Getting paid for your creative work online is quite a task to accomplish. Just ask high profile newspapers who have been trying to find sustainable models for their digital editions, experimenting with pay-walls combined with the usual advertising revenue model, and perhaps now hoping iPad edition subscriptions might be the salvation. And just imagine all those games, movies, products or book ideas that never get out, simply because the ‘ideator’ can’t afford to leave his or her day job and drive the creation forward. So the questions is, what can you do, if you are not already a big household name, but still hope to make a bit of cash on your musings or creations?
I would personally take a look at Flattr or Kickstarter. Both are in the business of building platforms and services to support content creators that aren’t a part of the mainstream minority. They also share the idea of enabling P2P, Person-to-Person transactions online, in other words facilitating transactions of small sums of money. Flattr and Kickstarter are not competitors; they simply support different creative processes. The first via social micro payments, the second via crowd funding.
Getting “Flattrd” regularly?
Flattr, founded in 2010 by Peter Sunde (known from ThePirateBay) and Linus Olsson, has the premise to help people share money, not just content. Creators such as bloggers, online video producers, software developers and other content creators can integrate a Flatttr button into their sites and postings, to enable support clicks – hence working a bit like a tip jar. ReadWriteWeb described the Flattr concept as “… takes the concept behind the Digg or Facebook “Like” button and backs it with real money”. The underlying thought is, instead of paying up front for content we don’t know whether we like, we first enjoy the content for free, then perhaps choose to support future content production by clicking the Flattr button. To work this means that users have to be a part of the Flattr community to be able to donate, and thus it has the barriers of both creating an account and transferring money (min. €2 a month). But once this is done, the micro donations are performed smoothly.
As I see it, the Flattr concept might become a working cash-flow model for creators of content that goes along with a classic subscription or follower model. That said, to be successful the Flattr button still needs to reach a much wider audience to be viable. Germany, I believe, is yet the only market where Flattr can showcase success stories like the Alternativlos case. Even though the Flattr button has been clicked more than 882.000 times since launch, this does not yet imply a mass adoption. But on the other hand: if no one gets involved, then we never know whether this model might work. For creators it doesn’t cost anything to put the Flattr button onto their sites – unless you count in the 10% Flattr take from the incoming revenue they otherwise wouldn’t have the possibility to obtain.
But what if your creative work is a one off idea or production? For that purpose, you should take a look at the Kickstarter crowd funding platform.
Kickstart a creative project
Kickstarter, founded in in 2008 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler, utilizes crowd funding. Instead of chasing the reoccurring clicks, a creator creates a pitch for getting his or her next project funded, before the work actually starts. And many have already done this with success. Kickstarter has helped independent movie makers, authors and product innovators to find both fans and investors. In 2011 Kickstarter promoted more than 27.086 projects, had +30 million visitors, who pledged $99,344,382, which to me states that they are a very strong hub.
To get your project on Kickstarters platform, you need to apply and get your project verified. You also have to realize that this is not a matter of charity – it’s a real transaction between you and your future investors, so you need to be a marketeer too. You basically reward your investors with anything from putting their names on your product(ion) to paying them with first copies etc. according to how much they are willing to back you up with. Most important is that you have to set a goal of time and money, which becomes the make it or break it milestone of your project. It’s tough. Unless you get your target amount fully pledged, within your funding period, you simply don’t get funded.
The Kickstarter community is alive and vibrant, but one major issues seen from an international point of view is that Kickstarter only uses Amazon’s Payments Service to enable their all-or-nothing funding method. This unfortunately also means that only people with a U.S. bank account can support or use the platform. PleaseFund.Us and Indiegogo offers alternative platforms, but don’t appear to have reached the same level as Kickstarter. And don’t forget – the crowd funding platforms only provide the hub, it’s up to the ideator to get the word out and rally e.g. via social media channels.
Many small streams…
For both Flattr and Kickstarter, the underlying philosophy goes quite well with the Scandinavian saying of: “Mange bække små, gør en stor å”, which translates into something like: “Many small streams make a mighty river”. The beauty of the web is, that we have the possibility to connect all these streams, once we have the tools available.
Flattrs concept of social micro payment does adds a new layer of complexity to blogs, tweets or any other social network, and the Kickstarter crowd funding model currently needs better payment options and (g)local taxation laws to free the content production from national borders, but they do propose new ways of consuming, supporting and curating content that probably wouldn’t be produced by mainstream vendors.
What’s your opinion. Would you sign up for Flattr or a similar company? Or have you perhaps tried to get your project funded on Kickstarter or Indiegogo? Did you get funded?
This article is also published at Media Tapper