This week I'm talking about how to turn your craft projects into pattern instructions that you can package, market, and sell online. Whether you sew softies or do another type of craft, creating patterns is a great way to add an income stream to your handmade business. Pattern sales produce small bits of income that can flow in while you are in your studio being creative.
In this series I’m focusing on creating patterns to distribute digitally as PDFs. On Monday we talked about how to choose a good project to turn into a pattern. Tuesday we explored breaking the project instructions down into manageable steps. Wednesday was all about layout and beauty shots and yesterday I conducted a video workshop on the "whys" and "what ifs" of pattern selling.
Today we wrap up Pattern Design Week by talking about pricing, marketing, and customer support. Here we go!
Putting Your Pattern Up For Sale: Pricing, Marketing, and Customer Support
My brand new Cute Critters pattern launches today! My favorite? The koala.
Putting together a pattern is a lot of work and you want to feel fairly compensated each time one sells. Before you can choose the right price for your patterns do some research. Go online to Etsy and Craftsy and look at the prices of patterns that are similar to to the one you've made.
Before I began selling patterns in March I bought two patterns from two different pattern sellers on Etsy whom I admired. One pattern was $10 and the other was $12. I bought the patterns because I felt like I needed to see the experience of buying a PDF pattern from start to finish before I could begin selling them myself. I wanted to see how the pattern was delivered to me, what language the seller used, what the pattern instructions and template looked like, and how the sellers’ copyright policies were worded. Buying patterns for research purposes was really helpful. I got to see what $10 or $12 got you when it came to patterns.
When I initially put my patterns up for sale I priced them at $6.50. I knew that they were underpriced, but self-publishing was new territory for me and just wasn’t sure what to expect. I raised my prices a few months later so that now all patterns are $9.00. It was a scary move, but sales didn’t drop off as I had feared and I knew that the content of my patterns was worth that price.
Marketing Your Patterns
Setting up a mailing list is one of my goals for 2013 because I think sending out an email newsletter is probably the best marketing tool for online sellers generally. (Hold me to this, okay! I’m going to do it!).
Shortly after I began selling patterns I set up an Abby Glassenberg Design Facebook page geared toward my pattern customers. Each time I email a pattern to a new customer I invite them to join the page and they almost always do. On Facebook I work to build excitement and anticipation by posting updates on what I’m working on, give the heads up on release dates for new patterns, and soliciting suggestions for new pattern ideas. I also tweet 2-3 times, at different times of the day, when I release a new pattern and I post about it here on my blog. Clearly there's a fine line between marketing and being overbearing so I try to not overdo it.
Sending out review copies of your pattern to other bloggers can be a good marketing tool, especially if that blogger has credibility when it comes to your particular type of craft. Reach out to bloggers that have broad reach and to other bloggers that deep expertise in your niche.
And finally, I’ve found it very helpful to create free patterns from time to time. Sometimes these appear as guest posts on really large blogs such as Sew, Mama, Sew! and other times they are free patterns here on my blog. When I start my newsletter (I’m going to start a newsletter!! I really am!), I’ll give out a free pattern to new subscribers. Free patterns give a taste of what your paid patterns will be like. Some people who download a free pattern will turn into paying customers right away and others will later.
Cute Critters on my ironing board. My kids like the green bird best.
As we talked about in yesterday’s video workshop, selling patterns does provide you with passive income indefinitely. No matter how many sell, you can sell an infinite number more without having to get back into the studio to create anything. But I think the term “passive income” is a bit of a misnomer. No income is truly passive, and pattern-based income is no exception.
Customer support begins when you list the pattern for sale online. Be clear in the listing’s title and description that you are selling a digital PDF document. While most people read listings carefully before purchasing, some will purchase the item thinking it’s a finished piece or thinking it’s a print pattern that will be mailed to them. You’ll need to work with these customers when they later realize that they aren’t going to be receiving what they thought they’d purchased.
Most customers who purchase PDF patterns do know what they are buying and are really excited to receive their pattern from you. You’ll need to deliver it promptly. I email my patterns, but there are services you can sign up with that will automate this process. And some pattern sellers use digital storage and delivery services like DropBox to get their patterns to customers. Your can send larger files this way, and easily do business remotely.
To me, customer support also involved building community. I think it’s really nice to feature customer work from time to time, whether it’s on Facebook or on your blog. Nothing is more convincing to prospective buyers than seeing that other people just like them are using your patterns to create awesome things. I also try to promote the shops of customers who are selling toys made from my patterns. Dolls and Daydreams is a master of this kind of customer community building.
Responding to customer emails is, of course, a vital part of providing good customer service. Customers sometimes need help downloading and printing patterns, choosing fabrics, using particular tools, and following your instructions. Answering these emails promptly, thoroughly, and with encouragement goes a long way to building your reputation as a pattern designer.
I had so much fun talking about making patterns this week. I hope this series was helpful to you! And if it was, consider supporting my work by purchasing one of my patterns. Then you can make yourself something awesome. That would be nice. Thanks everyone!