Podcast: A Podcast About Free, with Paul Overton

31 Jan 2010

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In this show:

Paul Overton returns to the show to discuss the idea of Free: how the internet's abundance of free information both enhances and challenges our creative lives.

• We talk about lots of aspects of Free: how it builds community, how it challenges corporate interests, and how it launches crafty careers.

• ...And we talk about some nuts and bolts of using Free in your own craft business.

Links:

We mentioned a whole lot of people in this show. Here they are:

• First, read Paul's excellent post on Make & Meaning - Free: A Case Study

• ...And this post by me, Free is Not a Marketing Tool.

• As you might expect from a discussion about Free on the web, we also mentioned Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, and John Jantsch.

• A really interesting book about the emerging economy of Free is (imagine this) Free, by Chris Anderson. You can get the book for free as an audiobook.

• Or, you can get the gist of the book via this blog post and video on Wired.com. (Thanks, Paul!)

• We also talked about some folks in the craft community who use Free well: Ann Wood, Lee Meredith, and Kathy Cano Murillo.

Comments

Yes! You're right.
I think I'm going to have to be more pro-active (& specific) in the future about requesting feedback - especially photos - I'd love to see what people have made with my patterns. But then again, I've bought and downloaded so many patterns in the past and have yet to make so many of them... I'm sure I'm not alone.


Ah, so much food for thought in this podcast! I've been thinking about free vs. paid for a while now, and I agree with ladydreamgirl that navigating the dividing line successfully can be tricky. I'm a big fan of free, and I really enjoy sharing things for free. If I could, I'd give everything away for free! It makes me feel good to be able to put ideas, patterns, etc. out there and see what people do with them. There's so much enjoyment to be found in putting an idea, pattern, what have you out there and watching it grow organically. However, I am also self-employed, which means that I need to find a way to pay the bills while doing what I enjoy.

I think that Paul really hit on something above when he talked about taking a step back and rethinking what we charge for. We have to think outside the box and figure out what we have to offer that's valuable beyond what we're giving away. And it's also a very smart suggestion to be ready for possible opportunities that are coming our way as more advertising dollars are being spent on the web (couldn't agree more about cable TV - my husband and I got rid of cable several months ago and haven't looked back). The challenge, I think, is in finding the new approach that's going to work for each of us, and there may very well be a different answer for each of us. It's an exciting time, but also a time that can be filled with apprehension for those of us who are trying to make the transition from all free to mostly free while maintaining a balance and trying to forge our own paths in making a living doing what we love to do.

I don't really know that I added anything to the discussion with all of this, but it's something that I'm thinking about and exploring, too, and I look forward to reading/listening to future discussions on the topic!


You know, Christine, the question of "what kind of things should be
given for free" is a tough one to answer. It's entirely up to each
individual to decide that. I think you should give away things that
reinforce the story of you and your business. And they can be physical
or digital.

I'm working on a show now about "items vs. ideas" and how Free relates
to each, so if you don't mind, I'll wait on your questions about this
until that show comes out. But one thing I will say is that tangible
goods can only reach so many people at once. Digital goods can reach
many, many more. So from the standpoint of Free being a tool for
building your good reputation, I think digital wins.

If you need to build the skills to participate more in the digital
economy, then it's probably a good investment of your time. But do you
need to hire and pay someone to help you participate in Free? No, I
don't think you do.

I still remember a blog post you did a long time ago, in which you
showed how you work with vinyl records. There were images of you using
a heat gun, and wearing a gas mask. The post didn't mention any of
your products directly, but it gave me a fascinating glimpse into your
process. It made me more interested in you and your business.

That post was a great example of Free. You were giving away a gift of
information. You can do that anytime without hiring a pro.

In terms of looking like a copycat, this is an extremely murky,
emerging subject in our community. I do think any of us can recognize
an idea that's a direct copy. So all you really have to do to avoid
looking like a copycat is to share original ideas. This is more easily
said than done in a community that shares so much every day, but it
isn't impossible.

As I said a moment ago, focus on what makes you and your business
unique, and create some Free gifts of information or inspiration from
that. Make them valuable for your readers, and don't make them
outwardly market-y. This will build you reputation.

Based on your comments, I'm thinking you might also want to read this
post: http://makeandmeaning.com/2010/02/04/free-is-no...

Hope that helps!


Great podcast! - I really enjoyed everything that you both had to say.

I've always thought of myself as a huge supporter of 'free' ideas, thoughts and information. Open Source ideas make the creative community more connected and lively and I love being able to see photos and patterns of what other people are creating.

However, I became a little skeptical of the idea of 'free physical items' in the crafting world about a year ago when multiple small-time bloggers contacted me on etsy asking for considerable amounts of free items for giveaways. At the time, I was excited about making connections with these new people so I did some of them...but in the end it seemed like the people I ran into wanted a few free items to share with their friends and family and that's it. So, after giving away hundreds of dollars of physical items to people who I didn't know, who seemed to have no interest in making more of a connection with me, I just felt used and began to be skeptical about 'free'. Perhaps that is where some of the skepticism about free comes from these days among etsy people.


Awesome stuff. I've been wondering how everyone can share their info and still make a living. I do have one more question that wasn't answered. How do you get people to find your blog and tutorials without annoying friends and family to visit your blog? Are there places you should submit your blog to?


Thanks, Megan!

That question is a little outside the scope of this podcast, but I can
offer you some resources:

First, I've written a whole ebook about the subject: Creating a Blog
Audience: http://shop.craftypod.com/audience

Another surefire (and simple) way to get people to visit your blog is
to read and actively leave comments on other people's blogs. There are
just so many blogs in the world these days, most people will visit
bloggers who've visited them first.

And finally, you might enjoy this article: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/28/1...

Hope that helps!


Thanks for chiming in, Cynthia. It's definitely true that it takes some effort to identify the most impactful opportunities to participate in Free. Giveaways came up elsewhere in these comments, and yes, they are tricky, because in the end, only one person (the winner) really benefits.

But, if you have a blog, you can give away how-to's, ideas, links, and inspiration to way more people, and bring far greater benefit to your business that way.

There's a lot of discussion emerging about the difference between Free digital content and Free physical content, and I think this is an interesting theme to watch.


When I started to pick up knitting 4 years ago, I was simply floored by all the free information I could find online. While hanging out in knitting forums online, I was even more floored by all the help I would receive from knitters who were far more advanced than me.

In short, I soaked in all the free information I could get my hands on, and my knowledge in knitting therefore grew immensely.

When I started my blog back in 2007, I wanted to give something back and I posted free patterns with picture tutorials. In my process of writing these free patterns and picture tutorials, I quickly found out how much work this entails and was even more thankful of all the free tutorials I had encountered in my early days as a newbie knitter.

But not everything is for free and it shouldn't in my opinion. The hard work that goes in developing and writing patterns, the hard work that goes in writing tutorials, the hard work that goes in writing and publishing a book should be compensated moneywise. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. How else can we keep an industry going?

I am very curious for the next episode of this "FREE" topic. Specifically, I am interested how you and Paul Overton view the topic of intellectual property, copyright and plagiarism. Also, I am very interested in a conversation about how to react when somebody is making stuff from a pattern / instructions and then sells the actual item.

What are the rules for this? How do you protect your work? Should you as a designer crack down on your fellow crafter, or should you let it go?

It is a topic that I usually try to avoid. Because it kind of upsets me. And all I want is to create and to write patterns/instructions. Once I put out the pattern (whether it be for free or not) I have the feeling it doesn't belong to me anymore and it is out there for everybody to do with it what they want. I cannot control everything what is happening out there... so best to let go of it and keep on creating...

Am I in the minority with this view?


Nancy - Thanks for the great comments. I'm in total agreement that not everything should be free. I do think we have to step back and rethink what we can charge for, though. If people believe that information should now be free, which they do, we have to generate some other streams of income and figure out what else we have that is valuable, beyond our patterns and instructions.

For instance, as cable TV continues to tank (it's coming), advertising dollars are being rerouted to the web. If you can generate enough traffic to your blog or website, you stand to make as much in advertising revenue as you would on pattern sales. Then you could afford to give everything away, right? Like Diane says in the podcast, "people will find the free", if you're giving anything away, you will get traffic, and traffic has value.

I'm going to cut myself off now so this comment doesn't become gargantuan, but you've given me much to think about. Rest assured, we will certainly talk more about the intellectual property issue, alternative streams of income, and myriad other pieces of this puzzle on the next show. Thanks again for taking the time to comment!


I happened upon Paul Overton's blog about the time he posted the free tutorial on paper portraits. I've been playing at paper cutting for years as a school teacher making bulletin boards, etc... but I never was serious about it. I had just been playing around with the art of scherenschnitte when Paul posted this "almost" life changing tutorial. I felt like he put it on there just for me!!! I took his instruction and made a couple of paper portraits of a couple of my grand daughters. I sent him a link to my post when I showcased the first one. He actually commented on it. Several of my regular readers were very impressed to see that he commented on MY blog!! I was thrilled. I am planning to donate a paper portrait to a local charity auction. The auction is in a couple of weeks. I've had three people ask me to make them of their children and grand children. I did link to Paul's tutorial, therefore giving him the credit for teaching me this method. I am going today to purchase more paper so I can get more of these portraits done. I plan to give credit to Paul in the description of the portrait that I am giving to the auction. I hope that by giving him credit both on my blog and at the auction he will feel that it was a good idea to give me this instruction for "free"!! I am so grateful!! I am actually a sewist and mostly make children's clothing. I sell a few things, but mostly I sew for my grandchildren. Sewing takes lots of time because I sew lots of heirloom things for my 5 grands. But, I can sit in the evenings and work on the paper portraits while enjoying time with my husband. I love this! When I sew, I am down in my basement sewing room all alone. I like that sometimes. Ok, so I'm way off subject, but I just wanted to let the blogging, crafting community to know how much I appreciate Paul Overton and his generosity. I would, for sure, buy a book that he authors about the art of paper cutting!!


Great podcast! I would say it important to recognize that Free does not equal Cheap. If you are going to give something away make sure that it has the same quality as something you would charge for. Why would someone pay for something if the freebie didn't impress.

I do a lot of craft shows and I am amazed at the number of people who want to find out exactly how to make something, down to where I buy supplies. Most often I am willing to give the generics of how to make something, but it depends on how I am approached. Even if you give more detailed info it doesn't mean they will actually make the item. My mom helped me at one show and heard a girl tell her friends "I can make those". Her friend responded "You said that last year and have you made them yet? No. So don't say anything until you do." Also, you can give people instructions, but more often than not the end result will not be the same as yours. Crafty people tend to want to put their own spin on it.


Definitely, Flickr groups are a very nice sharing mechanism. I have
one as well - and I think Paul does, too.


One way that I've seen bloggers cultivate community is through Flickr groups.
For example, Amy Karol over at Angry Chicken host photo groups where readers can post pictures of their creations.


So many comments...this has probably come up already, but I am just wondering about doing giveaways of tangible stuff, like having a buy one, get one sale in the Etsy shop, or offering free shipping, stuff like that...how does that fit in? It's different from giving away free tutorials for how to make projects. I have done that a bit on my blog and I'm happy to do it but what about giving away actual stuff?

I've produced tons of "sample" items to go into goody bags for craft shows but have no way to measure whether that has been effective.

I would LOVE to offer free downloadable screensavers/wallpaper with my mandala designs but I'm not sure how to go about that, I think it is out of my techie range at this time. Do I hire someone to create it?

I feel like it is really spammy to be posting on twitter and facebook that I am doing a giveaway. I usually ignore those types of posts from other people.

I always include free mandala bookmarks and window decals with orders that I ship out...but is that enough? Obviously, the person receiving the freebie has already purchased something from me.

Also, I feel like the community is still kind of small enough that I don't want to look like an obvious copycat if I see someone has come up with an awesome idea for a free item and I want to do something similar, you know? Not that I would copy the item, but just the idea...if I see that one of my peers is getting a lot of attention because he/she has something available for free, and then I start announcing that I have a freebie too, then it will look like I am basically stealing that person's thunder.

I'm really interested in this topic. I'd like to hear you cover more of WHAT types of stuff should be given for free instead of just the reasons why free is cool. Since I'm not the type of crafter that has a ton of different projects, I can't really post a lot of tutorials about how to make stuff. So I'd love to hear more about how free applies to a regular artisan entrepreneur as opposed to a crafty blogger who knows how to make a zillion different things in a zillion different media.

Thank you!!!


Finding the dividing line between what to offer for free and what to class as paid content is a tricky situation. I lean toward the position that if something can be reverse engineered from photos of the finished product, it is already free. Techniques that produce an effect which points back clearly at the method can only be protected by not letting anyone look at the end product. As an oversimplified example: take the wheel. If someone who had never seen a wheel before saw a wheeled cart and had a chance to look at it, she could probably figure out how to produce a wheeled vehicle. Perhaps it would not be as refined and perfected as one made by an expert, but it would still be a wheeled vehicle with the basic benefits that innovation confers. Of course this isn't a perfect definition. I doubt I could have figured out how to knit or crochet simply from examining a knit or crocheted object. However the basic stitches, the foundations of the craft, surely belong in the public domain. The age of these techniques plays a part in their public domain status, but I don't think it is the only reason. Imagine that you have invented knitting. If this had occurred today, you would surely have a strong argument for a patent or at least trade secret protection for your newly invented technique. But even within the framework of this thought experiment it somehow feels wrong to keep such a discovery as private property. Perhaps it is because that would reduce the discovery to the status of a manufacturing process. If you could only learn to knit by obtaining a licensing agreement with me (the imaginary inventor of knitting me) there would be no art to knitting. There would be no cycle of imitation and inspiration to feed the growth of knitting as an art/craft form. Techniques that can be reverse engineered are de facto free techniques, but it is most important that the basic building blocks of an art/craft be free, or it isn't an art/craft form, it's a manufacturing process.


Thank you for commenting, Larydreamgirl.

I agree that craft items that can be easily reverse-engineered can be
challenging to sell, whether in finished form or in tutorial form.
Perhaps in these cases, the most likely purchasing decision would be
made by someone who liked the crafter who designed it, and was
voluntarily making a purchase out of a desire to offer support.

And perhaps this is a key element of Free. Before we had the internet,
we often "had to" purchase craft books and magazines in order to learn
to make things. Now we can get the information for free. But now, we
also have a much more personal relationship with the people creating
all this free how-to material we use. So again, we'd choose to make
the purchase as a gesture of support.

I agree with you that the building blocks of any craft are in the
public domain. I think when you pay any teacher, you're paying for his
or her unique take on the craft, along with moment-to-moment support
in your learning. That's worth something for many learners.


So, Nancy - Paul covered most everything I wanted to say in his comment to you, but I did want to add this:

When you publish a pattern and sell it, you can certainly specify in your copyright statement how the pattern may be used. Since it's your original design, you can specify that the items made from the pattern are for personal use only and not resale.

Once your design leaves your hands, it's still within your rights to ask people not to seek profit from it.

Ideally, this would be second nature in the craft world already, but I think that level of understanding is still a ways off in this Wild-West moment. So - don't be afraid to spell things out.


Thank you so much for chiming in, Julia!


Diane, I really think you have this concept nailed and it sounds like Paul does too (I'll have to check out his site now). You give so much great info away for free so when you do charge for something, it makes me think "Wow, there must be a lot of great stuff in this since it costs money." I bought one of your ebooks and that was totally the case. There was so much useful info in there I would've felt guilty not paying for it! Plus the prices are very reasonable anyway. Keep up the good work and thanks for the great podcast. Lots of food for thought...


That's extremely kind of you to say, Lucie. Thank you so much!


Julia - You are too kind. I feel more than "paid" by all the goodwill you've showered me with. I'm glad that you're having so much fun with the technique and you should feel fine about doing anything that you like with it, including selling your portraits. Just keep us posted about your doings so we can include your experiences in this grand experiment we are conducting.


I listened to your podcast this morning and believe that when you are business giving free items is a great way of getting out your products. If you have a blog, do a giveaway, give a to a charity, and give free items out within your community. It is a part of the social networking arm. When you give free items, people are getting to know who are and it does let people know that you do quality work and more likely to give their business. I think it is also along the lines of CSA where craft companies introduce people to their new products by handing out free items such as yarn or glitter.


Excellent, Sheri - thanks for adding your voice here!


Great podcast, thank you Sister Diane and Paul for sharing so openly. I think one of the big worries about free is the legal copyright issue. So many artists inevitably run into the problem of seeing their work being abused at some point that it might seem offering free seems to invite it...if you know what I mean. Although, when I create something for free I sort of do it with the mindset that it's created as a free-for-all and I must accept that anything could happen. Which then brought me to thinking that it would be cool to offer free as a crafting collaboration. In-person when folks craft together, you discover new things when there are multiple heads together. So maybe offering something for free is like planting a seed, then everyone can branch off and really expand on the original idea and make it even better...a bit like how even corporate companies are really taking in public opinion when it comes to product design and all the decisions are just done by the product managers. Just a thought...


I completely agree with that, Linda. I think that, when we offer ideas
and techniques for free, we're contributing to the global creative
mind, and everyone benefits.

I tend to think that, when it comes to the craft/art economy, we're
moving away from a model of "consuming art" and toward a model of
"supporting artists." I'll have a blog post about this in future.


Thank you, Kate - this is a great point.

This touches on another idea: the difference between your community
and your market. If we try to sell our work only to crafty people, of
course a good percentage of them will have designs on just getting our
processes and making the stuff themselves.

But outside our community is a vast potential market of non-crafty
people, many of whom would buy a handmade item without giving a
thought to reverse-engineering it.

Heh - Free is a Big Idea that does nothing but spawn other Big
Ideas. :-)


This was a great podcast/discussion you two had. :-) I had a lot of fun listening to it, this morning.

Like what most people have been writing in the comments, you should really talk about copyrights issues again. This only could make a full podcast!

Also, what are good and bad freebies? Is there such a thing? Free is free... right, right? ;-)


I give all of my ideas away free on my blog for a few reasons:
1. nothing is really original.
2. your viewer can find instructions on how to make anything anyway.
3. making stuff is easy. It's the marketing, packaging, advertising that sells and is the real hard work.
4.if I could have made a living with my crafts, I would be too busy to blog.

Just because people know how to make something doesn't mean that they will. They may have great intentions, but never get around to it so they figure that it's easier to buy from you than to gather all of the tools and materials, mess up their houses, etc.

Share your love with the creative community, you're never going to get rich selling handmade widgets anyway. Karma is wonderful.


Thanks, Gail. Agreed about karma!


Thank you for chiming in Kristen! I walk that tricky self-employed line with you every day. And I agree - there's no cut-and-dried method. It's a unique landscape for everyone.

You give a ton of amazing stuff away. I think Craftig is an amazing service for the community. Thank you! (www.craftig.com, for those who haven't checked it out.)


My blog I give away free lessons almost every week. Any type of craft that I'm into at the time and that takes my fancy. Why? because God freely gave me these skills so I am freely passing them on to others.

My motivation is to tech. I love passing on my knowledge to others.

I have tried selling my art work (paintings) sold 2 in 7 years of painting. lol I haven't given up on my painting but it has taken a back step. I'm not too hung up on making money from my crafts lately though. Crafting is for enjoyment. And as soon as there is pressure behind it - it becomes a chore.

I have been on several design teams because they have seen my art/crafts and asked me to be on their team. I have accepted some and turned down some. When I was on these design teams they gave me free stuff to create with and then I was to post those projects on their blog mainly, then maybe my blog and facebook..... I don't use twitter much.

I have enjoyed giving my knowlege away to others.

some have asked me why I don't sell e-books of my ideas and tutorials.... to tell the truth.... I really don't have the time to keep giving the things away as I do and then write an e-book up as well. The motivation is not there at the present moment. I'm a mother of 2 children under 6 and wish to spend time with them as well.

I am however taking a local night school course for 2 nights on how to make or generate cash for my next crafting project or how to make money from it. Should be interesting information nights only $15 for two nights. Can't really go wrong there.

Love you pod casts. Very informative.


Thanks so much for sharing your perspectives, Debra!

One thing I wish we'd made clearer in this podcast is that free is a choice, and monetizing is a choice. Nobody has to pursue them both. I know many crafters who, like you, put Free out there just because they love what they do and want to share. And I appreciate everyone who does this hugely. It's part of why we have such an amazing, vibrant community.


Thank you - both of you - for sharing your thoughts on the subject of FREE! And I look forward to the discussion about "copyright" and related subjects. Having made my living in photography for years, I have had way too much opportunity to experience the frustration and even anger associated with copyright infringement. And I have observed that unless you have a lot of money, wish to spend an enormous amount of time and create havoc with your emotional well being, fighting "infringers" is a no win situation at best.

I think it is much healthier to follow your lead into "FREE" and to understand that what seems to be "mine" (especially in the world of making) has very often grown from seed planted by someone else anyway.


Recently I had a very personal experience which helped me shift away from the "this is MINE" frame of mind. I was asked this summer by a very dear friend to share the "secret" for making something I take great pride in making so that she could give it to a good friend of hers who had asked for it so she could make it and sell it. THAT was an emotional roller coaster for a week!

But at some point, I had to ask myself if I ever would entertain the idea of selling that particular item. The answer was no. So, I not only gave her the information, I published how to make it and sent traffic to her doorstep.

That was a freeing and healing decision. The moment I made it, all the inner turmoil ceased and I actually felt great! But then that may be because much of the motivation to write my blog has to do with sharing knowledge and know how. The conflict I experienced was consistent with my old ways of thinking but not my new adventure in the world of making.

This is a sensitive subject for people who are striving to make money (and hopefully lots of it) in the "making" world. And I applaud you Diane and you Paul for taking it on with great understanding and sensitivity.


Thank you for sharing that, Mom! You're so right - any conversation about plagiarism gets really tricky, because every one of us online is drawing from the same pools of inspiration. Not only that, we all look at so many ideas and websites and pictures in a month, it's challenging to remember exactly what fed our flashes of inspiration.

All personal bias aside, you give away so much wonderful value on your blog, and I've loved watching this draw lots of wonderful friendships to you - and, more and more ideas and inspirations!

One important thing about giving stuff away: you never run out of ideas.


oops. re TV I meant "eyeballs to ads"


This is such an interesting thread---I've been following the related posts over on the Make and Meaning blog as well.

Just to start, I want to say thank you Diane for your great blog and podcast---I've really enjoyed and gotten a lot out of what you have been putting out there, for free.

Oddly enough tho, I find myself having a somewhat skeptical reaction to the concept of "Free." Odd in that in this context, free has been very very good to me, and part of what I value about your work as a chronicler of craftiness is intimately connected with its freeness, which is that is a work of passionate interest that is at some important level disinterested. You are not beholden to anyone, your podcast does not exist to sell me something, it is the thing itself. And even as you've "monetized" certain aspects, you've been so upfront about it all and totally maintained the high feeling of integrity and honesty.

But the skepticism---I guess if 'free' is basically understood in relation to this rather nichey/specialized internet crafty culture, ok, it looks like it works pretty well. I guess I hesitate at any implication that this is a totally revolutionary thing that could transform the post-industrial economy as a whole...Last time I checked, there were still these TV networks that are "free," and in their case free is very much a "marketing tool"---they exist to deliver eyeballs to viewers. And maybe I'm just old-fashioned and cranky, but while I use no-fee online services like Google & gmail, and facebook, I am also uneasily aware that those sites are not really "free"---I pay by turning myself over as target for sometimes creepily specialized advertising....so generally in the larger economic picture, I am a bit suspicious of "free." I believe in your personal good intentions, but there are limits to the power of personal good intentions.

And while the freedom of the internet can clearly facilitate the American Dream of a totally DIY life in the positive sense, it also seems to open up huge potential for the American nightmare of DIY sweatshop---This image has come up in some recent critiques of the whole etsy "quit your day job" thing, but I wonder if it doesn't apply a bit too to people who are providing "content" as well as actual handmade items. Less risk of carpal tunnel but still extremely long hours PLUS the joy of DIY health insurance?

So, ok, I'm sorry if I'm coming off as one of those horrible, negative, energy vampires, what I mean say is maybe the picture of "free" looks different if we look in a wider historic and social range? There are things in our society that are "free" that I really value---public schools, libraries, public radio---and things that I wish were more free---public universities---that are of course not really "free"---they have to be supported by everybody, and oh, let's just say that recent trends in that area are not entirely encouraging.


Well, Felicity, it is absolutely true that we're in a period of rapid change following the introduction what's called a "disruptive technology" - aka, the internet. Economic and social norms are evolving rapidly, and frankly nobody knows what outcomes are likely.

So, can Free be applied to all industries at this moment in time? No. Free just got here, and everyone is trying to figure it out.

But I do believe that, for better or worse, Free is here to stay, and many industries will have to find a way to deliver some Free and build real relationships with their customers. Now that we've all had a taste of Free - whether that be free access to vast amounts of information through Google or my little free podcasts - I don't think that genie can be put back in the bottle.

But I hope I haven't given you the impression that Free is an all or nothing proposition. You mentioned using Google for free, but "paying" for it by the presence of ads. Well, Google is indeed using those very ads to fund a wide array of free products and services - many of which make my day-to-day life much easier. Am I required to click on, read, or even pay attention to the ads in order to use Google? No. But enough people do, and that provides the Free to everyone else. If it didn't, then Google would be responsible for evolving another strategy.

It's certainly true that Free has created all kinds of ripple effects in our culture, and it will take a while for all of them to settle out. I do believe it's possible for any industry to re-settle itself around the presence of Free and still be viable. But there's no question that this re-settling will require substantive and uncomfortable evolution.

...But it should be said, I'm more interested right now in focusing my attention on the creative community, and how we'll cope with Free. Many people are struggling with it, and this is why I was interested in raising the issue. I think discussion helps us all evolve strategies.


Nice interview! I've always included something "free" on my blog - whether it's how I did something in my blogger layout or how I put together a craft project (I've had sewing, knitting and crochet how-to's). For me, it's been part of the spirit of sharing that I find all over the internet. I've also always sold crafts that I make, too - and I tend to feel more generous when shopping online toward creators that have given things away (quality depending, as you mentioned.)
One thing that I wish I could generate more of - is feedback - for when people download a .pdf and actually create it - I would love to see what they've made or been inspired to create from the ideas.


Hi, Tammy - Ah, I don't think I've ever met a blogger who didn't wish for more feedback!

One way to help encourage people to leave more comments on your blog is to actively go out and leave comments on other people's blogs. Especially if someone comments on your blog - visit theirs and leave a comment in return. I think people comment more on blogs where they feel they're engaging in a conversation.


Hey Diane -
As far as future discussion on "Free" I'd love to hear your advice on giveaways. I see a lot of bloggers doing this "leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered to win [this new item that I made]" thing. I'm sure this will attract people to a blog, but will it help you sell down the road or will it just make people keep checking your blog until there's another giveaway? I'm considering doing a giveaway on my blog to get traffic but I'd love to hear your (and Paul's) thoughts first.


Thanks for chiming in, Jackie. Personally, I like giveaways, but they can be a double-edged sword. They do draw traffic and comments, but fairly small percentage of those commenters are likely to stick around and comment in future.

Still, even if a giveaway brings you only a couple new loyal readers, that's still a success.

One trick I've learned with giveaways is, when you have someone comment in order to enter, ask them to comment with something substantive - not just "enter me." This helps cut down on the commenters who are only in it for the freebie, because you're asking people to "work" a little in order to enter.


Thank you both for this thoughtful discussion of Free in the context of making a living out of craft blogging. I've had a blog for almost two years now and am mulling over what direction to take it in. I'm in this in-between space right now where I'm just happy to have crafting play a central part in my emotional and spiritual life, with Free tutorials a big part of that. But I am also thinking about how my writing and crafting could be a full-time supporting job, and so I definitely will be delving into your archives here and at Make+Meaning to guide my journey.


Thank you so much, Patricia, and I wish you all the best on this journey. Just be open and curious, and the best fits for you will emerge.


Thank you, Klay! These are indeed rather brave new times for
marketing. :-) It's so interesting watching the new forms begin
replacing the old.


As a semi-ex-corporate graphic designer I used to go to lectures from people who supposedly have a ton of insight and experience when it comes to marketing yourself or in most cases marketing your brand so that it seems more real or approachable. I think that during all those lectures I never once heard someone talk about being genuine or transparent. I guess it's harder in the corporate world of brands but I think it's great advice for anyone who wants people to buy into whatever it is they are doing. Open up, show us what you're doing. I'm really going to take this advice to heart. Finally some marketing advice I can use and not feel bad about myself next day ;) Thanks!


You know, Christine, the question of "what kind of things should be
given for free" is a tough one to answer. It's entirely up to each
individual to decide that. I think you should give away things that
reinforce the story of you and your business. And they can be physical
or digital.

I'm working on a show now about "items vs. ideas" and how Free relates
to each, so if you don't mind, I'll wait on your questions about this
until that show comes out. But one thing I will say is that tangible
goods can only reach so many people at once. Digital goods can reach
many, many more. So from the standpoint of Free being a tool for
building your good reputation, I think digital wins.

If you need to build the skills to participate more in the digital
economy, then it's probably a good investment of your time. But do you
need to hire and pay someone to help you participate in Free? No, I
don't think you do.

I still remember a blog post you did a long time ago, in which you
showed how you work with vinyl records. There were images of you using
a heat gun, and wearing a gas mask. The post didn't mention any of
your products directly, but it gave me a fascinating glimpse into your
process. It made me more interested in you and your business.

That post was a great example of Free. You were giving away a gift of
information. You can do that anytime without hiring a pro.

In terms of looking like a copycat, this is an extremely murky,
emerging subject in our community. I do think any of us can recognize
an idea that's a direct copy. So all you really have to do to avoid
looking like a copycat is to share original ideas. This is more easily
said than done in a community that shares so much every day, but it
isn't impossible.

As I said a moment ago, focus on what makes you and your business
unique, and create some Free gifts of information or inspiration from
that. Make them valuable for your readers, and don't make them
outwardly market-y. This will build you reputation.

Based on your comments, I'm thinking you might also want to read this
post: http://makeandmeaning.com/2010/02/04/free-is-no...

Hope that helps!


Thank YOU, Brandy! What a beautiful way to think about custom work. We crafters really are blessed to be able to create meaningful things for people who'll be able to use them. All the best with your new life, and with finding that niche!


Remarkable discussion you and Paul had here. This is only the 2nd pcast Ive listened to and I feel as though Ive stumbled upon a gold mine. I really admire the honesty you express on the importance of authenticity and transparency. I am a recent college graduate, a mother of 2, and a relentless crafter. I am still searching for my niche, however I nearly always gain such gratification from creating a custom piece of work for someone. Not because the sale puts some cash in my pocket, but because of the process. The experience of forming a relationship with someone is delightful. I literally get giddy when sharing with my husband about how so and so from Callamazooo who bought my whutchamacallit...Knowing that the item will go from my hands and onto a new life into the hands of another is what motivates me to continue creating.

So, thank you for this *free* podcast. A great deal of useful and enlightening info here~


Great podcast! I would love to hear this conversation continued. I have a little craft blog and make great use of all of the free information out there, and I've had the feeling lately that I really need to be putting out my own free stuff in return. Thanks for all of the food for thought.