This article was published in Home Office Opportunities, Home Office Journal and in Crafting Today.
Creativity to Cash
TEN STEPS TO SELLING YOUR DESIGNS
Nine years ago, I discovered quite by accident that I could design a doily of my own after crocheting other designers’ patterns all my life. One evening, I was too lazy to get out of my easy chair to find a pattern. There on the stand beside me sat my ball of thread with a crochet hook stuck in it, seemingly begging me to crochet.
I had no pattern in mind, but I picked it up and started the familiar hook-and-pull-through motion. Two hours later I had made a beautiful 12-inch doily! I sent it to one of my favorite craft magazines and was dumbfounded when the editor phoned to offer me $85 for it - a far cry from the $5 or $10 I had been getting for my doilies at craft shows. That was the beginning of my designing career and I haven’t stopped since. I soon discovered I could create designs in knitting, tatting and plastic canvas too.
TEN STEPS TO SUCCESS:
STEP NUMBER ONE: FIND THE MARKET:
My first original creation was submitted to a magazine I had subscribed to for most of my life and in which I had admired the work of other designers. After it was accepted for publication, I began to look for other craft magazines in book stores, magazine racks, garage sales and flea markets, in the doctor’s office and in the homes of friends. I started making a list of editors and their addresses. As your patterns evolve, look for the magazines who publish the type of crafts you design. For instance, you wouldn’t want to submit your crocheted project to a plastic canvas or knitting magazine.
The next step is to send a self-addressed stamped envelope to each publication asking for their publishing guidelines and/or editorial guidelines. Publishing guidelines will tell you how to submit your material - whether or not to send a photograph first, how to package your project, and the correct address to send it to. The editorial guidelines will tell you what they are looking for in the months to come in craft designs.
With experience, you will learn which editors you want to work with. I prefer the ones who drop me a postcard letting me know my package has arrived, and then let me know their decision within six weeks to two months. Some will hold projects for months before deciding to publish or return the item.
Lastly, keep a current file of editors, their addresses, phone numbers, and their guidelines. And always stay on the lookout for new publications.
STEP NUMBER TWO: BE ORIGINAL!
Make sure your idea for a craft article is original, not a copy of someone else’s work or pattern. Use your own ideas and you won’t get into trouble. Let your creative powers loose because we all have them. We just have to let them work for us. You might get an idea from someone else’s design, but NEVER, NEVER copy it. It will pay off for you because editors are looking for something different, something no one else has thought of before.
STEP NUMBER THREE: BE THOROUGH
To prepare your package for submission, place your craft project in a plastic bag, labeling it with name and number of the article. I use a 9 x 12 envelope for most things, but some things need a suitable box, for instance a tablecloth, afghan or baby ensemble. Be sure to include your instructions for making the project, in double-spaced typing. In the same envelope or package, include a self-addressed stamped envelope or at least sufficient postage for the return of your materials.
Your editor needs information, so be sure to include a cover letter typewritten in single space. Include your name, address, telephone number, FAX number, E mail address and social security number.
After I had been doing this for awhile I made a special form for submitting my designs, thus eliminating the need for a cover letter.
Here is a very important tip! Keep track of how long your design has been gone. At the end of the third month, I drop the editor a note asking the status of my project. Sometimes it will come flying right back and that’s OK because then I have the opportunity to submit it elsewhere. And sometimes I will get a contract in answer to my inquiry!
STEP NUMBER FOUR: TOOT YOUR OWN HORN!
In your cover letter, tell the editor about yourself and your experience in crafting. List your credits, the magazines you have been successful in selling your designs to. If you haven’t sold anything yet. tell them how long you have been doing crafts, how much you like it, and where you have sold your work - craft fairs, garage sales, friends and relatives, etc. You could include tear sheets or copies of previous publications.
Don’t be afraid to brag on some things you have designed, the color scheme, the usefulness of your item and how much it will be admired by crafters who want to make it too. You are a gifted crafter, and let the whole world know. Stop keeping it a secret!
STEP NUMBER FIVE: SET A GOAL
Start thinking about how much time you have to devote to your crafts and decide how many you want to send to publishers - one a week, two a week, five a month or 36 a year. Whatever your goal, strive to reach it, and soon you will be sending in more than you planned. Keep projects in the mail. The secret is to keep things going out on a continuing basis, and eventually you will have checks coming in regularly too.
STEP NUMBER SIX: PRICE YOUR CRAFT.
Editors can’t read your mind. Let them know how much you expect to be paid for your hard work. When I submitted my first doily, I had no idea how much to ask for it. When the editor phoned to tell me of her interest in it, she asked, “How much do you want for your doily?” I told her I was new at this and had no idea how much they pay for doilies. She answered, “Anywhere from $50 to $250”. If you want to, tell them your prices are negotiable. If your asking price is not right for them, and if they are interested in your project, they will make you an offer, sometimes less than your asking price but often they have offered me even more than I had asked for.
STEP NUMBER SEVEN: RECYCLE!
If you design something, and you decide you really don’t like it yourself, send it in anyway - editors sometimes like things you don’t. Don’t worry about rejections. If a project comes back, clean it up if necessary, improve on it if needed, and send it off to another editor. Some of my projects have gone out three, four, or as much as ten times before they were accepted for publication. They have to fit into the editor’s scheme of things at the right time. Seldom have my designs sold the first time out.
STEP NUMBER EIGHT: KEEP RECORDS.
Keep track of all expenses and sales because if you are serious about this business, you will need deductions at the end of the year to offset self-employment tax.
Keep records for each project you design, jotting down everything that happens in regard to each one, the date you submitted it, who you sent it to, your price, when it came back rejected or the date you received a contract or purchase agreement, the date your check arrived, where, when and in what magazine it was published, etc. A loose leaf notebook worked fine for me until I got my computer, now I put it all on spreadsheets. I used a separate sheet of paper for each design. Putting a name and number on each design is very important to help you keep track of them.
Keep copies of all instructions, contracts, check stubs, etc. for future reference.
STEP NUMBER NINE: BE OPTIMISTIC!
This is important! Work on something every day! Keep your mind open to new ideas, always observing crafts others make to keep up with current trends. Treat this fun hobby as a business or an eight-hour-a-day job and you can’t help but be successful doing something you love to do!
Don’t expect to get suddenly wealthy, but do expect to be well paid; you are an expert! You will get a lot of satisfaction knowing someone appreciates your work enough to pay you for it. No one will be looking over your shoulder; you can work when you feel like it with only the deadlines you set for yourself.
I’m always busy, barely finishing one project before moving on to another. There aren’t enough hours in a day to follow through on all of my ideas. Having my own design business has given me exciting goals for my “golden years” and a sense of accomplishment I never dreamed possible!
STEP NUMBER TEN: BE PERSISTENT!
Please don’t give up if the first project you send out gets you a rejection letter. If you like your design and are convinced that some editor is bound to like it too, KEEP IT OUT THERE so they can see it. It won’t sell in the drawer at home!! And many times, if an editor doesn’t purchase your design, it isn’t because he or she doesn’t like it, they may already have enough similar items or they don’t have room for it in the issue they are currently working on.
Follow my example:
1. It won’t sell at home in the drawer!
2. Get it out there for someone to look at!
3. If it comes back, look it over,clean it up if necessary and send it out to another editor the very next day!
4. Don’t keep any finished projects lying around. Get the instructions typed, stretch, starch and iron; get them into an envelope - on the way to an editor.
5. If you don’t make your goal for one month set a higher goal.
6. Send out at least one new project every week along with the ones you recycle, and I promise you, YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL!
MY MOTTO: “KEEP THE DESOGNS GOING OUT,
THE CHECKS WILL CONTINUE TO COME IN!”