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The Results (and Questions) from My Donation-ware Tutorial
So, about two weeks ago, I tried a little experiement in Free and Sustainability. I released this project tutorial as both a free how-to on the blog and a "donation-ware" PDF with a full-size pattern. The idea was, you could have the project for free, but if you wanted to support crafty content here on CraftyPod, you could also click a donation button and chip in a dollar or more.
The results of this experiment have been very interesting, and I think it's important to share them and discuss them. It's very clear to me from all our recent discussion that many of us are seeking ways to make free content on our blogs more sustainable, so the best way to find these solutions is to work them out together.
So first, here's the data.
I am so grateful to Georgene Lockwood, Elizabeth Devereaux, Chris Miser, Alexa Westerfield, Sarah Wood, Susan Beal, Mirja Marshall, Mary Corbet, and Joanne Ososki for their donations. Seriously, their willingness to support free crafty content gives me great hope for the future of craft blogging. I so appreciate your engagement and kindness, Ladies!
Do I wish there had been more donations? I'm not going to lie to you: I do wish. Because here's a little more data:
Those nine donations total $41.50. Granted, that's $41.50 more than I've made on most other tutorials on this blog, but when you do the math on how many hours I put into this presentation, it comes out to getting paid $2.96 per hour.
That's better than getting paid zero dollars per hour, of course. But is it enough for me to continue making free tutorials? I honestly don't know. But actually, I think I'll tackle that subject in another post.
Looking a gift horse in the mouth?
I'm worried that, by sharing all the ways these results aren't that sustainable, I risk belittling the kindness of the nine people who supported my experiment. I don't mean to – in fact, I am wholly grateful that there was a response at all.
Here's why I'm trying so hard to point out what goes into these things and what comes out of them: we are all gaining a lot from the online crafty community. But are we all putting enough back in? And how honest are we being about the kinds of value we'd like to get in exchange for our efforts?
For example, when I launched this experiment, I never quantified how much money in donations I would need in order to consider it a success. And I only realized this once I realized that I was disappointed about having so few donors.
In a world where time and energy are aways scarce, how long can any of us continue to put good work out there with no hope of compensation? At what point does a sharing-based community begin to take responsibility for itself in economic terms?
I am certainly not saying we need to make this community a "pay to play" experience - not at all! There should always be room for Free and Paid. But are we actually making enough room for the latter?
Closing that loop
I'll mention this, too, although it's a little dicey to do so. I did hear from a lot of fellow bloggers who were curious about how this donation-ware model was working out, because they were eager to try it out on their own blogs. And for the record, only one of those inquirers (Alexa) actually made a donation.
If you asked me but didn't donate, I am not trying to slam you for that! But I think it brings up a very interesting point: these sustainability models can really only work if we're willing to "close the loop" and support as well as share.
I don't think it makes sense to assume that "all those non-bloggers out there" will step in and support us, and we can let our fellow bloggers off the hook. Because let's face it – only another blogger can understand how many hours it takes to make a good tutorial. And the mainstream audience has a much more passive attitude to content than we do. So honestly, who's to make the donation-ware model go, if not fellow bloggers?
I actually think this donation-ware model has real possibilities, because it takes a "product" (tutorials) that we all consider to be of high value already, and then gives those of us who consume it a very easy, low-cost way to help support it. A donation of a couple bucks is way less than a print magazine subscription, and it directly helps your neighbor or friend keep making the content you love to read.
So I'd love to see lots more of us releasing donation-ware work. And I think that more of us can take advantage of this model if more of us are also actively supporting it.
Your turn - what are your thoughts?
…Here's what I'm curious about after this experiment:
• Do you have an interest in using the donation-ware model on your own blog? How would you do it differently? And what kind of response would make it worth your time?
• If you decided not to support this tutorial, what led to your decision? There's no judgement here – your feedback is veluable for us all. Was the project not appealing? Too holiday-oriented? Was the presentation not clear? Was it too grabby?
• What kinds of tutorials in general would you be most willing to make donations for? (Not just here, but anywhere?)