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 clinpsy.org.uk 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?

An appeal for your support

As you might or might not know, I founded http://www.clinpsy.org.uk 7 years ago, and run it with a lovely group of volunteers. We have always kept the website open to all and completely free for users.

What you might not know is what that has cost in both money and effort. I spent over £7000 on setting up, establishing and hosting the site before we introduced any advertising, and although we have covered our running costs in the last 18 months, I have never recouped that investment. I’ve also put in the equivalent amount of hours to working a full-time job for nearly two years. That is a huge commitment for a self-employed person to sustain, as it is time in which I am not earning any income. I’m sure if we added in the other admins and moderators who help out that figure would double. And that doesn’t even allow any time for blogging or social media.

However, we aren’t asking for financial support for what we have already done. We are asking for support to enable us to do more and to enable our voice to be heard more widely, by giving us a small amount of funded time to develop new channels of communication and ways to support our users.

To do this we are using a system called Patreon. This is a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter, but instead of raising money for a single goal it allows users to support a project with a small ongoing monthly payment. In return patrons get access to rewards and additional services. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee once a month, you could show your support for clinpsy.org.uk and enable us to expand our offering.

Check out our appeal (and my cringe-inducing video) at http://www.patreon.com/user?u=292315

We have already launched a blog at https://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com/ and increased our activity on social media, but we want to explore the potential of audio and video content, as well as virtual workshops and groups to support personal and professional development.

We want to produce a monthly podcast about clinical psychology. We hope to talk in an engaging, accessible and sometimes humorous way about different models and ways of working, research findings, political/employment issues and cast a psychological eye over current affairs. Anything that might be interesting for psychology students, graduates, trainees, practitioners and therapists, or those that have an interest in the practise of psychology.

Here and there we might want to make a point relevant to the public, the BPS, HCPC, or for professionals and politicians – we have the opportunity to be a voice for clinical psychology in the UK and to develop a psychology “thinktank” that can release statements to the media.

We are also setting up hangouts and discussions for all levels of the career path from student to qualified CP, and offering patrons who have completed a psychology degree the chance to join in various personal and professional development sessions in small groups with peers at a similar career stage. These are intended to be subscription levels that you join for 3-12 months when it is helpful for you, whilst the lower level subscriptions we hope will be long term. Hopefully having a chance to have more personal interaction with us, and joining in our online workshops will help you feel more prepared for applications and more aware of professional issues.

Although it has my name and face on it, it is very much a team effort and I will be supported in the various activities by members of the clinpsy team and I want to be able to reward them for their time and contributions in a way I haven’t been able to on the forum.

Please take a look and see if you want to help us build on what we’ve already achieved, even if it is only for $1/60p per month (Patreon is an international site and uses dollars, so I’ve given the approximate value of each pledge amount in pounds).

You can see our Patreon page and subscribe to us at http://www.patreon.com/user?u=292315

Thank you for your support, and for being part of our community.