Whether you are a content creator, blogger, podcaster, writer, photographer, or reaching your target audience is crucial. Apart from making a living, we also want to grow our networks and have our content go viral.
Substack has been at the forefront of helping people write and publish their content. Its strongest contender, Patreon, also came in, and most creators rely on it to create, publish, and monetize their content.
While different, both platforms have succeeded in helping creators turn their passion into lucrative ventures. But, which among these two is better?
Let’s dive into the Substack vs Patreon debate to answer this question better.
Substack is a platform for writers, creators, and influencers looking for alternative avenues to create, publish, and market their content. Co-founded by Chris Best, Jairaj Sethi, and Hamish McKenzie in 2017, Substack has managed to attract more individuals, small businesses, and big corporations alike.
Currently, Substack has become a hub for prominent companies like Vox, BuzzFeed, and CNN, who rely on it for their newsletters, podcasts, and other valuable content. It charges a percentage on all revenue earned.
Substack has an intuitive, clutter-free interface that is easy to navigate. It offers a subscription model where creators own their content, IP, and mailing lists while rewarding them for their excellent work. If you decide to leave, you take your mailing list, IP, and content with you – your content, your terms.
On Substack, you are paid directly by your client. The website gives you the option to have a paid subscription. It provides a range of features, including creating blog posts, managing mailing lists, initiating discussion threads, receiving payments, and more.
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Patreon is another content creating and publishing platform founded in 2013 by Jack Conte. It’s a membership website that also runs a subscription service for all content creators.
Patreon works with artists, content creators, podcasters, and writers to help them create, publish, market, and earn income from their creations. It also offers them rewards and perks for great work done.
Being a membership platform, you have to register first before accessing its features. Patreon helps you earn from your work, whether it’s writing, podcasting, videography, music, webcomics, video filming, games, and more. You’ll be charged for using the platform.
Patreon groups users based on the content they produce. Once a member, you can set a maximum revenue limit and see how much revenue you generate. It connects you with supporters and fans and provides financial tools that allow supporters to subscribe to your projects and earn you an income stream.
It is a platform for content that is already created and published. Its objective is to give you sustainable income while rewarding you at different subscription levels. It enables audiences to finance your work at reasonable monthly rates if they like it.
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One of the most outstanding features of Substack is its ease of use. It takes you a short time to set up your account and send your very first email. Signing up is pretty easy, and you can start building your newsletters or writing other content, and even sending your emails immediately.
Speaking of the interface, Substack has a minimalist interface that allows you to import your email marketing list effortlessly. And if you don’t have your own email marketing list, Substack will give you one. The interface is straightforward, clutter-free, easy to navigate, and beginner-friendly.
Substack is the best place to start if you’re new to email marketing. Its publishing is simple but very powerful, ensuring you get desired results. It lets you spend time curating content then takes care of the rest.
Substack lets you own your mailing list, IP, and content forever. It offers creator-friendly terms, a simple business model, and products to help you enhance your creativity.
Patreon is a user-friendly platform with an intuitive interface that guides you on how to set up your account and start doing what you do best. To start utilizing its features, you have to register an account.
The platform offers a wide range of features and integrations to help users optimize and market their content. It allows you to turn your audience into active participants through a monthly membership offer.
They’ll be able to access your exclusive community, content, and insights, and in exchange, you keep creating top-notch work and build your creative career and a recurring income.
Its backend interface offers easy tools for creators to manage memberships. It has a relationship manager that lets you see your members, their level, and a lifetime spent with you. With its Special Offers tools, you can extend limited-time offers to drive membership.
If you offer perks that need a follow-up, Patreon’s Benefits Tracker will let you see whoever you owe it to and what perk it is. You can use its integrations to keep active and engaged in your community.
At Patreon, you get complete creative control of your work and build valuable and lasting connections with your audience.
Substack has a minimalistic interface that makes it easy to use even if you’re a beginner. The signup process takes little time compared to Patreon, which requires you to set up currency, content type, membership tiers, and more.
After setting up your profile on Substack, you start publishing your content right away. Just click the ‘Start Publishing’ button on the menu bar on your left.
This will take you to a new page where you choose to ‘Get Started’ by picking your specialty niche.
Once your profile is ready, you can import your mailing list. Substack allows you to integrate your account with programs like Revue, Tumblr, WordPress, Tinyletter, MailChimp, Medium, or your custom website. You can also upload a CSV file. Use the ‘Skip’ button to move to the next step if you don’t have your own emailing list.
The first post you see after creating your profile on Substack is your bio. So you have to go back to the dashboard and navigate through to the ‘New button’ feature on your right. It has a built-in word processor you can use to write and format your work.
It has a simple text editor for formatting work. Users can embed, hyperlink, add lines and headers, insert images, bullets and numbers, add quotes, and more.
What I find more interesting with the platform is its CTA Buttons feature. Substack offers pre-designed CTA buttons to add to your emails. You can also add other action buttons like ‘Subscribe Now,’ Share This Post,’ and ‘Leave a Comment.’
To set up paid subscriptions, all you need is to go to the dashboard, ‘Settings,’ and click ‘Enable Payments.’ You’ll be prompted to set up a Stripe account for you to start receiving payments.
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Patreon is simple to use too. As a creator, you can set up pages per project payments or monthly payments. If you create less than four articles a month, you will get paid when you create content. It will free you from the pressure of adhering to a monthly schedule.
Patreon lets you customize your perks and pages, and tailor how you engage with your supporters and fans. As a creator, you can establish various membership tiers. The subscription rate and the number of tiers at every level depend on you and your preferences.
Having multiple tiers encourages your casual fans to pay low rates, while your dedicated followers will pay a monthly subscription. High tiers allow your funders to access exclusive content not available to your supporters who pay low rates.
The membership tiers at Patreon allow fans to choose their preferred level of financial investment and receive extra rewards. But they are optional and flexible. You can choose to have one tier and minimize the management overhead of rewarding and communicating.
You also have the option to structure your levels using a supporter cap to prevent getting overwhelmed with creating, packaging, and distributing premium content.
Patreon will help you manage your projects through its website. It has simple page design tools that help you add your content to a public page and attract patrons. It also offers tools to manage rewards, communication, and patrons.
You can manage your service behind the scenes. The patron section has reminders and a tracking tool that delivers rewards at the membership level.
It also provides an email and chat tool to use when communicating with patrons. You can also set up surveys to track project income and access patron satisfaction.
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Substack is easier to work with. Its interface is straightforward, with simple tools that let you create and publish your work fast.
Substack has a simple, flexible pricing plan. To start with, the platform is free for all writers. It gives you the option to have subscribers sign up for free or at a fee.
If you’ll be offering paid newsletters, you can offer readers monthly or yearly pricing tiers at $5/month or $30/year minimum.
Besides these pricing tiers, you can offer your content to audiences who aren’t willing to pay. Substack has a provision that lets you keep part of the entire content behind a paywall. You can opt to make some of it free and monetize the rest.
Note that Substack charges fees from your revenue as well as Stripe. You can get your way around the taxes by choosing to pay a fixed fee instead of variable fees. But this is only possible when you command a large following.
For all its paid partnerships, Substack deducts 10% out of your revenue.
This platform allows you to join for free as a writer and starts charging a very small percentage once you start earning from your patron’s memberships. It charges a 5% platform fee for all processed payouts for all founders. This means that you are only charged once you start earning on the platform.
In addition, a payment processing fee is charged for transferring funds from your patrons to your creator balance. This fee is flexible. A payout fee is also charged when transferring the funds from the creator balance to your account.
It offers various tier structures such as the Lite tier that allows you to have support from your fans continuously. Pro enables you to have a membership business where you can have a consistent income and a satisfying experience for your audience and premium that offers various features that save time and reward your patrons.
All the dedicated fans have a monthly or annual membership plan to choose from. Although not all writers offer annual membership tiers, the monthly tier is available for patrons to choose from.
In case you want to upgrade your membership tier, you can do so in the same month you made your payments or even months after. For example, if you paid for the $100 tier at the beginning of the month and decided to upgrade to a $120 tier, you are only required to add $20.
In this case, Substack wins because it offers lower, flexible pricing.
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Substack allows you to contact their help center if you encounter any problems when using the platform. You can chat, call, or send email inquiries at any time.
If you’re interested in having an independent publication on the platform, you can easily visit the site to set it up. Substack will guide you on the procedure.
The help center is always available for any inquiries involving membership, technical difficulties, general support, or feedback. All you have to do is send them a message. In addition, they also handle any subscriber inquiries on behalf of writers, therefore, making it more convenient.
Patreon offers customer service via phone call or email. If you have inquiries, complaints, or concerns, you can call or email any time of day.
In case you have data you want to be modified, deleted, or transported elsewhere, you can also contact them, and they offer the necessary accommodation for you. This allows you as a writer to make any changes to your publication privately.
The customer service for both platforms is very efficient; therefore, this is a tie.
- Substack and Patreon are content monetization websites.
- Besides monetizing content, they also offer benefits to creators.
- Both platforms ensure the security of your personal details from the public on both platforms.
- On both platforms, you only get charged a percentage of the payouts received from your readers or patrons, depending on which platform you are using.
- They both offer an easy set up process.
- Both platforms charge you once you start earning.
- They give users complete control of their content.
- They both have a hosting service.
- While Substack charges a 10% flat fee, Patreon’s pricing varies from 5-12% and has pricing tiers, including the Lite, Pro, and Premium tiers.
- Substack is a subscription platform that is very easy to use, while Patreon is a membership platform that you renew monthly or annually according to your preference and is not so user-friendly, especially for newbies.
- Substack mainly focuses on the discussions of subscribers and how the publishers engage with their readers, while Patreon majors on the comments on each feed post.
- Substack only focuses on writers and podcasters, while Patreon offers room for all kinds of creators.
- While Substack offers a simple design and setting, Patreon has a page that allows users and fans to receive benefits such as ad-free content, offering suggestions, exclusive uploads, and early access to new projects.
- Substack was started in 2017, while Patreon was founded in 2013.
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- Patreon works well for all types of content including podcasts, videos, music, and more.
- You can easily transfer funds to your bank or PayPal account.
- You have control of how much you charge your members.
- You join the platform for free as a writer and only get charged once you start earning.
- There are benefits for using this platform listed by each creator under their membership.
- In case you need a refund, you have to contact the creator you paid, who will decide whether to refund or not.
- There might be high credit card fees for members who pay through credit cards.
- It can be pretty expensive to make fund transfers if you have many members.
- It charges commission.
- You can keep your phone number and any personal details private.
- It is very easy to set up a newsletter on this platform.
- It has a free plan.
- It offers tools to help attract more audiences and price your newsletter appropriately.
- Its hosting service includes tips to help you format your work
- It is limited to creators who only focus on writing and podcasting.
- It has limited features.
- It is not SEO-friendly
- Subscription refunds are only issued at the discretion of the writer. This means that this platform does not handle any payment conflicts between the writer and readers.
On Patreon, all refund requests have to go through the creator first. It’s because all payments are processed directly to the creators, and they are therefore accountable for making the refund decisions.
To request a refund, you need to send a message to the creator through the platform. The creator will review your request, account information, and the payment history of the client. Such information will make it easier for the creator to make an informed decision about a likely refund.
In your request, you should include the amount of refund you are requesting, the original transaction dates, and the reason you need a refund.
In case you fail to receive a response to your request, you can contact Patreon for a refund. Remember, this can happen only if you send a request within ten days of the transaction processing date, according to your statement. If it is past ten days, you can only contact the creator for a refund.
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Patreon knows that piracy is a major fear for many creators. It can also affect patrons who are likely to get scammed on the platform.
That’s why it has imposed copyright laws over the years in the form of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It allows a creator to implement a takedown system where the copyright owner provides a notice to the site where the resources are hosted. The site must then take down the works or face other legal measures for copyright.
Patreon has implemented a ‘charge up front’ payment processing to deal with inquiries about pirate patrons who pledge some amount to acquire tier rewards and later on delete their accounts before paying for them. Doing this ensures that you get paid before patrons start accessing your materials, and patrons are assured of legit materials.
Substack offers a free plan that allows you to create and publish content. But if you want to monetize your content on this platform, you should consider paid subscriptions. The platform will charge you 10% on each subscription and a payment processing fee when you start earning and withdrawing money through Stripe.
Paid subscriptions help you earn some revenue from your content. You also get the chance to engage with your readers from time to time.
Yes, you can use Substack itself as a blog. However, the platform’s function is quite different from that of a traditional blog. While you can self-publish your blog posts, you’ll be limited in customization and design.
Yes, anyone can sign up on Substack. The platform is accessible to new writers and professionals with a large following. Substack lets you start and grow your writing/podcasting career as you earn money and a following.
Both Substack and Patreon are excellent content monetization platforms that offer a variety of benefits to creators. But I would choose Patreon because of the many opportunities it gives to creators.
Patreon offers various categories of content monetization. As a user, you are presented with multiple niche options not just for gaining a following, but also for making more money.
For any creator out there, you want to use a popular platform that will help you build an email list fast and convert it into paying subscribers in no time.
You also want to curate SEO-friendly projects that will appeal to massive audiences. And it’s easier to build relationships when communication with your audience is internal.
Scott L. Macarthur is a marketing consultant and an online author. He is mostly engaged in providing his expertise to startups and SMBs. He is also an author on TheNextWeb.