If you’ve started creating your own designs in crochet, the thought has probably crossed your mind at least once – is there some way that I can make money off of this? After all, there is a booming online crafting economy, and you do good work. There has to be some way for you to cash in on this!
I have good news for you: there is! Here are some tips to help you get started making some extra cash off of your creative efforts.
1. Learn to Write Clear Directions
When someone purchases a pattern from you, they expect to receive clear, understandable direction that are (for the most part) free of errors. People just won’t put up with the same quality in a design that they paid money for that they will in one they get for free. When I first began selling patterns I was careful to have them tested by a handful of people so that I could be sure that 1) my directions were understandable and 2) my directions produced a project like my prototype when followed. Now that I’m much more experienced I don’t worry about that as much, but it was very helpful to have that feedback when I was getting started. You might also try creating some simple projects and offering the directions for free to see what kind of feedback you can get on your pattern writing.
There are exceptions to every rule, but in general your pattern should include:
- Type and amount of yarn required
- Crochet hook sizes (and types, if special ones are needed) required
- A list of any notions or extra materials (buttons, needles, zippers, cloth)
- Gauge – how many stitches and rows in a certain stitch pattern are needed to make a 2 or 4 inch square. This helps the crocheter discover if their project is going to come out the same size as yours.
- Detailed written directions OR charts OR both
- Diagrams or photos to help illustrate tricky parts
- High-quality photos of the finished project
Let’s get into that last point a little more.
2. Learn to Take Good Pictures (or Find Someone Who Can!)
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your design is if all the photos that your customer will see are badly lit, out of focus, and blurry. Unless you plan to sell only to people who will physically handle your sample, the photos are the only way for a customer to decide if your pattern is something they want. If your pictures are poor quality, they will assume that your design is, too.
Never fear! You don’t have to be a professional photographer to get sale-worthy photos. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Just keep taking pictures. You have a digital camera, right? Then there’s no reason for you to stop after five photos. You’re far more likely to have a usable photo if you have 20 or even 100 to choose from instead.
- Turn off the flash and find some sunlight. Bright, indirect light is the best sort for clear pictures without harsh shadows. This means outside on bright days with cloud cover, in light shade on sunny days, or near a sunny window (but not in the direct rays of the sun) if you’re inside. Good lighting conditions will help even cheap cameras produce better pictures.
- Get in focus. Many cameras have automatic focusing functions. Make sure you’re focusing on your item, not on the background. Blurry photos are a no-no – practice, if necessary, until you can get your camera to focus where you want it. If you’re having trouble getting your camera to focus, see if you can add more light somehow, scoot back, or put your item somewhere that it contrasts more with the background.
- Make sure you show your whole item. This is very important. It’s okay to include zoomed-in or ‘artistic’ shots as long as you also have pictures available of what the project looks like overall.
- Take pictures of any special details. If the edging is your favorite part, be sure to take a good picture of it. People want to see what makes your design special! If your camera has a ‘macro’ setting (often represented by a flower) that may be best for close-up shots of little details.
- Use models if at all possible! Everyone wants to see what that baby sweater will look like on an actual baby, and even if your project doesn’t have to be worn (like a stuffed toy or a blanket) pictures with people in them are automatically more interesting than pictures without. Give it a try!
- Don’t be afraid to edit your pictures. Small changes like cropping, brightening, or color balancing can make a big difference in your photos (especially if you aren’t a professional). Don’t hesitate to experiment, but always save your original and work on a copy in case you make a mistake that you can’t undo.
If, no matter what you try, your photos come out abysmal, find someone to help you. I think most of us these days know someone who’s an amateur – or professional – photographer. They may be willing to take some pictures for you, or at least give you some help taking your own. I cannot emphasize enough that without good pictures, your sales will suffer.
Once you have your pattern written and photographed, put it together and save it. (PDF is my favorite format for patterns.) Then it’s on to the next step!
3. Find a Place to Sell
Even if you already have a local venue in mind to sell your patterns (perhaps a craft show or local yarn store) I would recommend looking into selling online as well. Think about it: only a small percentage of the people who see your patterns will buy some, but if you can increase the number of people who see them your total sales will increase as well. There isn’t a bigger marketplace these days than the internet! Even online, however, some places are better than others to set up shop. Here are some to consider!
Etsy, the “world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace,” is certainly a spot worth checking out. Etsy has billions of pageviews recorded, millions of sales made, and over $100 million in goods purchased each month. Thousands of crochet patterns are already listed there for sale, and there’s certainly room for yours! However, Etsy charges a small fee for each item you list, and if it doesn’t sell you’re out that amount. If it does sell, they take a percentage of the purchase price as well. Still, with its large consumer base, Etsy is a good choice for patterns you are confident will sell – and is not too expensive to get into. (Click for more details on selling on Etsy.)
Ravelry is the internet’s clubhouse for crocheters and knitters, with millions of members – many of whom are searching for that perfect pattern right now. Selling on Ravelry is a great option for beginners because it is completely free until your sales exceed $30 in one month. (If your sales numbers go down the next month, don’t worry! You will only be charged for months with more than $30 in sales.) In addition, they have an auto-delivery system, so once you get your patterns set up you don’t have to worry about delivering purchases, ever. You will need to register with Ravelry to sell there, but they have made changes that allow the general public to make pattern purchases without registration. (Click for more details on selling on Ravelry.)
Patternfish is a website dedicated to selling crochet and knitting patterns. Anyone can submit a pattern to be sold there, but they will reject any that don’t meet their quality standards. If your pattern is accepted, you can expect to receive 60% of the sale price – leaving them with 40% of it, quite a hefty take – but they will handle pattern deliveries and you will be paid your royalties once a month assuming they exceed $20. Still, it may be worth it to you to have your patterns sold in another venue – and it won’t cost you anything to try it.(Click for more details on selling through Patternfish.)
Years ago, when I began selling patterns online, I sold on Ebay. Despite the fact that it is not a crocheting website – or even a crafting website – there are still buyers for original patterns on Ebay. In recent years, however, Ebay has tightened restrictions on selling digital media (such as PDFs) and you may be required to print off and physically mail your patterns to sell them in any but the most restrictive ways there. Ebay is also famous for charging multiple fees for each item listed and sold, but it’s one more place to look for customers. (Click for more details on selling digitally delivered goods on Ebay.)
Having a personal website is a great idea if you plan to sell patterns online. If you have set up pattern sales on Ravelry, you can integrate their shopping cart system into your website and they will continue to handle the pattern delivery (without any charges until sales exceed $30 in one month). If you choose not to go with Ravelry there are a variety of shopping cart and delivery systems you can use instead, just do some research until you find the one that’s right for you.
4. Don’t Give Up!
Just because you don’t make a sale on your first day – or month – doesn’t mean you should quit. Keep designing, keep practicing your pattern writing and photography, and someday you could be making money off of your designs!
Do you have some tips for designers trying to get started selling their patterns? Leave them in the comments!
About the Author
Melissa Mall is an at-home mom with four sons eight and under. They have just completed yet another transcontinental move – hopefully it will be their last!!! You can keep up with their ordinary adventures over at her blog, or take a peek at her crochet patterns and tutorials at Inner Child Crochet.
Article & images © Melissa Mall. All rights reserved.