I had someone write to me recently saying that it was wrong for me to charge admission for educational workshops or to teach in places where paid admission is required.
I have been thinking a lot about that and trying to decide how I feel on the subject. The fact is, I do a lot of education and most of it is free. On occasion, there is a charge or suggested donation.
When I look back, I can see a pattern. Without really thinking about it, I have established an unofficial rule for myself that I tend to offer free classes for things that I just picked up along the way, while charging for things that I had to actively research and work on.
For instance, when I do a workshop on needle-play, it is usually free. That class is mostly stuff that other people have taught me for free and little tricks and methods I have borrowed from others.
But my “Sub-Drop and Aftercare” class, on the other hand, is the product of many, many hours of research. And I review the available research before each class to see what new studies on brain chemistry are available. That class is not JUST passing on what I happen to know, it involves serious work. So I don’t feel bad about charging for that.
My other criteria is travel. If I am teaching someplace, like my local kink club, where I was probably going to be that night anyway. No, there will be no charge. But If I am driving several hours or buying a plane ticket to get to a gathering in a community that I am not really a part of, I am more likely to expect some compensation. But the fact is, most of the time, I still end up paying more than I make to travel to these places and teach.
If a product or service has value to you, I think it is demeaning to expect someone to provide it to you for free
But my own personal approach aside, I question the attitude of expecting people to provide education for free. If a product or service has value to you, I think it is demeaning to expect someone to provide it to you for free, especially when you are some random stranger who has never even bothered to say hello to me.
I have issues with this pervasive attitude in our community that expects things for free. People who complain about entry fees at the clubs or ticket prices for workshops by educators who have flown in from other states. I have a problem with people’s reluctance to financially support those who are providing resources and services to us.
I know that there are some people who can’t afford things. And I believe that people running events and workshops and clubs and venues should always make allowances to ensure that the community is accessible to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
You are telling me that dozens of hours of my hard work is worth less than a few cocktails
But when I see members of our community spending over a hundred dollars at the bar and then complaining that my 7 hour long intensive workshop costs thirty bucks, I have a problem with that. Because, essentially, you are telling me that dozens of hours of my hard work is worth less than a few cocktails. And if that’s what you believe, then why do you want to be there in the first place?
We have to start thinking more about value and less about cost. If someone has knowledge or experience that is of value to you, then you should be offering them compensation for sharing that with you, even if they don’t ask for it. If they turn that down (and most will), then you have still demonstrated that you value what they are doing and they are more likely to continue sharing what they have. But when we complain about every small cost incurred in our community, we are communicating over and over again, that those things are worthless to us, and the resources will go away.
Still, I teach for free more often than not. But that’s my choice. Others should be able to charge if they need to without worrying about backlash from the community. And those of us who can afford to should be buying extra tickets to give away to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it, rather than criticizing the costs.