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Shutterstock - One hand dropping coins into another hand. Scraping by No one makes a living on Patreon Who is really benefiting from the crowdfunding site for artists? Brent Knepper Dec—07— I lived in a car, and that month I had to choose between paying my cell phone bill or buying food. Two years before that I was a freelance photographer in Chicago, but walked away from that life to travel around the country. My travels had given me a collection of stories and photos I was proud of, and more than 9, people were following me on Instagram. Patreon is basically a payments processor designed like a social network. Then you set goals, which are actions tied to monetary benchmarks, such as being able to quit your job in order to pursue your creative passion full time. I wrote my bio and added a short story about a sunset, a mountain, and the bandits who hid out there a century ago. I set up tiers so my Patreon subscribers could get stories published to Patreon or stories accompanied by a photo every week in an automated text, depending on how much they donated. After an hour, my page was set up. I added a picture of me with my dog. My dog is very cute, so I figured I should capitalize on that. Ayla Arthur , an artist and trans woman in Chicago, has been funding the comic she writes on Patreon for two years now. That was enough to let her buy a tablet for illustrating. But despite the revolutionary rhetoric, the success stories, and the goodwill that Patreon has generated, the numbers tell a different story. Patreon now has 79, creators, according to Tom Boruta, a developer who tracks Patreon statistics under the name Graphtreon. Patreon lets creators hide the amount of money they are actually making, although the number of patrons is still public. In this small network designed to save struggling creatives, the money has still concentrated at the top. But Patreon seems to know that most of its creators are actually making a pittance. Traditionally, patronage depended on the benevolence of aristocrats, who would donate money to the artists whose works they enjoyed. Yet none of the creators I spoke to for this story have managed to make a living exclusively on Patreon. Patreon had all these great selling points and stats. After launching my Patreon, I struggled for months to find work. Patreon filled my downtime, and became a full time job itself. It was a lot of work for little pay, but I was determined. Am I actually any good? This paranoia is bolstered by the presence of wildly successful creators on the site, and there is a nascent market for Patreon advice in the way that Kickstarter birthed an industry of professional crowdfunding consultants. In a post on the official Patreon blog, 30 creators shared their secrets to success. Encourage interaction, suggestions, and feedback. Even if creators are struggling to make money, investors see Patreon as a goldmine. Patreon is also attracting competitors. On November 15, Kickstarter relaunched a defunct service called Drip as a separate site that allows creators to sell monthly subscriptions. Drip is invite-only for now, which at least means its more elite pool of creators — people like the feminist cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian — are making bigger sums. But even those who are happy with their Patreon income are starting to feel frustrated with the difficulty of earning a living wage through the site. While I was writing this article, Patreon made a change in how it does business. For years, creators received 90 percent of their monthly earnings: Patreon is making up the lost 5 percent fee on creators by charging patrons an additional 2. This means smaller donors will be hit the hardest. I asked Lewis how she felt about the fee change. You understand our Target Creator. I promote my page on social media and deliver it to my supporters by text message. No one has done it yet. This story has been updated with a statement from Patreon. Become a patron of The Outline Subscribe Nice email address! Brent Knepper is a traveling photographer and writer. He last wrote for The Outline about how Instagram is loving nature to death.
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