• Rolin

Let some sunshine into your knitwear design business – Part 4

Next – Design

Welcome back to the fourth installment in our series. We have so far, considered ways to define our businesses mission, style and its niche. This is very tough stuff, possibly the hardest things that you will have to ever do as a businessperson and certainly the most important.

Our task in this installment is to take what we have learned and put it to use.

To continue our journey, we need to - Design, design, design! Whether you are just getting started or you are shifting gears after a year of working as a knitwear designer is not important. Start from where you are. Work on getting a collection of designs together in your style and oriented towards your market. This will take some time, but the results will be true to you and will – here it comes again - separate you from the crowd.

You may be thinking, how can I make money if all I am doing is thinking and writing and designing?Ahhh, I thought you would think that.I am not suggesting that you give up on all the things that you do to take the ideas that are trapped in your head and get them onto a piece of paper or into a computer or up in the cloud.The more you work at creating designs the better you will be at creating ‘great’ designs.

One way to get your potential customers to notice you and to gain traction in your marketplace is to design and then publish in a steady stream. Can you publish one pattern every week – probably not. Not that is unless you have loads of cash to hire sample knitters, tech editors and social media marketers, etc., etc. But you should think about publishing a new pattern or two every month. Continuously publishing gives you increased opportunities to launch, to beta launch, or to hint at launching. All of these are opportunities to get your customers and potential customers interested and intrigued about your product. I don’t presume to suggest that publishing collections is wrong. If you feel drawn to publishing collections, then stick with that. However, don’t let that be your only avenue. Publish in between your collection events. Your customers are finicky and there is a real possibility that they will lose interest or be lured away by shiny new designs that pop up every month.

One other item to consider is to enlist beta knitters to knit your designs and thus have projects show up on your design queue. Knitters look to see if anyone else has tried out your design when they are making a buying decision. Having projects listed helps transform potential customers into buyers.

Here’s a suggestion, set aside some portion of your work week and focus just on letting your creative juices flow.How long that is, a ½ day one day, two days or more a week, will depend upon you and your schedule. If your design ideas flow best early in the morning, then take that part of the day and lock yourself in your attic away from all distractions.

Or, if you thrive on the energy of a coffee shop go there. Wherever and whatever you need to do to get the designs flowing – go and do that. And, don’t think that this will be a once in awhile sort of thing. This takes time and effort to get right so work at it. Both your ability to create and your ability to create designs that are true to you will improve with time and effort.

One life lesson that I learned from a successful business owner who mentored me in my turbulent teenage years was, persistence. Persistence is the one characteristic that is shared by all successful people. I will relate my favorite Churchill quote here - “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” Your passion is to create beautiful patterns that people want to knit. Courage. It worked for the Cowardly Lion and so, it will work for you.

This piece is being written in the middle of the corona virus pandemic where almost everyone in the U.S. is in some form of a ‘stay at home’ order. So, going to a coffee shop may not be possible when you read this. But you can take your tea or coffee or … water to your porch or patio or your making space and pretend you are sitting at your favorite java spot. You are after all trying to be creative.

Some of you I realize get ideas from browsing your local yarn shop for exciting new yarns. Well, for now that isn’t as possible as in the past. Try something new, a walk in the woods or browsing yarn company web sites; Pinterest is a great site for finding ideas. I also realize that designing takes more time than just sketching ideas onto a pad or in your book. Some of you get an idea and start knitting and that, no matter how fast a knitter you are, takes time.

If your design process, from idea to fully fleshed out ready to publish pattern takes 50 plus hours, then look for ways to circumvent or create efficiencies in that process. Streamlining doesn’t always work in a creative process, but we all know that much of getting a pattern ready involves math and spreadsheets and editing. Can you re-use swatches? How about making a standard template in excel for sizing and starting with that rather than starting from scratch each time. Perhaps you could publish smaller items in between your larger projects. Publish sock and hat designs along with larger design projects.

That’s it for this installment. Wasn’t sure I would have much to say about this topic but apparently, I did. Until next time, please stay healthy and safe and “Keep Calm and Design On.”

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