I want to make money from my content. Is Patreon or Ko-fi a viable way to do this?
And which is better? Should I set up a Patreon page or a Ko-fi page?
How YouTubers Make Money from their Content
I’ve been looking at lots of other video creators as to how they make money from their content. For example:
- Ed from Film Booth offers courses and coaching.
- Steve Wright from Learn Online Video offers products and receives affiliate income.
- Johnny Harris has sponsored videos, products and Patreon.
- Nathanial Drew has courses and Patreon
But these guys all have millions of views and subscribers. They have a big audience. I don’t. What’s going to work for me starting from such a low base?
YouTube Monetization and Ad Revenue
The obvious way to earn a living is to monetize your YouTube channel and earn some ad revenue.
But I’m so far away from this. After a year of posting videos, I’m only 5% of the way to achieving this. At that rate, I’ll be waiting 20 years to reach this goal. That’s not going to work.
And most YouTubers say this is not the main part of their income anyway. Instead, they have a portfolio of income streams – a few different ways to earn money. You’ll have one main income and a handful of smaller streams too.
Another way a lot of YouTubers make money is through Affiliate income where you recommend products and services and receive a commission when someone clicks on your link and buys something.
To make this work, you need things that you can promote. For instance, if you talk about making videos you can offer affiliate links for the equipment you use. I don’t really have equipment or products to promote in this way.
I looked to switch my topic to talk more about the books I’m reading, but I’d only earn cents for this not dollars and I just don’t have enough volume of viewers to make this worthwhile.
Plus, this is a volume opportunity that builds on a lot of smaller transactions. I would need a bigger audience to make this work. It’s a good option but not right for me right now.
The Patreon Opportunity
Patreon first came on my radar when my late great mate Mike Allen told me to set up a Patreon page so he could support my work. (I spoke with Mike here on the Ideas Architect podcast.)
He wanted to donate money to me. I kept saying ‘no’ to Mike because I didn’t want to be a charity. I wanted to ‘earn’ my living, not have people donate to me.
But two things changed this.
The Myth of the Self-Made Man
The first was reading Emotional Success by David De De Steno. This was my Book of the Year way back in 2019.
One thing he talks about really struck a chord with me. It’s been in the back of my mind ever since.
De Steno says the idea of the self-made man or woman is a myth. No one can be successful on their own.
That’s been a real challenge for me because I’ve built my life around being Mr Independent and doing it my way. Is this why I’ve struggled to reach the heights of my career that I thought I could?
De Steno suggests it’s a myth because it’s not possible.
At a simple level, if you want to build a business or earn any money – you need clients.
At a deeper and more literal level, if you want to create videos, then you need a camera and software, a platform for publishing them plus some internet to upload them. Now, it’s a safe bet you can’t create all of that by yourself.
And of course, it comes back to even if you could, unless other people watch your videos or read your content, then it would all be for nothing.
Further, it’s incredibly selfish to think I got to where I am right now – even if it’s not where I’d ideally like to be – without the help of others – my parents, my siblings, my friends, my teachers, my coaches, authors of the books I’ve read…
Are you trying to do it all your way too? Are you another Mr Independent?
The Cost of being too Independent
What’s the cost of all this?
When I started posting videos on YouTube a year ago, I thought I could achieve one million views within 18 months. Yep, I can hear you laughing. And rightly so. I was deadly serious at the time – but now I know that was an impossible goal.
After 12 months I had spent over 1000 hours publishing 51 videos that had attracted a grand total of 2500 views. That’s not 2500 views per video, that’s 2500 views for all of my videos put together. And worse, to create those videos I stopped earning money from my coaching and other sources.
While I had learnt a lot of skills creating the videos, it meant my business was back at ground zero. This was a huge failure.
My 12-Month Review
When I did my 12-month review, I looked for the things that hadn’t worked.
And one of them was that old thought – trying to be Mr Independent and trying to learn it all on my own. I did have people around me who wanted to support me, but too often I said no. (A big shout out to James, Michael, Phillipe, Lawrie and Suzanne for their help.)
And that’s when I revisited Patreon. I thought this might be a way to let the people who wanted to help me do so.
That sounds funny doesn’t it – let people help me. But that’s what it had come to.
Are you willing to let people help you?
(This reminds me of the African proverb: If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.)
What is Patreon? Is it a good opportunity?
But the big question was still there: Is Patreon a good way to make money or was it a waste of time?
First, Patreon is a way that people can donate money to help fund their creative work.
But it’s more than that. It’s a way to build a membership community. And it’s a way to gain direct support from your fans and retain creative control over your work. It doesn’t have to be donations. You can provide them with something in return.
I watched a whole bunch of videos on YouTube including two from Drex from DrexFactor Poi on what to do and what to avoid.
Two things you need to make money on Patreon
Out of all of this, I concluded two things:
- First, I needed a bigger audience. This made me question whether I should wait or not?
- Second, the usual way to provide value to your Patreon supporters was to create exclusive content for them.
But I was already creating content for YouTube, my blog and my mailing list each week – I didn’t want another channel to create even more content. That seemed like a bad idea.
Then I watched this video from Danish Illustrator Asia Orlando, Why Starting a PATREON in 2022 Might Not be a Good Idea? (An Artist Perspective). She said:
“Hi everyone, this video is all about Patreon, I will be sharing my story with it, how I started and how I closed it on the after one year in a couple of months.”
That didn’t sound good. But, then she said this…
“In my experience, Patreon is a platform that won’t work for everyone, especially if you’re starting out. So I think that if you’re starting out artists, you should make sure that a big part of your community is honestly thinking about joining you on Patreon. And you can test the water a little bit by for example, opening a Ko-fi account, start free newsletter or Discord server.”
I thought this was great advice to test the water before diving in.
What is Ko-fi?
Until this point, I’d never heard of Ko-fi, but it was only a click away so I checked it out. I then watched a whole bunch of videos about Ko-fi. And this gave me a heap of ideas about what I could do.
Ko-fi is similar to Patreon in that it is an online platform intended for creatives to make money through direct connections with their audience.
Three things I liked about Ko-fi
- The first thing I liked about Ko-fi was that you could set up a free account and you could accept donations without them taking a cut. In other words, every cent that was donated to you was yours. Other places take a commission. This meant it was a low-risk opportunity. I could set up an account and see what happens.
- The second thing was the interface. It looked simple, clean and easy. Even I could use it!
- And most important was the third thing – There were multiple ways that I could potentially make money.
Five ways to make money on Ko-fi
I identified five ways to make money:
- Accept donations via the tip jar.
- Set a crowdfunding goal.
- Invite commissions.
- Set up monthly memberships or subscriptions.
- Create a store to sell products.
While these five ways to make money on Ko-fi are standard offerings on their website, the key was that I was able to see how I could apply each one to my personal situation.
My Best Opportunity to Make Money
In the previous post, Do this first – How to Make Money from Content, I created an Opportunity Table. This allowed me to rank my opportunities for making money from my content right now.
From all the content and products, I’d created over the past 25 years, which one was the best one to offer right now? It was my Book Rapper book summaries.
Previously I had a store through Ontraport. But I cancelled my subscription a couple of months ago and hadn’t replaced it with a new store yet. What Ko-fi offered looked like a simple way to set up a new store.
Should I join Ko-fi or not?
The big question was whether it would work for me in my current situation. Here are some of the concerns I had to deal with:
- Nobody was going to find me on Ko-fi by itself. And I didn’t have a large audience to send to my page either.
- Ko-fi was full of young people – I felt like I was gate-crashing my grandchildren’s birthday party.
- It was for creatives. And while that was me, my audience is business people, and they weren’t hanging out on Ko-fi.
- Plus, the price points for a lot of things for sale on Ko-fi were often only a single dollar. I wasn’t going to get rich quick here.
Was it worth my time and effort? And what’s the opportunity cost? While I’m spending time and effort on Ko-fi what other opportunities will I have to pass on?
The Big Lesson to Make Money from Content
The big lesson here is that whether you choose Patreon or Ko-fi or any other way to earn money from your content creation, you are always going to have to earn it. This might include building relationships with people, and providing access or exclusive content.
It’s a fantasy to think that you can just publish a Patreon page or a Ko-fi page and money will automatically fill your bank account. That’s not going to happen. No one gets a free ride.
And to confirm this, my Ko-fi page has now been live for two weeks. I haven’t promoted it in any way. So far, I haven’t made a single cent and the only follower I have is the automatic follow from Ko-fi itself.
The Deciding Factor
What did I decide? Should I use Ko-fi, or not? I decided to set up a Ko-fi page.
The deciding factor was that I could use Ko-fi as a store for my products provided it was easy to set up. And it is. I’ve been able to publish some products. Each one took about 5-10 minutes.
I don’t see it as being the source of my whole income – merely one stream in a portfolio of income streams. But if I could earn $300-500 a month through product sales over 12 months then that would be worth it.
I decided to commit for 12 months. Let’s see what happens. And to confirm my commitment I joined as a Gold Member. For $6 a month or $72 for the year, this saved me from paying any commissions on my sales.
This will be a 12-month project – can I make money from Ko-fi selling my products?
If you want to support my creative efforts, check out my Ko-fi page here.
Plus, to entice you to visit my page, each week, I’ll offer a different Book Rapper issue you can download for free. This is one strategy I will use to attract an audience.
What’s Next to Make Money from my Content?
Setting up my Ko-fi page is a good first step for me in making money from my content. It’s offered a quick and easy way to make my existing products and books available for sale.
What’s next? Just because I have offered some products for sale, they’re not going to sell themselves. I now need to promote them.
In particular, I need a sales video for Book Rapper. If you were going to sell your products online, how you would create a sales video for them?
This will be my project for this week and my blog post for next week.
More on how to Make Money from Content
If you want to dig a little deeper into how to make money from your content and your thought leadership, here are three related posts you might want to read:
- Seven Questions to Make Money as a Content Creator
- Do this to make money from your content creation
- Do this first – how to make money from content
And if you have tried Patreon or Ko-fi I’d love to hear your experience. Add a comment below.