Lovely by Lee, I want to test for you! Will you pick me?
Before each testing call, I am usually swarmed with messages asking for requirements, materials and a request to be put on the testing call list. Usually the specific questions are, “Do you still need a __ size? How much yardage? What yarn? When is the deadline?” (almost specifically in one long message and in that order). Sometimes I have the time to respond with a tidbit of details, but usually, my response will include where and when they will find the testing call. I’ve had some bluntly tell me that they’re not interested in applying in the way that I request because they’re too busy. *Ahem*, and almost demand a testing spot or testing details. Oy! Well…I am busy too. That’s why I create testing calls with ALL the details, so I don’t have to single-handedly message each person that is interested in making my design.
I am writing this blog post to be preventative from the behavior above, and I hope to avoid losing my precious time to explaining why it is important to apply in the manner that I request. For those that aren’t familiar with the pattern testing process, here is a quick Q&A to what I am referring:
What is testing?
Testing includes a designer selecting crafters of which the pattern is written to “test” or make his/her pattern. Testers make sure the pattern translates to the make, is correctly written (or makes sense to the maker), that row/round and stitch counts are accurate and that the garment fits as intended.
Why be a tester?
There are a handful of reasons to be a tester. If a maker is hoping to promote his/herself, testing is a great way to do so! As the designer promotes their design and pattern release – it is likely that the tester’s make will be shared too. Testing is a great way to establish friends and connections in the maker world – as most tests are done in small groups of those with similar hobbies. One can build on his/her business or brand by receiving views from a similar audience or following. Last but not least, testing is a fun process, like a make-a-long, and it is a way to receive the pattern months early before the release.
Is testing all fun and rosy?
NO! Much like any job, even if volunteer, it is work. There are requirements to be met, and the designer is counting on the tester(s). While not all testers are paid – they usually receive a free pattern in compensation – plus the free promotion of their social media account (see above – Why be a tester?). Being a tester is much more than just knitting the pattern and posting some photos. It is actually doing the work and counting of stitches. It is reading through the ENTIRE pattern for errors, typos and grammar mistakes. Testing involves math, measurements, gauge swatching, blocking and helping to perfect the pattern/design. It includes effort in good photographs and following through with the promoting of the pattern for the release.
How will the tester know the requirements?
Most designers list requirements in their testing calls. I think all the requirements should be posted before the tester is to apply, as all designers’ requirements differ. If requirements are not clear, a tester should ask BEFORE committing to the project. I post all of my requirements in my testing calls, right below the deadline and materials needed, so please read them.
So what do you look for specifically when selecting testers?
My answer is going to lap-over what I prefer in testers, but there are differences in what I look for before choosing a tester, and what I actually consider makes a GREAT tester.
First of all, I am very strict on whether a tester applies correctly. If a tester does not apply correctly, it shows a lack of attention to detail, and that is a RED FLAG! I have had to get really tough on this one, as I used to politely nudge applicants to re-read the requirements and application process. Now I just breeze over those types of applicants without even a reply (which my testing call will state, in preparation). Does that seem rude? Maybe…but I don’t owe my extra time. When somebody doesn’t apply correctly, as I have taken on some testers that hadn’t applied correctly in the past, it likely means I will be babysitting them through the entire process. In other words, most that lack the attention to detail skip important parts of the requirements, pattern and don’t take the extra effort to help perfect my pattern. No thank you! That has often turned into more hassle than necessary, and I have absolutely regretted my choice in letting some testers join my team (for that test).
Secondly, I make sure that the tester is committed to finishing projects. I do this by looking at the applicant’s posts and projects on his/her social media and Ravelry account. I look at timelines in which the person has started/finished crafts, and I look at the quality of the work. Similarly and importantly, I look at how a maker photographs his/her crafts.
That segways into a tester’s photography, which is something that is a huge consideration factor. I need good photos! There, it is that simple. I need photos that will help promote my design, and tester’s should respect all of the hard work with high quality photos in order to promote his/her work too. What is a high quality photo? It starts with good lighting. Make sure photos are taken in daytime and in natural lighting. Outside photographs are usually best (though be cautious of gloomy light, sun glaring in the background and/or shadows). If photos cannot be taken outside, they should be taken by a window or in a studio/room with appropriate lighting. Modeled photos are REQUIRED when testing for me. The garment needs to be worn so that others can see how the different sizes will wear/fit. Again, good lighting is necessary, but so is styling the project. I am drawn to those that take care of showing off their hard work. A messy bathroom selfie? I won’t deny that it ultimately disappoints me. Do I need professionally modeled shots? No, but creativity styling, a decent backdrop and confidence are always winning shots. I know some are shy about showing their faces and/or bodies, but I love seeing poise and self-assuredness. I want photos that I want to share on my grid and in my promotions.
Thirdly, meet the requirements. Specifically, meet requirements without needing me to hound with reminders. It is very simple. See a list of my typical requirements on a post coming soon (stay tuned). Those that check off the tasks on the list without needing a nudge are superstars!
Fourth on my list is finishing the test. Just finish the test. PLEASE. Even if the deadline was not met, finish the design, promote it and just FINISH. I think it is respectful and gracious to pay for the pattern, should the test not be finished, because agreeing to the requirements and being selected takes a spot away from a tester that would have finished the project.
Photo credit top (left to right – @justbuttsastitch, @ragingpurlwind, @carol_hladik_designs, @katey_stolhammer), bottom (left to right – @novagryphon, @shariwagnerofficial, @hopeful_making, @yarnontheprairie)
Equally important to finishing the test is communication. Please communicate all difficulties during the test (whether something has come up that interferes with meeting the deadline or challenges with actually making the project itself). Partake in testing banter, help others with the test and provide constructive feedback. I have had silent testers that meet all the requirements, but he/she never conversed with the group nor provided any help on the actual test. Some have just knit the knit, posted photos and felt like a ghost. I do not like that. Period. I mean, it is pleasant, but helpful?
Lastly, eagerness to test and being part of the team is definitely alluring to me. I appreciate those that follow me and take interest in my designs and business. Those that show support and an appreciation for my designs typically do a terrific job on the test. I also encourage those to be each other cheerleaders in the group. I may not always be able to respond to a question right away, but those that feel free to jump in and offer advice or support make my heart happy. Now, is following me necessary? No…but I want to feel excited about working with a tester. If I don’t feel that a person feels excited to work with me, it does make me cautious about selecting that person. To get noticed before applying for one of my tests, engage with me! Build a rapport with me and establish a pre-working relationship. When I recognize a name/face on my applications, it is good news for both of us!
So there is my list of what I look for when selecting testers. Yes, I have a base of what stands out to me, and yes, sometimes I choose testers that don’t deliver what is expected. I learn from that and try to improve my next test to avoid such issues. Why? Because it causes stress and frustration. Do I seem strict? Yup. Am I strict? Yup (are some of my current testers laughing right now?). Okay, I’m understanding, actually. I love to meet new testers and work with familiar faces. I get that life happens, and life happens to ME too. Can I be disappointed in some tests/testers? Yup to that too. Can I be elated and blown away by some tests/testers. Definitely, and I usually am impressed by a handful each round too. What does it take for me to be in awe? All of the above.
Where are your testing calls?
New testing applicants can find my testing calls in Pattern Testers Facebook Group.
Do testers have to have a Facebook account to apply?
Yes…I manage and host my group tests in Facebook Messenger. I prefer it to group emails (which is my former and less effective way that I used to host tests) and Instagram group messages. On Facebook Messenger, I can send the PDF pattern (and updates) directly to the group. The files and shared photos are neatly organized in a separate section on the right of the group message (not available in the pop-up, must go to home Messenger), and a lot of my testers aren’t as familiar with Instagram – even though posting to Instagram is a requirement. If a tester does not have a Facebook page, I recommend making one just for the purpose of testing.
You’re pretty active on Instagram, do you really prefer Facebook?
Nope. Instagram is my jam. I just prefer hosting the tests in Facebook Messenger. It is more effective, organized and efficient for me. Plus Pattern Testers group and my personal testing group (Lovely by Lee Testers) allow me to share and organize specialized information to a specialized group (but not just to the testing messenger groups, if that makes sense).
Last question, please? Do all testers have to apply the same way, even if they have tested before?
Great question. Yes and no. I invite my testers to a private Facebook testing group of mine (which is separate and not to be confused with the testing group message that I manage for each test in Facebook Messenger). Sometimes I invite testers AFTER completing a test, but I usually invite them upon acceptance of the test. This group gets first dibs on my upcoming tests. I know those in the group already know what to expect from working with me, and I also have tons of helpful references in that group, like how to upload projects, perform certain skills and quick tips. Those in the group get first dibs but are also held to the same requirements. Now…I have removed people from the private testing group due to failed tests – so not everyone that has tested for me is guaranteed a spot. Also, some testers and I have developed a strong rapport and friendship. At that point, all those testers need to do is send me a message letting me know they’re interested. I send them a reminder of the deadline and tag them in the call so they have the information – but I know they’re good for it. I have had some testers test EVERY single one of my designs – and they will gladly be accepted to test my future tests too.
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