When I wrote my first pattern two years ago, the Owl Honeycomb Blanket, a friend told me not to give it away; she said that even though I didn’t think it was too hard to come up with, I still put valuable time and effort into it and should be compensated. She also pointed out that if I didn’t put value on it, no one else would. It boiled down to this: I didn’t think the patterns were worthy enough to be sold. But I listened to my friend and much to my surprise, people bought it anyway. Even people who didn’t know me bought it. I was grateful (am still grateful) and each new purchase puts a skip in my step.
But then a year went by and none of the handful of people who bought pattern made the blanket (well, made the blanket and added it as a project on Ravelry). I added more patterns to Ravelry and etsy; even fewer people bought those and again, no one made them.
To encourage more people to download my next pattern, which I released last month, I made it available for free for a limited time. Lots and lots of people downloaded it – over 400. What an ego boost! Someone actually even read the pattern and found a mistake in it. Yes, I put it out there without leaning on my tech editor friend who helped me enormously with all my previous patterns. But I thought “I really got the Infinite Wave Cowl out there! People on Ravelry queued and favorited it and some even commented on what a nice pattern it is!”
So I released another pattern last week with similar results over less time – even more people have downloaded, queued, and favorited the second pattern, the Quill Eyelet Cowls. What an ego boost! How gratifying!
I thought people would fall in love with the patterns the way I did and start making them right away. I planned to continue releasing patterns as free for a week and then charge for them … until I read some really well-thought out posts from other designers explaining why giving away patterns, even for just a limited time, really isn’t going to be good in the long run for me or for other designers. Worst of all, it probably won’t help with my short-term goals of getting more people to actually use the patterns, see how well written & designed they are, and buy more/make more. Why won’t offering free patterns help me reach these goals? There’s very little overlap between the people who seek out free patterns and those who actually knit them; a lot of people just collect them. I know more than a few people who do this, and one who got an extra storage disk just for her knitting patterns.
I thought offering patterns for free for a time would help me avoid using a tech editor. It finally dawned on me on Friday, after receiving a private message about a mistake in the Quill Eyelet Cowls pattern (since corrected) that I would think a designer who has to issue updates so soon after a pattern release probably has mistakes even in their paid patterns, so why bother paying? Even though I fixed the problem immediately and issued an update, it still indicates some unprofessionalism. Really, I should tap into not only my tech editor, but test knitters before releasing patterns.
Other reasons to charge/not make patterns available for free:
- If you don’t value the a pattern, no one else will.
- Something that you put effort,time, expertise, and money into has value.
- It adds to the flood of free patterns that are making it difficult for other designers to make a living in the industry – why pay for a pattern when there are so many good free ones available? Why pay for a pattern when you can spend your money on better/larger quantities yarn?
- People may be less likely to pay attention to the difficulty rating or the skills needed to complete the pattern (which I include in the pattern descriptions), which would be frustrating for them and possibly for me from a pattern support perspective.
So. That’s it. That’s why I’m going to stop ignoring that friend who gave me such good advice two years ago and set a price on all my new patterns. I hope eventually people will read & use them, but even if they don’t, I still enjoy the process and will continue, which sounds like it could become an exercise in futility, but there it is. Writing patterns combines my creative side with my tech writing side and it make me happy.