Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dollars and Cents

I love what I do. Buying, refurbishing, and (hopefully) selling vintage sewing machines has become a hobby that makes money. Sort of. Since we have passed the end of the year, I now need to pay taxes on what I've sold and that includes craft fair items and sewing machines. When I have my personal taxes done I come prepared with all of my expenses and sales as well as labor charges (sometimes I only perform labor, no sales) and that will tell the real tale. Do I make a profit? Not last year but I think this year I just might have. This takes us to the question of how much money do I make off of the machine I sell to you? Now we are getting personal!

Stories are told of finding highly sought after sewing machines for a mere pittance and the joy of bringing it back into working order. What a find! For example, a sewing machine was only $3 at a thrift store because it was half price day or I could use a seniors discount. I take it home and find I need to do some major cleaning, oiling, and adjusting, about 4 hours of work. Because it came with no accessories I have to either purchase a set of feet and bobbins or see if I can put together a set from my own supplies. These might come from a donor machine or if there were extras with another machine but they are worth at lease $5-7. New needles need to be a part of every sewing machine and those do have a cost even if I use 50% off coupons. Now my bargain sewing machine has run me about $15 plus 4 hours of time. This is a basic run-of-the-mill example but most are not so easy and need rewiring of the foot control/motor/light that can take anywhere from one to four hours with the cost of the wire and new plugs adding up. Does the wooden box need a recover job? What kind of shape is the cabinet in? Can it be restored or does it need a full strip-down and refinishing? It's not just the time either but all of this takes supplies that get used up and need to be bought again and again.

I have a set of shelves of sewing machines that are all ready for someone to take home and begin sewing. I take one off the shelf and get it ready for a photo session, which used to mean putting it on a table and taking up to 10 photos with my phone's camera. If I plan it right, I can now use my husbands new camera and set up the tripod, staging area with backdrops, lights on poles, and photograph more than one sewing machine while I have it all set up. Photos have to be downloaded to my computer, cropped, and edited in many ways. Now comes the fun part: setting up an ad for my local Craigslist. Each ad needs proper wording to put the best features forward and to be as descriptive as possible. Here's one ad:

Vintage White brand sewing machine in a cool zebra striped portable case. This sleek sewing machine makes great stitches, looks in near perfect shape, has all metal inside and out for long wear. The custom covering on the portable case gives this machine a new and clean feel. Includes a box of accessories and foot control. Has been cleaned, oiled, and tested so you will not have to take it in for service but just get ready to sew. Give this sewing machine a test drive to see what you are missing!  

This White sewing machine is an animal!

Each photo shoot and ad takes at least an hour of my time and skill. If you have been adding this up you will see that even a bargain sewing machine in good shape takes a considerable amount of time and sometimes money to bring it to the buying public.

How about pricing: how do I decided what to charge? This is usually based on the market, looking at other similar sewing machines and seeing what they are listing for and using Ebay sold items price. That $3 sewing machines is selling for $50 on Ebay and I have invested $20 and 8 hours of time. Can I price it for $150? Sure, but it will sit on my shelf. So I price it to sell and put a price tag of only $40 on it thinking it would be a nice addition to a collector, beginning sewer, or to fill a special aspect of someone's herd of sewing machines. You can see that I'm not making much money on this but I get to work and play with each machine and have the privilege to place it in someone's hands, hopefully, to make it productive again or open up a world of sewing to a beginner. That might sound hokey to some but I really do like to match up each person looking for a sewing machine to the right machine. The look of delight in their eyes when they walk out the door with their treasure is pretty wonderful.

Now for the hard part. Negotiation. Most people are not taking into account all of the above and just want a sewing machine for a bargain: that's why they are using Craigslist, right? But when that $40 sewing machine, that now works great, is posted I really do think it's a bargain price. But I frequently get asked if I can go lower, like to $25. Of course I can, but I'm reluctant to let this now nice sewing machine walk out my door with only $10 going into my kitty. All that work for $10? With my asking price I'm only making $25 and that's for about a days work on it. If you want a bargain you can get that sewing machine at a thrift store like I did and take it home with you, spending your spare time getting it into shape. Don't have the skill or time? That's what you are paying me for, my skill and time. It's nice when you honor my request for a price as fair because you are not getting cheated and I'm not getting rich with my hobby/business. Trust me.

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