Start a tailoring business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your tailoring business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 tailoring business?
Opening your own tailoring business can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you can lease a space or have a workspace already established. Many of the tools needed for daily work, such as scissors, measuring tapes, and pattern paper, are relatively inexpensive. Investing in a professional-quality sewing machine will be one of your larger expenses. These can range from just above $1000 to well into five figures for top of the line machines. Registering your LLC and acquiring insurance will round out most of your initial fees.
What are the ongoing expenses for a tailoring business?
The tailoring business is relatively inexpensive to operate. If you are renting or leasing a space, that will be one of your biggest ongoing expenses. Your utility bills and annual insurance can be factored in, but much of what a tailor buys (e.g., fabric, thread, sewing supplies) is purchased as needed for client jobs.
Who is the target market?
Traditionally, an older age group, between 45-70, will use tailors, which is still true. But, there is also a younger crowd interested in a tailored fit. Young professionals 25-40 are an emerging demographic for more individualized designs.
How does a tailoring business make money?
Tailors are paid off commission for the work they do. Whether creating an original design or altering an existing, each service is priced and charged accordingly.
How much can you charge customers?
A good tailor can charge on a sliding scale for their services and will need to explain pricing per job. Tailors usually charge $12-15 per hour but can charge quite a bit more for specialty or custom work.
How much profit can a tailoring business make?
On average, a personal or specialty tailor earns approximately $35,000 annually but can make quite a bit more if they are working in a high-end socio-economic area.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Tailors can offer small alterations to be completed in quick turnarounds for an expanded fee.
Some tailors might also offer to sell garments on consignment in their shops.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
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 tailoring 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:
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
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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.
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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an aerial art studio business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
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.
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How to promote & market a tailoring business
An independent tailor must attract clients and retain repeat customers fairly quickly. This means making sure clientele are aware of your services.
- Advertise through online sewing and tailoring forums and become familiar with fabric shops in your area.
- Create a website and an online social media presence. Social media represents free or low-cost broadcast advertising for your business. Don’t disregard its reach.
- Create a portfolio of your work and splash your website and social pages with your work.
How to keep customers coming back
A strong bond between customer and tailor will be a natural progression. You are measuring and assessing your customers and helping them craft their appearance. You will see the things they hide from most. Understand the relationship you’re fostering and hold these transactions in reverence. Make friends and become more than just a source of advice about clothes.
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.
Start A Tailoring Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Tailoring is a business that is not nearly as in demand as it has been in the past. Just the same, good tailoring never goes out of style and has recently seen a resurgence in popularity as fit, sleek lines are seen more prevalently in fashion. An individual with extensive sewing and design experience, as well as impeccable customer service skills, is a perfect fit for a tailor.
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 tailoring business?
Tailoring is, quite literally, a hands-on business. Therefore, tailors operate off of a schedule of clients coming into their shop for measurements and fittings, to drop off or pick up various garments, and to schedule future measurements and fittings.
Tailors are also communicating within their clothing and design worlds, making orders for fabrics, threads, and other business essentials.
Depending on a tailor’s level of clients, they may also make house calls for measurements and fittings.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful tailoring business?
Obviously, sewing and seaming experience is a must. The more you have studied in an apprentice situation, the better. Knowledge of fabric and sewing techniques are critical. Also, great customer service and the ability to think on your feet is necessary. Customers can be fickle. Solving problems on the fly helps keep everyone moving in a positive direction.
What is the growth potential for a tailoring business?
Tailoring, as a business, is not the same as when people bought a majority of their clothes from a tailor’s shop. Even for dresses and suits, the ability to buy off the rack significantly undermined the business of tailoring. Like all trends, fitted clothing is regaining popularity, and going to a tailor is seen as a distinction of style and class. Tailoring can also exist through commercial dress and suit fitting houses but takes away the independent business owner aspect. If you can find a community with enough higher-end clients to support a tailor and become a niche operative, you will be able to maintain a substantial business.
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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.
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 tailoring business?
- Become familiar with local fabric and sewing outlets. This network can be powerful in creating contacts and leads.
- Advertise early and often. Get the word out about your services.
- Take advantage of opportunities and ask customers to spread the word of good experiences.
How and when to build a team
Tailoring is often a one-person show. The necessity for a team will come once your clientele list is so busy that you have to hand off sewing duties to others. Even then, your team can remain small and streamlined.