The Business of Seed Bead Patterns – Reaching a Milestone with Cynthia Newcomer Daniel
Ten years ago, there were few, if any, places where you could purchase and download seed bead patterns instantly from bead artists. Today, a quick search on Etsy or Craftsy will reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of artists selling their seed bead patterns directly to beaders like you and me.
Selling your original seed bead patterns online is a great way to both earn a little extra income and get your name and your work out there in front of bead lovers. But my friend Cynthia Newcomer Daniel, an incredibly talented bead artist, has done something pretty amazing: she recently added her 75th original seed bead pattern to her Etsy shop, and has now sold over 5,000 of her seed bead patterns on Etsy!
But, remember, it didn't happen overnight. Cynthia, like most successful bead artists, works hard and is constantly improving her skills. Are you interested in learning more about what it takes to be successful when it comes to selling your seed bead patterns online? Check out this amazing guest blog from Cynthia with her recommendations and advice for selling your own seed bead patterns as a business!
I started selling seed bead tutorials online about 3½ years ago; the things I didn't know about starting a business would fill a book. It's not just about loving beads and making up designs, although that's certainly the right place to begin. If you're a seed bead jewelry designer and you want to take the next step and start selling your tutorials and seed bead patterns online, maybe I can spare you some of the trial and error I went through. My way isn't the only way, of course — and I'm quite sure that there are many things I still need to learn — but I've learned a few things along the way, and I'm hoping that my experiences can help you, too.
If you build it, they will come. That was my first mistake. Before I started writing and selling seed bead patterns, quite a few people had admired my designs and asked me if I wrote tutorials. When I told them I didn't, they told me I should. They were quite sure that lots of people would buy them. They told me that they would love to buy them! Some of them did, some of them didn't. It wasn't quite the instant money-maker I'd hoped it would be. For the first two years, I would have made more money working for minimum wage.
Networking, networking, networking. Unless you've got a lot of start-up money behind your new business, the reality is that you will have to be the salesperson, marketing director and public relations person in addition to being the designer, illustrator, writer and editor. Social media makes that a lot easier than it used to be. Establish a presence on your favorite social media sites, and start talking. Get to know your customers and let them get to know you. The more they know about you as a designer and a person, the more likely they are to buy patterns from you.
Be available to your customers. Always remember that you're asking people to pay for your knowledge and creativity. The sale isn't over until the customer makes the project. Be prepared to answer questions and help people follow the directions you have so painstakingly created. Respond to people as quickly as you can. No matter how hard you try to make your diagrams and instructions perfectly clear, there will be someone who doesn't understand some part of it. Sometimes it's your fault, and sometimes they just don't have the necessary experience to get it, but either way, it's part of your job to help them through it.
Learn how to use graphics and publishing software. Your photos, drawings, and words are all your customer has. You won't be there to show them what to do, so take the time to learn how to use your publishing tools to the best of your ability before you publish your first pattern. Your photos must be in focus and close up. Your step-by-step diagrams need to show thread paths, and your instructions need to be written so that your customers can follow them. Look at magazines and books and critique the instructions published there. Try to emulate those that you find easy to follow. Be prepared to work very hard for very little money, at least at first; as you become more proficient with your tools. Eventually, you will learn how to draw and write faster, but it will take time for that to happen.
Get a little help from your friends. Before you publish your patterns, ask some of your beading friends to look at them. Ask them to look for mistakes, tell you if any of the diagrams or instructions are confusing, and rate the level of difficulty. Really good friends will actually bead up the project and tell you how it went — those people are worth their weight in gold.
Set goals and track them. Finally, ask yourself what you need out of this business. It's all well and good to have people love your work and tell you how glad they are that you sell tutorials, but, no matter how wonderful it feels to get compliments, compliments won't pay the rent. Ideally, you will have enough cash to keep you going for 2-3 years. If you need sales to pay the rent, it's a good idea to have another job to rely on when you start out. Keep track of how many hours you spend on each design, and factor in time spent creating, photographing, drawing, writing and networking. Add in your materials cost. Look at other people's pattern shops and determine what the "going price" is for seed bead patterns and projects like yours and figure out how many copies of the pattern you would need to sell in order to make a living wage. If you're not already an illustrator and writer, you will get faster at doing both over time, so factor that in. If you can cut the time it takes to write a pattern in half, you can nearly double your hourly wage.
Remember, this isn't a get-rich-quick business. It's as much about love as it is about money; unless you truly love helping other people learn how to make your designs, you're better off doing something else. But if you enjoy teaching, and you love designing with seed beads, this can be a wonderful way to turn your hobby into a career.
The foundation of any great beaded jewelry design idea is, of course, a solid knowledge of your favorite beading stitches. And if you want to learn all there is to know about your basic beading stitches from an expert, check out Doodlebeads with Leslie Rogalski: Learn 12 Basic Seed Bead Stitches on DVD. You'll be able to watch and learn a dozen different beading techniques, variations of your favorite beading stitches, and fabulous inspiration for using these bead-weaving techniques to create your own original seed bead jewelry designs! Get your copy of Doodlebeads with Leslie Rogalski: Learn 12 Basic Seed Bead Stitches on DVD, and use the coupon code CYBER10 for an additional 10% off the discounted price in the Beading Daily Shop!
Do you sell your seed bead patterns online? Have any questions, tips, or advice for us? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your thoughts with us!