It's not just the paid-for patterns that are getting a make-over!
Whilst there's mixed opinions in the industry about free patterns and the benefits of, in my mind they have value, and I've no intention of dropping them or leaving them behind. True, they aren't as indepth and the PDF front pages or the webpages don't contain as much info, because they don't need to - you can simply download the PDF and have a mooch through the pages. The free patterns are generally less complex than my paid-for ones and won't be as indepth, which is fair enough - there are reasons why some are free and most are not.
The patterns that have been updated and have new photos this week are:
One of the main things that will be changing with the free patterns is how pattern support (customer service) will be dealt with. I don't get a lot of emails about the free patterns, maybe an average of 2 or 3 a month over a year, but the questions that get asked have been asked before, and for that reason it's much more beneficial to direct those questions to the Ravelry group forum, where the answers are.
I don't mind answering questions via emails per se, but when I'm as overstretched as I am and my online hours are limited, I need to prioritise the questions & emails about my paid-for patterns. Even then, the Ravelry group is generally a better place to seek help - we've built a great community there, where pattern support threads are already in place, and a knitter is bound to get help much more quickly than they would if they're waiting for me to reply personally.
The notice about pattern support & the Rav group is being added to every free pattern as it's reformatted, and being added to each webpage. I do hope folks understand my reasons :)
Whenever I've tried to discuss the pros and cons of free patterns, I've usually ended feeling the need to justify myself, as feelings can be pretty strong on the subject, and I have a fair few freebies. And honestly, it's rubbish that I should feel like that and I really wish folks would stop "suggesting" that I change my business model and start charging for the freebies!
There are many reasons as to why I make a pattern free. A lot of the time they're pretty basic, and may be a variation on a theme. They're unlikely to be as complex as my paid-for patterns, or it may be that the design doesn't excite me as much. It could simply be because the pattern has come about whilst exploring a technique or yarn (and I'm virtually unable to knit the same thing twice, and habit has me writing down everything I do) or it may a pattern I was cutting my teeth on in the early days. Or it could be that the pattern was written for a Hat that was a gift, and I don't feel it's appropriate to charge for something that was given with generous intentions.
There are lots of reasons why designers offer free patterns, and they're not all obvious business reasons.
Yes, I like to have free patterns so that knitters can try my patterns, a taster if you like (and that is one *huge* reason to maintain them to a similar standard to my paid-for ones! What would be the point in putting out something poorly photographed and badly laid out and badly written... what impression would that give?). The traffic they generate is also a bonus - the percentage of folks that fly in, download a pattern or tutorial and then fly off again is massive, but my website still benefits from thousands and thousands of clicks a day.
And so what if a knitter doesn't buy a pattern after trying a free one? If they come back to download another free one then there's a value... not everything is measured in monetary gain. I asked in my Rav group how many customers started with a free pattern, and while the number wouldn't outweigh those who don't stick around, I've gained many loyal customers via this route and that pleases me no end.
I fully appreciate that not everyone can afford knitting patterns - I rarely have the spare cash to buy them. Whilst I need to put food on the table and convert a decent chunk of my working time into cash, I don't want to charge for everything I do; it's just not who I am. And on that note, I don't wish for the industry to become one that only serves the affluent. At least, not my corner of it. If folks only ever knit my free patterns, that's cool with me.
We are all free to make our own choices. I don't think the designer that puts out more than one free pattern is the enemy, especially when those free patterns don't really compare to the paid-for ones. It's up to us to make what we charge for worth charging for; I really do think that's the key... a simple design can be a clever design; a basic pattern can include lots of extras such as a wide range of sizes or illustrated tutorials. Word of mouth is the best advertising going - why would we waste that opportunity with poor content?
It's commonly said that free patterns hurt the industry, and that it's difficult for designers to sell patterns when there's so many free ones. Or that by putting out free patterns we under-value the work that goes into our paid-for patterns. Honestly, I don't think it's as black and white as that, for many of the reasons I've written above. I could understand this argument if all the free patterns were the same calibre as the paid-for ones, but they're not. There are instances when I agree with this point of view, but I can't agree in every case. It's back to that value thing; yes, we need to be mindful of our fellow designers, but we need to put things in perspective before we start telling others that they're hurting our business.
Hmm, this got a bit ranty! A consequence of feeling cornered over the issue, perhaps? ;)
Let me end this post with something positive: having just finished my year end accounts, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that despite the troubles this last year has seen, and despite having very little time to work and be on the forums and publish new designs, my turnover has seen only a small drop. Which in turn means that despite everything, you, my readers and my loyal customers, have continued your support and have kept me in business and have kept us comfortable. I'm very proud of that, thank you :)
ETA/ the translated versions of these free patterns aren't in the new template yet... they need a bit of extra work and I'm mindful not to just copy and paste, as I won't easily see if I've put errors in! But they will be done, eventually :)