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Thread: Questions for those who use Longarm for business

  1. #1
    Junior Member An Arm Long's Avatar
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    Questions for those who use Longarm for business

    I am thinking about starting a business and have researched it somewhat. But I have some questions.

    1. Do you still enjoy what you do as much as before you started your business?

    2. Do you use your business as your main income or just for extra and for fun?

    3. Did you quickly become too busy or was there time to slowly build it up?

    4. Do you feel pressure to work longer and harder than you want because of backlog?

    5. Is the tax accounting a real pain?

    6. Do you use a computer program to keep your information?

    7. How long did it take before you were making money over and above your expenses?

    Thanks for any information you can give me!
    Beth in Maryland

  2. #2
    Senior Member pinecone's Avatar
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    I don't have a business but be ready for the critics of your work.

    piney

  3. #3
    Junior Member Bataplai's Avatar
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    I'm sorry I can't help with any of your questions, but I'm interested in the answers you get.

  4. #4
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    1. Do you still enjoy what you do as much as before you started your business? yes, i still enjoy quilting- been doing it as a business for 8 years now

    2. Do you use your business as your main income or just for extra and for fun? it has in the past been enough income to (support my quilting habit) and allows us extras in life...vacations, concerts, weekends away...

    3. Did you quickly become too busy or was there time to slowly build it up? there are busy times & slow times- people do not tend to sew alot in the summer months- thats when i have time to work on my own projects- i don't allow myself to get 'too busy' if i have 2 customer quilts in the house & someone calls i let them know when i will be ready to accept another- if they are in a rush and do not want to wait i refer them to someone else who may be able to get them done sooner. i don't feel threatened by 'sharing' the work with someone else who has more time than i may.

    4. Do you feel pressure to work longer and harder than you want because of backlog? no...i don't put myself into a backlog type of situation. i've known too many who allowed their (business) get away from them-out of control- & within 6 months given up- sold their stuff & don't even make quilts anymore- because it was too stressful for them- i keep it in my control.

    5. Is the tax accounting a real pain? i keep good records- and my CPA has not had any issues...

    6. Do you use a computer program to keep your information? no- (i keep copies of my pricing/policies/receipts ect on the computer) but i fill out a form for each quilt that comes in - by hand- with all the information i need- customer information, quilt information- pricing ect...when the quilt is finished the customer gets a receipt and the form is filed...i also keep a file for all expenses, postage ect.

    7. How long did it take before you were making money over and above your expenses? it took me about 2 1/2 years to have covered the price of my machine set up. now my expenses are- thread, batting, and maintenance/repairs.

    i have always still worked a full time job outside my home- i tend to be very busy january through April- then it tapers off thru the summer- then picks up again in September. I stop taking customer work by November 15 (except under special circumstances) so i can work on my own holiday/family projects. this past year has been busier than previous ones-and i have commited to spending more time then i used to- working toward not having to work outside the home.
    hiding away in my stash where i'm warm, safe and happy

  5. #5
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    ckcowl - thanks for the thoughtful answers. I think anyone with a longarm thinks occasionally about turning it into a business - I know I do - and the questions that An Arm Long asked are the ones that many of us fret over. The other questions I would ask are -

    How often do you get a quilt that has a lot of problems that make it hard to quilt?
    Have you ever had a customer complain about your work?

  6. #6
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    I am going to keep an eye on this thread, I am in the process of trying to start my own business so I can stay home with my kids and make a little extra $ on the side...I've been trying to get my name out there but its been a long process, I started this January and seem to be just making and selling baby quilts and making and selling quilts for friends...hopefully one day soon the quilting side will start up but I have patience and it will come some day..
    LIVE ~ LAUGH ~ LOVE

  7. #7
    Junior Member An Arm Long's Avatar
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    Thank you ckcowl for your thoughtful answers to my questions.
    Beth in Maryland

  8. #8
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    1. Do you still enjoy what you do as much as before you started your business? Yes, even more now!

    2. Do you use your business as your main income or just for extra and for fun? For extra...I'm retired and can use the extra funds.

    3. Did you quickly become too busy or was there time to slowly build it up? I became busy over the period of a year or so...I do some work with an interior designer so stay busy through her.

    4. Do you feel pressure to work longer and harder than you want because of backlog? No, I don't allow a backlog except two years ago when I was seriously ill; but I called my customers and told them what was going on and they were very understanding. One of them didn't even check back with me for six months on her quilt status!

    5. Is the tax accounting a real pain? Yes! Lots of things to remember, but my CPA doesn't have a problem with the way I keep my books and I'm sure he would tell me if he did.

    6. Do you use a computer program to keep your information? Some but not all. At some point in the near future I plan to enter all the information into Excel.

    7. How long did it take before you were making money over and above your expenses? Three years...I've been in business for 6 1/2now.

    Thanks for any information you can give me! Hope this helps a bit!
    If you feel like you're special...it's 'cause you are!
    Momto5

  9. #9
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    The answers to your questions were very informative. I have occasionally thought of making quilts and quilting for a business. The thought is quickly gone from my head. If I wanted to work, I would still be nursing as I loved that job. Quilting is a labor of love, but I can't even please myself, so I figure I would never please a customer. lol It would really worry me to work on someone else's quilt. So far I only quilt on my Janome machine, and need more practice in my opinion. Keep the information coming. Thanks
    Sue

  10. #10
    Junior Member An Arm Long's Avatar
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    Thank you Momto5 and also susie-susie-susie. These are great answers.
    Susie, I too am a retired nurse. I find such joy in quilting and am surprised that I didn't know I had this creative side and could be enjoying such a solitary passtime. I am being careful not to spoil it by starting this business and allowing it to consume my life. The above answers give me good ideas about controlling what I agree to do.
    Beth in Maryland

  11. #11
    Senior Member Toni C's Avatar
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    Another thing to find out is how many longarmers are in your area. I have a ton around me kind of a glut so its really spread out. And yes you can get some really interesting quilts that the owners believe you should do a miracle with them and want to fault you for the problems that came to you with the quilt. I had one that had very apparent stitches around the applique. She wanted echo quilting to emphasize applique. When she got it back she was very upset because the apparent applique stitches had not disappeared. I had not quilted on the applique staying about 1/4 away as she requested. sigh

  12. #12
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    Definitely check out how many LA quilters are in your area. We have a lot. Besides a lot more people are fmq or getting mid arms. I am computerized with IQ and well trained with private lessons with Suzanne Moreno but have not had enough business to pay for equipment and training. Truthfully, I do it because I love it and I just keep trying to get our name and a reputation for quality work out there. It can take time to get established and most of the LA quilters in our area have been doing it for a long time and do beautiful work. Also your location is important. We live in the country about 40 min from nearest large town and even offering free pick up and delivery is not improving matters
    Cheryl Robinson
    http://www.silverneedlestitching.com
    APQS Millenium Longarm with Intelliquilter

  13. #13
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    Other questions -

    Do customers pay a deposit when you accept the quilt?

    How do you deal with "challenges" in the top that would make quilting it "interesting" -

    If the customer doesn't pay, what do you do?

  14. #14
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    1. Yes I still enjoy quilting. I love getting all the beautiful quilts and seeing what others have done.
    2. I do this part time right now. I work full time as a teacher. The money I make is paying for my LA.
    3. It was a slow build up for me. Which for me was good because I was just starting to do LA. I only take in what I can do because I work full time.
    4. I don't feel pressure. I usually set up my week of quilting with a schedule for the week. I always tell people a will be done later rather then sooner and then they are happy when I get it to them sooner.
    5. I haven't had a problem. The first year was a learning experience. Now I know what to keep track of.
    6. I put it all in a binder/folder.
    7. I am still paying off the LA I bought, but I have been buying other things as I go. So I guess you could say I'm not even yet, but I wouldn't have been able to buy my embroidery machine.

    I have had people have me machine quilt their quilt and say do what you want and then you give them the quilt and they don't like it. I lost that customer. But it taught me a lesson ... so I won't except a quilt if they say do what you want. I have a quilter who for whatever reason always gives me a quilt that the back never has enough material. I always return it and have her add more material. I will never take more work then I can handle on the LA. There are always other LA quilters in my area so I am not worried. There are key times in the year that people think you can whip up a quilt in no time ... Christmas, Mothers Day, Graduation etc. Remember you are always in charge and you can always say no! Hope this helps!

  15. #15
    Super Member Just Me...'s Avatar
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    Beth-->I'm not going to answer each question specifically, because some of these things vary depending on where you are. I have been longarming for around 10 years. I have 2 longarm machines. The keys to a successful longarm business are the same as any other home-based business. MOTIVATION--DETERMINATION--ORGANIZATION It won't matter if there are a hundred other longarmers out there once you establish your business. If you are doing a great job for a fair price, your customers will be loyal. There will always be someone out there who can find it done more cheaply. Let the other longarmers have them. I'm not being rude, but I appreciate the customers who care more about the quality of work I do vs. my price. I do each quilt as though it was my own. When business is slow, I make sure I still keep those machines going. When they are sitting idle, I am not making money. There are so many other things you can do besides quilting customer quilts with your longarm. I determine my schedule. So, if I feel overwhelmed, I slow down on how many I take or schedule some time off into the mix. Granted, I had a brick and mortar shop until about 2 years ago, but I still longarm. I do use a computer program. The accounting isn't bad as long as you stay on it and don't put it off.
    http://www.appalachianquilts.blogspot.com
    http://www.quiltweb.net

  16. #16
    Junior Member An Arm Long's Avatar
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    Wow, thanks everyone. You have all had great answers. I like Bearisgray's 2 questions:
    How to make the challenges in the top interesting - and
    What do you do if the customer doesn't pay?

    Any answers to those also?
    Beth in Maryland

  17. #17
    Super Member Just Me...'s Avatar
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    About customer not paying-->my customers ask if I want them to pay when they drop off. I simply say, "No, I have your quilt to hold hostage" and we chuckle. If you aren't comfortable with that, charge 1/2 down as a deposit. I have only had one person who hasn't shown up within a week to get her quilt. It took her TWO months, and then I felt like I was making her come to get her quilt. (A little background here--she said she needed before Christmas. I moved heaven and earth to make that happen for her. She picked up in Feb or March. I was less than happy.) Now, there is a disclaimer on my longarm brochure that says something to the effect: Unless other arrangements are made, quilts not picked up within 30 days may be sold for the amount of the longarm bill. I know it sounds harsh and I would NEVER do it, but it is an option for those who refuse to come get their quilt.
    http://www.appalachianquilts.blogspot.com
    http://www.quiltweb.net

  18. #18
    Super Member Just Me...'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearisgray View Post
    Other questions -

    Do customers pay a deposit when you accept the quilt?

    How do you deal with "challenges" in the top that would make quilting it "interesting" -

    If the customer doesn't pay, what do you do?
    I still learn something from every quilt. I used to belong to a longarm guild where we would share ideas to overcome the challenges. Sometimes I felt like the longarmers were just using it as a session to see who could bring in the worse quilt, so I quit going. I am not paid to judge a quilt. I am paid to quilt your quilt, no matter the skill level. I do my best with each one and consider each quilter's circumstances. I had an older lady bring me a quilt once with a moving blanket she got at the thrift store for batting. I told her I wasn't comfortable with it. She was on a limited income, and that was what she could afford. She told me to do my best.....and it turned out fine. You will be your worse critic. Don't accept customer quilts until you know you can do a good job....and then do a good job. Have some of your own quilted items to show potential customers the quality of your work and let them decide. Don't be offended if they walk away. If someone you start working with seems like a perfectionist and your work isn't perfect yet, it is more than OK to say you aren't there yet and perhaps they can try you when you have a little more experience. That will go a long way--much further--than if you do your best work and find out you weren't ready....
    http://www.appalachianquilts.blogspot.com
    http://www.quiltweb.net

  19. #19
    Junior Member An Arm Long's Avatar
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    Just me-
    Good advice and good examples. Thank you.
    Beth in Maryland

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