To Patreon or not to Patreon, that is the question

Over the summer the interest in the personal development group waned, and I had a lot going on (see previous entry) so I closed the Patreon service. I have a really strong ethical stance about doing things properly or not doing them at all, and I felt like I wasn’t giving good value for money.

But now I’m feeling a bit better, and applications have opened for 2016 entry, I need to figure out whether to re-open the Patreon account and/or whether to offer any kind of professional development support this year. As I said on the forum, it has always been a bit of a thorny issue to navigate:

clinpsy has done a lot to make advice available to all and to undermine the market for paid for services, but it is unrealistic to expect an endless supply of personalised advice for free to be provided by just a few individuals (I do 20+ form reviews every year, and often 2-3 days of helping people prepare for interview).

Historically we’ve only ever had charges that are below half of the market rates, and they have mainly gone to charitable causes that are nothing to do with the person providing the service (eg I’ve asked people to donate to big noise/systema scotland and to the little lives appeal to refurb the neonatal unit at my local hospital, bluecat asked for donations to a school – average donation under £10) and I did personal and professional development days which went to our social enterprise therapy subsidy fund to allow people to access low cost therapy if they couldn’t get an NHS service (£24 per person for up to 15 people, whilst I lost £800/day of other income by putting them on, and spent £70+ on catering).

But now I’m self-employed this has been more and more difficult to do (don’t forget I’m a single individual clinician supporting a family who is already making a loss by providing out of my own pocket without any charges to users) so I then moved to testing a model in which we asked people to subscribe via patreon and offered to have regular discussions and blogs, which some people used to get their applications reviewed. That was money for my time, but it was time I used to blog, and make a couple of videos, and run online discussions and workshops as well as to do individual advice.

It is a very difficult balance for me to find a comfortable solution to. I get paid several hundred pounds to speak at conferences these days, and yet here I am criticised for asking for £5 per person per month for workshops; likewise I have to turn down work paying £100 in the time it takes for reviewing a form, but there are lots of negative judgements about the tier of patreon subscription for that costing £20 or so. So at the moment I have turned this off again.

I don’t mean to sound defensive about it. In an ideal world it would be free. But in an ideal world, we’d have enough adverts on here to cover the costs and/or I’d not have a mortgage to pay!

So, what is the right path here? Do I just keep the blog as but stop doing the personal development stuff and keep the Patreon account off? Or do I revert to offering form reviews for a donation to our therapy subsidy fund, and/or doing some workshops on a similar basis. Or do I use Patreon to fund my time and trust that people only subscribe if they think it is worth it to them?

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