Yesterday I posed a question on my social media accounts to my followers what fears or obstacles were holding them back from self-publishing their designs and boy, did you all deliver. It was pretty overwhelming to be honest! But I'll do my best to address the 7 common obstacles that popped up in this post today.
As someone who has built a solid following in about a year and a half, who knew nothing about design and writing patterns, barely anything about knitting, but just did it anyway...? If I can do it, so can you.
1. So Many Designs Exist Already
And there will never be enough. There's always room for another beautiful design.
The market for buying patterns is not so limiting that there is a cap for only 100, 1000, 10000, designs. No! Just like clothing, sewing, architecture, art, you name it, everything goes through trends, styles and cycles.
Compare the clothing of the past decades. See how radically different they are? How did they become that way? Through new designs continuously updating and challenging the norm. If all the aspiring designers in the world decided, "Hey, there are already too many clothes on the market. There's no space for mine" and didn't share their work, we would still be wearing 80's wear because there was nothing to replace or update it. Fashion and design heavily relies on ideas pouring in, even if they aren't "radical" or "inventive".
There is space for you. That's the beauty of online brands. The internet has limitless capacity and there are new knitters coming in everyday, and older designers retiring. There is space for you. You can self-publish on Ravelry, LoveKnitting, Craftsy, Etsy, your own website... whew!
2. I Don't Have the Time
See, that's the beauty of being an independent designer. You make your own schedule. You can take as long as you need to design a pattern. You don't even need to quit your day job. Designing, like knitting, can be a hobby and not a fully fledged career. Take your time! Focus on building your portfolio at your own pace. Knitters aren't going anywhere.
And if you truly don't have the time because you are working your butt off to just feed yourself, that's ok. Take care of yourself first and when you find that opening of extra time, take the dive.
When my husband meet his Judo hero, Toshihiko Koga, who is an Olypmic and World Champion a few weeks ago, he retold me his story. I've talked about parts of it before but there was another gold nugget in his speech that really stuck with me. When Koga was a child, he really loved practicing Judo but he wasn't very good at it. So his father said to him, "I know the secret to becoming a great Judo player. In addition to your regular practice time, you need to work more. When the other kids are playing, practice. When the other kids are sleeping, practice". If you're passionate about design, you will find ways to sneak it into your schedule.
3. I Don't Have the Money
If you have the money to knit, you have the money to design.
You don't need fancy cameras, you don't need fancy yarn to make a design people will love. You can literally unravel a garment and reuse the yarn. And there are plenty of free resources on the internet that you can use to help you learn the tips, tricks and hacks of designing, knitting and online business. Heck, there are any free online chart editors you can use! Stick with the free stuff, and invest in upgrading the technology down the road as you gain more experience.
Take a look at my very first website, when my brand was under the name "Frenchie Knits", especially this post on the Honey Comb Cowl. The website was on a free hosting service, I knit the sample in Lion Ease yarn, yarn that I could afford, and I used my Mac computer's camera to take the photos.
Months later I went back to the pattern and updated it using Quince and Co's Puffin line and had my husband take photos using his DSLR that he bought.
To help you out on this front, I made a very simple pdf file of my go-to FREE resources for design, knitting and online business that I'm more than willing to share with you. Just enter your email below to get it! EDIT: These have been moved to the Resource Collection. Sign up to get the password sent to you automatically.
Note that just listening, reading and learning from these materials is nothing if you don't implement it!
4. I Don't Know Where to Start
Well, that's where I come in. I already have tons of free information on design and will have plenty more in the future. I'm preparing an e-course on designing and writing patterns and you are more than free to email me for help and advice.
One factor of success for ALL entrepreneurs (and not just knitwear designers) is that they had mentors that they could learn from. These mentors were always ten steps ahead of them so their mentors already went through all of the difficulties that they were going through at present. These mentors are encouraging, inspiring but also make them work hard to earn their success.
DON'T be co-dependent on your mentor and rely on them to do everything for you, as your success depends on YOU choosing to work hard and stick in with it. But DO consult with them, ask for their advice, their input and insight.
5. I'm Afraid of Copying Other People's Patterns
That's ok. It's unlikely but it happens (it's happened to me! Someone tried to pin me for my Aumangea pullover and there are designs that are very similar to my SeaShell Shawl).
And if you have a case of parallel thought, you can just offer it for free. But here's some words of wisdom from the greatness herself, Elizabeth Zimmerman.
6. I'm Afraid People Won't Like My Work
And that is why you will succeed.
Hear me out.
There's an audience for everything. You may have to put the extra work in to find them, but they are there. If you're that afraid, use that fear to motivate you.
Study trends and push yourself outside your comfort zone. Try new things.
There will ALWAYS be successful and failed designs. Do you think my first (and even current) designs were a hit? No! Do you think they were even that great? Probably not, but my designs have evolved and I'm still learning on how to make them better. And I'm sure if you went far enough on my Instagram, you can find my really, really bad photos.
Learn from the failures and celebrate the successes. Your work will always evolve and get better. You will learn new techniques and your skills will improve. But first, you have to take action on the task you are the most scared of!
7. There's Just Not a Career Here
Create your own career. You don't need to quit your day job and its ok if it's just a hobby.
Take it slowly if needed.
Build your portfolio.
Offer your patterns for free for a limited time to get people to your page (people love free stuff, take note of that).
Contact yarn companies with design proposals for yarn support or for kits. Find out which yarn brands are indie designer friendly (Berroco, Malabrigo, Julie Asselin are just a few!), they will help promote your work! Develop good relations with other indie yarn dyers, they can provide you with yarn support so that you two can work together to get both your names out there.
Submit to knitting publications and don't be afraid of rejection (keep this podcast in your bookmarks to learn about the ins and outs of the magazine industry).
Offer LYS free copies of your patterns for their store samples.
Give, give, give.
Shout your name from the rooftops! You have to put yourself out there.
You can't expect opportunities to come knocking to your door if no-one knows you're there. Make yourself known. Participate in forums. Interact on social media (it can be just as simple as commenting and liking photos on Instagram).
Before I end this blog post, I want to go over how important mindsets play into this. If you think small, your success will be small. If you think you will fail, you will fail. If you think there is no space for your work, then there is no space because you didn't make any. And definitely, definitely don't compare your beginning to another's end. Everyone had to start somewhere, and it was through persistence, patience, hard work and effort that they were able to reach the point that you want to get to so badly. That's why I'm not shy about talking about where I started, where I came from. I want people to see that I was just like them and even in just a year you can make such huge strides in your growth!
I believe in you. But do you believe in yourself?