So you have spent countless hours at your sewing machine perfecting your sewing knowledge and now consider yourself an expert in sewing or you have worn your fingers to the bone embroidering beautiful designs and is 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 make a living at it.
“In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn” – Phil Collins
There are many who are looking for learning 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 – at your own time.
How to develop a commercial class out of what you know about sewing – this is slightly different than sewing at your own leisure, though. The class needs a structure, a setting, an ambiance which 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.
Step 1 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 sure fire indication that there is a demand for the class. Do not be fazed by other big sewing classes/schools in your area. Take it as a positive sign that you are right in starting the business.
If there is no sewing school, have you heard the people around you showing an interest in sewing or expressing dissatisfaction at the state of their clothes or a tailor in your area. Ask around; Do not start if no one appears interested or start at home with 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 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 would 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 the 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 )
In my opinion It is better to teach specific techniques / project like a napkin with cross stitch, a scarf in crochet , sewing a pillow rather than a general all encompassing course. The success in mastering one technique and project will spur the students to join for more such courses from you.
You will have to decide on a curriculum where you can demonstrate to the whole class rather than individually which can cause a lot of stress. You have to agree, it is less straining to teach a number of students together than each one individually – takes a lot of your time too. But that does not mean that 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 on what to charge for your sewing classes decide on what you will base it on – by the hour, by the project, by the month or by the session.
Come to a conclusion on the basis of the complexity of the techniques taught, duration for teaching and on 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 that is known many few you can charge more.
Decide before hand how long you will take to make the project yourself. Then how much extra to teach it to a rank beginner.This can give you an idea of how much to charge based on the number of man 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 make sure that you have collected the course fee before beginning the class. This way rogue students would not get way with your money.
One way to decide on how much to charge is to decide on an hourly rate for your teaching ( ie the minimum wage you should get for one hour of your teaching). Multiply this rate by 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, this means 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 which decides, so this is difficult for me to treatise on.
Step 5 Location of the sewing class
Where you will conduct the class , 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.
Would you be giving a kit for every project is one thing which you have to consider. The advantage of giving the kit is that a minimum quality can be assured by you 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 on how much the kit will cost you. The kit will have to be of good quality as it will reflect on 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 is included in the final price of the kit.
Step 7 Make a class handbook
This is a booklet 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 steps you are teaching which they can refer later. Write down the steps you are teaching with some pictures if you could and make it as professional as you could.
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 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 some where 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 infront of your students. Develop your presentation skills 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 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. Neat , clean and proper dressing style is mandatory for a teacher.
These are some guidelines which you can expand on when planning to start a sewing class as a business. One more important tip is to always have enough supplies to demonstrate. You cannot run out of things to show in your class in the middle of a session. It is embarrassing. So have extras – even two or three extras of needles chalk etc would come handy – someday.
And finally do not do this only for the money. A passion for the craft and a commitment to your students will make sure that your sewing class is a roaring success and lead you to riches.
Interesting reading on teaching sewing and some real-world experiences can be found here