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Setting up a Sewing Business

All you need to know about starting and running your business

Business guides » Setting up a Sewing Business

What is a Sewing Business?

The art of sewing is thought to be more than 20,000 years old, with ancient civilisations using animal sinew as thread and pieces of bone and horns as needles. Since the 1400s, when eyed needles were invented, and the 1800s, when sewing machines became popular, sewing has grown in popularity and can now be a hobby, a skill and even a profession.

Sewing was once considered a lost art, with fewer and fewer people learning the skill. However, with the rise of more people wanting to be eco-conscious and wanting to connect with earlier generations and the increasing cost of living making people want to save money by upcycling, repairing or altering their clothes instead of throwing them away, sewing has made a resurgence in popularity.

If you are thinking about turning your sewing hobby into a business, the first consideration you will need to make is what type of sewing business you’re going to set up.

There are several different types of sewing businesses you can set up, depending on your experience, your skill, your local competition, your materials and the demand for different services.

Your business options include:

Alterations and repairs

Alterations are a popular type of business, particularly within the wedding industry, where suits frequently need tailoring and wedding dresses need altering. Alterations are also popular for people who want to make their clothes bigger or more fitted and for hemming and shortening sleeves or trouser legs. Alteration sewing businesses frequently partner with other businesses, such as bridal, couture and formalwear shops.

Creating custom garments

This involves using a variety of materials to create custom clothing and garments, such as dresses, suits and jackets. Many people choose to purchase custom clothing because it is made to measure, so is likely to be more comfortable and flattering, and because they want their clothing to be more individual and personalised to them. Although making each piece of clothing will likely be laborious and time-consuming, the price you will charge each customer will likely reflect this.

Children’s clothing business

This type of business is usually in high demand as people love to dress their children in individual clothing, particularly for special occasions. A children’s clothing business that creates clothes for babies is likely to be particularly popular.

Drapery and home décor materials

This type of sewing business is beginning to grow in popularity. You could be asked to create or customise items, such as curtains, duvet covers, pillows, pillowcases and fabric artwork. In this type of sewing business, you can also offer quilting (for example, when you make a quilt using clothing or a collection of other materials).

Customising existing clothing

This is likely to include customisations and embroidery, such as customising business and school uniforms, adding names, numbers and logos to sports kits, and adding patches or logos to clothing.

Soft toys

Traditional baby and children’s toys, such as sewn teddy bears and soft toys, have gone from being traditional toys that were popular with older generations to becoming increasingly popular today, as people want to give their children teddies and toys they can keep and even pass down to future generations.

Upholstery and upcycling

As people become more environmentally conscious, upholstery (the materials, fabric or textiles attached to furniture) and upcycling (where you reuse old materials to create something of a higher quality) has become increasingly popular. Using your sewing skills to set up an upcycling or upholstery business could be lucrative. You could source the items and materials yourself and then sell them on when you are done, or you can focus on upcycling your customer’s existing items and fulfilling their requests.

Starting up a sewing business can be extremely lucrative, particularly because this type of business has low investment requirements, and you may already have a lot of the required equipment.

Once you have determined the type of sewing business you want to set up, you must then decide how to sell your products. For example:

  • Open a sewing shop.
  • Run an at-home business.
  • Offer your services through another shop or business.
  • Set up a website and sell your products or sewing services online.
  • Advertise and sell your products or sewing services on social media.
  • Sell your products or offer your services at craft fairs and other events.

 

There are many different tasks and responsibilities associated with running a sewing business, for example:

  • Keeping up to date with fashion trends.
  • Ordering materials.
  • Sewing materials and garments and using different sewing techniques.
  • Consulting with customers and discussing their desires and expectations.
  • Performing fittings and alterations.
  • Advertising and marketing.
  • Preparing quotes and taking orders.
  • Handling payments and invoices, sales and pick-ups or deliveries.
  • Creating and maintaining a portfolio.
  • Completing business and administrative tasks.

 

If you are considering starting up a sewing business, having the relevant ability and experience is essential to making your business succeed. You will need to be competent in a range of sewing skills and be able to use a variety of sewing equipment and materials.

Depending on the type of sewing business you set up and the types of clients you cater to, formal sewing training or a sewing qualification may be advantageous. Artistic ability, creativity skills and an eye for detail, as well as patience and good listening skills, are essential. Good business skills, such as effective advertising and marketing strategies, will also be beneficial.

Types of Customers

Your typical clients and the types of customers you will target will depend on the type of sewing business you set up. For example, a sewing business that focuses on alterations may be more likely to attract customers from the wedding industry and a children’s clothing company is more likely to attract parents.

However, the type of business you set up is not the only factor that will influence your typical client base.

Some factors that could also affect your customer base are:

The materials and fabrics you work with

There are a variety of materials you can choose to work with, and this can have a significant impact on your typical customer base. For example, not all sewers are able to or choose to work with fragile materials (such as lace or chiffon), expensive materials (such as silk or cashmere) or tough materials (such as leather or denim). You may also choose to specialise in a certain type of material or fabric. If clients are looking for a specific service or specific products, this could influence the type of sewing business they choose.

How and where you sell your products or services

The way you operate your business will likely have a significant impact on your customer base. For example, if you open a sewing shop, you may be more likely to attract high-end customers or customers who are looking for more complex sewing work. If you sell your products through another shop or business, your typical customers will likely be their clientele. Consider your primary selling strategy when determining your customer base.

Your pricing policy

This will be a key factor in determining your customer base. Clients often have a specific budget in mind when choosing a sewing business. There are budget, mid-range and high-end clients, who will have different ideas of the type of products they want, different services and different budgets.

Your branding, marketing and advertising

How you opt to advertise and market your business can impact the potential clients you reach. For example, you will attract different clients by advertising on social media compared to advertising through local businesses. Your business name and logo, the aesthetic and design of your business and the design of your website or physical location can also impact your typical clients.

Once you have determined who your typical customer base is, you can then decide how best to target them. You will need to gather information and insights into your clients. You can do this via multiple sources, including social media.

Tailoring
Sewing Machine
Sewing Business

Equipment You Will Need

The type of equipment you need for your sewing business will vary depending on the type of sewing business you set up.

Some factors that can influence your equipment requirements are:

  • The type of sewing services you will offer.
  • The types of fabrics and materials you will work with.
  • How many products or customers you will deal with at one time.
  • Whether you are creating a product from scratch or working on existing products.

 

You may already have some of the equipment required for your business. However, if you are using your existing equipment, is important to make sure it is safe and in good working condition.

You may already have some of the equipment required for your business. However, if you are using your existing equipment, is important to make sure it is safe and in good working condition.

Consult the list below to help you decide what equipment your business requires:

Sewing Equipment

  • A sewing machine: The majority of your sewing can be completed using a sewing machine. Sewing machines are significantly faster, compared to hand sewing. They are also better for thicker and heavier fabrics and usually result in more consistent, neater and accurate stitching. Sewing machines also allow you to incorporate decorative stitches.
  • Machine needles: You will need a variety of sewing machine needles to use with your sewing machine. You will need different needles depending on the type of fabric you are working with and the strength and weight of the fabric.
  • Hand-sewing needles: Even if you do the majority of your work with a sewing machine, you will still require hand-sewing needles for any intricate detailing that needs to be added.
  • Thread: You will need a variety of thread types, in varying thicknesses, materials and colours.
  • A sewing needle threader: Threading a needle can be frustrating and time-consuming. A needle threader allows you to easily pass the thread through the eye of a needle, saving you time and preventing the thread from fraying.
  • Readymade patterns: Readymade patterns are guides to sewing specific garments in specific sizes. They are often made using a unique type of tracing paper.
  • Tracing tools: If you are tracing patterns to use when sewing, tracing tools can be used for tracing the original pattern. Your tools may include tracing paper, a tracing wheel and pens.
  • Pins: Pins have a variety of uses in a sewing business, such as pinning patterns to fabric and making alterations. You may need to buy different length pins and pins that are specifically designed for certain fabrics.
  • Dressmaker’s scissors: These are specific scissors with serrated edges that can be used for cutting a huge variety of materials, including strong fabric such as leather.
  • Standard scissors: You will need standard scissors if you are cutting out patterns from paper or if you are cutting thread. Dressmaker’s scissors cannot be used for these types of materials, as paper and thread can blunt the edges of the scissors.
  • A rotary cutter: This is a tool with rotating blades that can make it easier to cut layers of fabric simultaneously. A rotary cutter is also better than scissors at cutting long, straight lines. This can save you time and effort as it cuts fabric faster and more smoothly.
  • A rotary mat: If you use rotary scissors, you will also need a rotary mat to protect your surfaces and the cutting blade.
  • Tape measures: These can be used for measuring your clients and making alterations. Choose a soft and flexible strip tape measure that is made from a malleable material so that it can be used to measure parts of the body such as waists and hips.
  • Sewing gauges: This is a type of tool that can be used to measure small areas as you sew. They are available in a variety of shapes and forms and can be used for checking seam allowances, ensuring symmetrical hems and making quick and consistent measurements.
  • Tailor’s chalk: Chalk allows you to mark the fabric while measuring it to prepare it for cutting or sewing. Tailor’s chalk works on most materials and can be easily removed when you are finished with it.
  • A seam unpicker: No matter how much skill and experience you have, mistakes are inevitable. A seam unpicker (also known as a seam ripper) allows you to unpick any incorrect stitches.
  • A pin cushion: A pin cushion is used to store pins or needles and keep them organised. A pin cushion can keep your work area safer and tidier.
  • A thimble: Thimbles protect your thumb when you are hand sewing.
  • Thread nippers: Thread nippers are used to cut any loose threads once you have finished stitching.
  • A hem guide: A hem guide helps you to quickly and efficiently measure the hem depth and curve on your garments.
  • A button guide: If you sew any items with buttons, a button guide can be beneficial in ensuring your buttons are correctly placed and well-spaced.
  • A bodkin: This tool can be used to thread or replace elastic and drawstrings. They are available in different sizes and styles.
  • An iron and ironing board, a trouser press and/or a steamer: If you are creating or altering any garments, such as dresses and suits, or fabrics such as curtains, your customers will expect to receive their products in optimal condition. This includes them being wrinkle-free and ready to wear or use. You may need one or more pieces of equipment for ironing or de-wrinkling your fabrics, depending on the type of material and its fragility.
  • A sewing machine duster: This is a small brush that is used to clean lint, dust and dirt from your sewing machine. This keeps your machine in optimal condition and prevents the clothes you are sewing from becoming dirty.
  • Sewing machine oil: Similarly to other machinery, sewing machines need to be lubricated to keep them running smoothly and without friction. This can help your sewing machine to last longer.
  • Dressmaker mannequins: Mannequins can be used to display your garments, to make alterations, to see the fit and draping of a garment and to display different fabrics and textiles.

 

Other Equipment

  • A website: A website is useful for advertising your business. It should contain your contact information, photos of your garments, descriptions of the services you offer, whether you deliver or offer pick-up and your customer reviews. Design your website to include your business logo and to reflect your branding.
  • Business cards: Business cards can be used for advertisement purposes and handed out to customers and potential customers. The business cards should include your business name and logo, the services you offer, your location and your contact information.
  • A fully stocked first aid kit: Even if you don’t hire any staff, a first aid kit is a necessity, particularly because you will be working with sharp objects, such as pins and needles.
  • A computer or laptop: A computer can be used to advertise your business, keep track of your orders and manage your business website.
  • Packaging materials: Even if you don’t offer a delivery option to your customers, you will still need protective materials to ensure your customers can safely transport their items home.
    Some materials you could provide include:
    – Garment bags.
    – Hangers.
    – Garment containers.
    – Waterproof plastic bags.
    – Packaging tape.
    – Cards and delivery notes.
    – Tissue paper.
  • A business phone: This allows you to be easily contactable to customers without giving out your personal phone number.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE can protect your clothing from becoming damaged or getting caught in your sewing machine. It can also protect your skin from injury.
  • Cleaning equipment: Cleaning your equipment and work areas not only ensures a high level of cleanliness but can also protect your equipment. Some cleaning equipment you will likely require includes cloths, a sweeping brush, a mop, a duster, rubbing alcohol and cotton wool.
  • Storage boxes or containers: You will need storage containers to safely store your fabrics and materials and ensure they don’t become dusty or dirty in any way. Ensure you purchase large containers so that you can store the fabric with minimal creases. You should also ensure the containers have a lid and are airtight.

 

If you open a sewing shop or another physical business location, you will likely have additional equipment requirements, such as:

  • A CCTV system.
  • A till and Point of Sale (POS) system.
  • Chairs and desks (for sewing).
  • Display cabinets and shelves.
  • Clothing rails.
  • A seating area (for your customers to wait).
  • A physical portfolio of your previous work and/or the services you offer.
  • Fabric swatches.
  • A changing room area.
Sewing Business

Typical Costs

When starting up a sewing business, an important consideration you will need to make is your start-up costs and running costs. Calculating the typical costs associated with a sewing business allows you to calculate your initial investment requirements, your pricing strategy and your profit goals.

There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a sewing business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

The typical costs associated with sewing businesses can vary, depending on the type of sewing services you offer and the type of business you set up (e.g. online vs. a sewing shop).

Some costs you can expect to be responsible for include:

Equipment

Your equipment is an important purchase, as without it you will not be able to run your business. You may have some of the equipment already, and as long as it is in good working condition, this can allow you to purchase less equipment initially and expand or update your equipment as your business grows. The cost of your equipment can vary significantly, depending on how much equipment you require and the specification of the equipment. For example, sewing machines can vary in price, from £100 to £2,000. Purchasing equipment for your sewing business will likely cost between £200 and £3,000.

Fabrics and materials

This will be an ongoing cost associated with your sewing business. The costs can vary significantly depending on the types of fabric you are working with, for example, silk is more expensive than linen. You can keep your material costs as low as possible by buying in bulk, partnering with vendors and shopping around.

The cost of your fabric and materials per month will depend on:

  • The types of fabric and materials you work with.
  • How much fabric you require per month.
  • How you source your materials (for example, materials sourced from abroad will likely have import and delivery charges to account for).

 

Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment

Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Cleaning and maintaining equipment, particularly your sewing machine and needles, can help to extend their lifespan. However, repairs and replacements are inevitable. Furthermore, pins and needles can begin to blunt the more you use them so these will likely need to be replaced periodically. Factor repair and replacement costs into your annual budget.

A physical location

If you decide to set up a sewing shop, your premises will likely be your biggest expenditure. You will likely need to rent your premises on a monthly or yearly basis. Rental prices can vary significantly, depending on the location, the size of the premises and the on-site facilities. City centre locations and newly built premises usually have the highest rental costs. Rental costs are often calculated per square metre. They can range significantly, from £500 to £15,000 per square metre annually.

Your business website

A business website is an essential advertising tool (particularly if you run an online business) as it allows potential customers to find your services online and view pictures, descriptions of your sewing and other important information. You should ensure your website is attractive to customers and use search engine optimisation (SEO) so that your website ranks highly on search engines, such as Google. Your website will need regular monitoring, updating and upgrading. You also need to make sure your website is secure, particularly if you will be collecting any customer information or banking details. You may choose to set up and run your website yourself or hire someone to do this for you. You can expect to pay between £20 and £100 per hour for someone to set up your website.

Branding

When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived by potential customers. When creating your brand, consider the type of sewing services you offer, the materials you work with, your typical customer base and how you plan to sell your garments or services. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.

Advertising and marketing

To ensure your sewing business attracts customers and creates maximum profits, you will need to spend money on advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £40,000, you should spend between £400 and £1,200 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your business or when you are trying to grow your business. To reduce your costs, capitalise on free marketing strategies, such as on social media or in your local community.

Running costs

These are the day-to-day costs associated with running a sewing business. Some running costs are paid monthly, and others are paid quarterly or annually. Your running costs can vary significantly depending on whether you set up an in-person or online business and whether you open a sewing shop. Even if you run your business from your home, you will likely still have running costs, as you may see an increase in your utility bills (such as electricity). To maximise your profits, try to keep your running costs as low as possible.

Staff

If you open a sewing shop or your business grows, you may need to hire staff to help you handle demand and complete your orders. Although hiring staff will allow you to increase your orders (and therefore your profits), you will also need to account for this extra expense in your budget. You will need to pay your staff an hourly wage. The national minimum wage in the UK, as of 1st April 2022, is £9.50 per hour. When employing staff, you may also need to factor in holiday pay, sick pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions.

Business insurance

There are several types of insurance you may need for your sewing business. Some types of coverage are not mandatory but can help to give you and your business extra protection.

The most popular coverage options for a sewing business are:

  • Public Liability Insurance.
  • Products Liability Insurance.
  • Buildings Insurance (if you operate from a shop or other premises).
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance (if you hire any employees).
  • Financial Loss.
  • Tools and Equipment Cover.
  • Business Contents Cover.
  • Personal Accident Cover.

Typical Pricing for Customers

Once you have calculated the typical costs associated with setting up and running your sewing business, you can then determine your pricing policy.

Your pricing strategy will be heavily dependent on multiple factors, such as:

The types of sewing services you offer

This is connected to the type of sewing business you run. Different types of sewing are priced significantly differently, and you should consider this when calculating your pricing. You may charge based on the difficulty of the task, how in-demand your services are and the industry your sewing business operates in (e.g. luxury clothing, homeware or wedding).

How much time each project takes

Your time needs to be factored into your pricing. You will likely have different pricing tiers, depending on how long your work takes. For example, wedding dress alterations require you to purchase fewer materials, but your pricing may be high, as the work is laborious and time-consuming.

The materials you use

When pricing your services, consider the cost of the fabric, as your materials should cost no more than 30% of your pricing. For example, if your fabric costs £15, your services should be priced at a minimum of £50.

Your typical customers

Your typical customer base will have a significant impact on your pricing. Will you target budget customers, mid-range customers or high-end customers? The majority of sewing businesses target local customers. Your location will therefore significantly impact your target customers, and therefore your pricing. For example, if you are situated in a residential area, you will likely attract customers from your local area, whereas if you are situated in a city centre, close to a suit store, you are likely to attract passing trade.

Safely Running a Sewing Business

Safe practices in your sewing business are essential to protect the health, safety and well-being of you, your employees and your customers.

Some of the safety practices you can implement are:

Follow safety guidelines when handling treated fabrics

Fabrics that have already been treated with fire-resistant, crease-resistant, anti-static properties and other finishes must be treated with care, as they most likely contain chemicals to achieve these properties. If they are not handled with care, you and your employees could develop health problems, such as skin irritation, respiratory tract irritation and eye, nose and throat irritation. This is because you may be exposed to the chemicals when sewing, cutting or putting the fabric through the sewing machine.

Register your designs with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)

If you create any original designs, register them with the IPO to ensure they cannot be copied. By registering your designs, you also have the option to sell them or license someone else to use them. If you decide to register any designs, you will need to renew your IPO registrations every five years.

Obtain training

Health and safety training can help to ensure safe practices in your sewing business and can ensure that you and any staff you employ are aware of and adhere to safety procedures. Some training you can complete includes First Aid, Health and Safety for Businesses, Fire Safety Awareness, Assessing Risks and Electrical Safety.

Obtain qualifications

Although qualifications are not a legal requirement for a sewing business, they can help to ensure correct practices, can improve your skills and can make your products and services seem more attractive to potential clients.

Some qualifications you can obtain include:

  • Level 2 Certificate or Diploma in Fashion.
  • Level 2 or 3 Certificate or Diploma in Fashion and Textiles.
  • Level 3 Diploma in Bespoke Cutting and Tailoring.
  • Level 2 Certificate in Sewing Machine Skills.
  • Level 2 Certificate in Manufacturing Sewn Products.
Sewing Machine
Sewing and Tailoring

Properly maintain and set up equipment

Any equipment you use, such as sewing machines and furniture, must be properly maintained, correctly set up and safe to use. You must protect yourself, your employees and your customers from accidents or injuries caused by equipment. You should also perform regular equipment inspections to ensure your equipment’s safety and help extend the lifespan of your equipment. Maintenance includes dusting, cleaning and washing equipment regularly.

Carry out risk assessments

Although risk assessments are only a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees, they are recommended to all businesses to ensure the safety of you, your staff and your customers. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.

As part of your risk assessment, you should:

  • Identify hazards.
  • Determine who could be at risk.
  • Evaluate any potential risks.
  • Implement relevant safety measures.
  • Record the results of the risk assessment.
  • Review the risk assessment regularly.

 

Keep clear and accurate records

If your business receives an inspection, up-to-date records of your business’s cleaning schedules, risk assessments and health and safety policies will likely be requested. Keeping such records not only helps to protect your business and improve the likelihood of you receiving a higher score in your inspection, but it also ensures procedures are followed at all times.

Implement security measures

If you have business premises or keep expensive materials at your home, security measures can be implemented to protect your business from thieves. Some ways you can protect your equipment and materials include installing a CCTV system, using secure and reliable locks and installing an alarm system.

Keep a fully stocked first aid kit

If someone involved with your business has an accident or injury, a first aid kit gives them instant access to treatment. A first aid kit is particularly important because you are working with heavy machinery and sharp equipment. Ensuring your first aid kit is checked and replenished regularly and is easily accessible is recommended.

Keep dangerous objects away from customers

This includes sewing equipment and machinery and cleaning products. Any potentially dangerous objects should be kept out of the reach of customers, and where possible in separate rooms.

Legal Requirements

Complying with any regulations or legal requirements is essential when setting up and running a sewing business. The legal requirements can change depending on the type of sewing business you set up.

Some factors that can impact the legislation you need to comply with include:

  • Whether you have business premises.
  • Whether you hire employees.
  • The types of sewing products and services you offer.
  • The types of materials you work with.

 

Some legal guidelines and regulations you should be aware of are:

Comply with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988)

This legislation gives protection to any original designs or craftsmanship. Under this Act, you must ensure you don’t copy another individual or business’s designs without seeking permission. If you advertently or inadvertently copy someone else’s design, you may be liable for statutory damages and can be sued in court.

Comply with the Nightwear (Safety) Regulations (1985)

These regulations apply to all adult and children’s nightwear and any baby garments that you make or sell. It is an offence to supply nightwear unless it has been treated so that it conforms to the flammability performance requirements, even after it has been washed. Under the regulations, you should also avoid using higher flammability threads and trimmings. If you sell or alter nightwear or any clothing that may be worn as nightwear, ensure you comply with these regulations.

Comply with the Consumer Contract Regulations (2013)

If you sell any products or services online, you must comply with this legislation. It outlines your customers’ basic rights when purchasing online. This includes the right to a 14-day cancellation period.

Comply with the General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR) 2005

The GPSR ensures the safety of consumer goods and lays down a framework for assessing product safety and ensuring the safety of your products under normal and reasonably foreseeable conditions. As part of these regulations, you should undertake and document a risk assessment that assesses the risks and risk categories associated with any products you sell. You must also take precautions against any possible risks.

Comply with fire regulations

If you run your business from a shop or other premises attended by staff or customers, you must ensure fire safety measures are implemented on-site. There are multiple fire regulation requirements you must ensure you comply with. For example:

  • Perform a fire risk assessment.
  • Comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
  • Implement any necessary fire safety measures.
  • Implement emergency procedures and ensure these are clearly displayed on your premises.

 

Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any workplaces that use electricals must construct electrical systems in a way that prevents danger, maintain electrical systems to ensure they are safe, ensure electrical equipment is checked by a competent person annually and conduct Portable Appliance Tests (PAT). This includes any electrical equipment such as sewing machines and hoovers.

Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998

These regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure any equipment (such as sewing machines) is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. You must also ensure the equipment is used under appropriate conditions.

Comply with the workplace exposure limit (WEL) for formaldehyde

The current maximum WEL for formaldehyde is two parts per million (PPM). Exposure should be as low as is reasonably practicable but should definitely not exceed 2 ppm. Formaldehyde is frequently used in fabrics for winkle and crease resistance and in fabric dyes and inks. If any of the products you use contain formaldehyde, ensure you comply with this limit.

Comply with employment legislation

If you employ any staff, you must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.

Comply with regulations on cord and drawstring length

Under BS EN 14682:2014 (safety of children’s clothing specifications), you must comply with the specific regulations regarding the length of any cords or drawstrings on children’s clothing. The requirements change based on the type of garment, the placement of the cord or drawstring and the age of the child.

Ensure toys, teddies and other play items are CE marked

If you sell certain products, such as children’s teddies, you must ensure they are CE marked before they can be sold. CE marking shows that these products have been checked and they meet all safety, health and environmental requirements.

Comply with regulations on choking hazards

Any items that may be considered choking hazards, such as buttons and sequins, must be securely fastened and be able to withstand at least 70kg of force. It is particularly important you comply with this requirement if you work with children’s clothing or toys.

Comply with retail legislation

There are several pieces of legislation you need to follow when selling goods to consumers. You must ensure your products are described correctly and that pricing is displayed visibly. You must also ensure your products are of good quality and are fit for the intended purpose.

Comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act lays out the duties of all employers in the UK regarding ensuring the health, safety and welfare of everyone in your workplace. As you are the business owner, you will be responsible for protecting the health and safety of your employees and any clients or visitors to your business.

Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)

You must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your customers’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. If you process or store personal information such as personal details and banking information, you will need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.

Comply with e-Commerce Regulations

If you have a website advertising your products or services or selling your products, you must comply with the Electronic Commerce Regulations. These regulations state how you should communicate with your website users. Under these regulations, you must clearly display your terms and conditions, display clear pricing information and delivery charges and identify who sends any business communications. You must also ensure email privacy and comply with laws on distance selling.

Comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks. The regulations apply to the lifting or moving of any objects, bending down and reaching high (for example, when making alterations) and repetitive movements (for example, sewing).

Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013

RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. These regulations apply to any incidents that involve you, your staff or your customers.

Register your business

You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information.

Register for self-assessment tax

This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.

Tailoring

Positives of Owning a Sewing Business

Owning a sewing business can be rewarding in many different ways and there are many potential positives to running this type of business.

These can include:

Creative freedom

Running your own sewing business gives you the complete creative freedom to create your own designs, follow your favourite fashion and style ideas and use your own ideas and expertise to advise your customers. You also have the creative freedom to choose the materials you work with and the types of stitches you use.

Low start-up costs

If you already sew, even as a hobby, you will likely have a lot of the equipment you require to set up your business. This makes a sewing business a low-investment enterprise. You can initially use equipment that you already have in your home and buy more equipment and materials as your business grows. You also have the option to run your business from home, meaning you won’t need to rent premises or hire any employees, reducing your start-up costs. Low initial investment requirements will mean you won’t require any outside investment and can begin turning a profit earlier.

It can be rewarding

Doing something you love and that you already consider a hobby can make your business feel less like work. You will likely enjoy what you do and will look forward to working each day. People often use sewing businesses for the big moments in their lives, such as their weddings, celebrations, new-borns and new homes. It can be extremely rewarding to be an important part of these special occasions.

You can choose how and where to sell

A sewing business has many options for marketing and selling and you can choose the sales process that most appeals to you. You could set up your own website, attend craft fairs and other events, set up your own shop or even partner with other businesses. You will have the option to sell online or in person and can even change your sales process as your business or personal life changes.

Customer retention and recommendations

People are often loyal to a seamster and will likely return to you for other sewing jobs. You will likely have regular clients and your clients may also recommend you to their family, friends or to people on social media. For example, if you alter wedding dresses, brides are likely to recommend your services to other people they know who are also getting married. High customer retention and customer recommendations can help to ensure the success of your business.

Unlimited income potential

The more experience and exposure you gain, the higher prices you will be able to charge. As your business grows and you develop a reputation, you will see your orders increase and your profits rise. You can even charge higher prices and hire more staff and expand your business to increase your profits. Sewing can have a high-income potential and your profit margins are likely to be high. A sewing business has unlimited income potential.

Face-to-face interaction

Depending on the type of sewing business you run, you will likely have a lot of face-to-face contact with many different clients. You may spend extended periods of time with them, while you discuss their vision, give your recommendations and do alterations. If you enjoy speaking to people, running a sewing business gives you the opportunity to spend time with many people from different walks of life.

Be your own boss

There are multiple ways you can grow your business and increase your profits. You can hire more employees, take on more clients, expand your business or even open additional premises. The opportunity for growth provides you with unlimited income potential.

Connect with other people in the industry

You will have the opportunity to build connections with other people in your industry, other people who are artistic and creative and even local businesses. Building both professional and personal relationships allows you to stay up to date with new trends and techniques and create useful business connections that can help you to grow your business.

Choose your workload

As a business owner, you can choose the hours you work and how many projects you want to accept each week and month. You can run your business around your personal life, for example, by only operating during the week. You can temporarily refuse new custom if you want to take time off, and if your workload becomes too much, you can hire additional staff to reduce your working hours.

Gain exposure and experience

The rise of social media makes it easier than ever for you to gain exposure, particularly if you are able to take good photographs and videos of your creations or are tech-savvy. Gaining exposure online is an easy and effective way to grow your business and increase your profits and involves minimal time, effort and money.

Work from home

You can set up and run your business entirely from home. Many people now aspire to work from home and if you own a sewing business, you will have the flexibility to order your materials, create your products or do alterations, advertise, manage your orders and handle deliveries, all from the comfort of your own home.

You can offer a personalised customer experience

You can offer client consultations where you discuss what your clients want and offer advice and insight. Your customers will receive a personalised experience and the possibility for you to design them an individual garment. With a personalised experience, the customer is likely to be more satisfied with your service and recommend you to their family and friends.

Pick and choose your clients

You will have the option to accept or decline any potential clients. If a potential customer seems difficult, or you don’t think the type of sewing work they want plays to your strengths or isn’t something you are interested in doing, you can decline to work with them and recommend another sewing business instead.

Design your dream business

As the business owner, you can create your dream business, from the type of services you want to offer, the materials you want to work with, your business’s brand and aesthetic and your selling avenue. Creating your dream business can be very rewarding.

Increasing demand

The demand for sewing services has increased in recent years, as people have become more likely to spend money on alterations and upcycling materials. This means there are plenty of opportunities for new businesses, particularly because more and more people are choosing to work with local businesses. This should make it relatively easy to get your business off the ground and to maintain or grow your business.

Sewing Machine set up

Negatives of Owning a Sewing Business

Although starting up a sewing business can be rewarding in many ways, there are some negative aspects of this type of business that you should be aware of.

These can include:

It can be time-consuming

Each individual project can be time-consuming, particularly if changes or alterations are required. If you operate your business alone or only have a small number of employees, time-consuming projects will mean that you are unable to accept new clients and may lose out on more business. You also need to factor in the time you will need to spend on administrative duties, ordering equipment, cleaning and advertising and marketing. Running a sewing business can be time-consuming.

Clients can be demanding

Some of your clients may be demanding in their requirements and expectations and may request additional work or multiple changes and alterations. They may expect you to be constantly available to help them or speak to them and may have no understanding when you have to deal with other projects and clients. To avoid complaints or negative reviews, you may feel like you have to cater to these clients, even if their demands are unreasonable. This can be stressful and time-consuming.

It can be physically demanding

People who don’t sew often don’t realise how physically demanding it is, particularly on your fingers, hands, wrists and eyes. Sitting down and leaning over your sewing machine all day can also put extra strain on your back and neck. Sewing every day can result in eyestrain and muscular aches, strains and injuries.

Business can be inconsistent

It can be difficult to plan your finances, predict your profits and order the correct amount of fabric and materials when you cannot predict the amount of custom you will have. There could be certain times of the year when you have few or no orders, which can have a significant impact on your overall profits.

It can be competitive

As sewing becomes more popular as a skill and hobby, more and more people may open sewing businesses and the industry may become saturated. Having lots of competition can make it more difficult for your business to succeed. Depending on the type of sewing business you set up, you could also be competing with other types of businesses; for example, if you create children’s clothing, you will also be competing with high-street shops, supermarkets and online businesses.

It can be stressful

Not only is there a lot of pressure to create the perfect garment every time, but as the business owner, you will face the additional pressure of being responsible for your business’s success. You will have a lot of important responsibilities, such as ensuring health and safety, advertising, ordering stock and dealing with customers. Handling all of these responsibilities can be stressful.

Your business could fail

Starting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if the UK encounters another recession or a period of financial difficulty.

No benefits

As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.

A lot of skill and experience are required

To run a successful sewing business, you will need to be highly proficient in your chosen skills and will need to understand and be experienced in a range of sewing and stitching techniques. You will also need to have experience working with different fabrics and materials. It can be time-consuming to gain the appropriate skills and many people who open a sewing business opt for a formal sewing qualification, which can take a long time to obtain and can be costly.

Building your customer base can be difficult

Many sewing businesses succeed because of word-of-mouth recommendations and partnerships with other businesses. It can take years to make the necessary connections and build up your customer base. This means that you may receive less business and earn a lower income when you initially set up your business.

Working weekends

Depending on the type of sewing business you set up, you may have to work evenings and weekends (when fewer people are at work). For example, if you offer wedding dress alterations or suit tailoring, you are likely to receive more customers at the weekend as this is when most people go shopping. Although this can mean more business at the weekend, it does mean you are working less sociable hours and could be missing out on important family and social events. Even though you can choose your opening hours, not operating during peak times can have a detrimental effect on your profits.

The possibility of making a mistake

No matter how skilled a sewer you are, mistakes can always happen. Whether the mistake is through your error, a problem with the equipment or something out of your control, mistakes can be costly and time-consuming. Whilst some errors can be fixed, for example by unpicking the stitches, some errors will require you to start the project again.

Planning Your Sewing Business

If you are considering starting up a sewing business, an effective and well-designed business plan is essential. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.

Your business plan should contain information such as:

  • Your company information.
  • Your company description.
  • The services you will provide.
  • Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
  • The structure of your business.
  • The operational plan for your business.
  • The financial plan for your business.

 

When creating your business plan, consider some of the questions below:

What type of sewing services and products will you offer?

You may choose to open a sewing business that specialises in one specific service (such as suit tailoring) or that offers a variety of services. Think about your skills and experience, the cost of the equipment and materials, the services offered by your local competition and the most in-demand or niche sewing services when considering what you will offer. Conduct thorough research before deciding what sewing services you will offer.

What types of materials and fabrics will you work with?

Will you specialise in certain types of fabrics? Are there any materials you will refuse to work with? How will using different types of fabrics impact your pricing? Consider the demand for certain fabrics and your own skills and experience before making a decision.

What type of business will you set up?

This is a key consideration and can have a significant impact on the types of customers you attract and the success of your business. Will you open a sewing shop or run your business from home? Will you partner with other businesses (e.g. with a bridal shop)? Will you sell your products or services online? The type of business you set up will have a significant impact on your typical customer base, your start-up and running costs and your staff requirements. Whichever option you choose requires forward thinking, particularly before you begin branding and advertising. You can even use a combination of different selling approaches in order to increase your sales.

What local competition do you have?

Analysing your local competition allows you to look at what they do well and what you think can be improved upon. Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your sewing business. You should also look at the types of services and products they offer, their pricing and their typical customer base.

What is your brand and your unique selling point (USP)?

Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your local competition. Branding can help you to focus your target audience, attract clients and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on the design elements of your products, focusing on your business’s visual identity and creating a brand story. Your business name and logo are also part of your branding so ensure you consider these when creating your business plan. A USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what can make you stand out and how this fits into what defines your business.

What will your advertising and marketing strategy be?

There are many ways you can choose to advertise your business. These can include partnering with other businesses in your area, advertising in your local community, advertising on social media and using paid online ads. Your marketing and advertising plan should detail what your brand is and how you plan to promote your business. As part of your marketing strategy, consider the most effective way to reach your target audience and attract potential customers. Create an advertising plan that is specific to the type of business you are going to run and how you plan to operate.

What will your start-up costs and running costs be?

Consult the list above to calculate your approximate start-up costs and running costs. Determining your approximate costs allows you to calculate your initial investment and what your monthly or yearly running costs will be. This allows you to create a budget, which is a key part of your business plan. Once you have calculated your approximate costs, you can then calculate your pricing policy and determine your profit forecast.

What is your pricing policy and sales strategy?

How will you price your different products and services? What will your pricing be based on (e.g. time, complexity, materials)? Will you offer discounts if customers are making multiple purchases? Once you have determined your pricing, you can then create a sales strategy to help you maximise your business opportunities.

What is your sales forecast?

How many projects can you realistically take on each week and month? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? You can also analyse the sales forecasts of similar businesses and look at how sales vary throughout the year to estimate the demand for your product. As your business grows, your sales forecast may change. Consider how hiring employees could affect your sales forecast and whether the additional cost would be worth the additional profit.

What are your business goals?

Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your sewing business and help you to create a one-year, three-year, and five-year business plan.

Your business objectives should be SMART:

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Realistic
  • T = Time-bound

 

Check you have complied with all legal requirements

Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.

Download our business plan

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