The Problem With Patreon
Patreon is by far the most popular subscription crowdfunding platform, but it isn’t without faults. Despite the success, the CEO doesn’t think the business is sustainable.
“The reality is Patreon needs to build new businesses and new services and new revenue lines in order to build a sustainable business.”
The company is not satisfied with the 5% cut they receive. Patreon wants more. In fact in late 2017 it tried to charge patrons more, leading to a community backlash.
Co-founder and CEO Jack Conte decided to scrap the idea.
From accusations of targeting different political ideologies, content genres, the platform has had its fair share of controversies. It might not be the best platform to monetize your community.
Patreon’s search function isn’t very good. This is because it’s not used to browse content creators. Communities are sent there from external sources. Usually a YouTube channel, Facebook group or a website. It is basically a hosting platform to monetize your content.
You do not get money from Patreon, you get it from your community. They will follow you wherever you go. Patreon is not essential. In fact there are plenty of superior alternatives out there.
Here are 7 Patreon alternatives to monetize your community.
SubscribeStar describes itself as “an online content marketplace that operates on a subscription basis.” This makes the platform an optimal Patreon alternative.
Here what you need to know.
- Allows creators to upload exclusive content and sell memberships for access
- Creators may sell multiple levels of membership
- SubscribeStar takes a 5% cut on all earnings
- Processing fee of 2.9% + $0.3
A SubscribeStar page looks somewhat similar to a Patreon page.
You have the banner image, page title and a short blurb.
The tiers of membership are advertised in the middle of the page.
Stats and features are on the right.
And social media sharing buttons to the left.
Popular YouTuber Sargon of Akkad has one of the most popular SubscribeStar pages.
He offers multiple levels of membership, ranging from $1 a month to $50.
With over 2666 subscribers, he makes just short of $16,000 a month. That’s nearly $200,000 a year. This is a prime example of how the platform used isn’t that important. You don’t need Patreon.
Your community will follow you to where you setup your membership content.
- Low Platform Fee
At 5% SubscribeStar has a lower, more competitive rate than other Patreon alternatives out there.
- You Will Not Get Shutdown/De-platformed
SubscribeStar brands itself as free speech alternative to Patreon. Its users are primarily Patreon castoffs, those of conservative political affiliation and pornographic content creators.
- No PayPal or Stripe
Both PayPal and Stripe decided to cut ties with SubscribeStar. This makes it less viable for many content creators and subscribers. Many people see PayPal/Stripe accessibility as a sign of professionalism.
Many assume this to be politically motivated.
- Payment Withdrawal Restrictions
You can only withdraw every 2 weeks, and you have to have at least $150 in earnings. The minimum withdrawal is $5.
- Far Right Political Association
Political association shouldn’t be that important, but in today’s climate it matters. SubscribeStar has gained a reputation for being an alt-right haven for banished Patreon users. Creators like Sargon of Akkad, Black Pigeon Speaks and Carl Benjamin.
Why is this a con?
Because politics matters online and in business. Many assume PayPal and Stripe cutting ties with SubscribeStar was politically motivated.
Hatreon was an earlier Patreon alternative that occupied these “alt-right” Patreon exiles. It was deplatformed by payment processors, then eventually by its website host Digital Ocean.
I will not be surprised if SubscribeStar follows a similar fate.
Ko-fi is a Patreon alternative that has become rather popular in recent times. The platform was created in late 2017, although its origins date back to as early as 2012. Ko-fi over 300,000 pages, and has transferred $12 million from fans to creators.
It works similarly to Patreon, creators invite their community to a personalized Ko-fi page, where they can make donations.
This is what a standard Ko-fi creator page looks like.
There is an ‘About’ section that features a short bio, genre tags, website links and social icons.
There is a goal funding section for specific content creation related endeavours. Kind of like a mini Kickstarter campaign.
The donations are in the form of “coffees”. One coffee is a $3 donation, and you can purchase as many at once, as you like.
Also featured on the page, is an activity feed, coffee tally and top donators/fans.
Ko-fi does not take a percentage on earnings.
“Unlike other services, Ko-fi don’t take any fees from the transactions between supporters and creators. We want the creator to receive the maximum amount of the donation from the supporter and we want creators to get their donation funds instantly.”
There is a payment processor fee however. PayPal is what Ko-fi uses.
So, how exactly does Ko-fi make money then? If they don’t take a percentage, how do they earn?
Ko-fi makes money in 2 ways.
- Donations to its own Ko-fi page
- Ko-fi Gold subscriptions
Ko-fi Gold is an upgraded feature for content creators on the Ko-fi platform. It costs just $6 a month and has a host of benefits. These include:
- Offer subscriptions
- Sell commissions
- Exclusive content
- High resolution downloads
- Ability to set price of donations
- Change the “Buy me a coffee” gimmick
- Analytics integration
- No Platform Fee
Unlike other community monetization platforms, Ko-fi does not take a percentage. The only percentage taken from earnings, are transaction fees from payment processors.
- No Payment Delays
Because Ko-fi doesn’t take a cut, the payments are direct. There is no waiting period.
- Lower Content Demand
Unlike Patreon, Ko-fi doesn’t force you to be consistently putting out content for your subscribers. You will not get kicked off the platform like you might on Patreon.
- Gimmicky Donation
The “Buy me a coffee” gimmick might be off putting to some people. Some prefer a clean cut approach. This can be changed with Ko-fi Gold.
- Same Genre Deplatforming As Patreon
If you create certain types of content, such as explicit adult or far right political content, you will be subject to the same deplatforming as on Patreon. This is covered in the Ko-fi terms of service.
Memberful was founded in 2013 with the aim to help content creators sell memberships to their communities. This Patreon alternative is different in that it is a website plugin. It also happens to be owned by Patreon as of August 2018.
Memberful uses Stripe for recurring payment transactions. Stripe is an online payment processing platform used by some of the biggest companies in the world.
Some of the features the plugin includes:
- Analytic data on Membership revenue/totals
- Automatic sync of Memberful membership data to your WordPress website
- Single sign on feature – members are automatically signed into Memberful + WordPress
- Paywall feature that creates a restricted access, “VIP” section for any content on your WordPress website
- RSS feed option + bbPress forum protection
To use the Memberful WordPress plugin, you will need a registered Memberful account.
There are 3 different Memberful membership packages to choose.
Free, maximum of 2 plans and a 10% transaction fee. Website integration only…
$25 per month, unlimited plans and a 4.9% transaction fee. Coupon codes, staff accounts, metrics, free membership option…
$100 per month, unlimited plans and a 4.9% transaction fee. Coupon codes, staff accounts, metrics, free membership option, no Memberful branding, group subscriptions…
You will also need a Stripe account.
- More Control
Having it on your own website allows you more control. Think of the marketing and advertising campaigns you can run on your own website. Such things are much more limited on Patreon.
- Easy Software Integration
Because Memberful is a website plugin, it makes it easy to integrate other softwares and plugins. This makes things like email marketing, analytics and sales much more integrated to your membership platform.
- Requires A Website
Memberful is a website plugin, which means you’ll need a website. A website costs money, you need a domain name, and hosting. Other platforms don’t require these additional expenses.
- Higher Transaction Fees
Memberful has a 10% transaction fee, double that of Patreon. This can be lowered by purchasing a “Pro” or “Premium” membership package. This however comes with a monthly expense.
- Owned By Patreon
Memberful is now owned by Patreon. This means Memberful falls under the same deplatforming of certain genres of content creators.
Buy Me A Coffee
Buy me a coffee is a Patreon alternative that allows content creators to get paid by their community. It was created on January 2nd of 2018, by Jijo and Joseph Sunny.
It features 3 main community monetization products:
- WordPress plugin
“Buy me a coffee” buttons can be created that act as a donation box off-site. They can be used on your own website and sites like Tumblr, DeviantArt or Medium. The buttons come in orange and yellow.
A logomark is added to the button. There are 3 logomarks to choose from.
The end product will look like this.
Coffeelinks are special hyperlinks that content creators can send to their audience. The link allows them to donate. It’s described on the main website as “like Bit.ly for payments”.
There are 3 steps to Coffeelinks.
- Enter the reward link – Enter a private link that you’d like to share with your audience
- Set a price – Set the price to access the link
- Share and sell – Share the link to start selling
Coffeelinks can be used in many different ways. You can combine a Coffeelink with Dropbox to sell a digital product by just sharing the zip file. You can attach it to a YouTube video link. You can even combine it with a form/survey software like Typeform.
The Buy me a coffee WordPress plugin allows you to place your button anywhere on your site.
After downloading the plugin you’ll need to sync your Buy me a coffee account.
There is a dashboard and a Widget section where you can create the buttons.
There are over 70,000 users of Buy me a coffee. It seems to be a good quality service according to these Twitter posts featured on the main website.
Much like Ko-fi, creators are paid in “coffees”. Obviously not actual coffees but money. These can be either $3, $4 or $5 donations.
This is just a marketing gimmick, which apparently is 3x as successful.
- Competitive Platform Fee
Buy me a coffee only takes 5%, compared to other Patreon alternatives, this is a very competitive rate. Lots of other Patreon alternatives charge more..
- Easy Software Integration
Much like Memberful, Buy me a coffee has plugin, on-site integration. This makes it easy to connect it with analytic, marketing, sales and email software/plugins.
- Limited Donation Amount
Donations can only be $3, $4 or $5. Other platforms allow for much larger amounts.
- No Membership Tiers/Levels
Buy me a coffee works more like a standard donation box, opposed to a membership subscription.
The “Buy me a coffee” gimmick might confuse some people. People know what Patreon is but do they know what Buy me a coffee is? Do they even know it’s a recurring donation platform?
Podia is a Patreon alternative that allows creators to sell memberships, online courses and digital downloads to their community. The platform was created in 2014 by Spencer Fry.
Compared to Patreon and the other options detailed in this article, Podia markets itself more like an e-learning platform. Think Udemy, or Lynda. It however, is still completely viable as an alternative to Patreon.
There are 3 main community monetization features of Podia.
- Online courses
- Digital downloads
Just like Udemy, Podia offers the ability to create and sell courses. This provides a way for content creators to monetize their communities.
Podia allows you to upload any file type for your audio, video and written documents relating to your course.
The Podia editor allows you to rearrange and format your course and which way you’d like. You can give access to the entire course, or in a drip style of content.
Payment is done via Stripe and PayPal. Podia takes no transaction fee, as Podia is a subscription service all together.
Podia offers membership software for those that want to create an exclusive site for their community.
Here’s an example of a Podia membership site.
The membership sites are completely customizable and have software compatibility just like the courses. You are also able to connect Facebook groups and Slack groups to your Podia site.
The transactions are done through Stripe and PayPal.
Podia digital downloads can be used to sell eBooks, PDFs, cheat sheet/checklists, audio, text and video files. Really any file type.
The Podia editor allows you to customize a sales page for a digital download product. Here’s a testimonials page example.
For fans to purchase, all that is required is an email. The payments are done through Stripe and PayPal.
Podia has 2 pricing plans.
- Mover – $39/month
- Shaker – $79/month
- More Ways To Make Content
Podia has more features that allow content creators to monetize their communities. Online courses is an example of this.
- No Transaction Fee
Podia does not take any percentage from your earnings. You pay a monthly fee of either $39 or $79 a month, depending on which plan you choose.
Podia houses online courses, digital downloads and membership sites all in one. Instead of having a separate WordPress Membership site, and a Udemy for courses, it’s all right there.
Although Podia has no transaction fees, it is still quite expensive. At $39/month and $79/month, this is too expensive for low level content creators.
Facebook (Fan subscriptions + Subscription groups)
Facebook is always looking to diversify the uses of its intensely popular platform. In 2018 decided to build its own version of Patreon.
They created 2 content monetization formats.
- Fan subscriptions
- Subscription groups
Fan subscriptions allow you to monetize your Facebook page. Fans of your page can subscribe and will receive exclusive content, badges and have interactions with the content creator.
ZDogg MD, a former Stanford doctor and popular content creator successfully utilized fan subscriptions.
He created exclusive content for fan subscribers.
Within 6 months he was able to build a subscriber total over 4000. Each member, paying $4.99 a month.
To be eligible for fan subscriptions you must send in an application and be accepted.
To be accepted you must be compliant in 3 things.
Subscription groups are like regular private Facebook groups, except entry/access must be paid for.
The creator can charge anywhere between $4.99 to $29.99. Some subscription groups have a free trial.
- Large User Base
Facebook is the most popular social media network, with over 2.41 billion users as of 2019. It’s easy to get your fans to become subscribers and group members on Facebook.
- Facebook Will Take 30% Cut Of Fan Subscriptions Starting 2020
Facebook plans to take 30% of all revenue earned from fan subscriptions. This will start in 2020. This is quite considerable, considering Patreon only takes 5%.
YouTube Channel Membership
After the success and popularization of Patreon, YouTube decided to roll out its own alternative. In mid 2018 YouTube announced the release of channel memberships.
Channel memberships are an exclusive, members only section to a YouTubers account. Members pay a monthly fee for access to exclusive videos, posts, live chats, badges and emojis.
You can offer multiple levels/tiers of membership. The membership levels offer different amounts of exclusive content. For example, digital media company Vox did just that.
They created 2 levels of membership.
- $4.99/month “Vox Video Lab”
- $9.99/month “Video Lab Advisory Board”
To be eligible for a YouTube channel membership you must meet certain requirements. These include:
- At least 30,000 subscribers
- Be on the YouTube partner program
- Over 18 years old
- Be located in one of these locations
YouTube takes a 30% cut from all memberships. All the transaction fees are covered by YouTube.
- Great For Video Content Creators
YouTube is the premier platform for video content creators. Those looking to monetize their communities with exclusive content, would go to Patreon. Now, with channel memberships, they don’t have to.
- No Transaction Fee For Payment Processing
YouTube covers all of the transaction costs. This is supposedly covered in the 30% cut YouTube takes from all membership earnings.
- YouTube Takes 30%
YouTube takes a massive 30% of earnings. Compared to Patreon’s 5%, this is quite dramatic.
- Only Viable For Big Channels
You need at least 30,000 subscribers. YouTube channel memberships are not optimal for smaller content creators.
- Only Suitable For Video Content Creators
Patreon has more than just YouTubers looking to keep their income afloat amidst demonetization. YouTube is a platform based around visual content. Naturally, channel memberships have no use for non-video content creators.
Patreon has a monopoly on the subscription crowdfunding game. It has this for no other reason then being the first. Patreon does not offer a better service. Its search function is lacking. People do not browse the platform to find content creators.
This is why it is not essential. You don’t have to use it. Your income comes from your community which Patreon does not build. It simply hosts it.
There are so many other platforms to monetize your community out there. In this post, highlighted are 7 Patreon alternatives.
Choose any one of them, and you are sure to find success.
Lars Erik Larson is a digital marketer based out of Perth, Western Australia. He specializes in writing long-form B2B Marketing Blog posts that build brand and rank highly on Google. Lars runs Wordsmith Method, a content marketing business targeting small businesses and startups.