How to get your longarm quilting business noticed
Congratulations! You’ve decided to quilt for hire. You have your business cards, oodles of beautiful thread and a beautiful longarm quilting machine. The customers should be bringing you stacks and stacks of quilt tops to complete any minute, right? Unfortunately, launching a small business is only easy in your dreams. Real life requires patience and hard work.
The good news is that there are loads of quilters out there looking for a machine quilter to work on their tops. So how do you help them find you? How do you get your small business noticed?
Create an online presence.
You need a place where you can post photos and chat about what is going on in the hotbed of creativity known as your sewing studio. Ideally when someone opens a search box on the internet and types in your town or state along with the words “longarm quilter” or “machine quilter,” your business pops up on the first page.
You could create a traditional website. You could create a blog. You could even create a business page on Facebook. You can do all three. You’ll find a wealth of information about how to do any of those things easily with a quick Google search. But the point is that people will search online to investigate you and get to know your business. Make sure they can find you online.
Show off your work.
Once you have a landing spot for your customers to find you online, start populating it with quilty content. Show off your quilting with photographs. Post at least every other day to keep the content fresh and to encourage folks to check your site.
Do you have any tips to share? Think about what would interest you as a piecer and being posting things you’d like. Engage them with quilty ideas and show your work. When they have a quilt to be done, you will be at the top of their mind and your customers don’t need to be in your town. With the internet they could be two states away!
Use word of mouth to your advantage.
Locally, you can get attention at your guild or local quilt shop. Every time you go to your guild bring a small quilt you’ve done for show and tell. If your guild has a charity quilt project, offer to quilt some of the tops. Get involved in the local quilting scene so you are plugged in and connected to other quilters. Word of mouth is so important! Volunteer for a leadership position with your guild or put together a great program about longarm quilting.
Connect with your local quilt or quilt shop.
At the local quilt shop, foster a relationship with the staff and the owners. When I first got started I offered to quilt one quilt a quarter for free for my local shops- lap size or smaller. I would do an all over, edge to edge design on the top and I would make sure to get the quilt top back as quickly as possible so they didn’t have to wait. The shop owner knew that a quilted class sample would sell the class more easily so they were delighted to have it quilted. Inevitably, the students in the class would want their finished quilts to be done just like the sample so each class was a group of potential customers!
Remember to treat the customers you get as referrals from your local shop exceedingly well. These are the folks who will go back to the shop owner and crow about you so the shop will start to recommend more and more folks to you.
Consider teaching a class.
Consider sharing your knowledge at the local adult education center, quilt shop, sewing center, or extension office. Teach a beginning piecing class or teach a t-shirt quilt class. All of the students in your class will likely want you to quilt the tops they create in your class. The point is you will need to position yourself as the “expert” in your quilting community even if you don’t feel like the expert just yet. Expand your influence and believe in yourself. Believe me, the customers will follow!
These are only some of the ways to get your business noticed. The key is to do the hard work every small business owner must do. There are no shortcuts. If you feel overwhelmed, resolve to do one thing each day to move your business forward. Just one thing each day will start to build the momentum to get your business noticed.
For more ideas on how to start your longarm quilting business and other business questions, don’t miss the APQS forum specifically for quilting businesses. You’ll find a mountain of ideas from others to think through. Adapt those ideas for your business and ask any questions you have.
APQS wants you to be successful as you pursue your machine quilting dreams! Read more about starting a quilting business on our website and review our “Owning a quilting business” content on the blog. Of course you can also contact your closest APQS retailer.
Angela Huffman is an APQS dealer and the owner of Quilted Joy Studio in Louisville, Kentucky