Friday, August 19, 2011

Should You Sell Your Patterns?

Selling patterns, especially of items that you make and sell, is a risky business, which is why many people stay out of it.

People who don't understand the work involved will say your prices are too high, and some will criticize you for charging at all.

Others will steal your work, either offering the tutorial to others for free or outright charging for it themselves.

Some people will say that, by offering a digital file for sale online, you deserve to have your work stolen and distributed for free.

And of course there is always the possibility that you will give someone the skills to become your competition.

Despite all of this, offering a PDF tutorial for our duct tape rose rings in the Quiet Mischief and Company Etsy shop is one of the best decisions I have made for my business.

For me, there are many pros that outweigh the cons of selling what are basically trade secrets. One of the biggest is something that nearly every crafter can relate to: when you have the skills but lack the details to making something yourself, you are hesitant to purchase a finished item. In other words, many people who like duct tape like to work with duct tape, and would rather purchase a tutorial and make rings themselves than purchase a finished ring.

Another benefit is how easy it is. I spent six hours doing my part to create the PDF, but now all I have to do is answer the occasional question, periodically update the thing, and, whenever it's ordered, attach it to an email and send it on its way. My sister and technical writer have it even easier; they only had to help with the original document and occasionally answer my questions. It's not quite free money, but it sure feels like it!

Our shop has also gained a lot of traffic both directly and indirectly from the tutorial. Directly because many people were starting to hear/think of making duct tape rings, and a google search for instructions almost always led them to us. Indirectly because of things like now having the skills and experience to write a decent free tutorial that went live on a blog months ago but still gets us traffic every day.

If abstracts aren't enough, I'll give you numbers. In a year, we have sold almost 300 copies of our tutorial. It has almost 350 hearts on Etsy. Lissi is getting paid over $100 an hour for the time she put into it, and I'm getting nearly as much for my time. Our tutorial gets more hits than our actual storefront does, and has over 17,000 views total. Every day one third to one half of the people who visit our shop view the tutorial. Many come just for that but then move on to other items.

With that great success, we could not stop there. Many people have noticed the new PDF tutorial in the shop, one that was almost as requested as the rose ring tutorial - heart shaped duct tape rings. It's been up for about two weeks and has been viewed almost 200 times and has 21 hearts, and has a brand-new price! We're offering it in a bundle with the rose ring for a discount, and we also have a coupon code for people who previously purchased the rose ring tutorial.

And we aren't stopping there. We will be keeping some secrets, but in the near future we plan to have tutorials for spiral duct tape rose rings, duct tape rose hair clips, and Halloween duct tape rings, and if we come up with new rings we will likely make tutorials to match.

Have there been difficulties? Yeah. Has it been worth it? Definitely.