Tips for workin’ it at TNNA (for designers)

Every once in a while, I like to throw some ‘business’ stuff into the mix on this blog. Even if you’re not a professional designer (yet!), you might find this info a fun peek into the yarn biz!

You’ve probably heard me talk about TNNA, the trade show for The National Needlework Arts Association (coming up in 2 weeks!). It’s where yarn store owners purchase their yarns, yarn companies show off their newest stock, authors promote their new books and designers network.

book signing at TNNA

Is it worth going?

Most designers aren’t making huge sums of money. Especially at the start of your designing career, you might be designing part-time, while holding down another job. Flying to Columbus, OH and staying in a hotel room is a big expense. So, you might be asking yourself, is it worth going?

In my personal opinion, it is. Especially since many of us work in isolation, going and talking to other designers (and yarn companies) is a fabulous opportunity. Go as cheaply as you can (split a room with someone, stay in the ‘non-conference’ hotel…).

The first year, I told myself: I’ll go this year and if it’s not worth it, I won’t go again. I made so many connection and new work opportunities that the trip paid for itself. And it was fun! So, I’ve gone back every year.

Tips for Workin’ it

If you’re going, what can you do to get the most out of the show? Here are some of my tips.

1. Have a goal

Are you thinking of publishing a book? Checking out yarn for your self-published designs? Looking for freelance work? Have your goals in mind (and have some ideas thought out) before you go. Doing so will give you direction (and confidence) when approaching companies.

2. Be prepared, but don’t go overboard

Bring your business cards, for sure. Some folks bring a binder with photos of their previous design work. Think about what you might need to support your goals (tip 1), but keep it to a minimum. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars getting glossy brochures printed.

TNNA isn’t Rhinebeck. You don’t need to wear every item you’ve ever knitted so that people ‘know you’re a good knitter’. It’s a professional conference, so people assume you’re there because you’re competent. Focus on bringing materials that help you meet your business goals.

animal hairdo

I usually wear an animal. Sorta my thing.

3. Wear comfortable shoes

You will be walking around, a lot. And standing and talking to people. Trust me.

Columbus north market

4. Get a schedule

Especially if it’s your first time or you’re an introvert (or both!), it helps to set some of your schedule in advance. Check the designer’s forum on Ravelry and plan in joining in on the lunch meet-up. Or plan to meet someone for coffee. Having plans will force you to connect with people and give you a break.

Designers at TNNA

And bring your phone and check twitter to find out about spontaneous meet-ups.

5. Designers hang out a the Hyatt bar

You don’t need an invitation… just wander up (and to the connected sitting area) in the evenings. Bring your knitting and chat. Which brings me to…

6. Be thoughtful about and fan-girl tendencies

Every famous designer will be there. Probably every designer you’ve ever admired will be there. Play it cool.

Famous designers are normal people, and TNNA is their chance to meet with friends and colleagues. Everyone appreciates a friendly, “Hi xxx, nice to meet you! You do such great work!”. Not everyone appreciates a major fan-girl-freak-out at 10pm when they’re relaxing.

Take the opportunity to meet people you admire, but remember that they’re experiencing a super-busy weekend just like you are!

The beekeeper's quilt

7. Remember that retailers are there to sell yarn

As a designer, you should plan to talk to yarn companies. However, keep in mind that the companies first goal at TNNA is to sell yarn to stores. If you approach a yarn company when they are super-busy, they may be a little mean.

Be aware of this. Try to do your chatting in ‘off-times’ or practice your brief, “I’m a designer and I’d love to work with you. Do you have a card I could take so I can email you after the show?”

8. Follow up!

Some of your most important work will take place after the show. Follow up with people. Email companies. Keep workin’ it!

Remember that everyone has had a crazy weekend, so don’t expect a response Monday afternoon. Include a refresher of the conversation, if necessary. Something like, “I loved chatting with you about your designs. Would you still be up for the interview on my blog that we talked about?”

9. Have fun!

Does that count as a tip? Oh, I don’t know!

TNNA can be stressful, but it’s also amazingly invigorating. So, go and enjoy!

One reply on “Tips for workin’ it at TNNA (for designers)

  • Gwen Bortner

    Great tips!!! The opportunity to meet others in person is a BIGGIE (worked for us)! So hoping we can grab some quick time together next week…we can be spontaneous!

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