There are only two main requirements for starting an alterations business:
Number 1: (and it’s number one for a reason!) is a LOVE of making clothes fit clients. Without this motivation, you’ll make yourself miserable and your clients will see through any fake excitement you put on for them.
Number 2: is a reliable sewing machine. I use a basic model Janome that I bought in 2002. I’ve sewn countless miles on that machine, had it repaired a few times, and it just keeps running and running. A serger (a.k.a. overlocker) is nice, but not necessary. I sewed successfully for several years on all types of fabric before I bought my first serger.
Other things to consider:
I also recommend opening a DBA account at your bank or credit union. That stands for Doing Business As. It’s your name, doing business as Your Name Sewing, or whatever you call your business. You only have to have a social security number and driver’s license to open this. It’s simple, taking about 10 minutes at the teller window.
Other than that, you’ll do well to set up a notebook, ledger, or spreadsheet to record your expenses and income related to your business. Or just use your check register as such. Make sure only business income and expenses go through your account.
Set aside 25% of your business income for taxes. Income is what you take home after expenses, not your total collected fees from clients.
As a one-man show, you’ll only need to file a Schedule C on your taxes, which is the form for additional income. No need to get into any fancy business model at this point.
One last point: you do not need IRS trouble, so stay honest in your accounting.
If you do start your own business, or you already operate one, let me know. I’d love to hear from you!