You're finally seeing an upside to that dreadful home ec class you had to endure in middle school: You can mend your own clothes instead of paying someone else for repairs. Friends are impressed by your skills and often ask you to fix a hem or a ripped seam – and they are willing to compensate you. Sometimes that payment comes in the form of a gift card or lunch on them, but you might also be able to do mending for money. Figure out what you should charge to make it worth your while, without pricing yourself out of the market.
Check the Market
Before you set your mending prices, do a little market research. Find out which businesses in your area offer mending services and what they charge. Check out local tailors or dressmakers, as well as alteration services in formal wear rental outlets. Dry cleaners often offer mending and alteration services as well, so talk to friends who frequent the cleaners to get an idea of what they charge for specific mending jobs. Learning that the three closest cleaners in the area charge between $4 and $7 for sewing on buttons gives you an idea of what the market will bear and tells you you can charge at least $4.
Business or Hobby?
Your approach might vary depending on your long-term intentions. If you're planning to build a professional mending and alteration business, you'll have to ensure your local area can support the volume of business needed to make it a profitable venture. Factor in all the small-business costs required to establish a new venture, such as advertising, insurance and retail space. Doing mending as a sideline or hobby, on the other hand, typically requires fewer up-front costs and might allow you to keep your prices more competitive.
Time and Skill
As with any business venture, pricing for mending services has to take into account the time, effort and specialized skill or knowledge you put into the product. Unfortunately, many needlework or craft-based businesses struggle with profitability, since it's not always viable to charge what your time is truly worth. Instead, look for a balance between small jobs that you can do in bulk to keep money coming in, such as fixing a seam or sewing on a button, and larger, more difficult or specialized jobs that take much more of your time. Charge more – 10 to 15 percent of the total – for rush jobs, since you'll have to put off another job or work longer hours to meet the client's short deadline.
If you have a specific interest or skill, you may be able to charge top dollar for certain jobs. Perhaps you have a knack for working with sequined prom dresses or the special, delicate fabrics used in wedding dresses. You should be able to translate these skills into higher prices. Another option is targeting a specific group, such as Scout parents. Many are happy to pay someone else to sew on the many insignia items, patches and merit badges kids require as they advance through the ranks. As of June, 2013, $4-$5 is a common price for sewing on a single Scout badge, which only takes about 10 minutes -- not a bad return on your time.
As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.