them an e2e or panto at a more affordable price.

why are you treating quilting any different than any other service?

if it were an original painting, you would expect to pay more than you would for a print.

if it were a kitchen remodel, you wouldn't 'gasp' that granite countertops were much more than laminate.

it's the same thing.

please ladies, and gents, don't sell yourselves short.


"Do small things with great love." Mother Teresa

"Life's too short to fuss with thread." Meg Fazio



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This is a very interesting thread. I charge by the square inch, with the majority of my customer quilts being some type of custom. Which is light custom to heavy custom. No, I really do not make any money on these. But it does let me be very creative and try something new. However, I am enjoying what I am doing. If I no longer enjoyed it, I would quit quilting it for others.

There are times that I am so happy to get an edge to edge, or to you my CL. But then, I look forward to the custom quilts.

Sharon Dimberg

APQS Dealer, Quilt Design, Piecing, Long Arm Quilting


Quirky Quilting by Sharon

APQS Millennium

Sew Batik Associate #1049

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I'm new at this too. I love the topic because I was having problems with pricing and still do. I'm just starting out so people have been giving me quilts and I have taking the time to TRY custom quilting but feel, the customer didn't ask for such quilting but I just did it. So I only charged her .017 per inch. It took over 20 hours and I think I charged her $115.00. And some of those blocks I did the Mctavishing and it took over 1 hour to do a block. What if we ask the customer how much they are willing to pay, then we quilt what we think will be for the price they want to pay? Example: If a customer only wanted to pay 2 cents per inch, we just do a design that is worth 2 cents an inch? I have never charged more than .017 for a quilt. I kind of feel, I'm just starting out and not sure about my quilting right now. I have another quilt a customer brought to me and she said to do whatever I want. I wanted to do another custom quilting on it, how do I charge for that? I don't want to blow them away by charging too much. Maybe I should ask her that I plan to custom quilting and is going to charge her more. Any ideas?



APQS Millennium w/ Bliss and Intelliquilter

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I love Meg's comments!! I have a sheet set up in excel that I can plug in the quilt size and it will give the approx prices based on what I have listed as Panto, light custom, heirloom custom, etc. I have not separated my pantos based on how hard they are but think I will do that as well as add a new level of quilting called show quilting for custom. I currently charge 4.5 for heirloom quilting and think quilting up some samples of the different levels to show customers is a great idea. I also like what (Penny?) said about asking the customer what they planned to spend and then showing them what you have available in that price range. And you are so right - the creative time spent in deciding on how to do the custom should be accounted for somehow...maybe in the show quality custom prices?



Proud Millie Owner!

Sew Many Quilts - Sew Little Time

Custom Long Arm Quilting

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I have to tell you....your advice, thoughts and ideas have helped me a lot already. Yesterday I quoted a price range to a customer that was from .07 to .08. I mentioned how she needs to consider her budget (I've never talked budget with a customer) and I also presented some design ideas that would reduce the cost if she would like. (Usually we don't do much design talk because they say to do what I want). She agreed to the quote I gave her. Aren't ya proud of me???......I'm proud of me....and super happy that I won't be making such a piddly amount. Goodbye minimum wage!!!



Jessica Noonan

Butterfly Quilting Studio


APQS Freedom SR

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I don't quilt much for others and don't do it as a business like a lot of you gals. But, I did make up a new pricing sheet for those that I do do ! Miniumum of $35.00 . Then I graduated the PPI according to the degree of quilting involved. I used to charge a flat rate for Wallhangings, Baby, etc. Well, I soon discovered there is a wide range of sizes in those 2 things and I was getting short changed. I had one lady who had "just a wallanging" for me to do. Well, that "wallhanging" was 60" square ! Same with baby quilt.........big size range there.

We are in a small rural area and people just will NOT pay for too much. :(


APQS Millenium and Quiltazoid

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Great discussion; after having read all the posts and having an accounting background and former craft store business owner I can only offer my two cents worth.

Zeke.......you are bang on......You are in business and treating it as such. You probably have your overhead figured out i.e How much money do you need to make to break even and how much do you need to earn a living; and that equates to $35 per hour. This is not a gender thing ladies........it's business and when the economy is slow.....business will be slower and you need to plan for that.

Step one: How much money do you NEED to make per month to cover: cost of financing machine, quilting supplies, utility bills, business space, vehicle, insurance... This is how much money you need to make.

Step two: Wages.....decide how much you need to earn every month.

Step three: Analyze what type of work you do that earns you money. As an example: If you spent 87 hours doing numerous quick and easy quilts......how much money will you have made? More than $850? During the analysis you may discover that you need to do 10 quick quilts just to cover your overhead and 2 custom quilts to pay you the desired wages. This identifies your "money makers" and then you can schedule accordingly. In this way, you may not have to increase your rates...you need to ensure your moneymakers come first!!

Analyze what you charge........maybe people are taking them to you because "you're too affordable" . Raising your rates may just attract a better clientel and improve your bu$ine$$.

I like the stopwatch idea......it holds you accontable to your time. I'ld like to add.....document your time wasters. Could time spent driving to the customers house and picking up their quilts be better spent actually quilting? (As long as you are in CONTROL of your time.....it is not a time waster because you have decided it was a necessary part of your business transaction. Or maybe you need to learn to say NO....as in "I'm really swamped right now, do you think you could drop off your quilt to me and we'll spend 20 minutes looking at ideas". This tells the customer your time is valuable.

Step four: Plan, implement, review and revise. The review and revise process should be ongoing. Does your quilting match your earning potential????? How about your fun potential?????How about your "what is going on in my life right now" potential????

Hope this helps.



APQS Liberty-new to me!

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Awesome advice Donna!!!!!! Lots of good nuggets in there...

Thank you :)

"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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As a response. I only give my clients a rough estimate on how long it will take to quilt. It is a price range that they want. Custom quilting can be difficult at it's best per hour, but I seem to usually hit it plus or minus a half hour and I'm ok with that. Most of ny clients are repeats and their friends. I have a rep. of being very fair about my prices and I don't want to chase anyone off because I'm too pricey. zeke........


by the hour.........................

APQS Ultimate I/Compuquilter



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A couple of things here.

Congratulations Jess!

I used to pick up and deliver quilts with a 2nd DH that turned into a hoarder with all the mental issues he devloped it was the only way I could do business. My quilting space was clean and neat but the rest of the house was piled with all his stuff that he would go off the deep end if I tried to do anything with it. Divorced him as I couldn't live with that craziness or the mess.

Since I don't live in the disaster anymore I do not pick up or deliver unless I happen to be heading near the customer for another reason. Just think that it's your time, your $$$ for gas, your $$ for car maint, might equate to $$ lost when you could have been quilting or just some time for you.



Fil-Tec / Glide Distributor

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Obviously Zeke, you are an extremely fast quilter or your customers are super-wealthy and don't gripe about price! Must be the former. I don't have a computer and don't have the business to justify paying for one, so I'm quite a bit slower.

I am struggling with the same thing and have been for 5 years! My pricing structure for custom was broken down into about 20 categories at one time (SID, Separate borders, sashings, motifs, crosshatch, you name it) and combinations of all that. I got so confused I threw up my hands and just went to 2.5 to 3.5 psi for custom no matter what. Of course, I lost my shirt.

Right now I'm like Zeke, but I only charge $25/hr. Pin to Pin. This includes all contemplating, etc. I have STILL lopped off time if I screw up and have to take something out, or whatever. OR if I start doing something that ends up taking longer than I think it should.

Most of the LA'rs in my area charge by the square inch. I still think you can make more money that way, and may end up going back to it, although I would do it at a much simpler level like Shana. I love her idea.

*sigh* This really should not be so difficult!!

Robin Kinley

1861 Burnt Maple Way

Vista, California 92081


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What would a customer do if she watched a video of every single minute of thought, set up, quilting, everything....that went into the quilting of her quilt.....real time.....87 hours worth.....She might see the value to it....But most quilters who send their quilts out are really "done" in their minds with the quilt (with a small thought to the binding...) So they aren't caught up in many of the issues of the long armers, and hence don't think about it much, or even place much value on it.....

I don't do quilts for others any more, I used to do hand quilting and ran into all the issues that have been mentioned above, plus the fact that hand quilting is always slow.....The thing I noticed was that women are almost never valued for handwork because of really deep seated attitudes towards "women's work". These attitudes are under all the perceptions of value and price....and many times I would be my own worst enemy....

I do like Shanna's ideas, simple, easy to understand and put in place. I also feel that most people need to have some play in pricing, so if something didn't take too long it could make up for something that took a little too much time. Still all priced in favor of the LA person....:cool: Pat

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I almost put myself out of business at the beginning of this year. It is hard for me to "time my

work". I forget when I started or the phone rings and there goes my time. So the below estimate

is probably optimistic.

I did a partial Dear Jane (140 blocks - no Christmas tree border) and made $6.86 an hour.

Then the next custom was a Moon Glow, also lots of SID. That one was $5.35 an hour.

After those 2, I decided to redo my custom pricing. I break the quilt down into elements.

I love the digitized designs for blocks when I can find one that works with the quilt. I figure

out a charge per block. A digitized block would be one price. A freehand design in a block, like

CC would be another price. A block requiring SID would be yet another price.

If I choose a design that I have to mark, it takes time to mark. I try to do as much custom

using freehand as I can. It is faster. Feathers, molars, ferns etc are easy enough to run on

a border freehand. For example, my base charge per border is $25 plus $5 for each

"roll" to do a border. For example, an 70 x 80 quilt would have $25 for the first part, plus $5

for the 2nd roll (inches 20 -39), $5 for the 3rd roll and $5 for the 4th roll which is the end of the quilt.

So $40 for the outer border. That process gets multiplied for EACH border. If the borders

require SID and I think most of them do, then that would add another charge.

Let's talk about thread charges. Every thread charge multiplied by every roll. I charge $5

standard thread fee + $5 if I have to change thread plus $1 for each change after that as I roll.

So in the example 70 x 80 quilt, with 2 borders using 2 different threads would be $80 for the border plus

thread change $5 + $2 per roll (3 rolls) for thread changes so $6 more dollars. Premium thread

like Rainbows and King Tut have a higher thread charge.

I have used this formula several times and can use it while consulting with a customer.

I don't explain the details to them, though. It would probably put them to sleep.

Using this formula, I now feel better about my bottom line.

I think we all have to develop or use a process that works for us keeping in mind that we are running a

business, we're supposed to be paid for our time.:D

Linda Card

APQS Chat Member since August 2005

Ramona Quilter Longarm Quilting Service (Retired Dec 2013)
Gammill Optimum Plus (sold to a friend Dec 2013)
Ramona, CA (Moved to Central Texas Sep 2014)

My webshots site: http://community.webshots.com/user/legcard (not active)
Blog site: http://ramona-quilter-big-dream.blogspot.com/ (not updated in months)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

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I work backwards with custom. I agree there is custom everyday and custom for show quilts.

Most people know my style of quilting so they kinda know what they are going to get. I look at a quilt knowing it will be heavily quilted with stitch in the ditch, background fills and maybe custom digitized designs made especially for that quilt. I don't distinguish if I use computer or not. The customer doesn't really care as long as it is pretty and wowie. I quote a price that would make me happy to spend a lot of time on it. I do have to consider I am in SD and what they are willing to pay. Whatever price I quote it gives them a chance to make a decision. Even though I may kringe giving them the price I think is fair, I have to consider all the books, videos, classes, machines, computers, shows I have paid for to get to the level I am at.

I love doing pantographs with IQ. Get them on, get them off and get paid. No sweat off my back.

Pantos are your bread and butter, custom is your reputation. Learned that from Tina Collins.

APQS Freedom owner

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This has nothing to do with the actual pricing, but how I break the news to the customer when they "think" they want custom.

I do it this way so I don't have to stress over figuring out a price before they know at least the approximate cost. If they say yes to custom after I break the initial news to them, then we discuss design, etc.

1. First, I say: Let me figure up what an all over will cost: $200 to $250, for instance.

2. Then I say: Now for custom, the lowest level custom would be double the cost of an allover design: $400 to $500, and could be much higher depending on the type of work. OFTEN, this is as far as we get before they say something like: I think an all over would be good for this quilt.

I do a few customs, and love doing them on occasion, but mostly they elect to go for an allover.

But the few that stay with custom, aren't shocked when we progress to the final stages of cost. And sometimes I don't give them a final cost until I do some analyzing, and they understand that.

Georgene Huggett
APQS Sales, Service, Education
Poquoson, Virginia
APQS Millennium with Quilt Path

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Hi Everyone,

This is a subject that comes up in nearly every class I teach, and unfortunately the answers aren't easy! Here are some additional suggestions I can share after lots of years quilting for others (mostly custom, but lots of overalls in the early years):

1. Start by deciding the hourly wage you wish to earn. Don't compromise here. You are worth it. Be sure you hold the right mental picture of yourself...if you are a "hobbyist quilting for a few friends" you will not make the same money as someone who considers herself a "quilt artist". The perception you have of yourself and what you project is the perception others will have and be willing to pay for. If your customer balks, here is a nice way to address her concerns or objections to price. "I understand that investing in the quilting portion of your project can be expensive, Sally. The quilt you've brought is absolutely gorgeous. Your color selection is stunning-I'm sure the fabric was an investment, too. (let her expound on how expensive fabric is nowadays.) It looks like a complex layout. How many hours do you think it took you to cut it out and piece it?" (wait for her answer--unless she's a speed demon she'll admit to a minimum of 10 hours in the process, but most are much, much more than that). "Wow! That's a lot of work, but it turned out fabulous. I don't get much time to piece while quilting for others. If I asked you to cut and piece that top for me, how much would you charge?"

By now the lightbulbs should be popping in her head and she'll start to see where you're going with the conversation--that your time is just as valuable as hers, and you are entitled to earn a fair wage for your skill and artistry. Heck, if she quotes you an outrageously low price for piecing the quilt for you, take her up on it! Barter the quilting for the piecing! :)

2. Calculate the other aspects of running a business that you must account for in your pay, such as:

a. Overhead costs (insurance, electricity, water, heat, postage, machine depreciation, etc.)

b. Time spent on customers that is not done "standing at the machine"--consultation

time, design time, billing, quilt preparation, etc.

3. Re-evaluate your pricing structure for all services you offer--if you don't have a stopwatch, get one or use a digital timer (many smart phones have one built into the "clock" function). KEEP A JOURNAL. Here's how:

A. Every time you load a quilt, time yourself. Set aside separate pages in your journal for different sizes of quilts from crib to king. Record the time it takes to load each one and stop when you're ready to begin stitching. You can decide how many processes are included in this timing---you can subdivide them into "pressing", loading, bobbin winding, etc. Keep recording times until you start to see an "average time" appearing in each quilt size column. Once you have an "average time", you'll know how much time to budget for each size as well as whether the "loading fee" you are charging is adequate to cover your real time investment (based on the hourly wage you wanted to earn).

B. Next, evaluate your charges for pantographs and pattern boards (for just a moment, forget about "what Mary Jo down the street" charges for her patterns. The goal here is to make sure YOU are earning the dollar amount you want to earn.) Here's how:

1. Put a pantograph on the table. You do NOT need a quilt on the frame to do this exercise. Remove the thread from the top and bobbin, but if you use a stitch regulator, USE it for the exercise. You want to hear the machine running and quilt as if you were actually stitching...even if it is just "air". Start on the right side of your panto and designate where you'll start (pretend you do have a quilt on the frame and mark the right edge with a ruler, tape, or whatever.)

2. Place some sort of marker on the pantograph where you will stop stitching, but place it so that it is positioned a distance equal to a crib-size quilt away from your starting point. In other words, PRETEND you are quilting a crib size quilt with one pass of the panto.

3. Now turn on the machine, hit the stopwatch or timer, and time how long it takes for you to quilt ONE pass, stopping at your ending point that represents a crib quilt. Record the time it took for that pass (I write the times right on the panto paper.)

4. Next, slide your stopping marker over so that you now pretend to quilt a LAP quilt. Start over again on the right, and time your pass a second time. Record the time for a Lap quilt.

5. Repeat the process again, moving the stopping marker to a distance equal to a twin, full, queen and king quilt. Write the times on your panto.

6. Now that you know how long ONE pass takes, you can do some realistic calculations about how long any given panto will take on any size quilt. For example, to make our math easy, let's say your panto is 10 inches tall, and the quilt is 100 x 100 inches. That means you'll get 10 rows on that quilt (of course, it could be one more or one less depending on the spacing or nesting requirements--the goal here is to get a pretty close approximation, not an exact number; after all, we're trying to get a realistic estimate of our actual time. It also does NOT count the time it takes to advance the quilt and set up each row--that's additional time to account for.)

So, let's say it's a fairly dense design that takes you 30 minutes per pass for a quilt that's queen size like this one. 30 minutes times 10 rows = 300 minutes of stitching. That's 5 hours (300/60=5 hours). Now, that doesn't account for the loading (your Journal says a queen size quilt averages 45 minutes to load). We're now at 5:45 hours. You spent 1 hour with the customer as she chose the design and thread, and another hour to do the billing, unload the quilt, package it up, and meet with her again when she picked up the quilt.

Now we're at 7 hours, 45 minutes. At $25 per hour as your goal (25 times 7.75 , your bill is at $193.75 (this is labor and time spent, and does NOT include your overhead expenses. It does not include any product like thread, batting, backing, etc.)

Okay, so your current standard panto charge is $.015 per square inch. Our quilt at 100 x 100 = 10,000 square inches. 10,000 x .015 = $150.00. You undercharged by $43.75 (not including your overhead expenses). If you had a "loading fee" then that would have been on top of the $150, but it would have to be $43.75 to get you to your earning amount. (Remember, a 'loading fee' is different from a 'minimum fee'. A loading fee is on top of the rate you charge. A minimum is the least a client will pay so that you won't get burned quilting a 20 x 20 quilt at a ridiculous price.)

In this real-life example, you'll see several areas where you can decide how to get back to earning $25 per hour (you earned $19.35 per hour if you charged that .015). Remember, you can certainly decide that $19.35 is enough of an hourly wage for you. But if you start undervaluing your time, it will be very difficult to raise your prices down the road and earn that wage going forward.

First, you may find a faster way to load the quilt. Or figure out how to trim your consultation time down. But shortcuts in these two areas often lead to mistakes and disappointed customers.

The best course of action is to charge $.02 per inch for that pantograph pattern! That would earn you the $25 per hour that was your goal. In other words, the pantographs should really fall into anywhere from 2-4 pricing categories, with each one categorized based on how long it takes to execute the panto or pattern board. When you select carpet and wallpaper, the price goes up along with the "grade" or "quality" of the product. Here, you charge and get paid according to the difficulty and quilting density of the panto.

Whew, am I long-winded! I'm going to start another post beneath this one to describe "overall freehand" and "custom pricing" categories and some ideas on those.


APQS Customer Service & Education Director



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