It's Rant Time-- Tutorial Hell

So I was thinking about writing this for quite a while, but had been holding off on how to best word it...Then a conversation with some other decorators made me realize that what was bothering me was more than one issue, it's a two-headed monster. It's a matter of too many tutorials, selling them, and the issue of should you be selling them all tied up in a messy little ball.

Let me first say that I've been doing cakes for almost twenty years. A lot has changed in that time, and every time there's an influx of people to cake decorating, they always think they know the "right" way to do things. (The round edges vs sharp edges debate comes to mind...) So if using loads of tutorials is your "right way" of doing things, don't get mad, just keep an open mind and read on. And no, this is not aimed at anyone in particular, it's just my random thoughts, so don't take it personally.

All right then...please take a step back and ask yourself...Do I really need a tutorial for EVERYTHING?  I dare you to go on facebook, look at any news feed that has a decent number of bakers in it, and see how many people mention tutorials for various things. People have become so accustomed to it they don't realize that it isn't necessary to have written instructions for everything.

There's nothing wrong with tutorials in general, but do you really need a tutorial for how to make something like a wreath? (Not to pick on wreaths, that's just what came to mind.) Can't you just look at it and say "well, that looks like a bunch of leaves stuck onto a circle." All it takes is a little effort and I would THINK that most people would be able to figure something simple like that out on their own.

I don't mind doing basic how-tos on things, there are plenty on this blog and on youtube. But if you notice, I don't take a detailed photo of each step of the process. I assume that you're all smart enough to fill in some of the basic blanks. If there's something that I keep getting questions about I'll do a quick video or a short tutorial-type blog post, but I don't see the need to write out a ten page lesson on really basic stuff. I'm also not going to bother doing something that's already on youtube multiple times unless I have a different take on it.

On the other hand, when I do a tutorial to sell it's pretty thorough, and it's always something that encompasses some novelty. I won't do a tutorial to sell that shows you how to put leaves on a wreath. If I did do something like that, it would be free on my blog, or a two-minute video on youtube.

The peony tutorial that I sell online is about 40 pages long, includes four different ways to make the flowers, and also includes information about where to get materials, how to wire petals, etc etc. I'm not going to slap something together and think that it's worthy of being sold to people. I've had a lot of people ask if I sell tutorials on this or that, and it's usually something that makes me think I'd be ripping them off by taking money for it.

Which brings me to the other point...There are too many tutorials being sold that aren't worth the paper they're written on (or the code they're written with). If you pay for a tutorial on how to stick polka dots on a cake you need to rethink that expenditure.

There are also too many tutorials being made by people who really have no business trying to teach anyone anything. When I see someone advertising that they're selling a tutorial on a cake, and the picture of the cake looks like my dog made it, they probably shouldn't be selling it. When someone posts a video showing them cutting out pieces of sticky, fingerprint-covered fondant with a butter knife they should probably put the camera down. If someone's video shows them licking their fingers, no, just no.

There's a very, very low bar to get into the cake business these days. That mediocrity is even more mediocre when it comes to tutorials in general, and selling them specifically. There are plenty of people who are willing to take your money, and because decorators have gotten lazy, and are used to a tutorial for everything, they'll have no problem selling them. With the proliferation of online "cake schools" the market is starting to get saturated, and everyone wants a piece of the action. But that just ends up lowering standards, which is what I see happening in the cake world now.

So my plea for sanity is simply this...First, if you sell tutorials, please, only sell things that took you more than an hour to put together. (Seriously, a good tutorial takes a LOT longer than that.) Only sell things that you're GOOD at. Only sell things that gives new information to the person who's going to buy it, whether that's showing a different way that you do something or by adding more information than you need to.

Second, if you watch a lot of tutorials, do yourself a favor and try to figure it out yourself first. Some things can't be taught without trial and error, and yes, that means that you'll actually have to do some work and be CREATIVE. I think you'll be surprised at how much fun it is to figure out something yourself, and the sense of accomplishment you get when you're not just following instructions. If you want to learn how to make a flower, go look at the flower itself, not a tutorial. You might actually find a different way to do things that works better for you if you're not copying someone else's methods. Because if you really think you're an artist, you can't rely on paint by numbers all the time.

Let me know if you disagree. Then go look at my youtube channel and decide if you think I should make complicated tutorials on anything on it. I think the videos are short, sweet, and priced right (free to watch). But I'm sure I could add some filler and sell them if you really want to pay me to!


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com