In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Longarm Forum columnist Mindy Caspersen lamented about the year she was quilting for customers right up until Christmas Eve. For her that year was not as joyful as it should have been. She missed time with her kids, and says she let herself be cheated out of her holidays. Vowing never to let it happen again, she took four steps to insure that her future holidays were full of joy. Here’s an excerpt from her column:
Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do is to schedule properly. You must take into account the number of quilts you can reasonably do without overworking yourself. A lot of us just put the quilts on the list as they come in the door or as the customers call, but this method will really put you in a bind as the holidays get closer.
If this is your first year in business, it’s very difficult to estimate how many quilts you can do in a specific amount of time, and it will take you a couple of years to figure out how many quilts you can comfortably do in that specified time period. Just try not to overestimate. It’s better to underestimate than to book too many right now. Do not try to schedule more than you can handle. Most of us don’t work well under pressure; we become frustrated, and then we begin to resent the whole process and our customers. You must set limits for yourself and stick to them! Understandably, you want to be as productive as possible and take advantage of this extra earning time, but overworking yourself only produces poor quality work, which will cost you customers in the long run. If this is your first time for a new customer, it may be the last time if you return poor quality work. Returning customers may be more understanding, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy. It may end up costing you more than you bargained for by having to refund money or do the next job at a big discount.
You also need to allow time for yourself. If you have family that will be visiting for the holidays or kids that are out of school for a couple of weeks, you need to be able to spend time with them and enjoy that time without constantly feeling guilty or feeling the need to get back to your pile of customer quilts. If you don’t allow yourself this time to enjoy your family and friends, you’ll resent your customers, and it will show in your work and your attitude toward them.
Also remember to allow time for the unexpected. Never had to set the timing on your machine? You’ll have to do it in the middle of the rush season! Never run out of needles before? It’ll happen now. It’s the nature of the beast, one of those Murphy’s Law things – whatever can go wrong will go wrong at the most inopportune time! Maybe you don’t have that perfect color of thread and you’re waiting for your order to come in the mail. And guess what? The mail gets overloaded at this time of year and slows down too! Or family or friends unexpectedly decide to come visit, or the furnace dies or the dog needs surgery. A million and one things can suddenly come up and take you away from your work. You can’t deal with those things if you’ve overbooked yourself with customers and are already frustrated.
To read more of Mindy’s tips in her Longarm Forum column in Issue 109 of The Professional Quilter, your subscription or membership in the The International Association of Professional Quilters must be current. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership here.