Why You Should Assign Value to Your Work


You should assign value to your creative work and not feel guilty about it. There.

I’ve been thinking about writing this article for some time. The idea began last year. I was considering offering a premium version of my newsletter, an offshoot of my blog on literacy and leadership. Why? Because after seven years of blogging, I wanted to communicate to my readers what I believed my work was worth. My writing creates meaning for me and for others.

Prior, I asked multiple people that I trust what they thought. Opinions ran the gamut, from “I don’t like the subscription model,” to “I don’t know if you are charging enough!” (Quick summary: $35 a year gives access to all premium content on this site. This translates into one post out of four each week behind a paywall.)

What prompted this article now is reading an educator’s recent blog post whose work I respect. He feels “shame” for selling original content he created on Teachers Pay Teachers. This educator is also an author of many professional resources. So if he feels guilty about assigning value to his creative work, I imagine many of us might too.

You’ll notice I did not describe his efforts as “charging” for his original content. Instead he decided upon a dollar amount that he believes is aligned with what he created. Of course, he also considered the market before arriving at the specific value.

This is what I have done here too – deciding what my time and expertise are worth developing original content outside the regular work day, while considering what was a reasonable price to expect of an audience.

Some online discussion has been devoted to the merits (or lack of) regarding Teachers Pay Teachers and similar set ups. The concern that grows out of this market space seems to stem from a variety of beliefs people hold, for example:

  • Educators should freely share their ideas; it helps improve our collective practice. How can we grow as professionals with a paywall?

Or consider:

  • Buying a random resource to implement as part of a curriculum that has not been vetted properly will likely result in student inequity.

Or even:

  • No one is getting rich serving as an educator. Shouldn’t you reconsider charging a colleague and taking their hard-earned money?

It’s not that simple. Addressing the concern about inequity, I do believe educators should have experience and outside expectations in evaluating resources that might supplant district-approved curriculum. Yet I also believe that there are deeper messages being communicated in these statements. For instance, when I hear complaints about educators not sharing freely, I also hear “Your work is not worthy.”

Who are we to decide this? If a resource is not something we want, don’t buy it. Purchase a commercial resource or develop your own assessments and lessons that are responsive to your students’ needs and aligned with appropriate standards.

When we assign value to our creative work, we communicate that our ideas and time and expertise are valuable. I believe this stance also influences others’ perspectives about our work. They start to see what we create as valuable, too. Free is fine, sometimes. But if everything we bring to fruition on our own time is given away, we may also be telling ourselves that our work is not worthy, which may be a lost opportunity for validation of our efforts.

An anecdote to reinforce this idea: I recall a seasoned athletics coach explaining to a younger colleague why he charges for his summer camps. “If I didn’t expect parents to pay $40, no one would show up. They would think it isn’t worth it.”

That educator I mentioned at the beginning of this post? I purchased a resource from him on Teachers Pay Teachers, using school funds. It was almost exactly what I was looking for. If I were to have created it myself, it would have taken hours and much of my patience rendering it on a computer. The result would also not have been of the same level of quality. This transaction served me well and it also communicated to the educator that what they were selling had value.

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