Patreon Charge Upfront Or Not — Which Option Is Right For You?

patreon true fans

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Each time I receive notification of a new Patreon I get super excited.

I’m excited that a true fan wants to pay to access exclusive content from yours truly. I’m also especially excited because a new true fan means the growth of my Patreon venture as a legitimate revenue stream. But there’s something about Patreon’s payment model for creators that I wish I understood a little better when I first started.

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You see, as I was perusing through the settings of my Patreon backend under Page, Edit Page, and then Getting Paid, I noticed an option to enable “charge Patrons up front”.

This option was confusing to me at first because all along I thought that Patreon already charged people upfront to be able to access the content behind the Paywall. After all, I was seeing per month revenue on my homepage dashboard grow with the sign-up. That however is not how Patreon actually works for creators — by default at least.

How Patreon bills patrons — by default.

Patreon charge upfront payment
Patreon’s default payment method that bills only on the first of the month.

By default, Patreon is set up so that when people sign up for your Patreon are billed on the first of each month. They are not billed anything at all until the first of the month.

The problem with this in theory is that if someone pledges at any tier on the 2nd day of the January, for example, they can delete their pledge that same day, and will have access to ALL of your content for the entire month of January, and when the February 1 eventually rolls around, they will not be billed if their pledge has been deleted.

Another scenario is their payment method gets declined when payment time finally comes. In the meantime, they have gotten all of the benefits of the month, and the creator gets nothing.

Patreon’s charge upfront payment option, and the problem with it?

Patreon upfront payment
Patreon’s upfront payment method that bills upon sign up AND on the first of the month.

When I learned about this I was really shocked. Like seriously, the aforementioned scenarios are madness and isn’t fair to the creator at all.

With Patreon’s charge upfront option, however, instead of being billed only when the first of the month rolls around, patrons are also charged upfront (the entire cost of their chosen tier) when they sign up.

Some may argue that this isn’t fair to the patron. That they are essentially being double billed when they sign up on any day other than the first of the month — for example if they sign up 28 days into a month.

One Redditor argues “If someone joins towards the end of the month, they are charged for the full month and while given access to the existing content on the account, they do not get the immediate benefits of that tier depending on the creator you are pledging to. Then you get billed once again 6 days later for the new pledge so you’re effectively double-charging yourself just to pledge to someone late in the month.”

Here’s how I see it…

I am a creative whose an entrepreneur at heart. In other words, with regards to my art, I’m serious about my money.

I don’t like the idea that work that I’ve produced may be accessed by people who have not earned the right to it by running me my money. Be it intentional or not, it doesn’t feel good as a creator.

I wouldn’t mind one bit if folks are to pay for one month, get the benefits, then delete their pledge and bounce. That’s cool. Not ideal, but cool.

But to not pay anything at all, get the benefits, and bounce? Nah. No bueno.

Either way you look at this predicament, it’s important to consider how you want to do business with your patrons. Additionally, Patreon makes this optional decision a permanent one — once you elect to charge your patrons up front, you cannot undo this.

Devil’s advocate.

Could there be some redeeming quality about Patreons default payment method for creators?

From a marketing standpoint, consider that people are going to be more willing to hit the subscribe button if the pain of payment is in the future. Then the hope is that if they’re not trying to get off without paying, they’ll stick around and eventually be billed the first of the upcoming month.

This “delayed pain” for instant gratification effect may result in more sign-ups overall?

But there are a couple of problems with this concept for creators, however.

Number 1, not everyone necessarily cares about doing right by the creator.

Number 2, (this one I’ve been guilty of myself) sometimes you just want to have access to the exclusive content and support a creator for one month. For the sake of not forgetting, I deleted my pledge right away not even realizing that I will not actually be billed at all, unintentionally cheating the creator out of that first month I wanted to pay for.

My own experience with Patreon’s default payment method.

In my first month on Patreon, I got about 62 signups to my various tiers. By the end of that month, I had 27 cancelations — nearly 50% of lost Patreon revenue (depending on when during the month they signed up)!

Regardless of why patrons canceled, perhaps I have not enough content, not consistent enough, or heck maybe they don’t like the content (although I highly doubt this), the point is they got access to my showroom without paying admission.

What other creators are doing.

I took a look around at how some of the most seemingly very successful Patreon Creators (that I personally follow) are doing it and this is what I found.

Many bigger creators use Patreon’s upfront payment option. And to me, this makes sense.

The truth is, I don’t think real true fans would be opposed to paying a month upfront, even if the next monthly automated payment is just around the corner. I believe they mostly just want to support you as a creator and of course gain access to that exclusive content.

If you feel weird about doing things this way, think of it as an admission fee or initiation fee to your content.

Patreon Charge Upfront Payment Takeaway

Some of us creatives and content creators can be apprehensive to collect money for our work. If that sounds like you, stop that shit! You put your blood, sweat, tears, and creativity into your work and deserve to be paid for it. Furthermore, true fans are happy to pay to support you.

That’s my little rant on Patreon’s charge upfront option. With those points made, I’ll be making the permanent switch for my own account and encourage you to consider doing the same.

What are your thoughts on Patreon’s upfront payment option? Do you think it’s good or bad for patrons? How about for creators? Drop down and share your thoughts in the comments below.