Free and Sustainability and Community and Money

10 Jan 2011

Image via Shira Golding, via Flickr

This post continues our discussion on Free and how sustainable it really is. If you missed it, read the first post, and all the amazing comments – they'll give you context for this post.

Wow. Based on the discussions and emails I've had, this idea of whether Free is sustainable is on a lot of minds right now. I'm so glad, because I think that if we talk about it, we can forge some solutions and we can continue enjoying all the good things about Free.

Today, I want to raise a line of questions that may be a little controversial. So before I go there, let me say that I don't mean to be confrontational here, or to point any fingers. I'm writing these posts because I love our community, and want to see it thrive.

Image by Public Domain Photos, via Flickr

Here's something I see happening frequently: we have blogs, and some of us have small businesses. We put a lot of heart and effort – and Free – into them. We wish we could find more income from these endeavors, so that our equations could be more balanced and we can keep sharing Free.

So, where do we see that financial support coming from? Other crafters? Non-crafters? Friends? Strangers?

And my big question is, how many of us are actually giving any financial support to others in our community?

Free Money
Image by Victory of the People, via Flickr

See, I think we have another imbalanced equation operating here – If you want more support for your blog, but you aren't actively supporting others, then how can the math work out for any of us?

What I hear a lot from bloggers and small business owners is something along the lines of, "I'd love to support more crafters, but I'm building my business right now (or, insert another reason here), and I just can't afford to."

That's an honest answer, but sadly, it doesn't balance the equation. It just rather perpetuates this state of unsustainable Free.

Money money money
Image by jainaj, via Flickr

At the last Craft Social, the ever-smart Kelly Rand raised a very important question, which I'll repeat here:

Do all crafters feel like they are a part of a community and that they should support it? Help it grow?

Do you feel that you bear a responsibility to help support others? What ways do you do that?

(Now, I'd like to re-iterate something I said in my first post: different bloggers will find different rewards meaningful. I'm focusing on financial support in this post, but non-financial support will be the subject of my next post in this series.)

funny money
Image by Materials Aart, via Flickr

Since I'm self-employed, I'll be honest: while non-monetary support in the form of comments and email is always lovely, it's financial support that really keeps CraftyPod going. But you know what? Until about mid-way through 2010, I'd always had the "I can't afford to help support others" perception, too.

Then, I had a realization - blogging is a community sport. For pete's sake, I say this all the time to my students and friends. If you want more people to comment on your blog, you have to go out there and comment on other people's blogs. And it finally dawned on me: if I want more financial support for my blog, then I'd better get out there and support other bloggers.

I realized that I'd simply have to figure out a way to afford it – and that there would necessarily be limits to what I could do. But doing something is better than doing nothing.

So, over the next six months I bought a consulting session from Kirsty. I signed up for Mercedes' yarn club. I ordered zines from Kristin, Amy, and Linda. Turned out I was able to afford these small things, and giving my few dollars to people who've given me so much Free value day in and day out – that felt amazing.

In fact, my goal for 2011 is to make this a monthly practice no matter how broke or flush I may feel each month. More on that in a future post.

some free stuff at the sound swap
Image by Shira Golding, via Flickr

I think that, in all our sharing and all our wishing we could be more fairly compensated for what we share, we're missing an important fact: if you have plants and you don't water them, they die. If you have a generous community and you don't support it, well, it can't sustain.

That said, will 100% of the blog community ever get actively involved in financial support? No, probably not. But that's okay. Even a small percentage of concerned people who take action will make a big difference. I really believe that old axiom of "be the change you want to see" holds water.

And also – should it be your responsibility to pay for every single thing you enjoy online? No way. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that most of us are enjoying way more Free than we could ever hope to support, whether with comments or dollars. Free will always outstrip human capacity. That's okay, too. Each of us, then, simply has to focus in on the smaller group of people whose Free has consistently helped, inspired, or enriched us.

Stacks of Coins
Image by Darren Hester, via Flickr

There's so much more to say on this subject – how can we create a space for simple commerce in our community without making it all about money? When is Free offered in the hope of financial support not really Free? And how can bloggers who do it for love and bloggers who do it for money peacefully coexist? But I think this gigantic, complicated discussion is best done in smaller bites, so I'll save that stuff for future posts, and eagerly hope for your answer to the questions above.

Also, both Patricia and Kirsty have written posts about Free and sustainability recently, as have Tammy and Fanie and Tara. Have you? Please give us a link!


I did! :-) Mine's right here:

I'll comment more about this post tomorrow morning, Diane. :-)

Thank you so much for linking this, Fanie - your post is fantastic! I hope everyone will click on over and read. And thanks for including a nice overview of Flattr!

Please do feel free to share those questions here! I would love to hear them.

How do you define free? Is it really free when most of us pay a crapload of money for good phone/internet connections or at least a bus fare to the library? Is it really free when only 29% of the world has internet access with places like Africa are at 10%?

How do you define the craft/DIY blog community? How could individuals draw the parameters of their support in a way that would benefit the craft blog community as a whole?

Is the issue of the sustainability of Free about what we need or what we want? If we need to pay the electric bill but we want eye candy, what is the real problem? Does free sustainability revolve around how much time/effort/resources people have to make it, or around how many people can genuinely enjoy all this knowledge for free?

If we have created a culture that we think can't sustain us, is it up to the producers or the consumers to change it? Do we really need as much as we used to since we can get so much for free? If there is so much free, maybe what we pay for is going to be different than what we used to pay for? If info and media and software are largely free what should we be paying for now?

If we can't keep giving away stuff for free, but things are much easier to give than they used to be, maybe we need to go back to more trading and bartering? Maybe that aspect of internet/DIY culture needs to continue? If money affords us the ability to do stuff, and we can do stuff without money, maybe we need to change how we think about basic economics again?

If we question free on the internet, can we really have the discussion without questioning the whole of internet culture, the effects of new technology on human existence, world economics as whole, and how our personal/communal values shape and are shaped by this?

or, Can we ask what free does in the craft community without then asking what free does on the internet which leads to "what does the internet do" which leads to "what do we do" which leads to "why do we do it and what are we here for?"

It's not my fault - you asked. ;)

Heh! No, this is good.

Honestly, this discussion or any similar discussion going on in any internet community has the kinds of broader implications you're describing here. We are living in roiling, rapidly-changing times, and all feeling our way in the dark.

Obviously, I don't have any answers - which is why I wanted to raise this discussion in the first place. But I will say that I'm not sure there are any global-level answers to the question of internet communities and sustainability yet. Maybe those are a couple decades away. In the meantime, I think it's up to individual communities to formulate their own answers, and develop their own strategies.

Your question of "is it up to the producers or consumers to change it" is an excellent one, and I'd love to hear some other people's thoughts. I think it has to be both. Producers need to get better at creating both Free and paid streams AND making it clear they need support, and consumers need to choose to support the people who give them value consistently. And support comes in both monetary and non-monetary flavors.

I'll re-iterate what I said in response to Kirsty's comment, too - perhaps our best answer lies in micropayment systems like Flattr, since in that case, it's a very direct path from the content I loved to the tiny payment I made. This sidesteps all the issues of overbuying or buying things you don't need in order to support others.

I think you raise an important point Sam - and also, a point of distinction between businesses and bloggers, perhaps.

I agree that many craft businesses really do need to reach outside the craft community and into outside markets. This leads to more product sold.

For people who are primarily bloggers, though, I think it's different. Many craft blogs are pretty niche-interest affairs, which means there will be a narrower community of support. In these cases, there isn't much outside market to draw on, so the responsibility of support may fall to the blog's existing community of readers.

As to your observation about trading money around within the same family (or community), I actually think this is a good thing. Exchanges between humans are important for many reasons, but especially as tangible expressions of regard and caring. If we all simply hung on to our money, I fear we'd lose some very valuable human moments.

...And I'd love to hear what others have to say about both of these ideas.

Thanks for the links, Diane - and buying the consulting :-)

I was joking with Catherine Caine and Jade Craven recently on Twitter that we've got this one, slightly grubby dollar and we're just passing it around from blogger to blogger. I absolutely do think we need a bigger pool to fish in. And the pool is vast - we have the whole of the internet, so why does it feel like we're all just buying from our mates? How do we cast our rods further?

It often does feel that I earn something and then promptly spend it on another online person's stuff. Which is cool and wonderful and I'm gaining so much from the things I'm buying but it does leave me wondering if I'll EVER get to a space of financial stability? Because earning more isn't going to help me get out of debt if I instantly turn round and spend it all, which does tend to be my pattern.

As you can probably tell, this year I'm looking at my deeper relationship to money and what I actually NEED in my life. Much as I like to support indie dyers, for example, the truth is that I need to knit the yarn I have instead of buying more. Sometimes we can have so much that we're drowning in it. I know that I don't want to buy any more info products for a while until I've got value and use out of the ones I bought last year - I feel as if I have mental indigestion.

Wow, these are all such deep questions that you're raising, hon.

I see what you're saying, Kirsty, but I also wonder whether, if we all hold onto our money, there'd be any transactions for anyone.

It seems to me that financial support begins in our immediate reader communities and then radiates outward into that wider audience - but not everyone does work that relates to a wider audience. A fantastic quilting blog appeals to quilters and the quilting-curious, but beyond that?

And you raise a super-important point about actively supporting others leading to a surfeit of things we may not really need. When I was thinking about how I could do regular blogger support last year, this idea was what kept blocking me. Like you said, I also don't need much in the way of, say, handmade jewelry or new yarn or patterns.

Ultimately, this is why I'm aiming for a baseline of one monthly purchase - and I'm going to focus on the bloggers who've really given me a lot. My hope is that their wares will be diverse enough that I won't find myself buying needlessly, or drowning in too much of the same thing.

...So that circles back to the idea that perhaps micropayment systems are the best way after all. If more of us were on Flattr, we could give each other small payments with the click of a mouse, and those could aggregate into spendable cash. I also like the fact that, with this kind of system, the content itself is rewarded - and not offered as an enticement to buy something else. Does that make sense?

Hahaha, the day I hold onto my money, you can come round and knock me over the head because clearly the Pod People will have taken me over! :-)

But I would like to be the position where I wasn't funding the credit card company on a regular basis. Then I'd have more to give cool people.

I've currently got 3 monthly subscriptions that directly benefit 5 other bloggers and I regularly buy other stuff from indie businesses. I find I go in cycles with what I'm buying: some months, it's yarn, other months, it's jewellery, mineral make-up, perfume or books. Last month it was music and I went a bit crazy and bought 4 albums, 3 direct from the musicians and one from a small indie company. I figure it all evens out and I end up spreading my money around between lots of different areas throughout the year.

The other way I spread my money around is through Kickstarter. I don't donate every month but I try to give to charity every month and if there's not a disaster happening, then funding a creative project is a great way to do it.

Another thing that I have noticed is that if I want services that don't need to be local, I ask my Twitter followers who they recommend or I see who I like who does that thing. I got my graphic design person that way, we traded services the first time but I've paid her for everything since.

:-) I love all of this! It makes me wish we were all sharing the purchases we make in support of the community more. I think that if more strictly-passive readers saw more evidence of this kind of active support, then it might creep into more widespread behavior.

That is an excellent idea, Diane. I'd suggest making it A Thing but I think it would make people with less cash feel bad and guilty and I want this kind of stuff to stay positive.

I thought about making it A Thing for a long time. Remember this discussion of "Creative Tithing"?

But I kept coming back to the same roadblock you suggest: not everyone can realistically make room to afford community support, especially in this economy. So I just decided to make it something I do and discuss regularly - just provide one example of how it can work.

One of the things I want to look at in more depth this year is this kind of win/win scenario. What can we do to make free work for both our visitors AND ourselves without being mercenary, underhand or weird?

I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet at the moment about reclaiming the word and concept of 'strategy' - I'm convinced it doesn't have to be this boring 'business guy in a suit spouting buzzwords' type of thing. I want strategy to be a fun, exciting, smart, win/win, ethical thing to do. Hmm, is that too much of a tall order, I wonder? I think we may be thinking along similar lines around ideas of free, ethics and sustainability.

My favorite way to support the community is fun and easy. When I need something, I look to the Crafty Community first. Need a gift? I check out my favorite Etsy sellers. Need some yarn or supplies for a project? I check in with my online spinning friends. Want to improve some skills or join in some scheduled crafty time? I bet someone I admire is running an online class.

That's awesome, Rachel! I'm sure everyone you support is grateful.

Thank you for the analysis and thought that you have put into this topic. It's a simple, elegant way to help sustain a community that I find amazing from the perspective of many years involved in crafting. Thanks again!

oooh... "funding a creative project". So I know you didn't mean it like this, but that sentence reminded me that traditionally some artists had sponsors. It would be interesting if there was a way for crafters to sponsor each other's creativity without actually having to buy more stuff, like yarn they know they won't have a chance to use...

That's a fun idea, Thea! I love seeing us coming up with more ideas like this.

Oh, I totally meant it as a 'patron to the arts' thing, I think that crowdsourcing arts projects is going to be huge in the next few years. There are a lot more people with a spare ten quid that there are with a spare ten thousand!

I agree on this one. You have to give to get. I know that. It makes perfect sense. Just have to put that into practice. Thanks for the nudge Diane!

I wish I had something intelligent to say, but I don't. Just more questions. Will be listening. :)

I agree with cervixosaurus: if you are making patterns or selling supplies, you are going to get more financial support from the crafting community. But, if you are making crafts, other crafter shouldn't be your target market. Most crafters would rather make their own crafts themselves.

I personally have purchased ebooks, classes, and zines because those things help me in my crafty pursuits. I also try to buy supplies from local sources when possible. I have also purchased a few handmade items I truly wanted and had absolutely no interest in trying to make myself. But generally speaking I rarely buy handmade crafts. I make them myself or I receive them as gifts--usually from the person who made them.

Part of the problem with being a member of a do-it-yourself community, from a financial perspective, is everyone in it likes to, well, do-it-themselves. And, I have a problem with buying something for the sake of buying it. We as a society already have too much debt and too much *stuff* crowding up our lives. Those who are making a goal of managing their money better should be applauded, not chastised for not supporting the crafty community.

If you need something you can't make yourself, buying from a crafter is a great idea and certainly a better choice than buying from a big box store. But I don't think encouraging crafters to buy crafts from each other with what little money they actually earn from their crafty pursuits simply to support the crafty community is any more sustainable than everyone just giving it away for free.

Your point about a DIY-oriented community being averse to purchases is well-said, Kristin. ..And further illustrates the importance of micropayment programs in which any blogger can participate. Having the option to pay a few cents for content because you appreciate a blogger's contribution sidesteps all these issues of DIY.

Holy Moly, there's so much good stuff in this comment, I don't know where to start! :-)

I've always admired how the conversation between you and your readers is focused on mutually-beneficial exchange. You talk about what you can do for people, and you charge a fair price for the service (or yarn). In a way, you're "holding a space" where people who support your work are welcome, and those who don't will move on.

I do wonder sometimes whether putting a ton of Free out there sets up a different conversation with one's readers - and creates a space where creating fair exchange is much harder.

My take, though, on blogs like CopyBlogger and IttyBiz and the like are that essentially, they're appealing to a rather universal human need - to make better money. So they can give lots of Free, AND it whets the appetite of their communities to pay for even more help.

...And you've drawn the most interesting parallel ever between that sphere and the craft blog sphere. Since we've made so much crafty how-to information Free, perhaps we've devalued it to a large extent. And what does that leave us for monetizing potential? Selling supplies? Finished crafts? Crafty business help? What other avenues do we have? (I'd really like to know - anyone else care to brainstorm?)

And although I'm beginning to feel like a broken record in my replies here, this ALSO seems to point back to the benefit of micropayment systems. That way, it's a more direct approach: I love this blog post, because it taught me the cast-on I've been struggling to learn. I appreciate the blogger's effort, so I'll pay her a few cents.

With enough of us participating in a system like this, more people stand to be compensated for the blogging they love doing.

"they're appealing to a rather universal human need - to make better money"

I think this is really key. What are the universal needs we meet? Could we say, "The craft/DIY sphere appeals to a rather universal human need - to express yourself." To feel heard, to be creative, to use your gifts, to grow, to learn, to enjoy. When you think about it, there's a lot there.

As a blogger, I don't really expect much in the way of sustainability for my blog (in large part because I can't seem to post regularly). I also don't buy a lot from other bloggers (evend though I often like some of the products they have) simply because I really don't need what they are selling. However, I do comment on blog posts that really interest me or that I feel are useful. When I've come across a blog I like I do promote it or link to it via my own blog.

Definitely, I agree that not all bloggers are equally deep into blogging or the community. And it's true that some of us will rely on non-monetary forms of support.

...So what do you think about micropayment systems? You're the perfect candidate for this question. If you liked a blog post - it gave you some concrete value - would you want the option to pay the blogger a few cents in return? That way, it's not about whether you need what the blogger sells alongside the blog - it's about compensating for the value you got in that post.

What do you think of that?

Interesting topic, and for me, its quite simple.
If I want something I will buy it.
But Im not very likely to 'donate' for blog posts - and to be perfectly honest, I dont think many others would either. You might get the odd dedicated few, but most wont if they dont have to.

But if making a small payment stands between them and something they really want at that moment, then they will be MUCH more likely to make a payment.

If you want people to part with money, you have to give them something they really want. ( Or, as a previous poster mentioned, if it is for a good, philanthropic cause, like injustice or disaster.)

An example, I might be looking for a crochet pattern for a teacosy.
I go to ravelry and search for patterns.
I dont base my search criteria on free, I base it on, crochet + teacosy

I look through the search results, and if the one I really want costs a few dollars, Im not going to say no to it, because, after all, I have just narrowed down the options to what I really want.

I think if bloggers want to make money from blogging, then they need to think of things to offer readers that they want to (and would be happy to) buy.
Be that a product or services.
But offer free as well, to promote good will and a spirit of sharing


Well, Fi, I will say that the knitting and crochet communities are particularly blessed by the access to pattern sales AND audience afforded by Ravelry.

As I said in the post, I agree that voluntary support will never be universal. But I do think that a sea change is needed in the way blog-content consumers see the richness they're getting. The model of thinking of things crafters would need or be happy to buy is certainly a sound one, but we're brought back to the central question: what IS that, exactly?

OK, putting my consulting hat on for a moment here - people need to learn to highlight their own value, especially since great content is so easy to lose (particularly on blogs). So if you've got a great free resource like a collection of tutorials or patterns, great core articles or a free podcast - for the love of all that is holy, make it VERY obvious!

Visitors to your blogs and websites should be able to find that free stuff instantly. It should be neatly arranged, easy to spot and obvious that it's free. I constantly see people burying potentially fantastic resources that could help establish them as an expert who knows their stuff. If you're thinking of moving over into being paid for what you do online, you should think long and hard about how you're presenting these sort of resources.

That's why I have my Free Resources section where I keep my core articles. At first it was just called Articles but I got a lot more hits once I renamed it. Having the word 'free' in the title of the section also helps to emphasis that not everything else on my site is free, especially since it's deliberately placed next to the Services button. I'll probably be adding a Free Photos section soon, because my Creative Commons photos are becoming a large and useful resource at this point.

Having this section clearly labelled on my header not only makes stuff easy to find, it also helps to prove that I know what I'm talking about. Plus it gives the people who can't afford me right now a useful place to start. I actively direct people there from my sales pages for this reason - if someone can't afford my rates but we're otherwise a good fit, I still want them to engage with me and my stuff. Maybe they'll buy from me in the future or they maybe they'll tell other people who might buy. Either way, I see it as a win-win, even if they never buy a single thing.

You know, Kirsty, I used to hate the idea of labeling Free as Free, because I used to think, "Why bother, when it's ALL Free?" But now I think you're right - it's good to differentiate as a first step to "changing the conversation" around your blog.

Plus I like what Kirsty said about having "free resources" next to her "services" making it obvious that there's stuff to pay for as well. The win-win is great.

Hey Diane,
I've featured you today on Today's Creative Blog. I'm a fellow Portlander also. I have a featured button for all my featured bloggers if you'd like one.

Thank you so much, Kim! I had no idea you were a Portlander!

More to think about! I support crafters as much as I can by shopping craft fairs. I go to an annual one and on average spend around $500.00. I only buy things that are handmade...I tend to veto things that have been handmade but have also been made with an expensive machine. This is my way of supporting the crafting community. I'm a person who does very little shopping online because I like to hold something before I buy it...and I don't like to wait for delivery. I know, that's sad.

Thanks for sharing your practices, Kim! I know every crafter you're supporting really, really appreciates you.

Thanks for the link love, and your continued support!

First, free isn't going anywhere, so we definitely need to keep thinking and talking about these ideas. I did more free in the past (video classes, tutorials, patterns), got so busy I couldn't wrap my brain around the time for extra patterns and tutorials for a while, and am now trying to figure out a way to put some time back into my schedule to produce a small amount of free content.

On consumption, I agree with Sam on this in a lot of ways. I love supporting fellow small businesses, and aim a good chunk of my dollars their way when I have a *need* for something, but I try to curb my impulse buying based on, "it's indie and so cute". That just places me in a cycle I don't want to be in, of collecting unneeded items, more stuff, less space, more debt.

At craft shows I've vended at, especially ones packed with overwhelmingly talented crafters, like Renegade Craft Fair, I take a set amount of money out of the cash box, based on a fraction of my overall sales, and use it as mad money. That $ may go toward gifts or things for me or my home, but I try to stick as closely as possible to that budget. And it makes me think harder about where I'm spending my hard earned dollars. I need to follow your example and divvy up a slice of my monthly internet sales to go toward the same goals.

Currently, I'm completely absorbed in the idea of "need not want", decluttering, and sustainable/investment purchases. So I have to think really hard about each purchase, about who I'm supporting, about whether I really need it, about where it will live in the house, and on how long it will last. Business & marketing classes, patterns, useful information in book/ebook form are easy, they usually make the cut. But jewelry, clothing, knickknacks, gadgets are all under major scrutiny.

One thing I've decided to do this year, because I do love and appreciate handcrafted items, but don't want extra stuff, is to replace my worn, inefficient, not-so-satisfying homegoods and clothes with better investment pieces as my budget allows. I think about the purchased items I own that I really spent time thinking about and a bit more money to buy, and those are things I haven't regretted. Good handcarved wooden spoon vs. easily scorched plastic spoon, things like that. Goofy, not-so-helpful plastic whatsits from Walmart? I've been purging those like crazy in my current decluttering project:

How are others balancing consumption vs. supporting indie crafters? Any tips?

Well-said, Mercedes! This is a really important point of discussion. I find myself gravitating to digital products and supplies for the same reason - I'm already bursting at the seams with stuff. I really love your idea of looking at the everyday-use things in your life and finding ways to replace them with handmade.

I'm also thinking along the lines of using more donation buttons on more blogs as part of my community support investment - since my goal is financial support, that's a very direct method to give it.

I hope others will share their ideas and tips on this subject!

I love what you said here and agree a great deal. I think it would be really helpful if more indie crafters turned their eye to "boring" stuff people need and make that great.

I guess my tip would be to not feel obligated to support someone just becaue they're indie/crafty. Stuff is stuff. I think part of creating a healthy community is making stuff for each other that's helpful. I'm in the process of doing something similar to what you're doing - looking at the basic stuff I buy often and finding better ways to consume it - more local? more green? more indie? etc..

Thanks for this, Patricia - it's good food for thought.

You're making me realize that there is, perhaps, another line of distinction to draw here. I completely agree that in the case of crafty businesses that make handmade goods, outside money is needed for viability.

But to me, the crafty blogosphere is somewhat different. I'm just not sure how much outside money we bloggers can hope for - how many non-crafters are really interested in buying craft tutorials?

The central thing I'm getting at with these discussions is: we're blessed to have a great many people sharing awesome things for Free every day in the crafty blogosphere. Many of those people are not being compensated for their work - whether in money or appreciation. So as a community, what is our choice: to let the blogs we love die out, or to evolve as a community so there's more mutual support?

I don't necessarily think anyone will make a full-time income solely from blogging. But what's wrong with most bloggers making a few bucks for their time and expertise? I'm not sure a full-time income level is needed to make the Free we all enjoy sustainable.

Sorry to take so long to respond, day job intervened.

First, I craft (knit, crochet, quilt, basically anything fiber, with some beads thrown in for good measure). It's what feeds my soul and right brain. I spend money on tutorials. I took one of your and Tara's courses. I have taken on line courses in knitting, felting, etc. One of the comments I left for Betz White's course in 2009 was that, even when travelling, I knew that on Tuesday, I could spend an hour or so, in my hotel room, seeing and learning a new skill.

I don't do crafting for money. So, there definitely is a market that brings in wealth to those who craft for a business. The question is how crafters like you can reach people like me.

Second, in my day job, there is no such thing as "free". Free in my world is no cost, no revenue. Time is money. Blogging, providing "no revenue" content is not costless. I spent many years as a volunteer in my discipline (which I loved) and it eventually led to income producing work. It might not have. But that's true of all types of marketing. One of the things I believe helped generate the work was that I was never actually actively/overtly selling myself. My doing a good job sold me.

Third, blogging definitely is one critical means to reach people like me. There are several crafters whose blogs I read religiously and from whom I purchase (yours is one). This would not happen if I wasn't drawn back to the blogs. And, the blogs aren't overtly marketing to me. Personally, I believe that's important but that also could be a good topic for discussion.

Make no mistake, in my view, blogging is today's most important marketing strategy. Unless you are blogging as your diary, you should be generating income from blogging. I've been seriously considering starting a blog myself in my discipline, which is financial reporting. There is no question in my mind that effective blogging creates work. The question is what can the blogger do to make that blogging effective, without being overtly marketing.

I could go on forever.


Heh! So could I, Patricia - this discussion has so many arms and legs to it. Thank you for the detailed follow-up. You're right that blogging needs to find a good way to hold hands with good business practices. I think we're in a big moment of evolution around this.

You've inspired me to make the next post in this series about the money model you're describing - offer Free, and offer products alongside it, and do this without marketing too much. I think there's a lot to say about that.

Patricia your response touched on a few things that have been rolling around in mind as well. One is what are some ways to support the community that are sustainable? I'd suggest from an economics standpoint it would be offer support in return for value rather then support for supports sake. Diane mentioned in the article one of the ways she supported the community is bought consulting, this supports the community, but also presumably adds value to her business and allows her to sell more which in turn allows her to support more.

So I'd ask, when you looks for ways to support do you look at it from a sustainability standpoint?

And related to that who's responsibility is to make the economics of free sustainable? If I as user support others in a non sustainable fashion (perhaps through donations) my ability to support will quickly run out. On the other hand if I as a vendor don't consider sustainability in my business model in terms of free then how can I expect sustained support from my community?

Thanks again for this series Diane, it's been a real mind bender so far.

You inspired me to reinstall Flattr again, Diane. I'd sort of let it lapse but I'm back on it again. I'm also going to install it on my new 365 Jars project:

Now I just have to remember to actually use it. I got a nice surprise though: when I logged into the website, I had 11 euros sitting waiting for me.

I very much want to Flattr your 365 Jars project. I didn't even see that you had another yearlong project in motion! How awesome are you? Very.

Thanks. I've just got my buttons up and running again.

I must write a blog post about doing 365 projects, there are a lot of them around at the moment but I bet some will fall by the wayside. But not my jars of course :-)

I very much want to Flattr your 365 Jars project. I didn't even see that you had another yearlong project in motion! How awesome are you? Very.

I very much want to Flattr your 365 Jars project. I didn't even see that you had another yearlong project in motion! How awesome are you? Very.

Thank you so much for joining the discussion, Stephanie! I'm so glad you enjoyed the tutorial and the Google Reader tricks post.

I have to say, I'm not 100% convinced about the effectiveness of the products and services model. It's no less an uphill battle, in other words, than asking for micropayments. And, assuming a supportive community (even a small one), it might ultimately be easier to convince people to contribute a few pennies here and there than it is to convince them to buy a $20.00 product.

You're right, though - every model has pros and cons.

I really appreciate you joining the conversation, Teresa. Absolutely, this is not an easy conversation.

Your question about "why do you guys give so much Free" is a good one. I'm wrestling with another post about this at the moment, but I think there are a number of reasons, at least at the start of a blog. Free builds readership, which, down the line, might become a customer base. Free lets you build your skills to a more professional level through repetition and access to public feedback. And Free definitely gives you great satisfaction when you discover that the things you've shared have helped others.

...But, six years in to giving lots of Free, I'm experiencing a big shift in how I feel about Free. Hence all these Mt. Everest blog posts. :-)