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I was trying to get back to creating today, and as I reluctantly updated my Patreon, I was reminded of a major problem with the world of patronage and donations. That problem is the idea that you should lie to your potential fans and customers, and pretend to be successful, even if, in reality, you’re struggling to survive. Why? Well, apparently, society is so broken that no one wants to give to the needy, they’d rather give to people that don’t need it. If you think that’s insane, good. That means you’re not a lost cause. If that makes sense to you, and it’s how you work… Well, the this article is for you.
I learned of this insanity a couple years ago when I was working on my Patreon page. Several articles insisted that you NEVER allow your patrons to think you’re in need. Hide the truth, evade, lie if you have to, but never let anyone know you’re not successful already. No matter what, you need to look successful, like any donations you get are cool, but you totally don’t need them. You see, in our broken, backwards society, people are more likely to donate to someone who looks successful than someone who’s struggling. If a creator needs support to get their dream going, they won’t get money, but someone who’s already making it will. It’s insane, but true. Even Success Magazine is still pushing this in 2021, telling you to “present your successful self” to clients, because, I guess t-shirt and jeans you, working on your 10-year-old computer and eating Ramen in your nana’s basement, isn’t very appealing to the wealthy folks, no matter how awesome your work is.
I’m not even going to pretend I understand this. It’s crazy. To me, if I see two people creating blue widgets of fairly equal quality, and I wanted to support a blue widget maker, I’d give to the one who’s talking about running out of widget parts and having a hard time learning social media, not the one who’s selling 50 widgets a day and has 1M Twitter followers. It’s just common sense. Is it possible the one expressing hardship is lying to get my donation? Yeah, but apparently the successful one could be too, and if not, they’re successful, they don’t need my money. I’ll risk the little guy. It’s a pretty pessimistic view to mistrust the struggling creator. If that’s not what it’s about, then I don’t know. It’s like saying you prefer to give your money to Amazon instead of the mom-and-pop down the road, for the same item, because… yeah, I’m at a loss there. The little guy probably makes something that’s better, more unique, and they just deserve to be paid for what they do. There’s no logical reason for donating to the established creator, unless you truly like them or what they do better.
The whole thing makes me sick inside. This mentality not only makes struggling creators with a conscience suffer, because we won’t lie to get your money, but it just creates a whole environment of dishonesty, and fake-ness, and for what? I would think that as a potential fan or patron, you’d feel better buying from or donating to the creator who’s not “there” yet. Your $20 means a lot more to them than it does to someone who already makes thousands. You’re providing more value to the smaller creator. It should make you feel better.
What’s worse is that I’ve seen it implied that not only should creators pretend to be successful, we should pretend to be neurotypical and healthy. We should never let our fans or patrons see that we’re less than perfect. I don’t even get that. You shouldn’t use your issues to manipulate people for money, but those issues and conditions are part of who you are. I’m not going to lie and make up some excuse for not working all week when I could just say “Sorry, between my arthritis and my depression, I was just out of spoons this week.” and I’m certainly not going to kill myself working through rough days, just because some shallow patron, or patron that I’ve purposely misled, expects me to be perfect.
I’m personally tired of seeing the Instagram-perfect people, smiling and laughing, with their expensive studios, creating expensive work, getting all the money, while so many of us are giving up our dreams because we don’t have the funds, looks, or personality to compete. Does the Insta-perfect creator deserve a living? Of course, if their work is good. Does Average Alex in their sweats, living out of their car, deserve a living? Abso-fucking-lutely. And if I had a dollar to spare, I know who I’d give it to.
Obviously, you should buy products from and become a patron to someone who produces content you honestly support. You’ve got to like what they do. Even if all you like is their spunk and determination. But all other things being equal, give your money and support to the smaller creator, the struggling creator, the health atypical creator. Look beyond the shiny social media (if there is any) and see the real person. See their drive, their passion, their wants and dreams. Help someone’s dream become a reality, help someone reach a higher plane, instead of giving more to someone who’s already up there.