Last Updated on April 17, 2021 by Michael Brockbank
There’s a lot of ways you can monetize YouTube or a blog outside of Adsense. A common method is using donation or tip platforms. Today, I’m taking a look at Ko-fi.com and some of the benefits and drawbacks that come with using the system.
And from what I’ve seen so far from the platform, it has potential for helping you bring in a few extra dollars here and there.
In fact, it probably ranks right up there with Patreon.
What is Ko-fi and How Does it Work?
Ko-fi is a donation-style system that gives you the ability to accept money from patrons. In other words, it works like a “tip jar” where fans can help support your cause.
You’re provided with a profile page of who you are and what you do. However, the page is quite a bit more robust than other donation methods that are out there. You’re able to add quite a bit in terms of engaging content.
You get a custom URL to share which is added to the back-end of the site. For instance, I now have a page at: ko-fi.com/writersanctuary. But if you pay for the Gold membership account, you can have a much shorter URL.
When someone clicks the link or otherwise visits the page, he or she has the option to “buy you a coffee.” At which point, the donation is sent to your PayPal or Stripe account.
Can You Really Make Money with Ko-fi?
I first heard of Ko-fi from a couple of YouTubers I watch who use it to expand how they monetize videos. As I just made my account a few days ago, I haven’t received money from it yet.
However, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work similarly to making money from BuyMeaCoffee.com. And I have made about $229 from that method so far.
As long as you’re able to market the link to your profile well, you should be able to bring in some cash.
I’ll update this article as soon as I can show a payment from Ko-fi, though. I plan on adding it to a few posts and perhaps YouTube videos.
Although you can set up monthly subscriptions, a lot of your donations, in the beginning, will probably be from one-time supporters. These payments are sent directly to PayPal.
And you guessed it, no fees are taken from the donation. Well, outside of PayPal’s own processing fees that is.
As you can see, out of a $6 donation, I received $5.53. This answers the question of whether Ko-Fi is legit or not.
Setting Up Ko-fi
Setting up the account was relatively easy. Just like any other donation site you sign up for online, you provide a username, customized web address, and PayPal information. Though, you can skip the PayPal info at the beginning if you don’t have an account yet or prefer to use Stripe.
Then, the donation system will send you a confirmation email to activate your account.
Once activated, Ko-fi will show you a percentage of your profile that is complete. Now, you don’t have to reach 100%. But like the platform advises, the more info you have, the better.
Ko-fi currently has a membership at $6 per month. Normally, it’s $9. This opens up a lot of customizable options for your profile, including the ability to add things like Analytics or change “coffee” to anything you wish.
You don’t have to pay the membership fee to use Ko-fi, though. It’s still quite a feature-rich site even in its free version.
The biggest drawback for me is how the “Gold” membership offers you things that other sites give away for free. For example, you can change “coffee” and add Google to Buy Me a Coffee for free. However, that donation system charges you for every transaction when Ko-fi doesn’t.
So in a way, it kind of balances out in the long run…especially if you generate a lot of donations or tips.
Notifications of Donations
When my first donation came in from Ko-Fi, I got a notification on my desktop instantly. It was kind of like the notifications you get from YouTube or websites of which you subscribe.
I quickly jumped into my dashboard and confirmed that there was, indeed, money in PayPal.
Personally, I like this method as it gives me a chance to quickly respond to supporters and thank them. Plus, it’s nice to know when I actually received the money in my account.
Unfortunately, some of the other platforms I use do not support push notifications as of yet.
Where Can You Add the Ko-fi Link?
Because the platform provides a URL to attract patrons, you can use it virtually anywhere. This means you can add it to things like:
- Social media posts
- As a linkable element on your blog, such as using text or images
- In the description of your YouTube videos
- As part of your email signature
In this regard, you’re only limited by your imagination and marketing prowess.
Using the Ko-fi Plugin for WordPress
To my surprise, Ko-fi does have a WordPress plugin available for those who want to easily add it to a blog or website. However, it’s gone more than a year without an update and hasn’t been tested with the current version of WordPress.
Perhaps if the organization added more features or integration between your profile and WordPress, it would be more engaging. But alas, it’s just a button from what I can tell.
And I usually try to stay away from plugins that haven’t been updated in more than six months.
Creating a Ko-fi Button on the Blog
Honestly, though, you really wouldn’t need the plugin. You can make a button using images and the link or set one up using Ulitmate Shortcodes. For example, I created the button below simply by adding the URL to the shortcode plugin.
It’s really not that difficult to set up any kind of button. In the instance above, I set up the button in less than a minute. And actually, I’m debating on creating my own in-post banner to promote the link instead of using Adsense advertisements.
During a Live Stream!?!
One of the more incredible aspects to Ko-fi is adding a donation feed to your video live stream. This is great for those who want to show income during a live broadcast on things like Twitch or YouTube.
Using the browser-based URL for a stream alert, you can display when someone buys you a coffee. This is helpful as it inspires others to donate as well.
What Can You Do with Ko-fi?
Donation methods like Ko-fi are more than just payment gateways. You can do a lot to engage an audience and build a community. And the more supportive they are of you, the more you can make.
It’s all about what someone gets out of supporting you as a creator. Sometimes it’s entertainment, others it’s knowledge. But being interactive is key to success regardless of who you are or what you provide.
Updating Your Patrons and Visitors
Ko-fi comes with a messaging platform built-in to update your visitors and patrons of upcoming events or just information to share.
For example, I could share with anyone who visits my page that I’ll be at a certain WordCamp in such-and-such city if they want to meet up. Though, I’m not really all that popular that people would come out to see me…but you get the gist. 😉
Creating Galleries to Engage Visitors
One thing I really like about Ko-fi compared to other monetizing methods is the ability to share images from a gallery. It’s an extra visual to help you engage the audience. And from what I can tell, you can set up multiple galleries depending on how you want to organize the imagery.
So in a way, you can use the galleries to promote yourself much like how people use Pinterest or Instagram.
Add an Intro Video
Intro videos are helpful for engaging an audience. In fact, I need to create a new one for the YouTube channel. At any rate, it’s kind of like your handshake when meeting new people. It’s something that can easily help the first impressions visitors have of you.
For now, I’ll probably just use the same intro video for Ko-fi as I do for YouTube…as soon as I make a new one.
Links to Social Profiles
Like most things on the Internet, the platform lets you connect several of the most popular social media outlets to your account. In this case, I have the YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter connected.
It’s just another way to cross-promote yourself and engage people on a preferred social platform.
For those who have digital products to sell, Ko-fi gives you a way to make money. Essentially, patrons can “commission” you to create a piece of art for a fee.
This is probably something best for graphic designers, photographers or other artists. But, at least there is the option to do so.
Image and Logo Assets
Instead of creating your own, Ko-fi has a series of assets you can download and use. This means you don’t have to worry about creating a logo or button in Photoshop as you can simply download them from the site.
Using the button images is a quick and easy way to add a nice visual to your website without installing new plugins.
How Does it Compare with Other Systems?
There’s no doubt about it, Ko-fi offers a lot to those who use the system. However, I am still on the fence on whether this is an ideal solution or not.
On one hand, the cool features I like are behind a $6/month paywall. And since I don’t generate enough in donations or tips, it would be a waste of money.
On the other, I have access to a wide scope of features for engaging the audience. And something like photo-integration may just boost popularity with those who visit.
One of the things that set Ko-fi apart from other donation platforms is that it’s free to use. Well, kind of.
Although you don’t have to worry about donation fees as you would with other platforms, the really cool stuff is locked behind a paywall. So if you wanted to share supporter-only videos on your feed, you need to pay the monthly subscription fee.
In fact, there are several elements of Ko-fi behind the subscription plan that are free on other donation systems such as Buy Me a Coffee. However, consider that Ko-fi doesn’t take a slice of your donations.
The organization needs to make money somehow.
It all boils down to PayPal being the only one charging fees when someone donates unless you upgrade to Gold.
A Lot of Features for Creators
Another aspect of this site is how expansive it is for creators. There are a lot of things you can offer visitors to your page outside of simple messages. Even in its free capacity, Ko-fi offers more than a lot of similar donation systems.
For example, I love the idea of expanding on a gallery for patrons to browse through. Personally, I think I’m going to use book cover art anytime I publish a new novel. And I did add one for Colorado Living to show off the beauty that is this state.
You can also update visitors by using short messages, videos, audio files or write out an entire blog post. Though, I’m not sure if blogging from Ko-fi is something that is crawled by Google search.
At any rate, there are a lot of things you can do in Ko-fi whether you pay for Gold accounts or not.
No Free Google Analytics
If you want to track visitors in Analytics, you’ll need to upgrade your membership. This is something that kind of bothers me, but not to the extent where I would hate the site.
Since I love data, though, I would have to put Buy Me a Coffee ahead of Ko-fi. But, this might not be something you care about. If not, then no worries.
However, it is a nice way to give insight into who your audience is by using demographic data.
What Can Ko-fi Do for You?
In the end, it all comes down to what you prefer when it comes to monetizing your content. From what I’ve seen so far, Ko-fi has a lot of potential. And since it’s free to start up, you really lose nothing but a few moments of your time checking it out.
If you do use it, though, make sure you get the most out of the site. Images, updates, interaction…it’s all part of creating an audience base who appreciates your talents.
It’ll probably be a while before I can afford the $6 per month, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do for me as a creator.
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