Selling Your Original Beading Patterns Online: Advice From Three Master Bead Artists

Mar 20, 2013


Cynthia Newcomer Daniels

Mikki Ferrugiaro

Beadwork by Nancy Dale
The internet is an amazing thing for beaders like us. If we're looking for a new beading project or pattern to stitch up, all we have to do is search through places like Etsy or Artfire (or our very own Beading Daily Shop!) to find hundreds of gorgeous beading projects designed by talented beaders around the world!

More and more designers of beaded jewelry are expanding their online jewelry business by selling patterns and tutorials of their original beading designs. With the new instant download capability on Etsy (customers can now directly download a digital product from your Etsy shop), you can earn extra income for your online jewelry business through sales of your original beading projects.

I asked three of my favorite independent designers of beading patterns, Cynthia Newcomer Daniel, Nancy Dale, and Mikki Ferrugiaro, about how they manage the creation and sales of their beading projects and tutorials.

Photographs or Diagrams?




The first thing to take into consideration is whether you'll use step-by-step photographs or diagrams to illustrate your beading tutorial. Just like anything else, there are pros and cons to be considered for both methods.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel, owner of Jewelry Tales, uses computer-generated graphics for the step-by-step instructions for her beading projects, but she says that most beaders are comfortable with either photographs to illustrations when following a beading pattern. Mikki Ferrugiaro, the beady brains behind Mikki Ferrugiaro Designs, also feels that a combination of photographs and illustrations is the best way to go when writing up your own beading tutorials for sale.

But don't fret if you don't know how to use graphic design software for creating step-by-step beading instructions -- bead artist Nancy Dale of NEDBeads uses only photographs in her beading tutorials. Just remember that taking and editing photographs can be tricky: if you don't have a great photograph of an important step, you'll have to go back and start all over until you get a clear, well-lit shot.

Testing Your Patterns

It used to happen all the time when I was a grant writer: I'd work on a large summary or piece of writing, and after looking at it for hours on end, I'd miss obvious spelling mistakes. It can happen when you're writing your own beading projects, too. You look at the same thing over and over, and before you know it, you've uploaded or emailed a file out to a customer with half a dozen mistakes, steps out of order, and photographs in the wrong place.

Cynthia, Nancy, and Mikki all have trusted friends who test out their beading projects before they go up for sale online. Cynthia says, "I think it's very important to have someone else look them over; they see things from a different perspective and I feel more comfortable knowing that someone else understands my tutorials before I sent them out into the world."

Random testers can be a big help, too, since Mikki had someone testing her patterns on a regular basis, but found that they were both missing the same mistakes.

Always take the time to have your patterns tested by someone that you trust -- it can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction, and return sales.

To Kit or Not to Kit?

Mikki notes that creating kits for your beading projects, while a good source of additional income for your online jewelry business, is a gamble. "Kitting is expensive... People may beg you to make kits, but don't expect them all to actually buy them. However, I think some beading projects need kits, like if the beads used in the design are hard to locate. It doesn't pay to have your customers buy a tutorial only to be driven nuts trying to find the beads."

Nancy offers the options of making up custom kits and custom bead soup mixes for her customers. Offering custom kits and kits-on-request can take some of the financial risk out of kitting your beading projects, as long as you make sure you get a deposit up front before you order any beads and materials needed for the beading kits.

Take Great Photographs




As with any online jewelry business venture, knowing how to take great photographs of your finished work is key to increasing sales and turning one-time sales into repeat customers. If you're ready to learn more about staging and setting up photographs for tricky items like beaded earrings, how to get the best backgrounds to show off your jewelry, and expert tips for setting up shots of your bracelets, cuffs, necklaces and rings, you don't want to miss Jim Lawson's Jewelry Photography: Beyond the Basics. Pre-order your copy now to get expert advice for jewelry photography right in the comfort of your own home, or download Jewelry Photography: Beyond the Basics onto your favorite desktop or laptop computer and be watching and learning in just minutes!

One last bit of advice from our panel of experts in selling your own beading projects: if you have a great original design, go for it. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your friends and peers, and enjoy the journey!

What about you? Do you sell your original beading designs through an Etsy shop or website? What advice would you have for other budding bead artists who want to get into the online tutorial business? Leave a comment and share your tips and advice here on the Beading Daily blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

Susanspalter wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 7:54 AM

I use photos because I don't know of any graphic design software programs.  Please advise of programs that I can purchase to diagram my beading instructions.  Thank you.

arg2you wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 8:28 AM

I do not sell my things as of yet though I have scouted out local shops. I post some things online on a website or on google+ or on craftsey. I give a lot of my things away or did there for a while. I would take my things to my family in another state and let them go through and take what they wanted, each person one thing.

I see a lot of things posted on line but rarely do I hear of them selling. I have spoken to many of my neighbors about it and they tell me that the local University is a great place to sell things and or offer to teach others.

I bead when I am thinking about other things most of the time or playing with colors.

I like the idea of selling kits and agree you should ensure you have a supply ready before you do so.

Pamangel2 wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 9:33 AM

I recently started selling tutorials on line in addition to my finished beadwork. I too would like more information on software programs for beadwork illustration. I would like to use illustrations with the actual photos.  

Thank you.

beaddesign wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 9:56 AM

I toyed with the idea of publishing some of my patterns, but when I saw the expense involved, it put me off. Well known designers have a base of buyers to rely on, I don't. Both Etsy and ArtFire fees could be costly if I don't sell enough patterns to cover monthly fees. I also scoped out having my own website for sales...too cost prohibitive.  

I've also seen kits online - can't afford the prices most times. There are a lot of beaders out there that have discretionary income and can afford to get what they want for their beadwork...wish that were me!

KWseattle wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 10:07 AM

I teach bead weaving workshops, sell my tutorials online and have written two self-published books on beadweaving.  

I've found that the most important thing is to give the reader multiple paths for learning.   I use a combination of photographs, illustrations and text to show each step of my process as clearly as possible.  

Once I've written my tutorial, I sit down and work through it myself, following my instructions step-by-step.  The key here is to pretend that I've never seen the instructions before, and to be on the look out for areas where it doesn't quite make sense, or where I've skipped a step.  Once I've identified those, I go back and rework my tutorial yet again.  And I'm always open to feedback.

I just published my latest PDF tutorial on Etsy (skunkhillstudio), Featuring my Beadwoven Fancy Fish.  It has my most detailed, full-color diagrams to date as well as over three dozen full-color photographs.  

As for kits, I designed my first kits last fall and was stunned  by how long it took me to put everything together.  Beyond gathering and documenting all the necessary supplies, simply weighing out all the beads and packaging everything nicely took a surprising amount of time.  I now have a much greater appreciation for other kits I see produced by small designers!

CarolynD@21 wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 10:14 AM

I also design and sell beading tutorials on Art Fire, my shop is CSD Design. In creating a tutorial I feel it is extremely important to include a photo of the finished piece. The beading community is fortunate to have beading software available to help in designing beading graphs and word charts for tutorials.  Actually making the project before putting a tutorial out for sale is an extremely important step. You need to know the chosen colors work and the dimensions are correct.

ottercat wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 10:19 AM

I'm currently doing a tutorial revision (rewrite) with the changes suggested by two trusted proofreaders (thanks you guys).  Using step-by-step illustrations 'drawn' in MSWord; finished document will be converted to PDF (first version was finalized in a pdf format which highlighted some interesting results of converting a document from one program to another).  Planning to import photos (for cover/front, chapter, and selected pages) -- learning curve.

Have you any advice concerning 'copyright' issues for tutorials/patterns?  Have any of you encountered a new technique that may require a patent (instructions would be covered by a copyright)?

My first suggestion would be do some research (what's out there, programs for photos/drawing, what's the industry standard for tutorials, what's popular, what do you like).  My second suggestion:  Test a tutorial (purchase something that interests you and make it); take notes about your experience (clear instructions, available materials, visual aids, easy to follow setup, .....).  Don't copy it, but learn from the tutorial.  And be available for questions/clarifications -- in other words, answer your emails.  Communicate with your customers -- word gets around and could make or break your business.

Thank you all for your input and advice.  Thanks, Jennifer.

beadedb wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 10:45 AM

I have been working on 3-D beading patterns for 4 years now and have wanted to sell them online. All the patterns are completely original. I have looked through internet sites, books, magazines, videos and tutorials to make sure that my patterns are different.

My concern has always been the possibilty that my patterns would be copied and posted online by someone else other than me. Who would buy a pattern if it suddenly becomes "free" online? I would hate to have worked for 4 years on something and then not be able to make any profit from it.

How do you prevent someone from posting your work online for "free" without your permission and ruining your chances of a sale? Thank you.

Cindy Daniel wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 10:58 AM

For those of you who want to make illustrations using a computer, there are many different programs - some are even free! As a professional graphic artist, I made the investment in Adobe Illustrator, but there are many programs out there that will allow you to draw good illustrations for much less. It does take time to learn how to use any graphics package - it's not quite the same as drawing on paper - so be prepared to spend some time learning.

Marilyn@180 wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 11:56 AM

I create and sell both beadwork and chain mail patterns (& kits) on my website (GardinerDesign). I use Adobe software (Illustrator, In Design, and Photoshop) for the illustrations, photos, and page layout. I'm not a graphic artist, but I've taken classes & taught myself enough to do what I need to do.) Learning is a continuous, lifelong process!

I would love to know if anyone is using 3-D software for tutorial diagrams, and what it is. Also, is there anywhere to purchase pre-made graphics of beads that could be used to create beading diagrams?

I've found that watching someone use your instructions is the best way to improve them—so teach a class, or even teach a friend, Being present when they are using the instructions lets you ask questions to clarify why something you think is obvious is not.

Joboy wrote
on May 3, 2013 8:55 AM

PLEASE HELP! I am new to the idea of writing tutorials for publishing.. I have no problem with photographs but I have no idea what software to use to create the tutorial! Does anyone reccomend a certain software program for creating tutorials that can be downloaded off a site, like Etsy?

on Sep 4, 2013 1:42 PM

i just downloaded a free trial of Corel Draw.  I too would like more input from designers about what programs they use to draw beads and other shapes.  Thinking crystals.  Up to now I have been using Powerpoint and find it easy to use but hard to get the shapes I want for the different beads.  Delicas and Seeds are easy but other things not so much.  I will look and see if there is a free trial for Adobe Illustrator.