Last week we learned a bit about selling products you stitch individually yourself - items you cut, sew, quilt, and finish which can be sold 1 time to 1 customer.
By the end of that article, I'd offered the opinion that this might not be the best way to make a living with your quilting business. Yes, it can certainly work to create tote bags to sell just for extra spending cash, but to try to make a steady living this way could be a dangerous proposition because the second you stop cutting and sewing new bags, is the second you don't have a product to sell, and therefore can't make money.
You need to be able to make your time and effort worth more.
This is the main key that I'd like to teach you with this series of articles. With quilters, and many crafters I've spoken to from other hobbies: knitting, weaving, spinning, blacksmithing, etc, many of us have a tendency to undervalue our skills.
We know how to do these things, we've been doing them for years, and have built skill and experience to the point that it's easy to dismiss or devalue what we do.
In high school, I knew I was different because I was the only girl that showed up to prom in a handmade dress, but, as I said over and over that evening, anyone could make a prom dress! They're really not that hard to make so long as you read the directions carefully.
What I was forgetting, even at 17, was that most of the girls I was in school with hadn't grown up sewing and really had no interest in learning. I was devaluing my skills and interest because sewing had been something I always did and always loved.
So when think of your talent at your craft, try not to devalue it. Don't dismiss your skills or experience, and always try to look at your creations from the eyes of an outsider - someone that has no ability to quilt at all.
Also try to remember the years it has taken for you to gain these skills - they didn't just pop up overnight like a zit on your forehead, did they? It took years of working and playing with fabric to know how to cut it up just right to piece those blocks and to quilt over them that way.
This leads to my true point: You can and should be able to make a LIVING with your craft.
Based on my article last week, you might have been left thinking that making a living or supporting your family with a craft is an impossible goal. It certainly can be impossible if you maintain a limited viewpoint of your skills and devalue your talent.
So the first step to making a living is to understand that your time and effort has value, and that it is worth far more than $10 or even $20 per hour.
The best thing you can do is totally eliminate the whole paid-by-the-hour idea when it comes to making money with your craft.
For one thing, what you make today is dependent on what you learned last year, and the year before that, and the skills you might have learned years ago. The idea that you can sum up all this time and knowledge and experience into a single price-per-hour figure is nonsense. No figure can come close to what you're truly worth.
Yes, I did just say that - your worth, your skill, is incalculable.
Let that one sink in for a minute.
So instead of thinking in the old dollars per hour model, instead let's start thinking another way:
Dollars per Product by how many Years it will sell.
Let's go back to the tote bag idea: you create a pattern and make 6 tote bags to sell. Each tote bag takes around 2 hours to create.
Using the old mentality of dollars per hour, you'd charge $45 for these bags and make somewhere around $20 per hour, but you'd only be able to sell them 1 time, so once the 6 sold, that'd be it. The maximum amount of cash you could get from this experience is: $270.00.
Now let's explore this new mentality:
Instead of selling the actual tote bags, you will sell the PATTERN.
A typical pattern for a quilted project runs anywhere from $5 - $15 dollars. Let's say you decided to sell your tote bag pattern for $7.00.
This pattern is quite a different product. Yes, you took time and energy to create it. Yes, it took many hours to draft the pattern, come up with logical directions to put the bag together, and wrote it all down in a clear, concise way. Yes, the pattern has value.
But unlike the bags, you can sell the pattern many times. It's no longer a one shot deal - you can sell this pattern hundreds, if not thousands, of times and it will never lose it's value. At $7.00, it's a price low enough to appeal to quilters, but high enough to pay you for the time it took to create it within the first 10 sales.
Even better, you can sell this pattern for years.
There is no law that says a pattern can only be sold in the year it's written! You could conceivably create a pattern in 2012, and still be being paid for it in 2050!
This is a much better way to make a living because you do not have to continually cut, stitch, and finish a product in order to make a sale. If you put your patterns on a website and set them up as downloads, they can sell anytime, even when you're out in the garden or on vacation, or sick with the flu.
In fact, the only limitation you will ever experience with your pattern is if you personally take it down, lose it, stop selling it, or give the resale rights to someone else.
The latter doesn't seem like a very big deal, but it is. Allow me a quick tirade about resale rights.
Let's say you wanted to write a book of 12 quilt patterns you personally created. You drafted these patterns, made multiple quilts with them, and had gained popularity by showing them and teaching the techniques used within them. You even sold individual patterns for each quilt for around $10 each.
So you write the book and pitch it to a big publisher. They decide to publish it and give you a giant, nasty contract to sign. Within that contract, within the depths of the legalize it's written in, you will be effectively giving up your rights to those patterns.
You can still teach the techniques within the book, but NOT the patterns you used to sell and make $10.00 on each. Those will have to come off your site in order to not "conflict" with the book.
Yes, this might sound okay because at the end of they day, all those patterns will be published in a gorgeous book, right? A book published by a big publisher will surely earn you a living, right?
Wrong. It will be in a book, and yes, it may look pretty, but it probably won't make nearly as much cash for you as it would if you'd published the book yourself. Depending on the size and scale of your book, your royalty will be somewhere around $1 per book.
You also have no guarantee of the longevity of that book. Once you give away your resale rights to that publisher, they will sell the book only as long as it's profitable for them. What do you think "out of print" is?
The ONLY advantage of going with a big publisher is their potential traffic. Publishers dish out lots of cash to market and sell your book, and they have access to wide distribution chains which allows your book to show up in all major quilt shops.
Yes, this is certainly nice, but if you're doing your homework with content and traffic, why do you need that big publisher? If you already have loads of traffic, you don't need what they're offering.
Keep in mind that resale rights and copyright aren't the same thing.
You create a product (the pattern) and have the right to sell it because it's yours - you did all the work! If you want to bother with it, you can set up licenses for other people to sell your patterns too, or you can just provide print copies for store owners to sell. It's really entirely up to you if you want other people to be able to sell your pattern or not.
As the creator of the pattern, you can copyright the words and images used within it. Remember, you can't copyright the actual techniques (like freezer paper applique), but you can copyright the actual layout of the appliqued shapes for each block.
Copyright is intended to protect your product from theft. You bothered to take the time to create the quilt pattern, it would really suck if someone immediately ripped it off and began selling it for cheaper than you were.
But here's the thing to keep in mind: no one can steal your traffic.
If you've been blogging and teaching techniques with those pretty patterns, you've built up quite a supply of traffic that likes your work. They will naturally buy from you when you come out with new, cool, pretty patterns.
A thief won't have access to your traffic. They might be able to rip off your pattern, but they probably won't have much luck selling it. If they do sell the pattern on a site like Etsy.com which has lots of traffic for patterns, will this even hurt you?
It sounds weird to say it, but there really is enough traffic to go around. If at some point one of your loyal customers runs across that con artist, they'll blow the whistle on it and let you know what's going on. You will not have lost sales because your traffic and the thief's traffic are not the same people.
The point here is to not go overboard about copyright. Yes, it makes sense to have a copyright notice on your pattern, but try not to use strong language that might be taken out of context. A simple: "Copyright - Please do not Resell this Pattern." is sufficient to get your message across.
Also, consider making your pattern Open Use. This means quilters can make your tote bags or quilts for sale. It would also save you time when quilters contact you for permission to use your pattern to make quilts for show.
Stop and think about it for a minute: how in the world could this hurt you? A quilter buying your pattern still pays the pattern price just like everyone else. Yes, they may make 100 tote bags with that pattern, but you better bet they're going to appreciate the fact that it's open use and will purchase more patterns when you come out with more.
So consider these ideas this week. Rather than sell a product you stitch yourself, instead sell the pattern. Not only will you be able to sell it an unlimited number of times, you will also be able to sell it for years. Heck, even your kids could end up selling your patterns one day!
Next week we'll learn about the third way to make money with quilting: to purchase tools, fabric, notions, and, yes, patterns to resell in your shop. This is a very popular way to start a quilt shop, but the high cost of entry and intimidating steps to get started can often hold you back. We'll learn how to overcome those barriers and get started on a small budget.
Here's the complete list of all 10 Quilting Business Posts:
Let's go make a cool new pattern!