TIDKT: How much it costs to put a design out.

A recent popular post about how a designer goes from inspiration to finished pattern sparked a lot of comments. One struck me as a great idea for a follow up post: how much it costs to put out a self published pattern.

I am not going to get too far set up costs as they vary wildly from person to person. I have found that you can set up pretty cheaply with the following equipment:

  1. A computer with the following software installed:
    1. Fast access to the internet (for loading up large files)
    2. A spreadsheet application such as MS Excel
    3. Some layout software such as MS Publisher
  2. A set of hooks/needles and notions.
The nice to haves for design set-up include:
  1. A camera so you can take quality shots yourself
  2. A vector art program for drawing schematics yourself
  3. Knitting or crochet chart design software
  4. A yarn winder and swift – this was one of my early purchases – before designing I’d never worked with skeins or hanks before!
  5. A mannequin for display and blocking seamless garments.
  6. Blocking mats, pins and wires.
  7. A very good set of hooks/needles and some real quality notions – because you are know knitting more than you ever have you’ll appreciate the difference. Also you’ll be entering a world of serious knitting/crochet tool enablers probably!
  8. A good range of design resource books such as stitch dictionaries and reference books – I’ll share my collection at some point.
  9. A logo and a website design.
  10. A pattern template.
So, as you can see, the set up doesn’t have to cost a ton of money but you will spend almost every cheque that comes in for a long time on getting some of the nice to haves – be warned!
Let’s cost up a pattern for a sweater and one for a hat as a guide price. While some of this work you can and will undertake yourself I thought it would be interesting to assume you had to outsource everything except the pattern writing to see what it costs (because you should account for your own time too)

These figures are rough and illustrative only. I have only priced in GBP as I don’t have these costings in the US.

Hat Sweater
£ £
Buy yarn and notions 20.00 70.00
Sample knitter/crocheter (incl shipping) 40.00 60.00
Get photographs taken 50.00 50.00
Pay model 15.00 15.00
Tech Editing 15.00 50.00
Get schematic and charts drawn 5.00 10.00
Get graphic designer to layout pattern 15.00 30.00
Total 160.00 285.00
Pattern sale price 3.00 4.00
Less costs of sale (fees) 0.50 0.55
Income per pattern 2.50 3.45
Patterns to sell before you pay yourself as a designer 64 83
Your design time at £10 per hour 60 100
Pattern sold before you break even 88 112
Patterns to break even if you have yarn support 80 91
As you can see, its quite a lot of patterns to sell before you begin to be in any kind of profit. Some popular patterns may sell in their thousands of course and you may strike gold, but for every one that sells that well there are hundreds of patterns that won’t sell enough to break even.
It is also worth factoring in that any pattern (especially those that sell well) will need you to provide pattern support which also eats into any profit you make.
Are you surprised by the numbers?
PS Don’t forget to check out the other posts in the series here

Comments

  1. says

    Gulp.
    Every one of your posts makes me more and more itching to get cracking …
    I’m looking forward to seeing your books and I need to buy a swift and ball winder …

  2. says

    Gosh, this just reinforces something I replied to a commenter recently: “I’ll never get rich from crochet design, except in satisfaction.” I think most of us who design do so first and foremost because we love our craft(s), and the pennies we earn are a bonus.

    It’s all so true – and the more of the tasks you take on yourself, the more time is sunk into the project – and time is of course money. :)

    Thanks for laying this out so clearly! Hope all is going well with the next edition of your fab Crochet Project.

    • says

      I do feel though that just because you enjoy something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well compensated for it – vets and doctors for example wouldn’t work for pin money.

      Crochet Project is coming along wonderfully – will you be submitting soon?

  3. says

    I love your break down of all of the costs! I don’t know why I’ve never done this in such detail for my own designs. I’ve calculated all the of the tangible expenses, but I’ve never added my own time to the equation, which I really should be doing.

    • says

      This was actually a very scary and sobering experience! If I calculated the knitting hours at an hourly rate I think I would probably cry at the profit margins!

  4. says

    This is brilliant, Joanne. I’m tempted to link to this post every time I see someone complaining on Ravelry about having to spend $5 on a pattern…

  5. says

    It has surprised me, in that it has shown me how much I don’t actually care. But I’m a deeply jaded economist, so don’t judge by me ;)

  6. says

    Brilliant blog post, thanks for writing it :-)

    I design crochet blankets.

    I’m lucky as I own my own yarn company, so my yarn costs are a lower than they should be.
    Even still my own yarn costs me £8 to £16 per 100 gms, a blanket normally uses a minimum of 1 kg, which equals £80 to £160.

    A large lap sized blanket will take me a minimum of 6 weeks to crochet.
    So calculating my wages at £10 per hour, 20 hours a week (including evenings and weekends) I should earn £1,200, this doesn’t include designing, photography, pattern writing or tec editor costs.
    So if I just want to cover my wages and yarn costs I need to sell a minimum of 320 patterns at £4
    This is why I don’t publish free patterns!