Custom knitting. Pricing your creations. Copyright. All these things have been written about before. I'm just going to give a little insight into MY business. This isn't going to be the same for all businesses, but it's what I'm comfortable with.
Custom vs Stock: Some knitters (and please, remember, I'm including crocheters in this, and sewers, etc...) like to knit many items the same (or very similar) and have them on hand for when they see a post on Facebook "Who Makes Minion/Owl/Teddy hats?". I have never been one to follow the crowd with knitting trends. I haven't made an owl hat or a Minion hat. I'm more of the "Oh, that pattern/yarn looks great. I'm going to knit that and hope it sells". There seems to be two lines of thought on pricing "RTS" (Ready To Ship) items. Some people price them higher because they don't know when they will sell, but when they do, the customer can have their item quicker. Some people price lower because they've made it to fulfill their own crafting need, or maybe it was a test item, or an unclaimed custom. Or they price lower because it's not custom. I tend to price my RTS items a bit lower because they are just sitting in a bin, waiting for homes. They're all unique pieces, mostly one of a kind ("OOAK"), done because I wanted to make them. However, there's a couple items that I won't go low on, because they ARE OOAK. It's really hard to market these items. I can't have a standard price list, or size list. I can just post pictures and say, "This is what I have".
Originally, I thought I would be doing mostly this type of knitting. I wanted to use up my stash knitting things I liked, and then sell them. That's not what has happened! I thought custom knitting was common place, and people were looking for RTS items. Well, people who want it NOW usually just want to pay Wal-Mart prices. But yet there are still lots of knitters doing this. And talking to many, they don't want to do custom work. I've talked to clients that have said they don't want RTS, they want custom. Mmmm.
Design Process: When you purchase any handcrafted item, you might think you're just paying for the yarn and maybe the time to make it. You know knitters knit while watching TV, on the bus, at kids' swim lessons. Why should you pay for time spent watching TV? Well, I could be doing something else, like exercising, gardening, baking...even other things that would pay me for the time. But there's a LOT more to an item then the time and material to make it. This applies to RTS and Custom items.
First, I get an email. "I want this hat, in this colour, but very soft. And for this size". Usually, they've included a link that allows me to find the pattern quickly and easily. If I found the original pattern, then I have to source that yarn, or a substitute. If I can find that yarn, and the client likes it, AND it comes in the right colour---awesome! But you know how often all that happens? 1 in 100. Usually, the yarn doesn't come in that colour. Or, it's not machine washable. Or missing one other attribute. These types of orders are quite stressful, because the client has already formed a picture of what it will look like.
In most cases, I do get a bit more leeway. "A small, light coloured teddy". I find a suitable pattern and use it as is, or modify as needed. Or, I just wing it. I have 20 years of constant knitting experience, with another 15 years of dabbling before that. I have a large yarn stash and pattern collection. I love these types of orders, although it's also a little stressful--what if they don't like it? Most people who present these types of requests are pretty easy going and open to trusting me. This is more like how I thought I'd be doing business.
In between those two are the "copycat" orders. "Can you make me this sweater/newborn prop/hat?" Then they start adding qualifiers. Must be machine washable, must be grey. But not dark grey, and not pale grey. Must be soft. Must be longer/wider/shorter. Here's where it gets really tricky. I might find the perfect yarn--but it's not the right thickness to give the look in the pattern. Or, it might not be the right shade. Or, it's handwash. I spend a LOT of time just looking and touching yarns, reading labels. Looking on the internet for existing patterns for these items--if someone made it before, then maybe there's already a pattern. But then, I'm still having to match the yarn.
If someone sent me a picture of a commercially made item it's often hard to find a yarn to replicate it. The yarn section at Michaels is big....but not all encompassing. I immediately stress with the initial inquiry that while I can often copy it closely, it's unlikely to be identical. I ask the client what they like most about it, what they dislike. I do like these orders--I find it fun (usually) to figure out the pattern without having to start the design process from the very beginning.
The Costs: Such a hot topic! Some people charge two times, or three times, the material cost. But then there are the unseen costs. Did I have to buy a pattern? Will I be able to use that pattern again? Did I have to spend time designing a pattern? Did I have to spend time searching for a pattern or inspiration? How much time did I spend at the computer, comparing yarns/patterns. How many trips to the yarn store? How long did it take to knit samples, collect sample yarns, photograph, email designers, email the client....While it might take me only two days to crochet a small hoodie, the whole process from that first message can take two weeks or more---if I have no other orders! Do I charge less because all these other factors make it take longer than a RTS hoodie? Or do I charge more because it's custom?
The Working Process: In knitting, there are monogamous knitters, and non-monogamous. I tend to have several items on the go at once. I had a two hour drive recently. When the kids are along, it's hard to focus, so I choose a mid-level project (having patterns on the tablet help, because then I don't need light to read the pattern at night). I went to a movie recently and thought I took a good, simple project, but the movie was really dark and my yarn got tangled, and I couldn't even see if I had knit one or two rounds in the first colour. Today, I have another Toothless being assembled on my couch. Many pieces! Also need to sew down pipecleaners to give it structure. This is not a good project to take to my daughter's skating lesson! So, I will likely take another project. While it is a good time to focus on more complicated patterns, I don't like to lug around a bag filled with many yarns, patterns, supplies. So, I might choose a simpler pattern. This might end up meaning a more recent order gets their item before a previous order. It's all about using my time most effectively. And no, I don't expect to get paid minimum wage while knitting in the viewing area! But, it is still my time. I could actually come home and get dinner ready! So, my prices generally seem to be lower than some knitters, and my times seem to be a bit longer, but I'm okay with that and so are my clients. It amazes me that they are willing to wait two months for a custom item! That's awesome. So I put my best into it! That just means it takes longer, LOL.
The True Tracy Way: This is my tag line. For years, my husband would say "Oh, gee, it's done in the true Tracy way!". This would mean that when I navigated him somewhere, I would choose a route suiting me (scenic, easy to navigate, yarn store stop). Or, somehow, I manage to turn a simple task into a more complicated one because of unexpected issues or my clumsiness or forgetfulness. Or, a simple task turns complicated but ends up being way better than the original. I rarely seem to take the easy path in anything I do. Sometimes that's intentional, often not. But it makes for an interesting life!