Are you thinking about starting your own small business? Perhaps you’re considering sewing to sell online? If so, you’re in good company! Sewing is a great way to make a little extra money, and with the right planning and preparation, you can create an income while doing what you love on your own schedule. In this post, we’ll walk you through the steps necessary to start selling your sewn creations. Let’s get started!
1) Perfect your sewing technique
If you want to sell your handmade goods online, the first thing you need to do is perfect your technique. Your loved ones will forgive a few skipped stitches, unfinished seams, or a few loose threads, but paying customers will not. Make sure you have all the technical know-how you need to please your customers and keep them coming back for more. Luckily, there are lots of great resources on the internet. My go-to for learning new skills and perfecting old ones is Skillshare. They have lots of expert-led classes on sewing skills and techniques to turn you into a pro in no time. You can also find lots of free resources on Youtube, Tiktok, and any other platform where makes share videos. Prefer to learn in person? Check out your local fabric shop or sewing machine dealer. They often have classes you can take with sewing professionals in your area.
2) Get the right sewing tools
Next, you’ll want to gather the tools you need to work efficiently. You can find inexpensive sewing machines on Amazon, Target, Walmart, and more but beware – you will get what you pay for. These machines are GREAT for learning how to sew, and sewing at home as a hobby. However, when you start sewing daily for your customers, these machines will likely wear out quickly. For my own small business, Cabooties, I LOVE my Juki TL2010Q. It only sews straight stitches (so it’s not ideal if you want to sew and sell stretchy, knit garments) but it’s a workhorse and it’s FAST. After 5 years this machine is still going strong. I also highly recommend in a serger to finish your seams, and a coverstitch for hemming if you will be selling clothing items (however a double needle on your regular sewing machine will work fine in a pinch too. In addition to sewing machines, you’ll also want plenty of needles, bobbins, the right fabric cutter (rotary cutters and electric scissors are two of my favorites), and a good seam ripper too.
3) Define your perfect customer
The next thing you’ll want to do is define your target customer and evaluate what she is shopping for. Once you know WHO you’re sewing for, it will be much easier to decide WHAT to sew and sell online. Imagine your ideal customer and jot down these details:
- Man or woman
- How old they are
- Where do they shop
- Do they have kids
- Do they have pets
- Are they funny or serious
- Pop culture references they enjoy: movies, shows, music, favorite celebrities, etc.
4) Define what makes you unique
Now that you have a customer in mind, it’s time to think about YOU! What makes you different? Trying to sew and sell the same things as everyone else is a recipe for disaster, you’ll be stuck working from one step behind the makers who inspire you. Instead, think about what makes you DIFFERENT. What can you sew that will make your customers think of your brand before they ever see your brand name? What could you bring to the craft fair that you know no one else will have in their booth? What is your ideal customer searching for that she can’t find in the store right now? Whether you establish your individuality through colors and prints, a quirky sense of humor, or a new style no one has seen before if you can answer this question your customers are sure to love you for it.
5) Determine your core pieces
One of the main things that make selling online different from selling in person, is that you don’t need to carry lots of different kinds of items. In fact, small business websites with TOO many choices are actually overwhelming to shoppers and tend to have lower conversion rates. Instead, choose between one and five items that you are confident making and become an expert. Choose your core pieces carefully with your perfect customer in mind. For instance, my handmade business, Cabooties, serves busy moms of babies and new walkers. I have one core item that I’ve become known for: baby shoes. That’s it. Another maker business that does this really well is Sweet As April. Her ideal customer is eco-conscience moms with young children. Her one product: bonnets made from upcycled fabric. What unique, hard-to-find can you offer your perfect customer?
6) Create a legal business entity
This step is one people like to skip because it’s not fun and can be a little bit scary at first. However, this step is vital if you want to build a legitimate handmade business that can support your family. And surprisingly, it’s really not that hard. The process for this varies depending on where you live, but here’s a quick look at what you’ll need to do:
- Choose a name
- This step is important, so take your time to get it right!
- Once you come up with a name you like, google it to make sure you can get the website address. If you can’t, move on. You may be tempted to try something similar, but that will just create confusion for your customers and a potential legal headache later on.
- If the .com address is available, make sure no one holds a trademark for your new name.
- Register with your federal, state, and local government
- Don’t use a third-party service, go directly to the source. You can tell if you’re working with a legitimate agency because they’ll have a .gov website address. If you need help with this process, the Small Business Administration has lots of resources for new, US-based businesses to help you get started.
- Build your online presence
- You have lots of options here. For selling handmade goods online, I prefer to build a standalone website on Shopify, but you can also set up shop on Etsy, Amazon Handmade, Faire, and lots of others.
- Get set up on the social media platforms of your choice, including Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Pinterest, and Twitter (it’s OK to focus on just one or two!)
7) Keep up with current trends
Now that you have your tools, your ideal customer, your unique identity, your core offering, and a legal business you are finally ready to start sewing goods to sell! Whether you’re sewing quilts, clothing, toys, home decor, or anything else it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on current trends. Just because your perfect customer loves something today, doesn’t mean they’ll love it forever. This doesn’t mean you need to be buying or drafting new patterns and adding new items constantly, you can just tweak your core offering to keep up with your customers’ current tastes, and add a little bit of “newness” to your website. At Cabooties we like to offer seasonal prints and on-trend colors for our customers several times throughout the year. I also recommend keeping an eye on Pantone’s color of the year and taking a walk around your customer’s favorite retailers (like Target) to see what they’re bringing in and moving out.
Pro tip: A fun way to watch trends and fabric shop at the same time is to follow along with Spoonflower’s design challenges. Even if you aren’t into surface design, their challenges are a great way to gauge what is popular right now.
Start sewing to sell online!
So, there you have it! Seven simple steps to follow to help get your sewing business off the ground. Of course, this is just a basic overview and I would love to provide more detailed information or answer any questions you may have. Be sure to sign up to receive my emails – I’ll be sending out more tips in the coming weeks on topics like setting up an online shop, perfecting your technique, gathering the right tools, and defining your target customer. Stay tuned for more helpful advice soon!
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. But don’t worry, I only share things I’ve tried and love, and I know you’ll love them too!