January 3, 2016

The True Cost of Free Teaching Resources

If you love free teaching resources, read this post to find out some facts that might surprise you!
Every so often someone posts a comment like this on my Teaching Resources Facebook page:

"I miss the days when teachers shared their resources for free in the spirit of collaboration. Now it seems like bloggers are just trying to make a buck off their fellow teachers. If they truly cared about helping other teachers and students, they would offer everything for free."

If you agree, I understand why you might feel that way. Really, I do. I used to feel that way, too, before I discovered the true cost of providing free resources.

Lately I've been seeing more comments like this than usual, probably because I’ve been enthusiastically promoting Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. I’m not sure why anyone would feel that a life-changing course with tools to help you shave hours off your workweek would be free, but apparently some do.

Yes, I could ignore those comments, but for every teacher who is bold enough to post something like that on my page, there are probably a hundred others who are thinking the same thing. It hurts to know that teachers feel this way, even though I recognize that they don't understand what goes on behind the scenes. I guess that’s why I’ve finally decided to open up about the costs associated with creating and sharing teacher resources.


Let me start by saying that in most cases, those who say they wish everything was still free and complain about bloggers “making a buck” off their fellow teachers are NOT the ones contributing to the so-called collaboration. Since they aren’t blogging or creating free resources to share with others, they don’t understand the tremendous amount of work that goes into writing a great blog post. It usually takes me several days to compose a thoughtful post, complete with attractive images and free teaching resources. Take the post I published a few days ago, Plickers 101 - Digital Exit Tickets (and more!). I think Plickers is an amazing online assessment tool, and I wanted to share it with teachers. I ended up spending over a week writing the post and creating a free tutorial to go with it.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’re probably aware that I send out an email newsletter several times a month, and that it's loaded with links to free teaching resources. Subscribers also get access to Laura’s Best Freebies, a private page with links to dozens of my best freebies. If you printed them all out, they would total hundreds of pages!

I launched Teaching Resources over 15 years ago with a free online file cabinet to share printables and resources that I had developed for my classroom. Those freebies are still there, although most of them have been updated. My Free Webinars page has a dozen recordings of webinars I developed to share strategies with teachers, and I continue to offer new free live webinars. The next one is scheduled for the end of this month and it's about how to get started with Plickers. You can register on the webinar page if you're interested in learning about this resource.

But you might be surprised to learn that there's a hefty price tag associated with creating and sharing teacher resources. In fact, I spend over $600 a month to be able to provide these free resources for my fellow teachers. Let's take a closer look at where some of the money goes:

  • For starters, my mailing list service costs $295 a month, but without it, I couldn't share these "free" resources with my followers. 
  • What about Facebook? That's free, right? Not exactly. I have over 650,000 followers, but Facebook has turned into a "pay to play" game over the last few years, and believe me, I've been paying plenty! 
  • Website hosting for Teaching Resources runs about $300 a year, and that doesn't include the services of a webmaster to help when things go wrong. 
  • Would you believe that last year I spent over $500 on clipart and font licenses? Yikes! Maybe that was a bit excessive, but I want my products and freebies to be more than highly effective and easy to use. I want them to look amazing, too! 
  • I offer free live webinars for teachers, and the GoToWebinar platform and related services total about $250 a month. 

Those expenses are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the money it takes to keep Teaching Resources going.

Where do I get hundreds of dollars a month to cover these expenses? When I was still in the classroom, I paid those costs out of my teaching salary. But I eventually realized that the cost of giving everything away for free was just too high. I started writing books for teachers and creating high-quality digital products to sell from my website. A few years later when I learned about TeachersPayTeachers, I opened a store there. Lately, I've started charging a nominal fee for my webinar replays instead of posting them on my site for free. Thankfully, there are enough teachers who are happy to pay for my resources to support my clipart addiction :-) and cover other expenses.

Does the fact that I charge for these books and products mean that I don’t truly care about teachers? If you have to think twice before you answer, apply that logic to classroom teachers. Would anyone dream of suggesting that if teachers truly cared about their students, they would volunteer their time and wouldn’t accept a paycheck? Enough said!

I also support my passion for helping teachers through a limited amount of affiliate marketing. What this means is that when a reader clicks a link that goes to a product on Amazon or somewhere else, I earn a small percentage of those sales. Affiliate earnings don’t cost the buyer anything extra so they’re a nice way to help cover the cost of creating freebies. When I include affiliate links in my posts, I disclose that information, usually at the end of the post. You can see how I handle this in my blog review of Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Of course, I would never promote a product or service if I didn’t think it was awesome, but I think you have a right to know when I include affiliate links.

Let’s get back to the question of who is actually paying the costs associated with creating and sharing free teaching resources. The answer should be pretty obvious by now.

The reality is that the teachers who purchase my teaching resources are footing the bill for those who insist that everything should be free.  

That’s why I'm exceedingly grateful for those who value my work enough buy products that meet their needs in addition to downloading the freebies. I also appreciate it when readers make a purchase after clicking on one of my affiliate links, because they’re helping to cover the costs of those freebies, too.

I love creating resources for teachers and knowing that they're making a difference. Now that I’ve retired from the classroom, I work as many hours creating and sharing resources as I did planning lessons and teaching my students. I truly appreciate your support because without it, I would be forced to earn a living doing something I didn't enjoy nearly as much!




35 comments:

  1. Great post, Laura!! I've been seeing more and more of those comments, as well. I think you did an excellent job of explaining it here.

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    1. Who better than teachers to create resources for other teachers? I think it is very empowering for teachers to show how talented, intelligent and creative we are! And, of course they should get paid for their work. I have purchased many amazing resources created by teachers that have helped me in my classroom, and I am happy knowing that they are getting money for their work.

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  2. Great post Laura!
    It's a hard topic to cover and you did it in a very classy way.
    Thank you!!
    Lory

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  3. Great insight Laura. Thank you for taking your time to blog honestly and openly about this issue. You, your work, and your products are all greatly appreciated!

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  4. Thank you very much for this insightful post!

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  5. Thank you very much for this insightful post!

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  6. Very well said, and absolutely true! Thanks for sharing!

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  7. This is a wonderful post Laura! I think it's hard for others to understand how much time it takes to create educational resources and that there are other expenses that also goes into it
    Jennie!

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  8. Using the same argument, if doctors truly cared about the lives and health of their patients, they'd provide free medical care. If artists truly cared about their art, they'd create and give it away.

    I don't see major publishing companies churning out freebies either.

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    2. I love the doctor analogy because that's another profession that people go into presumably because they care about helping others. Imagine someone saying, “If you REALLY care about healing people, you’d just give away all your treatments for no cost and give me all my medications for free”!

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  9. Awesome post! I hope it opens a few eyes. I'm thinking the teachers who feel entitled to everything free are probably the same ones who want others to share copyrighted materials with them so they don't have to buy!

    Julie
    Math is Elementary

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  10. I produce a Google Site for my class families each week as a newsletter alternative. Most families have no idea how many hours it takes me to edit and upload photos and videos, in addition to writing the text that fills each page with updates about our week. I am happy to pay those of you who produce wonderful materials as I know how much time and effort it is and most of you are doing it in addition to teaching and having a life. Thanks!

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  11. This is such a great article, Laura. I hope it helps teachers who believe in collaboration, as I do, understand that true collaboration is a two way street. It's a relationship where both parties are contributing or giving in some way.

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  12. I am amazed at the hours and resources it takes to be part of this educational collaboration! We have passion for what we do, just as with teaching, and that's a big part of what keeps us going! This is a a great educational post. Love the analogy to teachers in classrooms. Perfect. Thanks for putting it out there!

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  13. I am so glad I was able to read and share your post. We love sharing, but to get quality, you have to have tech skills, clip art, frames, and fonts to make things look professional.

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  14. Well said, Laura! Thank you for this post!

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  15. Thank you, Laura, for this look into the costs associated with providing teaching resources. ~Denise

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  16. Thank you from a grateful teacher who purchases products from the rest of you talented folks! I have no blog, TpT store, or anything else, but I do follow many of you and I appreciate the hard work that goes into what you do. Thanks again.

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  17. Free generally means one of three things: 1) Have a little sample, or 2) Thanks for being a customer, or 3) You've won something!
    Thank you for sharing, Laura! It will take time for the community to shift to a place of understanding (just like copy write laws)!

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  18. Fantastic! So many people really have no idea how much time and money are involved in creating products. Thanks so much for writing this thoughtful and insightful post!

    ~Laura
    Luv My Kinders

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  19. Well said, Laura! Thank you very much for this insightful post! Sue

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  20. I enjoyed reading your post. I have dabbled with making things a time or two, and I understand how much time it takes. With a younger family, it is difficult to make things at the rate I need them-- I am happy to pay for items I would like to use. The time spent creating items is certainly worth the money charged. Thanks for all that you do!

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  21. What a great explanation for what you and others do. Of course, nothing is really "free." I hope those who question it will have a better understanding now. People like you truly know what teachers need and provide the best resources. Keep doing that great work that you're doing! Thank you!!!!

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  22. Thank you from someone who appreciates the energy and creativity you bring to producing great products I can use in my classroom.

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  23. Thank you from someone who appreciates the energy and creativity you bring to producing great products I can use in my classroom.

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  24. Thanks for this post Laura, and thanks for all that you do for your fellow educators. You are truly appreciated.
    Jan
    Laughter and Consistency

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  25. ...and of course there are those who want everything for free, including the work of the teacher in the classroom next door to them, and NEVER share any of their own work with anyone! I marvel at the work you and others have done so I could spend my time doing other things. I don't mind one bit paying for that time!

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  26. Thank you for pointing out for those of us who haven't created blogs and printables how much work goes into it. I'm in my second year of teaching and truly appreciate all of the items, ideas, and blog posts of teachers who know more than I do. I understand that it does cost you time and money for these items to exist and appreciate all the work that goes into them. I am excited when I find things that apply to my small world (middle school SPED math) and am now a little more willing to pay for ideas that fit. Thank you for educating me.

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  27. This article is eloquently written. As a fellow TpT author, I completely agree! I hope that this helped other teachers see a new perspective. Thank you!

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  28. Laura, I agree with you 100%. I like getting freebies but I also appreciate how much effort goes into producing blogs, printables etc for people like myself who lack the subject knowledge, skill, time, creativity to do so for themselves. So I gladly pay for material that will be useful to me that others have produced. Keep up the good work, and many thanks for all that you do.

    Patricia.

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    1. Laura--until I started editing for several people, I had no idea what goes into producing a printable. You send it to people to edit, they edit, and send it back, the creators check it over again, and sometimes send it back to the editor for a final check before publishing. So, if it is a freebie, that is a lot of work to send it free. We all appreciate all you do, so thank you so much

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  29. Teachers are professionals, and should set prices for their products and services the same as accountants, lawyers, physical therapists, mechanics, and others! To say that teachers should give their intellectual property is a slap in the face.

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