I’ve joined Patreon, a website that allows readers and viewers to support content producers on a monthly basis; a kind of voluntary subscription for people who believe in and benefit from the creative work of others. I’m excited about it – it opens up a dialogue.
I’ll be honest about it. When I first heard of Patreon I just didn’t get it. Okay, it’s like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, but month by month instead of a single push. Yeah. But now that I’ve begun it, I see what it is. It’s a means for readers and authors to come in contact, for them to rely upon each other. It’s pretty cool.
I’ve used crowdsourcing in the past to launch this website (kickstarter) and to be able to travel for fights when it became evident that Pattaya wasn’t going to allow me to fight very often (gofundme). Both campaigns were successful and accomplished exactly what they were intended and asking for: I was able to buy a domain and host/build this website and for the past year I’ve traveled around Thailand in order to fight. Crowdfunding created this site and crowdfunding made my 100 fights in Thailand possible. My accomplishments are intimately woven with my supporters, not only financially but also emotionally, and they have been from the start. This is what I’ve done so far:
The greatest difficulty has always been how to maintain being a full-time fighter in Thailand. My husband and I saved for two years just to be able to move to Thailand for what we expected would be 6 months – I even participated in egg donation to make sure we had enough to get here. And it’s always just been the primary focus to just make the most of the time we have, and trying to figure out how to stay as long as possible, to be able to get out of it as much as possible. That part is quite hard because of the debt I have at home (student loans, about $850/month), which makes the divide between low-income and low-cost Thailand and the high-cost of being tied to a western debt a difficult spread. My husband works online as a consultant keeping us afloat, but it’s a very small income. This isn’t a boo-hoo, it’s just our situation.
Throughout all this, my content has always been free. From day one, the first video I uploaded from Master K’s basement to YouTube, I’ve never charged for a video or post and my website is purposefully free of advertisements. That’s a personal choice and it’s one I stand by, even though that’s the most frequently recommended way to create income out of my online presence. The truth is, whatever small income website ads might bring in is not worth the reader experience of having to x out of popups or ignore product push. However, it’s been made evident that there are people out there who believe the content I put out is worth purchasing, readers have told me as much, and there are people who have offered financial support in order to help make it possible for this content to continue. We’re in a bit of a financial crunch and Patreon appears to be a good way to strike balance between those two offerings.
The Ethics of Giving and Asking
Another frequent suggestion I get is creating an e-book, which could be sold for $10 or even more. I know of other online sources who do this, packaging sellable content that generates funds. When presented with this option I always feel a bit stymied. Because all my content is free, I cannot fathom to myself what I would put into a for-sale option – a video or an e-book or a paywall section of the website. I do understand the concept – I’m not daft – but while it works for others who are doing other things with their online offerings, and no judgment there, it makes little sense for me. There is no “Premium” version of what I offer. Anything I think of that may help others or be of interest to others and that I have the energy to create I put in posts and videos. Often this option is suggested to me because there has been a quasi-moral outcry against crowdsourcing, which to me is baffling because it appears to be from folks who see the exchange of money for tangible product to be the only form of ethical consumerism: Person A purchases a tangible or finite piece of digital information for X number of dollars, which has been packaged by person B – this is ethical. Here’s what I can’t get my head around, in terms of this being the only ethical process: why is repackaging 1% of my content to be sold to those who want to pay for it morally sound, whereas giving 100% of my content for free and those who want to pay for it can offer whatever they think is fair for themselves is somehow shady?
What I like is that my Muay Thai content remains free for everyone. Anyone who cannot afford or doesn’t think one ought to pay for it doesn’t have to; and anyone who recognizes the “suggested donation” counter’s purpose at a museum can offer whatever they feel comfortable with and help keep everything running for everyone. I’ll be putting up content either way, as long as I can remain here fighting, but with the new prospect of it generating a small income what I’m doing actually becomes my job, but a job of inspiring supportive readers and viewers with what I write and share. And in so transitioning in this concept, I feel more compelled to monitor and work to increase the quality and frequency of my content, because some people are paying for me to be able to do so. What it really boils down to is this: I can only make videos of my fights as long as I’m fighting; I can only share video of training and tips I get from my trainers while I’m training; I can only write blog posts about the overt cultural difficulties and nuanced realizations and epiphanies about Muay Thai and Thai culture while I’m living it… in short: I have to be here. Once I have to go, it all goes; that’s just the way it is. And so it’s enormously important that people are helping me to stay here and keep producing the content I put out there, which I’m only able to do while living this reality and continuing to explore it.
The nice thing about Patreon is that you can help me do it with only $1 a month, less than the proverbial cup of coffee. It’s a way be a co-creator. And yes, I want my Patrons to tell me what they want to read about and see more of.
What has been one of the most motivating things for me is the number of people who have written to me just prior to their own arrival in Thailand, thanking me for helping them to decide to make the trip, to have courage to drop everything and dedicate themselves to something they didn’t think was possible, helping them find a gym or how to fight or what to expect. Similarly, there are women in the west telling me they’re going to have their first fight, something they never thought they could do, because of the inspiration they take from something on this website. That’s the kind of thing I can’t buy, but I’d be willing to pay for to keep it going – in a sense I have paid for this in the hours dedicated to writing and filming. I hope I never stop hearing from people like that. It would be sad to feel like this, everything I do, is all for me; it’s the fact that this experience and passion is shared that helps me fight through it all, to keep pushing when it seems impossible. So, regardless of what form your support takes, I’m grateful for the support that’s offered to me. And for those who want to support me financially and make my being here for longer possible, which makes the content possible, there’s Patreon.
A Book in the Works
For those that have urged me to write a book, and those choosing to support my content here through Patreon it means not only choosing to help me produce the writing and videos that I already have been creating, but also to support the writing of a book. I often have been told that I need to write a book about my experience here, which I would love to do, but first I have another book in mind. This is a very different enterprise than packaging lists and shorter form material trying to generate a revenue. This is going to be a ground up production, a true writing project. Instead of writing about myself and my experiences, my friend Emma Thomas and I have been planning to co-author a fully published Female Guide to Training and Fighting in Thailand. This next year is the year that we have marked that we should write it. We feel that this is a really important book, and it will cover everything from the social hurdles that western women in face in Thai gym settings, how to identify a female supportive gym, body, health/hygiene concerns, different training regimens, and how to beat Thai female opponents – to name a few of the seldom talked about women specific concerns. Women are coming to train and fight in Thailand more than ever, and this is meant to be a rich, and deeply thought about resource. Emma and I have been living in Thailand and fighting here for nearly 4 years, and she’s also been blogging her experiences at Master Toddy’s. We as a pair have experienced or come close to much of what female Muay Thai fighting in Thailand is. This book will be comprehensive and is really exciting project. Supporting my content through Patreon will help make this book possible on my end. And though it is not now listed as a reward on Patreon, I will find a way to somehow award all my supporters, with in terms of this book, if it indeed comes to fruition. I’m not sure how that will be but it’s important that my supporters be connected to it.
After this book, I do hope to sit down and write my own book about my own experiences, weaving parts of the story you do not yet know.
So there it is! I appreciate every bit of support you find it in your heart to offer. If its not financial, a positive word given to me on Facebook can go a long way. If you’ve found 8limbs.us and my YouTube channel to have enriched your life, or those of people you know, you can help support what I’m doing. For those of you who do not wish to pledge or subscribe, my content here will remain free, and I’ll keep producing it as long as I can. For those that follow me on social media, there will be a few patreon links, and calls to help. Please bear with them because it is something I need to do to make this work. The good news is that with this new support from my readers you should be experiencing even better, more frequent Muay Thai journalism and writing/video from Thailand.
If you’d like to check out a very interesting take on Patreon, read this by Amanda Palmer, someone who inspires me: “No, I’m not Crowdfunding This Baby” She’s using Patreon differently from how I am, but it’s an excellent discussion of the reasons and fears behind crowdfunding.
So, if you’d like to support my continued blogging and video sharing of Muay Thai by pledging at least $1 per month visit my Patreon page to read more about how and why.