A Ranty Post About Working for Free…

(c) Andrea Ellison PhotographtIt’s rare for a week to go by when I don’t get asked to give my work away for free. Mostly I just ignore the cheeky emails, but every now and again I get a bit “ranty” and feel the need to justify why I sometimes  (politely) say no thanks.

Here’s an example of a typical “invitation”.

“Dear Tracey, we love your work and we think our readers would too. We’d be happy to feature your designs on our website. In return we’ll link back to your blog and promote you on our facebook page”

Sounds reasonable enough you might think, but click through to the website and you’ll find this

 “Subscribe to our pattern database today and you’ll NEVER need to pay for a crochet pattern ever again”

So, I’m supposed to feel flattered that you want me to provide you with a free pattern (which I’ll have proof read and tech edited at my own expense) and a high quality photograph and return you’ll actively encourage your readers not to pay for my other designs…

That kind of email definitely goes in the “no thank you” pile.

I have given free patterns which first appeared on my blog to the UK Hand Knitting Association  (UKHKA), they always ask first and I’m happy to give them, but when I’m asked, (and this is my particular favourite) by large multinational companies:

“If you could send us a couple of hundred words for our in house journal and perhaps a pattern our readers could make …. We have no budget…but we’ll be happy to print your website address…”

I have to decline.

It’s the same with magazines who offer to print patterns in return for “exposure”. I understand  that printing the names of established designers on your front cover can boost sales so you’ll be paying them a fee, but your argument that I’ll only get to be a “big name” by working for free or very little doesn’t really work on me. I get a kick out of designing simple, easy to follow patterns which are affordable and enjoyable and I do it for money. The fact that other magazines are willing to commission me repeatedly gives me the confidence that I’m doing something right.

So, I pick and choose who I work with carefully. I have given free patterns to Inside Crochet, such as my Lavender Hearts which you can find on their blog. They paid for the original design, paid the photographer and had it tech edited, so why shouldn’t I let them have the occasional freebie?   I have also written (unpaid)  for the Craftseller blog, answered reader’s letters for other magazines and  provided photos and copy for features and interviews in craft magazines. I am happy to do this as I feel it’s a part of building a good working relationship  and we all benefit.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is, treat me (and designers like me) as professionals. It’s fine that some crochet designers don’t do it for the money, the “thrill of being published” is enough for them. But taking advantage of their talent and enthusiasm is bad for us and bad for them. Ultimately it’s also bad for the publication and for the reader. If you publish original, imaginative, well written patterns  your readers will keep coming back and you’ll build up a bank of loyal, creative designers who will keep sending you great proposals. That has to be good for all of us?

But here’s the thing, if I don’t contribute to that website / blog / magazine then another designer will. They’ll get the exposure and publicity that should have been mine. They’ll be the one who gets to put “As featured in xxx” on their publicity materials. We’re an insecure bunch us designers, we’re self employed and we live from month to month hoping that our next batch of submissions will fit with an editor’s plans and ideas for future issues.

So; even as I type “No thank you” and hit send, I know that there is another designer hoping that this opportunity will be her big break and that makes me sad.

ps If, after all that you’re still looking for free patterns, try clicking on the “free pattern tab” at the top of the page!


Leave a comment


  1. I’m sorry, Miss T, I know how hard you work, I have seen you! I love free patterns when designers are kind enough to give them, but I also always try to buy the magazine/purchase the chart for further work by that person.

    Incidentally, your cardigan cosy…..can’t find the magazine here, boo, hiss, will there be a time when it could be available to buy in PDF form?

    Our snow is retreating and I saw a bulb……quite giddy with anticipation!


  2. Tracey, like you I feel I’ve contributed to the success of other websites over the years – poetry, short stories, book reviews – with byline being the sole reward!
    I used to run a children’s book review website – my team of reviewers was not paid in cash but they always received a good parcel of books (newly published).
    So I scream YES, Tracey is right. Don’t be insecure about this because honesty and integrity are worth far more than a free ride.
    Take care, hugs xx


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