A professional longarm machine quilter for hire and some of the work I've done.
I’ve seen some discussion lately about machine quilter’s waiting lists. I thought I would show you mine and describe how it works. The pictures first….description below.
These were the only pages of my waiting list without any names. Each page had at least a couple of names. I want to protect the privacy of my customers so I didn’t show any pages with names. I tried importing the actual pages from MS word to here but blogger said no way.
I don’t have a lot of room in my studio for storing several customer quilts. Some machine quilters do quilts in the order received. For them a quilt is not scheduled until it is actually in their hands. This means they have many tops stored and is their responsibility to keep the quilts safe until picked up. Some machine quilters will have customer tops in their possession for a few weeks up to many months.
Geeze…..I would get myself into a major panic if I saw bunches of tops in my studio waiting to be quilted. I would absolutely work myself to death trying to finish them all at once! The thought of me being responsible for lots of quilts, all at one time, for such a long time, scares me.
My waiting list is created so a customer can get their name down for any month of the year except December. Most will call the minute they pick out their fabrics. Reserving a spot means the customer’s name is working its way to the top of the waiting list at the same time they are creating the top. If a customer plans to bring me more than one top, I write their name down more than once. One line for each quilt top scheduled for machine time. By the time a top is in my hands there is only a two or three week time until it is quilted and ready to be picked up.
I call the customer about 2 weeks before I get to their name. Two weeks gives them time to finish up the quilt if they are still working on it. This also allows the customer to work it into their schedule to bring it to me. Some work, some live a distance away, some send it by UPS, and some may not have a car so it’s not always convenient for customers to make a strict appointment time. I want the experience of working with me to be just as much for their convenience as for mine.
I must point out here that I keep regular open and closed hours just like any business has regular hours. Sunday I am closed and sometimes Monday. On occasion I will have to leave due to an emergency of some type. I do have a life other than my studio.
My only requirement for actually bringing a scheduled top is that they call me before leaving home. I don’t want a customer to drive for an hour and I’m not even home. The cost of gas is much too high for wasted trips. If I know they are on the way I can wait…or let them know I won’t be here until another time.
On the waiting list are several columns of information I like to keep. One is a pre-called date column. I record the date I call to let the customer know their name is coming up. If I call but don’t get the quilt within three weeks I give the customer a ‘last call’ reminder. After that, I can’t guarantee a time on the machine. I must move on.
What I tell my customers is…..I can’t write a name where one is already written….but to remove a name only takes an eraser. Its better to have their name on the list than to wait until my schedule is already full and I have to say no.
I can skip over a name then come back to it….within reason. I am, after all, trying to earn a living so I have to keep my machine moving. I can’t have a name down for…..say March….but not receive it until June. If a customer has their name down but simply can’t finish the top and get it to me, I erase the name and have myself a ME DAY. I will reschedule the quilt in another month if the customer requests it and I have an opening.
I really can’t afford to have many ME days either. Too many erased names means I am not earning a living. Some bills won’t get paid and I may not be able to buy groceries.
When a customer reserves a time spot on my waiting list I don’t know what quilt they plan to bring me. If the quilt they originally had in mind gets finished by another quilter that’s ok, bring me a different one that is finished. I won’t know the difference.
When a customer really can’t finish their quilt, they are welcome to give that reserved spot to a friend. It doesn’t matter to me if I do Jane’s quilt or Joan’s quilt so long as the time spot is used. The idea is to keep my machine moving so it is earning me a living.
One line = one quilt.
I don’t do work-me-in quilts anymore.
There is a saying among machine quilters, it goes like this…… A customer’s inability to plan, is not my crisis. What they are talking about are the last minute “please, please, oh pretty please work-in my quilt” requests.
I used to do work-me-in quilts by staying on my machine lots of overtime. Then I realized some new to me customers were using this as a way around being scheduled onto the waiting list. They would convince me to work-in their quilt…..which I would do…then I wouldn’t ever see them again. Some customers simply don’t like waiting in line. They will do what they can to cut in front of others.
Work-me-in quilts are very stressful for a machine quilter. It throws the whole schedule out of whack. It creates overtime which in turn means more time away from family and friends. No one, in any profession, really likes working tons of overtime.
Work-me-in quilts are just plain unfair to the customers who wait months for me to get to their name. If I want to work overtime it will be for my steady, regular customers…not for someone I’ve never heard of before.
I like names on my waiting list, even a whole year away. This prevents stress and worry about how I will pay the bills in different months. I can keep my machine moving steady at a comfortable pace. I won’t panic at the sight of lots of tops to be finished. And the customers know a quilt won’t be sitting in my studio for months at a time.
I’ll talk about realistic scheduling in another post.