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One year ago today, the first copies of my 'Crochet Dress-Up' book arrived in the post.  I'd left the 'day job' just two weeks before, and had no idea what was going to come or how I would go forward, but I knew that this was the best chance I'd have at making a career for myself from crochet.

Last week I was starting to panic, having finished book 3, everything was alarmingly quiet, and I had that panic that all self-employees have of 'why am I doing this?!'   So I sat down, and listed out everything I'd achieved in the last year.  It looks like this:

 - 2 x books released
- 1 x new book written
- 12+ magazine features
- 4 x interviews
- 1 x photo commission for 20 pics for LoveCrochet
- 1 x front page photo feature on The Guardian
- 6 months and counting designing for 'Art of Crochet'
- 1 x photo shoot at Conde Nast
- 1 x my own collection
- over 60 new designs
- 1 x qualification in Education & Training
- 3 x workshops
- 4 x Big Hook sales
- Lots of new people to work with

And I was so proud!  Then I realised that it can't always be all at full throttle, that it's actually good to have some down time, to recharge and think about the way forward.  I've worked hard, and been incredibly lucky that work has been received so well.  Hopefully, it'll keep moving forward, in the slightly organic, but positive way that it's been doing, without my even noticing.

And I'll remember to take stock every now and then, just as a reminder that things are happening, even if I don't notice them.

Just some spring pics, and a bit more reflecting on the time of year... xxx

Last one ladybirds, it's only short but it's probably the most important.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Lots of magazines put out calls for makes, designs and articles, hop on line and register with them.  Submit something, if you don’t try you’ll never know!  But most importantly, make friends with likeminded people through apps like instagram.  Don’t be afraid to write that comment or send that message, it’s a lovely thing and you never know what it might lead to. xxx

The Blog.  Everyone's got one haven't they?   But what's one of the first things you do when you hear about someone you like?  Yep, you Google them.  A blog is an easy way to have an online presence without entering the world of The Website.  Mine is just a regular blogspot one, with some fancy html code that I found online to change the look.  Super easy and super quick.

Having said all that, I am rubbish with mine, but it has been invaluable in getting crochet work.  It can be your online portfolio, as well as being a free and easy way of getting traffic to your online store.  Adding ‘how to’s’ and tutorials can generate interest in what you do, or sharing a free pattern which is a great way of getting people over, as well as testing out your ideas.

Only one to go after this lovehearts!

Thanks for all the positive IG feedback ladybirds, am heartened and shall carry on!

No.2. How do you want it to look?  It's really worth taking the time to get this right.  You may find that you go through a few variations before you do, but don't worry, that's part of the process.  You can get a good idea of what aesthetic you like by checking out what other people do. Who's your favourite crochet designer? Experiment and find a style that works for you, then make sure you apply it to all your online platforms. Consistency and quality design create an air of professionalism, which people trust!

Which is the best online store for you?  Etsy is recognised as the place for handmade, but it’s so big you can get lost in it.  It also has a very definitive aesthetic, but it can be a great facility when you get it right.  Ravelry is for the fibre purists (I really struggle with it).  LoveCrochet is great because it’s specifically for crochet and has a really accessible selling facility.  There's also all the social media platforms, but bear in mind that the craft-seller sites are where people automatically go to look for that sort of thing.  Have a look and see where your audience is, it may be all of them!
I know I've done something similar to this before, but (hopefully) I've got better at writing over the last year, and have written a little list of pointers to anyone that's thinking about trying to make a living from crochet.

I'll be sharing it as an insta-feed over the next few days, but thought I'd add a little more detail over here.

No.1. What do you want to sell?  Sticking to a theme helps to build a brand identity, so creating a ‘collection’ is a good idea.  Having a body of work that relates to each other makes it easier for people to understand what you’re offering.
This is something that can develop over time, so don't be scared that you're committing to writing granny square patterns, or making hats for the rest of your life, but do be sure that it's something that will hold your interest at least for a while.

What is your time worth?  To be blunt, you will always struggle to make money by selling a finished product.  If you are going to, be realistic.  Research what similar things sell for, and at the very least make sure you cover your costs.  Ideally though, if you're really looking to do this to make money, you need to treat yourself as a business.  Work out what you would charge someone per hour for your time.  You have a skill that they don't and you should value that.
 A more profitable way to do it is by selling patterns and supplies.  For me this is much more fun than making the same thing over and over again!  It's also much less of an outlay as once you've written a pattern you can either keep relisting it in your store, or offer it to magazines.  They can pay between £40-80 per pattern, and you keep the rights to the design, so can sell it in your store again in a years time.
In my last post I talked about some of the more challenging aspects of being a freelance crochet designer, but now here's some of the ways to remedy that.

1. Those long hours?  Yes, it can sometimes feel like there's still a million rows to go, and your wrists are actually going to snap off, but, I'd probably be doing it anyway.  Even if this wasn't my job, crochet is such a brilliant, therapeutic tool, that when things are difficult, it's my go to stress relief.  I also love how instead of wasting a few hours watching trash on tv, you can actually be making something, with meaning, for someone you love.

2.  The pittance.  So no, I don't make as much as I used to but, I no longer have to pay for or endure the commute.  I don't have to find money for childcare, pay for after school clubs, and lose my mind trying to find enough relatives and clubs during the holidays.  I get to go to all those assemblies, nativities and football matches (I lie, they don't do football yet, but if they do, then I can) and take them home when they're feeling ill.  I'd take that pay cut any day.

3. Social isolation.  This one has taken a bit longer, and leaving my office full of pals was a real struggle, but over the last year, mediums like instagram have become an amazing place to meet people and make friends.  Once I got the guts up to start leaving posts for people it just got easier, and eventually I've met up with some amazing, like-minded people, that I stay in touch with every day through social media.  The other thing that's been great, has been going to my local cafe to work.  Taking along the wool and hook is a great conversation starter, and now it's like my mini-office.

And if you're still struggling?  Treat yourself kindly, this bunch of spring flowers has been keeping me going all week :) xxx

I have utterly neglected this space for the past month, due to book and commission deadlines, and finishing my teaching qualification.  But finally it's all done, hooray!   This seems to be a good time to talk about the dark-side of being a cro-pro (yep, crochet professional).

1. Loooooooong hours.  On average I do a 10 hour day, it's tucked around school, pick ups, making packed lunches, bath times etc, and as deadlines draw ever nearer it can be longer than that.

2. Low pay.  I make just enough to live off, but it's nothing like the salary I used to get, and the money I earn per hour is tiny, and this is for patterns we're talking here people - minimal output.  I'd never try and sell a finished piece, it would be financial suicide unles I was actually Alexander McQueen.

3. Social isolation.  I find that when I'm actually working up designs, I need a quiet space to do it, and due to the long hours and short deadlines that working on something like a book takes there's often very little time to get out and actually see other people.  It can really leave you a little stir crazy.

Having said all that, there are remedies, which I'll share on another post, and ultimately I get to do something I  love, all day, every day and that is just priceless.  I mean it's totally flipping amazing.  So think of this as a warning rather than a moaning.

I can't share any pics of the finished book makes, but I can show you some sneaky little peekies of the makes in progress, so here you are...