As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the discussions of racism, representation and inclusion in the knitting community have recently included conversations regarding how we can make our community more accessible to people of all incomes.
I noted the difficulties in making patterns more accessible when designers are struggling just to turn a profit, so I wanted to dedicate some space today to the actual numbers.
A few weeks ago, Casey released this January sales data. January is generally the highest sales month on Ravelry (although personally, it is always one of my weaker months). You can read through all the data, but I want to just highlight a few salient points:
Based on the total January sales income for all indie designers ($2,046,125) and the total number of indie designers with sales (10,059), the average sales total per designer on Ravelry was a whopping $203. On the BEST sales month. Average.
72% of designers, nearly 3/4, earned less than $50.
Of those 10,000+ designers, just 93 sold $3000+ worth of patterns; less 1% of designers sold at least enough patterns to equal an annual salary of about $36k.
If you subtract the top 93 designers’ earnings (I’ll assume it’s $3k each for this exercise, though it could be higher!) from the earnings total, the average monthly sales for the remaining designers (99% of us!) drops to $177/month.
My January sales put me—teeny little MediaPeruana Designs—in the top ~10% of designers, in terms of earnings, for the month; I sold $212 worth of patterns on Ravelry (which dropped to $183.75 after subtracting Ravelry fees, VAT and PayPal fees).
While it’s true that many designers have additional income streams, and some designers view pattern design as a hobby rather than a business, this snapshot is still pretty revealing—no one is getting rich designing knitting patterns. A very small percentage is even earning what could be considered a decent living.
I bring this up because of a recent discussion in the “Patterns” forum on Ravelry that started like this:
“Good grief, the price of patterns has skyrocketed. I see that the higher the price the less likely there are for projects to be posted. I will assume designers here don’t sell many patterns over $5 … So, what’s the highest price you will pay for a pattern these days? I’ve capped my limit at $5 if it’s absolutely a pattern that is unique and I can’t find it anywhere else.”
Everyone has a budget and everyone is entitled to purchase—or not—patterns as they see fit. But to suggest, yet again, that a pattern requiring hours of work and expense isn’t worth any more than a cup of coffee demonstrates either an incomplete understanding of the design process, a firmly held belief that designers don’t deserve to earn a living designing knitting patterns, or, most likely, both. The poster’s implication is pretty clearly that designers are being greedy (SKYROCKETING!! I always find mistakes in paid patterns! $5 is plenty fair, so that’s my limit!)—when we’re actually averaging about $200/month in sales.
I’m happy to note that the majority of the comments in the thread were supportive, expressing appreciation for designers’ work and a cheerful willingness to pay a fair price for patterns, whatever that price might be. But as these types of threads seem to pop up several times a year, it’s apparent that we still have a ways to go toward accepting the idea that pattern design deserves to be compensated fairly.
I think I’m going to do a complete breakdown of the time and expenses involved in an upcoming pattern. While I do track my expenses, I’ve never tracked the actual time/labor that goes into bringing a pattern to life. Stay tuned!
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