It’s been about 3 years since I launched my crowd-sourced model for crochet pattern commissions. The first 18 months went amazingly well, and the second 18 months didn’t – not through the fault of my system, but from all the other things that kept me from working on commissions (book-writing, health issues, etc).
I designed all these patterns thanks to my crowd-sourced design commissions!
Now I’ve picked up the reins of the commissions again, and I’m very happy that my next commissioned design (Camel) will be launched this week.
So, today seems like the perfect time to make some more changes to the commissions process, firstly to give me a chance to work through the huge waiting list of commissioned designs, and secondly to make the commissions process sustainable for the future.
Summary of Commission Changes
I’ve written a long post below to explain my thoughts, but, if you don’t have time to wade through it all, here’s a summary of the changes:
- As of today, I’ve raised the commission price to $300.
- All patterns that were fully pledged at the old price will remain fully pledged.
- I’ll revisit this pricing decision once I’ve cleared the backlog of commissioned designs.
- Please continue to pledge for the designs you really want me to make!
- If you’d like to cancel any pledges, just let me know (you can check what you’ve pledged for here).
It may seem like an extreme measure to double the price of my commissioned designs, but I have good reasons. I like to run my business transparently, so I’ll explain my reasoning below…
About PlanetJune Pattern Commissions
I love designing new animal patterns, and many people contact me with requests for a new animal design that I’d like to make. But I’m not a machine and I can’t crank out design after design without losing my enthusiasm. As only one person with a limited number of working hours, I can’t systematically work through every requested animal on Earth – especially when I have my own secret exciting and innovative ideas that need my time too.
That’s where the commissions come in, as a barometer of public opinion. Every animal on the commissions list is one I feel confident I’d be able to design, and happy to do so if enough people show an interest. I don’t have time to design them all, and using the commissions system as a gauge to which may be popular is a useful method to decide between multiple designs I’d be equally happy to create.
The Current Situation
Once my Camel pattern is published, I’ll still have 6 more fully-pledged commissions waiting to be designed, and there’s one more that was a scant $12 away from becoming fully pledged (before I raised the prices). The queue just keeps growing, and I need to get on top of this situation and clear the backlog, not allow the waiting list to grow ever-longer.
While I’m sure some people are wondering why I don’t just power through them all and clear the backlog, that’s not a great way for a creative process to work, and certainly wouldn’t lead to the results that my pledgers are hoping for with the patterns they’ve commissioned from me! My process is not fast – check out my Meerkat Design Report blog series for an example – it’s careful, meticulous, and needs thinking time to work out how best to approach the unique challenges posed by every design. I owe it to myself – and, especially, to my pledgers – to never compromise on those standards and to make every design the best I can make it, however long it takes.
This year already brings with it an added unforeseen complication: I’m going to have knee surgery soon, which will obviously impact my available time and how creative I feel over an unknown period of rehabilitation and recovery. And I have to allow for the possibility of other unforeseen events in the future – the past couple of years have taught me that life has a habit of disrupting my best-laid business plans!
I need to slow the rate of commissioned patterns down for a while, to give me a chance to catch up and level the playing field. My short-term options are to:
- Stop accepting pledges until the queue has gone.
- Raise the commission prices for the time being.
Of the two, raising the prices is the better option, because it lets the barometer keep working, so I can see which of the remaining designs may be popular once I’ve worked through the existing queue. I’ve decided to double the prices for the time being, to give me some breathing room. (To put that into perspective: the new price may seem high, but it still only compensates me for a fraction of the time it takes me to complete the design, so I’ll still be gambling – as I do with all my patterns – that I’ll eventually see enough sales to pay me back for the initial time investment.)
As I’ve done in the past when I raised the prices, I’ll use a pre-pledge to make up the additional cost for any designs that were fully funded at the old rate, so if you’ve pledged for a design that’s already in the queue, it won’t lose its place or require any additional pledges.
For everything else, the bar has been raised – for now, at least. Once the queue has cleared, I’ll re-evaluate (see below), and may lower the prices again if it looks like they are so high that nothing will ever be commissioned again. So please do keep pledging! Your pledges won’t be wasted, even if a $6 pledge is currently only a tiny drop in the bucket: your pledge is your vote, and if you ever want the design to be made, it has to grab its place in the queue before another design does.
The Long-Term Situation
My commissioned designs put me in an unusual quandrary: I know from experience that none of the options on the commissions list are destined to become bestsellers. It’s usually my larger ideas – either in terms of quantity (sets of patterns) or innovation (unexpected design ideas) – that rocket up the PlanetJune charts, while the commissioned patterns tend to be solid team players but not superstars.
I obviously haven’t yet hit the sweet spot: a price point at which I have time to make every design that’s commissioned and still have time left to develop my other ideas that may lead to the next big thing in amigurumi (for example, the AmiCats collection, which could never have been made as a commission as they needed 3 years and 12+ prototypes to bring to life).
My long-term options are to:
- Abandon my more experimental ideas and devote myself only to commissions.
- Discontinue the commissions altogether.
- Find a balance between commissioned and non-commissioned designs.
I love the concept of my design commissions, and I’ve invested a lot of time into building the system, so I don’t want to abandon it. But I also don’t want to become a commission-funded machine who never gets to act on sudden inspiration or try something more unusual. So trying to find a sustainable balance point is my goal, once the existing queue has been reduced.
I’m hopeful that temporarily doubling the commission price will give me some helpful data to find this balance: the sweet spot is obviously far higher than the previous $150, but $300 may well be too high, or it may still be too low. (50 people at $6 apiece is entirely reasonable, and if some of those pledgers are particular fans of the animal and wish to pledge more than the minimum, I may still only need 25 or 30 pledgers to reach $300…) I won’t know until I try out the new pricing for a while and see how it goes.
There’s no point in my adding new options to the list at the moment, but, once the queue is cleared, I’ll be ready to add more animal ideas again. Is one of your favourite animals missing from the list and the PlanetJune collection? Do let me know! I won’t add animals I’m not confident I’ll be able to create or animals I wouldn’t be delighted to make, but that still leaves a lot of possibilities…
In the meantime, I’ll keep working through my existing commissions at a pace I can sustain, and I’ll intersperse non-commissioned designed between each one so I stay fresh and enthusiastic. You deserve my best, and this is my plan to make sure that’s exactly what you’ll get. 🙂