In the past, the only way that musicians, writers, cartoonists, streamers, comedians, and other creatives could monetize their creations was to sell them to their audience with the help of an agency or label.
Since the systems for marketing and distributing content and art were controlled by third parties, highly undemocratic, and subject to all kinds of external factors, it meant that only a few people could be truly successful, while others were doomed to barely make a living from their work.
Thanks to crowdfunding platforms like Ko-fi and Patreon, you don’t have to be a starving artist or creator. You can build a thriving community of people who appreciate your work and earn adequate compensation for your labor.
But should you open a Ko-fi or a Patreon account? That’s the hot question. Today, I’m going to help you answer it and determine which of these two platforms is right for you by examining what they both bring to the table.
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Ko-fi is an online service that allows fans to support their favorite creators by sending them the monetary equivalent of a cup of coffee. This way, you can enjoy creative freedom and focus on putting out the kind of content you love without worrying about appealing to certain markets or struggling to keep the lights on in your apartment.
Your supporters can pay you directly for the value they’re getting from your work with Ko-fi, rather than going through third-party channels that’ll lead to a huge chunk of the money intended for you, ending up in other people’s pockets.
Patreon is easily the biggest name in the artist donation industry. It’s a membership-based platform that allows creators to earn a monthly stream of income by offering benefits and rewards to their patrons or supporters.
Patreon makes it possible for people who love your work to compensate you for your creative efforts and get exclusive access or insight into your content and creative process.
This way you can give your audience what they want and make the kind of work you’re proud of without selling out or having to depend on flaky monetization models to earn a decent revenue.
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The first thing I’m going to consider is how easy it is to sign up or start using either platform.
Setting up a Ko-fi page is very easy and the process should take no longer than a minute. All you have to do is claim a free page by entering your name into the designated box on the homepage and clicking Claim or by tapping the Start a Page button to create an account.
You’ll be taken to a page where you can enter your personal information or sign up with Google, Twitter, or Facebook, and you’ll be good to go.
Getting started with Patreon also requires little effort. Once you visit the homepage and click on the Get Started or Create on Patreon option, you’ll be taken to a sign-up page. Just fill out the form, submit it, and you’ll be part of Patron’s growing list of creators.
Which platform is the better choice in terms of third-party app integrations? If you want to diversify your streams of income by getting supporters from various social and online platforms to donate to you, should you use Patreon or Ko-fi to maximize your reach?
At the moment, Patreon offers support for many popular platforms, apps, and tools that you can use to showcase your work and streamline your creative endeavors. It integrates perfectly with productivity and analytic tools like Collective, Creator Metrics, HIFI Labs, itch.io, Zapier, and Sonix.
It also offers support for content sharing and management tools like WordPress, MailChimp, Vimeo, StageIt, Lens, Webtoon, and more alongside a host of business, community, and collaboration apps.
Ko-fi offers direct support for YouTube, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram, Medium, Twitch, GitHub, and Facebook. However, it doesn’t have an API so you cannot add it to your favorite platforms or integrate it with other apps.
The company offers buttons that you can add to your pages or website by embedding the button code from your Ko-fi page. alternatively, you can share a direct link to your Ko-fi page on any platform you want and ask people to support you by clicking it and making a donation.
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If you’re still working on building a decent audience, you’ll probably benefit better from a donations platform that has a larger audience volume.
Although, there’s no definite figure for the number of people who make donations to creators via Ko-fi, the platform currently helps over 500,000 creators to make money online from their supporters. So far creatives earn more than $40 million annually through Ko-fi.
Patreon boasts of over six million patrons, who have supported more than 200,000 creators with over $2 billion in earnings. That’s a huge community to have at your fingertips without having to spend your hard-earned money on ads.
You can tap into this audience network to showcase your work. You’re also likely to find patrons standing by who are interested in your niche and ready to offer support.
Does Patreon or Ko-fi have a mobile and desktop app? If yes, are there any special features that come with them and how can they help your creative business run smoothly?
Yes, Patreon is available on both desktop and mobile. However, there’s no dedicated desktop app for Patreon, but you can access their website on your computer or laptop anytime, any place.
If you want the mobile experience, you can download the Patreon app on your Android or iOS device and connect with your supporters even when you’re on the go. You can also use the mobile app to tend to your projects in real-time, as well as monitor and control your subscriptions.
At this time, Ko-fi does not offer mobile support, so you can’t access the platform on your phone. There’s also no desktop app to fall back on, but the website is accessible to you on any device of your choice.
Also, you can share a direct link to your Ko-fi page or embed it on posts, website pages, sidebars, or widget areas. While this doesn’t offer the functionality of an app or API, it’s a good stand-in until the company adds a more flexible upgrade.
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Do these platforms give you the option of accepting commissions to create special pieces of work for fans who are willing to pay for that service?
With Ko-fi, fans can buy unique work from you, book a video chat, get a custom tutorial, or have you create specific pieces especially for them for a set price. You can set up your commissions menu, select how many slots you have for each offer, lay out your terms, and get paid upfront. You also have the option of refunding payment for commissions you don’t want.
Unlike Ko-fi, your supporters on Patreon cannot commission you to create a comic, piece of art, story, poem, or song for them. All they get is the rewards and incentives you offer for their donations.
There are people who usually dine and dash on artist donation platforms. They consume the content being offered without actually paying or compensating the creator for it.
Some sites are more prone to this phenomenon than others, so before you choose between Patreon and Ko-fi you should know how likely you are to come across fake supporters on either platform.
Patreon allows supporters to either pay their pledge upfront or at the end of each month. This latter option has created an enabling situation for fans to subscribe to a creator’s content, get access to everything being offered, and then cancel their payment before they get charged.
Although these freeloaders make up a small percentage of fans on Patreon, it’s still a notable problem that a lot of creators have had to deal with at some point.
This dine and dash issue doesn’t exist on Ko-fi because any money pledged is paid right away and it goes directly to the creator, so there’s no opportunity for anyone to consume your locked content for free. Only your real fans who show their support by buying you a few cups of coffee can gain access to the exclusive content you share.
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In this section, I’m going to focus on the level of consistency and commitment that’s best suited to each platform, and the amount of effort you can expect to put in depending on if you choose Ko-fi or Patreon.
With Ko-fi, you’re the one running things. You don’t have to tie yourself to a schedule. You can create and share the content you want, whenever you want, and as often as you like. No pressure.
If you’re the kind of creative who prefers to make content when you’re feeling inspired rather than rushing to meet a set deadline or churning out pieces just for the sake of it, you’ll find comfort in Ko-fi’s loosey-goosey content creation policy.
Patreon is designed for creators who are willing to put out as much content as it takes to keep their patrons satisfied and do it right on schedule. There’s no room for you to be lax or slack on your promises.
You have to commit to producing a particular amount of content each month according to the rewards and tiers you’ve set or offered supporters. So if you’re looking for some flexibility, pitching your tent with Patreon may lead to frustration and resentment, which will put a damper on your creativity.
As an independent creator, getting your money on time is very important and can make a world of difference to your lifestyle. This is why I’m going to look at how easy it is for you to get paid on Patreon and Ko-fi.
There’s no such thing as direct or instant payments on Patreon. The platform charges supporters on your behalf and holds the donation until you attain a minimum balance or it gets to the end of the month before you can withdraw the payments to your account.
One of the really great things about Ko-fi is that the platform allows creators to be paid immediately. You don’t have to wait for processing or any activity before you can withdraw your money.
Once a pledge is made, the money goes directly to your Stripe or PayPal account. There are no fees and no minimum balance. You get paid instantly every time.
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Finally, I’m going to compare the prices of Ko-fi and Patreon. Which platform is the cheaper option? Are there free trial periods that you can take advantage of? Do they have different membership or subscription levels?
When it comes to cost-effectiveness, Ko-fi has that advantage under lock and key. The platform doesn’t take a cut from the donations you receive and they don’t charge your fans any extra fees. In that sense, the platform is completely free to use.
The only fee you’ll have to pay is the transaction fee which is charged by the payment processing service—PayPal or Stripe—and not Ko-fi. However, you can only receive one-time payments or tips with Ko-fi’s free plan. If you want to charge a monthly subscription, you’ll need to upgrade to the Gold plan.
At this point, you might be wondering how the company manages to make money and remain profitable. Ko-fi is able to stay afloat and pocket a healthy profit through donations to its own page, optional transaction fees for certain features, and Ko-fi Gold subscriptions.
Ko-fi Gold is the platform’s optional subscription option that goes for $6 a month no matter how much you earn and gives creators access to juicer features like:
- Commission tools
- Monthly recurring payments from supporters
- Custom prices for your work
- Exclusive content for subscribers
- Gallery extras
- Links to your social media pages
- Personalized pledge buttons and messages
- Zero ads
- Shorter Ko-fi username
- Analytics and insights with Google Analytics
Although Ko-fi says that the $6 launch price for Ko-fi Gold is forever, you can check here at any time to see if it changes.
Unlike most other alternatives, Patreon is not a free platform. It usually takes a 5-12% cut of the donations received by a creator. It also charges supporters a certain percentage as taxes, not to mention the transaction fees you’ll have to pay to process your payment.
Since Patreon operates on a subscription basis, you’ll have to be prepared to part with a certain percentage of your overall earnings every month to keep using the platform.
There are three pricing plans for you to choose from; Lite, Pro, and Premium. The Lite plan comes with basic tools and gives Patreon the power to take 5% of your monthly earnings. The available features on this plan include:
- Hosted creator page
- Patreon workshops
- Patron communication tools in-platform posts, messages, and emails
Patreon’s Pro plan will cost you 8% of your monthly pledges and give you access to everything in the Lite package plus a wider range of features such as:
- Tiered membership for your supporters
- Unlimited third-party app integrations
- Promotional tools
- Insights and analytics
- Creator-led workshops
- Top priority customer support
Finally, Patreon’s Premium package grants the platform a right to 12% of your earnings or a minimum of $300 per month, depending on which is higher. You’ll also get all features in the Pro and Lite plans in addition to:
- Team accounts
- Dedicated partner manager
- Membership merch
You can always check Patreon’s pricing page for up-to-date pricing information.
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Free donations plus payment processing fees
5-12% or $300/mo plus payment processing fees
One time tips/donations
• Sell physical or digital products from your page
• No listing fees
Comprehensive third-party integrations
Limited to a few apps
Available for a wide variety of apps and tools
• Create and share content as regularly as you want
•Create and share fresh content every month and fulfill rewards
Commissions and services
Everyone supporter pays
Supporters only pay taxes the creator is mandated to pay
Although Patreon is more popular and has a lot going for it like third-party integrations and a larger user base, I have to give the edge to Ko-fi. It’s simply the better option whether you’re just starting out or you’re an established creator with hundreds of thousands of followers.
Ko-fi has the advantage of being free to use and the paid option is dirt cheap so anyone can afford it. It’s more flexible and allows one-time donations which is more likely to encourage people to support you as they’re not being forced to make a monthly commitment.
You also get a free online shop where you can sell merchandise and any other product you can think of. Best of all, you get to keep all the money you make and have it paid directly into your account in an instant. I’d take that deal over Patreon’s exorbitant fees any day.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.