Ko-fi Review: Better Than Patreon?

Ko-fi review Rebecca Spelman

Like most artists, I make a lot of free content. My blog is free, and I have no intention of changing that. It’s not unusual for artists of any discipline to put their work online for free. Some do it to build their brand, some do it to help others, and some do it just because they love to share their creations.

However, it can be nice to give your audience the option to pay for your services. Platforms like Patreon and Buy Me A Coffee allow you to create what I call a “virtual tip jar”- a place where someone can give you a small amount of money as a way of saying thanks for what you do. There are a lot of these services around, and I wanted to see which one would be the best for me. From what I’ve discovered, Ko-fi seems to be the best of the bunch. Here’s why it’s my favourite, and how it stacks up against its competitors.

How Ko-fi works

Ko-fi is an online service that allows you to receive money from people who enjoy your work. You set up an account and connect it to your PayPal, meaning people can donate small amounts of money with just the click of a button.

The idea behind Ko-fi is that your audience can donate the same amount as a cup of coffee, which is why I call it a virtual tip jar. This creates a different mindset to a paywall or subscription service. It’s a one-payment, it’s a small amount, and it’s completely optional.

I turned to Ko-fi because I didn’t like the idea of Patreon. I didn’t want to create work that only those who could afford it would be able to access. I also didn’t want the pressure of creating extra content for a Patreon channel. With Ko-fi, I can continue to put out work as normal, and someone can donate a few Euro if they’d like to show their appreciation.

Ko-fi Gold

There are two versions of Ko-fi; the original free version and Ko-fi Gold, which costs $6 a month. I’ve been using the free version, so I’ll be focusing on that, but here are the key differences:

  • Ko-fi has no platform fees. Ko-fi Gold costs $6 per month
  • Ko-fi only allows one-time payments. Ko-fi Gold also allows monthly subscriptions, similar to Patreon
  • Ko-fi sets your donation price for you. For example, my donation price is set to €3, something I had no say in. Ko-fi Gold allows you to choose your donation price and add multiple donation options.
  • A standard Ko-fi page says “Buy X a cup of coffee!”. Ko-fi Gold allows you to change this to any item of your choice, for example, “Buy X a cup of tea!” This is a small feature, but a nice way for you to customise your page. However, this only applies on the Ko-fi website. If you look at my button, you’ll see that it says “Buy me a cup of tea”.
  • Ko-fi Gold allows you to accept commissions through their site. You can say whether or not you’re open to commissions, and show a selection of available products.

Despite all these bonus features, I’m happy with my standard account. I think Ko-fi Gold has some great features, but I don’t use the platform enough to benefit from them. A standard account is perfect for a casual user, and Ko-fi Gold will work great for anyone who wants to use it as a more active source of income.

(If you do decide on a Ko-fi Gold account, you can get a 10% discount with this link.)

Ko-fi vs. Patreon

Patreon is undoubtedly the top dog when it comes to artist donation services. It’s a great platform, it just offers slightly different services to Ko-fi. Patreon allows you to create an account that your supporters can subscribe to. You create a series of “tiers”, each with their own monthly fee. Each tier comes with a series of benefits, decided by the artist.

Patreon works really well for a lot of artists, but it also requires more dedication than Ko-fi. You need to create exclusive content on a monthly basis, and extra content for your higher-paying tiers. Patreon also takes between 5% and 12% of your earnings, depending on your creator plan. This does not include payment processing or PayPal fees. Ko-fi is free to use, though you may be charged transaction fees by PayPal.

Ko-fi vs. Buy Me A Coffee

I’m just going to say it; Buy Me A Coffee is a MUCH better name than Ko-fi. There’s no denying it, I just had to get it out there.

BMAC is much more similar to Ko-fi than Patreon. It’s very similar in the services it provides, though Ko-fi’s interface feels more personal. Where Ko-fi says “Buy X a coffee!”, BMAC just has a coffee cup emoji. Ko-fi profiles seem to be more fleshed out, whereas BMAC profiles are clearly just a portal that the creators link to from other accounts. There doesn’t appear to be a premium version of BMAC, they just offer the basics.

Buy Me A Coffee charges a 5% platform fee, on top of what you’ll be charged by PayPal.

Why not just use PayPal?

If all of these platforms link to PayPal, why not just send your audience there?

That’s a very fair question, and I think the answer lies in the way Ko-fi interacts with the artist’s audience.

With PayPal, you can send someone any amount you want. With Ko-fi, you just send enough for a cup of coffee. One feels like payment, the other like a tip. A PayPal donation button doesn’t make any recommendations, which can leave someone guessing as to what they should donate. What’s generous? What’s insulting? They might overthink and decide against it. With Ko-fi, the amount is made clear. The idea that it’s a cup of coffee makes the whole thing feel casual, and there’s no pressure on the donor to do anything extra.

(It’s also worth noting that some people don’t trust PayPal buttons due to years of scammers putting fake ones all over the Internet.)

From what I’ve found, Ko-fi is a great way to support artists. You can give them enough for a cup of coffee, the same way you’d throw some change into a busker’s guitar case. There’s no monthly obligation, and all it takes is the click of a button. It’s also a great way for small artists to make a bit of extra cash without the pressure of creating extra work.

Do you have Ko-fi, Patreon, or something else? What do you think of platforms like these, as an artist or a consumer? Let me know!

My blog content is 100% free, now and always. If you found my writing entertaining or useful and want to say thanks, you can always buy me a cup of tea.

27 thoughts on “Ko-fi Review: Better Than Patreon?

  1. Rebecca,
    Thanks for the honest review and the fact you are using the site says a lot. Has anyone bought you a tea yet? I think as an artist, we do it for the pure passion of creating, but we shouldn’t have to starve because we do what we love. I paint and write, and when I am paid well for doing what I love, it makes what I do that much sweeter. Keep up the excellent writing, and I’ll see you on Instagram #writinglife.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jamie, I’ll be checking up on my Instagram after this so I’ll make sure to follow you back!
      I checked out all of the sites before reviewing them, and Ko-fi was the one I wanted to stick with. One or two people have bought me a cup of tea- it won’t transform my finances, but it’s a nice boost whenever someone donates. And you’re absolutely right, the “starving artist” stereotype needs to be cast aside!

  2. I hear about Patreon all the time, especially on YouTube but I just found out about ko-fi and thought I’d look it up (and also finally Patreon). I read a few articles and found this one most helpful. It made it clear to me why ko-fi is the one that suits my needs best. Thank you.

  3. Rebecca – a really helpful summary – thank you – I came here looking to answer the ‘why not go straight to Paypal?’ question and so it’s really helpful you mention it.
    Now if only they would add the option to add a biscuit with your tea! .

  4. Hi Rebecca, I was doing a search for reviews for Ko-fi and Google topped yours. 🙂 … I like what I read on Ko-fi’s website, but I had the same question there as I did with Patreon, and that is about granting rights. This is what Ko-fi says …’You retain all of your ownership rights in your content but you grant us and other users of our site a limited licence to use, store and copy that content and to distribute and make it available to third parties.’
    I’m going to query them as to what ‘limited licence’ actually amounts to, is it ‘fair use, extracts, that sort of thing. Have you had any engagement with Ko-fi about them using your work for this purpose?

    1. Hi Lori, I haven’t contacted Ko-fi personally about this issue, but I’d love to hear about any response you got from them! I don’t post my work on Ko-fi because hosting content on my own website gives me greater control over it. Based on the extract you shared, it sounds like Ko-fi would just share your content from the source or quote extracts, but it can be so hard to know. I’ll have a dig around and respond to this comment if I find anything.

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been seeing these buttons on all my favorite bloggers pages and had no idea what they were. I’m even thinking about adding the Ko-fi button to my own blog in the future. Your look into the different platforms was really helpful in making a more informed decision.

  6. I’ve been thinking about doing something different. I’ve already got a Patreon account with an unpublished page, but I never use it because I’m constantly wondering whether or not what I offer is good enough (which it most likely isn’t). Discovered Ko-fi myself, and it seems to be more my taste. More flexible and more personal, though I do worry about fraudulent chargebacks…….

    Been looking up reviews for the site and I found yours. Good stuff.

    1. I think Ko-fi is better for anyone who might worry about their content because, as you said, it’s more flexible than Patreon. Patreon subscribers expect regular updates because they pay a monthly fee, whereas anyone can give a one-time Ko-fi donation. I hope you found a good option for your situation and feel more confident in your content 🙂

      1. I don’t think this is really true. Ko-fi isn’t more flexible; You can only do one thing, have a three euro tip jar. It costs 6€ to go gold and get anything more, and €6 is all of what I make monthly on patreon at the moment. You don’t have to create content monthly on patreon; you can set it to pay-per-post/product, I.e. your subscribers only pay if/when you make or publish something; they can even specify if they want to cap the amount they can pay on a monthly basis. Patreon is much more flexible than ko-fi; this article is misleading because it doesn’t accurately show what patreon actually offers to creators.

        1. What about all the negative reviews about Patreon? I was considering signing up, but read 100+ reviews on consumer reports and other sites of how they steel money and saying they are a scam . Now I am having second thoughts.

  7. Thank you so much for this! I’m a writer with a blog, and I’ve been thinking about ways to monetise it without making my work inaccessible behind a paywall (which I’m reluctant to do) and also worried about committing to creating lots of work for patrons as I would have to with Patreon. I’m going to take a few more soundings from people who are using Ko-fi, but I think this might work for me on my blog.

  8. Like others I was searching online for articles about Ko-fi and found yours that way. It’s a very helpful piece. I think I’m going to start using it on my blog, which I am working towards monetizing. I really like the wording you use at the bottom of your post directing people to the Ko-fi button (My blog content is 100% free, now and always. If you found my writing entertaining or useful and want to say thanks, you can always buy me a cup of tea.) I will likely tweak it and adapt for my site as well. Thanks again!

  9. Thanks for the write up, I’ve been recently weighing out the options between the 3 and this has solidified my decision to go with Ko-fi!
    In fact I plan on buying you a cup to initiate the experience.

  10. Thank you for your honest review!

    I’ve been thinking for a while about what could be the better platform for me and my audience… I have created the three profiles in the three platforms, and finally I think that the best is Ko-fi, I love its interface and design, its simplicity to publish. This an advantage for my audience too, because all the payment system and options are clear and easy to use.
    I found patreon a little bit messy, too much options, too much to configure… I’ve understand, it has many types of posts and ways to interact with the audience, and many settings for professionals, but I think that finally, you have to think in your audience and offer the easiest way to interact with a platform.
    And I love the concept of offer all the content for all of the collaborators, but the option that people select if they want to make a single payment or if they can, monthly payment to support the artist work.

  11. I’ve been using Patreon for about 3 years for one of my YouTube channels. I earn a decent amount from it, but honestly it has never felt very nice. I don’t like the paywall, and the feeling that I should produce on a consistent basis, because my content is evergreen, and almost all of my views are from search (my audience doesn’t care what my most recent video is, they generally are searching for something specific, and I may have made that video years ago). I started using Ko-Fi a few months ago for a different channel to sell a digital product using the store w/ Ko-fi gold, and I honestly like the whole experience more. I am trying to find a way to transition the other channel to Ko-fi without taking to much of a hit, as I expect Ko-fi will generate less income, but make me happier in a way.

  12. I Found that this was the most helpful article that did a comparison between the three thanks for taking the time out to write this.

  13. Thank you for this article. I’ve been considering Patreon but didn’t want the added pressure of producing regular content specifically for the pay wall. Ko-fi looks like a great alternative. I have no following as I’m just getting started so I’ll stick with the free version until I build one. Going to buy you a cuppa to see how it works – and to say thinks of course.

  14. Frankly, I intensely dislike Patreon. I feel it is disrespectful to fans who are not able to give a monthly donation but are trying their best to donate what they can when they can. For example, Skype calls, photos and videos are things that many paying fans would want and it is hurtful for only monthly paying fans to get these things while other paying fans are left out and given only a “thank you” for their monetary support. My understanding is that Ko-fi free and Ko-fi Gold can work alongside each other. The artist/content creator could, for example give some or all these things mentioned above on Ko-Fi Gold and possibly give them to fans on the free version for a certain amount of “cups of coffee” or sell the photos, videos on their store. Both sides get the same things, no one is left out.

  15. Pateron is a CONTENT provider, not a SERVICE provider. This is a very important distinction between Ko-Fi and Patreon.
    It is one reason why Ko-Fi is better.

    Here is Patreon’s Legal Policy

    Your creations
    To summarize: You keep complete ownership of all creations, but you give us permission to use them on Patreon. Make sure you have permission to use creations that you offer on Patreon.

    You keep full ownership of all creations that you offer on Patreon, but we need licenses from you to operate Patreon effectively. By posting creations on Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your creation. The purpose of this license is strictly limited to allow us to provide and promote memberships to your patrons. We will never try to steal your creations or use them in an exploitative way. You may not post creations that infringe others’ intellectual property or proprietary rights. We may ask you for consent verification for collaborators depicted in content funded through Patreon. Patrons may not use creations posted by creators in any way not authorized by the creator.

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