Knit Design Tips—Designing Full Time - A Success Story July 9, 2015 07:28

Designing Full Time - A Success Story by Kristen TenDykeBelieve it or not, I just began designing full-time in 2015. In 2010, I had the dream of someday designing full time, I quit my day job and began working as a freelance technical editor. I considered my knit and crochet designing as a hobby that brought in a little extra cash. I published a few books and single patterns here and there with a rare design published in a magazine or outside source, but the majority of my bills were paid by my tech editing income. I believed that was the best way to do it. Until something happened in January of 2015.

One of the largest knitting publishers was one of my biggest tech editing clients. For the past 5 years or so I tech edited around 2-4 books each year for them. That may not seem like much, but it paid well and I relied on it heavily to forecast how my bills would be paid in the coming months. I knew about future book projects months in advance, and I always had at least 3 lined up. Recently, they had a lot of employees change positions, and in January of 2015 I realized that I had no books lined up for this year. I contacted them to see if there was anything available and was told they would keep me in mind. There was a part of me that freaked out, not knowing how I'd be paying my bills in the later half of this year. I had to do something!

I updated my website to include tech editing rates and information, and I shared that link around Ravelry—promoting myself as a tech editor for the first time ever. I got a bunch more clients, and a lot more work. Much of it was instant gratification—receiving the pattern, editing it, getting paid. I'm not complaining. I appreciate the abundance. But it wasn't exactly fulfilling or satisfying that need for stability that I had from knowing how much work/income I would be receiving in the future.

Thankfully I had just been paid for the 3 books that I edited in 2014, and had a nice chunk of cash to support me and my family while I figured out what to do about the rest of this year. I took a hard look at what I want to be doing, what feels the best, and what is practical, considering I now have a 1-year old.

I realized that sitting in front of my computer crunching numbers for hours on end is not really how I want to be spending every day. I'd prefer to have knitting needles in my hands. I want my son to see me being creative rather than staring at a screen. I can knit and crochet swatches and sketch sweaters while I'm around him and feel like I'm encouraging him to be creative. I want to design more.

So, I started doing more of that. I got my design submission process really organized by using bulletin boards to pin my sketches and swatches onto and using an excel spreadsheet to track the submissions I have sent out and that have been accepted. I've committed to hiring sample knitters to knit ALL the accepted designs so I can use my time to focus on more designs. I'm thankful that I have that extra cash to use for paying the sample knitters while I wait for the payments to come in for the new designs. I'm using a bookkeeping program hosted by GoDaddy where I can keep track of my income and expenses, which will make tax time easier, and it also lets me set up invoices, including drafts for future invoices. So, each time I have a design accepted, I set up a draft invoice so I can see how much income I'll be getting in the future. It tracks what type of income I have so I can see what percentage is from tech editing, online pattern sales, royalties and newly published patterns. I spent the time to find the perfect website database service for my website, and updated it—something I've wanted to do for YEARS.

This feels like it's all working out really well for me right now. I'm feeling abundant and creative and confident in my career choices.

I've accepted the "You need to spend money to make money" attitude, but I've changed it to align with my fundamental beliefs. I see spending money (to pay for the GoDaddy book-keeping service, to pay the sample knitters and the monthly Shopify fee to host this website) as my way of signifying to the universe that I believe in the abundance that is available. When money goes out, it comes in. It flows freely and abundantly. And while it's a nice concept to believe in, it's even more amazing to see it work in reality.

I've been tracking my success rates for accepted designs, and currently I have about 52% of my submissions accepted. That may not seem great, however the rejected submissions are submit elsewhere, and I have had ALL of the ones I've submit this year accepted by someplace or another. There are not currently any stagnant designs. That feels SO GOOD to me. I currently have 8 completed designs, 16 accepted designs in-progress with sample knitters, 4 submissions that are being held onto by the publisher for possible future publication, 10 submissions that I'm waiting to hear if they have been accepted and 5 completed submissions in-hand waiting for the right place to submit to, and many more sketches and swatches at various stages of the design process. And I feel super organized about all of it! To top it off, I feel financially stable through at least September.

If you want to learn more about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, stay tuned for future designer tips!

Is there anything I mentioned above that you would like to learn about in more detail? Let me know in the comments below.