9 Lessons I Learned Starting a Crochet Business (+ my tips!)

I’ve been on the craziest roller coaster ride in the last two years since I started my crochet business in the summer of 2020. It’s had some crazy highs, periods of burnout, feeling lost, inadequate, and overwhelmed, but also feeling completely fulfilled beyond what I could have ever imagined.

I began this journey with a simple goal: make money from crocheting through any means possible.

At the very beginning, I told myself that I would try to make money from crocheting for one year. I knew that starting a business would be a lot of work up front and that I would be unlikely to see any results for a long time, but I decided that if after a year I still didn’t have anything to show for it, I would let myself move on.

This was really effective for me because it helped me not focus on the immediate results, especially in those early months that were the absolute hardest to get through. In the beginning, I had no idea how I would make any money, so focusing on building an audience and developing my design skills helped lay the groundwork without stressing too much about the monetization aspect.

It took me six months to see any money, but by the one year mark, I was averaging about $1,000/month. Not bad for a venture that I thought would be surefire failure!

When it was time for me to reevaluate, I was making enough money for me to feel confident about “renewing my contract” with myself and continuing to work on my business.

Everyone says that the first year of working on a business is the hardest, and in my experience that’s extremely true. It’s the time when you’re probably working the most, while also making no money and getting no recognition. Compared to now, almost two years later, I’ve built so many systems for myself that I work much less hard, and in exchange I not only make profit but also get kind messages from people who enjoy my work and support from fellow artists.

The first few months were so tough on me psychologically (when I was working near non-stop with nothing to show) that as each week crawled by and I got a tiny bit better at designing or I hit the smallest milestones, I would think to myself “thank god I never have to do the 3rd month of a new business again,” or “thank god I never have to learn how to do xxx again.” It’s the little things, right?

Now that you have some backstory, let’s jump in and I’m going to tell you about nine hard won lessons I learned from starting my crochet business, as well as a few tips along the way.

1. Focus on passive income instead of active income

When I first started trying to make money from crocheting, I took a look around on Instagram and Google to see how people were already doing it. The first thought that I had — and maybe you’ve had — is that I would sell finished amigurumi that I had made. There seemed to be a lot of people doing so on Etsy and occasionally people would also comment on my Instagram account asking if I sold my creations.

However, after doing a little bit more research into how much I might be able to make with selling finished products, I realized the answer was not much. In fact, it didn’t look as if I would ever be able to pay myself even minimum wage for the amount of time I spent making each amigurumi, and I knew for a fact that I found making the same pattern over and over again quite repetitive.

I even wrote up a detailed breakdown in this blog post of real life examples of people selling their wares on Etsy, and how they made sweatshop wages and didn’t even clear any profit.

The other thing that turned me off from trying to start a business based in selling physical products is that I didn’t like how my time was inextricably linked to money. To make any amount of money, I had to put in a fixed amount of time. This meant that assuming I didn’t keep raising my prices, I would always have a cap on how much I could make. Further, it meant that I would spend all my time crocheting amigurumi to sell, and if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t make any money. This is called active income because you have to be active (do work) to earn an income.

So what’s an aspiring crochet entrepreneur to do?

I looked around some more, and it seemed like there were a lot of people who were making substantial money (it seemed) from crochet blogging and selling crochet patterns.

I was already interested in design and had made a few of my own, but this was my cue to go all in on it.

Selling digital crochet patterns appealed to me because even though it would be a lot more work to design amigurumi patterns than just to make them, I could sell that pattern forever without putting in any more time. This is called passive income because you technically don’t have to do any more work to make money. Obviously, you have to do some amount of work, but the work you do is not really linked to the amount of money you make.

For example, my top pattern on Etsy has made a total of $601.32 as of writing. No one would ever pay me $600 for a finished product of mine, and the best part is that I can keep selling this pattern forever even though I designed it years ago and won’t have to do anything further to keep selling it.

By the way, if you want to grab my PDF template for writing patterns, head over to this post for the free download and my tips on writing a good pattern!

Of course, there are lots of patterns that don’t do as well (I have several patterns that have never sold a single time), but the potential for total revenue is a lot higher than if I was selling finished products.

Even if I choose not to design a pattern for a few weeks or months, I still make a regular income from Etsy from people buying patterns that I designed ages ago. How great is that?

If I made an amigurumi and sold it to a customer, that time I spent making it is gone forever except for the money I made that one time. See how passive income is so incredible?

After figuring out that making finished products was not the way to go, I started exploring passive income strategies as much as possible. I decided to become an amigurumi designer and spent much of the first year honing my design and pattern writing skills and churning out design after design.

My takeaway

If you’re trying to make a crochet business as a long term side hustle that could potentially replace your full time income, look for passive income strategies. If you’re fine with having a limit on total income and just want to make a few extra bucks, go ahead and sell your crochet products. Keep in mind that it takes significantly longer to build a passive income business, so only go this route if you feel like you can commit at least a year.

My first pattern!

2. Build a stable business by diversifying revenue streams

After I got my business up and running, I had a new fear (can’t catch a break, amiright?). Now that I was actually making money, I was terrified that one day I would wake up and it would disappear. It seemed like a miracle that I was making money at all, so I didn’t feel at all confident that I would be able to maintain it.

Here’s a secret: at the very beginning of my business, over 90% of my income was made through brand sponsorships, most of them through a single company.

When I first secured the brand partnership, it was incredibly validating of the progress I had made in amigurumi design as well as in the audience that I had painstakingly built on Instagram. I finally had proof that I could make real money designing amigurumi and it lit a fire under me like nothing else.

However, I also realized that although it was great to be making money, it was incredibly unstable to only make money from one revenue stream.

What if that company ended up not wanting to work with me anymore or just ran out of budget?

I felt like I was teetering on one stilt, terrified that the one support underneath me would give out and I would be back to square one with zero, zilch, nada.

That’s when I realized how important it was to diversify my income. That’s just a fancy way of saying that you need to make money from a bunch of different sources at the same time, so that if you lose any one of them you’ll still be mostly fine. While it’s semi likely that you might lose one source of income, the more sources you have the more unlikely it will be that you will lose all of them. And that’s how you can build a stable business.

I didn’t want to be on one stilt, I wanted to be firmly seated on a chair that had four legs so that I wouldn’t fall.

I made it my goal to try to find as many more streams of income as possible so that I could make sure that my business would be sustainable long term, so that if that company ended up commissioning me for less work I would still be okay (spoiler alert, they did — but because I diversified my income, I barely felt the hit!).

To diversify my income, I worked on these areas:

  • Growing my Etsy shop by adding more patterns and optimizing for Etsy Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Starting a blog and gaining lots of traffic through Google SEO, then monetize with ads
  • Signing up with affiliate programs like Shareasale and make money through affiliate marketing
  • Creating pattern bundles and selling them through email marketing
  • Submitting designs with magazines and earning a commission

All of these pursuits have meant that now I feel much more confident and stable about my business because I have my fingers in a lot of different pies. When the company that I was working with put a cap on how often they worked with designers, I lost a lot of income in that area. However, it didn’t destroy my business because I was growing all of these other revenue streams that made up for it and gave me a sense of security.

In the future, I’m interested in growing all of the revenue streams that I talked about above but I also want to grow in these areas:

  • Keep driving traffic to my blog and qualify for ad networks that pay more, like Mediavine
  • Focus a lot more on my YouTube channel and monetize there using AdSense

My takeaway

The crochet design landscape is always changing. Algorithms on Instagram and Etsy are rarely there to benefit individual creators, and you should always make sure that you have diversified income so that if something completely tanks then you can still survive. You also have a much higher earning potential if you make money in many different areas than just one!

3. Most of your time is spent on the business part, not crocheting

Y’all, when I first started out designing amigurumi I had a fantasy that I would get to spend all day indulging in my creativity and making anything that came to mind.

I didn’t realize that the word crochet business is only half crochet — the other half is business. Yes, I do get to have some amazing moments when I had a pattern come out exactly the way that I dreamed. And one of my favorite parts of my business remains taking an idea from sketch to reality.

Here are some of my favorite designs!

However, the big caveat is that even when I’m working on the crochet part of my business I’m usually not actually crocheting. Pattern writing, communicating with testers, and publishing to the world takes a lot of time.

And that’s not even getting into the business part — I would estimate that I spend 70-80% of the time working on business things, and only the remaining 20-30% doing things that are even tangentially related to crocheting.

As a quick snapshot, here are the things I spend the most time on when running my business, ranked in order of how much time they consume:

  1. Creating content for my blog
  2. Learning about how to grow my business through taking courses and using free resources
  3. Writing courses and ebooks
  4. Posting on Instagram and managing Instagram
  5. Email marketing
  6. Writing, testing, and publishing patterns on Etsy and my personal shop
  7. Designing patterns (crocheting)
  8. Taking and editing photos and videos for IG, YouTube, and TikTok
  9. Running sales
  10. Affiliate marketing
  11. Submitting to magazines

As you can see, the vast majority of items on this list do not include actual crocheting. And designing patterns only comes in the middle of this list, after so many other tasks that take up the lion’s share of my time.

Given how much work I have to do just to keep my business afloat, I use tons of tools and apps to help me schedule social media posts, do email marketing, and write my patterns. I wrote all of them down for you in the Designer Resources section of this page!

My takeaway

Starting a crochet business is a lot more business than crochet. This can be either a good thing or bad thing to you, but just know that you won’t be spending most of your time with a hook and yarn in hand.

4. Most people won’t understand your business, and that’s okay

If I had a dime for every time I told someone I had a crochet business and they said “do you sell crochet?” I would probably… still not be rich, but I bet I would at least have a jarful of dimes!

I can’t deny that my business is a little weird. Most of the things that I’m doing now to make money I never knew about before I started, and as a Gen Z person who grew up with the internet, that’s saying something!

Usually the most comprehensible part of my business is the fact that companies and magazines sometimes commission me for patterns, and also that I sell digital patterns online. However, to say that this is the extent of my business would be selling myself short given the amount of time and effort I put into learning about blogging, SEO, digital marketing, and everything else.

I’m not going to lie, even when someone is more understanding than usual and tries to look supportive and excited for me, it gives me a little pang of sadness that most people just have no idea what I’m doing or how big of a deal it is to me.

Without breaking out my income reports, it’s hard for me to say:

“I’m an artist and an entrepreneur, and not a starving artist either. I’m making enough money to pay my rent and I fully see myself growing this into a six figure business one day. And oh yeah, I make money mostly from ads, selling digital products including crochet patterns, and also through email marketing and affiliate marketing. Being an influencer and content creator is part of my business, but it’s not the entire business. Got it?”

Yeah… no wonder I’ve decided to go with an easier explanation. These days, I try not to lead with “crochet business” because I’ve learned that inevitably people jump to the conclusion that I’m selling my crochet works, when what I’m really doing is probably better characterized as blogging, being a digital marketing entrepreneur, or just making money online through basically all possible ways.

The other issue with leading with “crochet business” or “artist” is that most people also assume that I’m making a couple hundred dollars a month at best. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with that amount of money, but I feel like that assumption leads people to take me less seriously than I do. I’ve spent almost two years at this point working for about 20 hours a week even during school because I see so much potential in this business to become a full time gig one day, which leads me to take it insanely seriously. It really grinds my gears that others might hear about it and assume that it’s just a little side hobby that I’m claiming is a business.

But anyway, aside from the rant, I’ve since realized that it’s okay if other people don’t understand my business, because I understand. And I don’t need someone else’s permission or acceptance to be freaking awesome! Other people’s opinions don’t mean anything about me, and it doesn’t change any of the facts about what I do.

My takeaway

Starting any kind of business is a little bit lonely because it’s scary to be doing something all on your own that might not work out. It’s even more lonely if it’s not something that most people understand, or don’t get why you would spend so much time working on without a tangible return (yet). The most important thing is to keep an ironclad faith in yourself and realize that other people don’t know what you know, which is that your business is viable and that everything, no matter how big, was built one step at a time.

The best part of this gig is that I get an excuse to buy tiny furniture, no questions asked! (Okay, maybe some questions)

5. It’s okay to take a break from social media

During my first year of working on my business, I was on Instagram all the time. I spent probably hours on it every day engaging with the crochet community, chatting with other designers, replying to comments, and posting on my stories.

At the time, this was great for me because I quickly fell into the amigurumi community and I loved being able to interact with so many designers and makers who loved the same thing I did. I also had a vague notion that building a following on Instagram would help my business in some way, so I spent tons of time on the app trying to drum up an audience.

About a year in, I had successfully built a small following, but I had begun to feel the negative effects of Instagram. I would feel anxious about my posts not doing well, feel vaguely jealous of other designers who seemed to effortlessly gain tons of followers overnight, feel inadequate because I thought my designs weren’t as good as other people’s, you know the deal.

It’s no secret that social media, and Instagram especially, is a comparison trap meant to incite negative feelings in you while also making you addicted to the app.

For most people, this would probably be the point where I would suggest you take a break and not post for a while, but in my mind, this wasn’t an option for me. After all, I had a business to run! If I didn’t post on my stories that day, would my followers even remember that I existed?

I struggled with this toxic relationship with a couple months before I realized that the mere act of opening the app made me unhappy afterwards, and decided to delete it. I had been scheduling posts on my laptop for a while so I didn’t strictly need the app on my phone anymore, but it meant that I couldn’t post stories anymore.

At this point I have to admit that even though Instagram seemed to have a mystical hold on me where I thought that if I just gained a few thousand more followers, opportunities and income would magically rain from the sky, very little of my income was actually directly related to Instagram.

I had gained my brand sponsorships from my Instagram presence, but that had been when I had around 1,000 followers and nothing new had happened since then. Occasionally brands would offer to send me free yarn in exchange for a post, but to me this didn’t equate to actual money and I didn’t really want to keep accumulating yarn.

When I deleted the app and stopped posting stories or even engaging too much with commenters, nothing really happened.

My posts took a small hit in terms of how many people commented, but that was because normal Instagram etiquette was to comment on your friends’ posts and then would comment on yours. Because I was spending almost no time on Instagram, I wouldn’t comment on anyone else’s posts and so they stopped commenting on mine as well.

However, I didn’t really lose too much engagement and in fact kept gaining followers. I had about the same number of posts become popular and ended up hitting 10k followers in early 2022 after not having the app for six months. To me, this was all the proof I needed: after a certain point, you don’t really need to be on Instagram. Especially if it’s not directly making you money.

I had assumed that Instagram was driving me some sort of traffic to my blog and Etsy shop, but when I last checked I had gained around 400 visits in the last month from Instagram, whereas I got over 24,000 visits from Google. Instagram was only driving me about 1% of my total traffic (30k visits). Oof.

And that’s when I realized, the three hours a day I used to spend on Instagram was a total waste.

Now, I know that some people manage to sustain their businesses through driving traffic from Instagram, but I also know that it takes substantial effort every day while driving traffic from Google for me is a lot easier and beneficial. Honestly, it seems like most people who do well on Instagram have managed to go viral in some way, and to me, “going viral” is not a business strategy.

My takeaway

I wouldn’t recommend not having an Instagram presence at all, because it is one of the biggest social media marketing platforms out there, but just know that if you get burned out on it, it’s okay to take a break. Just make sure you’ve diversified your traffic so that you don’t have to rely only on one platform!

For some reason whenever I post this photo on IG it gets over 10k likes and I gain 500 followers. I don’t know what to tell you ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

6. Remember why you started and use your north star to guide your strategy

At some point in the last two years, I became extremely anxious about all the things I wasn’t doing. Instagram was pushing Reels and TikTok had just become extremely popular, I tried to submit to magazines all the time and I was trying to figure out Pinterest and… and.. and… it all became too much for me.

I’m sure everyone has had this experience of having too much on your plate and feeling like you have to do everything (perfectly!).

I had to stop and reevaluate what I should keep on pursuing and what I should stop. It’s pretty easy to stop doing something that isn’t working, but there were always lots of things that I was doing that seemed like they were working (see above on Instagram) or felt like they could work… if I just gave it more time. Not to mention, lots of things that I really felt like I should get going on (like TikTok and YouTube).

There’s always so much to do and it often feels like you’re failing just by not doing them (even if you’re doing everything else fairly well!). However, I had to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t keep expecting that I would be able to do everything that I wanted to do, and I needed a method to figure out what was most important.

Enter the north star strategy.

What’s a north star? Your north star is your why, your guiding principle, or the reason you started in the first place.

When trying to figure out what the most important thing is in a sea of things that all seem equally important, this is how you can figure out what you should prioritize.

This can be different for everyone, depending on your north star.

For some people, their north star might be making the most amount of profit possible. For them, maybe they should be chasing virality on TikTok and Instagram and trying to make the most popular amigurumi. For others, their north star might be trying to make a little side income to cover the cost of their materials. For them, starting a blog probably wouldn’t be worth it because it’s way too much effort and doesn’t fit with their vision.

For me, my north star means:

  • sustainability
  • financial independence
  • creative fulfillment

I actually have these written down underneath my business to-do list so that I never lose sight of what’s most important to me.

The most important thing to me is sustainability. That means that I can keep working on my business for a long time without becoming burned out. Because this is part of my north star, it meant that I decided not to be on too many platforms at once.

In terms of the best possible business strategy to maximize profit, of course I would be on every single platform churning out content that would be the best for the algorithm every waking hour of my life. But guess what, that’s just not sustainable for me as a human being. Just being on Instagram made me feel burned out, let alone any other platforms.

I made the conscious choice to prioritize my ability to keep working on my business over my ability to grow as quickly as possible. Because of this, I prefer passive income strategies that help me not burn out, and the ones I use the most are ones that allow me to be the most time efficient like blogging and email marketing over social media marketing.

My second most important aspect of my north star is financial independence. I started my business with the long term goal of becoming an extremely profitable side hustle, with the hope of going full time with it eventually.

That means that I want to eventually become a six figure blog, which is no easy feat. In order to make this amount of money, I had to pursue passive income over active income, and also invest a significant amount of time and energy into working on this business. I also am constantly evaluating how to scale up my business (again while making sure I don’t burn out) so that I can get to the level I want. However, because sustainability is so important to me, I have accepted that it might take me a little longer to get here than I otherwise might.

Finally, I want my business to have creative fulfillment. This goal also somewhat clashes with the goal of financial independence, because to be honest, sometimes the designs I want to create are not really what will sell the best.

For example, after I started designing amigurumi I discovered that I really love creating dolls, especially of fictional and real life figures. However, these patterns have been some of the lowest performing for me, and my audience prefers teddy bears and animal designs. But if I only made the designs that I thought would sell the best, or chase whatever was hot at the moment (I’m looking at you, baby Yoda), then it would cause burn out in me.

It takes a lot of effort to conceive of a creative vision and then to bring it to life, and I’ve discovered that unless I have a genuine passion to make every little detail perfect then I end up doing a haphazard job and disappoint myself.

This issue recently came to pass when the company who commissions patterns from me was paying extra for giant amigurumi made from jumbo velvet yarn. These amigurumi have been tremendously popular recently, and although I don’t enjoy making them as much because they aren’t as detailed as my normal designs, I gave it a fair shot.

After a couple months and almost ten designs, I decided that the strain of laboring over designs that I just personally didn’t love wasn’t cutting it for me. I decided to forego the extra profit in favor of embracing my creative fulfillment to make designs that made my heart sing, and I believe that was the best decision I could have made.

My takeaway

If you are clear on your north star, then it will help you narrow down all the options and decisions you can make. It will also make sure that you always feel like you’re honoring yourself in your heart of hearts, and are not swayed by the actions of others who are following their own north stars.

My north star also includes making adorable fluffies like this cutie <3

7. Never stop learning

If you don’t like learning, starting a business isn’t for you. I’m serious — I’ve had to learn constantly since I started this journey of mine, from paid courses, free resources, friends, industry leaders, books, podcasts, blog posts, and more.

I’m truly obsessed with learning everything there is to know about starting an online business and the amount of resources I’ve invested my time and money in are a testament to that.

Especially since the online landscape changes so fast, I truly believe that if you don’t learn, then you don’t grow. (Or in many cases, you don’t keep up.)

Although learning might seem like a no-brainer, something that isn’t is my conviction that investing in yourself and your business is essential to growing.

I was very apprehensive to spend any real money, especially when I first started, because I hadn’t made any money yet and also because it felt like so much money for what was basically a pipe dream at that point.

Since that first course, I’ve spent almost $3,000 in various courses to help me level up my business, and without these I would never have a thriving blog or business.

I’m sure that there are some duds out there, and I don’t expect each new resource I purchase to be a silver bullet that magically makes my business into an overnight success, but these courses have given me a return far, far higher than the amount I paid.

When I think about starting a new course, I remember that I want to be the kind of person who invests in herself, and if the cost of that is a course that isn’t exactly what I wanted, so be it. I’m still committed to trying to stretch myself and see what other people have to offer. After all, if the course doesn’t work out, I’ve just lost some money, but if it does and I didn’t get it, I lost the potential for my wildest dreams to come true.

My takeaway

Take every chance to learn and don’t be afraid to invest in yourself!

8. Those who don’t respect you don’t deserve respect

Here’s one that’s a little more of a downer. Since I’ve started my blog and grown my audience I’ve encountered my fair share of nasty comments from people who have chosen to take it out on me.

These run the gamut from people telling me that I’m cheating them because the pattern bundle I listed was apparently a few dollars more than what 80% off strictly comes out to (I’m not lying about this one) to people who DM me on Instagram and say that I’m lying because my pattern wasn’t free. (It was, they just didn’t look on Google.)

I can’t make this stuff up, y’all. Here’s one of the emails I mentioned:

The listing she’s referring to is this one and she actually miscounted the number of patterns (there are 9).

When I just started these comments were a rude awakening and quite a shock to absorb. Most people rarely have people accusing them of being liars and cheaters in their day to day life and to receive emails and DMs to this tune is extremely jarring.

However, I’ve realized that it’s part of the terrain that comes with being someone who puts herself out there online. I’ve learned that many view any public people or brands as inherently faceless and thus feel licensed to spew all manner of vitriol in their direction.

So if you’re in this position and feel really alarmed about the comments you’re getting, let me be the first to let you know that people are just mean on the internet. End of story. It doesn’t mean anything about you.

My takeaway

My general rule in this area is that if someone isn’t being respectful of you, then they don’t deserve your respect. And yes, there is definitely a way to tell someone that they’ve made an error while being respectful — I hope I don’t have to tell you that.

9. Starting this business is incredibly empowering and it is so, so worth it

To conclude this extremely long post, I wanted to say that starting this business has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Possibly the best.

I don’t know how it ends, but so far the experience of building something all on my own and have it make real money to help me pay off my loans and put money into savings has given a sense of confidence and purpose that I’ve never experienced before.

I feel like I have a real ability to control my future, my income, and my life, and I have a huge sense of confidence in my follow through and myself in general. I trust myself to get things done and to have my own back because I have so much evidence for what I’m capable of.

I love developing my artistic ability and to design patterns that I truly adore, and I love seeing other makers recreate my designs and helping them in their crochet journey.

All the long hours and anxiety has been completely worth it and I hope to still be doing this for the next many years.

My takeaway

If you’re thinking about it, just go for it. You’ll be challenged beyond anything you can imagine but you’ll also learn to trust yourself and build a strength that no one else can question.

Thanks for reading!