Whether you’re an established creator with a monster audience of fans or a new creator just dipping your toe into the online space, you probably know that it’s an amazing thing to earn from your work. And when so many of us are sitting in day jobs dreaming of doing the thing we love full-time, you know that there’s got to be a way to make the leap. But the important question is: how?
How can you actually get paid to do work you love that matters to you and to other people? How can you go beyond a hobby and earn enough to pay your bills and focus on your craft?
You probably know the answer. You need to figure out a way to monetize. And two platforms that are leading the creator economy in terms of helping creators monetize their audience are Mighty Networks and Patreon.
Both give creators ways to earn from their work and do what they love. But which is the right one for you? In this post, we’ll walk you through how Patreon and Mighty Networks work, and help you to figure out which is best for you and your audience.
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In this article…
1. Patreon vs. Mighty Networks: Who are they?
Patreon is a website that lets creators monetize themselves and their work. The idea of having a patron dates back to the Roman Empire when wealthy citizens would become benefactors of causes they cared about.
It’s the same idea that launched Patreon in 2013, musicians Jack Conte and Sam Yam envisioned a platform to fund creators while letting them focus on their work. While the idea is to simply have fans support creators, often for the love of their craft, Patreon has evolved to include ways that creators can give back to their supporters, including offering patrons benefits, selling merch, and more.
Mighty Networks is an all-in-one cultural software platform that brings together content, community, courses, and commerce. Unlike Patreon, it doesn’t work on a patronage model. Instead, it gives creators a way to build powerful communities of people who love their work and vision. Mighty Networks lets creators sell memberships at different tiers, and they can sell access to live and pre-made courses, events, and more. And Mighty's flexible Spaces let you choose from features like live streaming, live events, courses, forums, messaging, member profiles, and a bunch of content options.
In short, Mighty Networks and Patreon both give people ways to monetize their work and join the creator economy, but with different philosophies behind them–which we’ll get into below.
2. Patreon vs. Mighty Networks: How to compare the two
Patreon and Mighty Networks both achieve roughly the same thing, helping creators earn a living from their audience so they can focus on what they do best: creating. But they go about it in totally different ways and have different philosophies. Here’s how we’ll compare the two:
It’s also possible to mix Patreon and Mighty Networks to get the best of both–we’ll cover this at the end.
Since both Patreon and Mighty Networks give creators the options to create a community around themselves and their work and to reward their fans, we’ll look at how well each platform does in building an engaged community and how well each lets you serve the people who want to join your vision.
If you’re looking at one of these two platforms to give you an option to monetize your work, which let’s be honest, you probably are, they both work. But they do it in different ways and will give your members a very different experience. It’s important to figure out what you actually want your monetization to look like and to have a strategy that fits your brand. You should also be able to grow as you go, it’s awesome to be able to try different things as you figure out what works best for your audience.
Branding & personalization
It’s cool to monetize your work, but it’s also amazing if people can feel a sense of your own brand–whatever that is. We’ll talk about the options you have to personalize Mighty Networks or Patreon and add your own flair to your work.
Pricing and features
Finally, we’ll talk about the pricing and features options for each of these and show you how each one charges creators and what you get for that price.
3. Patreon vs. Mighty Networks: Community engagement
Although we used the word “community” here, Patreon’s model is probably better described as bringing together your fans. The relationship between the patrons and the creator is pretty one-dimensional, but creators can create posts for their patrons to see. You can also message your fans, whether to say thank you or promote upcoming work, so you do have a way to contact them.
But the sense of “community” is pretty limited. Your fans will know you and your work, and you can let them know about what’s new, but they won’t be able to meet each other unless you create events on a different platform.
Some people might like this model, since it arguably could take a bit less time to just add membership tiers and collect income from your fans. But your fans love to connect with you, too, and the minute you try to create events, live streams, or other cool things for your fans to join, you get beyond the limit of what Patreon can do–you need to start mixing in other software and platforms to get the functionality to fully serve your community.
Mighty Networks lets you create a community in every sense of the word. It takes you beyond the one-directional relationship of creator-fan and lets you create a whole network of people who care about the same things and are excited to talk about it. This ultimately means less work for you as the creator; instead of doing all the work to try to make your members feel like you’re serving them, the community serves each other.
With Patreon you start every conversation; you initiate everything that happens. With Mighty Networks this can happen organically, and that’s amazing.
Mighty Networks also comes with a whole bunch of awesome features to serve your community and help it flourish, stuff like live streaming, polls, discussion forums, and access from either the web or from native apps for every device. There’s no stitching together software to do an event or run a webinar–it’s all built-in.
4. Patreon vs. Mighty Networks: Monetization structure
Like we said above, Patreon and Mighty Networks are both ways to monetize your work. But they work very differently.
Patreon is about support. It gives the people who love your work the ability to support it. Some of them, the people who believe in you the most, might agree to support you on a monthly basis without ever expecting anything back. These are your true patrons, and–if you have people like this–kudos! For this type of thing, it works really well.
Patreon has also evolved to give people the choice of membership tiers to invest in, and each membership tier usually comes with benefits. So, for example, for people who support at $5/mo, a creator might include a printable piece of art. For people who support at $25/mo, a creator might include access to a hangout or Q&A with them. For $50/mo they might include a personalized piece of art.
The reward structures built into Patreon tiers are totally unique to each creator and what they make, but most find ways to give value to the people who support them.
Many creators will also run events, courses, etc., and they can’t do this on Patreon. They’ll need to pile on additional software–more on this in a minute. But Patreon has recently added the option to create merch for your members. It’s a neat feature for people who are creating visual products or who have a good logo they want to spread around, and Patreon takes care of the production and the shipping.
- Tiered support
- Selling merch
Mighty Networks is built on the principle of creating and monetizing a community. Unlike Patreon, it isn’t one-directional, but multi-directional. Members don’t only consume a creator’s content, they can also build a relationship with both the Host and with other members. They can create their own content.
This makes for a really unique form of monetization, and many people who join an online community are surprised to find that, over time, the connections and friendships they make there are the best thing about it (and the reason they stay).
If you’re a creator, you can monetize your community by charging a membership fee–either a one-time fee or a monthly, recurring fee like Patreon. This lets you unlock the power of a recurring revenue model business. But, with Mighty Networks, you can also create subgroups and charge for them, you can build beautiful, interactive courses with an intuitive course-builder, or you can sell live events and courses. It gives you a TON of options to monetize your work, and since you’re building a community that knows you and trusts you, upselling into a course on the same platform is way easier.
That means that the best part of Mighty Networks on the monetization front is the sheer flexibility–you can monetize in a bunch of different ways, and you can add more options as you go.
- Create different membership plans
- Sell events and courses
- Sell access to subgroups
- Choose from one-time or recurring costs
- Bundle your offerings
5. Patreon vs. Mighty Networks: Branding and personalization
Patreon gives you some options for customizing your page with the look and feel of your brand. You can add a custom avatar and header image, and you can customize your web address as a subdomain on Patreon (ie. patreon.com/yoursite).
As we mentioned above, you can also create merch as a way to reward your members, so this is definitely a way to add a bit of your brand’s flavor to Patreon.
Ultimately, personalization isn’t really what Patreon is all about. Patreon creates their brand first, not yours. But it is possible that people recognize the Patreon brand and are familiar with it, which might be a good thing for your cause.
Mighty Networks is a place to build YOUR brand. It gives you a platform that you can style and customize, adding your own brand colors, feel, logo, and even a one-click option to create your own domain. The brand carries over wherever you access your community, whether web or mobile.
You also have the option to completely independently brand your groups within Mighty Networks too. So let’s imagine you were a creator with an awesome following, with two different programs you use to teach your members. You could add custom branding to each of these to give them individual flavor. This applies to creating a course too, each can be customized with their own look and feel.
6. Patreon vs. Mighty Networks: Pricing and features
The final thing worth comparing to understand the differences between Patreon and Mighty Networks is the way that each platform is priced.
Patreon is “free” to use, but the platform takes a cut of your income depending on which plan you’re on. For example, if you were on the Pro plan–which is the plan Patreon recommends–you’d pay an 8% fee on the monthly income you earn. Plus, you also pay a payment processing fee: 5% + $0.10 on anything under $3, or 2.9% + $0.30 on anything over $3.
Example: If you have 25 patrons paying $20/mo, you would owe Patreon:
$17.60 (Transaction Fees [$0.88 x 20])
$40 (8% Patreon fee)
So for the $500 you’d be making monthly, you’d pay Patreon $57.60. If your supporters grew to 50 fans paying $20/mo, you’d be paying an $80/mo Patreon fee.
If you were to choose the Community Plan, it comes with all the same features that Patreon Pro does, plus you have a bunch more features for community building—which we covered above. Although you pay upfront for Mighty Networks, the Community Plan is only $33/mo + a 3% processing fee.
Example: Those same 25 members on a Mighty Networks plan that costs them $25/mo would cost you:
$33 (Community Plan)
$12 (3% processing fee)
For all the same features and more on Mighty Networks, you’d only pay $45/mo. If your community grew to 50 or even 1000, you’d still be on the Community Plan.
As you can see, even though it’s not “free” like Patreon, Mighty Networks may cost you much less–and you’re not paying more as you add members like you are on Patreon.
7. Combining Mighty Networks and Patreon
We did mention at the top that some creators choose to combine Mighty Networks and Patreon. There are a couple of ways this might make sense.
First of all, as we mentioned above, Patreon is missing a bunch of the features that Mighty Networks has, requiring 3rd party integrations to make it work. So, you might choose to add Mighty Networks to Patreon for events, live streaming, a course, or even an interactive community. This might especially make sense for you if you’ve already got a following on Patreon and are concerned about moving it; although we’ve got a great guide for how to move an online community too.
The other reason you might combine both Mighty Networks and Patreon is if you’ve got some fans who just want to support your work and leave it at that, and some who are looking for a more extensive community. You might have a membership tier that is just a donation, and another tier that includes access to a Mighty Network.
You can be creative about what this looks like, but there are ways the platforms can complement each other. Do be careful though, at some point you’re going to end up paying a lot more in fees if you’re trying to do everything in both places. (BTW, it’s probably not worth Patreon just for the merch feature. There are a ton of companies out there that will print and send your merch, if you want Mighty Networks members to have some swag.)
So, Mighty Networks vs. Patreon, which one is right for you? It probably depends a bit on how you want to build relationships with and serve your fans. If you’ve never even thought about starting an online community before, they’re amazing–you can read more here!
And if you’re still wondering, you can try Mighty Networks totally free, no credit card required, for 14 days–so check it out! You’ll get a great feel for how it works and how you can use it to reach your audience.