I was reading, on a machine quilting list, a post by a beginning (newbie) machine quilter eager for new customers. I have invited the newbie to visit this blog to see how quilts are kept squared but it bothers me what the customer is doing. Ok you don't know what I'm type-talking about so let me explain. First I should tell you that I don't know the newbie machine quilter and I don't know the customer. I only read a post on the list.
Apparently the newbie quilter was contacted by a new customer about a quilt. The customer has said she would let this newbie machine quilter to do her quilt only if the quilter could "guarantee" it would be perfectly squared when it was finished. In exchange for this perfectly squared quilt, the customer would send the newbie machine quilter more customers.
In my personal opinion this is mental blackmail. Even though I know for certain I can get close to perfectly squared quilts; I would never, ever knowingly let a customer blackmail me in that way. My motto is "Your quilts will be quilted in the condition it is received. I will do my best to give you back a great quilt but there are no guarantees."
Now why would I believe this customer is wrong? Shouldn't newbie machine quilters like the idea of recommendations to other potential customers? Well yes, they should like recommendations; but, not at the stress level that customer is expecting. That customer is expecting college professor work from a first grader. That customer is saying to the first grader..... I'll tell others how great a writer you are but only if you write me a 10,000 word essay with perfect punctuation and spelling. The first grader can't possibly do the work expected.
Another reaction I had to reading the post is that the customer is setting herself up to get free quilting. The customer knows the machine quilter is new at doing the work. If the newbie doesn't produce a perfect quilt the customer will have what she needs to complain, which almost always results in either no charges or deeply discounted charges from the newbie. Why? Because the newbie is afraid. Afraid of getting a bad reputation among toppers in the area. All from one person complaining. I could be wrong because, as I said, I don't know either one of the people.
Whenever I am giving advice to a new machine quilter I tell them that their work will be the recommendation. Do the best work you can and it will bring you more customers. Quilters can't resist show and tell. Someone will see your work on a quilt and if they like it they will want to know who did the quilting. Most toppers are happy to say who did the quilting.
I also tell newbie machine quilters to seek out a few newbie toppers as their first customers. Anyone who is just learning to create quilt tops does not have the expectations of someone who has achieved greater skills. Newbie toppers know the feeling of making mistakes and won't mind so much if the newbie machine quilter makes mistakes. If the newbie machine quilter does make a mistake, and decides to give a discount on the quilting, it's her choice. The choice would be from the newbie wanting to compensate the customer instead of being expected. I hope I explained that right.
Newbie machine quilters and newbie toppers can learn and grow with each other. The machine quilter can explain issues she encounters while doing the quilting. The topper can learn from the explanations about those issues and correct the problem with the next top. In essence the two will grow and learn together in much the same way first graders learn together. First graders are always willing to help fellow first graders accomplish better skills.
Buying a quilting machine does not mean you will immediately produce top notch, show quality quilting, ready to win the top prize in a major show. Buying a household machine to learn to create quilt tops does not mean you will immediately sit down to make a perfect top. Only in very rare occasions do absolute beginners produce something nearly perfect right from the start. Usually, there is some prior knowledge that allows this to happen. Maybe an art background or an engineering background or something else.
If you bought a quilting machine in order to open a machine quilting business then it should be run as a business. You won't see a new grocery or a new restaurant or a new department store owner allowing one customer to tell them they will recommend the place only if the business owner satisfies them. No, the business owner is expecting the business itself to be the recommendation. The owner is doing the best he or she can to open a great place with the best service or product they can give. People who like the business will tell others about it.
The new business owner will seek out the first customers by several means. Advertising is only one way. A new machine quilter can advertise several ways too. I've found the easiest way and the cheapest way is to simply leave a few business cards at the local fabric stores. Fabric stores have quilt topper classes all the time. Toppers are eager to get the quilts finished and move on to the next top. Some prolific toppers will use the services of several machine quilters and are often looking for newbies to add to their group of machine quilters. The prolific toppers are always on the lookout for new business cards.
Ok, before I keep rambling on too much about this let me say this. The next time a customer says they want a "guarantee" of a perfectly quilted top...... ask them if they can "guarantee" a perfectly pieced top with not one single issue to deal with. I can guarantee you this.... there is not one single quilt top anywhere that is perfect, no matter how good the topper is. There might be some really close to perfect quilts but not a single one that's absolutely perfect. How can I say this? Well, fabric does not behave. It pulls, it stretches, it shrinks, it gets off grain, it simply will not behave. And.... only GOD is perfect.