I made a mistake! The Network subscription charge is no more

TL;DR: Charging for the Alternative Tarot Network feels really, really wrong. I’m going to remove the subscription system and go back to how it was.

The post below is my wee-hours ramblings about what, how, and why. Because this is a blog and I am a human and y’all deserve an explanation for all this confusion!

 

It’s 6am. The wind is blowing a total hoolie out there and the rain is lashing my boat – it’s almost deafening. I woke up two hours ago with a head full of thoughts, questions, worries, so I rose, stoked up the fire, made some coffee and sat down with a blank sheet of paper.

I journalled. Mind mapped. Bulletpointed. Poured out some feelings and added up some numbers. These are things I’ve done many times before, but today, they came out different. Ah, the strange and beautiful clarity of a small-hours brainstorm, beating six months of planning hands-down.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 18.44.13

Back in April, I launched the Alternative Tarot Network, a social network for all you weird and wonderful tarot lovers and learners.

For six months I’ve been saying that, come autumn, there would be a charge. Sites like this cost money to run and lots of time and effort to look after, and I felt that a (very small) monthly subscription was the way to go.

My reasons were solid: sustainability (as in, I get paid, so I can eat, so I can carry on running it), commitment (people tend to value the things they pay for), and development (I’d like to hire a developer to make about ten million improvements to the site because, as members will know, it’s buggy as hell!)

I’d sat with that plan for months, fleshed it out, bought software, announced it semi-regularly to members, and aside from one charmer (whose email pretty much read “LOL UR CRAZY LOL” – gosh, thanks!) I’d heard only supportive noises from the community. I was confident that this was the right move.

Well, on Monday, that came into effect. After a truly wonderful six month trial (and seriously, it’s been so much fun) I installed a system that would allow members to pay $1, $3 or $5 to continue using the site.

And you know what? The moment I did it, it felt wrong. So, so wrong. And I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed and squeamish and just plain bad about it all.

And now it’s Wednesday, less than 48 hours later, and I’ve totally changed my mind.

Which feels incredibly embarrassing! Little Red Tarot is a labour-of-love-turned-business built on community, honesty and vulnerability, and one of the tricky old things about that is that my mistakes are public, just as much as my successes. 50,000 people read this blog each month. 2000 people receive my emails, 700 people are members of the network. This isn’t one of those mistakes where I can quietly backtrack and pretend it never happened.

So I’ll do what any good blogger should: blog about it, explain what’s happening, put things right and move the heck on.

Here’s the thing: The Alternative Tarot Network should be free to use.

Never mind the monetary cost of running it or the time and effort it takes – this is not where I’m going to get paid. I knew it in my heart the moment I installed that software, and that feeling of ‘wrong’ has only grown stronger over the past 48 hours.

Well, yesterday, at just the perfect moment, my Earthbound Oracle arrived (more of that another day!) I was sitting at my desk, trying to process the grim feeling I was having. And then these cards appeared, calling themselves an ‘oracle’, and asking me to shuffle them.

Obviously that’s just what I did. “Give me a sign, lovely new cards!” I said, and I lay down three cards. Here’s what I found:

earthbound-oracle-al-swartz-1

Labour. Yep, this takes work. I love the metaphor of a beehive and honeycomb for a social network, for co-operation. This card me reminded me that the best work is done for its own sake. Where’s the reward? In the wonderful things we all share in the network, the amazing conversations, the connections, the peer-to-peer learning, the geekery, the warmth and the supportive atmosphere we all create. It’s about honey, not money.

Creativity. This is what I’m here for. For the past month I’ve been going through a process of defining my work, and each time I write down my goals, my aims, my day-to-day tasks, one word comes up: creativity. Creating resources, inspiring creativity, getting creative with my cards. This is what works. This is what my work is. 

Gift. Give it away. Make a gift of the network to all who want it. Give it freely and with a full heart. Make the network a safe, welcoming place where anyone can come and connect with other tarot lovers. Make it central to my offerings, a gesture of love and welcome.

Yes, I need to make a sustainable income if I want Little Red Tarot to continue. Earning a living is a pretty regular concern for people and I’m no different. I’m figuring out how to do that as this blog and community grows and grows and develops and often, I feel as though Little Red Tarot is a runaway train and I’m running along behind it yelling ‘hey, wait up! What’s happening? How can I make sure this all works?’

I guess part of that is making mistakes.

Right in front of you – the people who read and comment and share and support this community. Hi! I’m Beth! I got something pretty damn wrong this week! …and now I’m going to fix it.

It’s 7am. It’s getting lighter, and the rain is easing up. Cally-dog is nosing at my lap, and I think it may be walk time.

When I get back, it’s back to the drawing board. I’ll remove the subscription system and the Alternative Tarot Network will be available for all to use once again. If you’re an existing member, you’ll be able to log in as normal. If you’ve already paid for your membership, don’t panic! You’ll get a full refund this week.

If you’re not yet a member, hold tight. Make sure you’re on my mailing list and you’ll get an email in a few days letting you know how you can join!

earthbound-oracle-al-swartz-2

And that, for now, is that.

 

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36 comments

  1. I still like you. In fact, I like you all the more because you can admit to your mistakes. That’s very hard to do (and very adult).

    Also, those cards are beautiful. And that reading is amazing. I just about gasped (good thing my Fuzzy sweetie is still sleeping). Cards are wonderfully insightful and sometimes it’s shocking. I keep expecting the shock to wear off but it hasn’t yet.

  2. Alba says:

    Dear Beth, please don’t feel bad! There is something to say for both options: a free membership keeps your community as inclusive and open as possible, and a paying subscription might generate a more committed and tightly knit forum…
    Though yes, maybe the free option is truer to the name of the Alternative Tarot Network?
    Also, I think that tarotists who like your approach would have supported the ATN either way, but probably there is a risk that a subscription – however small the sum – might stifle a little the growth of your creature, which is still in its early days, and aren’t we curious to see where it goes!
    I’m sure you will manage things in the best possible way 🙂

    • Beth says:

      Bless you Alba, thank you for your supportive words, they mean a lot!

      I was determined to make the network pay its way (it’s not cheap to run) but it just felt so wrong the moment I activated all the subscription stuff, I just couldn’t sit with it. As you say, free is right for this particular offering.

      I’ll find a way to fund it so we can all participate and, as you say, see where it goes! (I’m as curious as you and definitely don’t want to stifle it 🙂

  3. Elisabeth says:

    OMG! Beth, your honesty in this post gave me ALL the feels! You are a truly beautiful human being! (Although you know I was totally supportive of you being paid!) You are amazing, and what you’ve created is amazing! Just in continual awe of you and all this!

  4. caitirin says:

    Thank you!!! I’m really exicted about this. I wasn’t going to be able to sustain a montlhy cost, but as some mentioned above, I would be delighted to use a donation button when I do have extra to spare! YAAAAY!

  5. Mara says:

    I wish I could give you a hug, Beth. You are a good soul and it comes across in everything you do. I try to direct everyone I can to LRT because I honestly believe it’s one of the best, most sincere resources for tarot on the internet. So many other places have made me uncomfortable and unhappy, especially as a QPOC, but I’ve read nearly all your blog posts and I look at the work you do and I know that you try and really mean it when you talk about inclusivity. That means A LOT.

    I agree with others about a donate button. I can’t work, so I don’t have a lot of money, but I’d like the option of being able to support you in the future. You are always free to change your mind about things. Thank you for everything that you do.

    • Beth says:

      Thank you Mara, for literally the most kind and heartwarming comment ever. Your words mean a lot. Thank you for being here x

  6. Berwyn says:

    Echo the donation button as a good idea. I plan to take the course sometime this year, and also hope to buy your spreads booklet, when I have the $$. You deserve to be able to earn a living from all the work that you do!

  7. Evvie says:

    Thank you for deciding to make the network free, and thanks for this post. It doesn’t come off weird. It’s heartfelt, thoughtful, and honest. Nothing wrong with changing your mind. Definitely add a donate button for the network, though!

  8. Kallisti says:

    Good for you for listening to how it felt! The only way to learn is by making mistakes … and paid subscriptions aren’t the only way to get sustainability, commitment, and development resources.

    • Beth says:

      Right? There are so many possibilities in this business (in any business). I think the ‘creativity’ oracle card was a nudge to think totally differently about all of that.

  9. Monica Bee says:

    As a happy forum member who was going to pay, soon, maybe, for sure, sometime…wow. I am so happy you went with your gut, and admire the open process.

    I also second a donation button–asap. 🙂 I am sure I am not the only one who can kick down sometimes, not so much at other times–and will when I can.

    You rock.

  10. You handle mistakes (even though if this was a “mistake” or not is highly subjective) with such grace — and that’s reassuring to see, since mistakes are inevitable and we’re all going to have to suffer through something similar probably more than once in our lives. I’m glad you changed your mind instead of feeling like you had to commit to a decision you were second guessing. I also agree with the above comments re: a donation button! And I keep meaning to get something from your shop because 1) so many cool things I’d like to have; 2) I want to show my support. I really do love what you do here, and I’d like to see you have the resources to keep doing it!

    • Beth says:

      Thank you! People have been so supportive and that’s really helping to affirm that this was the right decision. Looking forward to the moment I’ll look back and laugh. Yeah, there are other ways for folks to support the work, and get goodies in return! Win.

  11. Rochelle says:

    am I the few who thinks a charge for the site is a GOOD idea? while you might not make any “profit” for it – it has to be sustainable for you. I’d look out for you. thank you either way.

  12. zhizee says:

    Thank you for the post. I was slightly disheartened with the subscription when it was announced since I can’t afford it with the high exchange rate between the US and my country and along with the fact that I’m only a student. I’m quite happy that is kept free, it’s a really lovely community for me to continue learning tarot and talk to other people about it 🙂

  13. Yi Xiang says:

    Building a website more complicated than a blog is hard work.

    Several years ago I built an eshop website on my own, and I can still remember all these bugs, edits, codings, complaints, working from morning to bed, and bugs that appear in the last minute.

    I see no problem in charging for that effort.

    But I’m not suggesting that you should charge, I’m just saying I think it’s okay to charge.

    Giving is a choice, not an obligation.

    I think your community will continue to love you no matter your choice since you’ve already given so much.

  14. Eli says:

    A donate button is an excellent idea. Because, you know, gifts work both ways. (And as Yi Xiang says, giving is a choice not an obligation! This is really important!)
    You got stretched out across one of those capitalist contradictions that we all get caught on, between the monetised system we’re forced to navigate; and the love, creativity and generosity that actually drive the best things we do. It was not wrong to make the ATN a subscription service–except for the fact that it felt wrong to you. There was nothing at all objectively wrong about it, but it’s absolutely right for you to follow your subjective needs here. And I’m really glad you felt able to listen to your heart and do what you felt you needed to do.

  15. Ste says:

    AH, I know this feeling well Beth – you’ve planned something for ages, put in loads of time, you get to the final stage of your plan, put it out in the world and think “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!”

    Very cool of you to keep it free. I woulda paid personally, but really respect ya for doing what your gut says. Backtracking is hard but not as hard as living with what feels wrong to you x

    ps why is it always bloody 4am that these realisations come?

  16. Carrie says:

    Wow, Beth! This just goes to show the power of checking in with our feelings often, because they tend to shift and morph. I always admire your work and creativity, and I think it is really commendable that you were so open in sharing this post with us. Also, those three cards – WOW! Talk about perfect for what you needed and wanted to know in that moment. I can’t wait to continue using the Alternative Tarot Network, it is a WONDERFUL gift. Thank you!!!!

  17. Dree says:

    BETH! I usually (always) just lurk in the comments, but — ??!

    Have you thought about a paid subscriber tier? I don’t know how difficult that would be to implement, but since you had a three-tier system in place already, maybe a $0 vs $monthly option wouldn’t be terrible? It’s possible gated perks would make you feel yucky… but it could be a recurring donation of sorts, without any perks beyond a little star on a donor’s profile or something. Unless you’d be okay with paid-tier benefits! Either way!

    You gotta eat, girl. Surely there’s a compromise here.

  18. Yseult says:

    Beth, what courageand what bravery you have shown!
    I understand the feeling of being torn between the love and passion and the need for you to live.
    It’s ok. It is hard to findways of working through our notionsof living and money and work.

    Give us a button for flattr or just a plain old paypal support button and your community will be there to help!

  19. Marianne says:

    Beth, I’m late to the party with this, but I just wanted to say, firstly, the ATN is a seriously incredible beast and I (and many others, I’m sure) would have been more than happy to pay. That said, I so admire the integrity and honesty and vulnerability and intuition that you’ve shown by going with your gut on this and sharing the tale. This is AWESOME! If you had any fear that this might harm your brand or anything like that, shut that right down because from where I’m standing, this seems exactly the kind of business I know Little Red Tarot to be – courageous, personal, intuitive, considered, and all that good stuff! Hats off, my friend! And if you ever decide to put up a donate button, I’ll happily chip in 🙂

    Oh and how FREAKIN GOOD was that reading?! I’m even more excited now to get my copy of this deck.

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