Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The Economics of Knitting - Free Patterns
Free patterns can be a hot button topic in the knitting world. I've written about this topic before and I have a few new miscellaneous thoughts (in no particular order) to add to my original post from here.
There is a difference between experienced and novice knitters. Experienced knitters have a much better understanding of how much work goes into writing a pattern and they are more likely to pay for patterns because they understand the true value. When I was taking tailoring classes, new students would not spend money on quality supplies because they said their skill level did not justify the expense. Unfortunately they were unable to get good results with incorrect materials and would be frustrated with the end product. It was always interesting to see who came back for the next class with the correct materials and how many just abandoned learning to tailor. I suspect that happens with knitting as well.
One of my friends who owns a yarn shop doesn't want her customers using free patterns. She says "she has spent too many hours rewriting bad free patterns" and often reminds her customers "you get what you pay for in this world".
Another says "free patterns seem to attract some of the more demanding knitters who make all sorts of unusual time consuming requests".
Some knitters want to knit what everyone else is knitting (which is often a free pattern). Ravelry has had a big impact on what knitters see and that impacts the popularity of patterns. I have found it interesting that from the beginning of my Ravelry membership to now, currently I see many more paid patterns turning up on the Ravelry Hot Right Now section.
Some knitters choose patterns to meet a completely different set of criteria so free only comes into play when it meets that criteria first.
One of my professional friends wants to get designers to band together and agree to never produce free patterns. As a designer I see that as an interesting suggestion. I'm not sure I can think of any other business that creators give so much of their work away for free. On the other hand I do hear some knitters say they like to try a designer out first on a free pattern before buying from them. However, free patterns are often not tech edited and are very simple, so are you really getting a true comparison?
I've been very surprised by the number of requests I've been getting to provide free pattens. Most often the requests come from event organizers who want them as prizes or to put in goody bags for attendees. At this point I really don't feel ready to give away something that I've put so much effort into, especially while I'm struggling for profitability. I feel that patterns are already very under priced if you take into account the time and expense to produce them. Pricing is done on spec, based on what the market will bear as opposed to costs incurred. Since I publish mainly by PDF downloads it costs me both money and more time to get printing done.
At this point my business is not making a profit and I've only made donations of door prizes (usually notions not patterns) at events where I was being paid to appear. I'm sure I will be revisiting this as my business (hopefully) becomes profitable. I'm also uncomfortable with making some donations but not others as what criteria do I use to decide who to donate to if I don't accept every request.