How to start a sewing pattern business - Part 1, The very beginning
After more than five years of running Ploen Patterns, I thought it was time to share some things I have learned along the way.
If you are interested in starting a pattern business yourself - this post is for you!
Let's start at the beginning. This is how to start a pattern business, the first part. How I got started! (This post contains affiliate links).
In 2017 I finished my pattern-making degree and I wanted to create a business for myself. I had the idea to start a pattern business for home sewers and I did a lot of research about how to get started. At that time there was not a lot of information out there but so I had to figure it out mostly on my own. I decided to begin by creating an Instagram account where I shared my sewing projects and inspiration. I also documented the process of designing my first PDF pattern. The Freja dress. I decided to make my first pattern available for free as I thought it would be good for promoting my new business and get more people interested. It ended up being a great decision and to this day a large part of my customers still find me through this free pattern! Maybe that's even how you found me? I set up an email list so I could capture emails and have a few people on the waiting list for when I launched my website and started to sell patterns. This is a strategy I would highly recommend if you are just starting out and don't know how to market your new business.
So how did I actually create my first pattern? Well, first off I started out as a pattern maker and I had just finished my education before I started Ploen Patterns so I knew exactly how to draft a pattern of any design I wanted to create. What I didn't know anything about was how to create a PDF-pattern specifically. That is not something we were taught in School. I had used Adobe Illustrator before and I knew that was the program many people used for their patterns so I tried to figure out how to set up a print at home file to sell. I went through a lot of trial and error before I understood how it worked. I almost gave up so many times and I'm so glad I kept going. One thing that really made a difference in the process was when I finally found a good resource for PDF pattern making. A course!
Pattern Workshop, created by the lovely Lauren had exactly the type of information I had been looking for! I signed up for the course on the spot and I finally learned all the tips and tricks on how to make the process easier and quicker.
This course covers everything from how to set up the print at home tiling system, adding seam allowance, writing and illustrating the instructions to marketing the pattern once you have launched it. And so much more. There's also a great community on facebook that you can join when you buy the course. If I have to give only one tip for anyone interested in starting a pattern business it would be to get this course.
Pattern Workshop really has an answer to every question you might come across and I still use the community to this day to ask questions that come up about grading, pattern testing and many other things. I think the course is great for anyone with a little bit of experience in pattern making. It doesn't teach you how to be a good and professional pattern maker exactly, but it teaches you how to take your pattern making skills and apply them to the home sewing market and PDF pattern specifically. In the course you learn a lot about how to use Illustrator and InDesign too so it's a great resource if that's anything you are interested in.
What if I'm not a confident or experienced pattern maker yet?
Then start there. Practice your pattern making skills. This is the most important skill to have when starting a pattern business (if you are not willing to hire professionals straight away of course). Here are some things you can do to advance your pattern making skills:
- Check out your local schools and see if there are any fashion courses in your city. I live in Stockholm, Sweden and I've taken courses on pattern making at a few different schools here. Both a full time degree and also evening courses for pattern making etc.
- Take an online pattern drafting course. There are also a lot of online courses that teach pattern making. How to draft slopers and how to make pattern alterations are great things to learn.
- Experiment on your own when you know the basics. Practice, practice, practice!
Resources and software I found useful in my business from the beginning:
- Instagram. This was my main form of communication, marketing and getting the word out about Ploen Patterns.
- Google forms. I set up a google form where I collected e-mail addresses before I had e-mail software or even a website. Then when I launched my free pattern I had collected almost 100 e-mails and had a small audience interested in my first newsletter. And a bonus: it's completely free. I put the link to this google form in my link in bio on Instagram.
- I used MailChimp as e-mail software in the beginning. It's completely free to start out. Either with their free plan or with a free trial.
- Adobe Illustrator. This is the program I used to create all my pattern pieces, grading, illustrations and instructions. I still don't use Adobe InDesign for example, I still use Illustrator, even for all instructions. I don't find I need another program like InDesign and it's much more cost effective to only have one Adobe program to pay for each month.
- After a while of using MailChimp I switched to ConvertKit which in my opinion is a much better e-mail service. Very user friendly and easy to learn. And they have a lot of great options and integrations. I would highly recommend ConvertKit! Get started with their 14-day free trial.
- Online Marketing made easy Podcast. Amy Porterfield shares actionable tips on how to start, grow and market an online business. And let's face it. A pattern business will be an online business in some capacity regardless of if you choose to only sell PDF-patterns or decide to sell paper patterns as well. I found this podcast very helpful in the beginning and I still listen to it. Amy has great knowledge and advice when it comes to building and nurturing an email list.
- And last but not least Pattern Workshop. The only course and community you will need to get started - and keep going!
So there you have it! This is what I did in the beginning. Let me know your questions and suggestions for upcoming parts in this series!
Next time I will talk more in depth about my pattern design process and how it has changed over time. See you then!
Until next time,