This post gives real-world tips on starting a business teaching others to sew – creating and operating your own sewing classes.
So you have spent countless hours at your sewing machine perfecting your sewing knowledge and now consider yourself an expert in sewing. You have worn your fingers-to-the-bone embroidering beautiful designs and are now eager to show your expertise to others. What could give you more joy than teaching what you have learned to others and, at the same time, making a living at it?
“In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn” – Phil Collins
The plus side of teaching sewing
There are many who are looking to learn sewing directly from an expert (at least from someone more knowledgeable than themselves) for convenient sewing classes around them. If you are willing to take on the mantle of a teacher, this is the start of a new business for you.
You can do what you love all day long with no pressure of selling anything other than what you know – in your own time.
Challenges in starting a sewing class
How to develop a commercial class out of what you know about sewing – this is slightly different than sewing at your leisure, though. The class needs a structure, a setting, an ambiance that promotes learning and the necessary equipment, and eager students who, at the end of the course, will be better at the skill you are teaching.
Steps to starting your sewing class business
In this article I will cover:
- The plus side of teaching sewing
- Challenges in starting a sewing class
- Steps to starting your sewing class business
- Step 1. The market for your class
- Step 2. Decide on your expertise – what you will teach
- Step 3. Decide on the projects/sewing class structure
- Step 4. Cost of the course
- Step 5. Location of the sewing class
- Step 6. Making the project kit
- Step 7. Make a class handbook
- Step 8. Class rules
- Step 9. Develop yourself
Step 1. The market for your class
You will first have to check out whether there is a market for such a sewing class in your area.
Is there a similar sewing class in your area? Competition is a surefire indication that there is a demand for the class. Do not be fazed by other big sewing classes/schools in your area. Please take it as a positive sign that you are right about starting the business.
If there is no sewing school, have you heard the people around you showing an interest in sewing or expressing dissatisfaction with their clothes or a tailor in your area? Ask around; Do not start if no one appears interested, or start at home with the minimum expense on a part-time basis to see whether the idea is viable or not.
Step 2. Decide on your expertise – what you will teach
Will you be teaching sewing or embroidery or a combination of the two? It is better to be concentrating on particular techniques rather than spreading yourself too thin. Haven’t you heard of Jack – who is into all trades but is a master of none?
If you are not familiar with a section of embroidery/ sewing technique, do not offer to teach it. Nothing is more embarrassing than not knowing when the student expects minimum knowledge. Learn the craft before you offer to teach. Your students look up to you.
If you have to look at books (referring) every time you are teaching a new technique, the students will not have a good opinion of you. So practice the craft before you teach.
Step 3. Decide on the projects/sewing class structure
Will you have a course for beginners or teach only people with some sewing experience? Will you be teaching on a project-to-project basis ( 2 types of pillowcase dresses ; 3 types of bags etc.) or as a comprehensive course – dressmaking for beginners or on a technique basis ( learn to sew zippers )
I think it is better to teach specific techniques/projects like a napkin with cross-stitch, a scarf in crochet, and sewing a pillow rather than a general all-encompassing course. Success in mastering one technique and project will spur the students to join more courses from you.
You will have to decide on a curriculum that you can demonstrate to the whole class rather than individually, which can cause stress. You have to agree. It is less straining to teach several students together than each one individually – it takes a lot of your time too. But that does not mean you do not have to attend to students individually.
Make decisions on ‘how many projects will be taught’ and ‘duration of the class’.
Decide on the sequence of teaching – My suggestion is to teach difficult techniques early in the class – this will ensure that the freshness of mind at the start will make the student more receptive than at the end of the class.
With beginners, You will have to start from the basics – how to use the sewing machine, how to sew a straight line, and about using the sewing tools and equipments. You may find the posts in sewguide helpful in this regard.
Step 4. Cost of the course
When deciding what to charge for your sewing classes, decide on what you will base it on – by the hour, project, month, or session.
Conclude on the complexity of the techniques taught, the duration for teaching, what competitors are charging for this (a phone call will tell you this ), and whether the students have to bring in supplies or will you provide them as a kit. If you are teaching a technique known to only a few, you can charge more.
Decide beforehand how long it will take to make the project yourself. Then how much extra to teach it to a ranked beginner?. This can give you an idea of how much to charge based on the number of person-hours.
Write the class plan with the sequence of stitching/embroidering and techniques. This will give you an estimate of the complexity and duration of teaching the course.
Whatever you decide on the cost, ensure you have collected the course fee before beginning the class. This way, rogue students would not get away with your money.
One way to decide on how much to charge is an hourly rate for your teaching (i.e., the minimum wage you should get for one hour of your teaching). Multiply this rate by the number of hours you intend for the course.
Divide this by the number of students you intend to have or you hope will be attending. This is the amount you should be charging per student. Adjust according to the market.
If you see that you have a long waiting line of students, you can raise your price, and no one would complain too much. If students are not forthcoming, you will have to lower your price – it is the market that decides, so this is difficult for me to a treatise on.
Step 5. Location of the sewing class
Where you will conduct the class and the number of students you can accommodate in the place you have in mind are all important considerations. This number of students you can have is important – it can decide whether you will make money from your classes, especially if you are renting space and buying new/ old equipment for teaching. You have to break even.
You should equip the place with necessary equipment like sewing machines and proper lighting etc.
An extra room in their house converted into a class room is where most people start their sewing classes. Checkout the post on the rules every home based business should follow for success
Step 6. Making the project kit
A project kit will have the supplies needed to create the project/projects you are teaching. Sometimes sewing classes provide the kit , sometimes the students are asked to buy from outside based on a list.
Giving a kit for every project is one thing you must consider. The advantage of giving the kit is that you can ensure a minimum quality, and the student will not have to go around gathering different supplies.
If you overprice the kit expense, the students may stay away from the course altogether.
Decide how much the kit will cost you. The kit will have to be of good quality as it will reflect the quality of the class. The students should get value for their money, and at the same time, you should not stand to lose. Ensure that the transportation and other expenses in collecting the kit are included in the final price.
Step 7. Make a class handbook
This booklet is given to the students at the beginning of the class with the details of the project/class and is provided by all sewing classes.
You cannot expect the students to remember everything you have taught. They need a breakdown of the steps you teach, which they can refer to later. Write down the steps you are teaching with some pictures if you can, and make it as professional as possible.
After you have written down everything, read it out at least twice to see whether you have made any mistakes. Make the project once, following the directions you have written to see if everything is ok.
Step 8. Class rules
Decide on the decorum to be maintained in the class – like no drinking or eating while in class or no phone calls unless urgent etc. Make your own according to your sensibilities.
Write it down and pin it somewhere in your class; ask every student to read it first so that no one can say they are ignorant.
Step 9. Develop yourself
However informal a setting you have in your class, you are a presenter in front of your students. Develop your presentation and time management skills which are very important in conducting classes.
Have you already taught classes similar to this?. If you have not talked to a group before, begin the class with one or two students ( or get your family as students) and develop your presentation.
Prepare the notes beforehand and come up with alternatives if something does not work so that you are not flustered during the class.
Dress like the expert you are. A teacher should command respect from the word go. Dressing appropriately can play a large part in gaining attention and commanding respect. A teacher must have a neat, clean, and proper dressing style.
These are some guidelines you can expand on when planning to start a sewing class as a business. One more important tip is always to have enough supplies to demonstrate. You must have things to show in your class in the middle of a session. It is embarrassing. So having extras – even two or three extras of needles, chalk, etc.- would come in handy someday.
And finally, do not do this only for the money. A passion for the craft and a commitment to your students will ensure that your sewing class is a roaring success and will lead you to riches.
Interesting reading on teaching sewing and some real-world experiences can be found here