Thursday, May 16, 2013

PDF Tutorials....All Profit...Right?

Having just answered another inquiry about why I don't write tutorials for certain things I thought I'd explain the cost issues of writing a tutorial.
I had a conversation with the wonderful Mr. Patrick Duggan on this subject just last week.....a little brain picking as he moves into the world of tutorial writing., you want to write a tutorial.

First you need to design it, so that might take a day or two or a week or two for this example let's say it's a 40 hour week.
Design is getting the idea, developing it, beading it, making any changes and tweaks.  Designers in the 'real' world make good money so you you'll want to charge your time least $15 an hour.
So 40 x $15 = $600
Plus the costs of materials...including all samples, most designers make at least two and often three samples.
Say this piece isn't too spendy and costs $20 per sample.
Two at $20 = $40

Running total = $640

Next up is writing the tutorial so you better have your illustration/ photographic skills ready.

As I illustrate I'll price on that.
Graphic designers/illustrators make good money...I know I used to be one, and I know that if I farmed this out it would actually cost me hundreds if not thousands for this service.  But let's go with the $15 an hour.

Two days of illustrating, two days of writing, tweaking, photographing and editing. That's 4 x 8 hours @ $15 an hour = $480

Running total $1120
And this doesn't include overheads. much does it sell for.....price too high and it won't sell, price too low and you'll have to sell a LOT more.....for this amount of work I'd be looking at a $20 dollar price tag.

So....the first two tutorials I sell will pay for the supplies and I have to sell 56 tutorials before I'm paid for the work.  And that can take a week or a year or more.

If you work a regular job, you work for a couple of weeks or a month and get paid...and many times you can't wait for payday to get here. You work and you know you will be paid for that work....not in this business, the reality is you may have to wait 5 years to be fully compensated for a piece.
When you release a new design you hope and you better have a lot of patience, and belief in yourself and your design...because lack of sales is tough on the ego as well as the bank account.

Some designs don't make it to tutorial simply because when tested, photos posted on Facebook, they get a cool response which doesn't bode well for sales.  Sometimes that just requires a change of palette but it does mean back to the drawing board.

Some designs like the one I was asked about this morning, my Armadillo Blossom purse, will never be tutorials because they would take way too long to write and not many people would want to put THAT amount of work into something let alone the $80 the tutorial would have to cost.

For me this is a business, my sole income and when you have no financial back-up (husband, pension, lottery winnings) you have to step back a little from the artistic and let the business side come to the fore.

Some designs are just not financially viable no matter how much you and everyone else likes them.


  1. thanks for this very well written article.

  2. Wow I never put it to myself like that. I have to be honest when I see a $20 tutorial I do usually have to put it in a wish list for a later date because I am still so budget restrained but having written a few tutorials myself I know that it is a long and tedious process. You want the beader to like the pattern enough to purchase and you want to make it easy for them to follow but those do not go hand in hand. I do feel that your tutorials are worth the $ you charge and that they are easy to follow and since you are an experienced well established designer you should be getting that and more for your work. I am lucky that this is not my only source of income and I do believe now I will take that into consideration when looking for tutorials to purchase. Thank you!

  3. That is one of the best post I've ever read about valuing yourself as a designer and valuing your time as a worker. Designing tutorial is my sole income too (I'm full time carer of my autistic daughter) so it really does matter whether the business survives or not. It's quite frustrating to see tutorials selling for $2-$3 on Etsy where you know that it probably didn't cover the material went into a piece. I personally take apart (cut up) many of my jewellery after I wrote the tutorial to save money on beads. I think your post will shed some light on this sensitive subject, well done, Mikki!

  4. Very well written and explained article on this subject. It really helps put things in persoective. Thanks so much!

  5. Thanks. I have also been asked if I drop the price once I've been fully's the answer to that. I do review pricing from time to time and re-evaluate but you have to look at it in the context of an author. Does an author of a best selling book get less royalties after a certain amount of sales? I don't think so.....and if it did drop it would be after millions of sales. I should be so lucky :)

  6. Very infirmative and realistic. Thank you!!!

  7. I really enjoyed reading this Mikki. You really describe in dollars and cents and TIME what goes into writing a proper tutorial. Thank you.

  8. Thank you! I am a designer and face this problem in daily life already, like "Hey, it is fun for you, can you do a few scribbles for free and then we see??".... and now with my first few designs online I fully agree with you.
    I'm using Illustrator to design my tutorials and it takes a long time though you can duplicate and rotate things easily.
    I keep getting inquiries for posting more and quicker, but hey, it is not easily feasible as I'm doing this in my spare time!
    Thanks for explaining that and it makes me feel that I'm not alone in finding it hard to make and sell tutorials.


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