Patreon. Kickstarter. Indiegogo. They’re all platforms that allow you to raise money for your creative endeavors, but the business models and use cases for each differ considerably. Which one will best support your work? Which is better for recurring monthly income vs a one-time fundraiser? Which tool set makes your life the easiest? How do the payouts compare?
In this article, we’ll break down how each platform works, what tools they have to offer, and who can best succeed on each platform. To kick things off, here’s a summary of useful information about each platform:
|The Three Platforms at a Glance|
|Funding model||Recurring: monthly or per creation||One-time: all-or-nothing||One-time: all-or-nothing OR keep-what-you-raise|
|Payouts||Every month||Campaign completion||Campaign completion or ongoing|
|Size||2,000,000+ active patrons; 100,000+ active creators||15,000,000 total backers; 149,000+ funded projects||9,000,000+ total backers; ~7,000 active campaigns at any given time|
|Fees||5% plus payment processing (3-5%)||5% plus payment processing (3-5%)||5% plus payment processing (3% + 0.30 per transaction)|
|Best for...||Creators with an audience||One-off projects||Funding new products|
Are you a creator with an existing audience? Try Patreon and offer your fans rewards in exchange for a predictable, monthly income.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo are both crowdfunding platforms. You offer to make a product and distribute it to backers, given enough money. Patreon is not a crowdfunding platform; it’s actually a membership platform.
The biggest reason to choose one platform over the other is the kind of business model you want to use. In this section, we’ll dive into those business models.
Patreon is designed for creators to offer recurring rewards for consistent support from patrons— the people who are your biggest fans. Patrons are there to support you for the long-haul (as opposed to “backers” who pledge support for one-off projects). Rarely are patrons strangers who stumble upon your Patreon project; instead, they’re often long-time followers who have been enjoying your content for some time. Here are a few examples of creators whose work is funded by patrons on Patreon:
- Nate Maingard, who releases music, videos, podcasts, and other content using funds from Patreon
- Irshad Karim, who teaches art to his Reddit followers
- Kati Morton, who produces YouTube videos on mental and emotional health
- The Bitcoin Pub, which offers educational resources and community to those interested in cryptocurrency.
It doesn’t matter what you’re creating as long as you have fans who want to support you. Most creators find that their patrons support them for a mix of reasons: many just want to give back to the creators they’ve followed over the years, but they also come for the ‘extras’ that only patrons get—everything from ‘behind-the-scenes’ insight to merch packages.
Many creators who chose Patreon do so because of the ongoing nature of support. It makes it easier to plan projects and sustain artistic efforts when you know roughly how much money you’ll receive from it each month.
Kickstarter is designed to support creatives and inventors for specific, time-limited endeavors. If you have a one-time project you’d like to bring to light (such as printing Volume One of your webcomic), then Kickstarter is an ideal place to make that happen. Some examples include…
- Michelle Czajkowski, who funded printed copies of her comic, Ava’s Demon
- Amanda Palmer, who released a new album through Kickstarter
- Matthew and Mark McLachlan, who invented the “Fidget Cube”
- Elan Lee, who designed the game “Exploding Kittens”
One of the benefits of running a campaign on Kickstarter is that you may get additional exposure from the platform. The company highlights “Projects We Love” to get it in front of site visitors who browse projects. However, getting featured means you have to meet all their criteria, and even then it isn’t guaranteed.
It’s worth noting that a number of well-known creators on Patreon (such as Michelle Czajkowsi and Amanda Palmer, noted above) built their fan base, funded a project with Kickstarter, then brought their fans to Patreon for more sustainable support.
“I love Kickstarter. I love the ethos. I love the people and I love it for what it's good for: big pushes to make a one-time project manifest,” Amanda commented in a recent interview. “But Kickstarter as a musician isn't sustainable. If you want to make serial content, it's like asking someone to subscribe to a magazine every two weeks. It's not the way you do it.”
If you do have a one-time, well-defined project you’d like to bring to life, then the Kickstarter model makes a lot of sense. And the platform is known for a diversity of projects; you don’t have to be an experienced businessperson to make it work for you.
The only downside? Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform. If you don’t meet your minimum funding goal, you won’t see any of the money you raised. At the same time, this is a way of protecting creators and backers from projects getting stuck part way through completion.
Indiegogo is better known to the community as a place where inventors and entrepreneurs in their early business stages can bring a product to market. The platform is smaller than Kickstarter, but has more flexible funding models.
If you release a project through Indiegogo, you have three options:
- One time payment, all-or-nothing style
- One time payment, keep-what-you-earned style
- Ongoing payment collection, paid out continuously after the initial ‘end date’
If you have a physical product that you could fund over time but don’t want to issue regular rewards or maintain a relationship with your audience, Indiegogo is the clear winner over the other two platforms.
Many of the projects funded on Indiegogo have been similar to Kickstarter projects. Here are a few examples:
- Feast & Fettle, a meal subscription service looking for investor funding
- Bristly Brushing Stick, a toothbrush for dogs
- An album for solo violin
- Flow Hive 2, Indiegogo’s most successful project ever
As far as exposure is concerned, Indiegogo is somewhere between Patreon and Kickstarter in terms of ‘extra’ promotion. It’s easy to navigate projects on the site and many projects benefit from Indiegogo’s existing backer population.
Ultimately, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the most similar. They both offer the opportunity to crowdfund specific projects or items. Since both platforms are older than Patreon, they currently have a larger built-in audience for entrepreneurs still working to build an audience.
Patreon, on the other hand, is a membership platform that helps creators offer recurring rewards in exchange for regular support. The platform is designed for creators who already have an audience; most successful creators use the platform to engage with their biggest fans on a deeper level, maintain creative control of their projects, and build a sustainable career.
What do each of the platforms have to offer their users in terms of tools and integrations? This section explores the features that help users succeed on each platform.
Patreon has—by far—the most diverse range of tools and integrations to assist the creators on their platform. These tools focus on ways to help creators manage communication, engagement, and fulfilment.
As expected, creators with a Patreon account can gain insight into and manage their campaign from a single dashboard. Data provided is integrated with Google Analytics, so you can even see info on where your new patrons are coming from. The public-facing page has a place for your campaign description, reward tiers, private or public posts, and community interactions.
Beyond the basics, Patreon has a growing list of features and integrations designed to help with long-term campaign management. Below are just a handful of examples.
Patreon Lens is a tool that helps creators offer ‘behind the scenes’ content to their audience. It’s not used or needed by every creator, but those who do use it describe it as a real time-saver.
Any patron can quickly see and enjoy updates that creators send.
This new tool from Patreon helps creators keep track of reward fulfillment. Knowing who is due which reward at which time can get a little tricky. Now, creators on Patreon can set up reminders and automatic fulfilment tracking so they always know what to send their patrons & when.
Many creators find that their fans/followers enjoy congregating in a common space to discuss ideas, hang out, and support each other. Patreon’s Discord integration allows you to gate access to a private Discord server by reward tier. For example, you could grant access to all patrons at the $3/mo and up level.
Some creators even offer special recognition within the server, such as brightly colored usernames. Doing so encourages patrons to move up in tiers for recognition in their community.
Patreon’s integration with Wordpress allows creators to gate access to exclusive blog content on their websites. Non-patrons can see that the posts exist, but will be prompted to sign up as patrons if they try to click on the content.
For example, Laura Lawless of Lawless French uses the plugin to gate access to ‘the word of the day,’ a reward offered only to patrons.
Patreon uses Crowdcast to provide the option to host live streams for your patrons directly from the Patreon platform. The service supports real-time commenting, polling, and Q&A during the livestreams.
*Note that using Crowdcast with Patreon is not free: Creators get a 10% discount on services after a one-month free trial.
Discourse is a simple but powerful tool that makes it easy to run and manage a patron-only community forum. You can use it to facilitate community interactions or run a Q&A session—it’s up to you. Pricing varies depending on how many users you have.
While Kickstarter has a notably smaller collection of tools and integrations, it does provide everything needed for a successful campaign.
Like Patreon, it has a private dashboard where you can view information about your backers and manage your campaign. It is also integrated with Google Analytics.
The platform supports direct messages between you and your backers and comes with a collaborators tool so you can give assistants access to the campaign.
In addition, there were a few noteworthy tools.
Most Kickstarter campaigns promise the delivery of physical goods, which means you need to collect info like physical address, phone number, email address, etc. While you could use any survey platform you like, Kickstarter has a built-in survey tool that keeps things simple.
For those of you who want to keep backers up to date (and that should be all of you), you have options. You can post public or backer-only updates on your Kickstarter campaign page. But you can also use Kickstarter Live to kick off a livestream and invite your backers to see what’s happening. The stream is recorded (including any chat, Q&A, or other interactions that happen during the stream).
Kickstarter automatically tracks traffic from easily identifiable sources (such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth). It breaks down how many pledges and the dollar values you received from each source, as shown below.
But if you want more information about that “Direct traffic” section, you can share links with custom referral tags in email blasts and other posts. That way, you’re able to get a better read on which platforms you should focus your attention for future campaigns.
Amazon Launchpad has a page reserved exclusively for funded, physical Kickstarter products. There’s no guarantee that your product, if funded, will make it onto their list. But launching on Kickstarter is one way to catch the eye of the Launchpad team and get help selling on Amazon post-launch.
There’s no up-front cost to using Launchpad, but you must commit to selling to Amazon at wholesale pricing (and if you want to sign up as an Amazon seller, they still take their regular cut).
*Not available to everyone and not free.
As far as additional features are concerned, Indiegogo has the least of all three platforms. That said, it has a robust presentation of data (gathered with Google Analytics) in its user dashboard. Like the other two platforms, it also has an app.
You can see things like dollars raised per day, general traffic sources, and more. Other tabs in the dashboard help you organize your “perks” (aka, rewards) offered and keep track of backers.
Here are a few more noteworthy tools and features.
Under the “perks” tab of the dashboard, you can figure out who has received their stuff, who hasn’t, and what you need to do to finish fulfillment. It shows information like contribution numbers, transaction dates and amounts, fulfilled perks, and contact information for backers.
Typically, contact information is gathered from backers when they submit their payment so you don’t have to chase them down for their info.
InDemand is a tool that enables a campaign to keep accepting payments after the scheduled end date. It’s intended to keep funds coming during that awkward time between campaign end and regular sales.
Indiegogo users can opt into the program, and those who haven’t used Indiegogo can still use the tool (albeit with a higher fee charged). It offers some flexibility for inventors who don’t want the funds to stop when the official campaign end date passes, but for whom regular, recurring membership doesn’t make sense, either.
For entrepreneurs interested in a brick & mortar presence, Indiegogo teamed up with Brookstone in 2018 to offer new options for successfully funded products. It’s not free and it doesn’t come with guaranteed placement, but Indiegogo users who are interested can apply (and receive discounts if chosen to participate). More information is in their announcement.
Each platform has a variety of tools that their users need to run a successful campaign. Patreon is heavily in tune with creatives, offering an array of tools that make it easier for ongoing fulfillment of rewards. Kickstarter has the second largest set, prioritizing what you need for decision-making and communication during the campaign. Indiegogo has the fewest tools, but what they do have works very well.
Ah, the money question. How much do you keep and when do you get it? This section examines the financial benefits and drawbacks of using each platform.
Patreon charges 5% of all your earnings, plus payment processors take their cut (varies from 3-5%). Different processors are used for different regions, all with the goal of keeping as many creators funded as possible.
For creators whose campaigns are based on monthly contributions, payments are collected on the first of the month and distributed shortly thereafter. If you’re charging per creation, then patrons are charged each time you release a new ‘paid’ item (that doesn’t stop you from releasing ‘free’ creations whenever you like).
Kickstarter, like Patreon, charges 5% of your earnings for services rendered plus payment processing fees (also typically in the 3-5% range).
The difference here is that you will only see that money if your campaign is funded successfully. Should you meet your goal, you will get everything you raised in one, lump-sum payment 14 days after the campaign ends.
Like the other platforms, Indiegogo takes a 5% cut of your earnings for itself. Payment processing is a little different, however: it’s a straight 3% fee plus $0.30 per transaction. If you have a few high-dollar tiers, you’ll end up paying less than if you have many low-dollar backers.
In terms of when you get the money, that’s up to you. If you choose to use an all-or-nothing campaign, you’ll only see the money at the end if you’re successful. If you choose keep-what-you-earned, you’ll get however much money you earned. In both cases, the money is sent to you 15 days after your campaign ends.
And if you continue your campaign through InDemand, you’ll have more payments rolling in over time.
There aren’t too many differences between Patreon, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. They all charge the same flat rate (5%) for their service, and payment processing fees vary slightly. Payouts all depend on what type of campaign you run. In other words: It’s good stuff to know, but shouldn’t affect your decision much.
So is there a clear winner here? Not at all! Each platform has different advantages suited for different people. For ongoing support of creative entrepreneurs, Patreon is the clear winner. For one-time project funding, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are both solid options. You’ll have to decide what matters to you (site size, toolset, etc.) and choose accordingly.
That said, many people have used more than one platform over time. Patreon creators are known to produce special projects on Kickstarter, then bring that audience with them to Patreon. And it’s not unheard of for inventors to start on Kickstarter and switch to Indiegogo (or vice-versa).
Once you’ve decided what’s right for your business, your choice of platform(s) should become clear.
Are you a creator looking for long-term support? Try Patreon.