I had been considering moving away from Patreon since the end of 2019. I started looking into how I would do it, casually looking into Patreon competitors in 2020 but didn't have enough time to spend on building it so decided to return to it in 2021. I also spent some time in Membership Academy (a membership about how to run a membership!) for a month (last year and this) and did as much research as I could on options outside of Patreon. Membership Academy are mainly concentrated on Wordpress based plugins and membership building, but they also have a whole roadmap on how to build and launch your own membership which is great if it's not something you've done before.
Some of you won't find this remotely interesting unless you are actually interested in doing what I've done, there is lots of talk of website building and platforms ahead!
If you are thinking of creating your own site, I would give yourself a good six months to research and build (certainly the building part will take you longer if you're not familiar with WP).
The platform options I looked into which talked about being competitors to Patreon were:
- Squarespace membership (new & part of their platform)
Then plugins available that I looked at were:
- MemberSpace (plugs in to WP & Squarespace & a few more)
- Digital Access Pass
- Member Mouse
- Restrict Content Pro
- Woo Commerce memberships/subscriptions
I should also mention I briefly looked at (and by brief, I mean a few seconds!) MyKajabi which is a platform to build courses/subscriptions on, but it is VERY expensive and would only be feasible if you had hundreds signing up. I'm not remotely in that league!
My own website is run with Shopify which is excellent but unfortunately does not work with any plugins in order to make it into a working membership. If I had already had a Wordpress website as my base site it would have been a lot easier (and cheaper!) as It would have just been a matter of using one of the many WP plugins. So those of you considering building your own who are already familiar with WP, you have a massive advantage as the majority of great plugins for this purpose are with them! I could also have set up something with Squarespace if my site had been based with them as MemberSpace will plug in to them (and is more secure than Squarespace's own membership making abilities... or so my research found), but it was cheaper for me to build on WP than Squarespace.
What did I choose?
Wordpress + MemberPress + Mailchimp
I was left with building my own site using Wordpress. I used to run my main website on WP years ago and left it because I hated it! It is SO endlessly customisable and it is not friendly to anyone who's not either tech savvy or someone who is very familiar with the platform. It is possible to build a site very cheaply with them though which is a bonus! Just as an example of difference of ease - if I had built this using Squarespace (or another easy to build drag and drop like Duda etc) then it would have taken me maybe a week to build the pages of Mysterious Corner. This took me 3-4 weeks!! And honestly I'm still whittling and perfecting behind the scenes and learning as I go!
MemberPress has been really simple to set up as they have pages and pages of articles on how to do so and their customer service is brilliant. It was the plugin most recommended by Membership Academy and having used it now for a couple of months I can say that I'm very pleased with it! It's also got a really great option of being able to make courses - something I will be using in future to make some mini painting workshops.
One thing I needed to figure out was how I was going to let my members know I'd made a new post. There were a few options of plugins for this (email marketing ones) and I initially chose MailPoet. This unfortunately caused a massive drain on 'CPU seconds' (still not entirely sure what this is haha!), but the bottom line was it was going to stop my website working. I have since replaced this with the MailChimp add-on which is part of the free add-ons you can get with MemberPress. I set this up to post once a week and it sends a link to the page for folks to go and see what posts I made that week. It's really simple to set up too and as with other things, loads of videos etc on how to do that.
A WORD OF WARNING
If you are thinking of moving your patrons from Patreon, make sure to give them lots of warning in advance. I started mentioning it last year and many said they would not follow (for perfectly good reasons), and others were keen.
The majority of my patrons from Patreon have not followed me to my new membership. There are a few reasons for this, but many want to stay on Patreon so they can continue to support other creators (since they support several on there) and don't want to move over. Or prefer a known/familiar platform than an unknown one like my site. Others don't want to move because they were just supporting in a tip jar capacity on Patreon and I have not (yet) made it an option on my new membership. I have also changed the prices of many of my tiers and am presenting it in Pounds rather than Dollars - I was not able to continue with the $30 commission tier since shipping prices had gone up several times since I started that tier and after Patreon takes its fees, that was unfortunately not viable anymore. I also never expect my patrons to stay with me indefinitely! I am hugely grateful for all the support they have given me over the past five years.
In 2020 I lost quite a large chunk of patrons because of covid, and I felt that I would rather start promoting my own page this year instead of trying to build Patreon again when I wasn't happy with the platform at all and subsequently am at the whim of the changes they make there.
There was always going to be a risk to move and I now have to build my membership again from almost the ground up. The irony of this is that it's Patreon which has made this possible since it gave me more time to work on my Kickstarter projects which in turn gave me more independence from client work!
Just be aware that if you do make a move that you could potentially be starting from scratch again. If Patreon is your main source of income, this might be a little risky! I know other Patreon creators who have moved to their own platform who kept taking payments from Patreon from those who wanted to still support them there. There are so many ways to do it!
An Exciting Future
Despite finding myself with less patrons, I am incredibly optimistic and excited about what is ahead with Mysterious Corner! Now that I have total control over how it looks and what I can do there, it feels very freeing.
I have some fun mini painting workshops planned too for later this year which will involve painting creatures, atmospheric effects with watercolour and loads more!