And, Another Question About Selling Your Wares

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Since this article I wrote recently stimulated a lot of discussion and a wide variety of opinions and experiences, I decided to posit a follow-up question.

Which do you think would make you more money – selling your finished crochet items or selling your original pattern(s)?

Many, if not most, of the items we crochet for ourselves, for gifting, and for selling are created using the patterns of other designers.  So, we can decide on one or more items we want to sell, find the right pattern for our purpose, buy the yarn, and spend the hours required to make those items to sell.  However, most designers spend hours and hours developing and refining a pattern.  A designer must come up with a unique idea or a masterful reinterpretation, work out the kinks, have the pattern tested by one or more third parties, then find the right vehicle to market the design – a book, a magazine, or online.

With either project – crocheting or designing – there is a huge investment of time and energy.  Further, the designer stands the very real risk of having her pattern ripped off, scanned and published somewhere on the internet for free, or even more disheartening, having a hack somewhere claim the pattern as her own and sell it!  Such gall is, sadly, not unheard of.

So, here’s the question.  If you want/need to make money with your crochet, is it potentially more profitable to sell a crocheted item or a pattern?

The floor is now open for discussion!

Comments

  1. says

    What an interesting and thought-provicking article!
    I have made my choice. I mastly sell my patterns. why not knit or crochet items – simple – no one is willing to pay a decent hourly rate. I refuse to work with inferior yarns, and when the cost of yarn is added to the cost of my time… well, that is why I offer lessons.
    I have recently broken my “I do not knit for sale” rule and has agreed to knit a very large shawl (my own Ample Shawl pattern) for a friend’s sister. the price (without the yarn costs) is about $135. sounds good, but it is knit in light Sports WT yarn, it has taken 1980.0 yards so far and I am not even two-thirds done! this also meant that meanwhile I do not have time to work on my other projects and develop new patterns. if I would not be so found of the intended recipient I would have never done it. At the same time, here in Israel it is a very good price money-wise and I know a couple of older ladies who make a shawl a months and sell it for much less.
    As to the cost of writing a pattern.
    first – yarn, I usually knit at least one item in each size myself. and this brings us t a second commodity – time. Then the pattern has to be photographed, think about the last time you took pictures of babies or toddlers! Then the writing, again time and possibly special computer programs. Then editing and finally publishing and promoting.
    All of this requires knowledge and experience. And then, after one has worked on the pattern for two months, knit at least 5, often more models and so on, one is liable to receive a moralizing email, saying how dare you charge so much money.

  2. says

    This past year I have been weighing that exact question. Tracking info on spreadsheets and P&L statements,the results seem to be it depends on the item. Your ROI on patterns depends on how many sell within a specific time. If you make a pattern and a year later you have met even, then I would not say that pattern has been profitable. Same for crocheted items – it depends on how many and in what time frame. My question I asked myself, “Do I feel successful and satisfied even though I am not making money hand over fist?”. My answer, “Yes!”

  3. says

    I love this discussion, JD! I stopped selling finished objects years ago… for two reasons. No, three! First, I refuse to settle for selling things I am proud of for “dirt” at craft shows. Second, I get very bored making the same thing over and over (production crochet). Third, I love to design! It’s what lights me up! I give away about 95% or more of my patterns free on the internet in various venues. Once they are out there, they’re out there… I can only hope and pray that people do not use them for dishonorable purposes. I can’t waste my time worrying about that. Recently i did have someone see one of my patterns out there under my other publishing name, “SheilaSparkles,” and they emailed me to ask if that was me – they were afraid someone had stolen my pattern as theirs! How cool is that! So we crocheters and designers do look out for one another.

    I now sell my designs in only one place, at Craftsy.com. I used to sell them on my own private website, which was not profitable whatsoever. It was too hard to get the word out! Now that I am writing in an online craft magazine and blogging and getting a lot more exposure for my work, my pattern sales are very slowly picking up.

    From a working perspective, I am a firm believer in the “work once – sell many” philosophy. For that purpose, selling patterns on Craftsy is a pure winner. You upload your pattern and description once, and you never have to get involved in the selling process whatsoever. You get a notification in your email when you sell a pattern, and that’s IT. Now how beautifully elegant is that!

    So… all that being said, I think my vote goes for selling patterns despite all the inherent risks and pitfalls. And as to being successful and happy? More than ever!

  4. Jan Sweeney says

    well, I’m on the other side of the coin…I’m a great little pattern buyer…get very little done, but am ALWAYS thinking “this is adorable…maybe someone will be having a baby soon”…or “how cute..I could make these for gifts”….as I said little gets acomplished, but I keep looking! and buying!..I wouldn’t even think about buying finished products…I always think “I could do that!” so as far as I can see the pattern ladies are way ahead!

  5. Moira Sacco says

    Recently I began to have an enormous desire to crochet. By no means am I even close to the experience many of you ladies have in this fine art. I recently retired from my work outside my home. I have been searching and looking for ways to understand techniques etc. I don’t find it too easy to learn without an example shown and I don’t have the luxury if knowing anybody that can show me. Anyway I have been crocheting for my grandchildren and when my daughter in law took one of my items with her to a photo shoot for her daughter the people at the studio expressed their interest in purchasing. So I jumped on board and began working my little heart out (not to mention my fingers…lol) and she went back with what they wanted (a prop) for their photography and when it came to payment they decided they couldn’t spend that much. Now let me tell you….the yarn was $42 Australian dollars and I asked for $60 (all up). Honestly was so disheartened and thought…no way !! You want me just to give it to you. I rather just do it for live and give it to who I please. So ladies looks like it’s better to do the pattern thing if you’re that talented. My hat goes out to you…clever people :0))

  6. says

    I would say it depends on the size of the project. Most of the things I crochet are small (doll clothes, baby clothes, hats, mittens, etc.), I can pretty much price them to make a decent amount from them. If I were into larger items (even sweaters), it wouldn’t be worth my time and effort . . . I couldn’t charge enough to make it worthwhile. I reserve those types of items for gifts to special people, not for sale. I would like to sell some patterns, I think I could make a decent amount from them too, it just takes me a while to write the pattern down and check/change/rewrite it to get it just right.

  7. says

    I am with Sheila on this – apart from the fact I sell my designs rather than give them away.

    However, I think I sell them relatively cheaply in comparison with some you see out there and, because of that, I need to sell between 150 and 200 copies before I recoup the time spent on the designing – and that is only at minimum wage and not designer rate. And that doesn’t include the materials, website fees etc.

    I am very pleased to announce that since freelancing for Inside Crochet, my sales have more than trebled and I am now earning a regular income. Please note – I did not say earning a living! The fact is that unless you are one of the lucky few who get really famous, you can’t make a living from it.

    So, I make things to design the patterns. I sell the finished items cheaply on eBay so that I don’t have to keep throwing out clothes to make space for them in the wardrobe. And, occasionally if the price is right, I will make a finished item to order.

    Craftsy is great for selling patterns – but Ravelry is even better! Craftsy may be free but Ravelry is very reasonable and you can add their buttons to your website. I also use Etsy and a variety of other selling platforms. I figured that more I have out there the better the chance of being found.

  8. says

    I opt for selling items rather than pattens. I have sold patterns to Crochet Magazines, but the monetary offers were not that profitable – minimal $$ check paid for a written pattern (for which I had to fork out the $$ for materials and time to work/photo shoot/mail the item skimpily paid for, paper, ink, mailing materials, stamps, gas to run to the bank to deposit the check, ect.) versus hard cash for a finished item; it doesn’t take a brilliant mind to figure out the better end of the deal: going the pattern route was going “into the proverbial hole” hand over fist – selling outright for cash was a wise choice and a “sure profitable gain”.

    Likewise, I did look into selling online through Etsy. However I quickly figured out that was a scam and a ripoff for the unwary. The only people making ‘sginificant’ money at Etsy are the people running Etsy … and PayPal: they STILL GET their money regardless of if the crafter makes a sale or not; the crafter has entered into a consignment agreement and must pay shop rent every month even if they do not make money with their shop. This does not seem wise to me – being able to tell people I “have a shop!”means nothing if that shop puts me in debt while promoting the promise to erase my debt if I sign up with them. After running the numbers and calculating the business risks I concluded the overhead fees are simply too steep where there are no guarentees to me and all the cards are stacked in the favor of the unseen landlords and online moneychangers.

    Selling local and 1-on-1 is the best avenue because I get to meet my customers and they can show me what they want in design, provide me with accurate sizes so there is accurate fit, and pay me directly without taking into account the middleman’s overcharging fees and payment delays, and I deliver to them in short order: as soon as the item in finished, they get it direct from my hands to their hands … same day with no holiday holdups, no postal hassles, no worries.

    In short I and my customers are saving time and money while getting 100% guarentees. It’s a win-win situation all the way around.

  9. says

    I believe you can make decent money either way. I used to sell LOTS of hats… but now that there are thousands of “crochet shops” on Etsy/Facebook, sales are WAY down. The economy doesn’t help much either. BUT… there are some shops that are very successful.
    I have decided to focus more on writing/publishing patterns. I enjoy the freedom to make what I want.
    I just wish that more pattern writers would take the time to make sure they’re putting QUALITY patterns out there… have them tested, come up with new/creative patterns, etc. There are so many people who just get greedy… like all the people trying to (re)write a pattern for a granny square. Come on.

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