Okay, now you’ve seriously considered whether the benefits of testing or fabric promotion are worth your time and investment. So you need to figure out how to get your foot in the door!
** Note: If you don’t know what pattern testing is or how it generally works, Seams Like Style is running a pattern testing series that runs through more of the basics than we do. She writes about pattern testing and what it is here, and the nitty gritty of how the process generally works here.**
In Part 2 of this series, we will walk through some tips on doing just that — getting noticed by an indie designer and getting your first shot at testing a pattern or tackling that strike off!
First: Get on Facebook
This is not an ad for Facebook, and we know a lot of people hate it. So it pains us to say it, but if you really want to test indie sewing patterns or promote indie fabric, you need to be on Facebook.
There are very few indie designers who don’t use Facebook in some capacity for testing. Even designers who don’t have Facebook groups use it to run their testing groups. Sure, they may be willing to accommodate a great tester who is adamantly opposed to Facebook, but when you’re trying to get your foot in the door, you want to make it as easy as possible for them.
As for fabric promotion, most custom fabric groups have a strong Facebook presence and rely heavily on Facebook for promotion. If you want in that club, you have to be willing to play.
Look, we’re not saying that you have to join Facebook and start putting your whole life out there for everyone to see (we don’t do that either!). But you need a basic profile, and preferably some level of involvement that shows you are interested in sewing.
Second: Target a Few Specific Designers
We definitely love sewing patterns and fabric from ALL the indie designers! But our next tips are going to be easier to execute if you choose just a few to target.
How to decide which designers to target:
- Choose designers with a strong Facebook presence — they are simply more likely to have more frequent open testing calls.
- Choose designers whose patterns or fabrics you love (and maybe already own). You will need to start sewing up and sharing their patterns or fabrics, so make sure you like them.
- Choose designers who release patterns or collections fairly regularly. Designers work at different rates. Some design as a side hustle and have a full time job as well. These designers tend to release fewer new products every year. Some have small kids who keep them busy, and for some pattern or fabric design is their full-time job. To get your foot in the door for the first time, you want as many opportunities as possible, so choose designers who release new patterns or collections frequently.
- Choose designers who actually do open testing calls. Not all designers do. Some have a group of established testers they use for every test. It’s harder to get in with those designers.
Third: Interact With Your Target Designers
You can’t realistically be expected to be chosen to test a pattern if the designer you want to test for doesn’t know who you are! I mean, think about it — when a designer posts on Facebook that she needs to fill 2 tester slots to test very specific sizes, she will have literally hundreds of commenters vying for those two spots. That is not the way to get your opportunity!
Instead, interact with the designers on a regular basis. That way when the testing call comes around and you throw your hat in the ring, the designer has some context for you. When a designer is sorting through hundreds of testing applications, it’s good if you stand out in some way.
Ways to Interact with Designers:
- Share your makes in Facebook groups and tag the designer. Share in the designer’s group if they have one, but also share in more general groups.
- Share your makes on Instagram and tag the designer. Also be sure to use appropriate hashtags for the pattern.
- Share your makes on Instagram stories and tag the designer.
- Comment on the designer’s posts on Facebook.
- Comment on the designer’s posts on Instagram.
- Respond to the designer’s Instagram stories. Most designers we interact with are great about reading their DMs and responding to them.
- Comment on the designer’s blog posts. Blogging has changed dramatically in recent years, and it always feels great to get blog comments.
- Reach out by e-mail. Designers are people too and usually pretty nice people. If you have a question or feedback, don’t hesitate to shoot them a quick email. If it feels right, you could even reach out with a request to test a pattern or promote a fabric. After all, the worst they can say is no, right??
Fourth: Sew a Variety of Patterns & Fabrics
Okay, so we just told you to target a few target designers, so this may seem like an about-face. But we promise it’s not!
In addition to sewing up patterns from and interacting with your target designers, sew up a variety of patterns in a variety of fabrics from a variety of designers. The purpose of this advice is to show that you have some range as a sewist. If you never sew anything beyond raglans tees in cotton spandex, you look like a one-trick pony. Even if you’re capable of sewing a fancy ballgown complete with full lining and boning, the designer your targeting never sees that. So branch out — you might have fun in the process!
It’s also good to try out different pattern designers. Not only will this help you get known in a variety of sewing groups (important for promo later on), but it will give you some experience to pull from on different ways to execute techniques, different ways to write instructions, and so on. That knowledge is ultimately helpful to whoever you’re testing for.
Fifth: Have a Platform to Share Your Makes
You choose what platform you prefer, but most indie pattern and fabric designers are going to give preference to people who have a platform and audience with whom to share their makes. Indie pattern and fabric companies are small (sometimes very small) companies with very limited marketing budgets. They frequently rely on their testers to help with marketing and promotion after the product releases.
You are welcome to have your own thoughts on providing free marketing services to indie pattern and fabric companies (we have ours, too). But the reality is that it is generally understood to be part and parcel of a pattern tester or strike off sewist’s job.
Good Platforms for Sharing:
- Facebook — make sure you’re sharing in general groups as well as in the designer’s own group. It’s nice if the designer you hope to work with knows that you can reach people beyond those who already like them.
- Instagram — Instagram is such a visual platform, which makes it perfect for sewing promotion!
- Personal Blog — Blogs still have a place. Facebook is quick and dirty and Instagram is visual, but on a blog you can get into the nitty gritty of the pattern or fabric.
Sixth: Take and Share Decent Photos
Our post on Friday will be dedicated solely to this! But it still needs a quick mention here. As I said earlier, many pattern and fabric designers will depend on their test sewists for marketing help. And for that, they need you to have decent photos. I’m not saying you have to be a professional photographer — just bright, clear photos preferably taken outside or inside in natural light. The bathroom mirror selfies are great when you need to ask for fitting advice (I do that myself), but not so great for promo.
Seventh: Don’t Publicly Dis on Indie Designers
Look, we are all for constructive criticism, but be nice and professional about it. If you have serious criticism of any indie pattern or fabric collection — DO e-mail the designer and offer that criticism (and hopefully a potential solution). DON’T go on a Facebook rant about the awful pattern that was a total waste of your time and fabric.
The designer you’re ranting about may not be one you want to test for, but it doesn’t matter. If you think designers don’t talk to each other — you are just wrong. In fact, there are secret Facebook groups limited to indie designers where they can go find help and support from other designers. That’s a small and close knit community, so if you want to test you don’t want to be on anyone’s sh%& list.
Eighth: Know Your Limits
Once you establish yourself as a great pattern tester or fabric promoter, more opportunities are likely to come your way. Mac and I don’t test patterns very often anymore, and rarely even apply for testing. And there’s a reason for that. We’ve both done enough work to establish ourselves as great testers that we know that when we apply, it’s highly likely we be accepted into the testing group. For that reason, we don’t even apply unless we REALLY want to test.
A few limits to establish:
- How many tests can you handle at one time? I don’t like to test more than one pattern at a time, but some people will take on 5 or 6 at a time. That sounds completely overwhelming to me, so think about how much you can handle at once.
- What time frame do you need to complete a test? Some designers give 2 weeks to complete a test, and some only give a few days. Personally I like to have at least a week and preferably two. But I will occasionally take on a test with a short turnaround time.
- Know when to say no. Sometimes an opportunity comes and you just have to say no. If there are other things going on in your life, you may not have the time to test. And that’s ok. Designers are people and they know you are too. You are much less likely to close doors by being honest and declining an opportunity you don’t have time to do well than by stretching yourself too thin and doing a poor job, or worse, not finishing at all.
- And if you do have to back out, be honest and do it graciously. As I noted above, designers know that you are people and things come up. I was originally a tester for the Itch to Stitch La Paz Jacket but had to back out in the middle of the testing period. My oldest got very, very sick and ended up hospitalized for a week right in the middle of the test. I was honest with Kennis about my situation and limitations. She was so kind and gracious even though I was backing out in the middle of a difficult pattern test. I have tested for Kennis since then, and I’m sure being honest and up front helped maintain my credibility.
Do you have any great tips that we missed?? Tell us in the comments!
And don’t forget to read the other parts of our series! Part one on the benefits of testing and fabric promotion is here. Stay tuned on Friday for Part 3 — our photo tips to create your own sewing portfolio 🙂