Patreon cuts deep inside creators’ pockets

I recently requested my Patreon supporters to move their patronage to my Donorbox so I can avoid Patreon’s high platform fees.

Lately I came to realize that the actual cut Patreon takes from us creators is far higher than the cleverly advertised ~8-10%, which isn’t low to begin with. For example, there are additional charges for non-US PayPal payments as well as separate currency conversion fees that are mysteriously high at 2.5%. Patreon sells the latter to creators as a “feature” that can help get more patrons. Well, at least I haven’t noticed any change in the rate of new patrons in the nearly one year I've had the feature turned on.

When considering all factors, including standard payout processing fees, the real cut incurred by a creator on Patreon is often a stark ~14-17% depending on the exact scenario. This is too high for a platform essentially only acting as a middle manager for supporting recurring payments.

So I looked into switching my account to Patreon Lite, which has lower base fees. But doing so strips away every bit of useful functionality, including being able to offer multiple donation levels. On Lite, I can’t even decide how much to ask from my readers by default, presumably because lower support amounts result in higher fees.

Like everyone else, I thought that being on Patreon could help my work reach more people and get more patrons due to its network effects and brand trust. But that’s clearly not the case in any way. Patreon has never advertised small, niche creators like me either via their social channels or the non-existential discovery mechanisms on their network. It’s been disappointing and deceitful.

So about a year ago I started offering my Donorbox as the primary, preferred way for readers to support my work. Donorbox has a 5x lower base fee, and all additional charges are transparently conveyed.

If you’re supporting a creator on Patreon, it might be worth taking the time to cancel your support for them there and continue with another better option they might be offering. You’ll be paying the same amount but the creator you’re supporting will get more out of it due to lower fees.

Edit: This post made it to the front page of Hacker News. Many creators agreed and shared similar issues, and many interesting discussions are also on there on what might be happening on the infrastructure end behind the scenes.

Image asset credits: Patreon / Elionas. Image: Jatan Mehta

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