Thinking about Patreon? Here’s my experience

Two years ago, I started a Patreon account. Today, I deactivated it. What changed and what can YOU learn to help you decide which platform to use? Let’s find out.
patreon

Two years ago, I launched the LeticiaWrites “project” (it’s now a part of my life), to take Wednesdays off to write. As part of my desire to be accountable, I launched a Patreon community at the same time, and asked $1/month from people who wanted to (a) support me, and (b) help me to be accountable to the goal.

That was a huge success. Accountability has historically been important for me in all areas of my life, largely because I’m so self-driven. It’s helpful to know that others depend on what I’ve promised, because it has been an extra nudge in getting myself over the line and actually delivering.

So far, so good.

In the past two years, Patreon has been reasonably good.

However, as I developed as a creator, and as Patreon changed and morphed over time (away from a payments mechanism and into membership management), the two of us diverged fairly significantly.

Today I deactivated my Patreon account. All of my patrons are now supporters, and they access their tiers and benefits directly. Those are now over at Gumroad.

So why did I do this?

There are a bunch of reasons:

  • discovery on Patreon is piss-poor. Even using the search function (which, by the way, is rubbish). If I ever logged out and searched for myself, do you think I could find me? Not on your life.
  • it’s no longer possible just to add or stop your pledges. I was hunting around for it this morning and couldn’t find it.
  • if you publish directly on Patreon, you cannot export it.
  • you don’t own your place on the platform, you’re renting it.
  • it’s just another platform to manage.

Pros and Cons of using Patreon

The great things about Patreon are:

  1. It’s hands-down the easiest way to get started in the next half-hour.
  2. It has patron-only podcasts, without the hassle of storage and delivery.
  3. It has membership management that reminds you when tiers and benefits are due, as well as contact details and private message functions to individual patrons.
  4. It has a recognised brand.
  5. Once you’re pledging, you get curious about other creators, and go pledge there too (so it tends to encourage more creation and support).

The not-great things about Patreon are:

  1. It’s another platform to maintain.
  2. It’s external to your website.
  3. Its website plugins don’t often work (esp on WordPress).
  4. The tech support is via a forum; it’s impersonal, it’s not responsive, time to resolution is actually months, and you have to be willing to put private details into a forum.
  5. You can’t export your posts or podcasts when you want to leave. << this is major!
  6. Managing your own payments to others is difficult (couldn’t even find the place to do that today).
  7. Finding creators is the biggest pain in the arse ever.
  8. You don’t own your account, you’re renting it.
  9. You don’t have a choice of currency (everything is USD by default, even if your patrons are in Australia or New Zealand).
  10. They can deplatform you whenever they like, because you have to abide by their rules (which are relatively arbitrary in any organisation).

If you are thinking about Patreon, here is my recommendation to you.

Have a strong think about how much you want to own vs how much ease you want.

If ownership is important to you (which it ought to be, because it’s your work!), then my recommendation is to build a bit of a Frankenstein until you have the cash to do something else.

If membership management is important to you (because you have hundreds or thousands of fans) then Patreon is a reasonable option.

If you have tens of thousands of fans, then find something that dovetails into your existing tech stack, or your existing website so that the end-user experience is seamless.

What my platform looks like now

Without Patreon, this is now what my platform looks like:

  1. Everything is on a domain that I own, and that I have control over. Nobody (except my domain host; a risk you have to take when you don’t maintain your own server) can disrupt that. That domain is the one you’re on right now. 🙂
  2. Paid content is locked behind a password. If you’re a sponsor, then you have the password and can access all content whenever you want.
  3. Audio content is provided to patrons via videos, which are hosted at Vimeo and embedded in every sponsor-only post. That’s largely because adding a second podcast on this site isn’t on the cards right now. It will be changed eventually. Right now it’s a reasonable stop-gap.
  4. Tiers and benefits are managed on Gumroad, which is just a products and subscriptions platform. It doesn’t do anything else fancy, but its platform is excellent. I used Gumroad many years ago when I was looking for something like Patreon(!) and was dissatisfied with it. Having had the reverse experience (and with Gumroad’s development since), it’s now a platform I am happy to support.
  5. Sponsorships are paid in $AUD, which makes me SUPER happy. It’s more cost-effective for everyone in Australia, which is most of my followers. I can choose to make the currency the same as your country, too, wherever you are in the world.
  6. Messages to patrons use my standard email platform which is Zingry. (And I love it.) This means that sponsors get all emails, not just sponsor-only emails, which is a major bonus to them (and me!)

And as for search, well, Google has my back on that.

In summary: Before you consider a creator platform, think about your needs.

My best advice to you is to think about the elements that are really important to you. If you’re not sure what’s available, then as a starting point you can rank the following:

  • discoverability and search
  • membership management and what that means
  • payments: one-off, recurring, or both
  • ownership and export of content
  • content format (text, video, audio)
  • ability to share
  • messaging and emails
  • how many things you’ll have to manage yourself (moving parts, things to touch, etc)
  • terms and conditions; eg, Patron will hide your account from literally everybody if it’s 18+, unless you have the direct URL. Great example: My favourite artist Keith P. Rein.
  • currencies available
  • how much you’ll pay for the privilege of using it
  • integrations with other platforms.

As always, if you’ve got ideas and you aren’t sure what works best for you, shoot me a message and I’ll help you out.

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