Why Sell Clothing from Home?
A home-based clothing business is a way to get into the retail market without the overhead of a dedicated rental space. With no cash going toward utilities, rent or property taxes, a home-based business may realize a profit faster than a store in another location.
Unless you have a lot of extra storage and office space, your business is going to be restricted in size and scope. For instance, a home seamstress can work on three dresses at once, but no more; to increase her production, she'd have to not only hire more seamstresses, but expand her studio to fit more machines and dress forms. The smaller size makes a home-based clothing business way more practical if you want to work alone.
Clothing That Works in a Home-Based Business
Good home-based apparel options are to sell garments that don't require lots of storage space, or that can be shipped from the manufacturer (drop-shipping). Most home-based clothing businesses ship items to customers rather than running an on-premises shop. Good options for this sort of selling are lingerie, shoes, club wear and children's clothing. Many companies will gladly sell wholesale garments and accessories to home-based businesses, and may even drop-ship for a fee. Names to check are Elegant Moments, Ellie Shoes and Cooper Kids.
Another option is to create an atelier, or in-home sewing studio, that caters to the custom trade. This is wonderful for home sewers and designers. Prospective clients include teens looking for prom wear, business women wanting bespoke suits or brides looking for a one-of-a-kind gown. Dancers and ice skaters also frequently patronize custom seamstresses. You can have people come in for fittings, or can take dresses to the client's home instead.
Special Business Considerations
When setting up a home-based apparel business, keep in mind that you're going to need space for storage, a dedicated office area and the support of family. Make it clear that the merchandise is off limits, and that there are no freebies (people love free clothing). It's imperative to have good boundaries when working from home, since others may be under the impression that your time is available to them.
It's also important to stay on top of legal matters when running a home clothing business. Check tax rates and zoning laws for your particular area. Many homes are in residential-only zones that restrict or prohibit commerce, so there may be problems when establishing business licenses. All tax IDs and forms must be filed for the main place of business.
For home seamstresses, fabric and notions may be deducted. You can also deduct sewing machine maintenance and tools. To simplify matters, get separate Internet connections and phone lines, and pay a section of the mortgage or rent with a check drawn from the business. That way, your business contributions are easier to document at tax time.
Gigi Starr is a freelance fashion writer. She previously served as the blog editor for a major online fashion blog and has more than a decade of backstage experience in the beauty and high fashion industries. She has worked for businesses like an internationally renowned theatrical touring company and events such as the Mercedes-Benz N.Y.C. Fashion Week.