In which I am rather firm

This is transcribed from a twitter thread. But twitter threads tend to be a bit impermanent, and I wanted to keep a record of this here to point to as needed (though you can totally also go read it on twitter to see the replies/conversations that spring up around it).  But, if you’re wondering about the short, choppy paragraphs, that’s why!

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Something shitty happens pretty much every time I bring out a new pattern.

Someone (or more often a couple of someones) comes along and whuffles and flutters about how it’s SCANDALOUS that I charge EIGHT WHOLE DOLLARS for a pattern.

So let’s talk about that.

Talking about it means a bit of light math, so you’re totally excused if that’s not your jam.

But I think knowing exactly what it costs me, in both time and money, to make a pattern helps the pricing make a bit more sense.

So let’s talk about what creating a pattern costs.

I’m going to walk you through my most recent pattern. It’s a lovely little hat (translation, it’s a fairly small project, so all my costs & time commitments are on the low end, for more complicated projects, the costs and times are substantially greater).

Semblance (rav) / Semblance (payhip)

My out of pocket costs for this pattern (so new stuff I paid for specifically for it) were $520.80.

That’s $120.80 for the yarns (bought two, used one, the other went in the stash, we’ll talk about that in a bit). And $400 for the instructional illustrations of the fancy stitch.

That’s just my out of pocket costs, I’ve also got the sort of general background costs of running the business. Things like the bills for photoshop and indesign and my web hosting and my mailing list and my spam filter and my social media scheduler and my accounting software.

I tend to release two patterns a month, so basically each new pattern has to cover half a month of those fees. That’s a bit less concrete than ‘I bought this yarn for this project,’ but it’s definitely part of the money a pattern needs to earn to break even.

Add it up and it comes to right around $200 for half a month. So that brings the hat’s bill up to $720.80.

Now, that doesn’t count any of the things I already own like my computer or camera or needles or photo props. That’s just direct costs and half a month of operating costs.

But the hat doesn’t just need to earn out those costs. If all it did was earn out those costs, I’d break even but not get paid at all for my time.

I, scandal of scandals, also wish to get paid for my time (sort of like you probably want to be paid for time spent at your job).

So let’s talk about the time to go from ‘I have an idea!’ to ‘here is a finished pattern you may purchase.’

Because there are kind of a lot of steps between those two points. Probably more than some folks realize.

I kept track as I made this hat.

The time to think of, swatch for, and actually knit the hat was about 20 hours.

Again, this is a simple hat (it ‘only’ took about half a dozen swatches) in a fat yarn (so the knitting was quick).

This part often takes more time.

But this was quick, so call it 20 hours.

The time to photograph, write about, and share my progress on the hat was also about 20 hours.

That’s includes pausing frequently to take dozens of photos, selecting and editing the best ones, then writing and scheduling 16 instagram posts, 10 blog posts, 8 pins, and 6 tweets.

That may sound unnecessary. But I’ve learned that talking about what I’m doing and showing it off as I go is absolutely vital to building up interest in a pattern (that interest is how I sell enough copies to break even).

Interest and pretty photos are what drive sales.

The time to write the pattern text, create the charts, work with an illustrator, work with testers/editors, take and edit final photos, and format the pattern is also about 20 hours.

And again, this is a simple pattern with one item to photograph. This often takes more time.

The time to format and upload the pattern and photos, write the description, create the new release promotions, write the marketing copy, write to my mailing list, and handle customer service stuff the day of the release is about 10 hours.

So at this point, I’ve got $720.80 in bills, and 70 hours of my time invested in this simple little hat pattern (plus stuff like my camera and my computer and my tools, but we’re ignoring them).

So, if I price it at $8.00, how many copies do I need to sell to break even?

Let’s start by saying that most folks won’t pay $8. Most buyers are on my mailing list & get a 15% off coupon, so they pay $6.80.

Oh and just as background info, I have over a decade of sales data, and I can say with confidence that about 75% of a pattern’s first three years of sales happen the first week it’s out and are to mailing list members. So using that for our math seems pretty fair.

But back to that $6.80. I don’t actually see all that.
 
Paypal takes their cut ($0.50 on $6.80). So does the place I’m selling it through. Payhip’s are the highest ($0.34 on $6.80). Ravelry’s are lower but harder to account for since they vary by monthly sales and buyer location.

But let’s just call it $6.30 (that’s $8, with the 15% off that happens on the vast majority of my sales, and the $0.50 for paypal’s fees taken out).

So, to make up for my actual out of pocket costs, I’d need to sell $720.80/$6.30=114 copies.

If you don’t count the initial discount, and just go with the list price of $8, paypal’s cut is $0.53, I get $7.47.
 
And again, I have a decade’s worth of sales data to show that most of my sales DON’T happen at full price. But say they did. That’s $720.80/$7.47=96 copies.

Now, how about my time. Let’s take a pay rate of $15 an hour. (Honestly I think I should make more than that, but let’s just take that for a baseline for the math.).

70 hours * $15 per hour = $1050

To cover that:

$1050/$6.30=166 copies

or at full price

$1050/$7.47=140 copies

So bare minimum, to cover my basic costs and to pay for my time at $15 an hour, on a simple pattern, and using very conservative estimates I need between 280 sales (at what my patterns actually generally sell for) and 236 sales (if they all sold at full price, which they don’t).

Now, there is ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEE any particular pattern will sell that well. My experience is that most patterns sell ok, a few are duds, and a few are superstars that pay the bills for all the rest.
 
But you spend the money and time long before you see a penny of sales.

And before someone says it, yes, costs and time vary from pattern to pattern. Sometimes you work from stash and don’t need any illustrations. Sometimes you buy five yarns before you find the right one and need to hire a knitter to help make the piece. It varies widely.

This pattern took significantly less time (fat yarn, simple shape) than many, but needed illustrations and new yarn. It’s a pretty good example. Not the most expensive, not the cheapest, somewhere in the middle. Lots of patterns cost more to make.

And again, these number are all assuming you just have everything you need to make the pattern (other than new yarn) already on hand and available to you (you know, like rather a lot of computer and camera equipment).

Oh and don’t forget stash. For this example, I only counted the cost of yarn I actually bought for this project, not any of the yarns from stash I swatched with. That’s because I honestly don’t know how to count stash.

But file it away in the back of your head as another one of those things these figures don’t really account for (along with things like needles and stitch dictionaries and blocking tools and photo props).

So, this basic hat has about $1770.80 in bills to pay to break even (and that’s a low estimate that doesn’t take into account computer/camera/stash and only sets my pay at $15 an hour).

At $8.00, I need to sell between 236 (if everyone paid full price, which they don’t) and 280 (allowing for the people who buy it at a discount, which a decade of sales figures tells me is most people) copies to break even.

If they were priced lower, I’d need to sell more.

And I’ll tell you a dirty little secret, lower prices don’t sell more copies. In fact, the opposite is true. Higher prices seem to lead to more sales.

If I value my work, my buyers will too.

So yes. The simple little hat costs EIGHT WHOLE DOLLARS. And if you don’t want to spend that or don’t think it’s worth it, that is absolutely fine! You are the boss of your wallet! Please spend or don’t spend whatever you want on knitting patterns!

But if you take time out of your day to write me shouty messages about it? Well the kindest thing I can think is that you don’t know what goes into making a pattern (maybe this thread will help). The only other explanation I can think of is that you’re kind of an ass.

And no matter how much you shout at me, I’m not changing my prices because someone is an ass.

Well…I’m not lowering them. If enough people shout often enough, I might well raise them.

Oh and before anyone worries, I’m fine. I’ve been doing this since 2009, full time since 2015. I have a big enough audience that I can actually earn a decent living at this (and this particular hat actually sold really well!). But I see people scream about prices a lot. A LOT.

And I think it’s important to counter that and show what really goes into making a pattern, both in actual cost and time. It’s hard to do that if you’re new or you’re not used to how folks shout. And since I’m not new and am used to the shouting, I try to talk about it.

And hopefully it helps someone who just got their first awful message about ‘how very dare you even consider charging for your work!?!’ feel a little less alone.

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