One of my friends in the craft industry shared a blog post from an author that reads as if it was ripped from a crafting Facebook Group or scrapbooking forum. Replace the words “writing” and “author” with “creating” and “crafter/blogger/YouTuber” and you’d be hard-pressed to see any difference. I woke up this morning asking myself why I do this, why have a craft blog, why do any of it, why not throw in the towel and do ANYTHING else? For a moment, I feel like anything else would feel more gratifying and have more purpose than THIS: blogging, crafting, making videos, slaving over a hot glue gun for pennies in ad revenue. I know I am not alone. I know you other bloggers and crafters have felt this way. I love my work and craft blog but some days, I have trouble finding the motivation to keep going because the responses I get back from some people are so utterly thankless and at the same time demanding that I would get more enjoyment from watching Netflix all day or taking a nap. It’s not that I should quit or that I don’t love what I do – it is that the demands wear you down like a piece of sandpaper on wood – at some point, there is nothing left to sand away, nothing left to give. It’s just a few people that ruin the entire process. Here’s why a sense of entitlement is killing our creativity and our industry:
The author who wrote the blog post above did such a great job, I am going to mirror her post with mine. NO, I am not copying it. I just want to draw parallels between how creatives in WRITING are treated and how creatives in CRAFTING and DIY are treated. The underlying problem here is this level of entitlement and non-gratitude that we see these days, not just from readers but from peers and other businesses as well. The saddest part is that it’s only a few bad apples who have started infecting the bunch. This is becoming more and more prevalent and frequent.Why is it that we let the few ruin our experience and our joy? Is it only anecdotal that we feel like the negative feedback about our making money is more frequent? Is it really more frequent? Whether or not it is more frequent, my reaction to negative feedback and how it affects me is more intense as time passes. I deal it with it differently than before (I love that delete button!) but it still makes me question whether I can make a living doing this business that I actually do make a living at! It makes me question who I am doing this all for. And that is the challenge happening for creatives everywhere in this age where we are all more connected, more accessible, and there is so much more information at our fingertips.
Let’s get started. Here are things people say:
WRITING: I’m broke and I can’t afford to pay for my entertainment.
CRAFTING: I’m broke and I can’t afford to pay for my craft supplies. GIVE THEM TO ME.
Rearing it’s ugly head whenever there’s a giveaway, a team call, or a business is trying to sell something, this kind of comment drives me BONKERS! Crafts are a leisure activity – people will not die without craft supplies. In fact, you might even be a better crafter WITHOUT fancy supplies; let your ingenuity blossom by using what you have and can find for free to make something amazing. Why are the companies, bloggers, and professional crafters supposed to subsidize your supply budget?
It boggles my mind when a company or blogger tries to do a nice giveaway and right away there are all these people complaining about the giveaway being US only or that they have to “follow” the company on Instagram. GOOD GRIEF! You’re trying to get something for free! Is everyone really that dense that they don’t know that a company or blogger does a giveaway to get buzz and followers? You don’t HAVE to enter the giveaway. Companies and bloggers have to follow all kinds of INSANE laws about giveaways in every state and country. Do you know how much it costs to make sure they are covered legally to do a giveaway? In addition, it is incredibly expensive to ship prizes internationally. Then, prizes get stuck in customs and the “winners” complain about how slow shipping is when THEIR country is the one holding the prize in customs. This is why some bloggers have sworn off of giveaways completely. It’s too much hassle for too little return. Same with team calls – shipping, customs, and laws about paying people make it super hard to have international design team members. Why would someone want to add you to their team when you just complained about them on social media? Duh.
I have posted craft supplies for sale on Facebook or etsy from time to time. EVERY time I do this, at least one or two people message me with some sob story about how they deserve me to send this product (that I am selling) to them for FREE. Since when are craft supplies essential needs like medicine, food, and shelter? Their messages are guaranteed to be a study of master manipulation – a combination of gushing about how inspiring and awesome I am, how they love my blog, how they follow my every move, and then they start in on how they wish they were as talented and they wish they had a room of supplies and they wish they did not have debilitating fibrolmyalgia, diabetes, a leg that falls off, blue eyes, straight hair, or whatever they wish they wish they wish. If they put half as much effort into making an income so they could buy their own supplies, they’d be so successful.
The worst for me are the people who are on a “fixed income” who think that is supposed to guilt us into giving them freebies. I don’t know anyone who is NOT on a fixed income. My husband does not magically come home with more pay this month than last month. It’s just about the same amount, within a few pennies, getting deposited into our bank account every single month. After he has worked no less than 160 hours that month. Some months I make more money or less. If I go on vacation or decide to watch Netflix and eat bon-bons on the couch, no money for me. Entrepreneurs are on WORSE than a fixed income – if I don’t bust my butt working on things, I don’t make money. No one is cutting me a check just for existing. Being on a fixed income is IRRELEVANT. Irrelevant to EVERYTHING. Unless you are asking for clothes, food, or shelter and in that case, there’s Welfare and charities. This paper pad I am selling or giving away is not going to help you unless you plan to set it on fire to warm your house or cook a meal.
WRITING: Creative works should be free–the purpose of creativity is to tell stories and share them, and there shouldn’t be a monetary component to the process.
CRAFTING: Tutorials and classes should be free – the purpose of creativity is to share it and help others be creative, and there shouldn’t be a monetary component to the process. Crafting is an enjoyable hobby, after all.
“Why should I pay for a class when I can just watch YouTube for free?”
“Why are you charging for a class when you should just share this tutorial for free on your blog?”
“I am using an ad blocker to block all those annoying ads on blogs – I’ll stop reading their blog if they keep annoying me!”
I have heard these and many other thoughtless comments. If you have ever taught a class or made a decent tutorial, then you know that it is hours of work. Sure, I enjoy creating the project and it brings me joy to share it with others. But it costs an INCREDIBLE amount of time and money to make each tutorial. It also costs in time away from family, friends, and just crafting for fun. It takes a toll on our lifestyle. Making money from the work we do is one way to offset the cost in time, money, and relationships that being an entrepreneur has. We LOVE what we do. At some point, usually early on, love and joy is not enough to offset the costs. You would not ask your doctor to take care of you for the simple joy of helping people. They can only do that so long before they burn out, starve, and perish.
So why do we expect creative people to share their work for free? I think we imagine there is some “other” magical unknown place they are making their living from. There ISN’T. How many crafters did you follow 5 years ago who are no longer in the business, who have scaled way back, who have gone on to other industries, or who have put all of their best work behind a pay wall? They get burned out. Giving away work for free is NOT sustainable.
This project takes 10 minutes to make without taking photos. The supplies cost $10.
Now, let’s see how long it takes and how much it costs to make this same project for a blog post:
- Preparation – To use it on my blog, I need to clean my studio or the filming area, set up lighting, get my tripods set up, make a clean backdrop, and make sure the area is quiet. This is before I start filming: 2 hours.
- Craft supplies – I need duplicates for step by step photos and supply shots. I have two or three or four of everything so I have a clean one for photos, one to use in the video (that might get dirty), and a used dirty one for me to use to make the sample. My paper trimmers get paint on them – I need a clean one to put in the beauty shots. Those run $20-30 a month if I don’t get them sent by a sponsor, in which case I have to do FREE work to promote the company (which costs more than $20 to do) in order to “pay” for that product and I have to pay taxes on that product. Add in time for sourcing the supplies online and in stores: $50 and 2 hours.
- Photos – Taking photos or video of the steps makes this 10 minute project take at least an hour. Add another hour for taking photos, staging items, and editing photos: 2 hours.
- Writing – Another hour for writing the blog post, adding in links, doing SEO magic on the post: 1 hour.
- Editing – Another hour for editing the video and doing voice over and that is only because I am really fast at editing – other people, add 3 hours. I’m not boasting, I just know where I save time: 1 hour.
And let’s not even talk about the classes and time it took to get all of these amazing skills to make this tutorial look freaking incredible. Well, that’s literally thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, and years of practice.
Monthly costs that I have to figure into it:
- Web hosting, internet access, paying a virtual assistant to help with social media and admin: $600+ a month
- Equipment needed – tripod, C stand with boom arm for overhead shots, DSLR camera with lens, SD card, Computer with Photoshop, vinyl or other backdrops for photos, and a mic for voice over if I’m doing a video. Price tag for this equipment: $4000 (yes, the camera alone is $1500!)
- Other overhead costs, like an accountant, accounting software, subscriptions, trade show dues, and more: $100 a month minimum
Total cost for ONE blog post:
- Blog Post Costs (from the post itself): $50
- Monthly costs divided by 12 blog posts a month: ($4000/12) + ($100+$600) = $1033 per month, divided by 12 posts a month = $86 per post
- Time investment: 8 hours
- TOTAL for ONE BLOG POST: 8 hours + $136
And this happens to be a very CHEAP project to make. Start bringing in stamps, dies, tools, beads, and other supplies, well, it can cost over $100 just in supplies alone. Shame on craft bloggers to make one fifth of a penny on you looking at an ad when you come to their blogs! How dare they!
WRITING: Writers already make enough money.
CRAFTING: Crafters already make enough money (and get their supplies for free).
I am not resentful at all towards people who truly do understand the value of all that we do in the effort of spreading creativity. Like I outlined above, even a cheap project that costs you $10 to recreate can cost us almost $100 to blog about. I think the biggest problem is all these myths and misconceptions about bloggers and crafters making all this big money.
Here are some myths about the craft industry:
MYTH: Bloggers and professional crafters get all of their supplies for free.
TRUTH: Bloggers and professional crafters get some of their supplies for free but they have to pay taxes on the value of those supplies. Since we are running businesses, we have to pay tax on everything we get “for free”. I got a kitchen item “for free” for a blog post. I got a 1099 for the item’s value as income at the end of the year. I had to pay $400 tax for that ONE item.
Not only do we have to pay tax on supplies we get “for free”, we also have to use those supplies to make blog posts. In the above example, I had to install $4000 worth of counter tops in order to use the free item for the blog post. It’s rare that the free product stands on its own. The example I just gave is an extreme one but one that happens nonetheless.We might get a free bottle of glue. We need to then buy the other items to use that glue with to make a blog post. Then we have to spend the time and money create the blog post. A “free” craft product is not free at all – it actually costs us money to receive and then use it. It’s not raining glue bottles and glitter up in here!
We can get all the free product in the world but it has ZERO value. Many companies stipulate that you cannot sell the “free” product used to “pay you” for your blog post. Others think it is unethical to sell the product, even if the company did not explicitly say you cannot sell the product. My mortgage company won’t let me pay my mortgage in paint bottles. I’m not saying that to be obnoxious – I am stating this as a fact. I can’t sell the paint bottles to get actual money. I have to pay tax on the value of the paint bottles – the IRS takes cash, not paint, for this payment. I could do a giveaway of the paint bottles but I’d have to pay for shipping. With cash. Not paint. Since the USPS does not accept paint as payment. And I have to buy things to use the paint ON so I can blog about the paint I was “paid” with to blog about. I could sell the project I made. But who would buy it after I just told them how to make it on my blog, for free? Geez, maybe I should QUIT! This sounds insane.
MYTH: Bloggers and professional crafters get paid by all the companies.
TRUTH: Bloggers and professional crafters mostly make their money through ads, affiliate links, classes, and other means.
Few companies pay enough to make it worth a blogger’s effort to work with them as a blogger. The few companies who do pay have high standards and few opportunities. If you have a million YouTube subscribers, a Facebook Page with 500,000 fans, or any other kind of large social media following, you are in a better position to negotiate for pay but no one is getting rich off of being a craft blogger. People make a living. A few hit it big and make 7 figures a year. But the majority are lucky to bring in $1000 a month to offset all the costs of being a blogger. The companies are usually the last place people get paid from.
MYTH: Bloggers and pro crafters get paid for everything they do.
We get paid some of the time if we are lucky, most of the time if we are really smart, savvy, and hard-working, and never 100% of the time. Here’s what blogging or being a pro crafter looks like at any level:
- Beginner – work for free for anybody
- Intermediate – work for free product, sometimes work for free, maybe 1-2 times a year work for pay
- Advanced – work for all of the above plus some sponsored posts and some partial sponsorships (a sponsor pays for part of a teaching trip for example), might start getting passive income, get offers to do free TV and media appearances.
- Pro – get a combination of passive income (affiliate marketing, ads), sponsored income, paid trips and ambassador work but not all work is 100% paid. Make own products (ebooks, classes, licensing art, printables) for sale. Strategic about taking opportunities that have a business pay off.
- Elite Pro – all of the above, paid by sponsors and events to speak and teach, get paid to make TV and media appearances. Offer consulting or other services to clients.
I asked in one of my Facebook business groups about what people wanted to know more about, business-wise. The number one request was “how to make money in the craft industry”. The struggle is real. Most people are not covering their costs or making a profit. And even if they were, how is that bad?!
We all got into this for love. We stay because we are fulfilled by those we inspire. We can line our pockets with a little cash if we’re super smart and strategic about our business. And that helps us sustain year after year so we can keep sharing and inspiring. Let’s not let a few bad apples spoil everything with their demanding rot, worms, and mold. Let’s ALL band together to support those who give us inspiration day in and day out and ask for very little in return. Watch their ads. Don’t block their popups. Share the love. Don’t complain. If you hate what they’re doing, there are literally THOUSANDS of other places online you can find inspiration. Move on.
Thank you to everyone who DOES NOT use a popup blocker or ad blocker, who watches through the ads at the beginning of YouTube videos, who clicks and buys from our affiliate links, who click through to our sponsors and support them, and who buys our courses, ebooks, and products. YOU are who we make these tutorials for. YOU are who we think about when we are writing, creating, and editing … we want you to be excited, empowered, and envigorated when you see our projects! YOU make my day. YOU are why I keep doing this.
And the people who ad blockers and popup blockers and the like, you can pound sand. Bye Felicia.
How do you feel about this topic? Weigh-in with your opinion in the comments section.