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Crocheting for Profit: How to get paid on time, every time

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Contributing Author: Rebecca Langford of Little Monkeys Crochet

As a blogger, I have new people signing up for my email list daily. When someone opts in to the mailing list, they receive a friendly introductory email in which I ask them a few questions about themselves, and then I invite them to ask me a question in return. Want to know what the most popular question by far is that they ask? Here it is:

“I want to start selling my crocheted projects…
do you have any advice?”

I love this question, because I love it when people go into business for themselves. When that entrepreneurial spirit grabs hold of you, it’s exhilarating! And regardless of what your husband/boyfriend/best friend/mother thinks about your “granny hobby”, rest assured, you can make money in this business. And it can be really, really fun.

But it’s not easy. (Ugh.)

Due to the nature of handmade, custom items, we crocheters-for-profit are susceptible to a lot of frustration when it comes to getting paid. From the customers who think your price should barely cover the cost of your materials, to the ones who mysteriously disappear after you’ve spent hours (or days or weeks) on their order, it’s no wonder so many of us give up and declare that “no one values handmade stuff anymore.”

While I’ve been tempted toward that mindset myself a few times, deep down, I know it’s not true. After a few years running a crochet-for-profit business, I can identify a couple of key mistakes I regularly see sellers making that they don’t realize are practically sabotaging their efforts to survive in the handmade market. So if you’re interested, grab some coffee and read on. (What is that, your 4th cup for the day? I won’t tell.)

Mistake #1: You aren’t setting your prices before accepting an order.

I like to stay connected with a variety of the Facebook crochet groups, because the conversations that are had in them offer great insight into what crocheters are struggling with. And I have to tell you, I am amazed at how often I see someone post a photo of a finished item and say something like “I made this for a customer. How much do you think I should charge?”

Hold on a sec. Have you ever walked into a store (be it a supercenter or a little boutique), chosen something to purchase, handed it to the cashier, and watched him or her fidget and stammer nervously while trying to decide what to charge you?

Of course not! So why would you set your business up that way?

A surefire way to lose sales, and waste your precious time, is to accept an order without naming a price. When you convey to a customer that you aren’t quite sure what your work is worth, you are giving them an open invitation to question its value, too.

"When you convey to a customer that you aren't quite sure what your work is worth, you are giving them an open invitation to question its value, too."  |  Crochetrendy.com, "Crocheting for Profit: How to Get Paid On Time, Every Time"

dont-forget-to-pin-it

This has been proven time and time again, as I see way too often in these crochet groups; the seller makes the product, presents it to the customer, tells them the price, and gets rejected. Either they get talked down so far that they actually lose money, or the customer walks away from the sale and the seller is left with a finished item and hurt feelings. There’s nothing wrong with bartering, if you’re ok with it, but the time for bartering is before you accept the order, not after.

Mistake #2: You aren’t getting payment up front.

In a poll I recently took on my blog’s Facebook page, I asked fans who crochet for profit how they deal with payment. These were the results:

35% wait to collect payment until they’ve made the item
22% collect a downpayment
26% require payment in full before beginning a project

The rest (17%) were a mixture of the three options.

When I asked the ones who did NOT require payment in full before beginning a project if they’d ever lost money or time because a customer changed their mind and never paid them, the result was split down the middle: 50% had been burned, and 50% hadn’t. Yet.

I say “yet”, because I have no doubt that if the latter continue practicing business that way, they’ll experience it. And frankly, 50/50 odds are not very good when you’re trying to run a business. According to Kyla Marie, blogger at Keep Me In Stitchez, “You will get burned if you don’t require at least a deposit. If it hasn’t happened, it will. And if you’re like me, that’s your grocery money you’re putting up front. If the customer doesn’t agree to it, that should send off red flags. It’s also common practice for any artist to ask for at least a deposit. We are artists. Many of us just haven’t realized it yet.”

“We are artists. Many of us just haven’t realized it yet.”
–Kyla Marie, Keep Me In Stitchez

As I quickly discovered when I presented the poll question, this topic is a source of heated debate. But it’s one that I feel strongly about, because (back to these Facebook crochet groups) I see new crocheters getting burned, discouraged, and offended every single day. So whether or not you’ve experienced the frustration of wasting your time making an item that the customer never pays you for, it’s inarguable that it is a problem for many.

There are lots of reasons crocheters give for not getting payment before beginning an order, but in every case, the seller is taking on unnecessary risk. I’m going to break down the 3 most popular excuses that I’ve seen:

“I live in a poorer community, and people can’t always afford to pay me up front.”
Let’s turn this around and ask a glaringly obvious, yet somehow often overlooked, question: If they can’t afford to pay you for it now, then should they really be ordering it at all? Deborah Ziegler, designer and blogger at From Grammy’s Heart, puts it in great perspective: “I can’t go order yarn and tell the store that I’ll pay them when I get paid.” There’s no reason that someone who really wants your product can’t save the money for a week or two or three, then come to you with their order. When you accept an order from someone with limited funds, one of you is taking on risk. That person should not be you.

“I figure I can always try to sell it to someone else if the customer decides they don’t like it.”
Sure you can. But while hobbyists might have time to devote to trying to sell a custom, never-paid-for finished item elsewhere, do you?

“I want to trust people.”
The problem with this mentality is that usually, your lost sale is not a result of a customer having ill-intent against you. More often, it’s much more innocent. Maybe something came up, and they had to use the money for something else. Maybe they just kept forgetting, and then it got awkward for them. Either way, haven’t we all found ourselves in those situations where we simply dropped the ball? It’s not always about whether or not you can trust someone. Sometimes, it’s about protecting your business from the occasional flakiness of human nature.

It's not always about whether or not you can trust someone. Sometimes, it's about protecting your business from the occasional flakiness of human nature."  |  Crochetrendy.com, "Crocheting for Profit: How to Get Paid On Time, Every Time"dont-forget-to-pin-it

One of the biggest things we need to understand if we’re building any kind of handmade business is this: your customer does not have the “heart connection” to your product that you do. She may see it and love it, but none of her blood, sweat and tears went into making it. According to Katy Petersen, designer/blogger behind KT and the Squid, “They back out because there’s no investment. People care about things they’ve invested in, which makes it more valuable in their minds.”

“People care about things they’ve invested in, which makes it more valuable in their minds.”
–Katy Petersen, KT and the Squid

But what if the customer really does have an issue with the finished product, and I’ve already taken their money?

Do what all retailers do — set up a return policy! You’re still giving people an “out” when they legitimately don’t feel you’ve done what they asked, but you’re eliminating flaky customers because it’s much easier to back out on an order you haven’t paid for than it is to go through a returns process.

Which is a great reason for utilizing an online marketplace (such as Etsy or BitDazzle). If you want to order from me, unless we have the kind of relationship where I can send you a “hey Slacker, where’s my money?” text (and there are VERY few people in this world I have that relationship with), you’re going to be ordering through my Etsy shop via a custom listing. If you aren’t happy with the finished product, I will cheerfully accept a return or exchange, using Etsy’s built-in process.

A Final Thought

Not everyone can take a ball of yarn and turn it into something beautiful, but you can. So if you want your potential customers to have confidence in your product and the price they are paying for it, you have to find that confidence in yourself first.

Best of luck!

rebecca-langfordRebecca Langford is a 30-something mama of two precious boys, wife to her best friend Zack, and blogger/designer at Little Monkeys Crochet. When she isn’t playing with playdough or trying to figure out what to make for dinner, she loves coming up with new, modern crochet patterns that even beginners can follow. She’s also the creator of Crochetrendy.com.

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{ 31 comments… add one }

  • mindy February 28, 2015, 3:05 pm

    I just wanted to say Thank you for this article. I have been trying to decide to start selling my work online and some of the questions I have been thinking you have helped greatly with. I do have one other question for you. I don’t have Facebook page and not really sure if esty is a way to go, or how to set upbto accept payments online. Thank you again for the great article it is one of the most helpful I have read.

    • crochetrendy Rebecca Langford March 3, 2015, 6:03 pm

      Hi Mindy! I recommend Etsy. It takes care of all that stuff for you, and if you read up on how to get your listings to show up high in the search engines, it also brings traffic right to you. Good luck! 🙂

  • Linda Smith February 28, 2015, 8:21 pm

    Thanks for this article. Very interesting, as I have been considering opening an Etsy shop.

    I make crochet items to give as presents, because I want to. I’ve had a few people say I should make articles to sell, but the money for the materials and my labour, in my mind is just not worth it. Especially the large items like blankets. I can’t compete with people who crochet items in Turkey for instance!

    I think I will still make items for pleasure for the moment.

  • Lisa March 2, 2015, 2:15 pm

    I love this article, thank you!!! I am for ever going over my policies, and pricing and everything else. But you are so right, it’s hard, and a lot of work, but it’s so fun!

  • Nina March 2, 2015, 3:32 pm

    Thanks so much for this useful article. Do you think that E–bay is a good market. I’ve been looking at options but they are expensive. Would have to sell the items at a price that high would understand.

    • crochetrendy crochetrendy March 3, 2015, 6:07 pm

      Hi Nina!

      I don’t have any experience with selling crochet products on Ebay, however my gut tells me that most people who shop Ebay are shopping for a bargain. However, you never know if you don’t try! 🙂

      • Nina March 3, 2015, 6:52 pm

        Thanks. I think the same. But my sister and nephew insist otherwise. Later, I’ll let you know what I decided.

        • Klaudi April 23, 2015, 4:44 pm

          Why you don’t try Etsy? I think maybe it is more logical place for future customers that Ebay? 🙂

  • Diane March 2, 2015, 5:57 pm

    I have been chasing a customer (my cousin) for 3 months now! My texts are starting to become a little on the nasty side. No way would I NOT ask for partial payment. I have learned my lesson…. Thank you for this blog

    • crochetrendy crochetrendy March 3, 2015, 6:08 pm

      It’s especially tough when it’s family, and it happens to all of us at one point or another. Good luck! 🙂

  • Barbara March 2, 2015, 9:07 pm

    Thanks for posting this on Facebook, I find the hints to be very helpful. It has given me some idea of how to price the items that I make.z

  • Kathleen March 2, 2015, 11:38 pm

    Thank you! Somebody finally parsed out my feelings! I started selling my stuff about 8 months ago, and have had to deal will all of the things you discussed in your post. While I myself have not been burned, because I always require the money up front, I have had multiple people back out of orders after I told them the price. It is very frustrating for people to back down simply because I am asking them to pay for my time as well as materials. Part of me wants to say HELLO? Don’t you realize that I’m about to spend 12+ hours of my time making this item for you? At that rate they aren’t even beginning to pay me minimum wage. I have had good luck selling on Etsy, and I do have a few loyal customers who understand the value of quality hand-made items. I am so glad that there is an online community of people who understand my frustrations. You’re advice is great, thanks for sharing it will all of us .

    • crochetrendy crochetrendy March 3, 2015, 6:10 pm

      Unfortunately I think so many people assume that handmade = cheaper, and it’s just not always true. I’m so glad you’ve found a market on Etsy. It’s what I recommend, too. 🙂

  • Angela March 3, 2015, 10:06 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I always make sure my customer and I are on the same page as to the item requested and the expected time of having it finished. Then I have them pay 100% before I start. Then we are equally committed to the project.

  • Karin W March 3, 2015, 6:13 pm

    I see every one of these points all the time! Especially the “I can sell it to someone else”. I have a baby bonnet that I made to photograph as an example still sitting in my shop RTS. I have sold probably a dozen of that style bonnet between online sales and craft shows but never that color and size in the 5 years I’ve been in business. Did I get my money’s worth? sure b/c it was made specifically to photograph, but it would still be nice to sell it!

  • Ladywolf March 4, 2015, 10:18 pm

    Thank you so much for very useful info. I have been crocheting since I was old enough to hold a Needle my mother says..and i can remember doing it with my GGrandmother as well. I love to do it and GIVE alot away as well.

  • Gloria Girouard March 5, 2015, 10:46 am

    People are always “oohing” and “ahhhing” over my hand-knit socks. When someone asks if I’ll knit them a pair, “I say sure.” Then I tell them what kind of yarn to buy, suggest brands I’m comfortable using, and how much yarn to buy, which is always at least 450 yards. (And I get to keep the yarn not used!) Then they can spend however much they want, and get whatever color they want. Since I enjoy making socks, my “time” is always enjoyable. If I wasn’t making them a pair, I’d be making a pair for someone else. As long as they pay for the yarn, I really don’t mind not being paid for my time. Besides, each time I’ve done this, I’ve been given gift cards from the recipient, so in a way I AM getting paid. This works for me, but not necessarily for everyone else.

    • crochetrendy crochetrendy March 6, 2015, 10:00 am

      I think it’s wonderful that you find so much joy in it! My suggestions are more for those who want to make it into a business, and you can’t make money by only covering the cost of materials. 🙂

  • Mary Fairbanks March 5, 2015, 12:01 pm

    I don’t have a website I’m a new beginner just learning to crochet how would I get started to sell some of my work?

    • crochetrendy crochetrendy March 6, 2015, 10:01 am

      I recommend creating an Etsy account and selling there. There is a ton of helpful information out there for getting started.

  • Lynn March 5, 2015, 1:46 pm

    Excellent article! As a previous eBay seller & current Etsy seller, I always require payment up front. Even orders taken in person, the customer pays up front. Too much time, effort, heart in addition to all the years of practicing & learning the craft by teaching myself to read patterns have gone into my work. Pricing still is the hardest part, but I am getting better at it. The best part is to have repeat customers who support you for years

  • Denise M March 6, 2015, 8:07 am

    Thank you I have been crocheting name doilies for over 20 years and never took money up front . I lived in central Illinois and 6 months ago moved to Kentucky. I had a contractor put in an order after we moved here and he it the only person in 20 that did not pay me. I still have the doily. After reading your article, and at age 59, I guess I finally get it. That if a person is really interested they will pay a deposit. Most people are pretty honest, but then there are those that just take advantage. Sometimes being nice in business is not a good thing but to to nice and honest is. my sister explained something to me years ago. buy quality. If the price seems too high she put this bee in my bonnet( you only have to buy it once). Because of her insight I now have quality things in our home. But only because I saved before I bought. Thanks for letting me turn a phrase, best wishes.

  • Dana McLeod March 6, 2015, 12:25 pm

    Thanks soo much for this blog I have been burned a couple of times and for all three reasons you listed. I definitely will be illustrating the confidence that I have in myself. I’m soooo excited to put my new policy into play thanks again!!!!! I love your page on facebook as well!!

    • crochetrendy crochetrendy March 7, 2015, 11:34 am

      I’m so glad to hear that! Good luck!!

  • Maggie March 6, 2015, 2:11 pm

    Pricing really is the hardest part of any business but especially one in which items are handmade. The materials, time and quality of the product should all matter but for some, getting an item cheaply at WalMart is good enough. Would you consider expanding this blog article to include some tried and true ideas on pricing handmade, quality items? Sure would be of value to many of us.

    • crochetrendy crochetrendy March 7, 2015, 11:34 am

      I think that’s a great idea, and I’ll definitely put it on my to-do list. 🙂

  • Janet March 6, 2015, 11:59 pm

    Thank you for this useful info. After sewing and crocheting for most of my life, I’m seriously researching the ins and outs of selling my creations. I love articles from those with experience, like you! I look forward to reading more. Thanks, again.

  • pat powrie March 8, 2015, 11:05 am

    Hi, I enjoyed reading all of your information on hand made items. I have been crocheting for a long time now 35years, and I still feel a little unsure of what to charge. Even when I do give a price, the customer sometimes gives me a funny look. I made my daughters wedding dress ( hand crochet ) It took me 1 year to make, but it was worth it, she looked so beautiful in it. I love to crochet, but how do I go about selling on etsy, as ebay is too expensive. Many thanks. Regards pat.

  • Fabiana Laura March 8, 2015, 6:22 pm

    Thanks a lot for this article. In this part of the world (Argentina) it’s the same old story. I love crocheting but I couldn’t get a good payment. Now a days I’m just doing it just for the people I love , my daugthers , my family, my house…. After reading your article I’ve realized that perhaps the secret is to require the money up front… I love your blog!! Thank you again!!

  • Debbie Johnson March 9, 2015, 6:36 pm

    Thank you so much. I have sold a couple items and asked for payment when the item was finished. I was always uncomfortable about it. Never got burned “yet” but I haven’t sold that many items. This is a great article and I think I’m going to take all your suggestions and make them mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • gayla trower April 23, 2015, 3:11 pm

    I was wondering what online store you might suggest for selling crocheted items. I have looked at Esty and square market but I just wondered what you thought and which one you used. Thank you

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