When is it ok for content creators to ask for money?
by Antoinette Mason
Hello, folks and welcome to board game inquisition where we are fanatical about everything board games! Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Antoinette, the high inquisitor around here. I’ve been playing board games for a number of years but have gotten more seriously into the hobby over the past few. Mostly, I play games with my husband, and when we can manage it bigger groups. I’m familiar with Philosophy and sometimes these two loves clash in articles like this.
Is it just me or is there a serious amount of talent and enthusiasm among the content creators of the board game community? Between podcasts, demonstrations, written articles, reviews, videos and live streams those of us in search of further information are spoilt for choice. For the most part, these people aren’t industry professionals, just regular folk wanting to share their love of a hobby with you. It’s a lot of work but like most hobbies, it’s a labour of love, otherwise, why would you be creating content? This is the starting point for most people, by themselves planning how they will share their excitement with us.
At what stage, however, does a hobby become a money making exercise? Sure people start out hoping they could make a full-time job from their love of board games (isn’t that everyone’s dream?!) but very few ever achieve this. Whether you love him or hate him hats off to Tom Vasel for making it happen. Realistically our expectations are lower than that. For me personally, I’d be delighted for my opinions to be considered trustworthy and valuable to the community as a whole. What would have to change for my endeavours to become business model worthy however? When would it be ok for me to ask my viewers to fund me?
Initially, my gut instinct here says, “When you’ve X thousand numbers of subscribers or followers.” But does that number change the type of content you’re making? I’m certain you’re doing the same awesome job if ten people see your video or ten thousand. Does the number of followers magically make your content more valuable? That’s a loaded question I feel because economically those numbers matter. Companies look at how far your influence reaches, opening different doors, opportunities and perhaps ways to make money to you. Yet those numbers are people you’ve cultivated over time, who trust you and know you. To reduce them to a means to an end probably isn’t what you’re interested in because of that mutual trust and respect you build.
This is why Kickstarter, Patreon and other crowdfunding sites work so well, they rely on your connection with your following to lead to donations. People who believe in what you do can support you financially. For me, however, this jump from casual consumer to ‘employer’ of sorts by your following is problematic. I do think money has the power to change relationships between people. If I support a specific YouTube channel and I think the last three videos were rubbish, then because I’m financially invested, I feel I have the right to complain. Plus I now have a means of harming the creator by withdrawing my support. No longer are you enjoying something for free you are bound to the channel and this alters dynamics.
For the person creating the content, the decision to even ask for money seems to be one fraught with much debating and almost embarrassment? It appears that people aren’t confident that their content is ‘worth’ receiving money for. In all fairness no one likes having to ask for money, it’s a weird situation to be in. Especially when the services you provide are ones that cost money, expense and a lot of time to bring to people. Once you get funded however the job of the creator can change. Now your content is ‘paid’ for there is a pressure of having to perform and produce for your employers. No longer are you free to create at will but instead have people expecting deadlines. Money complicates and pressurises things, it represents an exchange so creators are in a position where they must always be giving back.
Money can also tie people together in positive ways. Firstly it’s a massive confidence boost for anyone to see people think their work is worth putting their hard earned cash into. That validation can lead to much positivity and possibly a pushing to improve and enhance their content. For the backers, it’s a great way to support people they’ve come to know and engage with and often times see increased quality and output of the content they love. Cash can cement loyalties on both sides and strengthen the relationship between viewer and creator.
Now I get back to the serious question, when is it ok for a content creator to ask for money? For me, I have a problem with how this process works. The onus is usually on the creator to set up a page and go out with a begging bowl to gather support, which I think is unfair for both sides. It cheapens this relationship when you have to remind people that what you do has monetary value and that they should pay for it. It also rules out the merits of smaller and newer creators whose work can’t be considered ‘worthy’ yet while in growing stages. I don’t have an exact answer here for people but I think the problem lies in how we gain followers and it is completely divorced from the ability to donate or support what they love.
By starting out as a hobby and becoming a business there are pitfalls and expectations in that transition. If we could include the potential for financial support from the beginning both creator and the content consumer would know where they stand. Imagine a world where next to your subscribe or like button was one that simply said support. It would still be the case that larger channels with more followers would generate more income but it might also help the growth of up and coming talents. Either way, it removes the difficulties in having to ask for what your content is worth and keeps it more on the hobby side than the business one.
Making money from your hobby is going to be tricky, but it shouldn’t have to be.