Organising the Imperial Goldwork Course during the lock-down posed a real challenge. I couldn't send out course materials due to international mail not going out. I needed to invest in a high-spec webcam and software at a time when our household income was low due to the pandemic. Teaching live on Zoom for an international crowd in which often three languages were spoken, was new for me too. But I tremendously enjoyed sharing my knowledge and skills. And I learned a lot. Which changed the way I will do similar things in the future.
As my husband lost 40% of his already meagre income at the start of the lock-down, I was very aware of the struggle many people were in. Especially those who do not live in a welfare state like Germany. That's why I came up with a donation payment structure for the course. The idea is that people with disposable income donate when they take the course and those who lost (part) of their income can join for free (as explained in this blog post). As the warmth and the solidarity of the embroidery community is so often praised, it should not have been a problem for me to draw an income from my efforts. But it was and still is.
Of the 108 stitchers who have taken the course to date, 30 made a donation. Donations range from €10 to €265, with an average of €59. Producing each lesson and supporting students via email took me to date about 3,5 days per lesson. If we subtract the cost for the webcam and the software, I am left with €484. If we divide this by the working hours I invested, I worked for €2,16 per hour before taxes.
As most people took the course during or immediately after the live zoom classes, I sent out a survey to those who downloaded the PDF-handouts. After all, I wanted to learn from my mistakes. And I thank all who took the trouble to respond and provide me with valuable feedback.
One of the questions asked why people did or did not pay for the course. And the replies where illuminating. Reasons for not paying in order of their frequency: 1) others don't pay so why should I?, 2) when I cannot attend (all) of the live zoom classes and need to watch (some of) the recordings, I am not really participating in the course so I do not need to pay and 3) only wanted to see how you do it so that I can use your format for my own offerings/report format back to my organisation.
From the above, it becomes clear that the donation payment structure does not work. Thanks to Social Media, I could watch people, who took my course without paying, showing-off their latest buys and sign-ups for embroidery courses. I will thus not use this payment structure again. For all future courses, I will make a proper costing. If you want to take the course, that is what you will need to pay. I am aware that some will probably not be able to afford my future courses. However, if all 108 students, who have taken the course so far, would each have donated €32,64, I would have earned the German legal minimum wage of €10 per hour. That's for a person without qualifications and experience, by the way.
Before the pandemic, but certainly now during the pandemic, some colleagues and stitchers have started to 'shop' for ideas from my blog, Instagram and YouTube channel. Thank you to those of you who have warned me. I had seen it with my own eyes too. As you probably have noticed, I am posting very sparingly on Instagram and I am not sure if I will make more FlossTube videos. I am also struggling with how much detail to post on my blog. It is a real dilemma. On the one hand, I need to be engaging so that I keep myself in the picture and sell my products and services. But on the other hand, it is soul-destroying to see others turn your ideas into blockbusters.
My academic background and language skills should give me an edge over many of my colleagues. But this only works if the potential costumers are able to distinguish the difference in quality. But fake news and alternative facts show that increasingly people are unable to do so. Quality news outlets suffer and so do quality embroidery tutors.
I took the course off-line on the 31st of December 2021. Although the course was still regularly downloaded, I only received two donations during 2021. As explained above, the donation model sadly does not work.
Lieve Jessica, wat jammer dat je dit zo moet schrijven! het is onfatsoenlijk om spullen van een ander schaamteloos zonder toestemming te gebruiken en dan misschien ook nog zonder bronvermelding. Hoe je dit probleem helemaal kan dichtspijkeren weet ik niet. Misschien niet meer op YouTube zetten en alleen toegang verlenen aan diegenen die betalen met de mededeling dat er straffen op staan bij misbruik van Copy write. Ik wens je heel veel wijsheid en succes met een nieuwe cursus en ik doe zeker weer mee. cursusgeld + materiaalpakket is misschien een idee.
Dank je wel Mabel! Het hemd is op dit moment bij velen nader dan de rok. Maar het blijft wel jatten. De volgende cursus gaat achter een pay wall op Vimeo en met paswoord op NING. Pakket en cursus worden een prijs. Door alle software die daar voor nodig is, worden de cursussen helaas ook weer iets duurder. En ben ik er weer meer tijd aan kwijt die helaas ook doorberekend moet worden. Erg zonde dat dit moet. Ondertussen ga ik maar weer eens even stoom afblazen door met de fiets tegen een berg op te rijden :).
I am appalled but not surprised. The "honesty", if you can call it that, of those answering your questionnaire was indeed illuminating. It is sadly clear that you must at least charge what the course is worth in future rather than rely on the support of the online community. Actually, I rather hope your problems haven't been with bone fide stitchers, but i'm hopelessly naive.
Thank you for your support Nancy! And in a way I am glad that I am not the only naive person out there. It is indeed amazing how 'honest' people are when they are anonymous :).
I am a person with an enthusiasm for embroidery especially goldwork but I am not (yet) a stitcher myself. I do not always have time to follow up on your posts but I was very interested to read your blog about your experiences with online course teaching - especially the issues over payment and plagiarism. Small businesses of all types, including those run by members of my family, have taken to the internet in these times of constraint caused by the pandemic and you illustrate some of the pitfalls. I hope that you find a way forward that works for you.
Thank you for your support Paul! And I really hope you pick up your needle some day :). In a way it is good to know that I am not the only one with these issues. And compared to those poor souls in Moria, I have a very pleasant life. However, I believe that all these issues stem from the same root cause: forgetting that you could be one of them at the flip of a coin. Wishing your relatives all the best!
WE EMBROIDERERS LIKE TO THINK WE ARE PART OF A GENEROUS, GIVING AND OPEN HANDED COMMUNITY BUT UNFORTUNATELY THE MEANER SIDE OF HUMAN NATURE COMES THROUGH. I AM SO SORRY THIS HAS NOT WORKED FOR YOU AS YOU HAVE BEEN SO TRUSTING BUT I DO BELIEVE THAT IN THE LONG RUN YOUR GIVING WILL BE BLESSED AND YOU WILL NOT SUFFER.
Thank you for your support, Joyce! That's what I have always believed too. If you give unselfishly, it will come back to you. But after 10 years in the business, I have come to revise that view. Especially when I see, often quite well-known names, being less than pleasant and not giving at all, but they still have a great following and an income. Bitchy seems to equal 'I trust you with my money' and when you share and go great lengths to help stitchers, regardless of them spending money with you, it means you are naive and it is your own fault that you are struggling. It eludes me!
Jessica I am so sorry for what happened to you. As others have said, we like to belive that we are part of an honest and generous fellowship of embroiderers. Unfortunately time and again we find that that is not true of all embroiderers :-(
Thank you for your support, Ilke! And indeed people have complained that I did not provide enough detail and that they are dissapointed with their buy. There is a groupd of women out there that only wants the very best for next to nothing. And they are very vocal with a larger than average following. I found that I had become so used to being treated a certain way, that it took a pandemic to make me realise that it is not okay. And I will need to reduce how much I share. Maybe moving to Patreon would be the solution. I just hate that a big company is than taking a share of the payments!
Oh, Jessica, it's so disheartening, isn't it! I wish there was a way to solve it, but I do think that people like you being willing to analyse costs and income implications will help others to understand the effects of their actions.
It indeed is! And I think that many more are suffering and struggling, but keep posting 'happy' posts to their Social Media accounts. Who wants to admit that they have been treated unfairly? You don't want to be know as the forever complaining one. But I am a firm believer that if something bugs you for nights on end, you should speak up!
Thank you so much for your support, Cynthia! And I am glad that I have somebody to ask for help and to share with.
Dear Jessica, how sad to read about your terrible experience. I see that nothing has changed, even when it's online. I was a professional embroiderer for 13 years and gave many courses. But just like you, I mostly received negative feedback on prices. Always too expensive... I was even told I should have worked for free as embroidery is just a 'hobby'. I gave it all up because i was really fed up and heart-broken. So I do encourage you to charge prices that are rewarding for you, regardless of what people say. If you give unselfishly to people who don't care, you'll just get trampled upon. So choose to whom you give your efforts to - which is quite difficult when working online. Hang on in there, and do continue being generous - to those who value your work by paying their courses! Big hug to you!
Thank you for your support, Marina! Speaking out is always so scary, but I felt it was about time again. Seeing the comments on this blog, I am not the only one and clearly preaching to the already converted. However, it rains unsibscribe notices in my inbox...
You'll get new subscriptions - people who unsubscribe are either those who have been watching and copying you, or they are people who hate conflict because they feel guilty... ;-) Keep up the good work, you're an excellent tutor with lots of enthusiasm and knowledge.
Hello from South Africa. I am terribly saddened to hear of how your skill and generosity have (not) been rewarded.
Thank you for your support, Maureen! Yes, getting supplies out or in is a nightmare at the moment. That's why the next course has such a long time plan to make sure that supplies will reach each student before the course starts.
I am so glad you posted about your costs versus
Thank you for your support, Darcy! Yes, creating a subscription program of some sorts seems to be the best way forward. It is my ultimate goal to develop a class where people do stitch their own orphrey. However, now that I had some experience in teaching a simple orphrey at a retreat, I feel that I need to teach the basics first. Otherwise it becomes pretty frustrating for most :).
What an absolutely despicable way to behave. I am sorry you have lost a significant income from this. Goldwork is not something I am currently interested in, but it's on the list of things to do eventually - such as when I am finally sufficiently competent at cross stitch.
Thank you for your support, Richard! And what beautiful fountain pens you make. I get often asked to help people on their way with embroidery designs made and sold by somebody else. When I decline and refer the person back to where the design originates, they are usually not too happy either.
So sorry you lost income and had some negative results from your postings and videos. I really enjoy your blogs and FlossTube pieces very much and appreciate you experience and knowledge. I paid for your course and bought the materials, but couldn't work the course at the time because of family commitments that came up. Looking forward to future classes!
Thank you for your support, Kimberly! And I hope to meet you in a future class.
Dank je wel voor je support, Truus! Ik doe inmiddels geen opdrachten meer, dat was altijd zo'n gezeur. Mensen die zelf niet of nauwelijks kunnen borduren, maar jou wel precies kunnen vertellen hoe het moet :). En onder het minimumloon natuurlijk!
I'm so sad after reading your post
Thank you for your support, Meri! As always, I am really grateful for it. And that's why these blog posts are so difficult to write. The people who misbehave will not mend their ways. Instead, those who already support me, help me even more.
I am so angry and sad after reading about this your experience. When people will understand that only cheese in a mousetrap is for free? (we have such expression in Lithuanian) If you want a good quality content, you must pay. And also if something is online, it is not always for free and, of course, it has its author and you cannot copy it and use as your own materials.
Thank you for your support Agne! As soon as all the supplies have been gathered, I will put the price up on my website with a detailed course description :).
I'm so sorry to hear about your experiences, Jessica. Like a lot of your readers have already mentioned, I considered our stitching communitiy to be 'different', and appreciate and value the time, effort, skill and education achieved that has allowed you to offer these lessons. I think the more we navigate the internet, and social media etc, the more we realise we have to be careful of what we post, although it is tempting to want to post a lot of detail to help others learn, perhaps that isn't the best long term approach. Good luck with your next classes.
Thank you for your support, Catherine! That's the conundrum, isn't it? If you show to little detail, people may not be interested enough to pay for your services. But offer too much detail and you open the door to misuse. I am probably going to make the switch to Patreon and install a paywall.
Thank you for your support, Kath! Yes, many have lost their jobs recently and a craft business is easily set-up. Many just give it a shot. Competition is fierce. I hope it will calm down again!
I am sorry to hear of your experience but not surprised. I have not found the donation model very successful so I always set a price. People will steal from you. People will steal in RL too. I had a children's wear shop and each year approximately 10% of stock was stolen. I think the net is worse. So I look at my site visitor numbers and feel about 15-20% are there for theft. About 80% are there for free stuff. But the net is such that I can reach more people - it's a larger market so I hang in there. Over the years my site has been a great source of satisfaction but making an income has always been a challenge. Some years are better than others - this year not so good.
Thank you for your support and insightful comment, Sharon! Yes, the numbers are the same here. And when you attend craft shows, you loose stock the same way. I so wished there was a way to repair this as I am really struggling to keep going. I suspect I will put my blog and videos behind a paywall. The numbers you mention would mean that only 0-5% would be willing to pay. That's what I had deducted too.
What ever you decide to do I wish you the best
You too, Sharon! And whatever happens, we will keep exchanging stamps :).
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