PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Commissions Review: 6 months

It’s now been 6 months since I started my crowd-sourced commissions process and I thought this would be a good point to step back and re-evaluate the process. In case you aren’t interested in my review, I should mention first that there are now 12 new design options on the Commissions list, so please click through to the list if you’d like to see what’s new, and maybe pledge towards one or more!

And now to the review…

The Story So Far

It’s been working well so far – too well, maybe, as I’ve tweaked the system 3 times so I don’t get overwhelmed with commissions! We’ve had 7 designs fully funded so far:

PlanetJune Commissions - the first 6 months

  • Koala, Platypus, Chameleon, and Sea Otter have all been completed, and I’ve had only positive feedback from the people who pledged towards them. I’m very happy to now also be able to include them in my pattern catalogue.
  • AmiDogs Rottweiler is being designed right now!
  • Giant Panda and AmiDogs Scottish Terrier are funded and still in the queue to be designed.

If the queue keeps growing, I may need to make another change, as I don’t want the queue to keep lengthening – if too many commissions stack up, I may reach the point where I wouldn’t be able to make a funded design for a year or more, and that wouldn’t make anyone happy! But, luckily, with 19 AmiDogs designs under my belt already, new breeds are typically much less difficult to design than starting from scratch with a completely new animal, so I should be able to zip through the Rottie and Scottie designs much more quickly than the ones I’ve already completed.

Copycatting

One potential concern about putting my design ideas on display like this is that I’ve noticed several other people suddenly releasing amigurumi patterns for the animals on my list. I certainly don’t have a monopoly on animals, so I’m not complaining about that, but I want to add a note of caution to anyone using my commissions list for inspiration: if you’re making animal designs from my list purely because you think that means they’ll be popular, you’re missing the point of the list.

None of my innovative and original design ideas are up there – the reason these animals are on my list is that I don’t think they’ll be big sellers, which is why I want some money upfront before I spend my time designing them! And that’s proven to be accurate: my non-commissioned designs over the same timeframe (Succulents, Baby Bunnies, Polyhedral Balls/Gaming Dice…) have all brought in far more sales than the commissioned patterns, as I expected they would.

Budding amigurumi designers: if you want to succeed, don’t look to other amigurumi designers for your inspiration. You should make designs that fit your style and the things you love – be original and be true to yourself. Do you want to be in competition with me, or do you want to carve your own niche and have no competitors..?

Pledge Review

One of the potential concerns with my idea is that, unlike Kickstarter, which inspired me to try this in the first place, my ‘campaigns’ have no end date. My gut feeling is that people who want a specific design enough to pledge towards it will still want it even if it doesn’t get developed immediately. Still, there is the concern: what happens if a design is fully funded 2 years later, or 5 years..? How many of the pledgers will still want the design enough to pay for it, or even remember they made the pledge?

For this reason, I decided to do a pledge review at this point in the process. I contacted existing pledgers to check they are still happy to honour their pledges, and delete their pledges if not. Nobody wanted to cancel altogether, and only one person reduced their pledge amount, so I may do a pledge review less frequently than 6-monthly in future (I’ve always given the option for people to contact me to delete a pledge if they change their mind before the design is fully funded). Tweaking these details is another part of developing and testing the process for the long-term.

Design Options Review

After the pledge review, I pulled the designs that were less than halfway to being funded from the list, to make way for others that may be prove to be more popular. (They may return in future – the whole point of this process was to test whether a design will be worth making, and maybe the less-popular ideas will be more appealing next year.)

For new designs, I’ve reviewed all the incoming suggestions, and sorted them as follows:

  • Do I want to create this design?
  • Do I think I can easily create this design within the time constraint of the commission?
  • Are there multiple requests for this design?

I’ve added some of the designs that met all these requirements to the list, and I’m saving the remainder of the suitable ideas for the next review. I’ve also saved the suggestions I loved, but that may pose more design challenges, to my regular pattern ideas list (I don’t want my design to be limited by the time constraint – some ideas just take more time to percolate!), so don’t despair if your suggestion doesn’t appear here.

Feedback Review

It’s been really helpful for me to receive questions and suggestions, so I can make improvements based on what people really want to see here.

Review your pledges: Although you always get a confirmation email for each pledge you make, people wanted a way to see everything they’ve pledged towards at once, so I’ve added the My Pledges feature. Just enter your email address and you’ll see a list of all the pledges you’ve made.

More options: I did a poll in my Facebook group to ask if people would prefer to see a larger selection of ideas in the list, or if that would be overwhelming. 75% voted that they’d still be happy if there were over 30 choices (double what I had until now), so I’ve increased the number of options on the list. Click through to the Commissions page to see (and maybe pledge towards) the new additions!

What’s that animal? I’ve also had requests, particularly from non-native English speakers, to include a photo of each animal on the list, to help them decide whether they’d like to pledge towards its design. Sourcing copyright-free images for each animal would be too much work, so, instead, I’ve made the name of each animal on the list into a direct link to its Wikipedia page (which, as yet, has always included at least one photo – I’ll link to a different page if it doesn’t).
PlanetJune Commissions: now with links to Wikipedia

If you’re not quite sure what a Capybara (for example) looks like, just click its name on the pledge chart. The Capybara Wikipedia page will open in a new tab/window and you’ll see its photo and description:
PlanetJune Commissions: now with links to Wikipedia

Security Review

I ran into a major problem last week: over the course of a day, I received 3 fake pledges from people pledging huge amounts ($102, $42, $114) and giving fake email addresses. Although I deleted the pledges as soon as I spotted them, knowing it could happen again and again at any time was a big concern. The system doesn’t work if the pledge chart may be wrong and some pledgers turn out to be fake!

After a sleepless night worrying about it, I decided I had to code a verification step to prevent prank bids, so I did that on Friday morning. Now you’ll get a confirmation email with a link you have to click to verify each pledge. The added bonus is that any pledges with misspelt email addresses will also get filtered out now – those are useless to me, as I wouldn’t be able to collect the money without a valid contact email address!

This does mean an extra step whenever you make a pledge, but it makes the system far more secure and reliable, so I think it’s worth it. From now, only confirmed pledges will be shown on the chart or in My Pledges. (Do remember to check your Spam folder if you don’t see the verification emails in your Inbox!)

Summary

With a more reliable system and lots of fun new design options on the list, I think I’m ready for the next 6 months of Commissions! It’s always a risk when you come up with a completely new way of doing things, but, so far at least, it seems to be working well. I usually have to keep quiet about the designs I’m working on (to prevent copycatting before I can publish them), so I’m enjoying being able to share more of my design process with the PlanetJune Ravelry group with these designs that everyone already knows I’m creating.

As always, if you have suggestions to improve this process further, please do let me know – the advantage of doing my own coding is that I can keep tweaking and refining the system with no cost (except my time) and no delays (except my other PlanetJune priorities) – and setting myself little coding challenges makes a refreshing change from my usual design and time-management challenges!

I think the changes I’ve made are making the system stronger and, hopefully, more enticing. Why don’t you take a look and let me know what you think?

3 Comments »

  1. I’m so glad that you shared this update. I think your model is really innovative and learning more about your process should be really inspiring for other small business owners who are seeking to try new things. I hope the takeaway for such people will be that you have to do what’s right for you, check in with your supporters to make sure it’s working for them and adjust accordingly!

    PS … how the heck has six months already passed?!

  2. Miriam said

    As much as people say they are okay with more options, more options is NOT always better. I took business classes and it is proven that when you give people too many choices, often they don’t purchase the item they are considering at all.

    I think the number of patterns you have up now is fine, especially because the AmiDogs are separated at the top and the people who don’t want those can just skip over them easily. I just wanted to make sure you were aware that if people are okay with a lot of options, it may be detrimental to your pledges. You may want to have an option to suggest animals and if you get enough interest add it to the commissions or just add ones you want to do if you get too many commissions up.

    • June said

      Thanks for the advice, Miriam! I think that’s actually quite similar to what I’ve already done – there’s a suggestion form at the bottom of the commissions page, and I’ve only added the most popular suggestions to the list. I still have 109 suggestions in stock that I haven’t used (including duplicate) – I’ll make sure not to add too many of those at once 😀

      Most of my income comes from long-term sales of my patterns – people are still buying patterns that I designed in 2007 – so if people aren’t interested enough to pledge towards a certain design now, that’s a good indication that the design won’t be a big seller in my shop either. In that case, it’s best for me if people don’t pledge – if it doesn’t get fully funded, I don’t waste my time creating a pattern that won’t make much money in the long term. The full commission price pays me for only a fraction of the time it takes me to create the pattern, so I’m relying on future sales to pay me back for the ‘discounted’ rate on the commissions.

      I know that all sounds very mercenary, but any ideas that I adore and desperately want to make don’t get put on the list in the first place! I make those because I want to (however many sales they may or may not generate) and the commissions list is just for animals I can make if there’s demand but have no particular preference for one over another – there are just too many lovely animals for me to ever make all of them, so I need some way of narrowing it down, and this seems to work pretty well for that.

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    June Gilbank

    Hi, I'm June. Welcome to my world of nature-inspired crochet and crafting. I hope you enjoy your visit!

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