8 June, 2022

Handmade pricing: Here’s why I don’t need to charge more for my art.

2022-09-28T11:07:16-05:00An Artist's Life, Everything Else|2 Comments

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A few weeks ago, a colleague reached out to me and said “I’d love it if you wrote a blog post about how you price your classes and your art”. She was looking to change direction in her business and wanted some insights into making her art and classes more affordable. One thing she said really resonated with me: I want to create high priced art, but then that’s weird because I can’t afford that myself.

This is something I think about a lot. When I decided to make this art business of mine a full time adventure, I thought alot about how I wanted that to look. I come from many years of working in the non-profit arts sector and I could recite the mission statement of my organization from memory. Part of what you do in that non-profit world is always look at things as they relate to that mission. So I needed a mission statement. I decided that mine was really made up of a set of values.

Make more art.

The first value I settled on was the idea that my job meant I was making art. I define that idea of “art” pretty broadly so for me it means I am making things. That might be fabric designs or clothing or classes or websites. I am working with my hands and my brain and creating new things. The way my brain is wired, I need to be problem solving and innovating and creating to be happy.

Support the community.

The next value I came up with was that I really wanted what I was doing to help support other artists and creators. That means when I source supplies to make my art or to teach a class I start with other small businesses as resources. About 90% of what I use for classes comes from Etsy sellers and other small businesses. I get zippers from a shop in WI and my favorite felt comes from a shop in IL. I’ve been ordering all of my fabric from Spoonflower since they were a single printer in a repurposed sock factory. I partner with local non-profit organizations like the county library system to teach classes. I want to know a person at the businesses where I do business.

The past few weeks I’ve been sitting on a grant review panel for the regional arts council. A group of about 12-14 arts professionals evaluate all of the grant applications. I wrote about that process for a grant I have going on right now. I have gotten several grants like this and other panelists have reviewed my applications, so this is my way of making sure that community thrives by taking my turn as a panelist.

That’s also why I write posts like this. When I was first getting started I didn’t know anyone else who was just getting started and it was scary and lonely. I didn’t know if I could make it work and I didn’t want to quit my day job and then fall flat on my face. If you can take something from this post and use it in your business or art practice then I am delighted and I am giving you a virtual high-five.

Make it accessible.

The last value I settled on was to make things accessible. If you’ve worked at all in non-profit orgs, that word might make you cringe a little bit. It’s been a huge focus of missions and programming for decades and it gets talked about a lot. Often in the simplest sense it gets broken down into ADA compliance and ASL interpreters. But accessibility can be addressed in so many different ways. For me, affordability was a big accessibility barrier that I wanted to work on; I’ll come back to that in a bit.

I used to teach at a venue where the class prices were on the high side. I don’t think that org is doing their pricing wrong; everyone has overhead and expenses and many other factors that go in to determining their prices. But because the prices were at the level they were, they attracted a certain kind of student. In a very broad general sense, the only people who took classes from me there were wealthy and retired. Other people told me that classes were too expensive and they felt out of place. This bothered me, so I started to try and look for other places that I could teach that might be more accessible to more different kinds of people.

I was approached by Skillshare to teach classes for them many years ago, but it bothered me that there was a membership paywall that made those classes unavailable to a lot of students. That wasn’t the only factor that made it seem inaccessible to me. Skillshare also has a video based “formula” that they want classes to follow. From a teaching standpoint, I didn’t want to be limited to only teaching in a lecture/video format, which isn’t the best match for all learners.

The pandemic era boom of online classes was, in a way, a complete revolution. At the beginning, none of us knew what we were doing and how to work with the technology. But as we all got more experience, I realized that online classes can open up accessibility in so many more ways. By using captions and other video tools like speed control and ability to pause and review, they can be adaptable to different or preferred learning styles, visual and auditory abilities, or language barriers. Allowing students to learn in their own space can help with transportation and childcare needs, physical needs and mental needs like social anxiety. Online classes absolutely have drawbacks and inherent barriers as well, but I love that there is a more available and widely acceptable option for a lot of students. I love teaching online. There was no support for me to do that before 2020.

I also look at the materials and tools I am using in classes. I love to teach Adobe Illustrator for example, but time-after-time guilds and small fiber groups asked me if I could teach them how to design with Spoonflower but not using Photoshop or Illustrator because their members couldn’t afford it. Could I teach them using free software so more people could participate? So I did that and I learned a whole bunch of free and low cost apps that I could teach with. I’ll be honest and say that I struggled with that for a while. There’s a perception that the “experts” or “professionals” use Photoshop or Illustrator or Procreate and they charge $$$$ for it. I didn’t want to be seen as less expert or less professional by teaching using free apps and recycled materials, but this was what people were asking for and it’s something I’m good at. It took me a long time to really identify and embrace that as a niche I love.

So accessibility is a value that I try to think about in all of the things I do in my business and I look at many different ways I can define accessibility and try to make things more accessible so I can work with more different kinds of people. I can’t do everything and there’s always more to do, but I am always looking for ways that I can try to pay attention and try new things.

How do values equal action?

So it’s great to talk about what you aspire to do by stating business values, but how does that actually turn into something concrete? Here’s where I want to talk about pricing and affordability as one example of that. This is how I put that value into practice.

How do I set prices?

The easiest example I can think of to tell you about prices is to talk about my Etsy shop. I make all kinds of things from zipper bags to scarves and sell them both online and occasionally in-person. I have a very specific way that I set prices. First I have to design and figure out exactly what I am making. This prototype phase is about just working out the specifics: how much of what things do I need. I look at everything I can think of from fabric and zippers to copies of instructions and packaging bags for kits. After I have the design figured out then I move on to pricing and the details of making it.

For example,

  • Let’s say a yard of fabric to make zipper bags costs $30. I can make 18 zipper bags from that yard of fabric. That’s $1.67 each. Then I add on the cost of the rest of the materials I need to make that bag (lining, zipper, tag etc) and it comes out to about $2.50.
  • Then I literally get out a stopwatch and make a dozen of them. I time myself making them per piece from cutting out the fabric to trimming the threads at the end. I can make a zipper bag in under 7 minutes. It took me a while to get to that rate, but I have all kinds of systems and patterns I do now that speed up the process. Not only does it help me figure out a fair price, but I know exactly how long it will take me to get ready for a big show or do a special order for someone.
  • Then I multiply that time per piece by the hourly rate I want to get paid. It depends on what I am doing what rate I pay myself for the time. My “just basic sewing” rate is lower than my “designing a custom fabric” rate. So let’s say for this example that’s $3 per bag or about $20/hour. Before anyone says $20 per hour is too low, let’s keep in mind that it’s more than I was paid hourly at my last “office job” and more than my mom was paid for her 20+ years of experience as a highschool special ed teacher. I consider it a fair rate.
  • So we are now at around $5.50 for materials and time. I usually double that to account for overhead & profit. Overhead is everything from the amount I will have to pay the IRS to the time it took me to design the thing to the Etsy listing fees.
  • I look at all the math and then round up or down to come up with what looks like a sensible price (ie, not $9.47). For those zipper bags, that’s $10. I am paid for time and materials, I have covered overhead expenses and I have profit I can invest back in my business and save for retirement. I don’t make a lot of profit but I do make something on every piece.

Pricing classes works in much the same way. I look at hours invested in preparing and face-to-face teaching time. I add in overhead like my Zoom subscription and time it takes me to promote classes. I total up materials and postage if I am mailing kits to students. For a class where I take individual registrations, I divide that up on a per student basis. For a class I teach for a larger guild or group I have a flat rate. I am simplifying here naturally, but if you want to dig into that deeper, I have a class all about it. I don’t charge more for a class with more students because for me it’s the same to teach a room of 3 or 20. I am still giving you 100% of my preparation, effort and experience.

Are my class and product prices accessible for everyone? No, probably not. But I have tried to make them as fair and transparent and authentic as I can. That’s not a very retail or corporate approach, but it is aligned with my brand values.

“You should charge more.”

I get this comment a lot and I don’t think it’s true. I talked at the beginning of this essay about my friend who said “I want to create high priced art, but then that’s weird because I can’t afford that myself.” I occasionally help artists and small non-profits set up their websites and Etsy shops. If I charge a high rate for designing a website, for example, then I price myself out of working with exactly the people I want to help make their website. Just because the “designers” at Joe’s Website Shack charge $200 per hour to set up a website doesn’t mean I need to charge that much or that that’s the value of website set up. I am my own target customer (ie an artist who needs a website) and I couldn’t afford to have Joe’s do my website.

One of the ways I can make my prices less than Joe’s Website Shack is to keep my overhead down. I don’t have to pay for overseas call centers. But I also don’t have to pay for every monthly fee for every marketing or business service out there. I’ve watched a lot of seminars and classes about running a small business and almost without exception, someone recommends a monthly service: something that schedules posts for you, brainstorms your SEO, provides links to your Instagram posts or templates for your graphics or the premium Etsy shop template. If I subscribed to even half of those, I would be spending hundreds of dollars a month in overhead. I kind of feel the same way about single purpose kitchen gadgets. As much as I think a Millenium Falcon waffle maker would be cool, I really don’t need that taking up space in my tiny kitchen cupboards.

I think really carefully about the tools that are important to me. My email newsletter software is essential. My newsletter list is like gold. They are the people who really engage with what I do and I am grateful for them everyday. Do I upgrade that software to include all of the “trickle campaign” and automation emails services? Nope. Because those things make me nuts. I hate automated emails. I bet you hate them too. I was asked to participate in a study that my e-newsletter software company did and after the interview I felt a little weird about it, like I was small potatoes compared to the interview questions they were asking me. I didn’t use half of their stuff. I told a friend about this and she very wisely said, “Well sure you are small potatoes, but you have an open rate that’s like 5 times what the big potatoes do. That’s why they wanted to talk to you.” Luring people into signing up for the newsletter with free stuff and “onboarding” might be the marketing wisdom of the day, but the additional cost would raise my overhead.

I added a plugin to my website a few months ago that automatically delivers the Zoom link to students who sign up for my classes, so I don’t need to remember to email them and send it before class. This was an investment for me not only as a time saver, but after I nearly forgot to send the links out to a class, I decided it was also an accessibility upgrade in making sure that students had the information they needed to participate in a timely manner and a format that was easy to find. I need to try to recruit a few more people in to signing up for some classes to cover that additional cost, but I decided that it was a great investment. My Adobe subscription is another great example of this. I subscribe to the Adobe Suite and I use it for everything: creating art, marketing, website, graphic design, video etc. It’s one tool that can help me with many aspects of my business activities so it’s a great value for me.

Finally, I also look at all of the different things that I do and I look for synthesis. I am not just a retail business or a teacher or a website designer or an artist. I do ALL of those. The grant project I am working on right now has a big part of it that is paying me for my time to make the art. I will use it to complete the grant project, but that art is going to go on and be 15 more things once I get done. I’m illustrating a book, but those cut paper illustrations can also become fabric designs and postcards. I will have the books to sell in my shop. I will teach some classes about the art and the book. I love finding ways to “reuse” my art. That grant is going to subsidize a big body of other work so those future projects have less overhead. My Etsy sales have been really great in the last couple of years, which has allowed me to invest in time to make some new designs. When I make a kit for my shop, writing the instructions is the same as the majority of my class prep for teaching. So making a kit and a class at the same time is more economical than doing one or the other.

What about the free stuff?

Now you might be saying to yourself: “But Becka, there’s a lot of FREE stuff on your website. How does that work? How are you covering your costs if it’s free?” I don’t teach for free. But you can take a lot of my classes for free and it’s because of that synthesis I was just talking about. A couple of my classes are free because I put them in my marketing budget. Instead of buying an ad somewhere, I made a free class about Spoonflower so you can take a class from me and see if you like it and maybe come back for another class another time. That felt like a better investment than an ad in a magazine. The “free” classes I teach for the county library system are free for students, but I get paid to teach them from the library’s programming budget, funded by a state sales tax amendment. They are a win for everybody. Another set of free classes were something I was paid to do and “licensed” to a group for a certain period of time and when that time was up, I could put them up on my website as a class. I was already paid for the time to teach and develop those, so I can offer them free to students now.

Will you be able to run your business the same way I do? I can’t answer that for you. We all have different things that we have to factor in to what makes our art practice “successful” and what that means for each of us. I do hope that this post has given you an idea or made you think about how you can bring more of your values into what you do. I’d love to hear about what works for you.

24 April, 2022

Stanley’s Birthday Party: Fold an Origami Labrador

2022-04-24T11:05:34-05:00Everything Else, Freebies & Patterns, Tutorials|Comments Off on Stanley’s Birthday Party: Fold an Origami Labrador

It’s Stanley’s first birthday today. Make your own origami labrador party favor to celebrate with us. You just need a square of paper. It should be about 6 inches and it’s the most fun if it’s a different color on each side. You can use origami paper, wrapping paper, tissue, scrapbooking paper, or recycled magazine pages.

19 April, 2022

New Online Classes!

2022-04-19T15:32:39-05:00Classes & Teaching, Everything Else, Spoonflower & Fabric Design, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on New Online Classes!

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It’s class launch day! I have four new online classes open for registration today, from fabric design to hands-on art with recycled materials. I offer both on-demand classes where you can register and take the class on your schedule any time and live online classes where you can join me on Zoom for a virtual class. Here’s what’s new!

New on-demand classes at Teachable

Postcard Art From Everyday Materials. In 2020, I developed a series about making art from every day materials you might find around your house like scrap paper, glue stick, recycled envelopes, post-it notes. For each technique, I show you three or four designs to make into mailable postcards or other small art pieces. I originally partnered with Dakota County Libraries to host these on Facebook, but now I have them here on my website with added links, ideas and resources.

Crafting a Class. Learn how to plan, prepare, promote, and teach an awesome hands-on class. From setting goals and writing your description to fine tuning your supply list and managing students at different skill levels, this online class goes in-depth to help you craft the best class you can. I’ve redone all of the videos and added new lessons about teaching online, setting up a Zoom classroom and more.

Live online classes held on Zoom

A Spoonful of Spoonflower. Thursday May 12, 7:00 pm CDT Get a tour of what it’s like to design fabrics and print them using Spoonflower, a web-based service for printing your own fabric designs. During class, I’ll walk through creating a simple two-color design from creating a sketch to uploading and ordering. I usually only offer this for guilds and private groups and I thought I should do one that’s open to anyone!

Designing Kumihimo Braids Thursday June 16, 7:00 pm CDT Learn the basics of kumihimo, a multi-stranded braid which originated in Japan. In this class you will learn both an 8 and 16 stranded braid pattern and how to make your own marudai braiding loom. We will talk about how to design your own braid variations with different colors and yarn weights or textures.

Be sure to also check out the other classes I have available by clicking the links to Live Classes & Events or On Demand Online Classes in the menu above.

11 February, 2022

What fabric should I design? The surprising bestsellers of 2021

2022-02-11T13:00:57-06:00Everything Else|Comments Off on What fabric should I design? The surprising bestsellers of 2021

I did an artist talk a few weeks ago and there was a question that someone asked that has stuck with me. That person said basically: I am a little scared and unsure how to get started and I don’t know what to design. What would you recommend?

I answered something about really designing what you love. Start there. Which I believe 100%. That’s one of my very favorite things about designing your own fabric is that you can make the fabrics that you love and there is nothing more motivating that to be working on something you are excited about.

But then I got curious about what designs of mine were really resonating with other people. On the weeks when I enter the design challenges, I do get a sense from votes and favorites what designs that the “design challenge voters” group of people really respond to and which ones they don’t. Sometimes that’s really surprising. But the contest voters aren’t necessarily the same audience as the people who are buying fabric.

My bestsellers from 2021

So I decided to dig in to my sales from last year and see what’s selling. Spoonflower doesn’t really give you stats of any kind. I just downloaded a spreadsheet and did some tally marks of yards sold on a scrap of paper. This is low tech analysis here. The image you see above is my top nine selling designs from 2021. There were some of these that surprised me. When I see a sale email come in, I am always super excited to see it but I don’t really tally up in my head “Oh, that’s a sale of that design”.

The Loons on the Lake was my bestseller, which is cool since that feels like a very Minnesota kind of design and I know I have an enthusiastic local group of supporters. That design was created for a “Pine and Mint” limited color palette design challenge from 2020 and came in 159/858.

Interestingly, at least to me, was that my second place bestseller was the “Tea With Lemons” design, which was from 2021 and is also from a color limited palette design challenge which was the yellow and grey Pantone colors of the year. It ranked 66/1456 designs.

I do keep track of my stats from design challenges, which is a little geeky I realize. But I set myself a goal of entering every design challenge from 2018-2021. (I took a break the second half of 2021 because I was swamped with puppy things.) I was curious if I was “getting better” or if I could learn anything from keeping track of the results and where I finished in the pool. The answer is not really. In 2019 I had 11 designs that hit the top 100, in 2020 it was 2 and 3 in the part of 2021 when I participated. Only five of those designs that were in the top 100 are in my personal bestsellers.

The rest of my top nine from 2021 fell into more or less equal sales numbers.

  • The mosaic clouds design was my top finisher in a design challenge in 2021 (it came in number 25.) I entered it in a design challenge, but it’s a mosaic style which is kind of a signature for me so it wasn’t something I did specifically for the challenge.
  • The Flamingos Flying design was a 2019 design challenge theme of “aerial views”.
  • The Dancing Skeletons was for a “gothic halloween” challenge. This one was a surprise for me. I love the design, but I didn’t realize it has been as popular as it was.
  • Eye Doc, especially the small scale version, was really popular in 2020 and continued to be in 2021. I think it was used a lot for masks. This was a “medical professionals” design challenge entry.
  • Your Brain’s not Broken” is also a personal favorite from a design challenge of “causes that are important to you”.
  • The Kelp Forest design was no surprise. I have this as the backdrop for all of my Zoom calls and it’s probably the design of mine that gets the most eyes on it because of that. I wallpapered my bathroom in a different colorway of this same design.
  • The steampunk squid continues to be a perennial favorite. I designed this one in 2015 for the Spoonflower Handbook, although it’s the navy and white version that sells better than the pale blue we used in the book.

What did I learn?

With the exception of the squid design, every one of these is something I entered in a design challenge. To be fair, I don’t design a lot of things that don’t go into a design challenge. Creating one new design a week is doable for me, designing more than that doesn’t happen nearly as often.

I tend to do well in the color limited palette design challenges; those are consistently some of my highest design challenge rankings. I’m not sure why, but I think it does go back to that idea of designing what you love. The thing about the color limited palette challenges is that you can design *anything* as long as you stick to the specified colors. So I get to really bring my quirkiness into the design more than some of the others. At least I think so.

Some of my top 25 finishers in the design challenge have had zero sales.  They were popular among challenge voters, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into customers.

I also think it’s super interesting that these two designs are both available on Etsy/Amazon/eBay through Spoonflower’s shops on those venues. Even though they were selected to be on those platforms (along with several other of my designs) they aren’t popping up with more sales through those venues.

Here are the top 18 overall Spoonflower bestsellers according to Spoonflower’s site. I have no insight into how they determine this and I know that some of those designs (like the elephants and fireflies) have been on this list for at least 5 years. It doesn’t change often. It makes me curious to know about things like the blue lemons design. Are there really that many people shopping for lemon fabric or does this mean that this one design sold oodles of yardage to one customer? We just don’t know.

What I do love about these bestsellers is that they do reflect some of my personal style and that idea I shared about designing what you love. The flamingos, skeletons, squid, brains, and clouds are all made from cut paper illustrations. The tea and kelp designs are drawn in illustrator primarily but are overlaid with handdrawn/painted textures. These are all really textural design elements that I love. Even though many of these were the response to a design challenge prompt, they do have a lot of that quirkiness that I think is important. Where else would you find brain fabric or an eye doctor print?

Although one single print didn’t make my own bestsellers list, my oboe fabrics are an overall bestseller. I have about a dozen oboe designs, so even though each one of them might not sell more than a couple of yards, as a group the oboe fabrics probably were right up there at the top.

Sales isn’t really a factor that drives what I design, so I know I’m never going to hit that bestseller page on the Spoonflower site. My art practice has a different focus than that. I design far more fabrics that I use to make things; these are designs that are not available for other people to use. I also feel a little more free to design what I want to design and not follow the color or aesthetic trends. That works for me. But I think it’s always interesting to step back and look with a wider lens and see what you can learn from what you are doing.

24 January, 2022

Ask the Artist: Questions from the Spoonflower Webinar

2022-01-24T15:15:14-06:00Everything Else|Comments Off on Ask the Artist: Questions from the Spoonflower Webinar

Last week I had a really great time doing an Artist Talk webinar for Spoonflower about my process, my long friendship with Spoonflower, and about my art. There’s a link to the replay below. There were a collection of questions in the chat that we didn’t get to (and some on my social channels), so I thought it would be fun to write a follow up post and answer some of those.

Q: What type of scanner (and other tools) do you use?

Scanner: My scanner is super simple. It’s an all-in-one printer/scanner made by Brother and it’s probably 15 years old. You really don’t need a high tech or fancy scanner, you just need a few settings and clean glass. I very often create designs that are larger than I ultimately want the finished fabric scale to be because it’s hard to make tiny fine details in cut paper. So I most often scan things at 150 or 300 DPI knowing that I will be printing them at 150 DPI (Spoonflower’s resolution).

Sewing Machine: I do all of my sewing for everything: exhibition pieces, things for sale in my Etsy shop, samples. I have a Pfaff Expression 3.2 that is an awesome machine.

Software & Apps: I do most of my editing in Photoshop and Illustrator. Because I know them and they work for me and that’s the most important part. There’s no one right tool to make art. I teach using Pixlr, because it is a free app and that makes it the most accessible for my students. I don’t use tablets or Procreate because I just don’t like drawing/painting my designs. That’s just not the way that I work, so those are not the right tools.

Q: I think it’s so clever how you’ve designed into your Shop Header to “be sure to click NEW to see my latest designs.” A “steal-worthy” tip for sure!

You are right: it is a steal worthy tip and I know because I stole it! Credit for that idea goes to my friend Anda Corrie, who was the author of Spoonflower’s “Quick Sew Project” book. She shared it on her social media somewhere and I totally copied her.

Q: Do you teach on Skillshare too?

No I don’t, for a couple of reasons. I know Skillshare is super popular, but I don’t like their teaching format (which is only video like a TV show) and the way that teachers are compensated. I also don’t like the idea that my classes would be only accessible via a monthly membership fee paid to another company. I feel like it just makes them inaccessible for too many people.

I DO offer online classes that I host through Teachable! I am in the middle of moving classes over to Teachable from another platform, so it’s a little bit in transition right now but they should all be migrated in the next couple of weeks and I can start adding more.

Q: What recommendations do you offer for expanding your marketing reach beyond social media?

Don’t we all wish we had an answer to this question? I talked a little about this in my webinar, but get your work in places that people will see it. Make things you can exhibit, get it into shops on consignment or wholesale, wear it, use it, talk about it. If you don’t sew or make things, partner up with someone who does. See if you can come up with a partnership that is a win for both of you. Enter the Spoonflower weekly contest.

No one likes to be sold to. Think about all of the jokes about used car salesmen. So don’t focus on “selling” your work but on telling the stories. Talk about what you do and why. Share the inspiration for the design or the colors. People love to see behind-the-scenes and sneak peeks. I can spend half an afternoon watching “making of” videos from artists on Instagram but I can’t think the last time I clicked through to see someone’s post about a “new collection for sale”.

Q: I want to take a class from you, starting with the mosaic, to the finished fabric!

Noted! Mosaics are SLOW so I think it would make a really boring in-person class but I have thought about translating it into an online class so you can do some of the time consuming part offline. That mosaic toad design I showed you in the webinar probably took me 5-6 hours to create from start to finish. I have a design of mosaic waterlilies that I think took more than 40 hours.

Q: Is there a blog post on Spoonflower that explains how to do this? Is this possible still on Spoonflower, such a ‘placed’ print? [This refers to printing a design as a placed/engineered print for clothing rather than a repeating design.]

Not on Spoonflower’s blog, but there are several projects like this in the Spoonflower Handbook. In the simplest terms, the way to design like this is to not think about making a repeat but to think about designing a whole yard (or more) of fabric all at once. I do this alot. Instead of setting up a canvas that is 8 inches square or something like that, I set up a canvas that is 42×36 inches, or that will fill a whole yard of fabric. Then I design what I want that yard to look like. It’s not any harder than making a repeat (in fact I think it’s easier) but it’s just a different way of thinking about it. If you want to design to place something on a dress, for example, you have to do a little math to know what pieces you need to cut out (bodice, sleeves, skirt) and to design blocks that are the size you need to cut out those pieces.

12 January, 2022

Moving my classes to Teachable

2022-01-12T11:35:09-06:00Everything Else|2 Comments

Change is hard.

My very first project of 2022 wasn’t the thing I was planning on creating. In fact, it wasn’t even really making something new, but re-making something I didn’t want to redo.

At the end of 2021, Coursecraft, the platform I used to host my on-demand online classes decided to go out of business. They were a small company (which is part of why I loved them) but that means that I think they got a little burn out being constantly on the front lines of keeping everything up and running. I think many of us can relate to that. When they said that they were going to turn everything off in April, I spent a couple of days thinking.

  • Did I want to go to the trouble of moving everything to a new platform?
  • Are students going to be upset if I couldn’t automatically give them access to the new class?
  • Would they even notice if the classes just disappeared?
  • Were enough people registered for them that it made sense to continue? Would the additional time investment be worth it?
  • Could I find a new platform that didn’t cost a lot more?

It was the kind of unforeseen event that forces you to take a look at things in many different ways.

I decided that those on-demand classes are something I love to teach. Even though I am not right there talking to students in real time, it’s still a great teaching experience. I know that the students have so many more options. You can do the whole thing at once or come back and work on it whenever you have 10 minutes free. You can jump back and refer to something that you don’t quite remember. I know there are classes I wish I could do that with. I took a book binding class last year and I am certain that I couldn’t make another one on my own at this point. I took good notes, but I have forgotten so much because everything was so new. But most importantly when I look back at the last couple of years, those online classes are a big gold star in the “positive things that happened” column. There sure is a whole lot of negative that happened, so it really is nice to have something to celebrate.

Ultimately, I decided to move everything to Teachable. It was super similar to what I had before and I like a lot of the features it has. On the other hand, some things aren’t as good and I’ll have to change how a couple of lessons work. It’s slow going. There’s no tool to help you migrate something like this. Just a lot of copy and paste and waiting for videos to re-upload. I’ve listened to music and a book on tape. One morning I played an online game of Settlers of Catan while I waited on video uploads. It’s been great thinking time. I thought about new classes to teach for this spring and what I’d like to add to my new school at Teachable.

I even made a deal with a friend of mine who is working on a similar project right now: something she wants to get done, but at the same time dreads doing it. We’ve been sending each other progress photos and grouchy observations when things aren’t quite going as smoothly as we had hoped. That was the best idea ever. It makes it not quite as hard when you have someone to complain about it to.

So things might look a little topsy-turvy on that classes page right now, but I think more good things are to come. And it’s nice to take a minute to re-evaluate and come up with the same conclusion that I did when I started. Classes are a great way to connect with my community or artists and makers and I hope this is the start of more new great things this year.

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