Hey friends 👋
When I started blogging, I couldn’t help but ask myself one burning question: can I make any money at this? After all, writing, while often an enjoyable pastime is also a form of creative labour and thus, to be sustainable requires compensation.
Unfortunately when I read articles about blogging professionally and even spoke to bloggers I knew with decent readership, what I discovered was pretty disheartening.
The main path to profitability is ads.
I hate ads.
Ads are intrusive. They’re a user experience nightmare, and what’s worse, they are loaded with hidden tracking software, a fundamental part of a whole ecosystem of shady business that social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff coined as surveillance capitalism.
Isn’t that a little excessive?
Not really. A lot of people don’t know this but ads actually track you all over the internet, even in private windows, even with a VPN running, even if you don’t have a facebook or google account. I personally find this to be unethical and I don’t believe in participating in the non-consensual sale of other people’s data or the literal danger presented by the business of data brokers.
Besides, this system of ad traffic farming forces bloggers to structure content weirdly, filling it with repetitive and cliche words and phrases to gamify SEO to increase their website traffic, to earn more from ads. And yet, sadly, the income from ads is not even that great. So most of them turn to something else…
Affiliate marketing (linking to products) and referrals (linking to services) are two ways to earn income outside of ads; though I guess one could argue they too are a form of advertisement. That said, I personally have no issue with referrals, ethically speaking.
That’s because offering someone a referral is offering them an opportunity to consent to being sold something. Sure they are likely to be tracked from the moment they click the link, but they can choose to click it or not.
One nice thing about referrals is that they can actually scale reasonably well in terms of the potential returns they can provide to content creators. But they’re not without their downsides.
Referrals require trust.
That’s not inherently a bad thing—though it could certainly be abused—as it requires a content creator to earn the trust of their audience by sharing honest reviews. For many though, trust is simply a matter of how many followers one has, and thus referral income funnels towards the incumbent creators within a given niche and that highlights the main flaw of relying on referrals for income:
Referrals are first come, first served.
What that means is that if two bloggers cover the same niche: let’s say personal finance, there’s a good chance they’re sharing the same referrals, and thus if there is any overlap in their audiences, the chance they’ll make a conversion is reduced. This zero sum game leads to creators rushing out mediocre content in order to be the first to get the clicks.
This is why even though I do share referral links (most just for favourite crypto exchange: Newton), I don’t like to rely on referrals as anything more than a little bonus.
Where I’ve earned the majority of my money writing is…
Sponsored content, grants, and bounties have been good to me. In 2021, I made the majority of my income this way. Of course, I always clearly label my blogs and videos if they have sponsors, because I think that’s the right thing to do, but I also don’t work with partners I don’t respect or wouldn’t want my name attached to.
Yet again this requires trust.
If content creators make untruthful content about dubious projects and then especially if they don’t label that content as paid promotion then the person viewing that content could feel manipulated or worse defrauded.
And from the perspective of the creator, there’s yet another problem with sponsored content: instability. When the market is good, the offers are plentiful, but when the market is bad, they are few and far between.
This is something I personally experienced. In 2021, my inbox was always full of people asking to work together and I was recipient of numerous grants, sponsorships, and had my pick of the content bounties I wanted to compete for, but when the bear market came to crypto in 2022, I was left on read.
That’s when I decided to return to my roots.
I’ve funded my share of kickstarter and gofundme campaigns, and I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that a small but passionate group of fans can fund niche work by becoming patrons. So when I started blogging I decided to use BuyMeACoffee, a platform not unlike Patreon that allows fans to tip creators, and even unlock special bonus content.
I was lucky to have a number of supporters early on and I always went out of my way to make them feel appreciated with special email newsletters, unlockable content, and messaging groups on twitter etc.
As I pivoted to web3 and crypto writing, the cost of researching for my articles went up. I needed to invest my own money—not to mention spend a lot on gas fees—just to understand the protocols and the ecosystems I was writing about. And even when I didn’t need to spend much money, I often had to spend incredible amounts of my time reading whitepapers and documentation about protocols to get to the point where I could explain complex subjects effortlessly.
So, I thought to myself, if I’m going to be making content about how much better blockchains are for all kinds of tasks then it’s time for me to make the switch to a fully web3 stack.
No more PayPal. No more BuyMeACoffee. No making accounts, signing in, sharing personal information. I’d made the claim many times before but now I intend to show the world that patronage is better onchain.
What is an NFT anyway?
In simplest terms, it’s a receipt. It’s proof that someone paid (or didn’t pay) for something all that way back to the moment it was first created (minted).
With that definition in mind, I see no better use case for an NFT then as a way to show support, be it support for a creator (patronage) or for a cause (charity).
In web2, both patronage and charity are gatekept. To use Patreon for example you need to make an account, share your name, address, credit card, and give up a portion of every payment to Patreon for providing the service and then again to Stripe or whomever the payments provider is.
The middlemen are unnecessary and the fees unreasonable. This is even more true when you realize that your so-called account is revokable and the perks you receive for your patronage are borrowed, not owned.
Contrast that with the idea of buying or minting NFTs where you give patronage directly to the creator and you get an onchain receipt.
In this system, you can consider your NFT as a badge which shows the world that you support your favourite creator. It’s a digital collectible. But that’s not all. You see, that receipt is on an open blockchain and its unique—that’s what non-fungible means in case you didn’t know.
So if a creator like me wanted to offer bonus content just for verified patrons, they could. If they wanted to airdrop an NFT holiday card, grant access to a store of physical or digital merchandise just for holders, or run token-gated giveaways, all of that would be possible, all without making accounts or sharing personal information.
Ok so clearly I’m a fan of this idea, so why don’t I do something like this?
Well, believe it or not, I have been. Part of the reason I moved my blog to Mirror is their fantastic web3 integrations. Here, all of my articles can be collected as NFTs on the low cost Ethereum Layer 2, Optimism where gas fees are usually in the tens of cents.
When you collect an article you get a limited edition NFT, and I get the payment directly to my wallet in an instant. Once again a huge improvement over the old systems like PayPal and Stripe who take massive cuts and require multiple steps to cash out.
Collecting articles is a fun way to support writers like me and can even be a bullish investment that one day another collector will want to buy it off you; think of it like collecting physical copies of a magazine or literary journal where a writer got their start.
I am grateful to each and every one of you who collects my articles and the majority of that money finds its way back into making more content.
But for those of you who truly believe in the idea of non-fungible patronage…
Experimenting with web3 patronage like collectible articles on Mirror got me thinking about how else I could offer creative ways to support my content. So, several months ago, I began reaching out to some of my favourite NFT artists to see if they would want to work together on a unique piece of art that would serve as the visual for my own official patronage NFT
I wanted something fun and unique so I reached out to one of the most whimsical creators I know, Jeremy Fisher, who created the fantastic claymation NFT project Lucky Ducky. Jeremy is a talented artist who worked on the hilarious show Robot Chicken, as well as doing work for Hallmark, and more recently animating for the wonderful film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.
Jeremy has always been very approachable, so he responded to my messages, but he was just too busy to take on a project like this, so he put me in contact with another talented animator with whom he’d worked on Robot Chicken as well as Lucky Ducky, Joshua Franco.
I am so grateful for this connection because Joshua was super professional and totally blew my expectations out of the water. He created my new profile pic/logo, as well as the logo for my newsletter, and then we came up with an animation to serve as the visual for my patronage NFT all made of real clay and painstakingly stop-animated.
I wanted a visual that was representative of the brand so of course I had to have the thumb! But I also wanted to convey the jovial spirit I’ve really tried to capture here on the blog and on social media. What better way to show this off than with a wave hello?
After all, for years, I’ve started almost every post the same way…
And so, without further ado, I introduce you to the official patronage NFT of Thumbs Up Finance: Hey Friends!
This animation is your visual receipt for supporting my writing. It will be available on multiple chains and all tokens will be considered of equal value.
I’ve set the price relatively low because I’d love to have as many collectors as possible. The price to mint or buy is set in ETH but I’m trying to keep it around $25, so it may shift in value from time to time. Depending on how many I sell, this will either be a passion play that doesn’t even pay for itself, or the catalyst for the next chapter of my content creation career. Here’s hoping it’s the latter 🤞
Mint on Zora Network ⬇️
Mint on Base ⬇️
Mint on Optimism ⬇️
Mint on Ethereum ⬇️
Now you may be wondering…
Regardless of how many I’m able to sell, this remains one of the coolest projects I’ve engaged in to date, and I intend to find a way to reward holders whether there are 5, 50, or 5000 of you who choose to support.
The first perk is Q&A.
Holders of my patronage NFT, on any network can send me questions and I’ll answwer the most relevant ones in the newsletter for all to read. You can let me know whether you want to remain anonymous or put your handle/ENS, or even a name or pseudonym (e.g. “Charles asks…”). I also want to look at giving back in other fun ways. NFT giveaways from collections I love, airdrops of fun things like virtual holiday cards or POAPs. These are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible.
I can’t make any promises and you should only mint this NFT because you want to become a patron, but I am a very grateful person and will always look for ways to pay it forward.
With all that said, I actually have some real need for this money, both to pay off my debts, and make investments in Thumbs Up. Some of the things I really need are:
a Macbook or a Mac Mini
an ergonomic office chair
mechanical keyboard (update: I got one)
I’ve also got fees to pay to maintain my website, various subscriptions, and of course, taxes. And all that is to say nothing of the aforementioned costs of making content.
Now I’m an optimist, but I still have to say, I’m doubtful we’ll go past 100 sales in the first several months to a year. And until 50 have been minted I won’t even break even on my initial investment. But if you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I love to experiment. For better or worse.
So what do you say, are you in?
Head over to Zora to learn more and see who has supported already.
And until next time,
If you enjoyed this blog post, consider collecting a copy. It's like tipping and receiving a unique digital collectible as a receipt.
And for the cypherpunks, I accept anonymous tips with Zcash to my shielded address: