Mailbag #2 — Wait But Why

I’ve been a Patreon for like 4 years now. But now that you will be releasing a book, will you still need my support? What are your plans for the future?Kyros J.(Barcelona, Spain)

Here’s how I think about Patreon, from our side:

Patreon is a means of creative freedom. Without Patreon, money would be a sizable part of our decision-making process. We’d have to take on sponsorships, sell products, and use paywalls, whether we felt good about it or not. Patreon allows us to do whatever we think actually makes sense for us and what we’re trying to do. It allows us to make a big list of potential projects and to prioritize them based on what we’re most excited about and what we think is the most important, not based on what will make the most money. Patreon means that we’ll do some projects that make money and others that won’t, and we don’t have to worry too much about which ones are which. It allows us to start a podcast without a sponsor and have the “we’ll get a sponsor if and when it feels right” attitude. It allows us to turn the Story of Us into a book, because it makes sense in this case, and to have turned down opportunities to make other post series into books, because it wasn’t something we felt made sense. It allows us to email readers about a product in our store only when we’re actually excited to tell them about that product. Having money as a secondary concern is an unbelievable creative luxury and one that makes Wait But Why a better place.

Here’s how I think about Patreon, from your side:

The independent internet creator is a pretty new kind of thing, and I think we’re all still figuring out the best ways for that to work, financially. Patreon gives regular readers three options:

1) I like this person’s work, and I’d like to pay something for it

2) I like this person’s work, and I’d like to pay something for it, but right now I can’t afford to

3) I like this person’s work, but it’s not something I want to pay for

The great thing about having a sizable audience is that if a small portion of our readers end up in Category 1, we’re covered. So far, that’s exactly what’s happened. Category 1 readers have combined to be an incredibly important support for us and provide that treasured creative freedom I talked about.

But that also means that we’re totally cool with Categories 2 and 3.

People in Category 2, who would like to support us but don’t have the budget to spare: not only is that okay, but please know that the last thing I want is for WBW support to be an uncomfortable or stressful expense in your life. I love the idea of WBW being free for people who are only able to consume free content at a given time in their lives.

People in Category 3, who simply prefer to put their dollars towards other causes, please continue doing so. This is the cool thing about the voluntary donation model—only some people have to do it for it to work perfectly. Category 1 has everyone else covered.

If you’ve been a Category 1 supporter of ours, huge hug, we love you, and we’re endlessly grateful. You should also never feel weird or guilty about stopping. Supporting us doesn’t have to mean supporting us forever. Once a Category 1er, always a Category 1er, no matter when you stop.

Finally, Patreon is only one way to support WBW. There’s also buying stuff we sell and, probably most important, sharing WBW with others.

As for the future of Wait But Why:

At the moment, it’s hard to imagine a time when I will want to be doing anything other than creating new things on this platform. My “future topics list” is longer than I could ever get through in one life, and as long as I’m curious, I’ll be working my way through it.

Within that broader picture, there are a ton of fun possibilities. We plan to expand the platform from just writing to writing, audio, and video. We want to keep trying new things and new collaborations (like the app we made with Kurzgesagt). We want to dig in deeper with the community with more in-person events. We’ve sketched out plans for a new, much better site.

It’s been a slow few years as I’ve worked on a single, big project, but my excitement and energy have never been higher. I hope I’m still making good things when I’m 80 and I hope you’re still here with me.

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