I've been thinking for quite a while about how to move forward with writing. Other than producing freelance articles for media outlets, most of the content I produce comes out of my pocket: that is, I pay for the website, and I spend time on it that could (and probably should) be spent on other work.
As much as I love writing, and as much joy as it gives me to see hundreds of people reading things I've written every day, it's not sustainable. Ad revenues are an unreliable source of income which rely on people (1) not using an AdBlocker, (2) seeing something they want, and (3) clicking it there and then rather than googling it later. Individual donations are difficult to solicit and, again, unreliable.
So, moving forward, I'm starting a Patreon. If you're unfamiliar, it's a platform on which content creators can solicit ongoing contributions from people who enjoy their work. That can be done on a "per piece" or a "per month" basis, and in the former case you can also set a monthly limit to how much you want to contribute. In exchange, creators can give access to various rewards.
In my case, I'm not looking for much. Just 10 people backing me for $1 would allow me to keep my website hosted. More than that would allow me to start to invest more resources into publicity, and then from there into bringing more people on board to help produce content. I've started having people (usually undergraduates) reach out to ask if we could collaborate on work, and whilst I usually say yes, I always feel bad that I have nothing to offer them for their work but the potential for publication. I also want to be able to produce content in a greater variety of media, including video and audio, and I'm no expert on editing or production in either of those, so I'd like to be able to hire someone part-time to help out.
In return, I can offer a few things. First, I'll be producing content which is only available on Patreon. The first piece is available right now, and it's a relatively personal essay about religion, cult-like organisations, and how people can be deradicalised (you may not know this, but for most of my life, most of my family have been Jehovah's Witnesses - but their number is slowly dwindling). Second, backers who pledge above certain amounts will have more input into the creative process: I'll be taking suggestions on topics they'd be interested to have someone else research and write about. You'll also get early access to new blog posts, in case that excites you. At the highest levels (if that's something you're into), I'll write things for you and give guidance and feedback on writing in a manner similar to supervisions.
This is a hard choice to make, because no matter how I frame or phrase it, I'm essentially asking people to pay me money in exchange for writing and content. People who enjoy writing and creating are told and expected to be willing to do a lot for free, just for the love of it. I've done that, and will continue to do it - my blog isn't going away any time soon. It's almost seen as unseemly to say, "hey, actually this is one of my jobs now (because who can live on one, these days); I'd like to be able to make it something I don't have to feel guilty about doing because it's distracting from 'real work'".
But I think it's time to swallow my pride, put my hand out, and ask. If you've enjoyed reading things I've written for some time; if what I've written has helped you with your academic work; if I've proofread or given guidance on your work and you thought that is was worthwhile: consider it. That's all I'm asking. Just think about it.
Thanks for reading, here's the link: https://www.patreon.com/timsquirrell