"A personal brand is essential": Q&A with Julia Riede (part II)

This is the second part of an email interview with astonishingly productive designer/writer/nuclear physicist Julia Riede. Read part I here.

5. Since you published your first patterns in 2008, what changes have you noticed online? And what’s changed for your own business? 
Lots! You can easily spot these changes on Ravelry just by looking at the development of their user base. Knitting came into focus again, after it got the granny hobby stamp once the knitting boom of the 1980s had vanished. It’s not considered to be old-fashioned any more and I quite like this.
I notice a lot of new people are publishing patterns, which is a good thing. I like diversity. For my own business, the book Shawl Design in Plain English (more details below! – R) made the biggest change. It was a big thing, even though I consider it to be almost embarrassing now how much is NOT included in it! I’m working on the second edition, which will be published this summer and I’m taking this much more seriously. Like, having a tech editor who is actually paid for his work. 

6. What did you expect to achieve when you first started designing? Do you think you’ve met those goals, or perhaps surpassed them?
I didn’t expect much. When I published my first pattern, I just wanted to share the lovely socks I created because although the stitch pattern was so simple, they looked so beautiful and complicated.
As soon as I dived into shawl design and figured out how it was done, I wanted to share this knowledge, which I hope to achieve with my shawl design course series. (And it seems I met this goal, at least. But there’s still lots to do.)
Speaking frankly, I would love to make a solid income with my knitting and related activities by the end of this year, fully supporting my family and my planned return to university. No idea whether it will work out. In February, I started to take my blog more seriously – providing valuable content in a consistent manner, which turned out to be a huge traffic boost (I’ll share details within the next weeks, in a blog post dedicated to my experience and results). I started to implement standard online marketing techniques too and the results are more than promising.  

7. You’ve been publishing a free – and wonderfully extensive! – blog course on shawl design, looking at all the shape possibilities, but also have a book for sale, Shawl Design in Plain English. Tell us about the book and what else it contains.
To be honest, I think the book in its original form was perfectly okay for the time of publication (in early 2012) but I have kind of grown out of it. It had a tech editor, I had lots of test knitters, but still there are lots of issues with wording and formatting, not to speak of pattern errors that have been pointed out.
The book has now been replaced with the second edition, which is a three-volume book series on shawl design, introducing 10 new shawl shapes (including pattern templates) and new example patterns, too. This time I’m smarter than last time and actually pay my editors, so I can blame them for any errors people may find! 
The first volume, covering simple shawl shapes (squares, stoles, triangles and derivatives) is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions (available soon), as well as on my blog

8. You’re pretty active on social media (Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, as well as your blog). How important do you think it is to have a “personal brand” online? What does that mean to you? What’s the balance between self-expression and business promotion?
That’s a really good question.
What does it take to create a personal brand? The answer is simple, but fierce: Authority. Authority is created by sharing great content and creating awesome products, not calling yourself an authority in your field. Great content is what your readers consider to be useful for them. Awesome products are products your customers love, not the ones you prefer personally. 
Just think about this simple question: you got $7 to spend on a knitting pattern. Whose patterns would you choose? Would you rather buy a pattern created by a designer that is well-known and respected for his or her reputation, or would you purchase one of a designer you never heard of before, who has no reputation at all, and where you have no clue about the quality of his or her patterns because nobody has ever heard about them?

Establishing a personal brand as a knitwear designer is essential.

9. I like your Friday Freebies, chosen by vote – it seems like a smart way to attract new customers while encouraging them to look at more of your portfolio, rather than just hoarding the giveaways. Have you tried other promotions (advertising, launch discounts, contests...)? What is the role of price-related promotion in your business?
I’ll implement a price-related campaign on all my new book and pattern launches in the future, starting with Shawl Design in Plain English. Besides that, promotions of this kind do not play a major role in my business.

10. What haven’t you done yet (in knitting or in life) that you really, really want to? 
Still way too many things. Do you really want the whole list, or just my top three? Here they are.
– I want to learn how to drive cars in the most skilled way possible. Think of rally drivers, only in downtown Tokyo. (There’s a story behind this, obviously, but I guess it’s not of that much interest to you and your readers - it’s not at all knitting-related.) (No, we totally want the story! – R)
– I want to visit the Mount Everest Base Camp. Not interested in climbing this monster mountain at all. A glimpse from downstairs would suffice.
– I want to fly to Cape Town, spend a few weeks there and then leave for the South Pole, traveling the last degree of latitude on skis. No vehicles.
Currently, I’m enjoying life and all the opportunities I have. Considering myself to be a lucky person, with the best of all boyfriends on my side and two lovely kids and plans to add a few more soon, I wouldn’t want to change a single thing – except for things moving on faster, sometimes.

Thanks, Julia! If I weren't already convinced you're a breed apart, that last paragraph would do it. Med school, design, publishing AND more kids planned… I'm awed.