It is an unwritten expectation that if you are paying to access a website, you do not see advertisements. On the Internet, free stuff has ads, paid stuff does not. Period.
I think this is short-sighted, and here's why.
In the office last week, there was uproar when I proposed trialling advertising at Wardrobe and Foundations. Uproar for exactly the reasons stated above. Everyone knows you don't have ads unless the site is free, right?
I'm glad to say I convinced my team otherwise, and as we launch advertising at Your Wardrobe Unlock'd today, here's my reasoning for you, too.
Lynn McMasters shows you how to make a selection of different styles of Titanic era Straw Hats
out of existing modern headgear. (Feb 2012)
Ever since I launched Your Wardrobe Unlock'd back in 2007, we have received regular emails asking to be put in touch with suppliers. Readers want to know where to get 4mm steels or a crinoline kit. They want to know where they can go on in-person courses, or what events are in their area. You can see it all over Facebook communities - people want to make connections.
Meanwhile, many costumers and corsetieres email us wanting to know how to market their work and get the word out there. They are working hard and trying to make it pay. They’re selling supplies, they’re running courses, they’re putting on events and they’re designing patterns, but advertising is out of their league. The big sewing magazines or websites are hellishly expensive, multiple hundreds of dollars even for a tiny classified ad buried in the back pages, and their reach is too general. They need a highly targeted marketplace where they can get in touch with the people who want what they’re making.
"On the left, we can see how much gaping there is on the neckline... We can attempt to fix it by pulling the excess
into the waistline (middle), but the gathers are not flattering... Right, this shows how the bodice should fit,
close to the bust along the front, with gathers that continue over the bust line." Fitting Regency Gowns, Nicole Rudolph (Aug 2011)
I set up a trial advertising feature on Foundations last week, and when the team objected, I cut it back – but it was still there.
That same day, I received an email from Laura. She's a costume maker who has just launched a corset pattern and a sewalong to help people less experienced than she into corsetmaking. She was reaching out to make connections. She has 700 followers on Facebook, and she’s trying to make it work.
That night, after I replied, she submitted an advertisement for Foundations under my trial scheme. This is the ad that threatens to so offend the unsuspecting Foundations reader:
Is it really so offensive to paying members to support and connect our community in this way?
This ad is sitting in a folder, pending my approval. (Yes, I get to vet the ads that appear on our sites.) Now: do you want me to turn down Laura’s ad, or do you want to support, connect, and strengthen your community?
One more story.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the International Living History Fair, where a lady in a beautiful 16th century costume caught my eye. She told me all about the historic and vintage underthings on her stall, with her partner(?) looking on proudly as she summoned up her courage and dared give me, the punter, her spiel.
She handed me her card and I recognised the name – Jo Lawler, the Seamly Woman, is one of our members. I introduced myself, and we had a lovely chat. I told her that what I love most about running these websites is not just giving people sewing instruction, but supporting them, championing small businesswomen like her to put themselves out there, by become writers, for example. She seemed a little overcome. “We need a champion,” she nodded enthusiastically, and I know exactly what she meant. It ain’t easy making a living doing what you love.
Bess Chilver dresses the lucky Tudor Cinderella, layer by layer, giving details
on modifying Tudor dress in practical ways for a growing girl. (July 2010)
Now: would it be so terrible to let Jo tell you what she does in a space under our articles? Would it be so awful to let her suggest that you don’t need to make that partlet yourself, that you could partner with her and let her help with the bits of your costume that you don’t want to make, or don't have time to make? If she decides to give a lecture or a class, do you want to know about it?
Jo’s business card is still sitting on my kitchen table right now. I want to help her. I think you might like to help her too.
And in return for helping relevant businesses move forward in this way, could we not ask for help with that core funding we need to keep Foundations and Wardrobe going at this crucial moment?
If you have a small, relevant business that you'd like us to champion, we're now offering promotional opportunities for varied budgets. Get the exposure you need, and help us survive! Find out more and browse options and prices.
Right now we have 653 members. We need 750 to survive beyond the next seven weeks, and 1000 to pay our taxes at the end of the year and keep moving forward and improving our service comfortably. If you see value here and you want to support this project, SIGN UP HERE, and share this post on social media!
I still think this project is worth saving. I hope you do too.