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Does the freedom and creativity of opening your own alterations business appeal to you? Starting a business can be overwhelming with so many legal, financial and practical aspects to consider, but the good news is that you don't have to face them all at once. In this guide, we discuss what you need to consider before opening your own alterations business.
An alterations business provides a clothing alterations service to customers. You or a seamstress make changes to clothing to fix or improve the garments, such as:
Straightforward steps for setting up your own alterations business:
In order to start an alterations business, you need general sewing skills and knowledge around clothing design and fabrics. You need to be able to use a sewing machine, with the ability to move onto an industrial version of the one you have now.
To start charging for alterations you will need to have skills in:
You will also need a business plan and an idea of how you're going to market your services.
Depending on the scale of customers and projects you want to take on, you will need:
You may also need accounting software to keep track of:
Working in alterations does not require a formal qualification. Your success depends on your work experience and skills.
If you are still learning, there are a variety of courses for every skill level. There is a wealth of information online – you can find a plethora of free instructional videos on YouTube, or find sewing and alterations content on the following paid online learning platforms:
Alternatively, if you learn better in a hands-on environment, then a sewing class might be for you. Generally, these are guided workshops with a handful of other people.
If you want to elevate the profile of your business, having a qualification in fashion or dressmaking can be beneficial. TAFE has a variety of courses that cover skills such as sewing, pattern cutting, screen printing, digital design skills and fashion drawing.
Before you start working, you will need to consider how you are going to structure your business.
It is likely your alterations business fits one of the following models:
You will also need to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) so you can invoice customers.
It is important to have a range of legal documents for your business signed before you start trading.
If you need additional legal documents or advice, you can find these services offered by a range of online legal providers.
With an alterations business, a mix of physical advertising and online advertising can help you find customers.
Most alterations businesses charge per article of clothing. Small, uncomplicated jobs are usually listed at a fixed price.
Here is a rundown of how much alterations typically cost:
|Alteration type||Item||Price to charge|
|Hems||Trousers and jeans|
Skirts and dresses
Jackets and coats
|$15 - $25|
$15 - $25
$20 - $30
$35 - $50
|Take in or let out||Trousers and jeans|
Skirts and dresses
Jackets and coats
|$25 - $30|
$15 - $33
$30 - $45
$40 - $50
|Zips||Trousers and jeans|
|$18 - $25|
$18 - $28
$30 - $45
Jackets and coats
|$10 - $30|
$25 - $45
|Straps||Alter length||$10 - $33|
Complex alterations for formal attire such as tuxedos, ball dresses, wedding and bridesmaids gowns usually require an assessment in person before you can quote the customer.
How can I start a sewing business with no money?
Some will start their alterations business from home to cut back on expenses like commercial rent. You can also use your personal sewing machine in the beginning and move up to a commercial grade machine as your business grows.
How can I improve my tailoring business?
Alterations are one of few services left that are dependent on local customers. If you can outperform other businesses in your area, then you will earn a bigger market share. A few ideas are:
Is a tailor and a seamstress the same?
The short answer is no. A seamstress works with hemlines, fabrics and seams, whereas tailors create and alter custom-made garments. The term "seamstress" specifically refers to a female, whereas "seamster" is the male equivalent. "Tailor" is generally considered gender-neutral.Back to top
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