Say yes, say no

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Being a freelancer, I know I am not alone when it comes to having issues deciding how much work to take on.

Note how I say:

How much work to take on.

And not:

Which work to take on.

Walk with me here. When you are a freelancer and want to ensure you have a steady stream of income that allows you to pull your weight in the house along with your partner, or, you are the sole stream of income that fuels your household as either a solo household, or a single-parent household…. It's tricky to know when to say NO.

  • Every NO seems to be a lost income opportunity.
  • Every NO seems to set your earnings back a bit.
  • Every NO comes with added guilt.


  • Every YES comes with added weight on your shoulders.
  • Every YES comes with a nostalgia-filled sigh, realizing the weekend you wanted to take off to spend with your kids is no more.
  • Every YES is not always worth the money it will pay.

I know it's so easy to say “I can crochet that easy scarf for magazine X this weekend… It won't pay much but it will raise my profile”

Soooo easy to say yes to your friend who needs help with a technical edit for his pattern, because it's just one hour. But it actually is full of errors, it needs better cohesion in style and the charts make no sense.

And it definitely is TOO easy to say “oh, I made this little cowl in a couple of evenings, wrote the pattern… Why don't I offer it for free?”

Here is the thing… You've lost a weekend in the first example. Are you SURE that it's going to raise your profile enough to make up for the fact that you are getting paid a pittance?

The second example has not eaten “just 1 hour” of your time. It's 1 hour of looking over it, another making sense of it, minutes in emails, and an exchange of back-and-forth comments that extends over a week.

The third example… That's the one that hurts. Free patterns are great. But free patterns won't give you money.

I have had over 10k worth of downloads of my only free ravelry PDF pattern. I have had questions about it every month for 2 years, even if lots of people have made it without issues. Every question I answer is lost time that I never got paid for. If a pattern is paid for, and you have a question, you have a legitimate right to ask me about it (within limits, there comes a point that I may well say “find someone IRL who can help you in person since my words can't help you enough”). But with a free pattern, I have done lots of work, I've done photography, I've written it all out… And there is no return on investment.

I know. I know. Free is great and free is the only way some people first connected with knitting. BUT there is work behind that free pattern, and it doesn't always come with the popularity that we think it comes with.

The reason I publish freebies on my blog and not as a stand-alone PDF is this: it forces people to come visit me, they have to get through to my site to get the pattern. They increase my views. And in some cases, it may gain me readers that, once done with the pattern, may return for more. Because my free pattern blogposts are full of images and words peppered through the pattern text that can make you say “hey, I like Ruth, let me see what else she's written” (it could also make you think, “gosh you're awful, imma close this window righ now”… I hope not)

A stand-alone PDF will be downloaded. May be read once. You may work from it. And that is it.

So YES to freebies, within limits – limits that give you something too.

Same with workload. Apply limits.

Saying YES to everything, figuring out every which way you can wedge that new task into your day… Makes you feel like crap when it extends further than you thought, when you feel the compensation is not enough, or even worse, it takes advantage of your skills.

When a magazine offers to pay you a pittance for a fleshed-out design, you knit the sample yourself and pay for postage, yet you get zero input on the yarn being used, zero input on the way you want to shape it… And my most favorite of all, EXCLUSIVE rights… Please say NO.

Exclusive rights means you get paid once. They get to use and reuse your work time and again as they see fit. You get zero compensation for that abuse.

When someone asks to use your work “for publicity and exposure” say NO. Other than, I can't think of any other free pattern site that WILL give you exposure of the kind that makes up for the investment you put into your pattern.

Payment in real currency, offering compensation that measures up to the work I have done. Putting my name and descriptive text that actually feels like it was written by a human, next or above the design, my photo and name and contact info with the pattern… That's a bit better.“Exposure” should never be used as currency. Offering exposure in a print magazine that only has my name in little print under a photo of the design… It's not exposure. It's exploitation.

Say NO to taking advantage of you and your creativity.
Say YES to a career with income, with publicity and a future.