TL;DR I’ve had a really good time with Patreon, and I hope to return.
But for now I need to give it a break while I build more momentum, reset
expectations for scheduling and bonus material, and take the time to put
out material that I’m truely proud of. In this article, I’ll dive deeper
into why things need to change, and what I’m doing about it.
Pretty much all of my videos reference my Patreon page, and views
continue to trickle in. If I simply removed all of the links without
saying anything; that would lead to speculation that would almost
certainly become unhealthy. Therefore I have created this blog post, and
My starting point
My wife and I have budgeted 2 years for getting this started. This
came after 4 intensely difficult years, and this heavily influenced my
criteria for how I wanted to proceed:
It has to remain relaxed and fun. - Hopefully self explanatory. This
is a time for healing.
No rushing, and no arbitrary timetable. - Put stuff out when it’s
ready, not because of an arbitrary deadline.
YouTube is not the goal, it is a tool. - YouTube is an amazing tool.
I’m not wanting to be a YouTuber for the sake of being a YouTuber. Some
of what I’m focussing on is relevant to YouTube, some of it isn’t. If
YouTube becomes the centre of attention, many of my goals will
Have meaningful bonus material. - For the Patreon exclusives, I
wanted to make bonus material that goes into more detail on specific
sub-topics that I thought were interesting/useful for each project.
With this in mind, I decided to try Patreon early on to see how close
to a sustainable living I could get.
Death by a thousand
There were 3 primary influences that lead to the direction that I
actually went in:
I took input from many sources. ie best practises for various things
(particularly for YouTube), various people I chatted to, and best
practises/requirements for Patreon.
Adapting to challenges.
Adapting to the data (particularly YouTube analytics.)
Over time, I ended up in a very different place to what I originally
What I actually ended up
When I set up my Patreon page, I had to define a few things to set
expectations. The relevant things for this conversation are:
I’d post a new project once a month +/- a little.
I’d post at least 2 pieces of bonus material with each project. -
This was derived from these two tiers:
First piece of bonus content.
The remaining pieces of bonus content. (I actually
worded this in such a way that there may not always be a second piece of
bonus material. But it didn’t sit right with me to have the tier there,
and then sometimes not deliver anything for it. So I always did
I wasn’t happy with the quality of the bonus material for my first
episode (My office), so it became a higher priority on my subsequent
projects. This lead to me spending much more time on the bonus material
than I originally expected. This massively contributed to filling up the
I have a long list of really cool projects that I want to be working
on, but haven’t been doing so yet. I was barely meeting getting out a
new project every 1.5 months, let alone every month. And this was with
me doing small projects… I wasn’t even trying to do the more meaningful
projects that would take longer.
A revisit of the criteria
So let’s take that picture, and apply it the criteria I laid out
earlier. Did I succeed?:
It has to remain relaxed and fun. - No. See below.
No rushing, and no arbitrary timetable. - No. I haven’t even been
keeping up with the goal that I set when I set up the Patreon page. All
the while, I was only tackling the small projects.
YouTube is not the goal, it is a tool. - No. YouTube has become
everything at the expense of everything else. And even then, I’m not
putting enough time into doing it well.
Have meaningful bonus material. - Yes. There’s a lot that I want to
improve here, but I’m happy with where it’s at for now.
Getting this out of the way quickly because it’s simple:
There are a few costs here and there like the video hosting on Vimeo
for patreon bonus material, and the occasional item like the mini
keyboard for the phone hacks
Nothing huge so far, but they are there.
Taxes and other official
Normally, when self-employed, there are various taxes and fees that
you just have to deal with. The taxes are usually a percentage of what
you earn, while the fees are usually one-off things, often once a year,
if there are any.
In the region where I’m living, there is a fee that is around €300
every month, no matter how much you are earning. This, by itself, before
taking in to account and taxes, or one-off costs, is about 5
times what I’m earning (it’s early days). To help new
businesses get started, there is a discount for this fee for about the
first year. But this discount does not apply for me, now (this is a
Bringing it all together
It’s true that, at any moment, I could blow up and suddenly
everything would be great. And given enough time, that’s likely to
happen. But whether that is next week, next year, or a few years away, I
don’t know. In the mean time I’m racking up dept/burning through savings
at an alarming rate. This is not sustainable.
And then bringing in my current state: I’m stressed, not keeping up,
and not working on the stuff that I’m really interested in.
I’m paying money to be stressed out. This has to change.
Notice that these are all problems that I’ve created for myself? The
beauty of being self employed is that I also have the autonomy to change
direction to fix them with low friction.
Changes I’m making now
stopping my Patreon activity. - I’ve already had payments paused for
the last couple of months, and am about to unpublish the page. With a
couple of exceptions (the phone hacks
episode, and the handWavey
quick-start guide) all of the bonus material will become unavailable
during this time.
stopping making bonus material for each episode.
removing the frequency obligation. - I’ll put stuff out when it’s
ready. Although I’ll still need to balance good-enough vs
going to post a little more on my blog, when it feels right.
going to put a little more time into “doing YouTube right.”
going to put a little time into a few other platforms.
This will give me the space to get things done at a pace that makes
sense. To be more creative, and learn more along the way. It’ll give me
more time to give it the appropriate level of promotion.
And when I get enough of a following, I can look at bringing back
income streams like Patreon at that time.
So let’s take this picture, and apply it the criteria I laid out
earlier. Did I succeed?:
It has to remain relaxed and fun. - Yes? I’m really excited about
what I’m doing again. Time will tell, but this is a great start.
No rushing, and no arbitrary timetable. - Yes… I’ve actually delayed
this post by a few days. Largely because there are several things that
needed to come together, and it made sense to get it roughly right first
YouTube is not the goal, it is a tool. - Maybe? I’ll have to
constantly monitor this. But certainly, I want to have a more balanced
approach to getting my work out there.
Have meaningful bonus material. - No. This is the sacrifice, for
now. And I’m ok with that for now.
What I’d do
differently if/when I return to Patreon
Get a much bigger following first so that I’m not loosing money. -
This wouldn’t matter as much in most countries, but it’s worth knowing
what costs you’ll have in advance. I did, but I over-estimated how
quickly I would grow.
Don’t over-commit on the frequency of episodes. - Probably I’ll do a
pay-per-episode rather than pay-per-month. That way I could go at my own
speed rather than feeling like I’m misleading people if I need to take a
little longer to get something just right.
Periodically re-evaluate what’s working, and what’s not. - Ok. I’m
already happy with this. Let’s continue. :-)
Why not ____?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been chatting with various friends and
family. And I’ve been learning how to articulate what needs to change,
and why. There have been several really good suggestions along the way
that don’t totally fit with what I’m trying to do at the moment, but are
likely to come up in subsequent conversations. So let’s cover a few of
If you’re not earning enough, why stop your only income stream? - As
it was, I was going to crawl over the threshold where I would be liable
for the fees, but would have earnt no where near enough to pay them.
I’ll still be liable for the tax on what I’ve earnt so far, but that’s a
percentage, which is much easier to deal with at this scale.
Why not add ____ income stream? - This is very tempting, and is
something I’ll reconsider when I’m more confident that I can earn more
than I’m losing. But at the moment, it has two problems:
I’m a long way off being profitable. All of them need time to grow,
and all of them are uncertain. However, the liability is reliable, is
here now, and the longer I go without momentum, the deeper the hole is
going to get.
I’m already drowning in to-dos for the available time. Adding more
tasks is going to make that worse.
Why not do a video on ____? - That’s a great suggestion. However, I
actually have a massive list of projects that I’m trying to prioritise.
I’m happy to add it to the list, but I really need to start making
progress on the important ones first.
I have a lot to be grateful for:
My wife, for being supportive while I try to make this work.
My friends and family for bantering, both normally, and while
working out this transition. It’s taken me a while to be able to
articulate what the problem was, and why it needs to change. Thank you
for your patience and ideas.
My patrons who have been supporting me. Many of you have been with
me right from the beginning. Whether or not you join me when I get it
going again, I am truly grateful for your support.