Start a dressmaker business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Dressmaker Business
- Form your Dressmaker Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Dressmaker Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Dressmaker Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Dressmaker Business
- Get Dressmaker Business Insurance
- Define your Dressmaker Business Brand
- Create your Dressmaker Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your dressmaker business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a dressmaker business?
A dressmaking business can be launched for a fairly small amount. Most dressmakers operate out of their houses, so you most likely won’t spend money renting an additional space. If you don’t already have sewing equipment, or need to upgrade to more professional strength machines, you’ll need to factor in those costs.
You’ll also want to pick up business insurance to cover liabilities associated with customers who come into your house for measurements and fittings. And, you’ll need to budget for advertising, internet, and a website. Your grand opening needs to be announced far and wide and should direct customers to your website to show your wares.
What are the ongoing expenses for a dressmaker business?
A dressmaking business can maintain fairly low overhead costs, since much of your materials and sewing accessories are bought as needed for customer orders. If you’re working out of your home, you can designate a portion of the utilities, internet, and phone to the business. You’ll also want to keep business insurance for when customers visit for measurements and fittings. Website hosting and maintenance is also a necessary ongoing expense.
Who is the target market?
Dressmakers appeal to individuals with a decent amount of disposable income. They may be commissioning for a child or for themselves. Upper-middle class women ages 35-65 are a reasonable demographic to target.
How does a dressmaker business make money?
A dressmaker makes their money from the sale of the custom dresses they create.
How much can you charge customers?
A custom dress can range anywhere in price from hundreds to thousands. Material, design, and specific ornamentation can really add to a dress maker’s price. Research competitors and similar businesses to see how they price their work.
How much profit can a dressmaker business make?
Since there are few outlets for this work, dressmakers can command premium prices. If you have steady clients, you could earn $60,000-75,000 annually.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Alterations and repairs are excellent methods for supplementing your income and can happen more often than full dress orders. Offering alterations on existing garments requires much less time to complete and can still command a good price.
Consider offering sewing or pattern-making classes. Sewing and clothes making isn’t nearly as prevalent as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to learn these skills.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your dressmaker business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a dressmaker business
Dress making is a specific niche business and will limit some of your advertising needs. Focus on businesses or publications which are related to your business. Advertise in specialty clothing stores, fabric and sewing stores, and style magazines. Your market will often consist of more affluent customers who don’t mind paying a premium price for a unique piece.
How to keep customers coming back
Your type of customers want to know they’re being catered to. Communication is key here. Give them updates on their dress’s progress, and contact them if you have new or exclusive fabrics available. You will be eliciting as much business as you receive.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Dressmaker Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
If you have experience as a seamstress or tailor and enjoy creating unique pieces of custom clothing, a dressmaker business can be a great enterprise for you. It helps to be a people person who enjoys conversing with clients, as your personality will become one of your selling points.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a dressmaker business?
Dressmaker businesses rely on customer orders. Most days, they will focus on taking orders, completing measurements and fittings, creating the dresses and clothing for clients, and shipping out or fitting the finished dresses on to clients in the store.
You’ll also need to spend a solid amount of your time promoting what you do. Since this business is so niche, you have to really show off your work. Social media and the internet are excellent broadcasters. Your business website will also need to be regularly updated and full of pictures and testimonials.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful dressmaker business?
Your biggest skill test will always be your sewing/seamstress/tailor abilities and how they translate to what customers want. You’ll need to be able to work fast yet accurately and meticulously.
Your customer service and communication skills should also be top notch. One pitfall to this business is fickle customers who commission work but then change their minds. You’ll need to learn to ask questions, in different ways, to different customers. And, you’ll need to consistently communicate progress and expectations.
Finally, you’ll want some experience in small business management. Having the technical skills to do the work is essential, but these skills do not matter if your business fails to exist. Running a business will require you to learn many different facets of business management.
What is the growth potential for a dressmaker business?
Dressmaking businesses are specific and attract customers looking for one-of-a-kind creations. You can earn a good living if you connect with customers and charge an amount that makes it worth your time, plus some. The challenge will be to maintain a level of output and customer demand.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a dressmaker business?
Advertise! You’ll have to let the public know you exist. You’ll also want to show off your previous creations. Start by building a website well before you take any orders. Display your previous creations and chat up potential customers. You’ll need to be able to switch to sales mode when needed.
Ask to put up flyers in specialty dress shops and fabric shops, and look for local publications that will be pursued by potential clientele.
How and when to build a team
More than likely, you’ll run your business as an individual. But, if you find you are more successful than anticipated, you may hire an additional seamstress/tailor to help sew orders.