The creation of my site, WhoPaysKnitters, came about in April of 2016, after a disheartening incident with a yarn company. You can read the full account here, but the gist of it is that the yarn company presented an exploitative contract and did not welcome negotiations. When I developed WhoPaysKnitters, I thought: “What better way to turn a bad experience into good than to develop a website where freelancers in the fiber industry have a safe place to share their commission experiences and rates of pay.”

WhoPaysKnitters is a fast growing, crowd-sourced database for freelance knitwear and crochet designers, tech editors, sample knitters and teachers. An open community, users can submit rates of pay and leave reviews of their experiences with companies that commission freelance work. Freelancers are then able to use our database to gain a deeper understanding of company cultures and pay expectations. Companies, in turn, can use our database to see how they compare with their competition. By crowd-sourcing data, those working in the fiber industry can contribute to and gain a fuller picture of previously shadowed rates of pay.

A core value of WhoPaysKnitters is to cultivate a safe environment in which users feel comfortable sharing information without the fear of retribution or backlash from the companies reviewed. As such, anonymity is a cornerstone of our organization and the data we collect is clear of personally identifiable information. Although we are unable to prevent someone from submitting inaccurate reviews to our database, the veracity of our crowd-sourced data comes as more reviews are collected — outliers are easily identifiable.

Modeling the site after Who Pays Writers and Glassdoor, I came up with an initial submission form for designers, tech editors, sample knitters and teachers. After requesting feedback from Ravelry users (a social networking site for fiber enthusiasts and professionals), the forms evolved to what we use today. Because we wanted our users to be able to compare apples-to-apples, the information that we gather is extensive. In addition to the rate of pay, our forms also include items such as the design type, the yarn weight used, the primary fabric motif, the copyrights granted and the royalties received. With this information, our users are better prepared to enter into negotiations for a commission.
When I decided to create the site, I remembered my fear of retribution from publishers and yarn companies and wondered if I wasn’t committing career suicide by speaking out. As it turned out, my fears weren’t unique — numerous other freelancers have voiced their concern of being blacklisted after openly discussing their rates of pay and experiences working with various companies. The overall response to WhoPaysKnitters has been very positive, both by freelancers and the companies who contract with them. While some companies are still figuring out how to handle the emergence of WhoPaysKnitters, many others have welcomed the opportunity to discuss the issue of fair wages and commission policies with their freelancers.
WhoPaysKnitters isn’t a replacement for the personal connections and professional esteem gained through hard work and good designs.
Our goal is simply to shorten the learning curve when it comes to pay and contract negotiations for both new and established designers. What has taken me years (and a few missteps) to learn through experience, networking and research is now easily accessible through our crowd-sourced database and bi-monthly articles.

I received my first design commission from a major publication in 2012 and was elated, but unsure of how to proceed when the editor asked how much I wanted for the design. After Internet searches came up empty, and I was unable to find any information on Ravelry, I asked a couple of designer contacts I had made at knitting conferences. While having those connections was helpful, I was still unsure of whether I was being compensated appropriately for the time and talent that went into the work. Today, because of WhoPaysKnitters, freelancers are empowered with the knowledge of the going rate for a design and encouraged to ask for it in their contracts. As an established designer, having the ability to look at what others are being paid has helped me know that I am being paid competitively, and has directed me to the companies that are the best to work for. Companies benefit from WhoPaysKnitters by attracting high quality talent as a result of reviews showing that they treat their freelancers fairly and pay them a living wage.

As an advocate of fair (living) wages in the fiber industry, WhoPaysKnitters educates our users on the importance of negotiating contracts and empowers them to ask for what they are worth. While knitting was initially a male-only occupation, today the majority of freelancers in the fiber industry are women. Unfortunately, in today’s society we know that women’s work is undervalued and that women typically do not negotiate their contracts. WhoPaysKnitters is taking the stigma out of contract negotiations by normalizing it as part of the contract process. Negotiations don’t mean one side getting everything, but both sides being happy with the end result. Negotiations need not only be about the fee paid, but can also include things such as deadlines, ownership of the sample, the length of rights granted and royalty percentages.
There are a number of ways to shear the sheep and we are learning even more through the responses to our submission forms.
Shortly after WhoPaysKnitters went live, fellow designers Hannah Thiessen and Danielle Chalson joined the team. Thiessen, our staff writer, authors bi-monthly articles that focus on topics that educate and empower those working in the fiber industry. Chalson, a patent lawyer and strong advocate of empowering women to negotiate pay, acts as our sounding board and contributes ideas for article topics. As the founder, I provide administrative oversight of operations, act as the editor for our articles, and provide the strategic direction of our organization. Together we meet to discuss the future of WhoPaysKnitters and brainstorm how the organization can be most beneficial to our users.

As WhoPaysKnitters grows and evolves, we are working toward adding an analytical component to our website so that the information that we display is easily manipulated. Using data visualization tools and dashboards, we hope to be able to layer information so that users can answer such questions as, “Which companies are the highest rated for sweater designs using worsted weight yarn?” Currently, WhoPaysKnitter’s technological infrastructure is primarily self-funded, but does include occasional small donations and revenue from advertisements. All work done on the site has been voluntary. As we move toward an analytical component, we plan to introduce a subscription service to help pay for the work that goes into creating the layered information, but we will continue to upload and display the information as it is currently found on our website for free.

WhoPaysKnitters is an important contributor to the fair-wage discussion in the fiber industry. However, our site is only as good as those who contribute to it. I’d like to encourage you to visit WhoPaysKnitters and submit your rate information. Together, we can raise the tide and make sure that freelancers in our industry are compensated fairly for their work and that good companies are recognized and rewarded with high quality submissions from designers, tech editors, sample knitters and teachers.

Alex Capshaw-Taylor

Alex Capshaw-Taylor

Alex Capshaw-Taylor’s goal as a designer and knitting instructor is to get people excited about knitting. She creates garments and accessories that are fresh, fashion forward, and figure flattering. Her hand knitwear designs have beautifully tailored silhouettes that combine color and texture with an attention to detail, fit, and construction. When Alex is not in her studio designing or in a local yarn shop teaching, you can find her globe trekking in search of inspiration.

Look for Alex’s work on the pages of Interweave Knits, Knitscene, Knit.Wear, and Knit Simple. Her first book, Dressed in Knits, is now available at your local yarn shop and bookstores everywhere.

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