11.21.2016

Teaching & Workshops

It's time for another Design Your Biz segment! Today, I want to talk about teaching & workshops.
Me teaching at Stitches Midwest in 2015. Photo courtesy of XRX, Inc.

When I first started teaching, it all felt a little overwhelming and scary. Over the last few years, I've been able to put some systems into place and, with more experience, teaching has become a breeze and one of my favorite things I get to do as a designer. I love getting out there and meeting all the knitters!

Here are some of my tips for teaching and workshops (in particular order):
  1. Make yourself class kits. I bought some clear bags online and labeled each of them with the class name. It has all of the swatches I need, as well as needles and yarn for doing demos. This has really cut down on my packing time for teaching engagements. I talk more about packing for a teaching trip in this post.
  2. Put your contact info on your handouts. So many of my teaching jobs I book have come off of someone in the class going home and telling their knitting guild about the class. Make sure they have a way to get a hold of you. 
  3. Have a Plan B (& C). I think this one comes with time/experience. Developing a way to explain things more than one way is critical. Everyone learns in different ways, so being able to explain the same thing 3 different ways means all your students are happy.
  4. Set a schedule. At first, I only taught 0-2 times a year (see point number 2 about increasing teaching gigs). As I started to get more requests to teach, I sat down and decided what was going to work for me. I don't want to be traveling all the time. I like being at home writing knitting books. So I've decided that I will only accept 6-8 teaching jobs a year and I avoid teaching from mid-November to the end of January, when possible. I made an exception earlier this year to teach in Southern CA in January....hello, I'm from Chicago. :) Decide what's going to work for you.
  5. Most importantly, teach what you love to knit. I love shawls and lace, so most of my classes focus around those things. By teaching the subjects you're especially passionate about, you're sure to have lots of fun teaching about it!
If you're a designer, I'd love to hear about any tips you have for teaching. And, if you love taking knitting or crochet classes, do you have any tips for the teachers?

11.03.2016

Design Your Biz: Ravelry Ads That Work

I'm back today with another Design Your Biz segment. Let's talk advertising!
I've experimented with advertising over the last few years and I thought I'd share what I found works for me.

For designers, probably the most popular place to advertise is Ravelry. The site has millions of users and the advertising is very affordable. I typically run Featured Pattern Ads, which can be found on the patterns page of the website. It's a prominent location, and it costs $40 for your ad to rotate there for 2 weeks. I've found this to be the best place to advertise my patterns on Ravelry. I try to run one as often as I can!

Ads don't have to be fancy - I like to keep mine pretty simple actually. I have noticed that certain types of photos get more clicks than others. For example, in September, I ran an ad for my Yingarna pattern:


And in October, I ran an ad for my Bedford mittens:
 
 
The ad for Yingarna was one of the top ads for the two weeks that it ran, and had more than 3 times the clicks that the Bedford mittens did.

For me, ads that have show a close-up detail of the pattern get far more clicks than the ones that show the entire pattern. With the Yingarna ad, you can tell it's a shawl, but you can't see the full shape of it. You're enticing the knitter to click for more.

It also goes beyond picking the right photo. My shawl ads do much better than the other accessories. And the timing is important too. I would never, ever run an ads for those Fair Isle mittens in the summer. Most people aren't thinking mittens in July. :)

So, the big question: does it translate to sales?

My answer: yes! I've noticed that in my slower months (January, May, June), I've been able to increase my sales a little more with the addition of a Ravelry ad. And, I've discovered that the Featured Pattern Ad absolutely increases sales if you can time it with the release of a new pattern (and obviously run the ad for that pattern). 

If you're a designer, where do you run ads on Ravelry? And, if you're a knitter/crocheter, what ads do you click on?

10.21.2016

Design Your Biz: Offers and Discounts

I'm getting over the Rhinebeck hangover (more on Rhinebeck next week!) but today I have another Design Your Biz segment for you - Offers & Discounts!
I touched on this a few weeks ago in my customer appreciation post, but today I'd like to talk about it a little bit more.

As a frequent buyer of knitting and crochet patterns, I love a good discount! Who doesn't? But as a business owner, it's important to find a balance when it comes to discounts. It costs money to produce quality knitting and crochet patterns. And I like to do things like pay the mortgage. :)

Here's when I typically run discounts:

I'll likely run another sale or two during the course of the year, but it's when it's something that I think is a special occasion (like earlier this month when my blog turned 10).

There are other times I like to have discounts on patterns - when it's a little unknown what you'll be getting. For example, right now I'm running my Mystery Shawl KAL. The pattern is deeply discounted during the knit-a-long because you're not sure what you're going to get!

There are lots of other ways you can offer deals to your customers. For example, Corrina Ferguson offers a free hat & mitt pattern set when you sign up for her email newsletter. You can purchase the Trieste hat & mitt patterns on Ravelry, but by signing up for her emails, you get them for free! I love this idea, and it's something I'm hoping to implement when my website gets a much needed facelift in the coming months.

Whether you're a designer or a knitter/crocheter, I'd love to hear your thoughts on discounts and giveaways!

10.10.2016

10 Years

Yesterday, October 9th, my blog had a birthday. It turned ten.

10!!!!

Sometimes it's hard to believe that I've been (mostly) consistently blogging about yarn and knitting since 2006. I look back on that first post and it just makes me smile:

Well, I have been thinking (nay, dreaming) of having my very own knitting blog for some time now, and, so here it is. I look up way too many patterns and spend too much time reading about knitting on the internet to not join in the knitting blog fun. So, I intend to use my new blog for much knitty goodness: pictures of things I knit, pictures of things I wish I could knit, track the progress of my knitting, and keep up with all my knitting buddies (which is about...hmm, three people).

This blog has seen my yarn obsession turn from a hobby into a full-time job, seen some free patterns and witnessed my obsession with knitting Korknisses. :)

So, in honor of this blog being 10, I'm running my biggest sale of all time! Get 50% off all my self-published patterns and eBooks thru tomorrow, October 11th! No coupon needed, discount will be applied at checkout. Only the MKAL Shawl pattern is excluded, because that is already deeply discounted.

Enjoy! And happy birthday blog!

10.07.2016

Design Your Biz: A Collaboration That Works

Today's Design Your Biz segment is about something super fun: collaboration in the fiber arts industry!
Design Your Biz: Collaboration in the Fiber Arts Industry
Collaboration is one of my favorite things about working in the knitting world. You find the right fit with someone and their company and it's magic. It's what I found with Paula and Done Roving Yarns.

So today I'd like to tell you about how our collaboration came to be and why it works.

A few years ago, I was doing some regular designing for a knitting magazine. The editor at the time had this idea that she wanted to assign me a yarn company and I would work with them directly each issue on picking yarns for my design ideas.

I'll admit, I was skeptical. I hadn't done this with any other magazine before. What if I didn't like the yarn? Or the person running the company? But, at the same time, I was intrigued. So I said yes.

And I was matched up with Done Roving Yarns.

Turns out, I had nothing to be skeptical about and what happened next is exactly what this editor hoped would happen - that we would establish a good working relationship and it would possibly lead to other opportunities of working together.

Yes, yes it did.

Paula and I continue to work closely together to this day. When we first branched out from just working together on the magazine designs, she was looking for designs for her innovative Frolicking Feet Transitions line.
Knitting Like Crazy: Frolicking Feet Transitions Yarn by Done Roving

I created Savanna.
Knitting Like Crazy: Savanna Shawl by Jen Lucas

After this one pattern, I think we both realized that this collaboration was going to really work. Since this particular yarn was a different than most things out there at the time, Paula really needed pattern support to show people what to do with it. I created some of the first patterns that called for Frolicking Feet Transitions, and as a result, many knitters who bought the yarn, also bought my patterns that used it.

It turned out to be win-win. Done Roving had patterns for their specific yarn and I had great pattern sales. My patterns that call for Done Roving Yarns continue to be my most popular patterns today!

Since Savanna came out in July 2014, I've created more designs using Frolicking Feet Transitions:

Knitting Like Crazy: Regolith by Jen Lucas
 

Knitting Like Crazy: Lokum by Jen Lucas
 
It's a collaboration that is still going strong. I look forward to continuing to work with Done Roving Yarns, and their new sister company, Yarn In The Box, for years to come. Not to mention, that Paula has become one of my very dear friends. It's nice to work with people you really, truly like!

Want to know more about collaborations in this industry that work? Tara Swiger recently has shared some stories:

9.22.2016

Diversifying Your Income Stream as a Knit Designer

"You don't quit your full-time job because you write knitting books. This isn't Harry Potter." -me

When people ask me about making knitting (and now crochet) design my full-time job, I always say the above quote. Because it's true.

Can you make a full-time living being a designer? Absolutely!


But it takes a lot of income streams to make it work. I truly believe that the vast majority of designers would tell you the same thing too. Most of us are doing other things besides just publishing patterns on Ravelry - we teach, tech edit, sell yarn, write books, do graphic design or photography, etc., to make a living at this.

So, here's a breakdown of my income for January through August of this year:
That's seven different avenues I'm receiving money for my business. And pretty much all of those can be further broken down. For example, I taught at 6 different shops or guilds so far this year, and I received payment from four different companies for "commissioned patterns." In this business, every little piece adds up!

I'm currently taking the route of writing knitting books to earn a good chunk of income. As you can see, it's making up a lot of my income these days. Cozy Stash-Busting Knits was released earlier this year and Sock-Yarn Accessories came out in the Fall of 2015. Will it stay like this forever? No - book sales (and therefore your royalties) naturally go down the longer a book has been available. But, for now, it's working. And, while I do have another book currently in the works (yay!), I'm also brainstorming other ways to further diversify my income.

So, if you're a designer (or thinking about coming one, which you should, because it's the best job), how do you diversify (or plan to diversify) your income stream? I'd love to know!

And, because I love reading about this kind of stuff, here are some links to other people discussing the subject:

9.16.2016

Follow Me Friday....

These days, many of us are on multiple social medias. I thought I'd have a fun and quick Friday post about all the various places you can find me! You know, in case reading the blog just wasn't enough Jen for you. ;)

I'll see you around the Internet! :)

9.14.2016

(Not Really) Wordless Wednesday

I've made my yarn decision for my upcoming Mystery Shawl KAL. Start digging in your stash for two - 400 yard skeins of fingering weight yarn, solid or semi-solids are going to be the way to go.
We'll be starting October 7th. Details coming soon. Join the Ravelry group to stay up-to-date. ;)

9.12.2016

My First Crochet Shawl Pattern

A few weeks ago, something really awesome happened. My first ever crochet shawl pattern was officially released into the world. This is Daphne, now available from Willow Yarns:
Daphne Crochet Shawl by Jen Lucas
From the website:



Enjoy a vintage look of sophisticated elegance with this shawl designed by Jen Lucas in Willow Quest yarn.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Finished Size: 74 x 30"
Materials: Willow Yarns™ Quest; Color: 0013 Blue Butterfly—2 balls
Hook: US size F-5 (3.75mm) crochet hook or size needed to obtain gauge

Daphne Crochet Shawl by Jen Lucas
I used my knowledge of pi shawl shaping in knitting and applied it to this crocheted shawl. You work a few rows, double the stitches, work a few more rows, double the stitches, and so on. It was such a fun piece to stitch.
I really hope you all enjoy enjoy this shawl as much as I do!

9.08.2016

Design Your Biz: Customer Feedback

Today's Design Your Biz segment is about customer feedback.
Knit & crochet designers have access to more customer feedback than ever before. Many of us have Ravelry groups, people can leave us comments on the Ravelry pattern pages, we get emails, private messages on Ravelry, notes sent through forms on our websites, etc.

It can be overwhelming. And sometimes the feedback isn't so nice.

So, first I'd like to touch on the "not so nice" customer feedback. This might not be the most fun blog topic on the planet, but it's important to talk about it. I want designers (especially the newer ones) to know that it isn't you. This happens to all of us unfortunately.

Every designer has at least one story of receiving "that message." Luckily for me, those are verrrry few and far between these days, but I've gotten everything from "get a new job" (with a few expletives thrown in there for good measure) to "I'm telling all my designer friends what a terrible designer you are." Yikes.

At the beginning, these messages would really shake me up. I'd get all upset. Sometimes I'd actually consider quitting my dream to work on this full time.

While the occasional angry feedback can still rock me a little but, I've really worked on changing my perspective.

I try to put myself in their shoes. Maybe something is going on in their personal life and they are having a terrible day. Maybe they are just incredibly frustrated that whatever they are making isn't working out (I mean, I do put my knitting in timeout all the time).

Not that anyone should be sending messages full of terrible things to someone, but, in this business, it's going to happen. So I just remind myself that "It's just sticks and string, right? We aren't exactly drafting an international peace policy." And then I kill them with kindness. :) Trust me, when you get these types of messages, the last thing you want to do is be nice, but it's the right thing to do. Many times I've actually received apology emails in return!

And, full disclosure, if they are especially terrible, I don't answer them at all. Sometimes it's better not to engage people that are going to be super-duper awful to you.

Ok, enough about the bad....let's move onto what the vast majority of my customer feedback is - the good kind! :)

I really do love hearing from my customers. They've helped me make decisions in my designs and business in general over the years. For example, when I first started designing, I included the written instructions for the charts for all my shawl designs. I've received so much feedback from knitters over the years that they love having that. Is it more work for me? Yep, a little bit, but I don't plan to change it. Because of the feedback I've received, I know that people want it, so it's completely worth it for me to do it. Truthfully, it's now weirdly one of my favorite parts of pattern writing.

I've also started working on a new design recently as a result of customer feedback. I talked about it a little in my last Design Your Biz post and you can also see my giant swatch in this video. My customers have sent me lots of notes over the years saying they want a pi shawl with armholes. So I'm finally listening! I can't wait to work on this some more this fall. I know many of you will love it, because you told me so!

I could go on and on about customer feedback. :)

But the bottom line is, good or bad, customer feedback is here to stay.

If you're a designer (or work in any job where you receive customer feedback), I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.


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