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Hi folks,

I messaged a few of you about this already, but was just given mod permission to post it at top level.

I’m a Patreon creator (http://patreon.com/davidstorrs), and a web developer. My business partner and I are frustrated enough with Patreon that we’re building an alternative. We’d like to make sure it does what people actually want so, if you have a minute, I’d really appreciate your feedback.

We think the site should have:

* No percentage taken from your pledges
* Charge patrons immediately to avoid in-and-out “pledge-dodgers”
* Content management for all your content, past and present
* Specify when things should become visible (a.k.a. a publishing queue)
- ...to whom
- ...and for how long
* Ban abusive or exploitative patrons

As far as creators go, our current plan is that early adopters would receive as much storage as they need (within reason!), and future creators would get 1GB of storage for $9.99/month. Again, these are tentative plans and might change as we do more research.

All comments appreciated; a few questions I'd love answers to:

1) Does this sound like a service you would use?

2) Are there any other features you’d like?

3) What is particularly good about Patreon?

4) What issues do you have with Patreon?

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( 57 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 8th, 2015 06:49 pm (UTC)
I think a very good thing to have is a choice as a creator to only show new content to patrons that have been subbed for a certain amount of months (1-3) to further foil pledge dodgers.
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:29 pm (UTC)
Great idea, thank you!

Maybe that could be reward tiered -- $1 gets you the last post, $5 gets you last month, etc. (Choose your own levels and date ranges, of course.)
(no subject) - ankewehner - Sep. 8th, 2015 07:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - perldiver - Sep. 8th, 2015 10:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:14 pm (UTC)
1) Does this sound like a service you would use?

Maybe. I have serious concerns about joining a pay service to earn an income. Yes, $10 is likely reasonable, but only if you are among those who can earn at least $200/month (assuming a 5% fee is the other option). Maybe both options?

I suspect a flat fee might drive off more folks than a reasonable percentage. I know I'm far less likely to pay up front for something I don't know will work than agree to a % of what it does manage to bring in.

2) Are there any other features you'd like?

Better support for writers, comic artists, flash creators and musicians.
- See Ao3, Fanfiction.net, or at least robotsandracks.g36.net

Easy to use public feedback system
Private notes

Some kind of ladder system on payments where (if I want), I pay more for larger/more finished works (be it 20 pages over 5 or detailed work over sketches). Either where I give a max and some kind of % is used for less than 'full' work, or I am given levels of 'finish/size' and can dictate what each is worth.

3) What is particularly good about Patreon?

I'm not a user, just a one who's looked at it several times.

4) What issues do you have with Patreon?

The ban on porn.
Lack of protection for both artists and patrons.
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC)
> maybe both % and fee

I'd been wondering about that, actually, but had been thinking it was maybe too complicated. It's good to hear it from someone else.

> Ladder system

I didn't quite get that -- do you mean where the creator sets individual prices on individual works?

> The ban on porn

Good. Personally, I have no issue with what people put up, as long as they clearly mark it NSFW so no one is surprised.
(no subject) - gatekat - Sep. 8th, 2015 07:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - traceymordeaux - Sep. 8th, 2015 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gatekat - Sep. 8th, 2015 10:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celestinaketzia - Sep. 8th, 2015 10:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:31 pm (UTC)
Personally, I would be turned away by a flat fee, especially before I start making money on a project. I'm not very well known, so it's not like I have a huge follower base. I'd rather have a percentage taken out, at least until I reached a steady income and could have the option of "You can go with a flat-rate here, or continue having a percentage deducted from pledges."

One of my issues with Patreon is that, due to payment service rules, things with "adult" content are not vieweable to someone searching. This is all well and good to keep the kiddies away, but the project I have for funding on my Patreon right now is not adult, but will skirt to some mature themes later on. This is a case of "How do I mark this? Do I risk having it shut down or deal with less exposure?"

I would like to be able to, say, send something to someone who pledges X-amount right away, but then after they've been subbed for say 3 mos, I can move them into a different tier of stuff.

I do like the idea of payment taken right then, so they are not signing up, getting the tier stuff, then withdrawing support before they are charged.

One of the issues I've had with my Patreon is I wanted to have pledges per page, since my project is a webcomic. Patreon kept reverting to per week. But the idea of per page was to add extra pages each week, based on pledge tiers. I finally gave up and set everything as monthly, though that meant I changed the pledge tier prices.
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:34 pm (UTC)
Your problem with # of comic pages has me a bit confused. Last I looked, you get paid for each thing you post, up to the payer's max. If you post more pages, you get paid more.
(no subject) - snowhawk - Sep. 8th, 2015 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - perldiver - Sep. 9th, 2015 12:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snowhawk - Sep. 9th, 2015 03:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:39 pm (UTC)
Huh. A percentage taken out of earnings sounds better to me than a flat fee. I know several creators who have pledges of less than $10 per month, so your model would mean they lose money. It's a barrier to entry.
... Maybe progressively fewer % as earnings go up, or otherwise start with a percentage, but cap what's taken out of earnings at a set amount?

1) I dunno, Patreon has the advantage of having been around for a while, so more people are there already.

2) Handling EU VAT

Setting your own preview image as "for patrons only" (I remember someone pinging Patreon on Twitter RE the ugly, huge, grey "For patrons only" graphic that gets posted as preview when you share a post on Facebook.) Maybe also allowing setting the start of a post visible for all, even if the main part is patrons only?

Content filter, like... Creators can flag a post with a warning (NSFW being an obvious one, though I'm wondering if letting people put in freeform warnings would be workable... I know I try to warn for spiders cause I have friends who are phobic.) Watchers can chose if they want to see everything, or if posts that are flagged with a warning only display the warning until they click a "I do want to view this" link.

3) I like that I get email notifications. Some crators I think post too many quick "in progress" things, there I would wish for, like, a filter to exclude WIPs from the notification and only get creations and announcements, but in general, I like that I don't have to catch up at the site itself. (Maybe an option to receive a daily digest rather than every single emails would be nice...)

4) Browsing a creators' past posts sucks. Endless scroll sucks in general, and the version on Patreon is the worst I've seen: If the posts are shorter than the sidebar, there will be a huge white space at the bottom that you have to scroll PAST to trigger loading the next posts.
I'd like a Table Of Contents, and an option for creators to tag posts (so I-the-visitor could look at only comic pages, or only anything featuring a certain character, you get the idea), and a paginated feed.

Edited at 2015-09-08 07:47 pm (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2015 03:51 pm (UTC)
I like the warnings idea; we'll add that to the hopper.

Table of Contents sound smart; again, it's on the list.

Thank you.
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:50 pm (UTC)
Have it set up so artists don't have to jump through many hoops to get their money, or for supporters to send it. That's the trouble with adult content. PayPal is a major jerk about it and not being involved.
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:54 pm (UTC)
$10/month for 1GB of storage space seems really high to me. On pair.com I can get 15GB for $6. GoDaddy has even cheaper prices, though of course you have to pay the registration fees/domain name.

I am not on Patreon at all, is it possible to host images on one's own site and hotlink them on Patreon?

I'd think a choice between flat fee and a percentage would be best.
Sep. 8th, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC)
Yes, but on those servers you are not paying for anything but space and bandwidth. With this (and Patreon) you are paying for much more. The site that regulates access, money exchanges, more intensive 'help-desk' needs and stuff I'm not thinking of.
Sep. 8th, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC)
I'd love there to be a way to sort content and posts. I pledge to someone who makes both music and video content, it'd be nice if there was a way to find a certain post or creation faster than having them all in one giant mess. Posts and uploads should be able to be sorted by type, date, etc I think.

Also, I think it would be neat if there was an optional community tab or some kind of built-in forum for pledgers to use on each creators page. I think the creator should get to choose whether or not thats enabled though.
Sep. 9th, 2015 03:52 pm (UTC)
Great ideas; the sorting would require some thought, but we can probably make something work. Community is definitely something we'd like to integrate.
Sep. 8th, 2015 08:46 pm (UTC)
Pledge-and-runners are the number-one problem with Patreon and the reason so many creators end up abandoning their accounts there. Simply cutting down on that, adding upfront payment and possibly "tiered" content you can only access after a couple months of pledging, would be a massive improvement for the content creators.
Sep. 8th, 2015 09:06 pm (UTC)
A Patreon competitor site would have to be at least as functional and, well, pretty, as Patreon for me to use it. Patreon's not perfect but their site looks modern and well put together and so the competitor site would have to quite frankly have a lot of work and shine put into it before I'd consider it.

I agree with many of the points listed already. I'd also like Patreon more if NSFW showed up in search results, perhaps with an age disclaimer and a box to check off before showing. And this is just a nice-to-have but what if creators could choose to promote their friends' accounts in a sidebar on their profile page? You can see what people contribute to but this would be more of a "like this page? You might also like these creators" sort of thing.
Sep. 9th, 2015 03:53 pm (UTC)
I don't see why NSFW content shouldn't be included although, as you suggest, there should definitely be a warning instead of the actual content.
Sep. 8th, 2015 09:34 pm (UTC)
Do you have the financial resources to keep this running if you don't get enough in user fees?

Do you have any kind of track record for long-term projects? With so many of these 'spite' sites (sites started to complete with a major site because people don't like the major site for one reason or another) the operators lose interest and wander off once they realize how much work, hassle and expense it is.
Sep. 9th, 2015 12:12 am (UTC)
Yes to both. This will be the third company I've started; the first ran for two years, the second for three before I exited and is still running.
Sep. 8th, 2015 09:46 pm (UTC)
I'd be a little surprised if you can make a flat-fee work. Percentages are taken from pledges in part because that is part of the back-end charge from payment processors.

What happens if someone gets $1000/month in pledges and you have to pay $20 for card processing (or $35 to PayPal) but they only paid you $10/month? It seems like an disincentive to host high-earning members.
Sep. 8th, 2015 10:59 pm (UTC)
I've never had an issue with a percentage of sales taken (bc that guarantees that I can always afford membership).
Sep. 9th, 2015 03:53 pm (UTC)
Okay, good to know.
Sep. 9th, 2015 12:33 am (UTC)
The only issue I would have is the $9.99/mo fee. I personally prefer the percentage taken out during sales. Plus it seems fair for everyone.

I would also enjoy it if there was a better system for NSFW artists/content creators.
Sep. 9th, 2015 03:55 pm (UTC)
Wow, percentage seems a lot more popular than I had thought. That's good to know; it would end up with us making more money and would be one less thing to implement as it can be handled directly by the payment gateway. Thanks; this helps.
Sep. 9th, 2015 12:35 am (UTC)
Are you aware of the country and state laws regarding third party billing agency? This is the legal domain of companies like Patreon and the one you suggest.

When I first heard about Patreon, I sent them a query about their compliance. They provided a detail response about their accounting practices, compliance with US IRS regulations for taxes (including submitting the appropriate Form 1099 reporting monies collected and paid to the artists), and more.

Various states have regulations on the span of time allowed between collection and payment, reporting of collection, possible taxes on services, and more.

Further, the matter becomes more complex when you consider many artists may reside outside the USA.
Sep. 9th, 2015 03:59 pm (UTC)
I'm aware of the basics and we'll get exact details nailed down before we start.

There's generally four steps to doing a startup: market validation, business validation, technical validation, execution. Right now we're doing market validation, ensuring that people actually want the product we're imagining. The next step is business validation, which is the process of (among other things) talking to lawyers and other experts to ensure there's no regulatory hassles or contact-with-vendors issues. Technical validation is the easiest part -- just design the thing. Business validation and technical validation can be commingled, but there's no point in doing the other two if market validation fails.

Still, great point. Thanks for the warning.
Sep. 9th, 2015 05:21 am (UTC)
I don't want to, like...immediately discourage you from this, or anything, but I think creating a functioning, profitable, and successful competitor for a market that's honesty fairly niche as it is, sounds like a pretty far reach, especially when, from as far as I can see, the sole business plan is just to make something better than Patreon.

If you're serious about going through with this, you're going to need something much more substantial than this to pique interest from both clients and investors/sponsors (because if you really want to make this work, you're going to need some funds to start the site with that ISNT a flat rate from clients who have no idea if their work is even going to be profitable or not).

Do you have any sort of business training? Handling finances? Have you looked into state and federal laws and regulations and licenses?

Like...again, I REALLY don't want to be that guy, but I think it's much, much too early to be trying to gauge interest when you don't even have a mock up or a business model or really much of anything for people to look at yet! :0

edit: I also disagree with the monthly rate, especially when patreon offers free and (I believe) unlimited space? I'd much rather pay a profit margin than pay more than what most patreon creators end up making per month or per work, in reality :/

Edited at 2015-09-09 05:36 am (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2015 04:14 pm (UTC)
> creating a functioning, profitable, and successful competitor for a market that's honesty fairly niche as it is, sounds like a pretty far reach

First off, I really appreciate the word of caution. The biggest reason that startups fail is because they don't do enough planning in advance; they get caught up in their own excitement about an idea and plunge ahead. David (my cofounder) and I have done this enough that we're being more cautious, but the constructive criticism is very appreciated.

As to business plans and how to make this work -- Patreon is, in my opinion, missing a bet. They've built a platform designed around giving recurring payments from one set of people to another set of people in exchange for mutually understood but free-form services; this is something that can be expanded far beyond the artist market. David and I have already talked about a lot of different sectors that we could expand into once we have a functioning system, some of which are vastly more profitable than the artist community.

We're starting with the artist community for several reasons:

*) Patreon proves that it's a market.

*) Patreon's existence makes it easy to explain the idea. I can make a post in this community saying "it's like Patreon but different in these ways" and everyone understands exactly what I'm talking about.

*) It's easy to locate artists; there are a lot of well-defined art communities on the Web, all of whom would like to make more money from their work, have well-defined contact channels, and are not opposed to contact from strangers.

> it's much, much too early to be trying to gauge interest when you don't even have a mock up or a business model or really much of anything for people to look at yet!

I understand your point, but I think perhaps there's a misunderstanding about what I'm doing. The stage we're at right now is market validation, not customer acquisition. I'm not saying "hey, we're building a service, come sign up for it!" I'm coming in to verify that desire for the service exists. Once we've built it I'll come back and offer people the opportunity to sign up as early adopters.

Does that make sense?
(no subject) - bearprince - Sep. 9th, 2015 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - perldiver - Sep. 9th, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bearprince - Sep. 9th, 2015 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
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