The True Cost of Free Teaching Resources

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!