Why I am transitioning my ecourses to ‘pay what you can’ pricing
All of my eco-printing ecourses are now available with variable pricing. Choose the amount that feels right to you, based on your circumstances and the value of the course to you.
I’m a little nervous to announce this, because I don’t want to upset anyone who has paid the full price. I appreciate you so much, and your support has meant that I can transition my business to this new pricing model, which will help people with less money to still be able to access my work.
The seed of this idea
In April this year, during the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns, I was watching my business income plummet and getting ready to apply for government support. Then one night a vision came to me – to create an eco-printing ecourse for everyone stuck at home, using materials we could easily find, and for it to be ‘pay what you can’, because most people were in the same position financially. And so the Iso Dye Club was born.
I originally wanted to let each customer choose their own price, but it proved too technologically difficult. So I came up with a system of levels instead. I also gave away free places to anyone who needed them.
I had no idea whether I’d even earn enough to make up for all the work it took. But I decided to just trust the universe, and focus on generosity, community and connection.
I ended up having an amazing month financially (especially within the wider financial context), and at the time of writing, I have over 500 people enrolled in the course. I am sharing this because I want you to realise that it is possible to have success this way. It is possible to run a business in a generous way, to give some priority to social equality, and to still earn a good income too.
This runs counter to all the mainstream business advice I have ever read. There seems to be an accepted belief that as a business grows it should charge more – you have probably noticed that online courses are getting more and more expensive. This way of thinking focuses on scarcity and exclusivity.
Business models of scarcity and inequality
The general advice for running any sort of creative online business is to charge as much as you can, and then put a lot of effort into marketing it in such a way that people feel like they need it. Sometimes this is done overtly, tapping into feelings of shame or FOMO. Sometimes it is more subtle.
In pricing advice, there is a lot of talk about money blocks, and owning your value, and a general assumption that higher prices are the ultimate goal. More and more, I am questioning this.
Yes, creatives deserve to earn enough money to live on, to be fairly compensated for our work. But there is more than one way to achieve this. We need to dig below the surface and really examine this paradigm of scarcity that we are co-creating. Do we really want our world to head more in the direction of individualism, accumulation of wealth and power, and an ever-increasing divide between rich and poor? Our business models can either support this, or support a different story. And where we spend our money can either support this, or support a different story.
Even Patreon, which in some ways offers more affordable access to creatives’ work, still operates from this paradigm of inequality. Most Patreon subscriptions have multiple tiers of pricing, and the higher tier you are in, the more you get. This may seem reasonable. If you pay more, you should get more, right? But do people with more money really deserve to get more?
Economic inequality is firmly entrenched in our society, and is inextricably linked to power and privilege based on factors such as race, gender and ability – factors that we have no control over. If you are born female in a society where males earn more, if you are born disabled or as a person of colour or Indigenous, do you really deserve less?
Business models of interdependency and abundance
What if business growth could instead mean that we can make things cheaper and share them among more people, while still earning enough?
Unlike in the Patreon model, everyone who buys my ecourses gets access to all the same course materials, no matter which level they join at. This is a model of abundance. There is enough for everyone, everyone is welcome. We also get to foster a sense of interdependence. The people who pay more, support the people who pay less to be able to join.
It is possible to run a profitable, sustainable business that aligns with our values. It is possible to have a win-win situation. To offer something that is generous and accessible, a good experience for my students, while still earning enough to be a fair exchange for the work I put into it.
When you buy any of my products, when you comment on my posts or share them, you are supporting my work. This in turn means that I can continue to make, experiment, learn, film, write and create both products and free content. We both give, we both receive. This is interdependence.
It has been a bit scary making this transition. Wondering if I am undervaluing my work, or whether it will be a failure. But then I come back to my heart. I remember what I truly care about and what sort of life I want to live, and the world I want to co-create.
If this topic interests or excites you and you want to learn more, I highly recommend Charles Eisenstein’s books, Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, and his ecourse, Living In The Gift.
How the variable pricing levels work
Each ecourse on my website now has several price levels. The lowest levels are concession places for people who need extra support and can’t afford the full price. If you can, I encourage you to pay the full price ‘Tree’ level or higher. This allows me to earn a fair income from my work, and also to offer concession places. In turn, this keeps the ‘pay what you can’ pricing model sustainable. But if you can only afford the lowest levels, you are still very welcome.
If you can afford to pay the higher levels, you are supporting other people to access my courses through your generosity. You are also supporting me to continue creating free content as well as new ebooks and ecourses.
The world is changing, and perhaps we need to let go of the idea that people with lots of money deserve more, and people with less money deserve less. No matter what level you can afford, you will get access to all the same course materials. There is enough for everyone, and I trust that you can support or be supported, as you need.
When you decide on a price level that feels fair based on your circumstances and what I am offering, you’ll know. It will feel right in your heart.