Should You Be Paid for Your Crochet Knowledge? (Friday Open Discussion)

by Kathryn on March 23, 2012 · 17 comments

in Crochet Discussion

I think a good discussion for today has to do with when you should offer your crochet knowledge, experience and skills for free and when you should be paid for it.

Topic Background

Every once in awhile someone will contact me to ask me a technical “how to” type of crochet question. While I’m honored that those people consider me knowledgeable in this field, I have to confess that I find it a little bit offensive when I’m asked for technical help with no offer of payment. And I see it happen all of the time in this industry (I’ll provide more examples below). Maybe it happens in all industries, as I’m also often asked technical questions about blogging/ freelance writing.

Now let me say that I don’t mind when someone asks me a general question as a starting point to find more information. And I don’t mind when someone leaves a comment on a blog post asking me a follow-up question to what I’ve posted. What I’m talking about here is when someone I don’t know emails me and asks something like, “how do you do a double crochet stitch?” or “Can you help me adapt this knitting pattern into a crochet pattern?” In my opinion, these are technical skills that you can either research yourself (thanks to Google) or if you want to get someone to tell you how to do it then you should offer to pay for that experience.

Personally, I handle this by offering a suggestion of where they can go to get that information but I won’t provide the answer or instructions. I do offer professional blog consulting services so for blogging I point those people towards the information they would need if they were interested in hiring me and I’d suggest that professional crocheters do the same when someone contacts them with technical questions. I do want to be an excellent resource and a community-builder in both the crochet and blogging communities, but I don’t want my personal expertise that I’ve worked hard to gain to be completely taken advantage of either. I do offer advice in these areas for free at times … sometimes I’ll answer questions on forums if it’s easy enough for me to do so. I participate in various networking groups and craft groups and that’s all about pooling knowledge to help one another. So what I’m specifically referring to is when someone asks for specific professional help in a one-to-one situation without offering payment or a barter option.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Some Ideas for Today’s Discussion

  • One problem that I know happens frequently to crochet designers is that someone will contact them for detailed help with their patterns, including ones they’ve posted for free. I don’t mean that they’re confused about the pattern and need more information … I mean that they’ll contact the designer and ask for advice on making yarn substitutions, changing sizes, etc. How do you think a designer should handle this?
  • I think it’s one thing for someone to put out a general call for help on a forum or through social sites like Twitter, asking the entire community for help in case someone wants to offer it. I think it’s another thing to contact one person specifically on those sites to ask a technical question. What do you think?
  • Have you ever been asked to crochet something for someone without them offering to pay you for your time or even to buy the yarn?
  • When you have a technical crochet question that you can’t figure out on your own, where do you turn for help?

Remember that these weekly open discussions are to generate conversation in the crochet community because your voice matters here. Feel free to say what you want to say on this topic. That said, please be respectful, especially when responding to others thoughts and comments on the blog. I’ll add my two cents in the comments as the day goes on.

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14 comments
Patrice
Patrice

I think hobby crafters might be more inclined to help other crafters for free. They do their craft for enjoyment and have no intention of turning it into a business. On the other hand, if I, as a hobby crafter, give extensive help to someone, I think it's only courteous for the person to offer something in return for the help received. I might even suggest it. It doesn't have to be money either, but it's a nice thing to do and a matter of common courtesy.

If someone is crafting as a business, then s/he knows what services s/he offers and how much they cost. If the request is for general help, I don't mind providing an answer, or at the very minimum, directing them to information that might help them figure out a solution. I also agree with previous commenters that forums are a great place to ask these kinds of questions because the burden of responding isn't on one person.

If the request is for detailed help, as a business person, let them know that you offer this service for a fee and go from there. They'll either take you up on your offer or go somewhere else to get the help they need. No need to get upset that someone has asked for something for free that you charge a fee for or believe you should be paid for. People do it all the time; you just have to be clear about what you give a way, and what you receive compensation for. One way of valuing what we do is to charge adequate compensation for it.

Misty Ledbetter
Misty Ledbetter

Wow, what an interesting topic! One thing that I think is nice and has been mentioned here is the Raverly forums. If you belong to a designer's group, ask a question and then anyone in the group can answer. If there is a knit along or crochet along (or if there was one), you can often post with questions when you are working on the same project and get help. I think the problem is teaching people which channels are appropriate for them to ask their questions and which are not. Forums are good. Contacting a designer when you have paid for a pattern can be okay, I think, if you have a reasonable question/concern about the pattern or you think you may have found an error. If someone offers a pattern for free, then I figure that they are not necessarily interested in offering pattern support. Randomly contacting a stranger because you read their blog and asking for help on something they have not designed is kind of presumptuous. :)

I often ask for help at my Local Yarn Shop if I have a question or a problem with a pattern, or sometimes I will ask a friend.

Anastacia Knits
Anastacia Knits

Ah, people asking for detailed help on a free pattern... it's a subject much, much discussed & something I have to deal with all the time, unfortunately. It's so ironic, too, that questions that you are asked re: a free pattern, just aren't asked re: a paid pattern. I don't mind a little hand holding when it comes to my freebies, but if they are looking for more than that, I often direct them to my Ravelry group, it's one of the reasons why I have a Rav group. That way it's not just ME helping with a free pattern, it's a myriad of people helping & the burden isn't just on one person.

joyannerose
joyannerose

You make an excellant point about lawyers being taught to value their work (maybe too much :) And people thinking crochet is a hobby is definitely going to make it harder to seek payment. I guess we have to try to keep pushing it as "one of a kind, hand crafted item". Guess we still have a long way to go.

As for the cashmere, thanks for checking into it. I was going to do similar things, and I have books from Robyn Chachula and I think Doris Chan also, so I'm glad they have some patterns. Ralvery kinda overwhelms me, but I've been trying to get back on it, as I know they have great info. I can't wait to use the cashmere. I'll probably buy an outfit just so I can make a shrug! Which is kind of backwards I know. lol

joyannerose
joyannerose

Is this topic any different than the doctor that's constantly solitited for advice? Or the lawyer, nurse, carpenter, etc... I think we have to handle it in the same manner. If they're asking general, interesting questions in a social situation, then I don't think there's anything wrong with having the discussion. Depends of what type of person you approach also. Some people like to talk, give advice, and share their passion. Others do not. But when it comes to specifics, we need to adopt their way of handling it. Such as you suggested, where they could look to find and answer, or to "make an appt." type of answer.

I do however feel that if someone openly gives advice on a regular basis, and asks people if they have any questions, there's nothing wrong with asking one. Again, the recipient of the question has the right to suggest that this would be too detailed (or whatever) of an answer to answer in her forum, and would she be interested in a private consultation?

I do strongly believe that if you offer a pattern (free or paid), and part of the deal is "if you have any questions, just ask and I'll help you",

they you should absolutely check it frequently and answer the questions that are listed. Many a time I've seen questions gone unanswered.

Now, not to incur any wrath, I recently asked someone about crocheting with some cashmere yarn I bought. So I'll throw it out there and you can answer or not, or tell me if it's inappropriate, or direct me to resources. I never crocheted with 100% cashmere and was wondering how the drape would be for a sleeveless shrug . I have several books on yarns, and I'm trying to learn about the different yarns, but I just wanted someone's opinion that has worked with it before. Either way, thanks for listening.

undergroundcrafter
undergroundcrafter

You and your controversial topics! (:

I personally am not at all offended or annoyed when someone makes a general call out question on Ravelry, Crochetville, etc. because there's no expectation that I personally will answer them :). I also earn income through crochet (as a teacher, as a designer) so there are limits to what I'm willing to "give away." On the other hand, sometimes people will hit a snag with a pattern and then complain about it online (thus making your pattern/design skills look bad) when a simple question and answer could have solved the problem. There are also people who make requests that might seem unreasonable (especially with free patterns) like demanding tutorials, resizing, etc.

In my experience, people who I have helped out for free don't tend to say thank you or acknowledge the effort I've made in any way, which makes me less likely to help others in the future. For example, before I had a blog, I had several people write to me through my website's contact form - from other states - asking me to "teach" them how to read another designer's pattern for free via email. When I've actually written out a response that tries to point them in the right direct, there is often no response. It's a bit disheartening.

But don't worry - people are inconsiderate no matter what skills you have :). When I used to work in a pediatric health care center, all the physicians dreaded it when someone in their buildings would have a baby, because they would get knocks on the door at all hours of the night asking medical questions...

CrochetBlogger
CrochetBlogger moderator

Definitely a great point to distinguish between the reasons people craft. Also I love that you've suggested the option of perhaps bartering with someone where you trade creative talents of some type but don't exchange money per se.

CrochetBlogger
CrochetBlogger moderator

@Misty Ledbetter Great points here Misty and I especially love that you brought up the LYS option. Many LYS have someone on hand experience in crochet and they are happy to help you with pattern problems, yarn questions, etc. Many of them also have communal tables that people knit and crochet at either during scheduled meetings or just as drop-ins and this is another good resource for finding help with something. Of course, it's not an option in every community but it's a great one if you have it and I think it's really important that you've highlighted that!

CrochetBlogger
CrochetBlogger moderator

@joyannerose Ravelry overwhelms me a bit, too, and so I don't use it nearly as much as a lot of people do. I'm currently loving Hookey as my favorite crochet social media site but it doesn't have the pattern database that Rav has.

And I totally understand buying and outfit to make a shrug!

CrochetBlogger
CrochetBlogger moderator

@joyannerose Thanks so much for your thorough response. I agree with you that this is an issue that people deal with in any specialty. And that, as you've kind of suggested here, perhaps the crafter should take her work and expertise seriously enough to deal with these types of situations in a way that honors their own professional expertise. I think it's true that this is no different than the lawyer being asked for detailed legal advice ... but I think the difference is that the lawyer's work trains him or her to demand some professional respect and to feel more comfortable asking for money whereas society tends to think of crafting as a hobby and therefore it's tougher for many crafters to say something that sounds like, "you need to pay me for that information".

I do agree with you that if you've said you'll answer questions on a specific thing (pattern, etc.) then you should. No argument there.

As for your question about cashmere yarn ... I don't think that it's inappropriate all to ask about that in a situation like we have there because you haven't necessarily solicited my advice specifically but rather the advice of the blog community. I do want this blog to be a resource for people who want to share their knowledge and have these conversations. Unfortunately, I can't answer your question myself, because I haven't worked with pure cashmere yarn (I do love cashmere / merino blends). I definitely think it's fun playing with different types of yarn and learning how they work. If it were me, I'd probably just do a bunch of gauge swatches with different sized hooks to see how it works out. I'd also head to Ravelry and look for crochet patterns using cashmere (there are about 140 of them with photos, although there are only a handful of shawls and shrugs) to get a sense of how others have made it look. Two designers I see on Ravelry that have worked with cashmere are Doris Chan and Robyn Chachula so it might be worth it to explore their sites and books more as well. That's my two cents. Would love to find out what you learn as you explore this yarn (it's one that feels so good doesn't it?!)

CrochetBlogger
CrochetBlogger moderator

@undergroundcrafter Thanks Marie ... You've done a great job of expanding on this topic and sharing how to handle these situations. I like that you've highlighted the difference between how you'd handle it in your capacity as a designer vs. as a teacher. I can see how as a designer it would be in your best interest to make sure that you answer questions fully without necessarily getting extra payment because it improves your marketability as a designer (and it's always good to have good karma in your creative work anyway!) But as a teacher, you're getting paid for your expertise, and it's not really fair for people to take advantage of that in certain settings. In a sense, you have to ask yourself what you're getting out of it when you offer this information for free ... are you boosting your own credibility as a designer? Are you doing something that makes you feel good? Or are you offering free information that takes away from your paid services? It's always going to be a personal thing that each person must figure out for herself. Ultimately you have to set your own boundaries that you're comfortable with.

Anastacia Knits
Anastacia Knits

@CrochetBlogger Absolutely, of course it adds more work. But... I look at it as a huge win overall, because I can much more easily & quickly find reliable testers when I am looking for them & whenever a new pattern comes out, I always seem to get a lot of sales from peeps in the group. Not to mention, the group's become like a big family to me. My group is about 450 people, so I think it's a great, very managable size. I've taken time off from most of my online activities lately, & the group has been quieter than usual without me, but I don't really have to worry about anything either.

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