Patreon Update

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jul 6, 2014

Filed under: Personal 71 comments

My Patreon campaign has completed its first month. Some people wanted to know how it went. So let’s talk about that. First, the disclaimer:

I want to stress that none of this is an attempt to pressure you to give. I would much rather you read without giving than feel guilted into leaving. I do this because I like to make content and you're here because you like the content, but neither one of us is under any particular obligation. Having said that, we're going to talk money using real numbers so if you're not comfortable with that then you'll probably want to skip the rest of this…

Current pledges: ~1,400 a month.

Amazing. Looks like I’ll take home about $1,200 of that, which means the Patreon fees and credit card charges eat about 15%. The big cost here is credit card charges. Credit cards hate processing little $1 transactions. They ding you for about thirty cents. However, if you support several creators, that same thirty cents will be shared by all of them. So it sort of creates an incentive to spread the love around. And by “love” I mean “money”.

Because of this, I really wish Patreon offered a quarterly payment option. Like, if you pledge $1 a month, I’d be fine if I had to wait until the next quarter, at which point they would bill you for three months at once. (Thus inflicting one transaction fee instead of three.) I don’t know. That might be confusing or annoying for people. I’m not sure what Patrons value most here: Clarity or efficiency?Although I promise you convenience trumps both.

Running the numbers, it looks like I now make a little better than minimum wage. That sounds bad: A 42 year old man with years of coding experience making minimum wage? Insanity! But look, I’m getting paid to blog. About videogames. I am aware that there are thousands of people would would kill for a gig like this. I don’t have to please an editor. Or advertisers. I don’t have to report to an office to work. I don’t have to commute. I can write about whatever pleases me. (As far as I can tell. I indulge myself with non-videogame and non-programming stuff now and again, and everyone has been kind enough to humor me so far.) I’m not sure what drives me to do this, but it’s been clear for years that I wasn’t in this for the money.

This also means that when someone comes along with a bit of boring freelance technical work, I can turn them down without feeling like I’m doing something foolish and irresponsibleOr more accurately, it’s raised the dollar value someone needs to offer me before I’ll feel guilty when I inevitably say no to them.. My only two obligations are to make content here, and to do a column at the Escapist.

Well, it’s not quite that. I have to do the writing, but to do the writing I have to do the coding and videogame-playing required to feed those pipelines. The “how much do I make an hour” question is always a bit fuzzy because of this. I can’t do this job if I don’t play games, but it seems horribly self-aggrandizing to pretend that all of my playtime qualifies as work. Sometimes I’m playing a game so I can write about it. Sometimes I’m just playing a game for fun. Sometimes I play a game for fun but end up writing about it anyway.

It’s also really, really nice to be able to write anything I like without that nagging worry about what sort of idiocy the Google bot will decide is “relevant” advertising. Like if I’m writing about BioShock: Infinite and I feel the need to mention the lowest price auto insurance to optimize your SEO search ranking from home for naturally bigger breasts, no prescription needed! I can do that now. It’s like moving out of your parents house and realizing you’re suddenly free to cook naked. It’s a really bad idea and you’ll never do it, but now you’re not doing it on purpose.

So if you’ve donated, thank you. And if you haven’t, thanks for sticking around despite all the unseemly talking about money.



[1] Although I promise you convenience trumps both.

[2] Or more accurately, it’s raised the dollar value someone needs to offer me before I’ll feel guilty when I inevitably say no to them.

From The Archives:

71 thoughts on “Patreon Update

  1. Paul Spooner says:

    I just wanted to thank you as well for taking the leap and moving to Patreon, and being free to talk about it. I made the jump myself, and though my results haven’t been nearly as encouraging as yours, I’m glad I did it. I probably would have waited a long time if I hadn’t seen you do it first and thought “Huh, I’ll bet I could do that too, and there’s no harm in trying!”
    So, thanks for jumping in. Even though you weren’t the first of your friends to move to crowd funding, you’re the first of mine, and I appreciate your openness about the process.

  2. I know some Patreons are done per unit of work done (“I’ll give you $x for each micro-game you release”, “I’ll give you $x per page of the comic you put out”) but I’m not sure if you can mix and match or if you’d need to set up a second page just to have a service like that. If you wanted to bill quarterly or annually then you could set up a “per release” Patreon and then just say that you’d agree to increment the “things I’ve released” counter each quarter and subscribers could pick from the current monthly plan or saving on processing fees by picking the new (slightly roundabout in construction) quarterly option.

    Might be worth asking someone at Patreon about this, just in case they have rules saying you can’t actually use the system like this – but in that case why not make a quarterly email for subscribers only? Then you could genuinely have a “per X” Patreon campaign for quarterly billing without having to subvert the rules. As you say, the small minimum + monthly fees means far too much cash being wasted on processing bills right now so doing something would seem to push for making this sort of thing more sustainable.

    Edit: I certainly find that I am far more likely to directly fund ongoing content when there are annual subscription options. I suspect this is because I’m thinking of it as “pay X to get a year of supporting this thing” and so it’s a purchase (which I’m constantly juggling into my budget) while “pay X/12 per month” is something I need to worry about as a regular budget item, despite adding up to exactly the same drain. Paying up-front also seems to come with enough of a discount to almost always make it the cheap option, and creators can know they’ve got that money right now and just have to keep my interest so I’m eager to buy into another year 12 months later.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Patreon is really flexible, and I’m sure setting up a “quarterly pledge” account in the way you describe would be totally fine. You can even change the method (per unit versus per month) with a single click on the first page of the “creator setup” dialogue. You can also create multiple accounts, since some people produce multiple kinds of content that they want to keep compartmentalized.

    2. krellen says:

      I too heavily dislike monthly subscriptions and prefer paying a larger lump sum at more infrequent intervals. I prefer this so much I’m even willing to pay MORE for the privilege, though this incentive apparently isn’t very appealing to many vendors.

      1. Volatar says:

        I guess for the moment Shamus’ Paypal option is still open for that.

    3. Scerro says:

      I three, prefer lump sum payments.

      I work off of savings, and much prefer for the money to be gone and service ensured when it comes to money things. It’s partially why I’ve avoided getting a cell phone, but I finally succumbed to getting one a couple of weeks ago. Then again, I went with a company where it’s 10$ a month (They contract off of sprint, but when you have Wifi it uses it instead of the cell network) and I wish I could pay just the full 120$ instead of the 10$ a month. Maybe I can though, dunno.

      1. Aristabulus says:

        You can… that’s already covered by the plain old donate button (if you’re able and willing to interact with Paypal).

      2. syal says:

        The phone company should let you do that.

        If they don’t, you can set up a monthly payment with them through a new bank account, and make a yearly payment to that bank account from your main bank account.

  3. TMTVL says:

    I just converted the amount from USD to EUR, you’re earning more then I did when I was working part time at one of my previous jobs.

    Maybe I should start blogging too… Nah, I prefer to feel like I’m doing something useful ;-p.

    1. Simplex says:

      Jealous much?

      Shamus’ blogging is useful – people enjoy reading it.

      1. ET says:

        I know that *I* for sure, am totes jealous! :D

      2. Volfram says:

        I know reading Shamus’s blog has helped me a lot, whether it’s remembering an obscure shadowing technique he explained years ago or clarifying what certain programming practices which were never adequately explained at school are good for.

        I actually recommended the blog to my dad, who after being a project manager most of my life wants to brush up on his programming knowledge.

      3. Cinebeast says:

        I don’t think TMTVL is actually jealous — he was being sarcastic.

        On topic, I should take this opportunity to say that 1) I’m not currently supporting Shamus on Patreon. I’m still unemployed and have no money. I may or may not get a part-time job at Gamestop this week. If I do, I’ll see if I can spare some cash for Shamus, because 2) I love this blog. I visit daily, and I’ve been a frequenter for at least two years now. Shamus is basically a role model of mine and I love the community here. This is a dependable, wonderful place and I hope it never goes away.

        Thanks again for all the good times.

  4. Greetz says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for five years now, which is about one fourth of my life. I just realized that now. Wow. Thank you for writing this blog, i have no interest in coding myself, but reading your posts has always been great fun!

    1. Toasty Virus says:

      Oh wow, I’m the same.

      What a strange realisation.

    2. perryizgr8 says:

      Same here! But I never realized it till now.

  5. Primogenitor says:

    International transactions are also a pain for Patreon – not only do you get the credit card processing free, but so does the contributor in “foreign currency” charges and a poor exchange rate. So I’d love a quarterly or annual or a “here’s a pot of money, give it to these people at this rate until it runs out” option.

    1. ET says:

      Ugh. Exchange rates are another reason why I don’t like PayPal. Maybe VISA’s just better at subconsciously tricking me, but it always seems like they’re withing 2% of the real exchange rate for a country, and PayPal is like 20% extra, to line their pockets. ^^;

      1. Humanoid says:

        The exchange rates on credit cards are pretty close to the rates, so much so it’s really not worth thinking about. So the problem is really just the extra bank fees on top of the conversion, which is set by the individual banks. There’s generally 2-3% fee on conversions, yes, and some banks go even further charge for all international transactions even if it’s made in the card’s native currency.

        Assuming you’re in a country with a reasonably healthy banking sector in terms of competition, the best thing to do is shop around for a good credit card – I know here in Australia, completely fee-free credit cards are readily available, I don’t even need to consider where I buy things from (or ‘buy’ for things like Patreon).

        EDIT: And yeah, PayPal’s conversion rate is a fair bit worse, but with a good credit card, you can always set PayPal to charge in the merchant’s currency only, so it becomes a non-issue. The same advice applies to merchants in general, they may offer to charge you in your native currency, but it’s almost always better to pay in theirs.

        1. ET says:

          I don’t see any options for how my card (VISA) gets charged in PayPal. i.e. Whhich country’s currency. Is this option still around?

          1. Humanoid says:

            Tested using Shamus’ donate button, once I input the donation amount (in USD) and login details, the next screen shows this link which allows me to select either to bill in USD or in my card’s native currency.

            1. ET says:

              Ah, cool, thanks! I guess it makes sense that it’s a per-transaction option.

  6. Shinan says:

    Why would someone NOT cook naked?

    1. Chilango2 says:

      Two words: Hot Oil.

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        “Hadaka Apron” is a thing. Be careful where you Google that from, though.

    2. Never cooked naked, but I have cooked barefoot. Grease splatters and burns, that’s why. Still have the burn scar on the top of my foot. Learn from my mistake, and do not put bacon into a hot pan without proper precautions. :)

      1. krellen says:

        Clothes not guaranteed to protect you. I have a scar on my wrist to attest to that.

        1. ET says:

          Pants will definitely protect you from a hot stove-top at crotch-height…

          1. Exasperation says:

            I know someone who didn’t think of that, and on a cold winter morning burned themselves on a hot cast-iron stove. Their scream was audible from quite a distance.

    3. TheAngryMongoose says:

      Shirtless Bacon. It’s painful.

      1. General Karthos says:

        You’re doing it wrong if it hurts. Means you’re frying the bacon too hot. The key to bacon is that if you can cook naked painlessly, you’re cooking it right.

    4. Humanoid says:

      I can do it with no problems. Microwaves are great like that.

    5. Neil W says:

      All this time I’ve been imagining Shamus cooking naked while commenting on Spoiler Warning*, but it turns out he was cooking clothed while watching Josh rampage through various video games. So much for my mental image of the show**.

      * With a suitably placed teapot to preserve his modesty
      ** A three/four/five way split screen of the cast occasionally glancing at a screen while doing other things

  7. Jeff Truelsen says:

    The guy who runs Patreon, Jack Conte, is an amazing human being. (See Pomplamoose.) I imagine he’d be very open to suggestions for the service.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Have you considered selling physical copies of your stuff?Printed dm of the rings,for example.Thats what plenty of webcomic guys do to raise more money.

    1. Thearpox says:

      I may be wrong, but I think that’d be more relevant if the comic wasn’t eight years old.

      And Shamus already sells his books.

      1. Ciennas says:

        Also, DM of the Rings is protected the same way all other web parodies are: Too small, and he doesn’t have to ask Peter Jackson if he can print his work.

        Oh dear. Copyright law. That stuff really needs a going through.

    2. David W says:

      Printed DM of the Rings would require Shamus to work out something with New Line Cinema, wouldn’t it? What are the odds they’re interested in a relatively small project like his?

      1. Ilseroth says:

        Pretty sure since he is using actual images from the film, yes. Parodies are protected, but if you use assets from the original cannot be marketed.

        1. Decius says:

          Nope. Parodies are protected even if you use assets directly from the original.

          The real problem is that he can’t afford to win the lawsuit.

    3. Humanoid says:

      I want the complete series of Spoiler Warning as a Blu-ray box set. :D

  9. Thearpox says:

    I’m happy to hear that Patreon is working out for you, but somewhat unrelated, I am worried about Youtube implementing a tip system. It’s this thing in the modern world, that every time someone has a good idea, a couple behemoths immediately jump onto it, and swallow it up.

    For starters, Youtube is probably going to swallow a much bigger chunk of revenue than Patreon would. And given the choice between a different site and something already connected to the Google infrastructure, (hi, friend Computer,) most people will probably choose Youtube. And if that happens… instead of independence from the Google bot… bleh.

    I know Shamus is independent from Youtube, (although Chris isn’t it. Actually, I’d like to hear his thoughts on the issue.) but if the giants like Google and Amazon start offering easy tipjars, it could severely hurt Patreon, and make those giants even more influential.

    So this is my pessimistic view on the matter. On the optimistic side, HEY! We’re transferring from a manufacturing to an ideas economy! WOOoo! The higher order of civilization! As our society slowly transitions to this system in all aspects of life, money will stop being something we HAVE to give, and become something we volunteer to give. (Okay, that’s a bit utopic, but whatever. We all have dreams.) Which is really awesome if you ask me.

  10. Hoffenbach says:

    Congratulations Shamus! I’m glad that this is working out for you, and I hope you can continue to do what you enjoy in the future.

  11. Steve C says:

    Just a note that your citations have small font now. I figure that was on purpose and it’s fine. Just letting you know due to the request for feedback a few blog posts ago as this is the first post I’ve seen that change.

  12. Phantos says:

    I actually feel like Patreon itself is pushy and uncomfortable.

    It’s not like a Kickstarter where there’s no pressure, donate what you want, when you want.

    Patreon sounds like it demands a RIGID SCHEDULE OF INCOME EVERY X DAYS, and I’m too scared to find out what happens if I run out of money or miss a payment or something. D:

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      If you’re living hand-to-mouth to the degree that you might not have the funds available, then I salute you for even considering donating.

      1. Phantos says:

        It’s more that I have very few ways of paying for stuff online. I mean, I’m not rolling in the money or anything. But I can get a $25 gift card once every few months to pay for stuff online. I’m just terrified of what happens when that runs out. If I tried giving to Patreon and then my funds ran dry, and I wasn’t able to get another card, I’d feel like I failed and let someone down(or worse, would get some stern notification demanding overdue money from some faceless corporation).

        That, and like I said earlier, Patreon’s “You HAVE to” approach vs. Kickstarter’s “You CAN” that puts me off regardless of my financial situation. I just hate subscription-based services in general. It’s so much pressure to an anxiety-ridden jerk like me.

        1. Thearpox says:

          So basically the difference between binging on a winter sale and buying vegetables every week? I’d pick the groceries every time.

        2. Trix2000 says:

          Considering you can opt in/out of Patreon pledges anytime, I suspect they won’t take much issue with non-payment. I don’t know exactly how their system handles it, but my guess is that they just shrug and move on if the money doesn’t show.

          Don’t quote me on that, though.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            If your card provider denies the transaction (which they should if you don’t have the funds) then your account gets flagged as “declined” instead of “OK” in the patron manager panel.

            Also, someone from Patreon gets on an airplane, flies to your city, waits in an alley for you to come home from work, jumps you, and breaks your fingers one at a time…
            No, wait… I’m getting Patreon confused with the mob.

            Seriously though, it’s nothing worse than an change of “status” that only Shamus can see. Patreon doesn’t have a collection agency, and I highly doubt Shamus is going to hassle you over a couple of bucks.

    2. Cybron says:

      Yeah, I don’t like it either. I don’t have the online payment. restrictions you do, and I’m still for whatever reason uncomfortable with an x/month model. I’d rather drop 50 bucks once a year as something I actively do, than have a service passively withdrawing from me. It’s silly, I know, but it’s there all the same.

      1. Disc says:

        For me it’s the bad experiences I’ve had with MMO subscriptions. Even if it isn’t the same thing, I just never want to feel like I’m obligated to participate/play/whatever again just because I paid for it, if I can help it. Bigger, one time (or once in a year) investments are something I can handle without stress.

        Other than that, I’m also somewhat paranoidic about letting any service to automatically charge my credit card for.. reasons.

    3. Narkis says:

      And that’s why Shamus has a Paypal link right below Patreon. It may not be as visible, but I’m sure he appreciates it just the same.

      1. krellen says:

        I can personally attest to the fact that Shamus very much appreciates his Paypal donations.

      2. Phantos says:

        I hope my comments don’t sound like I’m blaming Shamus or angry at him or anything. I’m glad Patreon’s working out for him, it’s just icky territory for me.

        Also, I would love to use Pay Pal… unfortunately, Pay Pal decided a couple of years ago that it would no longer work for anyone in Canada. I know this because myself and several of my Canadian artist friends online can no longer use it.

        We all get the same vague error message: “THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE BANK”. This has prevented myself and others from paying for commissions for people who really needed that money. Not that I expected better from people who turned away charitable donations to Hurricane Katrina.

        So, that’s not an option either. I almost wish this site still had ads so I could click on them to show revenue-based support, however wishy-washy that would be. But after the Google incident, I don’t blame Shamus for trying other options. I guess I just gotta wait ’til I have enough change in my pockets for one of those gift cards and use it exclusively for his Patreon.

        1. Shamus says:

          It’s all good. I’m certainly not complaining about anyone giving or not giving. And really, it’s totally worth being rid of the ads, even if I miss out on a little more money. The Patreon has surpassed the Googlebux by a factor of four. This is one of those amazing moments where a good artistic decision is also the optimal business decision.

          Amazing, really.

        2. Humanoid says:

          There are still ads on the forum for you to click. :P

          1. Shamus says:


            Getting rid of those is on my to-do list. (It’s been on the list for a month. So, ANY DAY NOW.)

            1. Humanoid says:

              Out of curiosity, how does the ad revenue from the forum-only ads compare as a proportion of the former total ad revenue? It is even a meaningful number?

              1. Shamus says:

                Looks like about 50 cents a day.

                So, completely meaningless.

        3. fyrbaul says:

          just a comment re: Canada/Paypal – I’m in Canada and have experienced no trouble

  13. MichaelG says:

    A 42 year old man with years of coding experience making minimum wage? Insanity!

    Yes, that’s my reaction… I had a college friend who dropped out of the programming business to live in an RV park and do general maintenance. It’s as if a successful businessman always wanted to be a struggling artist.

    The shame of it all is that there are so many incompetent programmers out there. Back in the 90s when I was working in Silicon Valley, there were $100/hr contract programmers who could barely do their jobs.

    You could run rings around them and make lots of money. And yet here you are, a programming maestro, playing for change on street corners.

    Oh well. It takes all kinds… Remember that retirement age creeps up on you pretty quickly.

    1. And yet he’s probably had more impact on the world than most competent programmers.

  14. WWWebb says:

    So is anyone still buying the Witch Watch? I don’t know how much being #407,868 in the Kindle store brings in. How did peak “being a book author” compare to “being a blogger”?

    PS- When I typed “Shamus Young” into Amazon’s search, the second item to come up was “Pirates of Savannah: The Search for Shamus’ Booty”. Tee-hee, now I can write “booty” in your comments and not worry about Google getting mad at you.

  15. Veylon says:

    Just to be clear, if you do want to take up some (non-boring?) technical work, I’m sure that there’s plenty of us who’d be interested in watching over your shoulder as you do so. Probably most of this stuff would be confidential, but if the right offer were to come along…

    1. Shamus says:

      I think about this from time to time. Sadly, I really doubt any prospective employer would want me blogging about their software. My main skill (other than explaining things) is rooting out and identifying problems, so my posts would be long deconstructions on why a system is malfunctioning. Like this:

      Man, that’s fun work, but NOBODY wants to pay for it. :)

    2. Humanoid says:

      Take it full circle, Shamus working on Google’s smut-detection algorithms.

  16. WILL says:

    I recently bought an indie game on Steam that was considerably smaller than any project you’ve made, and it sure as hell wasn’t fun.

    Why not release even your smaller projects for real cheap? It just feels weird to see all these projects begin and never get finished/released.

  17. Fabrimuch says:

    Am I the only person on the internet who doesn’t mind ads?

    I’m actually a little sad you got rid of them, because now there’s no way to support this blog for me. I don’t have a job so I can’t pay the Patreon, and even if I did my country doesn’t allow me to buy dollars, so…. yeah.

    With the ads at least I could disable adblock and click on them.

    Sorry :(

  18. Wide And Nerdy says:

    You do whatever you gotta do to make this work. Bring back ads if you need them, take on extra work and do less of this. As far as I’m concerned, I owe you a lot for past work and yeah I would cut you off eventually if you just stopped updating at all but if the content had to be lean for a while I wouldn’t feel ripped off.

    I’m sorry Patreon isn’t able to do more for you. I really believed in this, I had a very similar idea a few years back and was thrilled when I learned Patreon was doing it (love Flattr but thats not the way to go, people won’t remember to Flattr, I like that I don’t have to think about it this way). But I guess the reality is going to need some time to get there.

    As for me, I would greatly prefer monthly for budgeting. But if they’re taking all my donations as a single withdrawal, the fee should be spread across at least three creators as of this writing.

  19. Duoae says:

    Awww, crap. Now I feel bad. Been on a bit of a blog hiatus and just remembering that I had reminded myself to remember that I had to patronise your endeavours….

    So, thanks for all the fish and I’m contributing. ;)

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