Kim Werker: Free vs fee in the crafter’s scene

This is a guest post by Kim Werker, a writer, editor, speaker, blogger, crafter and founder of the Mighty Ugly project.

Over the last few years, the online crafts community has been having a conversation about free content, how it influences the enjoyment of craft, the effect it may or may not have on sales of for-fee content, and how it might fit into a business model. (You can read more about the conversation here and here: That Woo-Woo Money Thing.)

A knitted Dalek, straight out of Doctor Who

Crafters, you see, produce a huge number of tutorials and patterns for everything from how to build a birdhouse to how to hem your own jeans to how to knit a Harry Potter sweater. And to a fair extent, crafters have come to take for granted that if they want to learn a new technique or find a pattern for how to make a particular thing, they can Google it and find dozens or hundreds of results, many for free (and some for a fee).

Some crafters share free patterns and tutorials because they feel they’ve learned a lot from others and they want to pay it forward. Some share free content because they want to draw attention to their professional work. Some because they simply want to share their love of craft.

It’s an interesting time for our community, as the number of people trying to make a living through their creativity is increasing, while consumers simultaneously have less money to spend and are interested in buying more handmade goods.

Kim got creative in storing surplus yarn - canisters and some free space below shelves did the trick.

As the foundations of the global economy shift and more and more people are paying attention to where their goods come from, creators of handmade products are finding increasing success in educating consumers about why their goods are priced as they are (often higher than mass-manufactured goods). Likewise, creators of for-fee content like patterns and online classes are doing a good job of explaining the work that goes into developing their digital products, which leads more and more consumers to decide the price is worth paying.

Free content also takes time, talent and ingenuity to create, and this is where I see Flattr playing an important role in bolstering the sustainability of the crafts movement. For people who create free content, Flattr provides a low-profile, non-salesy avenue to financially support more content creation. For consumers, Flattr provides a simple and straightforward way to tangibly support the content they value.

Here’s a personal example of how powerful I think Flattr could be in our community. I work professionally as a writer and editor, and I run creativity workshops. I started a newsletter as a side project, in part to experiment more with that particular communication medium, and also to have some fun. In each newsletter I include a handful of links to content I find clever, creative, or generally fun, and I explain why each is included. I really enjoy this newsletter, and I’d love to prepare more than one or two each month, but to justify allocating my time to that I’d have to make some money doing it.

I don’t want to charge a subscription fee for something so informal, and I also don’t want to take on the pressures a proper subscription model would entail. What I’d really like is to have a Flattr button in each newsletter. In my fantasy, enough people will Flattr the newsletter that I’ll eventually be able to justify spending the time to make it better and more frequent.

Until that time comes, I’ll be spending as much energy as I can trying to spread the word about Flattr within my community. I think we could all benefit from it, but not until enough people start using it.

Kim Werker is a writer, editor, speaker, author of crochet books, blogger, crafter and founder of the Mighty Ugly project. When she’s not eking out her living from some creative project or another, she’s chillin’ with her ten-month-old, reading good fiction, watching sci-fi, or trying to find time to make stuff. Say hello and catch up with her at kimwerker.com, on Twitter @kpwerker, and on Google+.

Photo credit: Kim Werker

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2 Responses to Kim Werker: Free vs fee in the crafter’s scene

  1. Siim Teller says:

    Happened to have a chat with Sister Diane from Craftypod.com and she pointed me to an interesting post she did back in January. Something she said really resonated with me:

    “I have tried to give a lot of Free to this community for nearly six years now. And I am here to tell you, there comes a point where you simply have to look at all the hours that are going into Free, and think about how you’re being compensated for all that effort. Sooner or later, no matter how wonderful the projects are, and no matter how fun it is to participate with your fellow crafters, you get worn out.”

    http://www.craftypod.com/2011/01/18/the-non-monetary-benefits-and-consequences-of-free/

    Same thing happened to me and a couple of friends when we had built up a popular website on photography (it was in Estonian as my roots are there) and we simply ran out of steam to keep doing it for free and out of pure enthusiasm…

  2. Cyber Killer says:

    I always wanted to have on of these: http://www.free-penguin.org/ but my grandma’s didn’t make it to the free software age. Anyway I ended up buying different penguins in toy shops around me. Sadly none of them have plush Cthulhu’s and Geecko’s (openSUSE mascot).

    As for crafting anything myself I’m only into origami, which also has a commercial pattern problem.