A Billfold Patreon Q&A

So The Billfold has a Patreon now?

Yep! Have you seen it? I’m so excited.

What’s Patreon?

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that allows users to support creative projects through monthly pledges. Here’s where you go to pledge.

So it’s like a subscription?

Not exactly. We’re not setting up a paywall where subscribers get access to The Billfold and non-subscribers don’t. We want to keep The Billfold free for everybody.

But I get something for my pledge, right? Something special?

Of course! Everyone who pledges gets access to a weekly Billfold newsletter that highlights some of our best posts and comments. I’ll try to throw in some extra money news, too. Something like “the oddest financial story I read this week.”

Other Patreons have, like, six different reward tiers. Why aren’t you doing that?

Two reasons:

  1. Every reward we give costs us time and money, which means we would need to use some of our Patreon revenue to cover the time and money it takes to create and distribute rewards. That means less money to pay writers and editors, and fewer stories on The Billfold.
  2. I don’t want to split the readership. We did consider rewards like “everyone who pledges above a certain level gets a bonus podcast episode,” but what fun is a podcast episode that only twenty people will ever hear? You are the best comment section on the internet and I will not tear you apart by dividing you into reward tiers based on what you can afford to pledge at the moment.

Oh hey, about that “what I can afford to pledge at the moment” thing. What if I need to decrease my pledge in the future?

You can decrease your pledge at any time. Here’s how. Please don’t feel badly about it, either — I’ve reduced or canceled Patreon pledges myself, and it’s no big deal.

What if I can only afford to pledge once? Is there a way to do that?

Right now, the best way to make a one-time pledge is to pledge this month and cancel it next month, after they bill your card for the initial pledge. Here’s how.

I know that’s kind of a junky way of doing it, and I’ve heard your requests to add a one-time donation button to the site. We may do that in the future, but right now we need to see how much continuous support we’re likely to receive so we know how many Billfold features we can afford to run next month.

I guess you understand why charities and non-profits prefer monthly donations to lump sums now.

Yes, I totally do, and I’ll be changing some of my donation strategies.

What is my pledge paying for? 

When you go to The Billfold’s Patreon page, you’ll see a list of goals. Each goal is based around a specific number of guest features and editor features. (Guest features are articles written by freelance writers; editor features are, at present, all written by me.)

For example: if we hit our $2,276 SMALL BILLS goal, we’ll be able to run three guest features and two editor features per week (that is, one feature per day) plus the short daily posts like Monday Estimate/Share Your Success Tuesday.

That $2,276 figure includes the money required to pay me, the money required to pay guest writers, a little bit of money for hosting costs and for paid services like G Suite, and a lot of money for taxes. We don’t have to pay for office space, thank goodness.

How much money do guest writers get, again?

$40 per piece. We wish it could be more, which is why we added a Patreon goal to increase what we pay our writers.

What if the guest writers offered to write for free?

That’s a possibility, but I don’t like to encourage people to write for free.

Also: even if a guest writer offers to write for free, we still need money to pay for my work on the guest writer’s post: editing, image sourcing, communicating with the writer, scheduling, long-term programming (choosing theme months, managing the pitch inbox, picking pieces that work well together), social media, comment moderation, etc. etc. etc.

Wait, so how much are you getting paid?

It depends on which Patreon goal we reach. The shortest explanation is that I get paid per piece; I also do admin work, as noted above, but that’s rolled into the per-piece rate. Once we hit SMALL BILLS, for example, I’ll get $1,500 per month to write and/or edit 11 pieces each week… and maintain the pitch inbox, do all the scheduling and communication, manage the finances, manage social media and comments, etc. etc. etc.

How can you manage on $1,500 per month?

I do a lot of other freelancing. (Have you seen my work for Lifehacker?) I’ll scale my outside freelancing up or down depending on which Patreon goal level we hit.

Can the goal level change from month to month?

Yes! The current month’s content will be based on the previous month’s goal. For example: if we hit SMALL BILLS by January 31, then we run SMALL BILLS content through February. If we hit MEDIUM BILLS on February 2 — which gives us both an editor and a guest feature every day, plus Monday Check-In, etc. — we won’t start running MEDIUM BILLS until March 1.

This is because Patreon pays per month, so the amount that gets pledged in January hits our bank account in February and has to cover expenses for the entire month. (And so on.)

What happens if we don’t hit SMALL BILLS by January 31?

We run SMALL BILLS programming anyway and I take a pay cut.

I wish that you and the writers could get paid more.

So do I! That’s why we worked it into our Patreon goals. It’s worth noting that the “pay our guest writers more” goal fulfills before the “pay our writers and editors more” goal. I want The Billfold to be about you, and I want to support as many writers as possible.

What about sponsorships? 

Do you mean “what if we got a corporation to sponsor us” or “what if we got an individual to sponsor a series, the way The Toast did?”

If you are that corporation and/or that individual, here’s how to get in touch with us.

Is the site still going to have ads?

We haven’t decided yet. It kind of depends on what happens with the Patreon.

How can I help spread the word?

The usual methods should work: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Put us in your TinyLetter! Tell people in person! Tell your journalist friend to write about us for their news and culture site! (I am always available for interviews.)

You don’t have to just share our Patreon, either. Share our articles! Tell people about our amazing comment section and invite them to join the conversation.

I have other questions!

Ask ’em in the comments! And — as always — thank you for your support and your readership, whether or not you choose to contribute to the Patreon.

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