Beading Tutorials: Should You Pay For Them?
Now, that’s a pretty provocative blog post title, right? Should you be asked to pay for beading tutorials? If you’re reading this as a designer, then I guarantee you’ll be shouting a huge YES at your screen right now. But if you’re reading this as a beader, your answer might be very different. So, hear me out and let me explain both sides of this contentious issue…
Why am I even asking this? Surely the answer is obvious…?
To me, as a designer, asking for fair payment for the work I put into creating beading tutorials, is a no-brainer. In fact, it’s positively insulting when someone suggests that I should be giving my work away for free.
However, there is always another angle…
What inspired this blog post?
I recently saw a thread on social media that was discussing the loss of beading magazines. In case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t many left functioning right now. And many of those that are seem to be reducing the number of issues, the number of projects, and generally heading into a ‘bad place’.
Why? Well, it’s hard for the huge cost of producing a magazine to compete with the plethora of patterns and tutorials that are available on the internet.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. One comment on the thread caught my attention.
I don’t remember who wrote it, and I don’t have the exact comment, but to paraphrase, it went something like this…
“Beading tutorials are just getting so expensive these days. And before you shoot me down in flames, I do appreciate the work that designers put into making them. But I’ve paid a fortune for patterns then found that the photos are too blurry to follow, the descriptions are unclear, and I wasn’t able to make the project. So, it was a total waste of money that I could have spent on beads.”
I think that pretty much sums up the state of the beading industry in a nutshell.
A changing scene
Back when I started beading, the internet barely existed. So, the only way to learn techniques, or find projects was through books and magazines.
As the internet has grown and ecommerce has become more accessible and more normal, this has become the new place for learning how to bead. You can find thousands (maybe millions) of beading tutorials online. Just think Etsy, Folksy, and other craft marketplaces. Plus all the individual designer’s websites.
YouTube is packed with beading tutorials. You can take online classes. And find help within beading groups on social media.
Basically, there is no need for books or magazines these days. But…
The problem with losing the books and magazines…
…is also the loss of ‘barriers to entry’.
In order to get published in a book or a magazine, you had to not only produce a good project, but also write good instructions. And, if your style of writing or ability to generate diagrams or take photos wasn’t there, then the book/magazine editorial team had your back. They made sure that the instructions were properly written and diagrams or photos were of high quality.
So, from a user’s perspective, you never had to worry about poorly-written instructions.
But, the problem was the lack of choice.
If you subscribed to a magazine, you never knew what projects would be in the next issue. It might be packed full of things you want to make and techniques you wanted to learn. Or, you might leaf through the pages in despair, as nothing appealed to you.
Same goes with a book. You might pay for it, then discover it only contained one project you would ever make.
So, that’s why the internet with all its choice and ability to tailor things to your needs is so appealing.
Weighing up risk, choice, and utility
Basically, neither system is ‘perfect’. With the one, you can feel sure of good quality projects, but you don’t get to choose them.
With the other, you get to choose exactly which projects you buy, but you may be taking a risk on the quality.
Why should you pay for beading tutorials?
Well, the answer to that is simple.
They take hours and hours to create. First you’ve got all the hours spent by the designer in ‘playing’ with the beads to find the perfect thread path, colour combination and selection of beads.
Then, you’ve got many, many more hours spent drawing diagrams and/or beading and photographing samples and writing instructions.
Finally, you’ve got the testing process. Do the instructions work properly?
And, all of that comes off the back of an original idea. We all know that those don’t just happen. I mean, if it was that easy to come up with an idea for a beading project and make it, we’d all be doing it and there would be no demand for beading tutorials.
(If you don’t believe me, then I invite you take my design challenge. Use this online class and learn exactly what goes into creating a design, making it and writing up the pattern… And yes, you can then sell your design at the end of the class. So, whatever you invest in learning this skill, you can make back through sales. Interested…? Here’s the link to the class)
So, having digressed slightly. The answer to the question is, you should be paying for beading tutorials in the same way that you should be expecting to pay anyone else who does a skilled job.
Why do so many beaders expect to get beading patterns free or very cheap?
I suspect there are many answers to that question…
- we all like free stuff
- if you’re on a budget, then you need to be careful where you spend your money. Every project requires beads, so they are a necessity, and maybe you feel like there’s more value in buying them than in buying a pattern
- you’ve bought patterns that were not well written, and (quite rightly) resented making that payment
- you’re just starting out and don’t even know if you will continue beading, so you don’t want to invest too much in something that you might not even enjoy
So, I do ‘get’ the desire to have beading patterns for free. But my question is, if you know how much time, skill and effort goes into a (good) tutorial, why are you not willing to pay for that?
What’s the real argument here? (IMHO)
Now we can go round and round in circles debating this. Some people simply expect a ‘free ride’ through life. Others don’t think, or don’t understand the value of the work carried out by a designer.
On the flip side, some designers don’t respect their customers or understand beading very well. Yes, there are people out there who think they can throw something together in no time and sell it to make a living.
For me, the real argument is about trust.
And it’s not just about the beading world, it’s a wider problem on the internet in general.
The lady that inspired this blog really summed up the problem. How do you know you can trust that an expensive pattern is going to be worth it?
Without that ‘third party’ monitoring the quality, every beading pattern you buy is a risk. So, how do you mitigate that risk as a beader? And how do you deal with it as a designer?
Taking the risk out of buying beading tutorials?
I think we can all agree that, assuming the beading pattern or tutorial is well-written, we value the time that has gone into producing it, and we are happy to pay the designer for their hard work.
So, I stand by the argument that you should be paying for beading tutorials and beading patterns.
But, how do you take the risk out of that?
How can you reduce your risk as a beader?
The simple answer is, buy from designers that you trust. But how do you get to trust a designer?
Look for reviews.
Don’t let this be your only guide, though. Remember, it is possible to pay people to leave reviews, so you can get glowing reports of a rubbish product (in any industry, not just beading patterns). Alternatively, some designers are just not good at asking for reviews. So, they may be producing wonderful things, but have nobody to sing their praises for them.
Ask your friends.
If you have beading friends online or in the real world, ask them for recommendations. You know your friends, and you know whether their ‘standards’ meet your own. So, trust the recommendations of those you trust.
If you don’t see a photo of the finished project, made in beads, don’t touch the pattern. If the designer hasn’t beaded their project, there is a VERY high risk that it won’t look the same as it does in whatever chart or computer-generated image you see.
Even with all of this, at some point you’re probably going to have to just take the plunge. If you really fall in love with a project, buy it. Maybe don’t buy the most expensive tutorial first. It’s not a bad thing to test the waters with something cheaper…just to see whether you ‘get on with’ that designer.
Accept you’ll make mistakes. However careful you are, there will always be the odd project that just doesn’t go well. Yes, sometimes it is because the tutorial was terrible. But sometimes it is ‘user error’. In other words, the designer’s instructions were perfectly fine, but maybe you’re trying to make something that is above your current level of experience. So, be honest with yourself. Don’t blame the designer for your lack of skill. Just put the project to one side, build your skills, and return to it when you are ready.
And, if you need to find some new designers that you can trust, check out this link…
How can you reduce your risk as a designer?
Assuming you are a designer who puts in all the work and produces great tutorials, then here are a few things you can do to help earn trust.
Make sure that wherever you sell your beading tutorials allows for reviews. On Etsy, customers are automatically asked to leave a review. If you have a private website, there’s plenty of free and cheap software that will provide the facility for reviews. So, get something up on that.
Consider a free introductory offer. This may go against the grain of my argument that designers should be paid for their work. But I do also feel that there is a place for some free stuff. I am in sympathy with the beaders who have been ‘burned’ in the past. If you want somebody new to take a risk on you, then maybe take a risk on them.
On my own website, I offer new customers a £5 voucher. That is enough to buy one of my cheapest beading patterns. Or, it will give them a discount, and reduce the risk on something more expensive if they wish.
You could offer a standard free pattern that anyone can download. This would give them a flavour of your style of pattern-writing. Or maybe you have another kind of discount or benefit in mind.
I think something like this shows you have confidence in your product. If you really produce great stuff, then your customers will keep coming back.
A little thought for the day…
To my way of thinking, risk and reward is a two-way street. Both parties have to be willing to take risks in order to reap rewards. All successful communities work on the basis of give and take. The beading community is no exception. As a beader and as a designer you should be both giving and taking if you want to get the best out of your beading experience.
I have made patterns in the past, to teach in classes. I agree that there is a lot of work involved but I think the “trust” concept is vital. I am on a fixed income now, and don’t teach any longer. I tend to join groups that provide occasional free patterns or tutorials. When I find a pattern/tutorial I really like, I go to Etsy, or the designer’s page, and see if there are any others I want to make. I keep a list of designers I like and when I have a bit of spare cash, I am glad to go to them to buy a more expensive pattern/tutorial.
Thank you for your balanced blog in response to the “free stuff” comment. I was a tad taken aback by the presumption of free designs. Trust is key. Beading is going through a bit of a shift, but even pre-internet days, one had to test the waters with books and magazines. I don’t think the differences are as stark as some would think. Hard work pays off, both for the designers and the beaders.
Of course you should have payment for your tutorials. I can only imagine how much of your time is spent designing and checking your patterns, then writing a tutorial for them. I, as an addicted beader, have great admiration for you, your skills and your dedication. There is no way that I would expect any designer of beading projects to not expect a payment.
I’m totally fine with paying for tutorials; but I have a limit to how much I can afford to spend, and internally (mentally), I have a limit to how much I want to pay, and that’s $10. Please hear me out before jumping on me. Here’s my rationale:
For a designer, there’s an unlimited number of copies of that pattern you can sell. A million people could buy that one pattern. But for a beader, there’s going to make a limited number of copies they produce from it. Very few beaders are like machines, though I’m aware that there are sweat shops in other countries that buy a pattern and make copies to give to their workers to churn out reproductions on a mass scale. I don’t know how large a percentage of pattern sales that accounts for, nor how much of the finished product from it we see for sale on Etsy and other marketplaces or even in Walmart. I don’t see how one prevents a certain amount of that, but then I don’t see how charging more for a pattern prevents it either.
I totally respect what it takes to create a pattern; it’s too overwhelming to me to contemplate the possibilities of just choosing beads and colors, let alone figuring out how to configure a design; all that doing, undoing, redoing. I’m too impatient to deal with all that, I want to know I can make something beautiful right away. But I’m betting the largest share of beaders are just like me; they just want to make something they love that gives them pleasure to wear or gift to someone, and if they do sell it’s mostly just to get money to support their craft habit. But because I’m on a fixed income, I can’t afford to spend a lot on them. Naturally, I’m going to spend my money thusly: more patterns for less money. If I can spend the same amount to buy three patterns rather than just one, that’s what I’m more likely to do. I can appreciate that my lack of funds shouldn’t be the basis for your pricing, just the same as my pricing for the finished product shouldn’t be based on a customer’s ability to pay for it. Honestly, I’d rather gift something than undersell my work, and not just for my own sake but for other fellow beaders. We deserve to get a fair price for our work. But what makes a price fair? I guess in the end it’s what the buyer thinks is a good value for what they’re getting.
I can absolutely respect your situation and your logic, there, Sue. Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. I just want to throw out another perspective. The theory that a designer could sell a million copies of the pattern is lovely. But the reality is, most of my patterns don’t even sell enough copies to break even. By which, I mean, to cover the cost of the beads, never mind the cost of the time to make and then write up.
And interestingly, the pattern price isn’t the major factor in that. More important is the project. People will only buy something that they want to make, naturally. But determining which of those projects will be popular and which won’t, is a skill I haven’t yet mastered. I still create things that ‘take off’ against all logic – they’re not particularly spectacular, so I have no idea why they become popular. Versus other projects that seem, to me, to have a lot more to offer, but just get admiration, not sales. So, every pattern put up for sale is a massive risk. I, and all other beading designers, can only dream of selling a million of anything. 100 copies is a great achievement, and that can take years to achieve on a single pattern! So, when you’re trying to pay household and medical bills, this is a pretty depressing industry in which to work. We’re not here because we can make money, we’re just here because we love it. And very few of us do manage to turn beading tutorials into a living. So, I honestly do ‘get’ the difficulties of living on a limited income…I’m doing so too.
I hope that hasn’t in any way seemed like I dispute what you’re saying – I don’t…I do understand your perspective. I just don’t want people to be walking around with the idea that any beading pattern is likely to sell a million copies…I wish!
Yes, I think bead pattern designers should be paid for their designs. However, in the past I have paid quite a lot for a pattern which was so poorly represented, steps were left out, the images were blurry (in the digital copy), and when completed the results were just not right. I consider myself to be an adequate beader. Like you suggest, if a pattern is beyond my scope of ability, I often find a technique hint to practice until I am comfortable with that technique, and then return to the pattern in question. I have found that most designers will answer questions regarding their patterns. But, there are some who are not available for comment. So, my answer: I do not buy from them and I do not recommend them, ever. I do still believe that the work and inspiration placed in designing in worthy of recompense, just not so much it breaks the bank, for each pattern. Like many, I am on a limited income, so, I’m pretty picky about how much I am willing to pay.
Oh, it is sad that so many magazines are going away. But youtube is not the best answer. Some of those tutorials are nuts and what can one say about the constant interruptions for ads, accchhh.
I am searching for a tutorial for 60 Flippen Triangles by Bead Mechanics. I see other tutorials for sale from Bead Mechanics but not this particular pattern. Are you able to point me in the right direction? THANK YOU!!!
My best suggestion is to contact Bead Mechanics directly and ask them. Good luck in finding it!