With the company scrapping their plans, the so-called Patreon debacle is finally coming to an end. Over the last two weeks, both creatives and supporters flooded back to the platform. All it took to avert a much larger crisis was for the community to come together as one.
There’s more than just a happy ending to the whole situation, though. What at first seemed like yet another case of foul play showed us the most dangerous side of crowdfunding. Those who paid enough attention might have already learned something. For the others, here’s a brief recap.
The “Middleman” Isn’t Always On Your Side
Patreon, KickStarter, AdSense, and your favorite monetization option all have one thing in common: they’re the product of for-profit companies. Although they make it sound like your happiness is their main goal, these groups still have investors to appease.
As competition grows ever more vicious, unexpected changes become the only way for a company to survive. New terms of services, revamped mechanics, and additional fees could be dropped on you at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, it’s often the final user – not the stakeholders – who ends up paying their price for them.
In general, entrusting all your earning to a third party is never a sound business strategy. What is advertised as an effective way to gain notoriety and legitimacy often puts you at a disadvantage.
Not only you’re accepting to share wealth, but also willingly renouncing some of your entrepreneurial freedom. The moment you create an account, you’re automatically signing a binding contract. From then, it’s unlikely you’ll have much room for maneuver. Disagree with them once too often and you’ll be out in the cold.
This is also why you shouldn’t limit yourself to a single source of income. Many of those who suffered the most during the last two week only used Patreon for their projects. What if, one day, that company just goes belly up?
Donations Should Be a Step; Not a Goal
For an independent creative, money is always an issue. Especially when first starting, ideas will only take you so far. Donations are perfect to survive the initial founding phase, but simply won’t be what keeps your project alive in the long run.
Just as you shouldn’t depend on third parties to manage your money, you can’t rely on the kindness of others to pay the bills. Although sites like Patreon guarantee monthly payments, the cash is still coming from someone else’s wallet. A sudden bump on their road and you’ll lose a sizable amount of your income.
Instead of settling for some profits, your goal should be to build a popular and beloved brand. If your balance is in the red, a shop selling related items could give you the means to survive. Additionally, most of your followers would be thrilled at the idea of telling friends about into it.
Unfortunately, following that path is not as easy in all industries. Game developers, musicians, and artists, for instance, already have a product that they can market. Whatever you decide to go with, don’t forget that its quality and price will shape people’s opinion of you!
Large and Popular Hardly Means Invincible
Finally, whether you see them as Patreon supporting their users or an attempt to save face, these events are a pleasant change of pace. Complete turnabouts from major internet companies can be counted on one hand. Personally, I like to think that the many discussions and complaints actually played a part in all this.
what if the patreon fee structure changes were actually all fake and a ploy to get some insanely good cred by being the only company ever to listen to their customers complaints and go back on a big change
— Deadly Lampshade (@Tipsycaek) December 20, 2017
In fact, this episode taught both crowdfunding sites and users just how reliant they are on each other. It taught the “small guys” to speak their minds and the “big guys” to listen closely. All the former can hope for now is that more of the latter were actually paying attention in class!