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Things to know before starting a Patreon page (pencerw.com)
207 points by colebowl 2 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments





I would add - as a patron, the UI is horrible.

The one thing I'd like, when I subscribe to someone, is a list of patron-only content so that I can slowly go back and watch/listen to/read past material. Instead the only option is an infinite-scroll style blog roll, which makes it extremely hard to go back and pick up where you left off. It's also impossible to navigate in anything other than inverse chronological order. Atrocious.


I'm fairly sure some people are clicking the heart (like?) button on every post they read to know when they can stop scrolling.

There is an option for normal chronological ordering on the posts page though I can't comment on the mobile version. A curious thing I noticed was every time I loaded more posts it would take longer than previously. Going through hundreds of posts like this would result in waiting for minutes for the next set of posts to load in.

I don’t follow what you mean by wanting a list of this content, then you go onto describe the list that they give you.

If it was just paginated and let you sort forward or reverse chronologically, is that all you’re asking for?


Ok, I'll go into detail.

I recently subscribed to (patronized?) Hand Tool Rescue. His patron-only content is narrated versions of his restoration videos, which typically run 20+ minutes long. I have time to watch one maybe every few days.

To go back and watch all of his old stuff:

1) Visit patreon.com. I'm logged in, so it takes me to /creator-home. It looks like this: https://monosnap.com/file/PtG4Robbscnt7fns0omVO9a2D3IQul There are no links to who I'm following or content to consume.

2) After scratching my head a few minutes, click on my tiny persona icon top right, then click on "Posts from my creators". Now I'm looking at a blog roll of all my creators. There's a tantalizing "Patron Only Content" filter here, but that's for "all creators". There's a list of my creators on the left though, so...

3) Click on "Hand Tool Rescue" on the left side. Finally I'm looking at posts from HTR. But now there's no filter for Patron Only Content! WTF?

4) Let's see, where what was the last video I watched? Scroll down. And scroll. And scroll. Click the "More..." button. Scroll more. And scroll. "More..." again. Oh, here's where I left off. I think.

5) Oh, this is a 3-part series. Scroll down some more to the first part.

6) Open video in a new tab, watch the first couple minutes. Oh wait, I did already watch this part. Thankfully I didn't close the tab in #4 (learned that the hard way). Scroll back to the next part and watch it.

This is a trainwreck of UX. It's also pretty nearly my only interaction with patreon.com. I discover content on youtube and through friends, and rarely add/remove creators anyway.

All I want is to see is a dense easily navigable list of patron only content! Youtube is excellent for this - just a list of thumbnails. I really wish I could just pay HTR through Youtube.

BTW - before someone posts "You can sort inverse chronologically" - yes, I now see that you can do that. It still doesn't reduce the total scrolling. It actually makes it somewhat worse, because HTR's first couple years of videos weren't narrated. Ugh.


Not GP, but the web interface is bog slow at loading posts and scrolling the page (once enough posts are loaded). Also, basic navigation is broken by the infinite scroll, so it's easy to lose your place in the stream and have to waste time looking for it again.

As a workaround, there's an option to filter posts by month and year. I work my way backwards a month at a time.


You could keep the e-mail in a "to do" or "to read" state and get to it this way later.

I interpreted their comment to be about content created before they became a patron, so there would not be an email.

Ah, right, of course. Had a brain fart there.

Works fine for me, when I'm not struggling to make progress on my work due to waves vaguely at 2020, Patreon lets me pay my rent by drawing comics about robot ladies with reality problems and cartoon animal space operas.

YMMV obviously. I don't use any of its integrations, I just go to the web UI and upload a new page and type some stuff about it now and then, and also hit up my gloriously-unfashionable Wordpress-based site and add the same file to the secret-patrons-only whole-chapter-WIP page. Which does not bother doing any authentication because it's all ultimately gonna be free on the public pages of my site anyway.

I might get a bigger percentage if I fucked around with some other way to create recurring payments, sure. But my experience is that people now know what is up with Patreon, and are much more likely to say "okay sure I'm in, I'll give you a few bucks per page of your weird-ass comics for a while" than to sign up for anything else I've ever done. Like I think I got all of fifty bucks, once, out of the Paypal donation button I used to have on my old comics. I've gotten several years of paying my rent out of Patreon and that lower signup friction is well worth their cut IMHO.

(I will note that I do kinda feel like Patreon's sort of abandoned the per-creation model, it's not uncommon to see them roll out new features that only work on the monthly model. Which really doesn't work for someone like me who can go silent for months at a time due to depression.)


You're completely right that the paypal "Donate" button was a complete dead end. I suspect though, that Patreon has actually just changed the audience expectations around how they're going to support creators, and if you went to the trouble of throwing up a simple patreon style page on your own using one of those cheap template websites, that's probably much closer to the success of Patreon than the paypal button. I'm not actually saying you should do that - obviously for most small creators a small percentage of a small amount is totally reasonable. But Patreon have a real problem if anyone successful naturally grows out of their platform.

PSA: If you are in the USA (and 32 other locales), setup a github page and use github's sponsor functionality. They take no cut.

https://github.com/sponsors


Patreon is recurring so you can get income from sleeper subscriptions.

GitHub sponsorship can also do that.

I'm currently using Patreon and GitHub Sponsors to accept donations. If you are doing anything software related, I would definitely encourage you to set up GitHub Sponsors right away.

GitHub Sponsors: - Zero fees (compared to the ~10% Patreon takes) (!) - They match all donations (up to a limit of $5000) for the first year (!!) - Great exposure. Tons of people have found me through GitHub. (I don't think anyone ever found me through Patreon.)

It's still worth it for me to use both services, as some people have strong feelings about one or the other. And in fact, I also have a PayPal for people who don't trust either one. :)


I'm not really sure what Patreon is to be honest. It's not payment processing - they're literally passing those costs to you. It's not a community, there's no cross-patron promotion or discoverability. It seems like it's essentially just a bad version of square space that wants to charge you a percentage of your revenue instead of $20 a month. It had this exciting opportunity to build a platform, but I think that time has passed, they've chosen not to do it, so all they have left is some rather poor CMS with an exploitative pricing model.

It's a centralised (not great) publishing platform where the main feature is that it supports "micro" payments.

As a user (rather than a creator) I like it because I don't have to faff around with separate payments across multiple sites, just once a month my credit card is billed the sum of all the sponsorships I want to make and I get an email to tell me where it all went to. I will tend to think twice before setting up a recurring donation to something that's not on patreon, simply because it's something new for me to keep track of.

TBH I almost never use it to get to the actual content, it's usually for sponsoring podcasts etc. that I was already listening to.


What throws me off about it being a platform is that ther'es basically no discoverability - you search for what you want, but it's never going to say "Hey, yo liked X, what do you think of Y"

I'm curious about the fee structure. I was under the impression that the vast majority of patronships were $1/mo. Maybe it's varies among media, since I only subscribe to YouTubers.

I pay $1/mo to like 15 different YouTubers. This adds up to $15/mo which to me is a reasonable price for entertainment. With patreon, I get billed once a month and their fees end up being like the article writes around 12%. If all these YouTubers switched to something like PayPal, now they'd be paying 30% fees on $1 payments instead.


I'd love to know what the other options are out there, as mentioned in the article.

Right now, patreon is well known, and I'd be concerned with an unknown site turning supporters off.


Liberapay[0] is my favorite. They're a nonprofit funded by donations through their own platform, and they don't charge any fees.

[0] https://en.liberapay.com/about/


Gumroad has been pretty solid for all things I've tried. They have subscriptions, which is not exactly Patreon, but essentially the same kind of thing (recurrent payments).

SubscribeStar is popular among creatives https://www.subscribestar.com/

Here's a thorough summary: https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/market-research/other-crowdfundi...

(at the wiki of still-not-launched different type of patronage platform that is sharing its own research)


Looking through that, I see some Bitcoin-driven services. What I don't see are any that accept payments and pay out via a wide range of channels, from PayPal to Bitcoin. And for Bitcoin, I don't mean Coinbase or exchange accounts that enforce KYC rules. Stripe used to work with Bitcoin, but no longer.

We don't proactively search for new services or re-review those listed to make sure the information is still up to date[1].. but we do update the page if we hear about new ot changed services through other channels. So, if you or anyone else are aware of particular services that are notable for their flexibility in payment providers, please let me know and I'll add them to the page.

That said, I would not be surprised if none exist. The more payment processors you support, the harder it is to avoid handling the money directly, which means more legal hurdles (regulations, liability); the simpler alternative (that snowdrift.coop is currently pursuing, for those practical reasons, although it is limiting in some respects) is to coordinate donations though other platforms.

[1]: Aside, I was trying to write this sentence in the form "re-review the information for [up-to-date-ness]", but couldn't think of the right word. "Accuracy" is close, but doesn't capture the element of time. Any ideas?


up-to-date-ness = currency

It's not the usual meaning, and so confusing, although arguably the meanings are fundamentally consistent.


I'm not totally sure what the UX is for a non programmer, but stripe is an option. They just released a customer billing portal for users to self-manage their plan on recurring billing. Sounds like it could hit many of the features.

I keep hoping a self hosted option will pop up that’s easy to setup with Docker or an NPM install.

I know locals.com. I like their UI and they have a couple of bigger names on their platform. My impression is that most of the creators lean right.

Self-host ghost.org?

I would add that Patreon is not built for creators from India. The most important thing for a creator like me is that money gets directly transferred to my bank account; not my credit card or my paypal account. It's a psychological thing. And I think it is a significant thing because that is our middle class culture. Here a significant portion of the population don't spend money on their credit cards like people in other countries do.

The only two options on patreon are a credit card and paypal. The latter is also not that much in vogue.

These are just my thoughts.


Patreon does not seem very spectacular but I don't exactly see what the reason not to have a patreon page is. I have one and it is one of several different income sources for my open source work. it's 100 bucks a month I wouldn't have otherwise.

(Author of the post here)

I actually kind of agree with this: Patreon is indeed a good way to earn enough money to buy dinner once a week or whatever. I guess it's also good for big time influencer types who are in growth mode and not worrying about their overhead. I just think it's a mediocre solution if what you want is to create a stable, predictable, and mature small business out of your work.

I totally appreciated Patreon when I was starting out; it just really sucked to scale on, and switching to a more legit system was somewhat painful.


Which system did you switch to?

It's mentioned in the middle of the post:

> I moved to a combination of Quickbooks Online ($645/year; note that Intuit is a terrible company) and Squarespace’s ($480/year) recurring products feature.

But the squarespace's recurring products feature seems focused more toward physical products than digital creative artifacts which I mainly associate Patreon with.


It's always hilarious how broken the American banking system is that you need to pay over $1000/year worth of tooling to receive recurring payments from patrons.

In the EU, you would just open a deposit-only checking account and paste its IBAN (International Bank Account Number) on your website, telling people to setup a recurring payment through their online banking and put their e-mail address or some other ID number in the message field so you can link it back to their account. All that for the price of a checking account, which wouldn't be much more than 10€/month. It's a bit of a barebones system; you wouldn't use it to handle 1000+ subscribers because the linking-back-to-their-account step would be manual. If you're on the scale of 10-100 subscribers with monthly or yearly payments, it works great. Several podcasts I listen to take donations like this.


Are you sure the bank would accept something like this? Wouldn't they change the account to a business account, to deal with things like taxes?

A business account is 10 euros a month. They don't have anything to do with taxes.

You can have as many deposits as you want as an actual person. Banks do not "change your account" without your intervention and definitely not to a business account, which (legally) needs different information than a personal account would.


This is covered in the OP.

>I actually kind of agree with this: Patreon is indeed a good way to earn enough money to buy dinner once a week or whatever. I guess it's also good for big time influencer types who are in growth mode and not worrying about their overhead. I just think it's a mediocre solution if what you want is to create a stable, predictable, and mature small business out of your work.

Pretty much, I was planning a system for bug bounties in 2011, after doing some back of the envelope calculations it turned out you would need 150% overhead for a $10 bounty with human due diligence and using master card/visa/pay pal. Oh and you could never support any project that has anything that the banks don't like, which then included porn, lgbt rights, fair use drm exemptions and a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember any more.

So you either had to convince people to use some alt-coin that wasn't a pyramid scheme, then build an escrow service on top of it, then use that service to fund the bug bounty program. Or you could just do everything terribly and end up with Patreon (which for the above reasons will get even more creator hostile in the coming years).


Patreon is run by clowns. They closed my account for "fraud". My credit card, my name, my billing address, trying to give money to patreons, tech support is useless. The fact that they can't run a viable business AND they do stuff like this, I'd personally like to see them slowly go out of business so it would give time for their users to find another platform.

Please, everyone, stop using this horribly run service.

Use github, paypal, gumroad, something, anything, but not Patreon.


Funny enough, I asked someone I patron if I could just Zelle them the money every month instead and they sent me their info. Takes me about 2 mins a month, and I’ve cut Patreon out of the transaction, so win win.

Some banks let you automate Zelle, too. Citibank doesn't but Chase does.

Thank you for SQLAlchemy and Mako. My first project was with Pyramid and your tools made it easy so I'm not surprised you have contributors.

Reasons can be different:

- Taxation can be complicated depending on where in the world you are - Being paid can feel as a responsibility and you are doing this for fun - You are employed for working on the project or have some nother clause preventing being paid - You might be rich :-D


This is a detailed analysis. I was thinking to start Patreon but I tried Buymeacoffee page and turns out, it is slowly becoming like Patreon only. But better.

Regarding most of this: I think this is why they built (bought?) Memberful.

Memberful was indeed an acquisition: https://memberful.com/blog/joining-patreon/

> If your intention is to build a meaningful income, there are much better options out there than Patreon.

Naming at least one in the article wouldn't been helpful.


Didn't they also have a large data breach?

4. If you are slightly more right wing than Mitt Romney, you will get banned.

I must have missed a story or two. Can you point me in the right direction for further research?


Thank you. That's helpful.

> If your intention is to build a meaningful income, there are much better options out there than Patreon.

I would have liked the author to expand on that (bolded) sentence. If he knows better options, please tell us!


The article is complaining that Patreon is not a full banking app.

Well, duh.

Patrons and small-time creators are very happy with what it does, and don't care about what it doesn't do - Patreon pays the monthly rent of a lot of artists who have no other short-term options until their career is in full-swing. By contrast, Youtube is notorious for being unreliable as a revenue source.

My only complaints about Patreon are:

- the app is one of the slowest web apps today. Actually, I lied - it's the slowest. Shame on the programming team behind this. Get your shit together.

- they just started charging sales tax on donations if the creator offers rewards content (almost all do so.) That doesn't make sense for posting a video link a day early, foreign artists, etc.

- I think a VC bought Patreon. We know how that always ends.

My suggestions are:

- profile the app performance and fix it.

- maybe ask the article author what he's expecting for discoverability on a payment app. Perhaps adding a couple pieces of metadata alone might help?

Source: I used it daily as a Patron from July, 2019 through June, 2020 while providing feedback to a creator.


(Author of the blog post here)

Point taken, though I'm not sure that's exactly what I said. My complaint re: accounting is that Patreon integrates horribly with QBO. If they cared, they would have a webhook that rolled up all collected pledges, payment processing fees, sales taxes and platform fees into a single sales receipt so that QBO et al could ingest and record it as a sale (or a list of sales).

Also, the thing about "revenue" vs "earnings" on their creator side analytics is just straight up deceptive. They don't need to be accounting software, but that doesn't mean that they can throw around accounting terms however they want.


I don't know any artists who use QuickBooks, so I'm not sure where you're coming from. You're in some kind of parallel universe to the people happily using Patreon to collect from their followers.

And they don't care about "revenue" vs "earnings" since they went to Berklee College of Music, and just want to pay their rent this month.

To be constructive:

- explain your use case in your blog. Perhaps you have an advanced use case that would be a good roadmap for future features

- or go use Stripe or Paypal payments for payment processing. Patreon is community funding software.


I work with many freelance photographers who use QBO, so it is common in some industries.

BTW, your example sounds a bit like those people have a complete disregard for tax law. That sounds like the end of the year is going to be very shocking when they figure out that the patreon money which they used for rent wasn't actually theirs to use.


it's been my experience that if you have to pay rent or keep the money for taxes you will pay rent and then later get punished for not paying the taxes, because if you don't pay the rent now later is going to suck anyway.

to each their own! And of course you're welcome to learn all about what I used Patreon for - I linked to my business's website in the first sentence of the blog post.

you know that feeling when you worked at a company, and you tried to push it in a certain direction, but the powers that be made it impossible to really get to the core issues? yeah.

If you send money with the expectation of a perk or reward, (other than the continued production of the video/podcast/etc) than you're not really a patron any more. You're a customer.



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