I recently had a post regarding the ‘worth’ of our handmade items, where the consensus was that really, you’re unlikely to get what a handmade item is worth, however one thing that looked possible to buck that trend was selling patterns – this sounds a bit counter intuitive, but when you think about it, enabling other people to make their own things is a gift that keeps on giving in the income front compared to your own one-off efforts (kind of think of it like a factory of workers making your things, except they’re paying you to work!).

Even if you remake the same thing multiple times, although you will probably speed up over time, it’s unlikely that your margins will be that well influenced by it, whereas if you’ve made a pattern, once you’ve created the original item, or items from the pattern, written it up and perhaps had it tested, you are left with finding a good outlet to sell, advertising it, and then letting it go out into the world (unless you choose to hand draw your patterns, in which case I’d say you were slightly nuts ;o) I do know someone that does it though…).

And look, they last for EVER!

So how much is a pattern worth then?  I had a thunk about it, and I have come up with the following formula:

Firstly the preparation element:

Materials to make the original item

+

The cost of your time spent making the item + time spent writing up the pattern + time spent finding testers + time spent handling feedback from testers + time spent marketing it

+

Paying testers for their time (this one very much depends on what you’re doing it for whether you’re likely to get people willing to test for free in exchange for the free pattern, or if it’s a more professional venture such as a book where they will look for compensation for editing)

+

Electricity to run your sewing machine/computer/lighting during this time + whatever your source of heating/cooling is (as relevant)

=

Total cost of materials and labour

Secondly the ‘how many times will this sell’ element:

This is trickier, because in a way it’s a ‘how long is a piece of string’ element, and is rather reliant on your marketing campaign, but there is a likely amount that will allow you to break even which we’ll use for our projections.

Thirdly the selling costs:

Whichever way you choose to sell your pattern you are going to incur fees of some kind whether it’s printing costs, paypal fees and/or website fees, and you really need to work this out on a per unit basis – paypal fees, for example, are charged like this, while the likes of Etsy charge on a per listing basis.

The overall formula is:

(Total cost of materials and labour / How many times will this sell)  + Selling costs

Now you will notice that the time element is considerably larger than for the handmade item formula, and let’s face it, that was pretty big to start with!  Effectively your initial outlay is much greater, but your longer term return is better, and depending on where you choose to sell it, it could keep bringing in a return for years, although likely at an exponentially slower rate year on year.

Putting this into practice, how much would the pattern be worth for the bear from the last post.

Materials + time to make + electricity was already calculated for the making part as:

£461.58

Time writing up the pattern = 6 hours (this is a guess, but there is a lot of description in a bear, although many elements could be reused in other patterns going forward)

Time finding testers = 2 hours (we shall assume adding it in a blog post and interacting afterwards)

Time handling feedback = 4 hours

Time marketing the pattern = 5 hours (assuming e-mailing various bear shops to enquire about selling, adding a blog post, and posting to Facebook and other online locations)

Using the same £10 for my time and electricity as the original calculation, that comes to:

17 x £10 = £170

Add this on to the previous costs comes to:

£631.78

Will I need to pay testers?  Well I’m not intending to write a hypothetical book with this pattern, so we’ll assume a couple of friends have volunteered for free, so the overall materials and labour total is:

£631.78

How many times do I think this will sell?

Well teddy bears are a niche market, so probably not that many times, let’s be optimistic though, and go for:

 20

How much will my selling costs be?

 Let’s assume for argument that I print the pattern myself rather than going to a specialist pattern printing company, and it has 6 A3 sheets for the actual pattern, plus 5 A4 sheets of instructions/diagrams, which, according to a local online shop will cost me per pattern:

6 x 12p = 72p for single-sided A3 black and white prints

5 x 4.4p = 22p for double-sided A4 black and white prints

£3.75/20 postage & packaging = 19p

Which means that to produce one pattern unit costs:

£1.13

I’ll sell online through my website or blog, using paypal = 3.4% of transaction fee + 20p per transaction

Which leaves me with an overall total of:

((£631.78 / 20) + £1.13) x 103.4% + 20p = £34.03

Hmm, maybe I’ll not start selling teddy bear patterns!

Let’s look at a quilt then, and price up Madrona Corners (which I have no intention of selling btw, as I free styled it from someone else’s free tute, but let’s play the hypothetical game)

Materials + time to make + electricity was already calculated for the making part as:

£659.69

Time writing up the pattern = 4 hours (this wasn’t a complex pattern, and I always take notes as I go)

Time finding testers = 2 hours (we shall assume adding it in a blog post and interacting afterwards)

Time handling tester feedback = 4 hours

Time marketing the pattern = 3 hours (assuming adding a blog post, offering giveaways in exchange for promotions on other blogs, and posting to Facebook and other online locations)

Using the same £10 for my time and electricity as the original calculation, that comes to:

13 x £10 = £130

Add this on to the previous costs comes to:

£789.69

Will I need to pay testers?  Well I’m still not intending to write a hypothetical book with this pattern, so we’ll assume a couple of friends have volunteered for free, so the overall materials and labour total is:

£789.69

How many times do I think this will sell?

This is a far more popular market, and people seem more keen on buying patterns for quilts, so let us make a guess at:

100

How much will my selling costs be?

I have no intention of producing printed copies of this sort of pattern, as there are no hand-drawn templates, therefore my only cost will be the online side of things.  I’m intending to use paypal, and to sell through Craftsy, which would cost me 3.4% of transaction fee + 20p per transaction

Which leaves me with an overall total of:

(£789.69/ 100) x 103.4% + 20p = £8.37

That is a far more reasonable amount for the average buyer, and is in the ballpark for what others charge for their quilt patterns.  Realistically, a lot of the cost for this quilt was the fact that I long-armed it and had to hire the machine, as well as the fact that it was ginormous and used a lot of fabric, however most quilts I would quilt at home, and would be considerably smaller.

I’m going to take a stab at the bag pricing once I’ve finished the current creation.  I’ll work out the ‘worth’ price, and compare that with the current market rates and see how I fare.  As Leanne suggested on the last post, this might be ‘where it’s at’, although I suspect I won’t be retiring on the income ;o)

So do you buy patterns of any kind?  What do you consider a reasonable price?  What would be your upper limit?  And do you always expect patterns from one designer to be the same price, or do you expect them to vary with complexity?

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